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Wednesday, 2 October 1974
Page: 1624

Senator BISHOP (South AustraliaPostmasterGeneral) - I oppose the amendment. I wish to say a few words about what Senator Marriott said about the position in Tasmania. I ask Senator Marriott and all Liberal senators what they did about Tasmania in over 20 years of government.

Senator Carrick - We kept the textile workers in work.

Senator BISHOP - Of course you did. Senator Marriott talked about union amalgamations and transport costs. What did honourable senators opposite do about those things? Only a few days ago we put forward a proposal to stop demarcation troubles and disputes, which make up about 7 per cent of the industrial disputes in Australia. What did honourable senators opposite do? They did what they did on 3 previous occasions. They voted against it. We put forward measures to make sure that demarcation disputes were minimised.

People ought to be able to get together. One of the leaders of the Opposition, Mr Lynch, said in 1971 that there ought to be more amalgamations; that it was better to have fewer unions. Yet only two or three days ago honourable senators opposite again voted against this Labor Government's proposal, although all the evidence clearly shows that that proposal is supported by employers and unions alike. Honourable senators opposite raise all these problems about demarcation disputes between one union and another in the shipping industry but when we provided a remedy they opposed it.

What have they done about the cost of shipping to and from Tasmania? When they were in government they instructed the Senate Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade to conduct a long-standing inquiry into problems relating to freight rates on the Australian National Line shipping services to and from Tasmania. In September 1971, when they were in government, a report was presented stating what ought to be done to correct the situation. What did they do about it? I refer the Senate to page 61 of that report where the Committee made a unanimous statement. I do not know whether Senator Marriott was a member of that Committee; I think he was.

Senator Marriott - No, I was too busy.

Senator Poyser - I know about it. I was on the Committee.

Senator BISHOP - Senator Poyserwas a member of the Committee. At page 6 1 of that report the Committee said:

We recommend that subject to the requirement that the ANL meet its statutory obligations to pursue a policy directed towards securing revenue sufficient to meet all its expenditure properly chargeable to revenue, and to permit the payment to the Commonwealth of a reasonable return on its capital, the present tonnage limitation should be revised and the Line should have equal opportunity with private operators to provide any additional tonnage required on the Australian coast.

In its conclusions and recommendations the Committee repeated the same sort of sentiment. What did honourable senators opposite do about them? Absolutely nothing. The Committee also made some other observations. In its conclusions, on page 7 1, it stated:

Upgrading of the Tasmanian mainline railways would be beneficial and the granting of Commonwealth assistance should be considered.

Honourable senators opposite did nothing about that recommendation. The only Government that has promised something about it is the Labor Government. Although all these great remedies were recommended in these reports relating to a situation which was causing increases in shipping tariffs, the Liberal-Country Party Government did nothing about them.

Senator Marriott - What about the Bell Bay railway?

Senator BISHOP - The honourable senator keeps raising questions which his Party never at any time attempted to cure. The honourable senator and his Leader talk about the need for restraint. Every argument in this chamber and in the other place has been directed towards the Government not spending as much, yet when we go through the various items of expenditure honourable senators opposite say that we should spend more. They say that more money ought to be provided for defence, for child endowment and so on. What sort of situation do we have today? It is no different from what always obtained; yet the Liberal Party says that there ought to be restraint on Government spending.

Senator Carrick - The textile workers had jobs.

Senator BISHOP - The only Government in Australia that has ever had a comprehensive policy on manpower is this Labor Government. The only Government which has ever been able to provide immediate assistance in the form of regional employment development schemes is this Labor Government. I want to refer to Senator Marriott's complaint about Tasmania. He has now left the chamber, but honourable senators will notice in the -

Senator Poyser - He is not here.

Senator BISHOP - Of course he is not here.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Order! Interjections are very disorderly.

Senator BISHOP - I am sorry, Mr Acting Deputy President. I want to refer to what you said about there being no assistance to Tasmania. The Minister for Labor and Immigration, Mr Cameron, only recently pointed out the amounts given to Tasmania for programs under this Government's regional employment development scheme. In Hobart, the municipality of Huon is to receive over $2 15,000 to upgrade the obsolete water mains in Franklin. Provisional approval has been given. Provisional approval has been given for work to upgrade water mains at Crabtree Grove in Hobart at a cost of $12,700. The municipality of Huon in Hobart is to upgrade the water mains at Mountain River at a cost of over $16,000, and this work has received provisional approval. Extensions to the Midway Point sewerage scheme in the municipality of Sorell, costing $40,000, have been deferred because they are subject to agreement with the Department of Urban and Regional Development. Provisional approval has been given for a project in the municipality of Beaconsfield, Launceston, for a project costing $32,000 which involves the use of female labour in painting. Again in Launceston, provisional approval has been given for the employment of female labour at the council chambers at a cost of $4,500. There is another project in the municipality of Beaconsfield, and so it goes on. There are scores of projects not only in Tasmania but also in my State and in every other State. This is the only government which can marshal immediate assistance in the circumstances which arise as a result of this great problem of world-wide inflation. We have been able to approve projects immediately, despite the fact that people still talk about State problems. In addition we have organised the manpower situation.

