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Thursday, 3 October 1974
Page: 1680

Senator WEBSTER (Victoria) - I believe I am the last speaker in the Senate in the Budget debate. I have agreed to confine my remarks to suit the purposes of the Government and the Opposition. The Budget has been debated over many days. I offer my congratulations to the newly elected senators who have made their maiden speeches in the Budget debate. Mr Acting Deputy President, I am sure you will agree with me that they have demonstrated a quality which will be of great benefit to the Senate in future years. Indeed, I am so bold as to say that probably the best speeches on the Budget which have come down in this session were given by newly elected senators. I heartily congratulate them. We are debating the Budget which has been presented by the Australian Labor Party or, should we say, the Australian socialist democratic government which we have at the present time. An amendment in length has been moved in relation to the Budget by the Opposition. That motion is to be voted on this afternoon. I support the amendment. Items which have been noted in the amendment show the Opposition's fear that the Budget will not be in the interests of the community. I believe that the points which are made in the amendment will prove to be correct in the coming year. At this time I stand in abject fear for the economy of Australia.

It concerns me that undoubtedly Labor believes that it has brought in a Budget which is designed to do something for the good of this community. One must give Labor credit for that. Back bench members of the Labor Party have been very scant in their support of the Budget. I think that at least the last half a dozen speakers have all come from the Opposition side. There has been no retort to any of the suggestions which have been made about the disadvantages which will flow from this Budget. I imagine that honourable senators believed when Labor took office that the action it would take would be for the benefit of the community. After those 20 months of office I wonder whether there is anything to which they can point. To what can Labor point to show that it has advantaged the Australian community? I make the same point in relation to the proposals which are put forward in the Budget and which give me great concern. As a person who has belonged to unions in my time, who has supported Labor members of Parliament to get into office in the early years, who has been a good member of the tally clerks union on the South Wharf at Melbourne and who was a member of the Australian Timber Workers Union in my early days, I have a respect for many of the individuals I have met. But I cannot say that I have respect for our present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) or for the Ministry of the Labor Government.

I believe that what these people are doing to Australia is something which has never been seen in the 70 years of Federation. We are on the edge of a precipice, whether Labor wishes to believe it or not. So far as I can see its actions are not directed to taking this country away from that precipice. Is Labor aware of the situation as it involves the use of money in this community? It is all very well for Labor to say that perhaps the main point of the Budget is that the Government has decided in this year to expend some 32 per cent more of its funds than it spent last year. This year in all the capital projects which this Government will attempt with the additional 32 per cent expenditure it will achieve less in a capital form than was achieved last year. If we look at any of the housing authorities we will see that cost of construction both in residential and industrial works is currently more than 50 per cent above the figure of a year ago. We need the expenditure even to maintain what we were doing previously.

The Budget will be a disaster in the State sphere for the State governments which have set up housing and education projects. For instance, my State of Victoria finds it wise to allocate over 40 per cent of its budget to education. It will achieve less this year. The school building program must go to pieces before the end of this year. Surely Labor should have seen what it was bringing about with its initial philosophies and policies because of what happened in its first year in office. The question is asked of the Opposition: 'What would you do to overcome inflation?' I am afraid that I have to say to anybody who asks me that the community will just have to ride out Labor's next year of office until there is a reversal of those early policies. They were attractive to the labouring community. It was told: Go for extra wages. Go for extra benefits in the community. Have no consideration for productivity in what you are attempting to achieve'. Labor, in its relationship to private industry, certainly has had a stated philosophy which is that it hopes for total government control of the means of production, distribution and exchange. If one reads the Budget one finds that it is the greatest advance that Labor has ever taken in that sphere. I noted the words of an industrialist the other day. I think it was Mr Valder, the Chairman of the Sydney Stock Exchange Ltd. He rightly stated the position. The fact is that there is fear of this Government in the community today. I believe the people do not see it that way but they fear the proposals which are coming about in the community. Labor has introduced philosophies which have laid the ground for the greatest financial disaster that this country has faced. I am sure that this will prove correct in the next months.

