Senator Lionel Murphy

Maiden Speech during the Estimates and Budget Debate

The Senate, 29 August 1962

 

Senator Murphy (New South Wales)

Mr President. As a member of the Australian Labor Party I have been elected by the people of New South Wales to represent them in this chamber. It is a great privilege for any man to become a member of the Senate. The Senate is recognised as the foremost debating chamber in the Commonwealth of Australia and has achieved an international reputation for its supervision and control of delegated legislation. In this respect the Senate has been held up as a model for other legislative bodies.

On this motion to print the Estimates and Budget Papers 1962-63, I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) which states that this Budget does not serve the best interests of Australia. Honourable Senators on this side of the chamber have already stressed many shortcomings in this Budget. Tonight I wish to deal with the failure to make adequate provision for the development of Australia. All over the world the long-term view is being taken of national development -- all over the world, except in Australia. The governments of Africa and Asia are planning their national development not on an annual but on a long-term basis. The tenth annual report of the Colombo Plan was presented to the Senate this year. Australia is a member of that Plan and under it has contributed considerable amounts to the various under-developed countries of Asia. The report states:-

Comprehensive planning has assumed greater importance in all countries of the area as the vehicle of economic and social advance.

The same report shows that Burma has embarked upon a four-year plan and Ceylon on a ten-year development plan, which was begun in 1959. India is in its third five-year plan, which began in 1961. Indonesia has an eight-year national development plan; Malaya has begun a second five-year development plan; and Nepal is in its second five-year plan. Also, Pakistan is in its second vie-year plan and the Philippines began a five-year plan in 1961. Thailand is in the midst of a six-year economic development plan. Other countries, too many to name, have embarked upon long-term plans of development.

What has been spent by Australia under the Colombo Plan over the last ten years? Up to 31st December last, these are the figures:-- Australia has contributed 1,250,000 towards the development of Burma; 900,000 to Cambodia; nearly 4,000,000 to Ceiling; 13,000,000 to India; 4,000,000 to Indonesia; over 300,000 to Laos; 1,500,000 to Malaya; 165,000 to Nepal; 380,000 to North Borneo; 11,000,000 to Pakistan; 500,000 to the Philippines; 330,000 to Sarawak; 660,000 to Singapore; over 1,000,000 to Thailand; and 1,330,000 to Viet Nam. Ninety-two projects in twelve countries have received capital aid from Australia at the cost of more than 31,000,000. In addition, Australia has contributed 10,000,000 worth of technical assistance. In this financial year we are to pay under the Colombo Plan 2,750,000 for the economic development of other countries, and 2,000,000 for technical assistance.

Apart from the Colombo Plan, Australia has become a foundation member of the International Development Association set up by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and will contribute $20,000,000 over five years. We are to pay 700,000 this year. In addition, Australia has agreed to contribute 7,000,000 to the Indus Basin Development Fund -- a great plan for the development of the Indus Basin in the Indian sub-continent. Australia last year paid 1,300,000 to this Indus Basin Development Fund and will pay 1,000,000 this year. Other payments are being made and will be made by Australia to give assistance in Africa, Korea and elsewhere. All these places have one common feature. National development has been planned on a new and exciting scale -- on the long-term view.

Now let us turn to Australia, which has some of the greatest undeveloped regions of the world. We have an empty north and west and we have a primary responsibility for the primitive Territories of New Guinea and Papua. We are regularly criticised for our failure to develop our trust Territory. We are deeply conscious of the fact that our north and west must be developed. The people of Australia would be staggered to learn that Australia has no national development plan. The Menzies Government, by its participation in the plans for the development of other nations, can see the virtue of planning for them but apparently cannot see the virtue of a plan for Australia.

