26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I would like to ask the Treasurer a question. Has there been any reaction from farmers to the Treasurer’s recent statement that very few applications have been received for assistance from the Farm Development Loan Fund announced in this place twelve months ago by the Treasurer? Is it a fact that only about $19,000,000 has been lent from the annual amount of $50,000,000 made available? As local bank managers have supreme power to reject or accept loan applications from farmers, would the fact that such a small amount has been lent indicate that private bank managers may regard this Farm Development Loan Fund as competing against the banks’ own rural credit arrangements, so that private bank managers -
-Order! The honourable member is now giving information. I request him to ask his question.
– I am finishing now, Mr Speaker. I was suggesting in conclusion that this may be a reason for bank managers being reluctant to be generous in allocating loans from the Farm Development Loan Fund.
– First of all, the honourable member is evidently under a misapprehension because he says that an annual amount is to be granted. In fact there is a fixed amount of $50,000,000, two thirds of which is taken out of the special reserve deposits for this purpose, and there is not an annual amount. Secondly, 1 have had some complaints, mainly from my friends in the Country Party who have felt there may be some misunderstanding amongst bank managers as to whether the amounts of money are to be provided only for small farmers and only as development finance that is likely to result in an increase of productivity. I have always asked those who make such complaints to give me details of particular cases, because when I make a complaint to the banks I am told: ‘If you do not give us the names of the accounts we cannot make an investigation for you. We are eager to see that this scheme succeeds, and if you let our head office have a complaint an investigation of it will be made.’
Not being satisfied with this, I took up the matter with the Reserve Bank and I received a reply last week to the following effect: The Bank said that at the present moment commitments are of the order of $19,000,000, and that if commitments continue to be undertaken at the present rate, at least $25,000,000 of the total of $50,000,000 will have been committed by the end of this financial year. The Reserve Bank felt that this was a fairly high commitment during the first few months of the operation of the scheme. I would say also that I am having the implications of this examined in detail. I also pointed out - I think it was on Tuesday - that commitments for advances to the pastoral grazing and dairying industries had amounted to $240,000,000 in the last year. In other words, the farmers are getting the finance. They may not always be getting it in the way they would like and at the interest rate they would like, but at least they are getting it. The major problem to which the honourable member referred is now being investigated by the Reserve Bank.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question. Is he aware that in the next few years the lack of trained pilots in sufficient numbers may seriously inhibit the further development of civil aviation in Australia and overseas? Will this difficulty be further compounded by the decreased productivity of pilots due to industrial restrictions and the high wastage rate in the training of pilots for modern aircraft? What long range plans have been formulated to enable Australian civil aviation to surmount these difficulties?
– There is some problem in relation to the sufficiency of pilots for the rapid expansion taking place in civil aviation in Australia. In 1965 a survey of this subject was undertaken and it was estimated then that in the period 1965 to 1970 an additional 1,500 pilots would be required. We have no reason so far, with a continuing survey being undertaken, to doubt that that figure is still accurate. The shortage of pilots relates mainly at present to highly trained pilots for jet aircraft, to instructors and in some cases to agricultural pilots. The Government, from its survey, has been aware of the situation that has been arising and it will continue to operate the Commonwealth flying scholarships scheme for another five years from this financial year. We have also introduced a subsidy scheme for domestic airline operators in order to encourage them to commence graduate training. Already one major domestic operator has announced a scheme which, I understand, will come into operation this month. The other major domestic operator is considering the matter now and we hope that it will begin a scheme in the near future.
The domestic operators do undertake post-graduate training. That is, after they have the pilots flying DC3 aircraft and other types they train them in more advanced aircraft. Until now the major problem has been in relation to graduate training. Qantas Empire Airways Ltd, our international operator, has a cadetship scheme in operation and already two courses have been completed. So with the encouragement that is being given by the Government to the airline operators to undertake training schemes, the subsidies paid to aero clubs and flying training schools, and the encouragement now being given by the airline operators themselves, we feel that in the immediate future we will be able to keep pace with the demand for pilots. The problem is not so much one of getting initially trained pilots as getting highly trained pilots who must have to their credit so many hours flying time before they may undertake the more sophisticated task of operating jet aircraft. With the encouragement now being given I feel that we can keep pace with requirements.
-Order! I direct the attention of honourable members to the number of lengthy and involved questions being asked which in some cases require equally lengthy or even more lengthy answers by Ministers. The purpose of question time is to enable honourable members to press for action or to seek information. The practice of the House has been to keep both ques tions and answers as short as practicable. All honourable members are asked to cooperate in maintaining this desirable practice.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister for National Development by referring to the Australian’ newspaper of yesterday and a report of the Victorian Country Party’s annual conference.
-Order! If the honourable member quotes from a newspaper his question will be out of order. He may make a reference to the report. (Mr Connor having proceeded to address his question)
-Order! The question is out of order. The subject matter is of no concern to the Minister. He has no ministerial control over decisions of the Country Party.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Is the right honourable gentleman aware that in many countries the incomes and sources of income of all public men - this includes members of Parliament and members of municipal councils - are made available in the report of the Commissioner of Taxation as a means of protecting the public against malpractices by public officials? Will the right honourable gentleman consider the publication in the annual report of the Commissioner of Taxation in Australia of the incomes of all public men in Australia and the sources of such income?
– The honourable gentleman referred to public officials. I think we in this House have one source of comfort in the fact that in the long period I have been here - a period of seventeen years - I have not heard any serious accusation made against a public official or a member of the House of Representatives or the Senate. That is something about which we should feel proud rather than be critical. I am aware that some countries do publish the kind of statistics mentioned by the honourable member, although I am not aware in what detail. Twill have a look at the problem. However, I feel disposed to say immediately that if the honourable gentleman has any complaint to make then he ought to make it publicly and let the law take its course. I do not believe in deliberately poking my nose into the affairs of other people when they are carrying out their business in a normal official or commercial fashion. Consequently, while I will have a look at the problem I do not feel disposed at this moment, and without any evidence of malpractice being produced, to think that it does constitute a problem that demands the interference of the Commonwealth Government.
– My question is addressed to the Acting Prime Minister. Has any request been received by the Commonwealth Government from New South Wales to assist with finance for correction of traffic congestion problems in the city of Sydney? The Minister for Transport in that State claims that $50m a year will be needed for ten years to make even a dent in the required work. Will the Commonwealth Government bear in mind the ever growing belief of the general public that in the long term centralised development costs each member of the Australian community money, no matter where that person lives? Finally, if financial assistance is to be given by the Commonwealth, could it be on a dollar for dollar basis so that for each dollar spent to ease city traffic congestion a dollar will be spent on decentralisation incentives or the development of more ports to handle exports of primary produce, which provide the bulk of national funds in the first place?
– My understanding is that the Premier of New South Wales has written a letter to the Prime Minister regarding the problem of the financing and construction of roads in that State. The relationship between the Commonwealth and the State governments in respect of funds for road construction is a matter which comes out of discussions at the Premiers Conference. Honourable members will know that at the present time the Commonwealth is providing - if my memory is correct - £375m over a five year period, plus other substantial amounts for beef roads and so on. This matter has been discussed with the Premiers and the Premiers Conference will be the venue for ultimate discussions between the Commonwealth and the New South Wales Government.
Recently, to aid such discussions, the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads was established. This Bureau operates under the jurisdiction of my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Its function is to investigate and to advise the Commonwealth on roads and road finance and to offer opinions on the extent of financial assistance necessary. There is not the slightest doubt that traffic congestion in the great cities of Australia is a tremendous problem. A study is under way at the present time which would embrace this. The study is being made by a joint Commonwealth-State officials committee which is examining the general subject of decentralisation.
The case for decentralisation is founded, at least in part, on the costs that accrue from undue traffic congestion in great areas of population. This Government and its predecessors have a long record of special action taken with the general objective of supporting industry outside the metropolitan area. This ranges from taxation concessions at the income level and at the investment level in certain circumstances, to the equalisation of petrol prices, subsidies for superphosphate, and encouragement generally for rural industries. It is my hope that this joint Commonwealth-State committee of officials - it is not operating like a flash of lightning, I have to confess - will in the not too distant future come forward with practical proposals, founded upon an analysis and a weighing of the problem, for study by the Commonwealth Government and the State governments.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. Can a recent statement made by the Minister on the excessive use of drugs be taken to mean that he agrees with my contention that there is a need for a full and thorough investigation of all aspects of the drug industry? Does the Minister seriously think that stricter control of drugs can be obtained by imposing additional medical and dispensing charges on the public, thereby increasing the current high medical costs and thus penalising the genuine patient? Does the Minister agree that the control of drugs has become a national responsibility, far beyond the control of the States? Further, in view of the fact that Australia has become a most important link in the international drug chain and the best experimental field the world drug manufacturers have for testing legal drugs, would the Minister act at once to set up a Federal narcotics bureau similar-
-Order! The honourable member will direct his question.
– Will he set up a Federal narcotics bureau similar to the narcotics bureau in America in order to control this menace?
– The question asked by the honourable member is a many-sided one. I am sure he would not expect me to deal, during question time, comprehensively with each of the points he made, particularly after the ruling you have just given, Mr Speaker about the desirability for brevity in questions and answers. I will be only too glad to look at the points he raised in his question and then give him an answer. The honourable member referred to a speech I made in which I warned against the over use of drugs. The purpose of this statement was to emphasise the fact that members of the public, as well as the Government, the medical profession which prescribes the drugs, and the drug companies, have a responsibility in this field. I felt it necessary to take steps to warn the Australian public that there were dangers in swallowing drugs to excess. This was the sole reason for my making that particular statement. The control of narcotics, of course, is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Customs and Excise. However I shall look at the points raised in the honourable gentleman’s question and give him a detailed reply.
– I address a question to the Minister for Territories and, for information purposes, refer to and earnestly applaud, in a free enterprise community, the recent decision to permit private banks to provide facilities in government schools in the Australian Capital Territory whereas previously this service had been restricted to the Commonwealth Savings Bank. Will the Minister consider allowing the free enterprise banks to operate in a similar capacity in the Northern Territory and in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea?
– I point out to the honourable member that the activities of the trading banks in Australian Territories are governed by the provisions of the Banking Act which is administered by my colleague the Treasurer. I shall seek the advice of the Treasurer and advise the honourable member accordingly.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry whether he is aware of a claim by New Zealand Treasury officials that New Zealand’s wool crisis and balance of payments problem have been caused by a massive wool buyers’ speculation against the New Zealand Wool Commission, a claim supported by the general manager of the New Zealand Co-operative Wool Marketing Association. Does the Minister agree that if buyers gang up against the New Zealand Wool Commission they can even more effectively gang up against and reduce prices gained by Australian wool growers? Does he agree that the lack of a floor price in Australia acts to the detriment of the reserve price scheme in New Zealand? Has his Government, in the interests of the nation as a whole, impressed upon the Australian wool industry the urgency of its consideration of changes in wool marketing?
– I am not aware of the statement that the honourable member claims has been made, and, not being aware of it, I certainly do not callenge it. But I do know that when I was in New Zealand a few weeks ago there was a considerable body of opinion to the effect that there were interests that were ganging up in New Zealand to try to break the reserve price plan. Whether these allegations were justified I do not know, but if in fact a senior Treasury official made them, that would appear to give substance to the claim. It is an historic fact that the broking houses have resisted the reserve price plan. It is not for me to offer comments upon what is done in New Zealand. The policy of the Australian Government with respect to wool marketing is that if the Australian wool industry wants a change in its marketing arrangement the Government stands ready to support a change, subject only to two considerations. The first is the dimension of involvement of the Treasury in supporting such a change and the other relates to any considerations of general public interest that may arise. This is the proper responsibility of government. It is also history that on two occasions - I think from memory it was in 1951 or 1952 when I was the Minister who recommended it - the Government indicated its willingness to stand behind a reserve price plan if the growers wanted it.
– The Minister campaigned for it.
– Yes, of course I did. I recommended that the Government should not impose a reserve price plan on the industry but should stand ready if the industry wanted it. This is a great industry involving many people and huge investment. It is history that the growers who asked for this plan changed their minds in mid-air and in majority voted against it. In more recent history the same kind of thing happened again.
– But the Minister did not campaign for it then.
-Order! The honourable member has asked his question.
– -On that occasion I stood where I stand now and said that I voted as a woolgrower. I am a public man and a private citizen. I supported the plan in the Government and I voted for it as a private citizen, so there is not much doubt about where I stand on this matter. The problems of the wool industry arise as they do in any industry on earth from the relationship between the costs of producing an item and the realisation when one sells it. We all attempt to control the costs of producing the item. The wool industry is the only industry I know of on the face of this planet that refuses to put its own price on its own product.
– Can the Postmaster-General inform me what progress is being made towards the establishment of subscriber trunk dialling, or direct dialling, between Adelaide and Melbourne and between Adelaide and Sydney? Is it likely that these services will be in operation by the end of the year?
– It is impossible within the postal administration to remember all the detail of these operations throughout Australia. I do know that some progress has been made with the service between Adelaide and Melbourne, but I believe that it would not be possible to have subscriber trunk dialling from Adelaide to Sydney for perhaps a year or two as yet. I will be quite happy to look at the matter in detail and I will inform the honourable member by letter.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation able to say whether the Government still intends to honour the promise made in 1963 by the late Senator Paltridge who, as Minister for Civil Aviation, said that £250,000 would be spent on the Kalgoorlie aerodrome within three years to bring it to a standard to take jet aircraft, including the Boeing 727? If so, can the Minister say when the work is likely to commence? If the Government does not intend to carry out the improvements can he say what has happened since 1963 to cause the rejection of a previous decision, and will the £250,000 or $500,000, be spent on aerodromes elsewhere in Western Australia and, if so, on which aerodromes?
– My only comment about the amount of expenditure on airports in Western Australia since 1963 is that a sum far greater than the amount mentioned by the honourable member has already been spent. I cannot recall the exact details of any past assurances about the Kalgoorlie aerodrome, nor can I recall at the moment the exact position of airport development there. I will make some inquiries and let the honourable member have a reply separately regarding that matter. I think the operation of 727 jet aircraft to Kalgoorlie is rather remote. It may be possible some time in the future for smaller jet aircraft to operate in that locality, but the 727 aircraft is a large jet designed for trunk line routes. The possibility of its making intermediate stops is fairly remote. I will look at the question of providing some form of jet service to Kalgoorlie in the future and will incorporate that in my reply.
– I direct my question - a very short one - to the Minister for Civil Aviation. I refer to the recent report of an aircraft crash in the United States in which it was revealed that the pilot had suffered from a severe heart attack just prior to the crash. Can the Minister say just what precautions are taken in this country against such an occurrence?
– I have not yet seen the report on this accident. I did read about it in the Press, but we will receive a copy of the report eventually through the International Civil Aviation Organisation. I will have more information about it then. My understanding is that this aircraft was owned by one of the smaller charter operators in the United States and was not operated by one of the major airline operators.
– Are their pilots more prone to heart attacks?
– -I am about to elaborate on this point with Mr Speaker’s permission. I think it is interesting to note that the airline standards maintained in the United States and here are very high. Our airline pilots are required every six months to be examined by aviation medical authorities. On the report that is made at the time, the pilots must say whether they have suffered from any disabilities since their previous examination. If disabilities occur between examinations, these are naturally reported to the employer. As far as possible everything is done in the aviation medical field to control these situations and to prevent occurrences of this kind in Australia.’
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. Has the honourable gentleman received an appeal from the Swiss-based Terre Des Hommes organisation for Australian assistance to children injured or disfigured in the Vietnam war? If so, has the Minister considered bringing groups of these children to Australia for specialist medical treatment? Has the Minister considered making plastic surgeons available to Vietnam for the treatment of disfigured war victims, especially children?
– Yes, Mr Speaker, I have received such a letter and I have passed it to my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, who is responsible for overall policy in this field.
– I address my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. In view of the incidence of accidents in the various rural industries due, no doubt, to the use of modern and complicated machinery and the wide use of pesticides, which has increased with the application of modern technology, will he say what action his Department is taking to advise the rural community about adequate safety measures? Is any programme being planned to instruct workers in primary industries on safety as has been done in secondary industries for some time?
– Matters of industrial safety, both in rural and secondary industries, are primarily the function of the State governments. However, for some time past my Department has acted as a research and liaison centre. In this capacity we have published fifteen pamphlets on industrial safety, two of which are directed specifically to rural industry. About 100,000 copies of these pamphlets have been distributed through agricultural extension services. The most interesting current development is that the first national seminar on industrial safety in rural industry will be held in Canberra at the end of May. This is a joint effort of the State departments of labour, my department, the Department of Primary Industry and the State departments of agriculture. All these departments will be represented together with primary producing organisations, industrial concerns and others who have been active in this field. This conference will deal with machinery rather than pesticides - both ordinary mechanical and electrical machinery. But I am sure there will later be a further seminar on pesticides.
– I address my question to the Minister for Air. It refers to the Royal Australian Air Force Band, which is probably one of the world’s outstanding bands. I understand that it will visit Montreal during the Exposition there and that it will confine its overseas operations to that area. Will the Minister give consideration to permitting an extended world tour for the band? No doubt this would be welcome in Great Britain and probably also in Europe and America and possibly in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. British and other military bands make visits around the world, and the Red Army Choir is heard all over the world. The RAAF Band is probably one of the best ambassadors we could have. As, I understand, extension of its tour would involve not a great deal of extra expense, will the Minister consider allowing it to do this?
– I am indeed pleased to hear such a tribute being paid to the RAAF Central Band. The honourable member is quite right in saying that it is going to Expo 67 in the form of an ambassador of this country and to demonstrate what a high standard of music we have reached. An extended tour has been considered, but this would not be nearly as cheap as the honourable member for Wills makes out. We also have to remember that the chief purpose of the band is to serve the Royal Australian Air Force, and to have it away for a long period of time would be firstly too expensive and secondly, not in the best interests of the purpose for which it is intended.
– Will the Minister give it consideration?
– I have already done so, and I am afraid that the functions for which it has been booked when it returns will prevent extension of the visit.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the repeated postponement of the report of the Australian Wool Board’s Marketing Committee now deferred until October, can the Minister say how often the committee meets and what period of time has been occupied by the meetings held since December 1965?
– The Wool Board appointed a marketing committee in 1963. As everyone knows, its first recommendation to the Board, which was endorsed by the Australian Wool Industry Con ference, was for a reserve price plan. This was put to a vote of growers by way of referendum in 1965 but was defeated. Since then the Board has continued the operations of the Wool Marketing Committee and to assist it in its findings it appointed two sub-committees - one to investigate the private selling aspect of wool marketing and the other to deal with one-bale lots, clip preparation, and bulk classing. Although the Wool Marketing Committee estimated that it would have its report ready by 30th June, it has been delayed through not having received reports from the two sub-committees. These reports will not be available until about mid-May. It would be impossible for the Committee at this stage to take into consideration all the aspects of the reports of the subcommittees on these matters because it is necessary, when it makes recommendations on marketing, to have the whole complex of marketing considered.