The strange thing about the Liberals, as I said earlier, is that they ask why we do not do all these things. They ask us why we do not cut spending and also why we do not approve more social services. Our policy has been successful. For once, even though there have been very serious inflationary crises throughout the world as well as in Australia, we have kept our promises relating to social welfare, education -

Senator Carrick - Tell us about removing the means test. Tell us about cutting the education allowance.

Senator BISHOP -We have more than exceeded the claims made by anybody in regard to education and social welfare, as well as in regard to repatriation benefits. Honourable senators opposite ask why we do not spend more; yet their Leader, Mr Snedden, said that we should ensure that 25 per cent less would be spent, which would mean that there would be a cut of $900m. Would the Australian electorate countenance a cut of $900m in the program we have put forward? Would the electorate support Mr Snedden when he says that the main thrust of his policy is to reduce the acceleration in public sector expansion? He says that his Party would make a careful scrutiny within the areas of lower priority to determine which projects should be cancelled or deferred. Honourable senators opposite cannot have it both ways. They cannot cut and expand at the same time. Their propositions always have been the same. They come into the chamber and say that we are spending too much and that we should cut back.

This Government has made sure that in a situation which certainly is not particularly secure the promises of the Labor Party will be kept. For example, we have made sure that the biggest single increase in the Budget is in spending on education. For the second year spending will rise. This financial year it will rise by 78 per cent to a massive $ 1,535m. This has never been thought about before. If the Liberals had been in power the people would not have had one-fifth of that amount spent on education. Would the educational grants to all the schools have been maintained? Of course not. Would the new additional allowances provided by this Government have been provided? Consider the welfare matters and the repatriation budget of the Department of Repatriation and Compensation administered by Senator Wheeldon? Would those things have been done by a Liberal government? Consider the increases in repatriation which have been approved following upon the vast increases that were granted when I was Minister. Senator Wheeldon, of course, has outmanoeuvred me and has made a better deal. Not only has he kept the promises made to the exservicemen; he is providing new benefits to the Commonwealth soldiers who served in the wars- - new things which never would have been countenanced. In the years when we were in Opposition we came along with the complaints of the Returned Services League and other exservicemen about lack of government action; but now we have the RSL and other ex-servicemen applauding the actions of the Labor Government.

In regard to Mr Uren's plans for the big cities, we will spend more than $400m on old and new cities. This is the first time that there has ever been an Australian-wide plan which will ensure that old cities are renewed and that vast new complexes are built in co-operation with the State governments. This particular plan was accepted immediately in my own State by the Dunstan Government. The Australian Government and the State Government will co-operate on a planning committee. In addition to this plan there are plans for particular works like sewerage works and area improvement works. Money has been given to the State governments for these purposes. New South Wales has received more than $34m for sewerage works. Victoria has received about $34m for sewerage works and $4.2 5 m for area improvement works.

Senator Poyser - What did the Liberals give in this field?

Senator BISHOP - Nothing, and they had no plan because they do not believe in planning. They say that planning is for the socialists. South Australia has received $3m for sewerage works, $500,000 for area improvement works and $4.4m for urban water supply works in the initial stage of construction. Part of the money is being provided by way of grant and part by way of long term loan. Tasmania has received $2. 7m for these works in addition to the particular projects to which I referred earlier. Western Australia has received $ 15.4m for sewerage works and $750,000 for area improvement works. Queensland has received $ 13.5m for sewerage works and $2.5 m for area improvement works. It was the Labor Party which for the first time said in its policy speech that the national Government ought to plan to provide sewerage for most of the important centres in Australia. We have done that. Our policies are being carried out. Of course, in addition we have allocated $75m to ensure that the Government's program for preschool and child care facilities gets under way.

We are providing $28m to the States for modernising State hospitals. We are providing $ 1 .8m to the State governments to enable them to meet deficits incurred by religious, charitable and other non-profit organisations. We have doubled the grants to the States, to $ 10m a year, to build homes for single pensioners. I have already referred to repatriation benefits. Senator Cavanagh has provided nearly $70m in cash for Aboriginal projects. There has been a huge increase, from $7m to $54. 7m, in the Australian National Line capital expenditure program in order to increase the share of the trade carried in Australian ships. That is in contrast to the point I made earlier when I referred to the report by the Senate Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade in 197 1 which recommended improvements in and an extra share of the trade to the Australian National Line- things which would have beneficially affected transportation between the mainland and Tasmania. But nothing was done.

