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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 2728


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: 29/11/1972

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 2728

Speech by the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hhn. William McMahon
M. P.
Mr. President, Members of the National Press Club and Ladies and
Gentlemen of the National Press;
One of the perennial questions in a democracy like ours
is the one about the Press and politics.
Does the Press have the power to radically influence the
political process? Can the Press actually change a Government or alter an
election result? And as a politician, I am isked with some regularity what
a Government ought to do about it.
Well, I'll give you one commitment and one non-election
promise. I am committed to a free Press as an essential element
of a democracy and I would always want to preserve it.
And I make the non-promise. We will not establish a
Ministry for the media.
I noticed that a distinguished British Journalist said the
other day that newspapers who claimed they could win an election were
being fanciful. I'm not sure how closely this translates to the Australian
situation, but I will say this to you:
That all the praise and the blame,
agreements and disagreements,
and conflicts of opinion between politicians
and the Press eventually finish up at one point.
and we will reach that point on Saturday
when all the newspaper readers,
television viewers
and radio listeners
turn themselves into voters and make the final
decision for themselves.
That's the only way to settle the argument.
Ana i think for once we all have to agree that it's the
correct and proper method. / 2

4 2-
Having said that, I come to my main purpose in accepting
your invitation today
And that is to review this election campaign and the
major issues that are before the Australian people today.
If I could sunarise them briefly in the form of a list
but not necessarily in order of importance, they are
First of all
representative Government.
Gcod Government rests on three basic principles:
It should be truly representative.
There must be respect for the rule of law:
And there must be an independent judiciary to protect
the individual against the State.
As an elected representative, you are there for the
people's purposes Not your own
And you should reflect the ambitions and the vitality
and the feelings of all Australians.
This goes hand in hand with my strong conviction
that no single person or group of people should become dominant
or too powerful in the community.
That is the road to dictatorship.
And here lies the fundamental and primary difference.
We stand fcr truly representative Government.
We are there to reflect the will and the wishes of the
people, and I believe we do.
The evidence of the years against Labor is overwhelming
and irrefutable. Labor Members of Parliament are pledged to obey
the instructions of the party machine.
This has been true for many years. It remains true,
despite Mr. Whitlam's cosmetic efforts.
In fact, it may well be that a Labor Government in the
nineteen-seventies would be more subject to outside non-elected
direction than in the nineteen-forties.
It is certainly true that the influence of the left wing
unions through Mr. Hawke and the A. C. T. U. executive is stronger.
So that remains a primary issue.
The second question is that of irresponsibility and
inflation which has been made an issue by Whitlam's costly and
incredible total of 140 policy promises.
Together with his delv. sions about w. hat can be done with
the growth rate.

Closely linked with this is the state of the economyaad
the management of the economy.
The latest indicators
Industrial production,
New motor vehicle registrations,
And building approvals,
All confirm the diagnosis of an economy which is bubbling
along and which by this time next year
or possibly a few months earlier
may well be in the condition of boom.
Clearly it is not appropriate in the coming months to
unleash demand in the tremendous and irresponsible manner that
Labor's huge list of promises implies.
Next, there is the very real question
of why the Labor Party wants to run away from the
issues of respect for the law.
And the preservation of accepted social values,
now that the election is so close.
They are. badly divided on this.
And that issue is very closely tied in with Labor's
impotence and silence on industrial relations and the future of
the arbitration system.
There is the question also of the party which puts
itself up as an alternative Government consistently skating away
from and trying to dodge the great issue of the defence and foreign
policies of this nation.
And the issue of centralism versus federalism, which
is an expression of one of the great and overriding philosophical
gulfs between us and the socialists.
As well there is the question of campaign opportunism
again made an issue by Labor's
on-the-run attempts to prOduce last-minute vote-catchers
and plug gaps which it seems oven the 140 election
promises did not cover.
Then there are the other great issues.
Is there to be freedom or onforc--d conformity and
monolithic control of education in Australia?
Is freedom of choice
and the whole private and religious hospital system
to be destroyed in the name of a single, depersonalised and more
expensive health machine? / 4

