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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 3962


Photo of Whitlam, Gough

Whitlam, Gough

Period of Service: 05/12/1972 to 11/11/1975

More information about Whitlam, Gough on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 09/11/1975

Release Type: Broadcast

Transcript ID: 3962

Sunday 9 November 1975
I want to suggest one very good way of
describing the present behaviour of the Senate of
putting that behaviour in perspective. It's a comparison
that should appeal strongly to Opposition members themselves.
The Liberals and the Country Party are fond of condemning
Australian workers whenever they go on strike. They love
to getup and fulminate about the evil of strikes. I wonder
if it ever occurs to them that the Senate's present
behaviour amounts to a strike. The Senate won't pass the
Budget; they won't reject the Budget; they won't suggest
any amendments to the Budget. They won't do anything
about the Budget at all. They refuse even to consider it.
In other words, the Opposition in the Senate are refusing
to do their job. They have gone on strike.
Now whenever workers go on strike for
whatever reason the Opposition are always the first to
condemn them for anti-social behaviour. But look at the
anti-social consequences of the Senate's strike. Their
strike is infinitely more disruptive and dangerous than
anything contemplated by the unions. The Opposition in the
Senate are holding the country to ransom. They aren't
just disrupting a particular industry; they are threatening
the whole nation with chaos. They are totally indifferent
to the damage and hardship they are causing to the Australian
people, to business, to industry, to the economy as a whole.
The main thing that's different about the Senate's
strike is that the Senators are getting paid for it.
It can't be emphasised too often that although
the Opposition Senators are refusing to pass the Budget
they are also refusing to reject it. And we know why
they won't reject it. They won't reject it because a
minority of Opposition Senators have made it plain to
Mr Fraser that they won't go along with rejection. So
Mr Fraser has been forced to adopt these phony stalling
tactics this repeated deferral of the Budget. And because
of this he has been forced into a monstrous inconsistency
a complete logical absurdity. The Opposition says it will
pass the Budget but on certain conditions. Remember
how they attacked and denounced the Budget when the
Treasurer introduced it? Remember Mr Fraser's words when
he announced his dangerous and irresponsible course?
He said: " The Budget has been an admitted failure." Well. the
Opposition now tell us that this same Budget will be passed
by the Opposition provided I hold an election. Suddenly
our Budget is good enough for the Liberals. It's not a
failure after all! The Opposition knows very well the great
benefits and advantages contained in the Budget the
tax cuts, the tax reforms, the benefits for children, for the
aged, for pensioners, for migrants. They don't dare reject

these benefits f or the Australian people. In fact
only last week, the Senate passed our tax reform bills,
but won't pass the Budget which will permit the
expenditure of these taxes.
It's frightening to contemplate the havoc and
personal hardship, the business disruption, the uncertainty,
the social and economic chaos which the Opposition is
causing to the whole community. And make no mistake
these effects are already being felt. They are happening
now. They are already reflected in a downturn in consumer
spending as the Christmas holiday approaches. For who can
blame the Australian people especially public servants,
who depend on the Government for their wages and salaries
f or cutting back their personal spending when the outlook
is so uncertain? Who can blame businesses for cutting
staff when Government orders are in jeopardy? Even if
the Senate called off its strike tomorrow, irreparable
damage to the economy would already be done. In Parliament
this week, the Treasurer, Bill Hayden, drew attention to
the disastrous effects of the Senate's behaviour on rural local
government, especially on local employment projects funded
by the RED scheme. Bill Hayden made it clear that unemployment
levels early next year are bound to be higher than anticipated
because of the failure to pass the Budget. Inevitably there
will be effects on other economic indicators. The whole
difficult and delicate process of economic recovery is
being wantonly jeopardised by the Opposition. It is
heartbreaking to ministers like Bill Hayden and Jim
McClelland it is heartbreaking to me and all my colleagues
that the very real progress we've been making towards economic
recovery is being set back by weeks, by months, perhaps
even lon( 3er, by the irresponsible policies of the opposition.
I can think ot nothing more likely to cause dismay to the
business community than this needless prolongation of our
economic difficulties., Everything that business and unions
and the Government have been working for has been put at
risk. In its efforts to overturn the elected Government,
the Opposition is dragging this country to the very brink
of catastrophe. There is no other way to describe what Mr
Fraser and his cohorts are doing.
As soon as the crisis began, the Government
took stock of its responsibilities and immediately began
looking at ways of avoiding unnecessary hardship to the
public. We decided to do everything in our power to
minimise disruption and suffering to innocent people
especially to loyal public servants, who are carrying on their
work out of a sense of duty to the Australian people.
Quite plainly, it would have been a total abdication of
the Government's responsibilities if we had sat idly by and
done nothing in this emergency. Of course there are limits
to what we can do. Without the Budget being passed, the
normal conduct of Government services is impossible.
Nevertheless, we expect, with the generous cooperation
of the banks the private banks as well as the Commonwealth
and State Government banks to make arrangements that
will ensure as far as possible that public servants and
contractors receive normal wages and payments for their work.
/ 3

I don't regard this as a solution to the crisis, Of
course it is not. These will be temporary and in some
ways awkward arrangements. They do not resolve the
underlying problem. Yet Mr Fraser went into a lather
of indignation the other day because the Government
took steps to see that public servants and others
are not made bankrupt or destitute by the Opposition's
action. I make it clear that all these emergency
arrangements will be legal and constitutional.
It is the Opposition's behaviour that is defying the
Constitution and subverting established parliamentary
convention. It is the Opposition's behaviour that is
bringing Australia to a standstill.
There is and always has been one basic
issue in this dispute: that the elected Government, the
Government in the House of Representatives, has the right
to govern for its normal three-year term. Three weeks
ago Mr Fraser wanted the Government to resign immediately.
Last week he maae another proposal. Now he's sayingthis
was his incredible proposal last week that the
Government can have another six months in office by grace
and favour of the Opposition another six months in
office providing we resign by the end of June.
Mr Fraser and his supporters dressed up this
preposterous suggestion by callirgit an " offer"; or a
11compromise"~ or a " con-cession". It was nothing of the
sort. Let's assume for the moment that the proposal was
genuine. What are its practical implications? It can
only mean this: Mr Fraser is now proposing, in the midst
of the uncertainty and hardship he has already caused,
that from this moment on, from now for the next six, seven
or eight months, the nation should be involved in a
continuing election campaign and should suffer all the
paralysis of normal administration and the normal decisionmaking
processes which inevitably comes from an election
and its aftermath. I rejected this suggestion. I shall
reject any other attempt to obscure or compromise the basic
principle for which I am fighting the right of an elected
Government to govern, the right of the House of Representatives,
the people's House, to determine the Government of this
country. I shall not yield on that principle. I shall
not give up my fight to defend and preserve our democratic
institutions. I know I can count on the support of the
overwhelming majority of typical decent Australians.

Transcript 3962