If there is an interest for Labor in this matter, surely it is for the employees in the community.

Heavens above, we heard Ministers saying before the last election: 'The one thing that Labor will not do is countenance unemployment in the community'. I would have been taken in by Labor. I would have thought that it genuinely believed that. But what do we find today? We have a Budget which, in the words of Labor, says: 'We certainly will not stand more than 5 per cent unemployed in the community'. The Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) said that he would resign if the figure got to 3 per cent. But Labor is now willing to envisage an unemployment rate which was never countenanced under a Liberal-private enterprise philosphy. Why is it that if Labor's policy on private industry proves fruitful we will have over 200,000 unemployed in January of the coming year? Labor's philosophy is designed to be against private enterprise. It hopes to get rid of private enterprise. It has moved very successful in that direction.

Today we saw the introduction of Bills which are designed to put private enterprise out of business and to bring about government control. This was the philosophy. But the Government has moved so quickly that the unemployment situation in the community will be disastrous for many people. When one looks at the various attitudes of the Ministers one sees stupidity. We need only look at unemployment to illustrate this. Today I heard a Minister say: 'Clyde Cameron has done all he can. What a great white father he is to do these things for the unemployment situation'. Labor is going to set up a national employment and training scheme but if you ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration what classification of work he will train one man for to assure him of a job he cannot tell you. He says: 'We are going to have a great retraining scheme. We will not leave an employee in the classification of work that he has chosen. We say that during his lifetime he may have 3 or 4 jobs. If he loses his job because of Labor's policy we will retrain him'.

Labor cut tariffs by 25 per cent although it swore to the Senate that there would be no cut in tariffs until the matter was referred to the Industries Assistance Commission. Because of its philosophy it cut tariffs by 25 per cent and it was evident from the day the cuts took place that trouble was looming. I do not doubt that Dr Cairns and Mr Cameron intended to put the textile industry and the rag trade out of business. They have been successful. They have put the boot trade out of business. Either they were totally ignorant or they knew what they were going to achieve. They have not reversed that policy so people who were attracted to the textile industry and wished to spend their working lives in it will have to be retrained for something else. It seems to me to be utterly stupid to say to one class of people in the community: 'Because we as the Government have put you out of business you will lose your employment. We acknowledge that we have done it but we will give you 6 months, or until you get a job, on full money and we will retrain you for a job. ' Why should that occur for one class of people whom the Government says it put out of business or for whom it reduced employment opportunities? At the same time others are losing their jobs because of the fiscal policies of the Government.

The Government is setting up a class differential and it is not entitled to do that. Either everybody should be on 6 months wages or the Government should say that the desire in the community is that people should attempt to find their own jobs, while encouraging industry to maintain the fullest employment possible. This Budget takes away all initiative from any private person who has respect for himself and is attempting to achieve something in the community. The fear of the businessman is that for private companies, the small businesses in the community, the Budget takes the rate of taxation up to 47 Vi per cent, equivalent to that paid by the multi-national groups such as General MotorsHolden's Pty Ltd and the other big companies in the community. Why has there been a 10 per cent rise since Labor came into office? The fear is there. The Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt), who is at the table, has not been willing to give a reply to my query. Now that Labor has put private companies on the level of public companies I have asked whether the Government will consider allowing some reduction in the enforced distribution of profits by private companies. Public companies do not have to distribute any dividends if they do not wish to do so. This Government forces private companies to disgorge 50 per cent of their retained profits. It is unfair. We should be attempting to encourage smaller businesses in the community to grow in strength, but that is against the philosophy of the Labor Party. It wants to see them out of business and looks like succeeding. It is a disaster in the community.