In addition to all these things, as we know, in my own area and in the area of Senator Douglas McClelland, 2,500,000 people who used to pay television and radio licence fees will no longer have to pay them. We have made sure that that fee, which was a poll tax, will be finished forever. We have followed countries like Canada in ensuring that benefits should be provided to all of the people. But all of the people cannot get benefits at the same time. From now on it will be remembered that television and radio licence fees were abolished by the Labor Government. We have increased our overseas aid, which was a policy pledge of my Government. The amount of aid will be increased by about one-third. The Liberal Opposition has never planned to do anything. It disagrees with our planning. It blames all the problems in the economy on the Labor Government.

Senator Baume - Quite right.

Senator BISHOP -Of course it does. When we propose to carry out our policies for which we have received a mandate from the people, the Opposition claims that we should not carry them out, that we should not be spending money. What have we tried to do? We have tried to ensure that defence spending reaches the level that we have promised. In relation to defence spending, we have shown that we want to ensure that every serviceman receives about the same rate of pay as people in outside industry. We have heard people say that Labor has cut down on defence spending. Last night Senator Steele Hall said that we are cutting down on defence spending. For the first time in Australia servicemen in all the Services can be sure that they will receive pay increases commensurate with those awarded to people in outside industry.

When I was a member of the Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee I found that 6 or 12 months after a pay increase had been awarded to fitters or to other people in outside industry a regulation would come along which promised to pay servicemen similar increases. As Senator Wheeldon will recall, very often the members of the Committee said: 'We should not pay these amounts retrospectively.' There was much contention within the Committee. On many occasions, because the increases were to be paid to defence personnel, we made sure that the payments were made. That was the old system. We have produced a new system. We have ensured that there are regular hearings in relation to defence pay. If we take into account all the increases in pay that we have made and the benefits that we have provided under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund we find that we have spent more than $300m in ensuring that servicemen receive pay and conditions commensurate with those awarded to people in outside industry. If we want a satisfactory defence force we have to ensure once and for all that servicemen are paid in the same way as their counterparts.

Senator Carrick - You cut it from 9 battalions to six.

Senator BISHOP - Senator Carrickknows what we did. We rationalised the Services. The strange thing is that despite the criticism of honourable senators opposite, during the last Federal election campaign they never promised that anything more would be spent on defence. Whilst their defence spokesman and others in this chamber criticised the Government before the last election and whilst they have come back here and said that we ought to do certain things, none of them has promised to spend anything more on defence because they know that we are managing the defence Services properly.

Senator Carrick - What about your promise of 3.2 percent?

Senator BISHOP - We have almost reached that figure, and Senator Carrick knows that. The figures clearly show that. In 1974-75 estimated outlays in relation to the gross domestic product represent 2.65 per cent. The estimated expenditure is 2.77 per cent, which is near enough to 3 per cent.

Senator Carrick - Near enough? It is about $400m out.

Senator BISHOP - Of course it is near enough. Compare it with the procrastination of honourable senators opposite and of their committee which dealt with the wages of servicemen. Compare that with what we did about rationalisation of the Services immediately we came to office. Did honourable senators opposite promise to implement any of the policies that we have enunciated and carried out? They have not promised anything. Why do they criticise us? If they were going to do something they should have stated it in their policy. But they fell flat because they know that all the things that it is possible to do in the defence area we have done. I say to Senator Carrick that it is simply carping political criticism to come in here without any evidence and say: 'You should cut back on public spending and at the same time you should spend more'. I cannot work it out, nor can anybody else. Then honourable senators opposite refer to the aims of the States. Of course some of the States have not received all the money they want. But some of the States will not plan with the Federal Government; they will not co-operate. I am pleased to say that my own State of South Australia is most willing to be present at any discussions with Federal Ministers in order to ensure that it gets the maximum from the Australian Government. The South Australian Government will plan with the Federal Government not only in relation to great urban projects but also in relation to railways and public transport. There are more plans to come.

Although honourable senators opposite complain about the treatment which the States are receiving, if they look at the figures they will find that in 1974-75 the States will receive grants and advances from the Australian Government to the extent of $6,033m, which is an increase of 38.4 per cent over what they received last year. What have we done about other issues? What have we done about setting up tribunals and about prices? Honourable senators opposite know that for many weeks they held up the Trade Practices Bill. They know that they have held up other measures in the Senate on the ground that the Senate ought to be in a position to consider legislation. But in fact the Opposition held them up and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) said: 'We are trying to make sure that there will be a double dissolution'. So the Opposition frustrated the work of the Government despite the mandate that the Australian Labor Party had been given to implement its policies which were announced in public and put in writing. We were the only party at that time whose program could be read by everybody.

Senator Carrick - Like putting up the postal charges?