04 4
Are our cities to be renewed and our new cities built
according to the rules of the political game or should it be done
by a properly constituted expert body advising both Federal and
State Governments? Those are some of the major issues.
But let me look at them in a little more detail.
The Labor Policy Speech ( and his attempt at economics
at Queanbeyan) showed that Mr. Whitlam had dropped all prctence of
responsibility and moderation in this attempt to buy his way into
office and bluff his way through the questio-n of cost and the
impact on the economy.
We have attempted to make sense
out of this ness of ambiguity and half-baked proposals
in order to get a fair and sensible estimato. of costs
to the taxpayer. As you know, their figure was $ 1,330 million against
$ 375 million for my Government's election proposals.
That is, four times the cost.
A~ s you know, too, Labor's figure covered only a few of
the firm proposals and have not been costed.
We had to leave out many of Labor's deceptive and vague
proposals simply because they-were too sloppy for any disciplined
and proper costing.
In total, they would most certainly run into many
hundreds of millions more.
All this was wrapped up in pious talk about open
Government. M4r. Whitlan might well have started by being open about
the exact nature of his proposals,
their timing,
the specific priorities in implementing his myriad
promises, and, most importantly, how they are to be paid for.
He has been too clever by half in dodging the taxation
question by saying there will be no change in taxation rates.
Every Australian knows that rising incomes and prices
automatically cause a greater and greater burden of actual tax in
dollars. The serious inflationary consequenices of the Labor
programme such as thle 35-hour week and reduction in immigration
would accelerate the speed at which the burden becomes
heavier and heavier, and the tax paid becomes punitive.

N 5
We have recognised this with two large tax cuts since
the last election Nearly 10 percent in the 1S70-71 Budget
and an average of 10 percent in the Budget three months
ago. Mr. Whitlam hopes that no one will see through his
lawyer's talk about tax rates rather than actual dollars paid in
tax. As a means of financing his white elephants through a
two-way squeeze of inflation-boosted taxation.
This policy is not only dishonest to the taxpayer
and inhuman in its effects
on fixed income earners
and social service beneficiaries
it is also inadequate
to meet the huge costs involved.
Taxation rates themselves would have to go up,
or it would have to be done through new or increased
indirect taxes. Remember, Labor would impose two new taxes immediately.
The Health levy of 1.35% and the Social Services tax
of Or 3.85 cents in every dollar of your earnings.
We have reduced personal income taxation twice, as I
have already mentioned.
As I said at the beginning of this campaign and I repeat
now, Under Labor either taxes will have to be increased,
or many of Labor's promises wo* uld have to be quietly
dropped as forgotten election gimmicks.
: nd Labor talks about trusting the people.
While it deliberately perpetrates this slick and
unworthy deceit. In fact, 1ir. Whitlam doesn't trust his own Shadow
Treasurer who was candid enough to admit
that anyone over the $ 90 to $ 95 a week level would pay
more tax under Labor.
It is typically dishonest of him to try and get around
this by talking about tax rates.
Most people are rightly concerned with just how much is
going to be left in their pockets.
But the misery of
unremitting taxation burdens
chained to unchecked inflation
is only one side of this type of mandrake economics
we hear from the Leader of the Opposition.
You know what I mean. / 6

Think~ of the growth rate halve it and then-pretend
you can multiplyit-by magic.
The other side of this story is simply the very structure
of Government which the history and geography of this nation has given
us that is the three-tiered Federal system.
The whole thrust of the socialist takeover scheme is the
concentration of all political power here in Canberra
while State and Local Governments are to be strangled
and emasculated. There aro a lot of wolves in sheep's clothing around the
place on this subject.
Not least M4r. Whitlam himself.
But I put it to you that no one who has read the Labor
Platform, the Labor Policy Speech,
or Mr. Whitlam's many constitutional speeches could
have any doubt about his Party's true intention.
To put it in the words of my friend, Bob Askin:
" They want to murder the States"
The policy of the Liberal Party on this issue could not
be more opposed to that of Labor.
We are convinced that power should not be sucked into
the centre but pushed out and down to the grass roots, close to
the problems and close to the people.
his is a world trend, even in Mr. Whitlam's so-called
" comparable countries."
So much for the Policy Speeches.
What have we seen since from our oppocnents?
Incredibly it appears that Mr. Whitlam was not satisfied
with his 140 promises, once he saw our proposals.
Opportunism was piled on top of irresponsibility and we
heard first that Labor would match our plans for $ 330 million for
city transport. Since then, every time he arrives in a capital city he
adds another titbit from a stolen report
and at last count, was well past the $ 700 million mark
in extra transport promises.
On tcp of that, his Deputy suddenly discovered that
Labor might also be able to afford an enlistment bonus for the
army although this appears to be still in the half-baked
promise category. / 7