Because the Government does not believe in long-term planning for Australia, we have no national development plan. The Government made its view quite clear in a pamphlet called "The Australian Economy 1962" and in the Budget speech. The Government, not believing in long-term planning, has produced this annual budget which the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has described as a budget of national development. Where is the provision for national development? This year the Commonwealth Government's expenditure will be 2,091,000,000. The Commonwealth passes moneys to the States, as it is bound to do, but the States complain, quite truthfully, that they are starved of money. the States are financially incapable of engaging in the vast national development that Australia requires. Of course, the Territories are entirely the responsibility of the Commonwealth. But what provision has been made for expenditure on national development by the Commonwealth itself, as distinct from the States? The Commonwealth this year has provided, for major expenditure on specific projects and other activities of a developmental nature, only 27,000,000. I repeat -- only 27,000,000.

Australia's expenditure this year for development of other nations will be over 6,500,000. In the light of this, surely it is not enough to spend for development only 1,300,000 in South Australia, 1,000,000 in the Northern Territory -- for cattle roads only -- and this is the same as the amount to be spent by Australia this year on the Indus Basin -- 666,000 in New South Wales, nothing in Tasmania and 6,750,000 in Western Australia. More is being spent in Queensland 13,000,000. This total of 27,000,000 is completely inadequate. The whole sum has been allocated for specific projects -- nothing for any integrated plan. The Treasury issued a statement on 7th August headed "Major Expenditure by the Commonwealth on specific projects and Other Activities of a Development Nature 1961-62 to 1962--63 Inclusive". This document reveals the disgraceful position that the major expenditure over the past two years has only been 12,500,000 -- 10,000,000 in the last financial year and only 2,500,000 in the year before.

The report of the Colombo Plan shows that Australian expenditure on capital aid and technical assistance under the Plan was 4,500,000. the Treasury document to which I have referred shows that in the same year the major expenditure by the Commonwealth on specific projects and other activities of a developmental nature was only 2,500,000. I am not concerned at this stage to criticise our contribution to the national development of other countries; I am concerned to show that this Government refuses to provide adequately for the development of Australia. These figures show that for years the Menzies Government has seriously neglected the development of Australia. I believe that the provision of 27,000,000 for this year is grossly inadequate, but what is more serious than the inadequacy is the lack of long-term planning.

The essence of a budget is that it is a plan, but in this Budget and its accompanying documents there is no plan for national development. An annual budget has its uses, but is also has its limitations. There should be two budgets -- one, an annual budget containing the expenditure that should be met annually out of current revenues, and the other, a long-term budget containing capital expenditure for national development and such emergency measures as should be taken in times of depression to fight unemployment and stimulate trade. The ordinary budget should be balanced annually, and the long-term one only over a period.

A striking feature of this debate is that it concerns a budget for the year which began on 1st July last. The Budget was not presented until 7th August, and it was not intended to receive parliamentary sanction until well into the financial year. For many years it has been the practice to present a budget not before but after the commencement of the financial year concerned. This practice is a bad one for two reasons. The first is that the late presentation means that the Government is completely resistant to any change. How can this Senate expect to induce any change in the government's provision for the year when we are already into the year? Secondly, it is too late for business firms and business people to adjust their activities in accordance with the Budget. The taxation cuts and government spending are expected to stimulate activity. Since most firms plan their activities well ahead, much of this effect of the Budget will be lost. Inasmuch as a budget is expected to guide their activities, the more warning that is given of the Government's intentions the better it will be. It is not only a bad practice to present a budget after the beginning of the financial year; it is an unnecessary practice. In the United States, for example, the budget is presented to Congress in January or February, well in advance of the financial year. We should try to emulate that custom.

Mr President. Our national development should not be dependent upon the vagaries of the annual balance of trade or other factors which are constantly changing. National development calls for a long-term budget in order to protect it from the disrupting influence of the fits and starts which have been its history over the past decade, brought about by the ups and downs in the flow of trade. For national development we should have a program of targets to be achieved over four or five years against a background of what we have to achieve over ten or fifteen years. This view is practical and is supported by eminent economists all over the world, including our own. Our financial newspapers are repeatedly saying that the Government is too backward -- that it must give more leadership and engage in more planning. Increasingly, the leaders of our manufacturing, commercial and farming communities are joining the trade unions and the Labour movement in demanding that the Government plan on a long-term basis and refrain from disrupting activity by constantly changing its mind. the grave and constant criticism of this Government is that it is erratic and capricious, and will not plan.

