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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 3399

SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER, MR EG WHITLAM QC MP, AT THE ALP REGIONAL COUNCIL - TOWNSVILLE, SATURDAY 21 SEPTEMBER 1974

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: 21/09/1974

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 3399

EMBARGO : 4.00 PN
SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER, MR E. G. WHITLAM, M. P.,
AT THE A. L. P. REGIONAL COUNCIL TOWNSVILLE
SATURDAY 21ST SEPTEMBER, 1974
I take this opportunity here in his home city and
among the people he represents of congratulating Percy Tucker
as Leader of the Labor Party in Queensland. I have orked with
him for many years as a colleague and known him even longer as
a friend. The Labor Party in Queensland has a fine leader, a
respected leader, a leader who will carry it to victory in this
State and work with the Australian Labor Government for the
achievement of our common goals.
Four days ago my colleague the Treasurer brought down
the second Labor Budget in a quarter of a century. This is
my first opportunity to speak to a gathering of the party since
the Budget was presented. I welcome the chance to be with you
because the Budget gave all of us something to celebrate. We
have heard the expected outcry from the Opposition, the predictable
condemnation from the wealthy, the privileged, the richest
private schools, the stockbrokers, the speculators, the vested
interests. What are the facts? The Budget on Tuesday was the
most democratic and most radical in our history, the most
comprehensive expression of the Government's ambitions and the
party's philosophy that we have yet seen. It was a fair Budget,
a humane Budget, a confident Budget. It was a great Labor Budgeta
landmark in the party's struggle for humanity and justice.
You'll remember that for weeks and months beforehand
we had a welter of advice and speculation about what the Budget
should contain. Economists, academics, union leaders, politicians,
leader-writers the whole community was engaged in a quite
unprecedented debate on the future of the economy. And I welcomed
that debate.. For there was a very clear lesson to beldrawn from
the abundance of conjecture and advice. It proved there was no
obvious or conventional solution to our economic difficulties.
Imagine what would have happened if there had been a Liberal-
Country Party Budget on Tuesday night. There would have been no
room for doubt or speculation then. We all know what their Budget
would have done. How easy, how simple how savage that Budget
would have been! Back to Dranconian measures and conventional
remedies massive unemployment, bankrupt businesses, idle factories,
indiscriminate monetary restrictions. And-an end to our plans
for a fairer society and a brighter future for Australians.
Well,. that wasn't our method. Of course we could have
chosen the Liberal remedies, and I dare say if we had the Tory
pundits and commentators would now be applauding our responsibility.
But we weren't going to take it out on the weak, on the poor, on
the disadvantaged, on the children, on the Aborigines, on the
migrants, on the workers of this country. I have long held the view
that the Budget is not just an economic document but a declaration
of the Government's view of the kind of society we want and the
kind of people we are. That is what our Budget was about. Nothing
we have done has so clearly demonstrated, so clearly symbolised,
this Government's philosophy and concerns, its priorities and
aspirations. The choice was between Liberal remedies, discredited
Liberal remedies, with the abandonment of our program, or a
continuation of that program with a balanced and selective attack
on inflation in which the burdens will fall on those best able to