The Wool Marketing Committee has been meeting about once a month but in March, with a view to expediting the report, it sat for a full day on three different occasions. Although the Committee is meeting often enough, it is still awaiting reports. I might say also that the reports of the subcommittees have been delayed as a result of the grower and other organisations not sending in their submissions quickly enough.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Interior been drawn to firms which are operating or are proposing to operate in the Australian Capital Territory in fixing cover materials on existing buildings? Will he warn all citizens to get expert advice before signing any contracts with such firms? Will he also warn citizens that one of the stunts of these firms is to advise the owners that their residence has been specially selected for treatment because of its location and position and that the firm’s parent company, having surplus funds, will pay half the cost as an advertisement?
– This matter has not been brought to my attention, but I undertake to look into it. I should like to add, though, that the relevant ordinance stipulates that any plans for alterations must bc submitted to the Department of the Interior for approval, and there are requirements that must be satisfied. I have had numerous complaints that the requirements are too rigid and that the time taken in obtaining approval causes unnecessary delay. However I will examine the other point and see what I can discover.
– I direct a question without notice to the Minister for Health, who told the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the treatment of burnt Vietnamese children by Australian plastic surgeons was a matter of overall policy to be determined by the Minister for External Affairs. I understand that the honourable gentleman was also asked whether these children could be brought to Australia for treatment by plastic surgeons here. I take it that he recalls that the Prime Minister told the Quakers, who are interested in their own and similar proposals of Terre Des Hommes that the Australian Government could not support the proposal to fly children to Australia for treatment at Commonwealth expense, this information having been given by the Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department on 1st March this year. As the Minister for Health has had correspondence with the Department of External Affairs about this matter, I ask him whether consideration was first given to flying plastic surgeons to Vietnam to treat the burnt children there.
– The letter to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred has come on to my table only during the last few days. I believe it was misdirected. It was sent to me as Minister for Health. I can understand that the person sending it could have made a mistake through not understanding the procedures in this country. I took the normal action which any minister would take in this case. I passed the letter to the Minister primarily responsible for making decisions in this particular field.
– I am told they wrote to you on 15th January.
– The letter to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred has come on to my table only in the last two or three days, and I have no recollection of anything else. I believed this was the letter to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was referring.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. I refer to the long awaited quinquennial report of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund and the actuarial calculations and investigations which will ensue, and to the Treasurer’s statement that the report was in a fair stage of readiness some weeks ago. I ask the Minister to indicate the present position and to say whether he has received the report and how soon it will be tabled in the House.
– As the honourable gentleman knows, for some time I have been strenuously pressing to obtain recommendations from the relevant authorities so that I may present the quinquennial report to the House. As soon as question time is over I will make inquiries of the officials and see whether it will be ready for presentation to the House next week. If it will not be ready for presentation, I may be able to make a statement about it.
– Can the Minister for Shipping and Transport say whether the standard gauge railway in Western Australia will terminate at Midland or at East Perth? Was the original proposal that the terminal be at East Perth? If a change in that proposal has been suggested, what is the reason for it? When will discussion on the terminal be completed, and will a change of terminal location affect the date of completion of the standard gauge project?
– Answering the last part of the question first; it is not expected that the completion of the standard gauge project will be affected, no matter where the terminal is situated. The Commonwealth Government recently had a firm of engineers, Maunsell’s, prepare a report on the whole of the work remaining to be done on the standard gauge line. The recommendations in that report which referred to the passenger terminal are being studied by the
Commonwealth and Western Australian Governments and discussed by their representatives. As soon as a final decision is made it will be announced.
– by leave - I speak to inform the House of the stage reached in the trade negotiations in Geneva which are now reaching their climax - the so-called Kennedy Round. I will be leaving on Wednesday next to proceed to Geneva to take up the leadership of the Australian delegation in these negotiations.
Honourable members will recall that the Kennedy Round negotiations were formally launched in May 1963 in Geneva at a meeting of ministers from member countries of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Those negotiations are now drawing to a close. The authority of the United States President to offer concessions expires on 30th June this year and that date sets a deadline by which the Kennedy Round is to be completed.
In the four years since negotiations formally started, there have not been steady and continuous discussions leading logically to a negotiated and balanced settlement likely to be satisfactory to all countries concerned. On the contrary, the Kennedy Round has proceeded intermittently with bursts of heavy and fruitful activity being mixed with long periods of inactivity while one major participant or another sorted out its own negotiating position. Pauses in negotiations are not, of course, unusual in trade negotiations of this kind. However, the result of all the interruptions in the Kennedy Round has been that major negotiations on a number of important substantive issues are really only now proceeding seriously.
I should like to refresh honourable members’ minds on the aims and purposes of the Kennedy Round. There have been many rounds of negotiations in the GATT, but in earlier rounds the general principle followed was that each country committed itself to duty reductions in individual tariff items in exchange for concessions in import duties on specific items in another country’s tariff. Within the general framework of the GATT procedures and techniques, countries would negotiate bilaterally to exchange concessions and commitments; but a concession given to one GATT country is available to all GATT countries. This is a fundamental GATT procedure. However, many countries were dissatisfied with this traditional approach. Major industrial countries felt that by the traditional methods they had gone about as far as they could in providing conditions conducive to the expansion of trade. Agricultural countries such as Australia - agricultural in the sense of export record - had become dissatisfied with the evident failure of GATT to grapple effectively with the problems of agricultural trade.
The Kennedy Round took a new approach. On the industrial side there was to be a broad, sweeping cut of 50% in countries’ tariffs with only limited exceptions. On the agricultural side where trade was inhibited not by tariffs alone but by a whole host of domestic support measures, subsidies, quotas and so on, it was recognised that special negotiations should be undertaken with the aim of tackling all the measures and ending up with arrangements that would lead to an expansion of world trade in agriculture. It was recognised that every effort should be made to reduce barriers to exports of less-developed countries, but that the developed countries could not expect to receive reciprocity from the less-developed countries.
Most importantly from Australia’s point of view, the United States, as the initiator of the Kennedy Round and a major world trading country, made it clear from the outset that agricultural negotiations should be an integral part of the Kennedy Round and that a satisfactory outcome of the Kennedy Round must embrace a satisfactory result for agricultural trade as well as for manufactures. The United States Administration has stated this position publicly; it has stated it in GATT and in the United States Congress. The meeting of Ministers in May 1963 agreed that the negotiations should provide for acceptable conditions of access to world markets for agricultural products.
It was also recognised, but only after I had put up one of the biggest fights of my experience in international negotiations, that countries such as Australia, developing manufacturing industry and dependent very largely on exports of primary products. would not be expected to make an acrosstheboard cut in their tariffs. It was accepted that Australia’s tariff changes would be on selected imports and designed to balance the benefits obtained in agricultural trade.
These agricultural negotiations have been conducted very largely in three special and limited negotiating groups on cereals, meat and dairy products. Australia is a member of all three groups. It is generally recognised that the key to these negotiations is in the cereals group. Other agricultural negotiations could be expected to gain momentum in the light of a successful cereals group negotiation. A successful negotiation on cereals is of such importance to the United States, as well as to other exporters, that a failure to achieve a settlement on cereals could mean a failure of the agricultural negotiations in general and that would have important implications for the whole of the Kennedy Round.
In the cereals group an effort is being made to negotiate for the first time comprehensive world arrangements for the trade in wheat and other grains. Australia, together with other major world grains exporters - the United States of America, Canada and Argentina - has been making a massive effort to win acceptance for- a new grains arrangement that would result in a higher floor under world prices for wheat and limits on domestic protection in importing countries coupled with assurances of access into those countries. Exporting countries are also seeking arrangements that would result in a more equitable sharing amongst affluent countries of the burden of feeding needy countries.
The response of grain importing countries to the exporters’ ideas so far has been most unsatisfactory. In spite of the fact that agricultural exporters have indicated every willingness to ‘pay’ for an effective grains arrangement by appropriate concessions in their tariffs, the importing countries have nevertheless sought to avoid accepting meaningful commitments in relation to the liberalisation of the trade in grains. Wheat is an essential food, a commodity widely traded and a major earner of foreign exchange for several important agricultural countries. There is no better product on which importing countries could show their good faith by negotiating conditions that would lead, in the words of the Kennedy Round objectives, to a ‘significant development and expansion of world trade, in such products. Instead, the importing countries are claiming balance of payments difficulties and foreign exchange costs as reasons for preventing the exporting countries from getting a better return for their product. They expect exporters to make do with a floor price that was negotiated years ago under entirely different conditions - a price floor little, if any, higher than the minimum price for our wheat under the present International Wheat Agreement.
Australia is one of the most efficient producers of wheat, but under present world trading conditions the International Wheat Agreement minimum price for our wheat is about 30c Australian per bushel below the Australian average cost of production. The floor prices now being proposed by importing countries would still result in our wheat selling, at the floor, below our cost of production. The major purpose of the Kennedy Round negotiations is to create conditions which will enable all countries - industrialised and primary producing countries alike - to earn more foreign exchange.
Wheat is Australia’s second most important export. It is our major crop export and a product which we have been exporting at an average rate of more than 200 million bushels a year. It is a product which now earns us approximately $300 million in foreign exchange in normal years. Unless we can obtain a significant improvement in price and improved access to world markets for wheat and for our other major agricultural exports such as meat and dairy products, there will be little benefit for Australia from the Kennedy Round.
On the present attitude of importers either our efficient growers must bear the loss of selling wheat below cost of production or our Treasury must bear it. This would not result in cheaper food for consumers in major markets such as the European Common Market and Japan. Under the common agricultural policy of the European Common Market, Australian wheat cannot be bought by wheat processors at less than about SUS115 per metric ton. If Australia were selling at the floor price being proposed by the Common
Market our wheat would land in Europe at a price about half the price paid by their own wheat processors.
In Japan the situation is nearly as bad. Under the Japanese wheat support arrangements, imported wheats are marked up in price by the Japanese Food Agency before being released to the wheat processors. Under the prices proposed in the Kennedy Round by Japan, the mark-up on Australian wheat before it is released to processors, would amount to about 50% of the landed cost of the wheat. The same wheat when released for consumption as food by the Japanese Food Agency would sell at about JUS95 a metric ton. So our Treasury would be paying to support our own producers up to the cost of production in a situation in which our wheat is being sold to Common Market and Japanese wheat processors at up to double the landed cost.
The funds arising from the price write-up in the Common Market for local sales would go into the coffers of governments to be used in part to subsidise the export of European wheat which would then compete with ours in other world markets at dumped prices. In Japan the price write-up from the sale of our wheat to local consumers would go into a fund which is then available to reduce the selling price of rice, whether locally produced or imported.
In Britain the current system is different from that of the other importing countries although, of course, if Britain joined the European Common Market we would have to contemplate the same system as now applies to our wheat in that market. However, under her present system Britain applies minimum prices which for Australian exporters ensure a floor price higher than the floor price of the present International Wheat Agreement. But the British floor price is still SUS9.8 a metric ton below the price Australia needs to cover its average cost of production and the British price offer in the Kennedy Round does not significantly improve this situation.
This will sound like a description of an intolerable situation. However, it is no part of my approach to attack the domestic policies of other countries. It is my place to press most strongly that in the circumstances I have described the wheat importing countries should not object to paying us a fair price; a price at which we are not expected to sell at a loss; a price that would permit an efficient producing country to get a fair return for its farmers and earn foreign exchange without the need for Treasury subsidy. This is basic to the Australian case. These modest requirements can be met by the countries I have mentioned without their consumers being asked to pay any more, except only that in Britain there might be an increase of a few pence a bushel.
Australia should not be asked to give its support to arrangements in which we contractually commit ourselves to supply wheat at well below our cost of efficient production. The reason most commonly put forward by importing countries to explain their reluctance to pay higher prices is the effect on their balance of payments of a higher price for imports. This has only one purpose; that exporting countries should accept low prices in order to abate the foreign exchange problems of the treasuries of wealthy grain importing countries. Why should wheat be specially selected as the balancing item in balance of payments? If wheat must, in the judgment of any government be selected for the saving of foreign exchange, then that government’s clear course should be to plead the balance of payments problem and place quantity limits on the imports of wheat. But no government could consider physically limiting the availability of basic foods. Instead, European countries in particular have gone to great lengths to limit imports by stimulating their own production under policies of high home support prices. That is to say, affluent countries with almost 350 million consumers are effectively saving vast sums of foreign exchange through these high support prices by minimising their need to import wheat.
That is the factual situation. What I cannot condone is to be faced with the consequent reduced access to these importing markets; as a further blow, to be asked to accept for our limited access of wheat prices below cost of efficient production, and, finally, to be pressurised to accept this situation so that the Kennedy Round might be presented as attending to the needs of agricultural exporters as well as the industrial countries.
In the tough world of international trade it is not uncommon to find oneself involved in selling at a loss. But it is a’ completely different thing to be asked to enter into a long term contract binding oneself to sell at a loss. On the attitude of the major .wheat importing countries this is what they are inviting us to do. In this tough world one can go broke without signing a contract to go broke. Are exporting countries to be faced with the same pressures on other bulk commodities? Why wheat alone? 1 do not expect it to be wheat alone. Are other exporting countries to be faced with the same pressures on sugar, butter, meat, coffee, cocoa, tea and jute? This is the great issue.
Australia is negotiating in the Kennedy Round on many fronts. In addition to discussions in the Commodity Groups, discussions are also going on bilaterally with our trading partners, both to reinforce our efforts in the Groups and to negotiate with the countries concerned on the selective changes in tariffs that we would be prepared to make in return for benefits gained elsewhere in the negotiations. Lest there be any apprehension, may I say that we know that we can make changes in our tariffs that would pay for concessions without in any sense undermining the protection afforded our own industries.
It will be obvious that negotiations are at present at a delicate and critical stage. High level meetings are now going on in Geneva, attended by the Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, Sir Alan Westerman, and by the Secretary of the Department of Primary Industry, Mr Maiden. A representative of the Australian Wheat Board and the wheat industry is there.
Before our delegation left for overseas it was apparent that there could well be important issues arising at short notice which would make it essential that I be present in Geneva during what undoubtedly will be difficult negotiations over the next month or so. The delegation has now confirmed that to be the case, and I therefore propose to leave Australia for Geneva next Wednesday, 12th April. I would expect to be away about six weeks and return late in May.
– by leaveThe speech just made by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) indicates the importance to Australia of the Kennedy Round negotiations at this point. My own judgment of what has happened in the presentation of Australia’s case over a period of time has been that Australia has been well represented at these negotiations both by the permanent officials of the Department and the Minister himself. The position has been clearly put, Rarely has it been put more clearly than in the Minister’s speech this morning.
We must realise the importance of the need to stimulate trade in the basic food commodities, particularly the cereals, in the world today. The world i§ in far more urgent need of the production of foodstuffs than it is of the production of the more highly processed manufactured goods. It is clear that the trend of development over the last fifteen years at least, and probably longer, has been proceeding in the opposite direction. The primary producing countries have suffered relatively in comparison with the affluent manufacturing countries in world trade because, to state it simply, of the controls that have been exercisable in trade relations. It is time that the balance was swung in the other direction not only to provide greater production of and greater world trade in these commodities because of the needs of two-thirds of the world for increased food consumption, but also because, if greater trade and greater stability of trade can be established in these commodities in the modern world this will be in the interests of more efficient production for the producers.
The Minister is right in emphasising the importance of this for Australia. I think it is fair to say that to date Australia - the world for that matter - has gained very little out of the Kennedy Round negotiations and we look forward to considerably greater gains in the future. I suggest that the Minister put his finger on the essence of this when he said:
Unless we can obtain a significant improvement in price and improved access to world markets for wheat, and for our other major agricultural exports such as meat and dairy products, there will be little benefit for Australia from the Kennedy Round.
Of course, what is true for Australia is true for many other countries that need to secure benefits from the Kennedy Round. The setting up of organisations like the European Common Market has not been in the interests of this development and I think the Minister is right in pointing out that the exporters of wheat to Europe would not only be expected to export wheat to there at prices that are below the cost of production in Australia but also be expected to meet the price established in Europe of a competing cereal, the production of which in Europe is very highly protected. What is true of Europe is also true of Japan, the United States of America and a number of other higly developed countries.
The stress which the Minister lays is a simple one. I think it is a fair price that is being asked for cereals on the world market today. He said:
It is my place to press most strongly that in the circumstances 1 have described the wheat importing countries should not object to paying us a fair price, a price at which we are not expected to sell at a loss, a price that would permit an efficient producing country to get a fair return for its farmers and earn foreign exchange without the need for Treasury subsidy.
This, he said, is the basis of the Australian case. If this case is presented effectively - as it will be - then I am sure that sooner or later it will produce results. We of the Opposition support the presentation of this case to the full extent of our capacity. We are with the Minister and the Government on this matter.
There is only one other point that I want to make at this stage, and it is an important one. The Minister himself showed an awareness of it at one stage in his speech when he referred to other commodities such as sugar, butter, meat, coffee, cocoa, tea and jute. What he said about wheat applies equally to each of these other commodities. I would think that there is a limit to the extent to which consumers of sugar, for example, in a country like Australia could be expected to support a price for that part of our own production that we consume which is considerably in excess of the world price. This involves difficulties not only for the consumers but for the Treasury. The problem applies not only to Australia but to other countries, and it applies to each and every one of those commodities.
As I said a few moments ago the solution can be obtained by attempting successfully to redress the balance that has come about over the last fifteen or twenty years when the exporters of these primary foodstuffs have suffered relatively in world trade. This balance can be offset without any unfair cost or burden to the countries that have benefited over the last fifteen or twenty years from what has happened in world trade. It can be offset if those countries are prepared to pay a fair price which involves some changes in their own economic structures. But I think that Australia has to be careful about this. We have to be careful about what we do with our own output of those commodities which are under pressure and facing difficulties. Sugar is a fair example of what I mean. I think there is legitimate criticism to be made against the policy of the Government in encouraging the expansion of production in Australia unless first some certain and sure conditions for the sale of the increased production overseas can be made available. I hope the Minister will bear this in mind in any kind of arrangement into which he may enter.
The final point I want to make is a difficult one. What can be said about the difficulties faced by primary producers having to export to markets where they are expected to sell their products at a price much lower than that at which similar products can be produced in the countries to which we are exporting applies in reverse to manufacturers. Just as Australia’s wheat going to European Common Market countries and to Japan, for instance, has to compete under unfair conditions, the Japanese and the West Germans can say, and have said, that their manufactured goods coming to Australia have to compete under unfair conditions, and that the price of the competing product made in Australia is artificially raised considerably above their own price. What can be said properly about primary exports can be said, and is being said, in reverse about manufactured ones. The Minister is aware of this because he said:
In addition to discussions in the commodity groups, discussions are also going on bilaterally with our trading partners both to reinforce our efforts in the groups and to negotiate with those countries on the selective changes in tariffs that we would be prepared to make in return for benefits gained elsewhere in the negotiations.
