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Wednesday, 2 October 1974
Page: 1621

Senator MARRIOTT (Tasmania) -Mr Deputy President,by calling Senator Walsh to order you have saved us from having the wool pulled over our eyes any more. I start my speech by congratulating my Tasmanian colleague Senator Eric Bessell on his maiden speech in the Senate tonight. In the Senate we have had the privilege of listening to all 15 new honourable senators who grace this chamber as a result of the election which was held because of the double dissolution of Parliament. Before I get on to the main subject matter of my speech on the Budget papers I congratulate the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Bishop) on whom I do not place one cent of criticism for the parlous state of the postal services in Australia today. Nor do I believe that Senator Bishop, as PostmasterGeneral, would have had anything to do with the design of the 10c stamp which came into operation yesterday.

There has been a rise of 3c in the cost of postage of an ordinary letter by virtue of the work of this Government in its inflationary period. I am not sure whether the design of the stamp indicates a sense of humour on the part of public servants who asked for designs, whether it is a cynical approach of the Government's attitude towards taxpayers or whether it is a happy coincidence. The 10c stamp which we are all buying to mark this movement into double figures cost for an ordinary letter under Labor has a picture of an old fashioned water pump and the title Pioneer Water'. This indicates the achievement of the hope of the Australian Labor Party to pump the last cent which it possibly can out of Australian taxpayers during the brief time it will be in office as the Australian Government.

What I like about the debate on the Budget and other general debates in the Senate is that they give me a chance to indicate my sincere belief that the Senate is a States House. I say it is a States House because in this debate honourable senators are able to speak on any aspect or any problem which is confronting or harrassing the electors of the State from which they come. In the party rooms- I have never been in Caucus but I can understand- I know that honourable senators from the States can get together in voicing opinions. They can have some influence on their executive or the shadow executive. I know that in party policy committee meetings we have a chance as State representatives to put the view of out State rather than the view of an electoral division. As you know, Mr Acting Deputy President, in the committees of the Parliament a State's views can be put. This has been proved by the honourable senators from Tasmania. A matter pertaining to the importance of shipping betwen the Bass Strait islands and the mainland was referred to a Senate select committee because of the initiative of my colleagues Senator Wright and Senator Rae.

Because this is a States House I propose to add a little more to what Senator Eric Bessell said in respect of two or three major problems confronting the people of Tasmania. Quite honestly, 1 believe it is fair to say that Tasmania with all its wealth, all its beauty, all its initiative and all its knowhow at the moment is a beleaguered island. It is an island under seige in 3 respects. Firstly, and most importantly- this is most damaging- it is under seige because of the chaos in shipping. Secondly, it is under seige because of the harm done by the tariff cuts to the textile industry and because of the lack of action against inflation. One may add, in truth, that this is because of action taken by this Government to inflame inflation. Thirdly, and quite importantly to Tasmania, as was proved at the last election by the reaction of the electors, Tasmania is under seige because of the harm done to rural industries in under 2 years by this Government. Senator Bessell with his expertise and knowledge of freights gave a picture of shipping which I hope departmental heads will precis and give to their relevant Ministers.

Because of the serious situation caused to Tasmania and the other States by shipping I shall set into the record some of the main statements, promises, platitudes and criticisms which have been made in recent weeks by other men in public life. I commence by saying that the gravest causes of the problems of shipping to Tasmania are strikes and industrial unrest. The greatest of these is the demarcation dispute. I think that any sincere trade unionist would say that demarcation disputes are the most unfortunate happenings in trade union circles in recent years. Anything that can be done by anybody in Parliament to try to overcome demarcation disputes will help the whole of Australia 's economy.

Senator Wheeldon - We tried to do that with our amalgamation proposals.

Senator MARRIOTT - You may have tried. Another aspect to which I want to refer is the uncertainty of sailings of the ships with both cargo and passenger traffic. In relation to the passenger services I say that industrial disputes and the uncertainty of sailings are killing the passenger trade across the Bass Strait. The killing of the passenger trade is harming the tourist industry between Tasmania and other States. None of these things are problems to Tasmania only. We buy and sell on the Australian market. The people from whom we buy and to whom we sell on the Australian mainland market are affected by the shipping problems which we have. The costs of transport are going along with galloping inflation. On 5 September honourable senators and members from the House of Representatives from Tasmania met the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones)- I honour him- who came to Launceston and received a deputation of Tasmanian Federal members on the problems confronting our State. On the next day, 6 September, we read in the Hobart 'Mercury ':

The Australian Minister for Transport (Mr Jones) told State and Federal parliamentarians at Launceston yesterday that ANL and Union Steamship Company vessels coming on to the Australian trade early next year would make a very decided impact on Tasmania 's shipping problem.

Mr Jonessaid the Government was prepared to make sure Tasmania had adequate tonnage to cope with its expansion.

To me', said Mr Jones, 'It is one of the important pieces of transport in Australia today.'

