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Thursday, 3 October 1974
Page: 1683

Senator WRIEDT (Tasmania) (Minister for Agriculture) - in reply- In view of the lateness of the hour and the fact that this is the last day of the Budget debate, it was my intention to reply to this debate in a low key- almost in a conciliatory way. But in view of the comments made by Senator Webster it is necessary for me, I think to make one or two remarks which indicate that the subversion in this Parliament lies in the Opposition. The claim has been made that it is this Government's intention to destroy private enterprise. In fact, there is a well organised campaign of subversion going on in Australia, and it is being organised by the people whom Senator Webster represents in this place. Nothing will destroy this economy more quickly than lack of confidence. Nothing will undermine the confidence of the manufacturer or of the businessman or of any other section of the community more than if people believe that this disaster about which Senator Webster talks is about to happen. He says that we are on the edge of a precipice. He is not even sufficiently interested to listen to my remarks. When he was speaking I was good enough not to try to answer his queries. The fact is that is where the subversion lies.

I am sure that Senator Webster would like nothing better than for land prices to collapse in the next few months. He would like nothing better than for there to be 500,000 unemployed. I am quite sure that he would be quite happy to return to the situation which existed when the Party that he represents was in Government, when the only weapon available to that Government was to create unemployment. The unemployment that exists in Australia today is quite different from the type of unemployment that existed during the time of the previous Government. In the days of the Liberal-Country Party Government, as soon as inflation got out of hand, as Mr Snedden indicated in his Budget of 1971-72, the Government said: 'We have got to exercise tight monetary control. ' The surest way to overcome the inflation problem was simply to put 250,000 Australians out of work. But the present position in Australia is quite different, and I will return to it shortly.

Because the time is limited I will make one additional quick point in reply to Senator Webster. He referred to the so-called destruction of agriculture. He represents Victoria and he is always making lots of noises about the dairy industry. I say this again to other Liberal and Country Party senators from the other States: While the dairy industry was receiving the bounty under the Liberal-Country Party Government, two-thirds of it was being chewed up in Victoria, going to the people who needed it the least, while the dairy industries in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia were being allowed to die on their feet. That is the essence of the problem facing the dairy industry in Australia today. Senator Webster sits back and has the effrontery to tell this Parliament and his own colleagues that the dairy industry in those States can die as far as he is concerned. What about the 20,000 dairy famers who literally did die economically because of the system that Senator Webster supports? What a contradiction it is when he stands up here and castigates this Government for reducing tariffs by 25 per cent. He says to me: What will I say when I go out into the country and talk about the capital gains tax. I say to Senator Webster: You go out into the country and tell your farming friends whom you claim to represent that you believe that tariffs should be restored to their old level. For years the farmers have said that tariffs should be reduced because they were being disadvantaged It was this Government that had the courage to do something about reducing tariffs, which was more than Senator Webster's people could ever do.

In the whole of this debate there has been a general attack on socialism as being some evil that should never have been allowed to happen. It is interesting that for the Opposition the 'in' expression, if I may use that term, now is 'free enterprise'. We never hear that dirty word 'capitalism' used. Honourable senators opposite would never admit that they are capitalists or that they support the concept of capitalism. Capitalism is a carefully avoided word. But we make not apologies for the fact that when we came to office we believed that certain changes should be in this economy.

Senator Jessop - They certainly have.

Senator WRIEDT - Changes certainly have been made, as Senator Jessop has said quite rightly. We set out to help the people who for years and years had been neglected under the previous Government. Of course we have put a lot more money into education, health and social security. We have given pensioners the first real hope that they have had in 20 years. In fact, one only has to go back two or three years and recall the fact that the amount paid to pensioners was a real political issue in Australia. Pensioners were receiving only 19 per cent of average weekly earnings. Within 2 years that figure had been lifted to 24V5 per cent. No one is suggesting for a moment that we have overcome all the problems facing pensioners, but at least it is quite obvious to the community at large that for the first time in many years we have taken the trouble to ensure that pensioners get a reasonable deal.