Then the Minister went on to make a statement that was not in his printed speech. He said that we know we can make concessions without undermining our protective system. I feel that this is an approach that the Australian Government should make. It is one of our top responsibilities in this country to maintain our protective system and to ensure that we maintain our developed manufacturing processes upon which the standard of living in Australia and the employment available for our citizens primarily depend. I feel sure we can make concessions without in any way undermining our protective system. The Minister’s references to that point today seemed to me to contrast to some extent with the speech he made following my own in the House a few weeks ago when he seemed to be suggesting that anyone who would as much as question an Australian tariff was out to destroy Australian industry and opportunities for employment for Australians in this country. Perhaps the Minister was being a little more political two or three weeks ago than he has been in the very fine speech he made this morning.
Another factor that needs emphasising is that this problem has arisen partly as a result of the balance of payments difficulties of other countries. The Minister rightly does not want to see wheat or any other single commodity or group of commodities expected to carry the burden of correcting the balance of payments problems in other countries. Australia has a pretty serious balance of payments problem herself. Had it not been for the encouraged flow of overseas investment to Australia we would be in a very serious situation. Our accumulated deficit on current account with the United States of America alone since 1950-51 to 1965-66 is $4,280,000,000. I should not think that any other country claiming special consideration in the Kennedy Round negotiations could claim a more significant current account deficit than that. I think we would have a right to remind these countries of this. Our delegation would have a responsibility in these negotiations to seek to do something that would tend to offset that current account balance in Australia, because we cannot be sure that forever the inflow of overseas capital to Australia will continue to grow at a rate proportionate to our demand for imports.
– We can be sure that it will not continue to grow to that extent.
– Yes, we can be pretty sure that it will not for ever continue to grow to that extent. The matter has been clearly stated by the Minister. The objective that our delegation is trying to secure in Geneva has been clearly stated so that all honourable members can understand it, can support it and can wish the Minister and the delegation success in their negotiations in Geneva.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) - by leave - agreed to:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the National Library Act 1960-1966, this House elects Mr Bryant to be a member of the Council of the National Library of Australia and to continue as a member for a period of three years from this day.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the grievance debate continuing until 2.45 p.m.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966 I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Ordered that the report be printed.
Commonwealth Oversight of Loan Works - Commonwealth Employees Compensation - Lord Howe Island - Social Services - Local Government - Water ConservationFlour - Wool Marketing and Research - Religious Broadcasts - Tariff Board - Phosphate - Veitnam
That grievances be noted.
– I want to raise two matters, and I want to contrast them. One is the tale of a dammed river and the other is the tale of some torn trousers, and I want to contrast these things by way of illustrating the way this House keeps some sort of surveillance over the financial plans of the Government - how utterly careless it is in some things and how meticulously careful in others.
Let me first of all quote something that was said by the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) on Tuesday of this week when he directed a question to the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) on the Ord River scheme. He asked:
Can the Treasurer say whether, during his recent visit to Western Australia, particularly to Kununurra, any evidence was presented to him that would cause an early reconsideration nf the State Government’s request to the Commonwealth Government for the commencement of the second stage of the Ord project?
The Minister replied:
During the recess of the House I spent five days in the north west of Australia having a look at the North West Cape project and the Pilbara iron ore deposits, and then I went on to Kununurra
The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) interjected:
Did the Minister go to the races?
The Minister replied:
Yes, on the way back. I had an interesting series of discussions with the technical experts . . . and with some of the growers of cotton in the Ord scheme.
He also said:
I cannot say at the moment that any additional information has been provided to me which is different from that provided when the Government made its policy decision.
Under the procedures of this House that kind of debate - if we can call it a debate - is the way we deal with the possible expenditure of $20m on a dam on the Ord River, and heaven knows how many millions of dollars in succeeding years to subsidise the farmers who go there. This is how we deal with such a matter at present.
What is the process whereby this money can be made available? The Western Australian Government can apply to the Reserve Bank for a loan. The Reserve Bank would then inform the Commonwealth Government - presumably the Treasurer - since the Financial Agreement would be involved, and this would require that such borrowing should have the approval of the Loan Council. The Bank, having reported it to the Government, the Treasurer would then indicate whether the Government was in favour or not of the loan. I know nothing about the terms under which such loan would be made or whether there would be any guarantee explicitly or implicitly by the Commonwealth Government. I am sure that implicitly if the Western Australian Govern ment fell down on repayments the Commonwealth Government would be expected to come to the rescue.
I am not speaking about the merits of the Ord River scheme. I express no view as to whether it is good or bad. I have heard a great deal of eloquence about it, rather short in reason, and I have also seen a book by a Dr Davidson which is rather stronger in logic and fact than are the speeches we hear or the questions that are asked by people who want to advance Western Australia. But this is the way that we deal with a matter of this kind in the House. Our Public Works Committee, of which the honourable member for Perth, who asked the question, is Chairman, would not come into the picture at all, because the job would be done by the West Australian Government. So the machinery that exists in this Parliament to examine works undertaken directly by the Commonwealth would not be available. The Government would carry through a policy requiring the expenditure of enormous sums of money and the matter would never come under the surveillance or the critical scrutiny of this Parliament as matters now stand. I say no more about this, except that I would like to commend the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), who time and again in this place has drawn attention to the tremendously important activities of the Commonwealth Government in respect of the programmes of Loan Council. These matters -are scarcely less important, if less important at all, than the Budget which is scrutinised technically with such care by this House. I pay a tribute to him and I say that machinery should be continued to enable a proper scrutiny to be made of these matters in this Parliament.
I said that I would contrast the tale of a dammed river with the tale of some torn trousers. We will see how careful we are about this matter. During the taking of the recent census a constituent of mine was employed going from door to door to obtain data. He entered one residence and an Alsatian dog tore his trousers but fortunately did not damage him. This is a great matter; we must safeguard the public purse in a matter of this kind. This is quite different from the Ord River scheme where we spend millions of dollars without any scrutiny at all. Now we must really be careful about the trousers. This incident happened and I made representations to the Treasurer on 12th September 1966. On 23rd December 1966, I had a reply from the Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Howson), who is now, I notice, in the chamber. What did the Minister say7 He showed how careful we must be. He said:
I refer to your personal representations of 12th September . . . concerning the question of compensating Mr Farrar for damage to his clothing which was torn by a dog whilst he was working as a Census Collector.
I do not have the time to read the whole of the letter. In effect it says that the Commonwealth accepts no liability in this matter, but act of grace payments are being considered for those who suffered damage in the course of collecting the census. The Minister added that, in this particular case, the person concerned should sue the owner of the dog. We all know about British justice. It used to be thought a great thing. Most of us these days are discovering that it is a pretty expensive thing and pretty uncertain as well. This gentleman had no evidence except his own unsupported statement that the dog tore his trousers. He knows that it would be very expensive to proceed against the owner of the dog and he did not do so. He wrote to me again and said: i was not advised at the time of appointment that the Department accepts no liability for expenses incurred through damage to clothing . . . and if I had known I would not have gone into houses where vicious dogs were, and I would also have informed my Collectors to take other means of obtaining the information required. 1 think that if this aspect had been given to prospective employees many would not accept the positions and the conditions offered.
I thought fit to inquire of my local postman about this, because he has had some acquaintance with dogs. Indeed, he has been bitten, I think, on some twenty-three occasions. I learned that postmen, who have to go into places and frequently have their trousers torn - or their shins for that matter - by dogs, receive uniform trousers and these are replaced when so damaged. But I also find that under the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act, if the person concerned had met with an accident - for example, by being knocked over by the dog as he entered through the gate, had fallen, struck his head against the gate and broken his spectacles, and furthermore if his false teeth had fallen out and he had trodden on them - he would have been compensated for both the spectacles and the false teeth. But here we have an extraordinary situation where no act of grace payment is made. I can only hope that when there is another census - unfortunately it is a long way off - collectors will know that if they suffer damage such as this gentleman did they will not be compensated. I hope that the census authorities will find it difficult to induce collectors to go into places where there are dogs and the census as a result will be somewhat defective. Alternatively, the authorities might consider some compensation in these matters.
I was drawing a contrast. I mentioned in the one case how $20m can be spent on a dam, and heaven knows how much afterwards, without any scrutiny by this Parliament at all. Even the Public Works Committee could not come into the picture. But we do have the Public Accounts Committee and I suggest that this Committee, which can scrutinise administration, should have a look at act of grace payments. The State has been described, I think quite properly, as the coldest of all cold monsters. The activities of this cold monster in respect of compensation should be looked at not only from the point of view of protecting the public purse - of course, the Committee should do that - but also from the point of view of whether in protecting the public purse the State is not, in some cases, doing an injustice. I commend to the Public Accounts Committee a study of the circumstances in which act of grace payments are made or refused.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I take this opportunity to speak once again about the need for an airstrip on Lord Howe Island. I know that many honourable members will observe: ‘This is not the first time we have heard about this airstrip*. However, I have had correspondence, which I will read, telling me that the company that now operates the flying boat taking people to and from the island, has given notice that after 1970 it will not use the flying boat because, I understand, it is not in a very good condition. I stress that point, because two years ago £100,000 was spent on repairs to the flying boat after another aircraft had sunk overnight and could not be found. I think it is time the Government realised that I do not raise this matter merely because Lord Howe Island is in the Federal electorate of West Sydney but because this is a matter of national importance. If the flying boat sinks, taking people with it, we will possibly hear that something will be done.
The Government was responsible - this is to its credit - for building an airstrip on Brampton Island, in conjunction with Trans-Australia Airlines. If mountainous country such as that on Brampton Island can be made to accommodate an airstrip, I cannot for the life of me understand why an airstrip cannot be put on a fiat island seven miles long, such as Lord Howe Island is. I have here a letter from a man who was bom on the island. His people came there some 100 years ago. His name is Thompson of Thompson’s General Store. The first person to whom anybody would go for information on the Island would be Mr Thompson of the Thompson family. Many people of that name live on the Island. Mr Thompson says this:
Dear Mr Minogue,
As one who is vitally interested in the future air service to Lord Howe Island, and one of your constituents, I was wondering if you are aware of the following facts regarding the future of the flying boat service to Lord Howe Island.
The airline who operates the flying boats to the island has indicated that they intend to withdraw these from operational service in 1970 (21 years hence).
I am wondering whether it would be in order for you to raise this question either in the House of Representatives or with the Minister for Civil Aviation, as to what the Government has in view to provide the islanders with an adequate air service after 1970.
No doubt you fully realise that the whole of this island’s economy depends on an adequate air service capable of transporting islanders and tourists alike to and from the mainland.
Trusting that the matter will receive your sympathetic consideration, and I will look forward to hearing from you again in due course.
I realise that all the expenditure connected with Lord Howe Island and with the construction of a landing strip there is not the responsibility of the Federal Government, because the Island is under the jurisdiction of the State Government of New South
Wales. I say that from a business point of view the State Government and the Federal Government should get together and arrange for an inspection. Possibly this has happened before, because the land has been marked out on several occasions. The Federal Government has about nineteen employees on the Island, and a radar station and many other facilities are situated there.
If a flying boat service cannot be provided, some provision should be made for shipping. A boat goes to the Island only every three months, and people living there buy their goods in the Sydney market. Mrs Kirby, who runs the largest boarding house there, showed me a bill for £24 worth of goods bought on the Sydney fruit market and on which she had paid £27 for freight. The people on the Island cannot hold titles to much of the land there. I understand that the State Government surveyed the land and allowed the people to own up to 10 acres around their homes, and that is all they have. If they want to improve their properties or build new places and get ready for the next tourist season, they cannot do so unless they have the cash ready. Cement brought from the mainland costs twice as much as it does in Sydney, and practically everything that goes into a building has to be brought from the mainland or from somewhere else. Consequently, it is almost impossible for these people to carry on.
I hope and trust that this Government will get down to business on this matter. It is of no use the Government saying that it cannot do anything about the matter because I understand there are such planes available in Paris and in many other parts of the world that could land there easily. The Government says the landing strip is 24 yards short, or something like that, but the strip could be extended out to sea. Many honourable members opposite have been there; some have spent their honeymoon there. Surely they realise that the Island needs an air service. Lord Howe Island, with a total population of 250, has the proud distinction of never having had a policeman there. T think that is a great record. The people do their best for their Island and for themselves, so surely this Government will heed me today and do something about this matter.
I wish to congratulate the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair). It is very seldom that I have an opportunity to express congratulations about the social services provided for the people living in my electorate of West Sydney who perhaps deserve them more than most other citizens of Sydney. The welfare association in Sydney to which I belong did not like it when Mr Roberton was appointed Ambassador to Ireland and went to live in Dublin, but now we think it was the best thing that ever happened because we have a Minister in his place who has taken every opportunity to improve social service benefits. He has introduced an innovation in which I am very interested. I refer to the use of council land for the erection of homes for the aged. That is a wonderful thing, because now, when a council allots a paddock or a small piece of land on which to erect homes for the aged, the organisation concerned is entitled to $2 for every $1 it provides.
I congratulate the Minister on this occasion, and I hope and trust he will be the Minister for a very long time. He has done a good job in that respect. However, under the provisions of the Bill recently introduced the amount of means as assessed which will permit the payment of a full pension has been raised by $156 for a single person, whereas only the same amount is applicable to a married couple, who have to pay rent, rates and insurance and live just the same. Nevertheless, it is a great thing that this Minister has seen virtue in the proposition that councils should be encouraged to assist in the building of homes for aged people. I think the Government will benefit from its decision, because it will not have to bear the expense of keeping aged people in homes at a weekly cost of S40 or more.
Mr IRWIN (Mitchell) [12.181- It is very pleasing to hear the honourable member for West Sydney (Mr Minogue) congratulate the present Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair). We, too, hope that the Minister will occupy that position for a long time, and we are more confident than is the member for West Sydney that he will. However, I thank the honourable member for the very nice remarks he made about the Minister. I wish to speak on a matter that is not very pleasant. No matter what part of Australia one comes from or what political Party one may belong to, one must be sad to read the headlines in the Sydney metropolitan Press concerning the charges and counter-charges of corruption and bribery in regard to local government in New South Wales. This will continue while there remains in existence such an authority as the State Planning Authority of New South Wales, whose activities are shrouded in secrecy despite the fact that hundreds of millions of dollars of public money and private investment are involved.
The arch enemies of democracy are corruption, inefficiency and bureaucracy. Let me state right at the outset that I am firmly convinced that the executive officers of the Cumberland County Council - the former government’s county council - and the State Planning Authority of New South Wales were and are men above reproach and men of integrity. However, they are men carried away with an idealism that is fanatical in the extreme. These men have been appointed to the Authority, not elected, and in the main they do not account to anyone for their actions. Also, in many instances the Minister has no jurisdiction whatsoever over their actions. Since the advent of the Cumberland County Council there has been scandal after scandal in local government in New South Wales. In each and every case the origin ot the scandal can be traced back to the secret planning of the Cumberland County Council and the State Planning Authority. Aldermen and councillors have been frustrated; they have become subservient and subordinate to these two authorities. Because their powers have been restricted, they have not been able to exercise their own judgment. Therefore, they have not been responsible to the people who elected them.
We owe a great debt of gratitude to aldermen and councillors in the main. With very few exceptions, they are men of honesty and integrity who have carried on for many years without any form of remuneration. However, with the very setup of local government in New South Wales, the diminution of the authority of local councils and their dependence on the State Planning Authority, the Local Government Department and other instrumentalities, these men have become a rubber stamp, stripped of authority and responsibility and with no power to project their own ideas or to display their organising, administrative and business ability. Such a position opens the way to corruption and wrongdoing, and it is then that the odd man, the weak man, succumbs to the temptation of easy money.
If there were no bribers there would be no corrupt aldermen or councillors. I think this phase was often overlooked by many citizens in a recent case. The briber ingratiated himself by opening an account with the councillor concerned. The Cumberland County Council was in a chaotic state; councils, land owners, industrialists and business men were frustrated, and bribery and corruption had reached such proportions that they could not go on. The then government, realising this, astutely abolished the Cumberland County Council and in its stead placed on the statute book legislation establishing the most autocractic instrumentality ever known in New South Wales. I have challenged the New South Wales Minister for Local Government to debate publicly the following subject: That the State Planning Authority of New South Wales is totalitarian in design, application and implementation and that it would be in the best interests of New South Wales that it be either abolished or re-constituted on an elected basis, with planning officers acting in an advisory capacity only. Until we get rid of secret planning and the State Planning Authority of New South Wales, we shall have recurring scandals in that State.
– I rise to speak on what I am fast beginning to believe is the mystery of the proposed water conservation programme of the Government as promised and announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) in November last. The Prime Minister announced that one aspect of national development that was vivid in the Federal Government’s mind was the devastation from recent droughts. He said;
One aspect of national development is vivid in our minds … the conservation of that precious commodity - water.
He announced at the same time that the Government would proceed with a national water programme involving $50m over the next five years. It is five months since that announcement was made and, despite questions asked in this House by the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Country Party, we still are not able to find anything positive on this plan. On 2nd March I directed a question to the Prime Minister as to what action was being taken and when these funds would be made available to Queensland in particular. That State, as is well known, has not received one cent of Commonwealth funds in the last seventeen years for water conservation for irrigation or power projects, despite the fact that about $900m has been committed by the Government to the other States. It is well known that Queensland has the richest water resources in Australia. The statement made in reply by the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) was that a submission was being prepared and that he hoped to have some discussion in Cabinet. On 4th April I again raised the question with the Acting Prime Minister (Mr McEwen), who seemed to express some surprise that the Government had made any announcement on the lines suggested in reply to my question. He said:
I doubt that the Prime Minister announced some time ago that the Government was examining proposals along these lines.
The same day, unbeknown to me, the Government had answered a question by the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Ian Allan) in which it said it was considering the proposals but had not yet reached a decision.
One must ask just what is going on with respect to this $50m programme, for water development. It is becoming obvious to me that the Government has no intention of spending any of this money in this financial year. In other words, it will make a big song and dance in the next Budget, if possible, unless of course a negative Treasury approach prevails and interdepartmental committees and so on are established to negate this policy further. It has been implied in some quarters, for example, that in Queensland both the previous Labor Government and the present Country-Liberal Party Government have not put up proposals to the Commonwealth. This is utter nonsense. The Emerald irrigation proposal was put up to the Government in October 1963 by the Premier of Queensland, who requested $25m for irrigation and power development in central Queensland. It was proposed to irrigate between 60,000 and 70,000 acres, and some of the finest soils that we have were commandable by this particular scheme. I refer particularly to the brigalow and selfmulching soils. All these soils have been proven; they can grow some of the best fodder and cash crops. Examinations have been made by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and by other organisations, which have submitted and resubmitted reports, but still not one cent has been made available for Emerald.
We have the Bundaberg irrigation scheme. At present the Queensland authorities are meeting people in Bundaberg to discuss the scheme. This area was devastated by drought two years ago. The Wallaville-Gin Gin mill became bankrupt. This proposal was submitted by the Bundaberg irrigation committee two years ago. The Burdekin scheme has been submitted several times over the last seventeen years. This scheme involves a catchment area alone of 44,000 square miles. This is a tremendous area. Water could be impounded by a spillway ISO feet high and 3,040 feet long. It will contain sixteen times the volume of water in the Sydney Harbour, and its capacity will be three times as great as that of the Hume Reservoir and twice that of the big Eildon Dam. This is greatly in excess of the combined capacity of the seven dams of the Snowy Mountains scheme. Certainly there are problems in the Burdekin scheme, one of which is the barratta soils. This scheme alone has been on the books now for seventeen years, but still no decision has been taken.