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bear them. We have framed a Budget which will raise the living
standards of the great majority of our people. We have framed
a Budget that will let us carry on the fight against inflation
-through flexible, discriminating measures and on a . s sound
co-operation between government and unions, employeis ind
employees, and all sections of the community.
This wasn't one man's Budget or a victory for-one
set of ideas over everything else. The Budget was the product of
weeks of intensive discussion within Cabinet, with the Government's
economic advisers, with the representatives of employees and
industry. It represented the collective view of the Government,
the whole Labor team, and in a true sense the ideals and
aspirations of the whole party. Every Australian citizen is
assured of a fair deal, a fair share, a fair go from our Budget.
We have reduced taxation for employees on all but the highest
incomes. We have cut back on lurks and tax dodges. We have
made certain that those who live on rents and dividends and
capital gains contribute their fair share of taxation to the
revenue. We have made provision for those most in need the war
veterans, the families with handicapped children, the old, the
sick and the Aboriginals. And with all that, we have advanced
and augmented our great programs for hospitals, schools, roads
and new cities. It is the quality of these services that will
determine the true standa~ d of living of our people just as much
as the thickness of their pay packets.
In everything we have done we have kept faith with the
people, the people who twice elected. us to govern. We have laid
the foundation for true national co-operation in the fight against
inflation. That fight can now go forwat'with confidence. It
won't be a fight in which only the fittest survive. The fittest
will carry * the heaviest burden. So every employee, every trade
unionist, every producer knows that from now on the f-ight will
be waged by the whole community fairly and squarely. And I put
it to you that it is in the interests of employees and their
organisations to join that fight and safeguard the gains they
have won for themselves and their families. I am not going to
kid the workers of this country that the fight will be easy. I do
say that the fight will be fair. Our Budget has ensured that the
lowest paid worker will be especially protected from the consequences
of an anti-inflationary strategy. We have established the
essential conditions on which that strategy of restraint and
co-operation can work. I appeal to the whole Labor movement to give
it a chance to work. The rewards will be great. Employees and
workers have most to gain from eventual success.
One of the great aims of the Budget is to raise the
standard of essential community services not just the services
my Government provides, but those of the States. There has never
been a Government more generous to the States. Yet I don't suppose
there has been a Government more maligned and traduced by the
Premiers. Our increased grants to the States did not begin with
this Budget. They began with our first Budget last year and they
have been augmented in numerous offers of special assistance. Our
Budget on Tuesday provided massive increases-' in grants to the
States of all kinds. The States will receive the largest increase
in direct and special purpose grants ever made. They will receive
36 percent of the total outlays in this Budget. The Budget provide~ i
for a 32.4 percent increase in total expenditure and 39.5 percent
of that increase will be payments to the States. / 3

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That is the answer to the phony, neurotic accusations
of centralism we hear from the Premiers. Is it centralist for
our Budget to allow a greater increase in the outlay for the States
than for our outlays? Is it centralist to provide the States
. with record grants for roads, schools, hospitals, ii,,.-ities,
sewerage and the improvement of the cities? Is it cuerlralist
to approve grants of $ 56 million to the States for locdl government
bodies on the recommendation of the Grants Coinmissica? Of course
not. All we say is that when the taxpayers of the nation provide
money for the States on such a scale they should at least have
some say through their national government in how that money
is used. The whole centralist catchcry is threadbare and dishonest.
I suggest that for the people of Townsville the real centralism,
the really pernicious and arrogant centralism, is exercised
from Brisbane. Here you have a region rich in resources, a region
rich in potential, rich in confidence and pride. You are part
of a State equally rich and proud. My colleagues in the Australian
Government share your confidence; we share your aspirations.
We want this State and this region to develop and prosper. We
are determined you will do so. The tragedy is that the development
of Queensland and your region is being held back not by us,
but by the very State Government that professes most loudly its
faith in the future of your State and in need for development.
on issue after issue important plans for Queensland's
development have been blocked by Mr Bjelke-Petersen. Take our
plans for this city, for Townsville itself. One of the first
things I promised on behalf of a Labor Government promised in
my policy speech in 1972 was to make Townsville a regional
growth centre. Despite our representation8, despite our
* correspondence, despite our personal pleas these plans have been
stalled. By now the whole scheme for a greater, more prosperous
Townsville could be well advanced just as it is in Albury-Wodonga.
Instead it is a victim of Mr Bjelke-Petersen's prejudice and
suspicion. I don't ask him to like me or to like the Labor Party.
What he thinks of the Australian Government is his business.
What he does for Townsville is your business and Queensland's
business. The blunt truth is that Mr Bjelke-Petersen would rather
deny Townsville its limitless prospect for growth than swallow his
pride and work with a Labor Government. Yet here is a Premier, a
Country Party Premier, who professes his belief in rural development
and decentralisation. Where would Albury-Wodonga be today if the New South Wales
and Victorian GOVernnlents took the same short-sighted view? They
are not Labor Governments. There is little love lost between me
and Sir Robert Askin or Mr Hamer for that matte They are big
enough men to put the interests of their States before their
personal animosities. The result has been a genuine creative
partnership between the three Governments for the development of
Albury-Wodonga. Our Budget on Tuesday allocated $ 40 million for the
new city. A further $ 37.4 million has been provided for the
establishment of other growth centres at Monarto in South Australia,
Geelong in Victoria and Bathurst-orange in New South Wales. If it's
good enough for Sir Robert Askin and Mr Hamer,-why isn't it good
enough for Mr Bjelke-Petersen? 4