How have we allegedly damaged private enterprise in Australia? From the time it came to office the Labor Party quite clearly has endeavoured to work with the private enterprise system as smoothly as it possibly could. No one was more successful in doing that than Dr Cairns when he was the Minister for Secondary Industry. When he left that portfolio it was the captains of big business who said publicly that they had never got on better with any Minister than they had with Dr Cairns. Was he out to destroy private enterprise in Australia? Let me look at the figures which show the disastrous situation with which we were confronted. I refer to the figures relating to new capital expenditure in industry to the June quarter of 1 974. There was a total increase in all industries of $ 188m, which was an increase of 26 per cent over the figure for the same quarter in 1973. This is the distastrous situation in which private enterprise finds itself! Is it any wonder that the survey that was conducted by the Bank of New South Wales not long ago indicated that it was only 5 per cent of manufacturers who said that they were really concerned about a liquidity position? We support these increases in expenditure in the private sector because it is necessary to maintain a healthy private sector in the economy. Far be it from this Government or any other government to try to destroy what is part of our economic system. It is the same kind of people about whom Senator Webster talks who would take the line that we completely destroy one section or the other, that we will wipe out government enterprise or we will wipe out private enterprise. That is not the answer, and the country would be worse off if any government followed that course.

I can recall previous occasions when the same sort of argument has been levelled at this Government. There was the argument about the Australian Industry Development Corporation legislation which was recently put through this chamber. Was it not designed to help Australian private enterprise and to ensure that Australian private enterprise remains healthy and that it remains within Australian hands? Senator Webster is very concerned these days about multinationals. I suppose he is concerned not only with multinationals but also with private enterprise because he is worried that maybe they will not be able to put as much of their funds into the Country Party as they have put in the past.

Senator Webster - What did Unilever give to the Labor Party?

Senator WRIEDT -I do not know. The honourable senator has asked me the same question on many occasions.

Senator Webster - You are not going to were are you, because you are involved yourself?

Senator WRIEDT -No, because I think the honourable senator will find that the truth will come out- all of these things will come out- in the debate on the legislation which is proposed and which the honourable senator committed himself to support. Only last week he said that he wants made public the source of funds given to political parties. I am sure that more eyes will be raised over what has gone into the coffers of the Country Party and the Liberal Party than over what has gone into those of the Labor Party.

Coming back to the matter of unemployment, this Government recognised that when it made certain structural changes certain effects would be felt. As a result of that we established the machinery to cushion the effect of these changes. Senator Webster and others seem to have just written off the significance of the fact that the Government has been prepared to pay those workers who have been displaced by structural change. We accept the fact that they constitute a significant proportion of the people out of work.

Senator Mulvihill - Senator Jessopdid not like the maternity allowances being introduced.

Senator WRIEDT - That is quite understandable. The Budget is a document designed essentially to ensure that Australians in this country are part and parcel of the development of the country, that we are in fact moving forward, and that we are as much as is possible equitably sharing in the benefits of the development of this country.

Several other points were raised with which I had hoped to deal specifically, especially some matters raised by Senator Hall. But obviously time will not permit me to deal with all the points, so I will mention only one of them. It was raised by Senator Carrick this afternoon. He was critical of this Government and of our Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his approach towards our relations with other countries. History will show that no other Prime Minister in this country has done more to initiate friendly relations with other countries around us. This is what we should have been doing years ago. These initiatives were taken in direct contrast to the deliberate sort of antagonism- and I would even say the mentality of hate- which is often demonstrated in this chamber by Opposition senators.

Senator Sim - Against whom?

Senator WRIEDT - Against many countries.

Senator Sim - Name one.

Senator WRIEDT -I will give an example. I refer to the debate on the Ermolenko affair, in which Senator Sim took quite a part, and the recognition of the Baltic States. I do not mind going on record as saying that it concerned me, although I did not have a chance to take part in the debate, that there was such a diatribe of hate against one country, namely, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I do not apologise for one moment for the sort of things that might happen in that country, but it is not our role to give continual expression to this distrust and embitterment against other nations. Although we are on a different course, we are one world. That is why in this Budget we have provided for a 28 per cent increase in the finance allocated to assist the countries about which Senator Carrick was talking.

Senator Carrickwas very critical in relation to the production of food. He said that we have destroyed all incentives, the farmers no longer want to produce and so on. Senator Webster talks about the same sort of things. The real incentives, of course, are the markets, and because we can trade on a friendly basis with other countries we can help ourselves, as well as helping them. That is the whole purpose of the change in foreign policy which has occurred in the last 6 months. This Budget will, I believe, adequately serve the needs of the Australian community in the next 12 months. It is true that there are many things which all of us would like to see done. Some of us would rather see greater emphasis in one direction than in another. But in the light of all the circumstances this Government is concerned to ensure that we go on developing and expanding as a nation and that the Australian people share the benefits of it. I am certain that this Budget, combined with other aspects of Government policy, will ensure that.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Withers' amendment) be left out.

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