Since the Minister for National Development calls this the Budget for development of the nation, where in it or elsewhere is any provision made for Australia's developing its own shipping line, whether owned publicly or by Australian residents? Where is the plan for Australia's ultimately regaining control of that great portion of its industry that is owned and controlled from overseas -- the motor vehicle industry, the chemical industry, the paint industry and the oil industry, to name only a few. If we are to develop as a nation, Australians at some time must control their own industries, either publicly or privately. When will these industries be rescued? Or does the Government think that they should remain in foreign hands forever?

Federal departments have a number of separate plans for development within their own spheres. So also have State departments and many of the great public enterprises. These plans have never been integrated into a national plan. As a result, many of them languish, and some never come to fruition. It is only when they are put together and a long-term view taken that decisions can be made as to which of these plans will be implemented, in what order they will be carried out, and what other things must be done to have real development of the nation. We must bring into existence a plan which will set out the picture of the Australia we hope to have in ten or fifteen years' time. We must determine the number of persons we hope to have in this country, whether it be 12,000,000 or 15,000,000. We must decide how the population should be distributed, and what industries we want in the north of Australia, in the west and elsewhere. We must determine what roads, ports, housing and other facilities will be needed, and where they will be needed. We must have as clear a picture as we can of the Australia that we want to achieve at the end of that time.

Once we know what we are seeking to achieve, targets can be set by way of three or four-year plans to achieve these goals. The economic plans can be fitted in with the plans for basic resources, industry, movement of population and housing. Then this plan and these targets must be made known to all the people of Australia -- to the trade unions, to businesses, to the children in the schools and to the aged, so that every one can look forward with confidence to the development of our nation. This is the correct way to go about national development, whether it is to be achieved principally by private enterprise, if the Menzies Government is doing it, or by a greater share of public enterprise, if we on this side are carrying it out. There are not insuperable constitutional difficulties. Where there is a will there is a way. And this must be the way, not of compulsion, but of cooperation. Any successful plan depends upon the willing cooperation of all concerned. Any government that shows the way will receive that cooperation. No government and no plan can succeed without it.

The Government must take the initiative. It must plan. Private persons and companies will then fit into that plan and make their plans in accordance with it. In the field of national development the Menzies Government has abandoned leadership. Private enterprise has joined the trade unions and the Labour movement in the realisation that in modern society the scale of government is so great and the needs of national development so vast that the Government cannot abdicate from leadership. Private enterprise looks for leadership from the Government, but the Government declines to give it. That is why we are in the doldrums.

Mr President. Let us apply this long-term approach to the Northern Territory. The north needs people. We must attract population by migration from overseas or interstate. This can be done by a plan for providing housing, schools and facilities of all kinds, integrated with the development of physical resources and industry. Provision of houses and schools creates employment; it brings about building and service industries. All of these can spring up as natural adjuncts to one another. Workers, contractors and others, with their families, will move to the north only when they are assured of homes, hospitals and schools and above all, the security that the Commonwealth government guarantees that the development will be carried on. This long-term planning can be done. It has been done for the Australian Capital Territory and it can be done for the Northern Territory. The amazing progress in this city of Canberra is clearly due to the long-term planning of the national Capital Development Commission. What is good for Canberra is good for the northern Territory. Instead of working to an integrated, long-term plan, the Menzies Government pats itself on the back because it has provided for the Northern Territory an amount of 1,000,000 for the development of the Northern Territory for this year to be applied to cattle roads only. The north will never be developed in that way.