Townsville cannot afford to see its progress hampered
by political rivalry. The north cannot afford it, Queensland cannot
afford it. Your city is firmly established as one of the great
regional capitals in Queensland and its future pr : e-ss is
unlimited. It has a major university, it is the centre of our
northern defence programs, the chosen site of a marine science
institute of international renown. With so much at stake, the
future of Townsville and its region, and indeed all northern
development, will depend on a healthy and productive
relationship between the State and national Governments. Townsville
has more to lose than any other city in Australia if politics is
allowed to cloud and disrupt the one aim we all want to achieve
the development of the north, with more industry, more job
opportunities, and improved facilities for present and future
generations of Australians.
If North Queenslanders have reason to complain about
government from the south they should direct their complaints to
Brisbane rather than Canberra. All our objectives for the State
and particularly for the north our plans to halt spiralling
land prices, to improve the quality of life, to make urban
development more equitable and efficient have been held up in
Brisbane. ' Our 1973/ 74 Budget allocated $ 2 million for land
acquisition and development works in Townsville, $ 1.2 million
for similar work in the Moreton region and $ 1.2 million for
Gladstone. It is incredible that none of these funds have been
spent simply because we cannot reach agreement with the
Queensland Premier.
So there is a real danger that Queensland's development
will fall behind. I instance our plans f6r Land Commissions.
* The Budget this year provides $ 24 million to South Australia for the
purchase of land. That land will be resold to home buyers at
fair and reasonable prices. The land price spiral in* South Australia
has been effectively brought under control. We are providing
$ 16 million to Victoria for a similar purpose. Even Sir Robert
Askin has agreed in principle to our Land Commission. Queensland
says NO. Or take our sewerage program. In 1973/ 74 Townsville
was eligible for assistance under the national sewerage scheme.
Mr Bjelke-Petersen wouldn't take the money. In 1574/ 75 we are
allocating $ 13 million to Queensland for sewerage works. Townsville's
share will be well over a quarter of a million.
The other States are getting on with the job. Why should
the people of Queensland put up with unsewered houses because of
Mr Bjelke-Petersen' s dislike of Canberra? This is an issue on which
the Premier must carry the can. And why should Queensland be
denied, an international airport at Townsville? Again I ask:
if it's good enough for the Liberal Premiers of New South Wales
and Victoria why isn't it good enough for the Country Party
Premier of Queensland?
The Premier clings to his obstinate ban on shipping
between Queensland ports. He prefers to hold back development and
decentralisation in the State rather than let an Australian
Government ship do the work. This is ideologidal prejudice of
the silliest, most self-defeating kind. Within 14 days of taking
office in December 1972 I offered the use of Australian National
Line ships for intra-State trade on the Queensland coast.
Mr Bjelke-Petersen said the matter would receive consideration.
I spoke to him about it in March last year. I wrote to him again
in April and June this year. My last letter brought no reply.

Ineed hardly stress the importance of a regular
intra-State shipping service. It would provide an alternative means
of transport when the highways or railways are cut by floods.
It would provide a more rational and diversified transport system.
It would maximise the efficiency of the Townsville Harbour Board's
facilities for handling freight. There are some types of freight
that can only be carried by sea. We have seen the farcical
situation of foreign-owned ships engaged to carry bauxite from
Weipa to Gladstone because the Queensland Government refused to
let an Australian Government ship do the work. There are ships
plying between Queensland and the other States with space in their
holds for 1000 tons of intra-State cargo on every voyage. I am
afraid the Premier's intransigence finds little support from the
people of North Queensland. The North Queensland Chambers of
Commerce don'It agree with him. The Queensland Harbour Board
Association doesn't agree with him. The Townsville District
Development Bureau and the Townsville City Council don't agree
with him. Why should the people of Townsville agree with him?
We have put forward other measures to help Queensl and's
industrial development. For years I have been concerned at the
high cost of electricity in Queensland compared with other
eastern States. There are complex reasons for these higher costs
but the Australian Government wants to help reduce them. I wrote
to Mr Bjelke-Petersen on 5 June. I proposed that the Australian
Government, in conjunction with Queensland, undertake a study of
ways and means of increasing efficiency and reducing costs within
the Queensland power system. The Premier has not replied; his
department told us it was examining our offer.
I wrote to the Premier within weeks of the Government
assuming office and offered to assume responsibility for the
uneconomic ' State railway system. Railways impose a crippling
burden on State finances and distort their whole budget. We
waited a long time but eventually we got our answer. The
Queensland Government was not even prepared to discuss our proposal.
The fact is that no Government has treated Queensland
more generously, more openly, than mine. I read a remark by
Sir Gordon Chalk the other day that the Queensland Budget this
year would be " the best State Budget in Australia". I congratulate
the Treasurer of Queensland. I trust the people of Queensland
will remember that this * situation has been largely made possible
by the Australian Government' s grants. Let's hear no more about
us starving or strangling the States. It's claptrap! Total
revenue assistance to Queensland in 1970/ 71 to go back four
years was $ 223 million. The estimated total in the present
Budget is nearly double $ 434 million. Payments for general
purpose capital funds have increased in the same period from
$ 93 million to $ 145 million. Our assistance has increased over
a whole range of special purpose grants universities from
$ 7 million to $ 41 million; colleges of advanced education from
million to $ 24.5 million; Aboriginal advancement from
$ 216,000 to $ 2,085,000; community health from nothing to $ 2.9 million
/ 6

