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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 2550

REGIONAL DAILIES ASSOCIATION DINNER - CANBERRA ACT - 15 MARCH 1972 - SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER, THE RT HON WILLIAM MCMAHON CH MP

Photo of McMahon, William

McMahon, William

Period of Service: 10/03/1971 to 05/12/1972

More information about McMahon, William on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 15/03/1972

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 2550

PRIME MINISTER
REGIONAL DAILIES ASSOCIATION DIVINER
CANBERRA, A. C. T. IIARCH, 1972.
Speech by the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. William McMahon CHMP.
Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I feel a little like Daniel as the guest of the
regional lions. Mostly, I come face to face with the papers in
the morning an hour or so before breakfast. On this occasion,
it is a pleasure to meet you at the end of the day, and in pretty
distinguished company. I know you have no intention of spoiling
m y dinner as you sometimes spoil my breakfast.
As I see it, 11r. President, the reqional dailies are
to the Metropolitan press what local Government is to State
Government. They are closest to the people. And like their
Metropolitan brothers, they are free and independently minded, very
independently minded.
We in Canberra respect the regional papers for the
qualities they have. But please don't misunderstand me, I don't
agree with everything you print, far from it.
Over the years, experience has tempered my judgemient
and I am now a fatalist where newspapers are concerned. Frc'm my
experience, a reply to a newspaper article resermbles the t Dnt of
Hercules to crop the Hydra. There isn't t"-he slightest chance of
ultimate success. But I am an optimist too, and tonight I want to
talk a little about why we are going to win the next election.
We have been through a difficult economic period. There
are still plenty of difficulties around. But I can see daylight
and so can many of the people around me. Not only in the Government,
but in large sections of business and industry where the man who
spots the trend early qets the advantage as the recovery gathers
momentum. II
believe that as we generate more
confidence, Lnd we in Australia have greater reason for confidence
and future prospects than most other countries I know, if we can
have less industrial trouble and less wage and price movements, we
can get smoothly into ton gear again. Here the press ha-r a vital,
indeed critical, role. / 2

You are professional newspaper people, and you have
every right to say you are the best judges of what is news.
What I can do is to make an appeal for a place for good news
alongside the bad to make an appeal for some priority for
matters of substance over trivia.
Confidence has a psychological basis and you cannot
beat this by Government edict and action alone. It needs to be
attacked on a broad front with the intelligent understanding and
support of the Press. People do believe what they read in
newspapers and that is why those of you who belong to the
honourable profession of journalism have a great trust to keep.
You are a spur to governments and a voice for the people.
It is a year since I became Prime Minister and I
confess it has been a tough year, tougher than I thought it would
be. We have faced up to taking unpopular measures. We have
accepted our responsibility to hold firm. We have set ourselves
unmistakably against the social and economic evil of excessive
inflation. And now we are finding some satisfaction in seeing
the right trends beginning to emerge.
That is not my opinion alone. Remember what Mr
Gibbs, the Managing Director of GMH said only this week about the
upturn in the economy. His company is going to put on about as
many men as it laid off in recent months. Two thousand are going
back on the payroll. Mr Gibbs anticipates more people will be
buying cars in the next few months as the stimulus measures
announced at the Premiers' Conference work through. It is a
hardheaded business assessment based on experience, facts and
estimates. We support it.
Then there are signs, too, that the rate of increase
in savings bank deposits is starting to slow down. As people get
more confidence, they will be spending more. These are facts,
not wishful thinking. We heard nothing, I note, from the Leader of the
Opposition this week about his famous prediction in January that
we were going to see a further 50,000 people out of work in
three months' time. Well, all I can say is that two months ha-e
gone by and in the first of those months, unemployment fell by
15,000. Unemployment is on the way down. And we can be sure that
in this month of March there will be a further improvement.
Mr Whitlam now seems to be whispering his predictions.
There has been a similar deafening silence on this
subject from Mr Clyde Cameron who went even further out on a
limb. He forecast 200,000 out of work. I ' now it is hard to
believe. It was a completely irresponsible fear-promoting
exercise that got about as far as Mr Cameron's other short-lived
attempt at getting the Labor Party to agree on its industrial
policy. His efforts as sha-low Minister for La -ur have not
exactly been crowned with success.
The Labor Party is very fond of substituting wishes
for predictions and speculations for certainties. We are going
to see a lot more of it this year. When you do, take a moment
to remember those predictions of theirs about unemployment. / 3