The consequences of lack of planning are disastrous. The failure to plan adequately and on a long-term basis has clearly led to mass unemployment and its attendant misery, to the housing shortage, to the shortage of facilities such as sewerage even in the great cities, to distress in Queensland and elsewhere, and to the breakdown of the migration scheme, as well as to a general lack of confidence. This Government's stop-and-go policies are not an accident; they are a consequence of the absence of long-term planning. Failure to have a comprehensive integrated national planning means that government policies are subject to violent changes from year to year and even from month to month. It means that when remedies are applied they are applied as if in an emergency. It means that industry is over-producing one month whilst next month there is an excess of unused capacity. It means in matters such as decentralisation that the results of a decade of patient work can be destroyed before the Government is aware of the havoc it is creating. It means uncertainty to business and to individuals looking for careers. We would find it much easier to cope with our problems of balance of payments and international trade if we knew where we wanted to go in the development of Australia, and the rest of the world knew also. If we had long-term plans and circumstances changed, we could more easily see what needed to be done.

What has the lack of planning meant to education? All over the Commonwealth education is neglected. The universities have to raise their fees and, worse still, exclude students who have proved by examination their capacity to undertake a university course. The primary and secondary schools are overcrowded. There is a shortage of teachers, and there is a shortage of facilities for primary, secondary and technical education. No one, except this Government will say that the position is satisfactory. Any Federal Government with a real concern for education would draw up a plan, together with the States, to ensure that this breakdown in education did not occur. The breakdown is not recent; it has been evident for years that education was in difficulties and running into disaster. This is not the fault of any one State; it is happening everywhere and the responsibility lies with the Federal Government, which has the power of the purse.

The crisis in education is so serious that today over 300 teachers have been to this Parliament urging upon senators and members that something be done. They ask that the Commonwealth establish a committee to investigate and make an up-to-date assessment of primary, secondary and technical education on a national basis, and to suggest a long-term scheme for assistance. Such an inquiry must take some time. They ask that, pending its report, the Commonwealth shall make immediate grants for special assistance as an interim measure. In my view, their requests should be granted. Their claims are incontestable, and we know that the crisis arises from lack of long-term planning. Again, in regard to science, lack of planning is holding back the pursuit of knowledge and the advancement of science. Scientists have made pleas to this Government for a national plan for science, but nothing has been done.

What has the lack of planning meant to our migration scheme? Migrants have been brought out in vast numbers, but no proper provision was made for their housing or for their jobs. They were the first to suffer from mass unemployment, since they were mostly in the unskilled jobs and were handicapped by language and other difficulties. The Government did not even take the elementary precaution of achieving a balance of the sexes among migrants. The migrants are facing very great problems because the Government has fallen down on its responsibilities. That is why the rate of migration has declined. That is why 250,000 eligible migrants are not naturalised. As I see it, there is no escape from the need for long-range planning by the Government. It will be forced to adopt planning as other nations have. This Government's failure to realise the necessity for planning simply means that years of valuable time have been lost. National development means more than development of physical and economic resources. The nation is, above all, its people. National development must be concerned with the mind and hearts and well-being of our people.

One feature of our life that is very evident is the apathy of most young persons, which in extreme cases is manifested as delinquency. There is a feeling of an absence of a future, of belonging to nothing worthwhile. Our people want to create something. They want to build a future for themselves in a society they believe in. They want to have a national goal that they can achieve. That was the spirit of the pioneers who came to Australia and of those who opened up the west of America. That is the spirit abroad in Asia today. It is the spirit of those who feel that they are participating in the creation of something great -- the building of their own nation. That is the spirit that this Government is holding down in Australia. There is apathy because those who are supposed to be leading are not leading. The Government does not know where it is going. If it does, it has not told the people of Australia. This is more than a question of money or economics. The people want to share in something more than the material rewards of life, and to talk in terms of increasing the national product is not enough. The Australian people want to help build this country into a great nation. In this Budget, the Government shows that it has not realised the capacity of the Australian people. It has underestimated them. It has let us down. We must join the rest of the world. We must have our ten-year national development plan for Australia."

Ends