We witnessed only a few weeks ago the devastation in the Herbert River area, where in some places the river actually changed course. Engineering proposals have been put forward for a diversion of some of the flow of the Herbert River into the Burdekin complex. Less than 200 miles south of the Herbert and Burdekin areas we have districts such as the Pioneer River valley which are currently being hit by drought, although only a few months ago we saw millions of acre feet of water flowing wastefully to the sea.
These Queensland schemes of which I have been speaking have been put to the Federal Government. In 1962 the Queens land Government submitted proposals relating to the Dawson River, with particular reference to a dam on the Nathan Gorge, which would be one of the biggest multipurpose dams in Australia, together with the Burdekin proposal. This Nathan Gorge dam could be used to irrigate country extending for 110 miles between Orange Creek and Banana Creek. It would be a tremendous undertaking but one that is quite feasible, lt has been investigated and reinvestigated so many times that it has become something of a joke. In the same year, 1962, the Queensland Government and the New South Wales Government put forward the border river proposals, but these were conveniently disregarded. A similar fate befell the Mclntyre Brook proposal and the scheme for an extension of the MareebaDimboola project.
The alumina works at Gladstone will require two million gallons of water a day, and the town of Gladstone itself needs one million gallons a day, and Gladstone is desperately in need of water because of the negative approach of the Government towards water conservation in Queensland. The lifeblood of the people in the Pioneer valley is water, yet today we see sugar mills in that district in a serious financial position because of continued drought, even though there are water resources nearby which could be economically conserved with the use of known technological processes.
Water is the most precious of all our natural assets. The staggering and cumulative losses caused by periodic devastating droughts in the established and proven areas - and I emphasise that these droughts do occur in established agriculture areas - while surface water flows wastefully to the sea each year are losses that Australia can no longer afford. They represent a shocking indictment of this Government’s apathetic attitude to water conservation in Queensland over the last seventeen years. No one today questions the viability of the economy of settlements in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area and the Goulburn valley, but if some of today’s economists had been asked to comment on the original irrigation schemes for those areas they would surely have knocked the proposals. If the Federal Government is going to continue its delaying tactics on water conservation and flood mitigation works, for goodness sake let it give
Queensland some money for these purposes. Queensland has the engineers and the knowhow to spend the money profitably. If this generation and this Government do not adopt a progressive policy on water conservation they will earn no bouquets from future generations, which will have no alternative but to carry out effective water conservation and flood mitigation works for their very survival.
– Honourable members who have been in this House for some years know that I have always claimed that water conservation should be given second priority by the Commonwealth Government. I have always said: defence first, water conservation second. I have put defence first because without adequate defence it does not matter how good our water conservation programme is, or how successful are our agricultural efforts. If we cannot defend our country we will lose everything to an invader.
I shall pass quickly over the remarks of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). Reference was made to the amount of $50 million promised by the Government during the last election campaign for water conservation works. This is a matter of government policy and I shall just refer to what the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) said in answer to a question on this subject. The Minister told the House that during the November election campaign the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) said it would be part of the policy of the Government to provide $50 million to the States over a period of five years for approved water conservation projects. The Minister said - and this is the part that I think the honourable member should take particular note of because, after all the Minister is the second highest authority in the land - that the initiative rests with the State governments to put forward proposals for consideration by the Commonwealth. If I were a State premier or a member of a State government or had anything to do with a State government, and if there was a project I wanted undertaken, I would quick and lively put a proposal before the Commonwealth Government for an allocation of money from this $50 million.
While on the subject of water conservation I want to say a word or two about a part of the country which I consider to be the greatest irrigation area in the Commonwealth. I am fortunate to represent the Sunraysia area, the centre of which is the magnificent city of Mildura. I shall make a few brief comments on this matter because there are one or two other subjects to which I wish to refer. The Mildura District and Returned Servicemen’s Agricultural and Horticultural Society will be holding its annual show in October. This will be a three-day show and this year it will be the grand national show of Victoria. Naturally all the people concerned with it, which is to say all the people in the area and many much further afield, are eager to make this the best possible show. The Mildura show is recognised as one of the four best and most modern shows outside the metropolitan area.
What I am asking is - and 1 have had some little discussion on the matter with the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) - that a Snowy Mountains Authority exhibit be made available for the Mildura show in October, so that the people in this recognised irrigation area may get some indication of what this great project means. Many of them, of course, cannot come to Canberra or go to the project itself to find out about it at firsthand. It is expected that at the Mildura show the total attendance will be in the vicinity of 40,000. Many of these people - I can say most of them - depend for their present income and their future livelihood on irrigation, and therefore they arc intensely interested in the Snowy Mountains scheme.
There are many aspects of this matter that deserve consideration. Firstly, about 80% of Australia’s dried fruit pack comes from the Sunraysia area. A tremendous quantity of citrus fruit is grown there and a good deal of wine is produced. Sheep and cattle industries and many other industries in the area also depend on irrigation. These facts lead me to suggest that from a national outlook it would be desirable to give the people of the area a chance to see the Snowy Mountains Authority exhibit at the national show at Mildura in October. I have spoken to the
Minister about this, 1 have made these additional points, and I hope that my request will be favourably considered. The time and place will be eminently suitable for showing the people what is being done in the Snowy Mountains.
I now want to move on to other matters. Some of the points I am making could have been covered by questions without notice, but although on occasions I have been able to ask four questions in one day I now find I cannot succeed in getting the call to ask more than one question in four days, so that matter that I would normally have covered at question time I now have to bring out in speeches. The indications are that Indonesia is likely to import more flour, and I want to ask the Government and the Minister whether this market for Australian flour has been fully investigated, and if so with what result. If the matter of exchange presents any difficulty - I believe it may - could Australia buy from Indonesia certain additional raw materials not available here and so overcome the problem to the advantage of both countries? I believe this could be done. After all, trade is one of the things that bring nations more closely together.
On 2nd March last I asked the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann) a question about wool prices. In my question I was not able to go into great detail because questions must be fairly concise. I asked:
Is the Minister aware that there is unrest among wool growers regarding the fall in wool sale prices during the last twelve months and that many of them are of the opinion that the money they are contributing to the wool promotion fund is being used in a way that at least appears to be ineffective?
I will not quote all of the Minister’s reply, but in part he said that the Government would increase assistance to wool growers for marketing and research up to a maximum of $14m. This was very reasonable. But how will that money be spent? If the expenditure of this money results in higher prices being paid for wool products the benefit is not necessarily reflected in the price obtained for wool in the market. We hope that the money will be spent to create greater competition for the product of the Australian wool grower and so enable him to obtain a better price for his wool. Unfortunately it is my considered opinion, after carefully studying the matter, that the people who manufacture and sell the finished woollen article are the ones who are getting the benefit. In my question to the Minister I asked:
Has the Government a plan to assist the wool industry by improving the marketing services of its valuable product?
I move about the countryside and I hear people discussing the floor price system. I have heard men say recently that the floor price system is good; others want a system of acquisition. In the wool industry there are many opinions about what should be done. The Government claims that the Australian Wool Industry Conference is the body which should deal with these things. This is right in theory but it appears that the representatives of the growers at the Conference are not doing much about the position generally, and it is deteriorating. I want to see some practical men ensure that this money is spent in a way that will increase the price obtained for wool. All the trouble may stem from the fact that we have not had the right men in the right places. Surely when the price of wool products rises, the rise should be reflected in the sales of wool throughout Australia.
– In the few minutes remaining at my disposal I would like to refer to the matter of religious broadcasts in the Northern Territory. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has been broadcasting a programme called ‘Sunday Devotional’ but that programme has ceased. The programme gave local people the advantage of hearing their own preachers rather than hearing programmes from the south, which they can hear broadcast at other times of the day by the ABC. The Clerk of the Council of the United Church in North Australia, Parish of Darwin, has written to me in these terms:
At a recent meeting of the Church Council I was directed to approach you concerning the ABC session ‘Sunday Devotional’. This session has been broadcast for a number of years on a Sunday morning and consisted of broadcasts by ministers of the various churches in the Northern Territory. It provided Northern Territory listeners with an opportunity to hear men who live and work in the Northern Territory.
We have now been informed that this session has been discontinued and that in future all religious broadcasts heard in the Territory will originate from southern States. It would be appreciated if you could enquire in Parliament why this session has been discontinued when there are other sessions broadcast which give the opportunity to bear men from other States.
I ask the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) to investigate the situation with a view to enabling the people pf this remote area to hear their own ministers, as requested by the Church Council.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I want to bring to the notice of the House the statement that was made yesterday by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) in relation to a proposal to staff the Tariff Board with part time officers. This causes me a great deal of concern, because it seems to me that the aim will be to staff the Board with part time dabblers who could easily be the dilettantes of disaster. The Tariff Board clearly is a technical and most sensitive Instrument in regulating the Australian economy. It is the type of organisation that requires, on a full time basis, highly qualified and extremely competent people, who have free access to adequate statistical information and advice from government sources and outside sources. This is not the sort of work that can be undertaken on a part time basis. A person cannot come in off the street and adjudicate on a very sensitive issue in the economic performance of this country. Such matters demand constant attention.
I am very concerned therefore at the announcement yesterday by the Minister for Trade and Industry that he had been lobbying various pressure groups in the community in an effort to obtain new part time appointees who - I am justified in saying this on the performance of the Tariff Board and its treatment by the Government at the present time - undoubtedly will be self interested and super-high protectionists.
– Why not super-low protectionists?
– The Australian Labor Party is not opposed to protection, as the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters) would be the first to agree. We seek protection to guarantee full employment and efficient performance in the economy; but we are opposed to an extremely high and unwarranted level of protection which will prop up a number of undesirable features of the economy. I shall refer to these in a few minutes. First I ask: Why is the Government wanting to do this? It is argued that the Board is dilatory in handling various issues that are referred to it. Why is this so? The Board is one member short. Mr George Gill died six months ago, but no replacement has been made. The Minister for Trade and Industry suggests that he is unable to find a suitable replacement. What does he mean by that? Does he mean a replacement who would be suitable to him? Does he mean a replacement who would be suitably responsive to some extreme attitude that he wants to have developed? Does he mean that he cannot find this sort of person? I refuse to accept the suggestion that in this community, which has so many well qualified people, it is impossible to attract the services of at least one person who is suitably qualified - unless, of course, there is dissatisfaction on the Board. I suggest that there is dissatisfaction and that the cause of this dissatisfaction is well known in the community - at least in that section from which somebody otherwise may have been attracted to serve on the Board. I shall mention this again a little later.
The Board is supposed to be dilatory in its approach to its inquiries. As I have said, it is already one member short. But it is proposed to reduce the number of members even further. The Minister for Trade and Industry did not mention this yesterday. It is proposed to use a member full time as a sort of dumping inquiry agent. The 1964- 65 annual report of the Tariff Board refers specifically to the type of work which the Board has carried out in relation to dumping inquiries. Incidentally, no action has been taken on the recommendations contained in that report. Paragraphs 154, 155, 156 and 160, which are to be found at page 16 of the report, are pertinent. Paragraph 1 54 reads:
At the inquiries the departmental files are produced as evidence. In some cases these provide the only information available to the Board on normal values and, in others, evidence from importers and overseas manufacturers confirms the Department’s evidence. Similarly, evidence on export prices is available from the departmental liles and is usually consistent with the information submitted by importers and overseas manufacturers.
Paragraph 155 reads:
The Board has therefore had before it a number of cases in which nothing new has been added to the information already available to the Department and there is no substantial conflict of evidence calling for independent review.
Paragraph 156 is as follows:
Whether or not the Australian industry has suffered injury is also a question which could usually be decided by the Minister on the basis of information available to his Department.
Further, paragraph 160 reads:
The Board therefore suggests that consideration be given to amending the Act to provide that a matter need be referred to it for inquiry and report only when the Minister considers that the circumstances warrant a reference or when an interested party objects to the Minister’s decision and requests that the matter be investigated by the Board.
In spite of this the Minister not only is refusing to take action on the Board’s recommendation but proposes to deplete the services of the Board by another member to carry out work it considers unnecessarily demanding of its time. It was suggested in one newspaper very recently that although the salary for Tariff Board members is $10,000 a year the job itself can be regarded as a dead end job, an appendage within the Public Service which is performing less and less in terms of function as time goes by because of the way in which the Government treats it. Mr Rattigan, one member of the Board, is crushed by a welter of frustration. To use a colloquialism, the dogs are barking the fact all around the town. He is shackled to his rock of despair, the Tariff Board. Unlike his predecessor, Sir Henry Melville, he is a career public servant and he cannot find an avenue of escape. He sought such an avenue recently by seeking a transfer to the Department of Customs and Excise, but he was unsuccessful.
Increasingly it seems that people who are fitted to serve on this Board - to serve well and in the best interests of economic development - are unwilling to do so. They regard the Board as the creature of the Australian Country Party and more specifically as a particular aspect of Country Party policy. I am very concerned at the way in which references are sent to the Board. The conclusions are already written into the reference by the Minister for Trade and Industry. This sort of thing is undermining confidence in the Board and is diverting from the Board the interest of those people who would be qualified to serve with this body.
I said that I would mention some of the deficiencies which I believe can arise from super-high protection. As I do not want any emotional outbursts from the Minister mis representing the stand of the Labor Party, I stress that the Labor Party does believe in protection. It believes that the development of this country has been achieved largely through protection.
– Of course it has.
– Exactly. What we are saying is that the sort of thing the Minister for Trade and Industry is striving for is only the beginning to establish Australia as an excessively high tariff country and that it will not be conducive to the best efforts: to develop industry. We are concerned about the fact that super-high protection safeguards inefficiency; perpetuates outmoded, inert management; guarantees sloppy, costly production methods where they exist; props up costly surplus capacity; guards excess profits; and eliminates or minimises the risk of unsound business decisions and fosters more of them. It also encourages wrong and uneconomic allocation of scarce resources, bolsters profits on overseas investment in high cost enterprises and, worst of all, excessively increases costs in the community. The maintenance of this shocking but by no means exhaustive catalogue of perpetuated incompetence is a tax on the consumer and the wage earner. Living standards are held back because workers’ pay packets are not going as far as they should, primary producers’ costs are beating them, and living standards overall are being held in check. The Tariff Board needs to develop systems which will allow it, when it is considering applications for assistance, to ascertain what are, or may become, economic and efficient undertaktakings. Inquiry ought to establish, before protection is given by the Board, that the recipients will follow price, production, export and dividend policies which will contribute to economic and efficient development, maintain full employment and serve a stable and rapid rate of investment.
- Mr Speaker, what I have to say to the House today is fairly tentative. I should like to foreshadow some proposals which I will be formulating in the near future. I want to foreshadow them now in a tentative way so as to give honourable members a chance to consider them in advance. I refer particularly to the discovery of phosphate in the vicinity of Duchess near Cloncurry in
Queensland. I do not think honourable members may yet realise that this is one of the most important mineral discoveries yet made in Australia. It looks like being even more significant than the iron ore discoveries in Western Australia, great though they may be.
At a point centering on Duchess, or perhaps a little south, apparently there has been found one of the really great deposits of phosphate in the world - perhaps it is the greatest. It is of a grade from 36% up to even 40% P2O5. It can be mined by the open cut method and is without overburden or bands. It is rock which, if mined on a big scale, could be produced and loaded at $2 a ton or perhaps even less. This would not merely revolutionise agriculture throughout the western slopes of Queensland and New South Wales but also would provide much needed phosphate for the Japanese and south Asian market. It is impossible to say that sources of phosphate will not be discovered in southern Asia itself, but no discoveries of any consequence have been made in that region yet so that countries in the area depend for phosphate on materials brought half way across the glob?. If we have a deposit of phosphate which is virtually unlimited in extent, so big that it is incapable of being mined out for foreseeable centuries, then we may have the key to the feeding of the whole of South East. Asia. Apart from that we certainly have an instrument in our hands to stabilise and revolutionise - if those are not incompatible things - the agriculture of western Queensland and New South Wales. These are matters of immense importance.
The development of this discovery cannot be done on a small scale. It cannot be something which just grows from an investment of a few million pounds. Even the biggest of private companies is unlikely to be able to provide the capital resources needed to exploit this discovery properly because it is some distance from the seaboard and from the market. The cost of bringing the phosphate to market by conventional means is out of the question. But it is not out of the question to bring it to market either by pipeline - probably the best way - or else by the kind of railways that we have seen developed in the Hamersley Ranges for the transport of iron ore.
By either of these means transport costs of under half a cent a ton mile can be obtained for the large quantities which should be shipped. For that reason it is important that we do not just fool about by trying to use existing means of transport, which are inefficient and which would cost one and a half cents or more a ton mile. Such a change would be big enough to make the entire venture marginally economical at the best. Instead we should go in and do the thing properly now. I think it was the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) who only recently lamented what had happened through lack of foresight concerning the iron ore in Western Australia and the bauxite in Queensland. Let us not repeat this mistake. Let us get this project on a proper basis.
It would appear that the first place to look to for means of export is undoubtedly the Gulf of Carpentaria, some 300 miles away. Charts of the Gulf are available. Only recently a firm carried out a hydrographic survey for Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. The Royal Australian Navy also has been operating in the area. I will not weary honourable members with details but it would seem that there are two or three courses open. The Gulf has very shallow water inshore and for this scheme to be efficient we would have to use ships with a draught of not less than 60 feet. This would mean either extensive dredging, which would probably be uneconomic, or the construction of a causeway - not an impossible job - connecting Mornington Island with the mainland so that the deep water off the tip of Mornington Island could be used. Alternatively a pipeline could be built to transport the material in the form of slurry to tankers - not dry cargo ships - for export. By that means we could cut costs down.
Perhaps the pipeline would be the most economic way. On the other hand a railway is feasible and would have certain compensatory advantages because it could handle other ores and other products. I am not at the moment trying to say what is the correct solution. But may I refer to another aspect. Queensland and New South Wales, because of their agricultural activities, may not want to take this phosphate to the seaboard. It may be better for them to bring the material inland, across the Channel country and down to Dubbo, using the line to provide cheap fertilisers all the way.
These are things which depend very largely upon further investigation. But they will require government participation in the provision of capital. Participation by the Queensland Parliament and by this Parliament will be needed. Some of the material lies in Queensland. Most of the money will come from here in Canberra. Both governments will have to co-operate. Indeed, if we are to talk about a port on the Gulf, or the development of ports on the southern shores of the Gulf, phosphate is not the only thing we should have in mind. We should think also of the mineral deposits at the Mc Arthur River and in the Lawn Hill area. There are other things to consider also. Some of this territory lies in the Northern Territory and is under Commonwealth control; some of it is under the control of the Queensland Government.