Two more bribes from the Labor Party.
After that we have heard virtually nothing from Labor's
sham campaign but a few belated bleats about their half-hearted plans
to quieten down organised Labor rowdies
who have been trying to drown out my own election
meetings around the country.
The truth is that once the Labor Party had trotted out
its T-shirt, TV commercials and its tremendous election bribes,
it ran for cover, leaving it to Mr. Sayers to throw the
mud. With -plenty of financial support, of course.
So what then have we seen in this campaign?
Mr. Whitlam is scared of defence and foreign policy.
He refuses to discuss law and order.
He has been muzzled on industrial relations policy.
He won't talk about immigration.
He wants to wash his hands of moral issues.
So much for trusting the people
So much for leadership.
Let me sp. eak to you now about this question of
leadership. I know many of you are experts in this area
you write about it so much.
So you may want to know how I see it.
As I said at the start, I believe Government should be
truly representative. That is the first of the three ingredients of good
Government. The second is that we should respect the rule of law.
And the third is that we should have an independent
judiciary that can be able to determine disputes between the
individual and the State.
So I believe that a man should have those qualities of
leadership which will make certain he can
sensibly and satisfactorily interpret the will and the
wishes of the people.
He should also be able to makec the machinery of
Government function in such a way that those wishes can be put into
practice. And the people themselves should be kept informed that
he is carrying out their will in the way they wan -t him to do.
He is also the man
who can create the conditions under w~ ich the individual
himself can realise his own ambitions ( providing. they don't interfere
with the rights of others), / 8

can satisfy his needs and his wants, can help his
neighbours, and can help to develop the better society we all want.
It is also a fundamental task of leadership for the
Government. to interpret the changes occurring in society as life
becomes more complex
to be able to adjust
the Parliament
and the law
in order to mesh with the changing environment and
changing values. Now, I'd like to relate these thoughts to my own
party to show how in a practical way we have been able to
put these principles into practice.
I faced a difficult task when I took office twenty
months ago, as most of you have recognised
with no small emphasis in your reporting.
First of all, I had to make sure
that the State Premiers were treated as men
with their own serious responsibilities of Government in their
own areas. The results have been worthwhile.
The relations between the Commonwealth and the States
are much better and they have been able to play a much more
effective part in getting this good society that we all seek
to achieve. Then we had the problem
of unemployment getting too high
and demand for goods and services falling.
We had the problems of falling prices for rural
commodities and the exchange rate
and the alarming rise in wages and average earnings
and industrial lawlessness.
So we deliberately set cut to boost demand
to get production and employment rising
and to improve the climate of expectations
so that economic conditions would be improved.
Part of this was to ensure that people would have
the opportunity to earn more money
and keep a greater amount of it in their own pockets.
After all, this is the incentive to do better
remembering always that there are national and
social nieds which the Government must take into account
at the same time as it looks at the tax burden on
the individual. / 9

So as I have said, we twice reduced taxation
substantially to meet this objective.
Looking at this problem in the much wider national
sense You will remember that we acted with a series of
measures The Premiers' Conferences
with the mini-Budget
the Budget
and then on to our Policy Speech
In all of these, you will see that our objective
has been to represent the individual men and women in our
society. And we wanted to give priority to those in the
greatest need. I believe any honest witness will agree that we have
achieved our purpose.
But once having satisfied those basic or conventional
needs we believe there's much more the Government should,
and must That is, to promote the arts
to Provide opportunities for recreation
opportunities for travel
opportunities to ensure that if man is the paramount
objective of social life,
that he is able to realise inherite* d1 qualities
to burgeon and to grow
and to ensure that as he burgeons and grows
he will be able to help his own family
his neighbours
and to more helpfully participate in the social
life of the community.
In my view, this is the true objective of Government
I don't believe in dictatorship.
I do believe in leadership.
I hope that I have made some contribution to
achieving the true liberal ideal
of ensuring that the person himself
the individual man, woman or child
can have a much better life, a much happier one,
and that his prospects for the future in the wider sense can be
fully realised. We have come a long way along this road in twenty
months. Notwithstanding both the economic and political
conditions which were very much le: os than ideal.
The economy is now in good shape and obviously
getting better. The quality of social ju., tice has been greatly
improved. And I have a young, ablB and dedic-ated team of
Ministers with me.

I think Australians recognise that what we have
done has been sound and practical and progressive as well.
I think they recognise
that we are moving into better times
and a greater future
a future in which good Government
means that it is the Government's job to do its
best to meet the will and wishes of the people as individuals.
I am therefore convinced that when it comes to the
decision on Saturday
they will accept us
and reject the alternative of a Goverrnment which
wants to impose its will and its machinery and its theories
on the people themselves.
Thank you.

Transcript 2728