Senator BISHOP - The honourable senator knows that it would not be unusual for him or Senator Greenwood to come into this chamber and say: 'Here is Labor Party policy'. We were the only party with a document setting out our policies and, of course, in most recent months the Opposition has tried to copy the document. It has tried to imitate the Labor Party's policies.

Senator Carrick - Not on your life.

Senator BISHOP -Of course it has. The Opposition has never had a policy document. One could not find in writing the policies of the Liberal Party or what its policies meant. It has never held public conferences. For many years the Labor Party has held debates in the public arena on its policies. The honourable senator could attend one of the meetings as a visitor and sit back in the audience and find out what the Labor Party was thinking about. But one could never find out such things about the Liberal Party.

Senator Carrick - Yes, you could.

Senator BISHOP -Only recently has the Liberal Party decided to do this sort of thing, and maybe it has been brought about by the agitation of our friend from South Australia, Senator Steele Hall, who suggested that the Liberal Party is too conservative and the only way to get it back into power is to follow a line which is perhaps more that of a small '1' liberal and more moderated. There are reports now, of course, that Senator Steele Hall has been offered some inducement to join the Liberal Party in order to consolidate its forces. I hope that those reports are not right.

Senator Poyser - They ought to sack Senator Greenwood.

Senator BISHOP - Well, I saw a statement in one of the Sydney journals that Senator Greenwood might be deposed and Senator Steele Hall might be offered a position to ensure that he will vote with the Liberals all the time.

Senator Carrick - Tell us about these postal charges that you have put up.

Senator BISHOP - Of course we are putting up postal charges. Let me talk about them. It is in this area that honourable senators opposite are hypocrites. I say that in a political sense and not in any personal sense. During all the years that we had Liberal Postmasters-General the argument was put up that the user ought to pay. Only on rare occasions when it suited the rural community did the Liberal Party agree with subsidies. In four of the last years that the Liberals were in government they increased postal charges and they criticised the Labor Opposition for claiming that the increases were too steep. On this occasion, of course, the Opposition deferred the increases proposed earlier in the year until the Budget session. Because of that we have had to increase the charges even more. On the principle put forward by Liberal Ministers in the past and also with the support of the Vernon Commission recommendations, it has been said: 'The user ought to pay'. We have increased postal charges for that reason. When we first proposed the increases the Opposition rejected them, but strangely enough it decided not to oppose them the other day. Opposition senators criticised them but said that they would let them go through. If Opposition senators were dinkum it appears to me that they ought to be consistent. So it seems to me that the criticism of postal charges has been answered. Both Senator Douglas McClelland and I have done something about which we are very proud, and that is to make sure that once and for all this poll tax on radio and television licences is abolished.

Senator Carrick - Tell us about the principle of the user ought to pay on that one.

Senator BISHOP - The position is that television and radio services are national services and they ought to be considered on that basis. Because they are national services, we made sure that the contribution should not be based on a poll tax. The situation in relation to telephones is quite different because they are restricted to the user. That has no relevance at all. I think I can say quite clearly- everybody knows this-that although it has been claimed that we have been extravagant in Government we have kept our welfare promises.

Senator Carrick - You have not.

Senator BISHOP - Of course we have.

Senator Carrick - You have not.

Senator BISHOP - For heaven's sake, what about the education vote, the welfare and the repatriation pensions? This is the first time ever that pensions have been tied to a formula. The Opposition talked about it when in government but did nothing. In the old days when those in Opposition were on this side of the chamber they used to grant increases of 20c, and the largest increase that they have ever given since I have been here is $1. To show how good we are we granted an increase of $5, and we did not use the Budget to do so. We could have easily made that increase a Budget gimmick, but we did not do that. We gave that increase before the Budget was brought down.

Of course, the Labor Party does have great problems but it is carrying on with the policies which it pledged to carry out. We are continuing with welfare proposals because that is what we ought to do. Maybe honourable senators opposite are critical of us but surely they ought to give us support in those matters which we have announced publicly. But instead of that, as everybody knows, on almost every occasion they have used all sorts of frustrating devices, the most recent of which was in relation to the amalgamation of unions, which Senator Marriott mentioned. Why do they want to keep doing these things? If they want to take over the reins of government they have to show a more responsible attitude than they are showing at the moment. They have to accept some of the socialist ideas that our Labor Party, our welfare party, has put into operation. Unless the Opposition can reconcile its own philosophies of free enterprise with the social welfare aims which are required in these days, it will never get back into government.

So I suggest to the Opposition and to the people who may be listening to the debate that the Australian Labor Party has again kept its promises in Government. If the Australian people want a return to all the problems of yesteryear and promises which, as I have mentioned, were never given effect to, then they will put back the old conservative crowd again and do away with the progress that Australia is making at the moment.

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