Therefore I think we should be considering something new in Australian politics: a joint committee of members of this Parliament and members of the Queensland Parliament to consider these major matters which could revolutionise and stabilise at a high level the agricultural economy of western Queensland and western New South Wales and which could also add immensely to our national export income and to the food resources of the whole of the starving area of South East Asia. I put it to the House that this is something which we should be considering and which we should not allow to go by default because it is too big for any private enterprise, even the greatest of private enterprises, to develop by itself.
– The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) has made the usual penetrating and provocative analysis of a situation in which there is no political content. He is pretty sound if he keeps off politics. 1 hope that he will turn his intellect upon the problem that I am going to place before the Parliament now or, more correctly, upon the question that I want to put before the consciences of the members of this Parliament and of the people of Australia. 1 ask: What have the young men who were born in 1945, 1946, 1947 and 1948 done to deserve the unfair burden that is being placed upon them as a result of the conscription system introduced by this Government and as a result of their being called up and put into service in Vietnam? Why should they have to bear the greatest burden of sacrifice?
A large number of honourable members have had a good deal of service in the forces. I refer them to the answers which the Minister for the Army (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has given to questions in this House. Only a week or so ago I asked him what military advantage had accrued to the Australian forces in Vietnam as a result of the increasing casualties that we were suffering. He said that our presence there brings peace and security to the people of the province. In the ten minutes at my disposal, I have not the time to elaborate it, but his answer is to be found in ‘Hansard’. There are other questions that honourable members opposite ought to be analysing as a result of other statements that have been made in the last few days.
The position is that we are committed to Vietnam. Since April of last year when the first national service commitment arrived there, thirty-three national servicemen and thirty-five regular soldiers have been killed. This, I believe, is a tragedy. I am still not convinced that the battle that is going on there is worth one drop of Australian blood. Now that we are there, at least we ought to be examining the way in which the responsibility is being carried out and who is bearing the sacrifice. Honourable members opposite stand up and say we ought to be in Vietnam but none of them who are of military age ever chooses to go. None of the people outside who support the Government and say we ought to be in Vietnam have chosen to volunteer. We can find reasons for this if we search through the archives. We have chosen to fill this commitment by conscripting young Australians. They are the people who are carrying an unfair burden and an unfair share of the sacrifice.
The position is that the total regular strength of the Australian forces is between 79,000 and 80,000. Of this number, 16,000 are in the Navy. 41,000 in the Regular Army and 20,000 in the Royal Australian Air Force. We have sent 6,300 of these people to Vietnam. Of this number, 5,200 are Army personnel. Accepting the Minister’s statement that 25% of these are national servicemen, we can say that approximately 1,200 are national servicemen and 5,000 are members of the Regular Army. Why is it that, with a proportion of four Regular Army personnel to one national serviceman the ratio of casualties has become one to one? I believe it is because of faulty military and tactical analysis of the situation and of the needs of modern war. I suggest that the House should examine the Minister’s statements and from them make an analysis of why the young men who have had the least training are the men who are committed to the most dangerous tasks.
There is immorality in the statement tha: the Minister put before the House recently. He said that the people who have been trained must be protected, that they must be kept for the logistical support forces. He said that they number about 10,000 and that they cannot be trained in two years. Therefore the people at the sharp end must be the twenty year olds who are being called up. Of the 80,000 people in the Services. 10,000 are men who have been conscripted. Of the number who have gone to Vietnam, 1,200 are men who have been conscripted and they are the ones who are out on patrol day after day in regular numbers. The Regular Army men are with them, of course, but in the logic of it, in the practical analysis of it, it is the young men of Australia who are put at the sharp end and who are carrying the sacrifice for whatever mysteries are being perpetrated as the foreign policy of this Government.
So first of all I challenge the basis upon which this is being done. The Minister says that the members of the Regular Army take longer to train, that they are needed for the specialist and complex tasks of the forces and that therefore the young men who are trained for nine, twelve or thirteen weeks here, there or somewhere else, and after nine months are sent to Vietnam, have to carry the burden. All those honourable members opposite who have had lots of service must surely challenge the basis of this thinking. This policy means that we are preserving the regular forces at the cost of the conscripts. I wish we did not have any conscripts there. I shall do everything in my power to stop the war that is going on there.
I shall do everything that I can to bring them home. But while they are there those people who have been most strenuously trained, the people who are the most professional, ought to be at the front end if that is where the burden is to lie. If we are trying to develop an operational army with battle experience then the men at the front end should be not those who are there for two years but those who are in the Army as a professional career.
In fact, what we are doing is giving professional battle experience to people who are going to serve for only two years while the Regular Army, which is a continuing commitment, is not involved to the same extent. 1 repeat that I am opposed to the whole commitment. It is argued that the members of the Regular Army cannot be trained in two years. The honourable member lor Batman (Mr Benson) reminds me of the advertisements published by the Navy which say that recruits can be at sea in twelve weeks if they join the Navy. We know that the men of the Second Australian Imperial Force were storming Bardia within twelve, fifteen or sixteen weeks of joining the Army, lt probably took from six to nine months to train people during the Second World War, but there has been a fundamentally immoral decision made somewhere along the line with the result that this unfair burden is being placed upon the young conscripts. No matter what the Government may say, these conscripts are still only boys.
There are other questions that supporters of the Government must ask themselves. The Government says that we are winning the war. Nobody else says that we are winning. I refer honourable members to an article in the ‘New York Times Weekly Review’ of last Saturday week. One sentence reads:
How badly is the enemy being hurt after two years of steady American military involvement in Vietnam?
Twice last week the enemy mounted regimental attacks in the same general area against outnumbered American positions.
Battle losses among the more than 53,000 troops fighting in South Vietnam are being steadily replaced.
Still another reads:
The only visible yardstick of success in Vietnam is physical security.
The final paragraph reads:
To the degree that the Vietcong have tried to become a government and not a revolution propelled by untested promises, their leaders and programmes are encountering the same indifference from the war-weary South Vietnamese people as does the Saigon regime.
A meaningful appreciation of security is not whether Allied convoys or even civilian vehicles can use roads during the day, but whether Vietnamese villages believe they are rid of Vietcong threats, intimidation and reprisals.
The review points out that they are not. In fact, we are not winning the war. In my reading of military history, this is the first war in which we are said to be winning as the number of casualties rises. In 196S, the United States casualties in Vietnam numbered 1,369 killed and 6,114 wounded. In 1966 they numbered 5,008 killed and 30,093 wounded. I have a graph which anyone may peruse which shows how the casualties are mounting gradually week by week. In other words, we are not winning. You do not win wars when your casualties are mounting. I challenge the strategical and tactical considerations that are involved in Vietnam.
One question that nobody on the Government side nor any of the learned newspaper commentators has ever been able to answer is why the border between North Vietnam and South Vietnam - the demilitarised zone - has not been sealed or why the border between Laos and South Vietnam has not been sealed. The distance involved is 350 miles. The position there is somewhat similar to crossing the mountain somewhere near Brisbane, descending for between 4,000 and 5,000 feet and moving along the valleys for between 300 and 400 miles south, then crossing again. Do Government members seriously suggest that an area such as that cannot be sealed? But, of course, there has been a phony approach to the whole problem.
The argument is that it is not Vietnam that is the mischief maker. The fact is that North Vietnam is involved. I have said in this House that North Vietnam is carrying out an act of aggression against Laos. That is still my opinion. But if we wanted to stop the North Vietnamese from getting into South Vietnam we would seal the borders.
From my examination of the land over which I flew, and after comparing that terrain with the terrain in New Guinea, nobody will be able to convince me that the borders could not be sealed. In fact, there is a strange and unreasonable strategic concept, or misconcept, behind the whole military direction and an immoral burden of sacrifice is being placed upon the young men of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Bury, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Homes Savings Grant Act 1964-1966 in a number of ways. Certain proposed amendments will extend the scheme to include widowed persons aged less than thirty-six years with one or more dependent children, and will increase from $14,000 to $15,000 the limit on the value of a home that may attract a grant. The scheme is still in its relative infancy and several amendments will, as promised by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) in his recent policy speech, relieve cases of hardship where young people have genuinely saved in an acceptable form for a home of their own, but who, because they did not meet one or more requirements of the Act, failed to qualify for a grant. The Housing Ministry will be given new discretionary powers to meet these cases, and these powers will be operative from the date of commencement of the scheme. The amendments also include a number of new proposals that will be announced later in this speech. These will provide for some changes in the conditions under which savings are acceptable. And other provisions will simplify completion of the application form and the recording of savings.
The broad effect of all these amendments will be to permit more young people to receive a grant, and to permit others to receive larger grants by making some presently excluded savings acceptable for purposes of the scheme. In framing them, we have had continually in mind that the main purpose of the scheme is to encourage young people to save as regularly as possible for the first home they own after marriage. Already some 74,000 young couples have received home savings grants totalling over $33m to assist them to own and establish a home. As notes explaining each clause and sub-clause of the amending Bill are being circulated to all honourable members, it will not be necessary for me to discuss all the clauses in detail. However, honourable members will, I am sure, welcome an outline of the more significant proposals.
This Bill will make it possible for widowed persons aged less than thirty-six years with one or more dependent children to become eligible for the grant. It will apply to widowed persons who, on or after 28th November 1966, entered into a contract to buy or build a home or, as owner-builders, commenced its construction, and, of course, those who do so in future. The definition of a ‘dependent child’ follows the definition of that expression contained in the Social Services Act in. relation to widows pensions. Special provisions will apply to the acceptable savings required. Like others, widowed persons will be required to show that they have saved for at least the three years immediately preceding their prescribed dates. In meeting this requirement, savings held in an acceptable form by the deceased spouse up to the date of death and bequeathed to the widowed person will be acceptable, as also will such savings held in the estate of the deceased spouse for the eventual benefit of the widowed person. As we promised last year, there is provision in this Bill to increase the limit on the value of a home that can attract a grant from $14,000 to $15,000. This new limit will apply in respect of applicants whose prescribed dates are on or after 28 November 1966.
Another amendment will benefit many young couples who failed to lodge an application for the grant within the statutory period permitted under the existing legislation. It will extend the time limit for the lodgment of applications from three months to twelve months, and will authorise acceptance of applications lodged within a further period if this would seem to be justified. Under what may be described as an act of grace, the Government has decided that, if this amendment is accepted by Parliament, all applications that have been lodged later than the permissible time limit will be accepted. There will be no need for these applicants to lodge a further application. Those who did not submit an application, because they were told or understood their applications would be received too late to be accepted, are invited to do so forthwith. However, as the grant is not only a reward for saving, but is also intended to assist young people as early as practicable in the process of buying or building their own homes, it is important that, in future, all applications should be lodged as soon as possible and certainly within twelve months of the prescribed date except in very unusual circumstances. Under the existing Act, the Department has no authority to pay a grant to the surviving partner of a marriage where one partner dies after the prescribed date but before determination of an application. The amending Bill will give us this authority.
The existing Act requires the land on which the home is built to be held in one of the approved forms, exclusively by one or both of the married couple. This creates a problem where the applicant builds a house on farm land owned jointly or as tenantincommon with a parent or other close relative. To meet cases such as these, the Bill will empower the Department to accept an interest in the land held jointly by an eligible person and a person other than his or her spouse. The eligible person will, however, be required to have an exclusive right of occupancy of a home on the land. For reasons that I think are obvious, this amendment will not extend to cases where a single residence is purchased jointly by two couples for occupation by both. Neither of a couple may be paid a grant if either has owned another dwelling during their marriage, even though they have never occupied it or regarded it as their matrimonial home. Persons who purchase homes in their own names for their aged parents, owners of sub-standard homes, beneficiaries who are bequeathed unsuitable homes, and persons who are temporary owners of dwellings in the normal course of their business may, therefore, all be ineligible. The amending Bill will empower the Department to disregard ownership of another dwelling-house’ if it would be unreasonable to regard that house as the matrimonial home or suitable for this purpose.
Where the effective date of a contract is not the day on which the applicant signs it, he may be mistaken as to the correct day on which his prescribed date falls. He may obtain savings certificates from a bank or building society in respect of a date that may be a few days before or after his prescribed date. Solely to avoid the inconvenience caused to applicants and savings institutions in having new certificates prepared, it is proposed to allow some flexibility in this respect. This will not alter the determination of the prescribed date, and eligibility for a grant will continue to be determined by reference to this date. Another discretionary power will permit the Department to ignore a brief hiatus in a person’s savings period where, for example, savings may be held in cash or otherwise whilst being transferred from one acceptable form to another. All these new discretionary powers I have mentioned may be exercised in respect of applications from persons with prescribed dates on or after the date of commencement of the scheme, namely, 2nd December 1963.
Provided certain conditions are met, a further proposed amendment will make both a husband and wife eligible for the grant even though neither has held acceptable savings in his or her name throughout the full period of the three years before their prescribed date. The conditions are that each has held acceptable savings in his and her name during part of the minimum savings period, that when these savings are aggregated the husband and wife as a couple would have held acceptable savings throughout this period, and that both are under thirty-six years of age and are eligible in all other respects. In other words, we propose to ease the requirements so as to permit payment of the grant to a couple who are now both ineligible because neither has held acceptable savings in his or her name throughout the minimum three-year period, although together they have done so. Moreover, where both the husband and the wife hold acceptable savings at the prescribed date, but one of them is ineligible solely because he or she has not held acceptable savings in his or her name for the full three-year period, that partner will now become eligible for the grant, and the grant payable to the couple may thereby be increased. These liberalised provisions will apply to persons whose prescribed dates are on or after 1st May 1967.
Further amendments will change the definition of the amount of acceptable savings in a savings year. At present there is a limit of $500 on the annual savings made by an eligible person that may attract the grant. This limit was set to encourage continuous saving over a period of at least three years. As the minimum savings period is three years and as $1,500 must be saved to qualify for the maximum grant, the annual limit of $500 is exactly one-third of this. Persons who save $1,500 over three years seldom if ever save exactly $500 each year. They are naturally disappointed when annual savings of more than $500 are disallowed. We have decided to ease this provision, and the Bill proposes that the limit on the acceptable savings of an individual in a savings year be raised from $500 to $600. The minimum total savings required to receive the maximum grant will remain unchanged at $1,500. This amendment will apply to all applicants in respect of savings years commencing on or after 1st May 1966.
For simplicity of administration an amendment will provide that the annual limit on savings will apply only throughout the period of the three years immediately preceding the prescribed date. This W. mean that savings regardless of amount, held in an acceptable form at the start of the third year prior to the prescribed date, will qualify. In future, applicants will need to supply detailed information of their savings only in respect of their final three savings years. This will greatly simplify the application form. This amendment will apply from the date of Assent to the amending legislation.
Under the existing Act, a husband and wife may each have acceptable savings of $500 in any of their savings years. As I said earlier, we now propose that the limit on acceptable individual savings in a year be raised from $500 to $600. It would, however, be contrary to the aim of encouraging regular and relatively even saving over a minimum period of three years if the husband and wife were both permitted to have acceptable savings of $600 in one year, or, in other words, to save in a year $ 1,200 of the $1,500 on which the maximum grant is payable. Moreover, now that we are proposing that, in certain circumstances, the savings of a husband and wife may be treated as joint savings, this is also a good reason why the new liberalised limit of S600 for annual savings should apply to the total savings of the husband and wife. An amendment will provide that the limit on the total acceptable savings of a husband and wife in any savings year shall be $600, and that this will apply to the savings of all applicants in savings years commencing on or after 1st May 1966.
Other amendments will provide that the minimum grant payable shall be $10, an. that moneys deposited in a savings bank account or on fixed deposit with a trading bank be acceptable savings if the account, as an alternative to being designated as a home savings account, has been designated with a form of words having an implied meaning similar to home savings account.
The present Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which began to operate from 1st July last, permits the allocation of some Home Builders’ Account moneys to an approved State government lending institution for lending to private home seekers in rural areas not served by building societies. In States where there is not a State bank, approval may be sought to make such loans through the State housing authority. However, the Act does not permit a grant to be made in respect of a home if there are Agreement moneys owing to a State housing authority in respect of the house. The Bill contains an amendment to give effect to the original intention that homes acquired with the assistance of a loan of Home Builders’ Account moneys shall be eligible for purposes of the scheme.
Honourable members will be interested to know that work is proceeding on a revision of the booklet ‘A Grant for your Home’ to include the amendments now submitted for consideration by the Parliament, lt will be re-printed and distributed as soon as possible after the legislation receives the Royal Assent. The introduction of this Bill demonstrates the Government’s continuing desire to offer maximum reasonable assistance to young people who are making strenuous efforts to save to acquire their own homes. The proposed amendments should assist a considerable number nf deserving applicants to satisfy the basic requirements of the scheme. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Freeth, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill amends the Navigation Act ‘.o give effect to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1960 and is therefore of particular importance to those concerned with ships and shipping in this country. The rapid and widespread technological advances occurring year by year continually affect the construction, machinery and equipment of ships and it is therefore necessary that the international conventions concerned, and the legislation of countries that gives effect to the requirements of such conventions, be revised from time to time to keep abreast of those advances.
The Convention to which the Bill gives effect was prepared by the International Conference on Safety of Life at Sea which was convened by the InterGovernmental Maritime Consultative Organisation at London in 1960, when Australia was represented by officers of the Department of Shipping and Transport and the Postmaster-General’s Department.
The importance which maritime nations throughout the world are now attaching to safety of life at sea is indicated by the fact that forty-five countries sent delegations to the 1960 Conference compared with thirty in the case of the previous Safety Conference in 1948. The necessary number of countries having become parties to it, the new Convention came into force internationally on 26th May 1965. It does not of course come into force for individual countries until three months after they have deposited their instruments of acceptance.
The arrangement of the Convention is very similar to that of the 1948 Convention which it supersedes. It consists of fourteen articles to which are annexed Regulations grouped into eight chapters, dealing with general administrative provisions, construction of ships, life-saving and fire appliances, radio, safety of navigation, carriage of grain and dangerous goods, and nuclear ships. The text of the Convention is contained in the Schedule to the Bill.
In scope and content the Convention is essentially a revision and extension of the 1948 Convention. One significant change is the requirement for life rafts, including inflatable types, capable of accommodating 25% of the persons on board to be carried on all ships in addition to the lifeboat requirement. However in certain circumstances passenger ships may be permitted to substitute additional life rafts for part of the lifeboat accommodation previously prescribed. Standards for the subdivision and stability of ships are raised, and a new chapter dealing with safety of nuclear ships is included. One of the most important changes is the extension of the application of Convention requirements ‘on construction to cargo ships, with the responsibility for the hull and machinery devolving primarily upon the governments. The Convention has not covered this aspect in the past which has ill general been left to the various classification societies.
The new Convention does not entail any very radical departures from existing procedures and requirements in Australia. Most of the provisions of the Convention apply only to ships on international voyages, and as far as cargo ships are concerned, to those of 500 tons gross and over. As was the case with the 1948 Convention it is proposed that the Navigation Act will extend the Convention provisions to ships registered in Australia and to ships licensed to engage in the interstate coasting trade including, as far as is practicable, ships of less than 500 tons. This action will ensure that ships operating around the extensive Australian coastline will conform substantially with standards of safety required of foreign-going ships.