That is what Mr Jones said to the Press after hearing a deputation which was talking about instant cures which were required- not about what would happen next year if all the fairies came good. On 12 September the official news was released by the Minister for Transport. The first short paragraph states:

The Australian Minister for Transport (Mr Jones) today defended the action of the Government in authorising freight increases by the Australian National Line.

Not a word to Bessie about 5 September or the Tasmanian parliamentarians. On 10 September the line announced increases of 25 per cent in coastal general cargo freight rates, 10 per cent in passenger fares and accompanied vehicle rates from Tasmania to Sydney and 15 per cent for Bass Strait. I am glad to say that this proved to Tasmanians and the other Australian people how quick our parliamentary leader Mr Snedden is to see what wrong is being done. On 1 3 September he issued the following press statement:

The Labor Government has again demonstrated its callous disregard for Tasmania by announcing an increase in ANL shipping charges.

A little later in the statement he rightly reminded the electors of Tasmania about the promises made by Labor before the last election. The electors of Tasmania could become very important in the next federal elections as 5 seats will be coming up for the taking by the Opposition parties from members now representing them who have grown old and lazy. Mr Snedden said:

During his long period as Leader of the Opposition Mr Whitlam was fond of telling Tasmanians that a federal Labor Government would treat Bass Strait as the road link to Tasmania.

It is a road that has no ending and no enchantment to travel on while a federal Labor Government remains in power. Mr Bingham is the very progressive, personable and brilliant Leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party in Tasmania. On 14 September he broadcast to Tasmanians and after wishing them good afternoon he said:

Tasmanians are sick and tired of the unending delays in granting simple justice to their State in the matter of freight costs between this island and the rest of Australia. The Whitlam Government stands condemned of the most flagrant breaches of its pre-election promises to equalise the rates for Tasmanian freight with those applicable to those on the mainland.

The message from Messrs Snedden and Bingham got through some of the 20 staff of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) now staying at the Plaza Hotel, New York. On 19 September he issued a statement which said:

The Prime Minister, Mr E. G. Whitlam, announced tonight that the Australian Government will make an immediate reassessment of the Australian National Line freight rates to and from Tasmania.

Long before that date, because of the goading of Tasmanian federal members of Parliament the Government set up the Nimmo Committee of Inquiry. While that was in progress up went the rates as announced by Mr Jones, the Minister for Transport. About six or seven days later- the Nimmo Committee was still making its inquiries- the Prime Minister announced that there would be a reassessment of the Bass Strait rates. Last weekend Dr Cairns, on a trial run for Acting Prime Minister before going to see Chou En-lai with his family and others in a VIP aircraft, visited Tasmania. Whilst there he promised, as it were, a $2m subsidy to the Tasmanian people. However, when it is examined closely it is seen to be a temporary matter and not a payment of money to the ANL to reduce rates. It is apparently to hold the rates at the old level for northbound cargo. There is nothing to help Tasmanians who have to purchase the goods brought in by ship or aircraft. Dr Cairns took a backhanded sort of way of helping and I do not think that the people of Tasmania woke up to it until Mr Bonney, our shadow Minister in the State Parliament, said as reported in the Hobart 'Mercury' of 30 September:

The freight subsidy announced by the Acting Prime Minister (Dr Cairns) did nothing to resolve Tasmania's tremendous disadvantage . . . The subsidy will be welcomed and while it may be seen as something of a rebuff to the inflexible attitude adopted by the Federal Minister for Transport (Mr Jones) it will have no lasting effect.

On the same day the 'Mercury' said in a leading article:

But regardless of the motive, the decision to stay the increase in ANL freight rates until the latest transport inquiry is completed is worth more to the Tasmanian economy than the cost to the ANL or the Government. The direct benefit has been estimated as the equivalent of a subsidy of $2m . . . However, Tasmanian business and industry should not regard the Commonwealth gesture as the solution to the State 's transport problems.

The 'Mercury' goes on to hope that something real and not simply as a palliative will be done to overcome the shipping problems. We have had some publicity in all the States as the result of the Acting Prime Minister's visit to Tasmania. On that trip he cast a doubt in the minds of people in rural industries interested in the superphosphate bounty about whether the Government will remove the bounty and if so, when and how. But he did admit that it was a mistake or a blunder. Different newspapers used different words in reporting his speech. Until that doubt is resolved people in the rural industries will be very troubled. If there is one problem greater than another facing the Australian people while the present Government is in power it is the varying policy statements either in the Budget or by Ministers. As soon as a Minister gets out of Canberra past Queanbeyan or Yass and faces a television commentator, radio journalist or Press man he makes a statement. Promptly another Minister offers doubts about the wisdom and viability of the policy statement that has been made. The Australian taxpayer does not know whether the 15-day-old Budget is a fizzer or a goer or is to be repaired or replaced.