Labor has brought in a capital gains tax. It is a classic case of the pea and thimble trick which is subversive to the economy. Labor says: 'We think that the application of death taxes is unfair to some people and we will relieve you of that.' But then it brings in a capital gains tax on assets. Inflation is running at about 20 per cent and in a very few years it may reach 50 per cent so that the value of $100 may be cut by half. The Government says: 'The day before you die we will calculate the increment within your estate and we will take one-third of that away from you.' It is a disastrous tax. The Minister for Agriculture has presided over the greatest ever withdrawal of benefits from the rural industry in Australia.

I have a list of those reductions before me and I could go through and name one after the other the benefits which have been withdrawn from primary industry. The Minister was a party to the introduction of the capital gains tax. I hope that when he talks to farmer organisations he will be truthful enough to tell them that he was a party to bringing in a capital gains tax. A small farmer may devote his life's work to clearing and improving his property to such an extent that it is worth 100 per cent more; due to inflation it could be even more. He will lose one-third of that notional benefit. The Government will break every estate in Australia. The Minister cannot expect to retain the image which some people have of him.

Senator Wriedt - You must not be personal.

Senator WEBSTER - I am not being personal. The Minister should be glad that I am not being harder on him by going through the list of what he has done during the time that Labor has been in office. We could spend a little time discussing dairying. Today at question time the Minister said in answer to a question: 'You know, we find that Kraft will pull out of our equalisation scheme. There will be some trouble, but if everybody would only work together we would not have this trouble. ' The Minister stood up here and said: 'To hell with the Australian Agricultural Council. I, the Minister for Agriculture, will see that the agreements made at the Agricultural Council meetings are broken by the Federal Government. We will not even discuss them at the Agricultural Council.' So Labor threw the margarine business into the field and broke down the proposal completely.

Senator Wriedt - Tut, tut.

Senator WEBSTER -The Minister can say tut, tut' but great harm is done by that action. He has lost the faith of the State Ministers associated with the Australian Agricultural Council. The Minister should ask some of them what they think of the proposal. He influenced the South Australian Minister. He must have given approval to Ministers who attend Agricultural Council meetings to make up their own minds. Now before attending they will hold discussions and make up their minds as to how they will perform. The Minister wants consideration. He wants everybody to work together but he has lost the faith of people in that very important sphere. The list goes on and includes higher interest rates, increased taxation for private companies, withdrawal of the fuel subsidy, the depreciation allowance for plant, provision for water and fodder storages, benefits for fencing and work against soil erosion, investment allowances and the superphosphate bounty. The Budget reacts against primary producers in respect of telephones as compared with the people Labor was elected to look after, the city folk.

The removal of the fuel subsidy has resulted in increased costs in the outer areas of Australia, including the Northern Territory. The whole situation is a disaster for the most important productive sector in the community. Primary products count for 50 per cent of our income and as that declines, after the money fails to come in, the effects will be felt in the metropolitan areas. Because the support has been taken away we will see disaster in the rural industries. I myself predict that very shortly land values will collapse. As my Whip has indicated to me that my time has almost elapsed, there is an interesting point that I will make about the Government's capital gains tax- a tax, according to the Government's wording, on unearned income, whatever that may be. When proposing its 10 per cent extra tax on unearned income, this Labor Government forgot to tell the small people in the community that it was levying a $25m tax on people who earned less than $5,000 a year. That is what the Ministers did; that is what the Cabinet did. Thank heavens, there is in the Labor Party some kind of back bench which calls itself the Caucus, which reversed that decision. But the Labor Government proposed to levy this impost of $2 5 m on those people who had an income of less than $5,000 a year. The Ministers in this chamber must feel ashamed of themselves. If I were to refer to the most important quote that has been made during the Budget debate I would have to refer to that made by my own Leader. He quoted Abraham Lincoln, who said:

You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by encouraging class hatred. You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money alone. You cannot build character and courage by taking away man's initiative and independence. You cannot help a man permanently by doing for him that which he can and should do for himself.

The socialist philosophy is a disaster for Australia.

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