A number of the clauses of the Bill are of a minor or consequential nature and I do not propose to deal with them at this stage. However I would like to make a brief reference to some of the more important clauses. By far the most lengthy clause in the Bill is clause 28, which repeals existing
Division 2b of Part IV of the Act and replaces it with two Divisions, 2b and 2c. The new Division 2b deals with the issue of certificates under the new Convention and new Division 2c with the certificates which ships are required to hold and to produce when required, thus providing a clearer and more logical arrangement of the requirements.
As 1 have mentioned, one of the most significant changes under the 1960 Convention is that its survey and inspection provisions extend to the construction as well as the equipment of cargo ships of over 500 tons gross. Previously the survey of constructional features of ships was confined to passenger ships. This change has necessitated an entirely new class of certificate, to be known as a cargo ship safety construction certificate. Such a certificate, together with cargo ship safety equipment and radio certificates, wm be the equivalent of a full certificate of survey or of a classification certificate accompanied by safety equipment and radio certificates. In practice it is expected that most of these new certificates will be issued by the authorised ship classification societies acting under Government direction, and whilst they will not replace the classification certificate for purposes such as insurance, etc., they will do so insofar as ensuring that the hull, equipment and machinery of a ship conform to adequate safety standards.
Two additional classes of certificate now being prescribed under the Bill are the nuclear passenger ship safety certificate’ and the ‘nuclear cargo ship safety certificate’, which form part of the special 1960 Convention provisions distinguishing between nuclear ships and ships propelled by other means, to ensure that necessary special safety precautions are applied in respect of nuclear ships. The Convention requires that, before a nuclear ship can visit one of its ports, a contracting government must be provided with a ‘safety assessment’ from which it can decide whether or not it will admit the ship. New Section 192c being inserted by clause 17 applies this requirement and the other necessary safety precautions, providing power for the making of regulations to ensure that nuclear ships do not cause unreasonable radiation or other nuclear hazards to the crews or passengers of such ships, or to other persons, or to any waterways or food or water resources. A further change in respect of certificates which has been introduced by the 1960 Convention is the lowering of the minimum tonnage requirement above which cargo ships on international voyages are required to be in possession of either a safety radiotelegraphy or a safety radiotelephony certificate, from 500 to 300 tons.
The transitional provisions clauses of the Bill provide for the continuing validity of existing Convention certificates issued under the 1948 Convention either to Australian or overseas registered Convention ships until a ‘proclaimed date’. It is proposed that this date should be twelve months after the date on which the Act for which this Bill provides comes into force. As all certificates issued to Australian ships expire within twelve months, and virtually all countries whose ships trade to Australia have already accepted the 1960 Convention, this will allow an adequate period for the change over to the new Convention. For a period of two years, however, from the coming into force of the Act it is proposed that, unless its classification certificate expires in the meantime, a ship registered in Australia will not be required to have, either for international or local voyages, a cargo ship safety construction certificate provided it holds a classification certificate issued by one of the classification societies to be recognised as a ‘survey authority’ under the Act - namely, at present, Lloyd’s Register of Shipping and the American Bureau of Shipping.
In addition to the clauses dealing with the Convention requirements the opportunity has been taken to include in this Bill one or two minor, but nevertheless urgent, amendments of the Act. Section 17 is being amended to allow persons who are not British subjects to sit for the lower grades of examinations for certificates or competency without complying with the twelve months residential requirement of that section. A distinction is being made between certain survey forms issued in respect of Australian passenger ships, and some drafting anomalies throughout the Act are being corrected.
The completion of the drafting of this Bill has been deferred until the various sets of complex, and in many cases voluminous, regulations necessary to give effect to it have been drafted, in order to ensure that all necessary enabling powers were provided for in the Bill. It should therefore be possible to proclaim the amending Act and have the regulations made soon after the Bill has been passed. It is proposed that an instrument of acceptance of the Convention will be deposited in time for it to become effective in respect of Australia on the same date as the legislation is brought into force. The Bill takes the Commonwealth legislation for the safety of ships and of passengers and crew who sail in them a further step forward, in line with the latest international standards, and I commend it to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Charles Jones) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to enable the Government to make grants to eligible organisations to assist them in establishing and equipping sheltered workshops. The Bill also incorporates and expands the provisions now contained in the Disabled Persons Accommodation Act. I should perhaps first explain that the Bill is drafted so that the Commonwealth may provide assistance to eligible organisations that provide sheltered employment. The term sheltered workshop’ is not specifically used. This approach was adopted since the word workshop’ could be narrowly construed and certain types of productive activity that the Government would wish to encourage might be excluded.
Notable advances in training and employing disabled persons, particularly the mentally disabled, have been made in a rural environment on various types of farms. I refer to the growing of grain and vegetables, the raising of poultry and livestock, as well as work in orchards and plant nurseries. Doubtless honourable members will think of other activities for disabled persons which one does not usually regard as taking place within the confines of a workshop. Given this extended meaning, the Bill aims at fostering and encouraging the sheltered workshop movement. When I use the phrase ‘sheltered workshop’ I shall therefore be talking in this somewhat wider context, and though the term is not itself in the Bill I shall use it as the most convenient way of explaining the operations and purposes of the Bill.
It is now almost twenty years since the Commonwealth Government established the Commonwealth Rehabilitation service to assist severely handicapped persons to live a normal life in the community. Since its establishment in 1948, more than 20.000 invalid pensioners and people who might otherwise have become invalid pensioners have been restored to gainful employment. Medical treatment, vocational training and personal courage have enabled these people to overcome their physical and mental handicaps and achieve independence. This rehabilitation programme represented a considerable advance on the position where the only prospect for the severely disabled lay in . their entitlement to an invalid pension. The Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service, together with hospitals and other rehabilitation agencies, will continue this valuable work. Each year more than a thousand persons who have suffered from accident or disease will return to normal employment through its assistance.
The goal of vocational rehabilitation is employment. Treatment and training therefore are limited to those who appear likely to be able to secure jobs in competition with those who are ablebodied. Each year, however, several hundred people are provided with assistance by the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service but fail, through no fault of their own, to measure up to the exacting requirements of normal employment in commerce and industry. These, as well as other handicapped people in the community, want to work and play a role in our society. They are unable to enter ordinary employment but have some capacity for work and it is thought that they should not be condemned to a life of idleness, lt was to meet the needs of these people that sheltered workshops were established through the initiative, enterprise and generosity of the many voluntary organisations which have pioneered this field and to which much credit is due.
In Australia today, there are more than 100 sheltered workshops of various kinds catering for both the physically disabled and the mentally handicapped. More than half of these workshops have been started within the past five years. Their purpose is to help handicapped people. In doing so they are producing goods and services which last year added about $lm to our national production.
Sheltered workshops are a worthy part of community assistance for the disabled. Just as rehabilitation services have released thousands of people from dependence on invalid pensions, so too can sheltered workshops provide new opportunities for thousands more. This does not mean that rehabilitation and sheltered workshop services will be operated in isolation. Already there is a close link between many sheltered workshops and the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service, and that collaboration can and will be developed to the advantage of both services. The scope of available assistance will be extended, especially for the more seriously disabled, and the opportunity for a person to secure employment at a level compatible with his disability will be greatly improved.
The development of sheltered workshops, both in Australia and overseas, has been carefully watched for a number of years and has been discussed with many of the people who are operating sheltered workshops. We are convinced that the time has come when Commonwealth assistance should be given to foster and encourage progress in this field. What this measure seeks to achieve is the development of an increased number of well equipped workshops which will enable severely handicapped people to earn up to the limits imposed by their disabilities. Some will eventually be able to graduate to outside jobs and others will find permanent and rewarding employment within the workshops themselves. To be able to offer growing employment opportunities, sheltered workshops should be no less efficient than other business enterprises engaged in similar activities. Although the average output of the disabled workers may be lower than that of the able bodied, to some extent this can be offset by the use of specially designed or modified equipment and by sympathetic and skilful management.
It is intended to preserve the independence and initiative of the voluntary agencies which have already done such a magnificent job. These organisations are able to gain community co-operation and support and can bring to the workshop the understanding and flexibility of administration which is so essential for success in enterprises of this nature. To qualify for assistance, however, existing or proposed sheltered workshops will need to comply with certain standards and to operate, or plan to operate, at a level which will enable their employees to receive a reasonable reward for their labour. It is not proposed that the qualifying standards should be inflexible. It will, nevertheless, be necessary to differentiate between sheltered workshops and activity centres or similar establishments which are primarily intended to serve a purpose other than that of enabling handicapped persons to achieve some degree of financial independence.
Separate provision has been made in the Social Services Bill now before the House for invalid pensioners and certain other people engaged in sheltered employment to be paid a sheltered employment allowance which, while assuring them of an income and other benefits no less than they would receive as pensioners, will, at the same time, provide an incentive for them progressively to increase their earnings. Capital subsidies will not, however, be limited to projects where employees are receiving the proposed sheltered employment allowance.
Broadly, the Bill before the House does four things. It provides assistance on a $2 for $1 basis to eligible organisations: First, towards the capital cost of purchasing, erecting or extending premises for use as sheltered workshops; secondly, towards the cost of items of equipment required for the operation of a workshop or to increase its efficiency or productivity; in the third place, towards the annual rental of premises for use as a sheltered workshop for up to three years; and, finally, it incorporates, continues and expands the assistance previously available under the Disabled Persons Acommodation Act. Organisations which are eligible for assistance are churches, charitable and benevolent groups, exservicemen’s organisations and local governing bodies. Other voluntary organisa tions may be approved by the GovernorGeneral. Trustees under a trust established for charitable or benevolent purposes may also be approved.
Honourable members will note that these are the same type of organisations, with the addition of local governing bodies, that are now eligible under the Disabled Persons Accommodation Act and the Aged Persons Homes Act. Two requirements for eligibility are that an organisation must not be conducted for the profit or gain of its individual members and that it must not be controlled by persons who have been appointed by either the Commonwealth or a State government. Before grants can be made for any of the forms of assistance I have mentioned, it will be necessary for the Minister to declare that the employment provided by the eligible organisation is sheltered employment. Employment can be so declared if a substantial number of the persons employed or to be employed on ‘he premises are disabled persons and they are paid for the work they perform.
A disabled person is defined as one who is either incapacitated to the extent necessary to qualify for an invalid pension or in the opinion of the Director-General would be likely to become incapacitated to that extent if he were not provided with sheltered employment. Employment, on the same premises, of some persons who did not come within this definition would not necessarily disqualify a project for assistance. The earning capacity of disabled persons in sheltered employment varies considerably and is affected both by their own skill and speed and also by the type of work on which they are engaged. The requirement that they must be paid for the work they do is intended to ensure that employees receive a fair return and that sheltered workshops operate on equal terms with other business enterprises.
The capital subsidy for premises which provide sheltered employment will apply to buildings purchased or erected including any necessary fixtures or alterations necessary for their intended use. The value of land may be included in the capital cost. Grants may also be made towards the cost of renovating, altering or extending existing premises. Land used or to be used for farming activities in which disabled workers are employed may be approved and a grant may be made towards the cost of such land and approved fixed improvements on that land.
If sheltered workshops are to make an effective contribution to the welfare of the disabled they must be equipped to operate efficiently. Modern tools and machines are becoming increasingly important to greater productivity in industry generally. The need for such equipment in the case of persons whose strength, dexterity or mobility has been reduced by disablement is, of course, proportionately greater. The subsidy for approved items of equipment is designed to raise productivity in sheltered workshops and increase the skills and earning capacity of disabled employees. Subsidies will be available for the initial equipment and for the expansion and re-equipment of existing workshops but it is not proposed that subsidies will be granted for the replacement of items originally subsidised or items of a relatively minor nature. Provision for ordinary replacements is regarded as part of the normal production costs.
In considering applications for capital grants regard will be had to the operation of the workshop as a whole and in particular to the opportunities which it presents for its disabled employees to engage in useful and remunerative work. Approval of a grant will be subject to reasonable standards being met and organisations will be expected to give an undertaking to abide by the conditions on which the grant is made.
I might specify here that it is not intended that the type of workshop will be distinguished by the types of ailments of persons within the workshop. It is intended rather that the distinction will be on the type of useful and remunerative work that persons within the workshop will be performing.
To ensure that the purpose of a grant is fulfilled the agreement may also require the organisation to repay a grant to the Commonwealth in the event of a breach of the undertaking or an adjustment to be made in the event of an organisation being given approval to dispose of an item of equipment. Before a grant may be made towards the purchase or construction of premises the Director-General must be satisfied that the organisation has sufficient funds, together with the amount of the grant, to cover the cost of the premises. Funds cannot attract a subsidy if they become available as a result of borrowing or if they were received from the Commonwealth or a State Government, or an authority, other than a local governing body, established under a Commonwealth or State Act. This does not mean that borrowed funds or funds received from a State Government cannot be used to help meet the cost of a project. For example, if an eligible organisation had raised $20,000 from public appeals, had received a donation of $10,000 from a local governing body, $7,500 from a State Government, and borrowed $7,500, the amount of $30,000 received from the public appeals and the local governing body’s donation would be the amount that could be subsidised. This would attract a grant of $60,000 and by using all available funds the organisation could obtain a sheltered workshop costing up to $105,000.
I now turn to the rental subsidy. Provision is also included in the Bill for the making of grants to eligible organisations towards meeting the cost of the rental of premises where sheltered employment is provided. Organisations seeking a grant for this purpose may be required to enter into an agreement as to the terms and conditions on which the grant is to be made. It is not proposed to make grants in respect of rent to an organisation which is paying rent for premises to another organisation with which it is affiliated, unless the latter organisation is itself renting the premises. Grants for rented premises may be made only for rent payable on and after the commencement of the Act and may be continued for a period of up to three years. Organisations with limited funds will thus have up to three years in which to accumulate capital for the purchase or erection of their own workshops, using the capital subsidy provisions of this Act. They may, if they prefer, adjust their financial arrangements to meet the whole cost of the rented premises should they decide to continue to occupy these premises following expiration of the three year period during which the rental subsidy may be paid.
I now turn to the question of accommodation for disabled persons working in sheltered employment. Honourable members are already well acquainted with the Disabled Persons Accommodation Act. The present Bill repeals that Act and incorporates its provisions. There is, however, one important addition in that local governing bodies will now become eligible for assistance. The assistance towards accommodation will be on the same basis as the assistance towards the capital cost of the premises which provide sheltered employment. This does not mean that capital assistance towards the provision of accommodation is contingent on a grant being made towards the actual workshop. It will be open to any eligible organisation, whether or not it conducts a sheltered workshop, to provide accommodation for persons engaged in sheltered employment and it may receive a grant towards that end. Conversely, of course, a grant may be made towards the capital cost, equipment or rental of a sheltered workshop that does not provide accommodation for its employees.
The Government’s plan of assistance to sheltered workshops was first announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) in his policy speech last November. It is therefore proposed that in relation to sheltered workshops the legislation will have effect for buildings and land purchased or buildings commenced or in course of construction on or after 28th November 1966 - that is, immediately after the Government was returned to office. I have already mentioned that the rental subsidy will be paid only for rental payable by the eligible organisation subsequent to the commencement of the Act. Similarly, subsidy will not be granted for equipment purchased prior to that date. The usual provisions for the making of regulations and the delegation of powers and functions are included in the Bill.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I have given a general description of the Bill and what it hopes to achieve. It is a practical measure designed to increase the ability of voluntary organisations to help those disabled people who are unable to join the regular work-force. It is expected however that some of these people because of the experience and aptitudes they gain in sheltered employment in due course will take their place in ordinary employment. The forms of assistance provided in the Bill are those that have been sought by voluntary organisations. It is hoped that the considerable Commonwealth assistance now available will enable them to expand substantially their sheltered workshop activities. I am confident that the Government’s proposals will have the support of all honourable members. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Daly) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Reports on Items
Mr HOWSON (Fawkner- Minister for
Air) - I present the report by the Tariff Board on the following subjects:
Saccharin and cyclamic acid.
I ask for leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! There being no objection, leave is granted.
– This inquiry arose originally from a request for tariff protection for the manufacture of artificial sweeteners, and the Tariff Board has made its report within the terms of the reference sent to it by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen). However, the evidence produced at the inquiry of competition of artificial sweeteners with sugar has introduced a different issue. This Government subscribes to the long established policy, followed by successive governments since federation, of protecting the sugar industry, not only against overseas sugar but also against competition from artificial sweeteners. The Government has decided, therefore, that the existing customs duties and excise duties for artificial sweeteners shall remain unaltered.
There exists provision for the removal of such duties when artificial sweeteners are used for medicinal purposes. This provision will be reviewed with a view to limiting the concession to genuine medicinal uses. Such action will be taken, however, when the results of a present study by the National Health and Medical Research Council into standards for diabetic, special diet and invalids foods, and by State governments into the use of artificial sweeteners in processed food and vegetables, are known.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from 5th April (vide page 928), on motion by Dr Forbes:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Bill provides for alterations in respect of the allocation of finance made under the original States Grants (Advanced Education) Act of 1945 to three Institutes of Technology in Queensland - one in Brisbane, one in Rockhampton and one in Toowoomba. The Bill is a purely technical measure making allowances for differences in costs as submitted by the Queensland Government to the Federal Government with respect to the establishment Qf the three Institutes. The original estimates were based on evidence given to the Martin Committee and were related to the cost of construction of the three buildings. Since the 1945 legislation was introduced by the Menzies Government, the Queensland Government has communicated with the Federal Government stating that it would like a redistribution of the amounts of financial assistance being made available by the Commonwealth. As I said, this Bill involves simply a technical assessment of differences in costs. It is pleasing to see, however, that the Queensland Government has seen fit to give some priority to the Institutes at Toowoomba and Rockhampton and that the cost of these buildings will be covered by the Commonwealth’s financial assistance, which is in effect a matching grant. Although the full cost of the buildings at the Brisbane Institute of Technology will not be met by the Commonwealth’s grant, this matter will he taken care of in the 1967-69 triennium. We offer no objection to the Bill.
– I will try to emulate my distinguished colleague, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and be brief. From this side of the House we express not exactly gratification with the Bill, because nobody can say that the operations being carried out as a result of the recommendations of the Martin Committee are being carried out with great alacrity. But at least they are steps in the right direction. Honourable members should take a glance at what might be called the constitutional precipitation arising from efforts in the last few years to bring Australian education up to date. Here we have an operation by this Parliament which is very precise as regards the relationships of the Commonwealth with a State instrumentality and the influence of the decisions of this Parliament upon that instrumentality. This is a step in the right direction.
I am not an advocate of centralisation or Canberra authority or any of those things, but 1 am an advocate of a national approach in these matters. The fact that the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth have come together in close co-operation in a decision on this matter, although in only a minor administrative way, is to bc applauded. So often in the past, so far as constitutional development of the nation is concerned, we have been able to get co-operation at the administrative level - our police forces co-operate, our health authorities co-operate and so on - but at the political level there has been little of it, or so it has appeared. So the development of the colleges of advanced education, or whatever we may call them, and the co-operation between the Commonwealth Government at the governmental and parliamentary levels with the States at the same levels is, I think, a great advance in Australian constitutional practice. I would hope only that there are ways in which we can develop closer co-operation with our colleagues in the States on these matters. So from this side of the House we commend the operation.