3
But let us turn from their wishful predictions to
more of the facts as we know them today.
The economy is healthy and growing
Look at the country. What a depressing outlook it was
a year ago! The bottom had fallen out of wool, it
seemed, and rural unemployment was high. Now wool and
other commo . r-ity prices have got better and the rural
depression is lifting.
tany companies are showing better results and the stock
market is more buoyant, without the previous unhealthy
sneculative elements.
Overseas trade is healthy. Our reserves position is
strong.
Interest rates are down. Money is available for
investment. These are ingredients for success. But the fight
against inflation must go on. As we have said often, the remedy
lies in wage restraint together with increased productivity.
Before the year is out, we will be going to the polls.
I will say I believe we will win, and win on our mcrits. We will
fight and win on the vital issues of the day on the economy
defence social welfare national development.
I do not yet want to nominate a priority of issues.
They are all very important. We will show how wide the gulf is
between the Government Parties and Labor on issues like imnigration,
industrial lawlessness and thE-ANZUS Treaty.
Only yesterday, the Presidential envoy, Mr Marshall
Green, re-emphasised the closeness of the trust which has been
renewed between ourselves and the United States. Australia is
a close friend with whom we share our confidences to a degree we
do with no-one else, uas how Mr Green put it, on arrival in Sydney.
We will also show how fundamentally cur -hilosophies
differ ours the philosephy of individual rights and free
enterprise theirs Labor's the dominance and supervision of
the state. Who governs this country? The elected representatives?
Or a small band largely nominated and dominated by the Left Wing
Unions? That is another major issue.
We all know industrial lawlessness took the edge off
the reduction in actual unemployment last month. And it remains a
constant threat to the pick-up in the economy to whieh I have just
referred. / 4

A
I note what Mr Hawke has had to say about industrial
action in an election year. He wont-hold off to help his political
friends, as the Labor Executive meeting showed. He is a law unto
himself in these matters. He has encouraged certain unions to go
in for non-industrial strikes.
We have already had enough industrial strikes for
non-industrial reasons. The public is sick of them. Only the
noisy minority with motives of their own support them. They
climb on any lawless bandwaggon that comes along. Some of the
Left-Wing unions go beyond the bounds of all reason and commonsense.
There are other issues. We will show we are real
federalists with true respect for the rights of the States. We
will remind Australians that our commitment to the sanctity of
our foreign relations is firm, and that we will not, like Labor,
brush aside the arrangements we have in Asia and the Pacific.
At the same time, we will show that we can progress
step by step towards more normal arrangements with foreign
powers having political philosophies alien to ours.
These are some of tho issues to be argued this year.
We will do so against a background of an impressive record of
constructive legislation.
We have done a lot in a year despite economic
difficulties difficulties of a type which hc-V taxed the best
economic managers in the Western world. The list is available.
I want to mention just three examples which show conclusively
I have not hesitated to grasp the nettle.
First; Trade union amalgamations. We are determined
to stick to our policy not to interfere, despite apparent political
advantages. Second The doctors. We did not hesitate to aopoint
the Arbitrator once it became clear that negotiation was not going
to settle the common fee issue in New South Wales.
And third The Public Service unions. I was accused
of political cowardice for not acting in the postal workers disputes.
For the first time since Federation, we have now introduced
reasonable legislation which can, if necessary, be used in such
situations. Does anyone seriously suggest that such actions taken
in an election year are those of an indecisive Government?
Does it also show indecision to stand un and state our belief that
wage increases must be curbed to control inflation and then to
back up our statements by intervervening in every mator wage
hearing? What rubbish! If our critics can't come up with
something better than that, we won't have to worry much about which
way the votes will go..

In the samne way, the Parliamecnt has recently been
misu~ sed by time-waiting and q * uite childish arguments over the
interpretation of one word or another. Some may say that is fair
game in politics, but it reflects no credit on the Opposition or
dignity on the Parliament. op~ position membe-rs ought to have
more resp'ect for themselves as Parliamentarians than to operate
as a " jeer squad" In the House.
I also emphatically reject Labor's recent pathetic
and transparent manoeuvres to show some contrived differences
within the Ministry and the Party. It was ridiculous to suggest
a rift between the Treasurer and myself because he gave a pa * per
to the Taxpayers' Association meeting that I hadn't read first.
There was no earthly reason why he should. He was not committing
the Government. I don't read advance conics of every speech
responsible Ministers make.
In the Party room, as in the Cabinet room, I encourage
the freest discussion. That's the Liberal way. We stand for the
rights and freedoros of the individual. Not like the straightjacket
policy fastened on the Parliamentary Labor Party by its
outside Federal Conference.
The Coaliti-Pn, too, is as solid as a rock. My colleague,
the Daputy Prime iMinister, who is at this table tonight will, I
am sure, ag~ ree with that.
He will also agree that together we are going to win
the election.

Transcript 2550