How revealing to contrast the priorities of the
Queensland and Australian Labor Governments! What are! the issues
that occupy us, the matters that dominate our rftin(. I We could
be pardoned for thinking that nothing is more important to the
Queensland Premier than appointing a Queen of Queensland. Is that
really an issue in 1974? Do we want a Queen of New South Wales
and a Queen of Victoria as well? A Queen of Western Australia
and a Queen of Tasmania? Does Canada need a Queen of Ontario and
a Queen of Price Edward Island? Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps
the most important issue in Mr Bjelke-Petersen's mind is the
Privy Council. He wants decisions made by judges appointed by
his own Government to be subject to veto by judges appointed by
the British Government. Is that a burning issue in 1974? We
know how much the Premier of Queensland relies on the courts. He
is still using the courts to fight our legislation, to challenge
the decisions of the joint sitting of the Australian Parliament,
to overturn the wishes of the Australian people who twice gave
their endorsement to the program of reform initiated by the
Australian Labor Party.
I have no personal animosity towards Mr Bjelke-Petersen. I just
wish he'd make up his mind what he wants for his State. We know
what he wants for the Country Party a mandate to govern with
percent of the vote, or preferably less. The fact is the
Queensland's electoral boundaries are flagrantly rigged in the
Country Party's favour. Its not just a little extra weighting
for the benefit of remote rural seats. It's a masterpiece of
malapportionment. In the 1972 State elections it took 12,849
votes to elect one Labor member. It to * ok 9,163 votes to elect
one Liberal member and 6,977 votes to elect one Country Party
member. Provincial cities like Townsville suffer as much as
Brisbane. ' The boundaries are blatantly designed to reduce
their representation. The average enrolment in a provincial
city electorate is 14,476. In the Western and Far Northern Zone
it is 8,153. In the Country Zone it is 10,779. Under any fair
system of boundaries the Townsville area would merit at least
one additional seat in the Queensland Parliament.
So apart from a gerrymander, what does Mr Bjelke-Petersen
want for Queensland? Does he want it to be part of Australia
or a private realm of his own? Does he want it to share in
the nation's progress or become a backwater? I wish he'd. shake
off his hangups and pettifogging obsessions about State rights
and centralism and the monarchy and the Privy Council and get
down to the business of government. I wish he'd forget his
persecution complex and realise that the Australian Government
is ready and willing to work with him for the good of Queensland.
I wish he'd spare us his tantrums and posturing and let us get
on with the job together. It is frankly not a pretty sight
to see a proud and important State held back by its own Government.
What we need is not a full-time Queen of Queensland but a fulltime
Premier of Queensland. Less vaudeville, less invective,
less vote-rigging more action, more enterprise, more co-operation.
/ 7

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In the 21 months since we came to office the
Australian Government has offered the States a new deal. We
have offered Queensland a new deal. The Budget we brought
down this week confirmed that offer. It opened the way to
a limitless future for this State and for all Australians
a future based on equity and justice. To achieve those goals
we ask nothing more, we need nothing more, than a reasonable
spirit of co-operation and goodwill. Let us get on with the
job of building a stronger and more prosperous Queensland
in a stronger and more prosperous nation.

Transcript 3399