There are, however, some things to which we should be applying ourselves with more precision - for example, the alternatives to university education at this level. At present we are growing out of the accidents of the past.
-Order! I remind the honourable member of the expression about brevity that he used in beginning his speech. He would do well to abide by it. The Bill covers a very small field. Its purpose is to seek approval for a redistribution of finance as proposed in the table in the Bill. This does not allow a general debate on the subject of education.
– It was not my intention to debate the subject generally at all. I have been speaking for about 120 seconds. I would think that when a measure of this kind is before the Parliament it is appropriate to remind the House of its origins and of where the path we are treading is leading. This is all I proposed to do. The alternative institutions of education at the tertiary level have now become the responsibility of this Parliament. This Bill is an example of the co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States to try to develop this facet of education. Queensland is late in the field, as the report of the Martin Committee indicates.I hope that we will be able to expand this aspect of education in all States but in a more imaginative way than just developing those things which are already in existence arising out of what might be called the accidents of educational history in this country. Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank you for your guidance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hulme) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 5th April (vide page 922), on motion by Mr Howson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not intend to oppose this measure which in some respects is a formal one and which arises out of the meeting of the State Premiers held in February 1967. At that time certain amendments were made to the formula for determining the amount which the various States are entitled to receive from the Commonwealth by way of tax reimbursement. This debate affords an opportunity to discuss on quite a wide basis Commonwealth and State financial relations which constitute one of the fundamental problems that now face us in our economic and social life.
Because I believe that credit should be given where it is due, I should like to give some credit to Mr Eric Reece, who has been the Premier of Tasmania for a long time, has had wide experience in the deficiencies of the formula arrangements, and from time to time has given considerable attention to the need to make the formula flexible but nonetheless adequate and equitable to the States. I understand that as far back as 1959 he suggested that in the formula there should be what could be called a betterment factor. That betterment factor was inserted some time later. Further he made a suggestion in relation to what was referred to by the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) in his second reading speech and by himself as the time lag. I should like to quote an extract from the Budget speech of the Premier of Tasmania delivered in the Tasmanian Parliament in Hobart on the occasion of the debate on the Tasmanian Budget for 1966-67. He said:
Last year I reviewed the new scheme of Financial Assistance Grants. I refer to the matter now only because of a recent statement by the Federal Treasurer (the Rt Hon. W. McMahon).
In his statement, the Treasurer has accused the States of rejecting a proposal which would have eliminated the time lag which occurs in adjustment of the grants for wage increases. He said that the States had rejected a formula which would have given them a little less in 1965-66 but would have given them a great deal more in following years.
I feel that the Treasurer-
That is the Commonwealth Treasurer- may have created a misleading impression that the proposal which was rejected by a majority of the States came originally from the Commonwealth. This was not the case at all. In fact, the proposal to eliminate the time lag originated in a written submission which I made-
That is Mr Reece- to the first of the two Premiers Conferences which were held in 1965 to review the operation of the Financial Assistance Grant Formula.
Honourable members may recall that I referred to this matter in my last Budget speech, and, in view of the Federal Treasurer’s recent statement, I feel that I should repeat what I then said. This was: ‘At the first Premiers Conference, I put forward a proposal designed to overcome the time lag in the adjustment for wages. When the
Conference reassembled in June, the Commonwealth offer incorporated my proposal for overcoming the time lag. However, during subsequent discussion, some Premiers expressed concern that the abolition of the time lag would result in a slightly smaller grant than otherwise in 1965-66. They were prepared to sacrifice what I regard as a long term improvement for a small increase in their grants in the current year.’
He continued: lt is indeed unfortunate that the formula suggested by Tasmania and supported by the Commonwealth was not adopted. It could have made a significant difference to the States’ financial positions in 1966-67.
That was said in August or September of last year. Consequent upon the meeting of the Premiers in 1967 ‘it has now been decided to adopt the idea of the time lag. As Mr Reece remarked, it could have been adopted twelve or eighteen months previously. I simply quote that speech of Mr Reece to indicate that here we have matters that admit of differences of opinion.
I doubt really whether a final, adequate formula can be devised to overcome the problems of the States. I suggest that the problem in Australia is that the States are still charged, constitutionally, with many important functions but that the Commonwealth has become the recipient of the greatest source of revenue. The situation in Australia parallels that which has been found to exist in other parts of the world. I recently came across an article written by Professor John Kenneth Galbraith who, as I indicated a few weeks ago in this House, is responsible for the term ‘the affluent society’. That was the title of a book; it has now become virtually a household term. Recently Professor Galbraith delivered in the United States a lecture entitled ‘The Public Sector is Still Starved’. I shall quote from that lecture as reported in the journal Challenge’, which is a journal of the University of New York. In the issue of January/ February 1967 Professor Galbraith said:
With growth and urbanisation, the federal government gets the revenues, but the cities get the problems.
I suggest that those circumstances are paralleled in Australia. The Commonwealth gets the revenue but the cities, and indirectly the States, get the problems.
– Some of them.
– Some of them. I shall repeat also a criticism I have made previously about this Government. The Government does not recognise a problem to bc a problem until it becomes a crisis. I suggest that some of the problems that I want to talk about here this afternoon, which go to the roots of Commonwealth and State relations, really are not problemsunfortunately they have become crises Two, for instance, that come readily to mind are the problem of the universities and the problem of the hospitals. It is interesting to note the airy sort of talk which one sees every day reported in financial journals. For example, it was rather blandly stated recently that proposals for the development of natural gas, which is a subject matter of great interest at present, could involve an expenditure, over a number of years, of between $100m and §1 50m. All 1 want to point out today is the luxury of the margin. Apparently it does not matter that the cost is $150m rather than SI 00m.
Against that kind of luxurious airy-fairy type of discussion I would contrast the circumstances of one of the oldest universities in Australia; not one of the newest, not one that is wanting to expand, but one wanting to sustain what it is already doing. The University of Melbourne is almost bankrupt at the moment. Suggestions have been made that it may have to appeal to the public for funds to see out the rest of the calendar year, or whatever the stipulated time may be. To my mind that is a tragic circumstance. It is a stupid circumstance in a country which brags about having a gross national product of well over $20,000m per annum. Viewed against a gross national product of that magnitude, it is tragic that a university anywhere in Australia should be worrying about comparatively trivial sums of Sim or $2m.
But marginal problems of this kind confronting the States are being neglected because of the way in which CommonwealthState financial relationships have been allowed to develop. Apparently the Commonwealth Government feels that there is a need to employ all existing savings and resources as well as what it is able to get from elsewhere in the private field. It is talking about creating a new development bank which is to be called a development refinance corporation. I suggest that there is the same sort of necessity to have a rationalisation of the spending of public funds. I submit that the existing machinery is creaking and is almost to the point of being run down. In 1967 we ought to be looking and planning ahead almost to 1987.
– The honourable member is not saying that taxation should be reviewed upwards, is he?
– If taxation has to be reviewed upwards then we should be prepared to face that reality. After all, the Government cannot claim that during its lifetime taxation has been reviewed downwards. Taxation collections by the Government have risen by at least $100m every year during the time that it has occupied office. The Government may say that it has not substantially altered taxation rates; that it has depended basically on growth. Certainly the Government parties have not been tax reduction parties. I am not suggesting that they should have been. On the other hand I am suggesting that often the Commonwealth has been able to indulge in rather extravagant ventures when ventures which were just as important, in the view of the State governments, could not be carried out.
Nowhere is this more evident than in such fields as health and education. At the moment, because of the kind of financial paralysis that seems to exist, as Professor Galbraith says, many of the problems of the States are primarily the problems of the cities. They arise where the great majority of the people are. Honourable members may have their own views as to whether decentralisation is possible or desirable. Certainly I do not think anybody would deny that in Australia, unless some drastic revision is made, as our overall population increases the population of Sydney and Melbourne will increase more rapidly. The total Commonwealth population will rise but the relative numbers in the large capital cities will increase. If the Government wishes to stop that trend - and a lot of people do want to see it stopped - I suggest that there has to be a reappraisal not only of the present CommonwealthState relationships but also of financial relationships at the local government level.
I am not going to suggest today any cut and dried formula about this matter. To my mind that would be a very stupid exercise. Many municipal boundaries are as old as the constitutional government’ of the various States and I do not think anyone would suggest that the pattern of development of 1867 is good enough for 1967. Certainly it would be stupid to perpetuate the pattern until 1987. But how is the breakthrough to be made? For argument’s sake, one could calculate reasonably accurately what the population of Australia will be in ten or twenty years time and give some reasonable estimate of the distribution among the States and cities. One could calculate that by 1987 we will be faced with the prospect of Melbourne having a population of say, five million and Sydney six million. Some people may regard this as a pleasant prospect but I certainly do not.
In many respects the cities are big enough now. But how do we stop them from growing? Unless certain definite stands are taken they must continue to grow indefinitely. But surely, nationally, we can stop and ask: ‘What are some of the costs involved in development of this kind?’ I do not know what other capital cities are like but the one I live in, Melbourne, seems to be a place in which people rush madly in fast motor cars in one direction from about 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., and then from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. rush madly in the reverse direction - in the same numbers and just as fast. On Saturday afternoons or on Sundays you could almost fire a cannon in the main streets of the city without hitting anyone.
What kind of economy is that, really, when you consider the amount of time lost in travelling? I read an article recently in a publication entitled ‘The Three Banks’. It was written by Professor Nevin, who is Professor of Economics at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth. Professor Nevin said the same sort of thing about London. He said that there must be many people in London who spend in travelling almost a quarter of the time they spend at work. He asked his readers to visualise what would happen if those unproductive hours were devoted to work or leisure. In Melbourne and Sydney, and to some extent even in Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane, it takes the best’ part of an hour to get to work and an hour to return home again. Apparently the place of work is the last place anyone wants to go to during leisure time. Considering the maze of buildings, the capital values, and everything else involved in a large city, surely no-one would dream of creating such a complex if one were to start ab initio tomorrow. Would he not rather think of it in terms of a city like Canberra? Would he not rather think of a city that may grow to a population of 250,000 and does he not feel that it would then be time to start building a new city somewhere else? If that is to be the system, then surely something ought to be done now about resuming some of the land involved. In one sense, the whole of the area was originally public domain but it was allowed to develop sporadically. It was allowed to get into the hands of the real estate agents and we all know that sometimes the realm between the dream of the real estate agent and the hopes and aspirations of the person who wants a house is a very wide one.
The figures were brought to my mind rather starkly in a statement which I read recently. It was a statement published by Professor J. H. Shaw, Associate Professor of Town Planning at the University of Melbourne, in the May 1964 issue of the official journal of the Real Estate and Stock Institute of Australia. That statement contains an analysis of the use to which the land has been put. Oddly enough, it relates to Adelaide and therefore might be of some interest to South Australian members. Professor Shaw also refers to some information which was supplied, I think, by somebody on the Adelaide City Council. He says:
The area contained in the predominantly built up area of Adelaide, an open area surounded by urban development, was some 77,000 acres.
He found that of the 77,000 acres residential land occupied only 36.1%, and that roads, that is, just the mere yardage of roads, occupied 16%. I remind honourable members that roads are public domain. He found that public service facilities, such as schools, occupied almost 8% of the area. Oddly enough, he found that industry occupied only 6.6% of the area despite the fact that this is claimed to be a great industrial city. Recreation areas, or open spaces, occupied a further 6.5%, while educational, social and cultural institutions occupied 4%, wholesaling and storage organisations 1.2% and businesses 1.2%. There was still 20.6% left. This was occupied by rivers, agricultural land, mineral areas, car parks, vacant allotments and other vacant land. I suggest that that is a fair statistical picture of most large cities. This was all public domain originally, but, because it was allowed to be thrown open to private speculators, the fact is that in essence only about one-third of it was required for other than what are virtually public purposes. Apparently, in face of these facts, the Government is still prepared to allow land values to escalate. Under this policy, we get the type of situation that developed in Victoria recently where land which originally belonged to the Government and which changed hands for something under $20,000 was finally bought back by a government agency for nearly $100,000. How absurd that is as a pattern of development.
How the breakthrough is to be made in these matters, I do not quite know but, surely, if we imagine that some day we shall do something serious about stopping the growth of places like Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and so on, and about creating more of the satellite type towns the first thing that should be done is to gazette the whole of the area where it is thought that a new city is to be established. If that is not done, we shall find that the fruits of social increment will go into the pockets of the lew and it will be the many who will pay the toll. I suggest that these are the kinds of problems that we ought to be grappling with in total.
Let me now turn to the universities for the purposes of a case study to illustrate how inadequate the present pattern of Commonwealth and State financial relationships is. For my argument, I quote the following from the speech delivered by Senator Gorton, the then Minister for Works and Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research, as reported in Hansard of 21st September 1966 at page 575. Amongst other things, Senator Gorton said, as appears at page 579:
I earlier indicated that the financial programme which we offer to support during the next triennium will be $512 million- that is for universities alone - and will represent an increase of approximately S120 million over this present triennium. But large as that programme is, it is approximately 356 million less than the programme recommended by the Universities Commission. The reductions, which are not uniform over all Australia but which vary in incidence from Slate to State, arose as a request from the Premiers at the June Premiers Conference, to the effect that consultations in some detail should (atc place between the .Commonwealth and each Stale concerning the recommendations of the Universities Commission, for which State Treasurers must provide half the capital and a little more than half the recurrent.
The States provide £1 for every 17s. of the recurrent debt. The Minister continued:
These discussions took place, with each State separately, at both the official and the ministerial level, and each State indicated the upper limit of the programme which it felt it could support. The variations in the programmes proposed for each State flow very largely from these discussions but it is not to be assumed (hat in the absence of such discussions the Commonwealth would have offered to support, throughout Australia, a programme of -the magnitude of that suggested by the Universities Commission.
Indeed wc felt, just as the States felt, that in total the suggested programme made too great a demand on the resources available for education, having regard to the competing claims of other tertiary institutions and of primary, secondary and technical education, and that some reduction was necessary. We have adopted, for the major items of university buildings, student residences and general recurrent grants in the State universities, the upper limits proposed by the States, except in the case of Western Australia and Tasmania where wc have adopted the upper limits suggested by the States for capital grants but have made on our own initiative a reduction of approximately five per cent in the recommended recurrent grant.
Here we have a piece of machinery, the Australian Universities Commission, that is supposed to make certain recommendations as to what is needed. The Commission’s estimate for the triennium was $56m greater than either the States or the Commonwealth were prepared to allocate. After that body had gone to a lot of work to arrive at its conclusions, we then had another set of consultations between the Commonwealth and each State separately, and then we had this process of buck passing, knowing full well that the States are limited as to resources.
Of course, this idea of matching grants is a grand one from the point of view of the Commonwealth. With its reasonably unlimited financial resources it is all very well for the Commonwealth to suggest to the States that it will contribute £1 for every £1 spent by the States. It knows full well that for the most part the only way in which the States can increase revenue is by resorting to repressive indirect taxation The whole thing is absurd. If this is to be the pattern, then why have the Universities Commission at all? If it is not to be the pattern - and surely the very existence of the Commission suggests that this is not the intention - then why are not the recommendations of the Commission carried out? If it is a question of inadequacy of finances the only body in the ultimate that can make up the difference is the Commonwealth, either directly for universities or indirectly by making larger grants to the States for all purposes. In many respects there needs to be greater co-operation between the various levels of Government activity than is the case at the moment. It is easy to say that it is not the financial problem that is most difficult. I do not believe it is. The most difficult thing is how to plan forward comprehensively and systematically enough for it to have some meaning, and it is a question of resources allocation rather than just financial directive. 1 would suggest that the Commonwealth at the moment is groping towards the concept of a development bank. Surely it did not suddenly want it now when problems relating to oil and mineral development, natural gas and so forth are emerging. Surely the need was present some years ago to mobilise the financial resources of the nation better than they have been mobilised. Equally, I would suggest that there is need to co-ordinate better this significant matter of Commonwealth and State financial relationships. More of the emphasis should be on the basis of a national works development approach rather than a merely financial one. It seems to me that at the moment the great tragedy is that the only thing the States know at the beginning of one financial year is that there will not be enough money available for all the needs they would like to expand. They have not much idea how much extra money they will be allowed and this, to my way of thinking, makes forward planning almost impossible. It is a hand to mouth type of existence.
I know that three-year, four-year, fiveyear and ten-year plans are unpopular, but what is needed is the kind of approach that was suggested as far back as 1961 in the United Kingdom by the Committee of Inquiry into Treasury Control of Public Expenditure, which has become known as the Plowden Committee. Its recommendations have been carried out by Conservative governments and Labour governments. That committee said that there was need to be able to conceive of a works programme at least on a three to four year basis. Whilst in individual State departments that kind of planning undoubtedly goes on, it very smartly gets chopped off into small sections each year because the State Treasurers have to see by how much they can cut their programmes relating to water resources, education, health and other matters, and not by how much they can expand them. The present set-up does not seem to me to be a basis on which Australia can move forward. If the present pattern is to continue we will continue to have bottlenecks financially, bottlenecks physically and bottlenecks in city traffic, because fundamental problems are not being faced up to at all.
I know that it is not easy to suggest how the situation can be remedied but I think the Commonwealth Government could take more of the initiative in the future than it has done in the past. As I mentioned earlier, the experience of the Premier of Tasmania indicates that all the wisdom in these matters is not contained in Canberra. I would suggest that probably nobody in Canberra thinks it does, but sometimes one would almost imagine that all the wisdom, all the inspiration and all the growth that takes place in the Commonwealth is due to who happens to be in Canberra. To my mind, knowing who has been here for the last seventeen years, it is obvious that a lot has happened despite the Government and not because of the Government. Of course the great question that can never be answered is how much better we might have been had we taken better devices to grapple with the problems. We may be gratified by being able to point to a certain rate of growth over a certain period, but unfortunately in Australia growth seems to be identified mainly with how many motor cars are made here - and, of course, the number manufactured only accentuates the problems of city traffic. In other words, sometimes there may be an over-quantitive assessment and not a qualitative assessment. 1 would suggest the qualitative aspect is being stifled in Australia today.
Every child who is quotaed out of university represents a career that has been diverted in the most part for that child’s lifetime. It may well be, as some of my colleagues have suggested, that one can sometimes be over-gratified by the existence of full employment. We should sometimes ask whether everybody who is employed is being qualitatively employed so far as total final production is concerned. This is not an easy problem to correct. We claim to believe in freedom. We say that a person is free to buy what he wants to buy and free to do what work he likes. Do most people work on an assembly line in a motor car factory because they love that job. Do most people buy a certain product because they want it or are they persuaded by the advertisement that is presented on television screens every night? To my mind television advertising is reaching a low level at present. I instance the advertising of foundation garments. This advertising may interest some people, but I say to every advertising agent that I for one have a built-in resistance to anything that I see advertised on a television screen. How can one say that the $50m or $60m spent each year on television advertising and on other advertising is money well spent?