I remind honourable senators of the cruel, thoughtless and harmful tax on unearned income which was wiped out many years ago but reintroduced by this Government. I do not know whether the perpetrators thought about it properly or whether it was a sudden, nasty thought in a moment of bad temper. I am aware that Caucus is making changes, that the Economic Committee of Caucus is going to make further changes and various Ministers are saying that it ought to be wiped out. Newspaper editorials are saying that it must be removed. The taxpayers do not know what is happening but they do know that unless some remedial action is taken by the Government in respect of the tax on unearned income, any employee or self-employed person who has put money into a savings bank to earn interest against a time of sickness or need is to have a 10 per cent tax placed on the interest on those savings. This is at a time when the Government, if it had any common sense and any economic values and if it wanted to be honest with the people, would be doing everything in its power to encourage the saving of money. It would not be putting up interest rates. The Government will want extra money in bonds to spend on the development of this country, but from the way in which the Government is acting I believe that it is fair and honest to say that if all the budgetary proposals of the 17 September document are put into legislative form literally hundreds of thousands, if not million.;, of dollars will leave Australia because of the cruel tax on unearned income.

The weekly, monthly or annual amounts paid to a public servant, a parliamentarian or any other person who has decided to have superannuation paid on retirement will be taxed as earned income, I understand. I am waiting for an official answer, but I actually knew it before I asked the question. That is a trick which is sometimes used in politics. Many people in private enterprise who are in a superannuation scheme, on retirement at the age that they and their employers have chosen for their retirement, are paid a lump sum. Their fund payments and their employers fund payments have been based on the stated age of retirement. This is the freedom of private enterprise which all of us cherish. They are paid a lump sum to invest as they think will best benefit themselves and their family responsibilities in their old age. If Caucus allows the Government to impose this tax, the Government will tax the interest payments on those investments as unearned income and will tax the payment of the lump sum as a capital gain. This will not help the top 40 in wealth or income. This will hurt the ordinary man and woman. These days it is most essential to bring women into the calculation because a very big percentage of the work force is women, and they will be hit- stunned would be a better word- by this tax on unearned income if Caucus permits it to be brought into legislative form in the next few weeks.

Mr President,you have represented Tasmania, particularly the northern part, for longer than anyone else in this current Senate has represented any State. You know the hardship and the despair that has hit the people of Launceston and northern Tasmania because of the 25 per cent tariff cut which has hurt the textile industry. There have been arguments about the number of unemployed. At a Press conference last month the Prime Minister, when representations had been made to him by Mr W. C. S. Oliver, the Secretary of the Northern Tasmania Development League, quibbled about whether 340 or 360 people may be or were out of work. Mr Burgess of the textile organisation, Mr Oliver and others said that 900 were threatened with unemployment and would be unemployed. Mr Barnard, the member for Bass, the ex-Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence, for the first time to my knowledge in a long and loyal career went out from under the Prime Minister and said in front of his Tasmanian colleagues, I believe, that if Mr Whitlam had read the second page of the report he would have found that the figure was 900. Mr Barnard used the word disemployment'. I do not know what difference there is in Labor circles between disemployment and unemployment. All I know is that in good hard Australian language it means that they will have no work to do and no income. If they have any money in the bank they will be taxed on the interest.

These are the problems facing Tasmania at present. No wonder the people are upset. No wonder there is an air of serious despair. It is more loathsome and pitiable because of an advertisement which appeared prior to the 1 8 May 1974 election as a result of the double dissolution. I refer to an advertisement from the 'Mercury' of Tuesday, 14 May 1974. It is a full page advertisement snowing Mr Fluffy. It states:

Only Whitlam will reduce Home Interest Rates by 3 per cent.

If anyone can prove to me that interest rates have been reduced by 3 per cent or 1 per cent by the Commonwealth Government or through any of its efforts, I will apologise. I believe that when the advertisement was placed in the newspaper it was known to be a fabrication- a premeditated fabrication. The then Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Barnard, the member for Bass, authorised in the week prior to the election an advertisement which stated:

Snedden Threatens Your Job.

One truth that could come out of that advertisement is that caucus took Mr Barnard's job away from him. Mr Barnard was the man who advertised to try to put fear into the minds of the work force, the people and the electors in Tasmania by saying:

Snedden Threatens Your Job.

He did not have the courtesy to say: 'Mr'. We are used to that sort of ill mannered attitude. Long before I knew I would use this advertisement in the Budget debate and before the election was held I had written in my own fair hand on this advertisement which was authorised by Mr Barnard, 'Snedden and Anthony threaten our job', because I thought and hoped that the Liberal and Country Parties would come back into power on 18 May.

I close by saying that never in my 21 years in this Parliament have I found so much of real importance to talk about and to expose in the frailties, wrongs and harm of this Government. Because of that I have great fears of the outcome if the Government presses relentlessly on with its fifteen or sixteen day old budgetary proposals. I support the amendment that was so ably moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers).

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