– Ladies’ foundation garments have a built-in resistance too.
– I think that ladies adorn themselves in their own way without much help from we mere males. Probably my comments are somewhat irrelevant but I believe that there ought to be some questioning of the quality of television advertising. I do not think that the gentlemen who run promotion stunts should be allowed to do so unchecked. I have considerable doubt about the slogan ‘It Pays to Advertise’. It may pay some people in the sales of the goods.
– They can get good taxation rebates on advertising.
– There are several aspects to that. too. I think that occasionally we ought to query the assumption that ‘This is what the public wants’. I read the other day that some film producer in darkest Africa apparently had only two films. One was ‘King Kong’ and the other ‘The Mark of Zorro’. The story is that he showed King Kong’ on three nights of the week and ‘The Mark of Zorro’ on three nights of the week and that as a special double feature he showed them both on Sunday nights, and his cinema was filled every night. To my mind that is not much different from what commercial television is doing at present. It has a conscripted audience which has a certain amount of choice but commercial television knows that someone will finish up watching its programmes every night.
– Does not the honourable member like the ‘Dawn’ ad?
– There are a lot of ads that I do not like, and a lot of programmes that I do not like. This is the kind of problem on which occasionally questions of social cost are relevant. I repeat that it is sometimes difficult to assess what the social cost is and where it falls and it is certainly difficult to measure the damage at all. I think that when we cannot measure the damage we often presume that no damage has occurred. Much the same attitude is found in the field of Commonwealth and State relations. Somehow the machine creaks totteringly along year by year. It produces results of a kind and nobody ever tries to evaluate whether the results are adequate, whether they can be bettered or whether they should be different. At any rate, I throw out a plea for a little more tolerance on the part of the Government in considering the significant marginal problem of the States, which may involve $10m or $15m annually in total Government expenditure of about $5, 000m. I do not think anybody can postulate a result as accurately as that, and $15m in $5,000m is a pretty small percentage. I suppose it is not much of a margin of error, but nevertheless it can determine whether the things that ought to be done are in fact done.
– I had a little difficulty in following the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). I was not quite certain of the subject to which he was really addressing his remarks. The Bill that is now before us gives a little bit more to the States as a grant. I think we should support it, even though it is only a stop-gap measure and does not really go to the root of the problem. At least it has the virtue that it gives the States a grant for their administration rather than a specific grant for a project to be paternalistically overseen by the Commonwealth Government. I think the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), who I suppose is only feeling his way in his portfolio, would not consider this to be anything more than an ad hoc measure and perhaps a preliminary to some more fundamental reform that he will bring in at some future date.
I do not think any of us could be quite happy about the financial relationships between the Commonwealth and the States. I know the States would not be happy and I think we in this Parliament have no reason for pride.
The State budgets are in a state of stringency - endemic stringency at least in New South Wales and Victoria. The smaller States receive most favoured State treatment and perhaps can avoid the full financial hardships that fall on the bigger States. But New South Wales and Victoria at any rate find it difficult to carry on their administration effectively and efficiently. This comes about through a number of causes. It is partly because the revenues of the Commonwealth are derived from sources that are largely progressive in the mathematical sense whereas the revenues of the States are largely derived from sources that are linear in the same sense. 1 refer particularly to income tax, where the rising price level and the rising level of money incomes means not merely a greater collection proportionately to the rise but a greater collection proportionately both to the rise and to the rising rate on the nominal higher figures. It is very largely because of this that the Commonwealth’s finances have been easier than those of the States. The States do not have this kind of built in escalation, with some minor exceptions such as in the various probate duties that they levy.
But even when the Commonwealth revenues are linear, it does not always give a fair kick back to the States. Let me remark, for example, on the question of road revenues as compared with the Commonwealth aid roads programme. The amount of tax collected on road fuel has been greater than the amount of revenue paid to the States as Commonwealth aid for roads. The gap in recent years has been of the order of $30m a year but in the last four or five years there has been a drastic change. The excess of $30m per annum that the Commonwealth pays into revenue has now grown to something over $S0m a year, which is an increase of nearly three times the previous figure. This has happened because of the rather shoddy way the Commonwealth behaved when it negotiated its roads agreement with the States. The States, in order to get immediate revenues, sacrificed their interest in the later years of the agreement. This has not been altogether fair.
The States, on the other hand, have had to meet expenses that have risen faster than have the normal living standards of the Australian people. I refer particularly to education which takes a major share of the State budgets. When our standards of living have gone up by 5%, we do not think that at the same time the amount we spend on education should go up by just 5%. We think it should go up by very much more, because we have a new concept of education. People stay at school longer. The level in the community, in respect of both literary and technical education, rises fast. This, of course, has been a major charge which increases in more than a linear fashion in the State budgets. Hospitalisation is another charge, though the Commonwealth has come in and helped progressively with health services.
Then we have the question that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports mentioned, and that is the size of cities. Here the States bear the main budget costs for traffic, roads and services, such as water and sewerage. As a city grows, water must be brought over a longer distance and the cost per gallon tends to increase rather than decrease. This applies also to sewerage disposal. The benefits of living in cities are selective and are chosen by citizens who prefer to live there. They think, rightly or wrongly, that they get a benefit by living in a large community. People such as graziers who have been used to living in small communities in the country come to live in the cities when they retire. They believe, rightly or wrongly - it is their choice - that this brings personal benefits to them. These are benefits that are reflected in an indirect way in the Commonwealth’s revenues, but they are counterbalanced by the very considerable costs that must be borne by the State.
We hear a lot about the cost of untangling the traffic snarls in cities. I think a lot of what we hear is nonsense, because the cost of untangling the snarl is by order of magnitude less than the cost of providing transport in the country areas. It may be that we should follow the principle enunciated by Dr Neutze in his study, The Economic Policy and the Size of Cities, a publication with which most honourable members will be familiar. He suggested that we can get the best of both worlds by taking small groups of cities of perhaps up to 500,000 people. This may be a way in which we could minimise transport costs, but if we are to have a high degree of decentralisation, with numbers of small towns each of 10,000 or 15,000 people, then our transport costs will become astronomically greater than the cost of merely untangling the city snarl, because these transport costs are not only the costs of building the roads for long distances, roads which are very often quite sparsely travelled, but they are also the real costs of petrol and tyres and other commodities that are used in travelling over those long distances. These are real costs, even though they are borne by the individual.
Therefore, I think a good deal of nonsense is being talked about the costs of the city traffic and the economic advantages of decentralisation. If honourable members look at this in a more detached frame of mind, apart from political prejudice, they will see that there are great economies in the cities as well as great costs, and that if we are to talk about the benefits of decentralisation we must talk about the non-economic benefits. The benefits may be very real ones, even though they are not economic benefits in the simple way that it is sometimes put from a certain corner of the House. For example, the argument that we heard this morning from the honourable member for Calare (Mr England) is of a somewhat unsophisticated nature and would not really stand up to analysis.
Let me come back to this question of the States’ finances. We have the position now that because the State budgets are constricted and tight, charges are imposed in a way that is economically bad. The
States collect a great deal of their revenue from transport - from their railway systems and from the charges they make upon transport in various ways. These are costs that are very harmful to the community, particularly to the rural community, and I believe we should try to reduce them. This means that the States should be getting more from the Commonwealth and as the price of getting more they should be reducing their transport charges, particularly to the man on the land.
I should like to see the Commonwealth seriously consider a policy under which it undertook the burden of the debts on the States’ railways, on condition that those railways rationalise their services and reduce their charges by the amount of interest which the State budgets would not have to bear. If it did this, we could get the rail charges down to a very reasonable level; we would be able to get rid of these monstrous marginal rate books; and we would be able to get rid of our road coordination taxes and allow the whole transport system to flow freely and properly instead of being cluttered up as it is. Measures of this character would do far more to increase our export potential and to give some satisfactory stimulus to our great primary industries than fiddling about with the bounties that we grant and the double taxation remissions and things of that kind.
Because the States have the responsibility of conducting these transport systems and because it is very much in the national interest that transport costs should be reduced, it seems to me that it would be reasonable for the Commonwealth to have some kind of long term plan of helping the States to reduce their transport charges by taking into its budget the burden of interest on the States’ railways and then arranging with the States that their freight rates should be no more than necessary to cover running costs. I think this would be something that would benefit the whole of the economy. After all, what are the kinds of measures that are available to us to meet this ridiculous tension that exists between the budgets of the Commonwealth and the budgets of the various States? We can give specific grants for this purpose or that purpose, paternalistic grants which in a way invade the sovereignty of the States and by divorc ing the responsibility from the administrator thereby in a way make for progressive inefficiency all round. Or we can do as we are doing in this Bill before the House and give an extra unallocated grant of revenue. Well, if we do this it is perhaps not as bad as giving a specific grant, but it does involve a certain degree of financial irresponsibility, for the people who spend the revenue do not have the odium of raising it, and this is bad.
On the other hand, it may be that the Commonwealth can vacate certain fields of revenue and give them to the States. This is what we did in regard to land tax, for example, and perhaps this could be extended a little further. But here we come across one difficulty. The field which it is best that we should vacate is the field of sales tax. This is a field on which the finances of the States of the United States of America, for example, are largely dependent. However, we cannot do this without a referendum because sales tax is apparently an excise and constitutional difficulties are involved. I know that attempts have been made in Western Australia to get around this. Whether or not they are constitutional attempts remains to be seen, but one applauds the substance of what is done, even though there may be legal doubts regarding it.
I would think that the Commonwealth might perhaps come together with the States and suggest, for example, chat they might have the capacity to raise their own sales taxes and that the Commonwealth itself might vacate the sales tax field, although I agree that it cannot do this legally without getting a referendum finally through the people. These are ways and means of doing something in this direction. Perhaps it may be that the Commonwealth should take over certain of the States’ functions. I am not altogether allergic to this provided the line of responsibility is clearly drawn so that we do not have this mixed system of responsibility, which is the worst of all worlds. I have already suggested that the Commonwealth might do something in regard to taking over State debts on railways. Mental health is another possible field. It seems to me quite ridiculous that there is a distinction between the Commonwealth’s responsibilities in regard to ordinary health and its responsibilities in regard to mental health.
However I will not press these points. I do not think this is the correct time to go into them at any length. I simply say that I support the Bill before the House, although I do not think it goes as far as it should go. I should think that if we are to have any amendment to the States grant formula the best thing to do would be to arrange to add to the grants of every State perhaps 2% or 3% of the income tax on personal incomes collected within that State. That would seem to me to be the best way of adding to the formula. We should at least be thankful for small mercies and should hope that as the Treasurer gains more experience he will gain more courage and will tackle some of these fundamental problems. The real responsibility for initiating the move must, I think, lie in the Federal sphere.
– The House is considering the States Grants Bill 1967, which amends the formula under which the annual financial assistance grants to the States are determined and authorises the payment of a special non-recurring grant of $5m to the States in 1966-67. The old tax reimbursement formula, which was devised in 1946, provided for a base amount of £45m, to be varied each year according to movements in population and average wages. The total amount determined was distributed between the States in proportion to the ‘adjusted population’ of each, according to a formula which took into account population, numbers of school children and population density.
By the mid-1950s it was obvious that the formula had outlived its usefulness. The first part of the formula had produced a total grant which was quite inadequate, and this gave rise to the introduction of supplementary grants which varied year by year. These amounts were determined by the Commonwealth and were added to the formula grant. Some States, particularly Victoria and Queensland, considered that they were harshly treated under the old formula.and it was not long before lengthy discussions were held which brought about the changed formula which was introduced in 1959 and which was to apply for six years.
This new formula included a betterment factor. Here, like the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), I want to give due credit to the Premier of Tasmania, Mr Eric Reece, because this was his brainchild. I do not think he has received sufficient recognition for what he did to bring about the introduction of this betterment factor. I would like to refer briefly to the speech he delivered in the Tasmanian Parliament when introducing the 1960-61 Budget and in which he referred to the betterment factor to which he had been able to get the States and the Commonwealth to agree. He said:
Finally, I wish to refer briefly to the effect of the betterment factor included in the new formula. As honourable members will probably recall, the formula provides for the average percentage increase in wages te be multiplied by 1.1 to determine the percentage increase to be made in the per capita payments to the States. I am pleased to say that the adoption of this ‘escalator’ clause followed its suggestion by Tasmania.
He went on to point out the benefit that had been derived by Tasmania from the betterment factor, which had meant an increase of approximately £79,000 in the grant. He then said:
Even at this early stage it is quite apparent that the cumulative effect of this 10% betterment factor over the six-year period of the agreement will be considerable.
As I have indicated, this automatic formula - operated to determine the amount of the grant to each State for the six years between 1959 and 1965. In the first year, the grant to each State was expressed as an amount per head of population as at 30th June 1959. This grant was increased by 1.1 times the percentage increase in average wages during 1959-60 and multiplied by the population as at 30th June 1960 to determine the amount of grant for each State in the following year, 1960-61. This process was then repeated for each year of the agreement.
I have referred to the betterment factor, which was expressed as a loading to the average wages factor in the formula. Any increase in wages was itself increased by 10%. So if, for example, average wages rose by 5% in one year, the grant was increased by 5.5% in the following year. This loading was designed to give the States revenue which was more than sufficient to pay for the increased wages bill. So they were able to provide better standards of services for the people. Hence, it derives its name ‘betterment factor’. It was designed by the Premier of Tasmania not only to maintain existing services but also to improve those which were already in operation.
The effect of this factor was to increase the grants by an average of .4% each year for the six years of the agreement. The effect varied from year to year over the six years, depending on the movement in average wages, but it averaged out at .4% a year. I recall that in 1960-61, the first year of the agreement, as indicated in the Tasmanian Premier’s Budget speech, Tasmania benefited by $158,000 and the overall payments to the States rose by $3.6m. So the States obtained quite a substantial benefit. As I have said, I think it is only fair that due credit should be given to the person whose brainchild it was.
The agreement was reviewed in 1965, and little alteration was made to it. The betterment factor was increased to 1.2% because it was considered that the average increase in the grants of .4% obtained under the former betterment figure was not enough. Moreover, as the Minister for Air (Mr Howson), who assists the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) pointed out in his second reading speech, it had the disadvantage that it fluctuated from year to year in line with fluctuations in average wages. With the increase from 1.1% to 1.2% in the betterment factor, in the first year of the current agreement Tasmania will benefit by about $200,000. This is a substantial and welcome increase to that State’s financial resources.
In the bill now before us we have another proposal. The first proposal was to increase the betterment factor; the second proposal is to eliminate the time lag. As was pointed out so well by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, the Treasurer has taken all the credit; but that is wrong. All the credit must go to the Tasmanian Premier, Mr Eric Reece, and I think it is only fair to him that the matter should be put straight. In his second reading speech the Minister said:
The Commonwealth also proposed that, in order to reduce the time lag before changes in population and wages were reflected in the grants, more up to date statistics for these two items should be used in calculating the grants.
Later in his speech he more or less took the credit on behalf of the Commonwealth when he said:
In these circumstances, we considered it appropriate to repeat the offer made by the Commonwealth in June 1963 to reduce the time lag in the average wages adjustment.
Last year the Federal Treasurer made a public statement in which he gave the impression that the proposal to eliminate the time lag came from the Commonwealth, but that was not true. In his Budget speech for 1965-66 the Tasmanian Premier said:
Before leaving the subject of the financial assistance grant, there is one matter I feel I should mention. This concerns the time lag in the application of the average wages component in the formula. Under both the old and the new formulae, an increase in average wages in one year is not reflected in an increase in the grant until the following year. This has obvious disadvantages in years when there occur significant wage increases, such as a general increase in the basic wage. State governments are called on to meet such extraordinary payments immediately, but the increased revenue available to meet those payments is not received until the following year. The Commonwealth Government, on the other hand, receives an immediate increase in revenue because of increases in income tax deductions from pay envelopes.
This is true. The Commonwealth is receiving income tax payments all the time, and these payments are increasing all the time as more people are added to the work force. But under the old agreement there was a time lag of some nine months. The States did not reap any benefit during that period although with the funds available to them they had to meet all increases in wages, such as the margins increase granted in January this year and the basic wage increase of last July. The Premier of Tasmania continued in his Budget speech for 1965-66:
At the first Premiers’ Conference I put forward a proposal designed to overcome the time lag in the adjustment for wages.
There is no doubt that the proposal was put forward by the Premier of Tasmania. He continued:
When the Conference reassembled in June the Commonwealth offer incorporated my proposal for overcoming the time lag. However, during subsequent discussions some Premiers expressed concern that the abolition of the time lag would result in a slightly smaller grant than otherwise in 1963-66. They were prepared to sacrifice what I regard as a long-term improvement for a small increase in their grants in the current year.
In his Budget speech for 1966-67 the Premier of Tasmania again referred to this question of eliminating the time lag, taking to task the Federal Treasurer. He said:
Last year I reviewed the new scheme of financial assistance grants. I refer to the matter now only because of a recent statement by the Federal Treasurer (the Right Honourable W. McMahon). In his statement the Treasurer has accused the States of rejecting a proposal which would have eliminated the time lag which occurs in adjustment to the grants for wage increases. He said that the States had rejected a formula which would have given them a little less in 1956-66 but would have given them a great deal more in following years. 1 feel that the Treasurer may have created the misleading impression that the proposal which was rejected by a majority of the States came originally from the Commonwealth. This was not the case at all. In fact the proposal to eliminate the time lag originated in a written submission which I made to the first of the two Premiers’ Conferences which were held, in 1965 to review the operation of the financial assistance grant formula.
Then he went on to repeat a statement that he had made in his Budget speech for the previous year, and he concluded: lt is indeed unfortunate that the formula suggested by Tasmania and supported by the Commonwealth was not adopted. It could have made a significant difference to the States’ financial positions in 1966-67.
I have quoted from these documents simply to put the record straight in this Parliament and to give credit where it rightfully belongs, lt was the Tasmanian Premier who came forward with the idea of the betterment factor in 1959 and with the proposal to eliminate the time lag in 1965, which proposal led to the Bill that ls now before this Parliament for discussion. Under the provisions of this legislation there will be a reduction of nine months in the time lag. Previously in determining the grant for 1966-67, for instance, the figure for wages would have been adjusted according to the amount by which the wage level at 30th June 1966 exceeded the level at 30th June 1965. Now the figure will be adjusted according to the amount by which the wage level at 31st March 1967 exceeded the level at 31st March 1966.
When speaking on this matter in this Parliament some eighteen months ago I gave the reasons why the other States would not agree to the Tasman;an proposal, and I expressed the hope that some day soon common agreement might be reached on the matter. I am very pleased that such agreement has now been reached, and the Opposition readily supports the Bill.
The only other part of the Bill to which I would like to refer briefly is the provision for a non-recurring grant of $5m to bs shared among the States in the same proportion as the formula grants. This will assist them over Budget difficulties such as those to which I referred earlier, caused in this financial year by the increased margins granted as from last January and the basic wage increase granted last July. It has been estimated that the elimination of the time lag, together with the provision for consideration of the wages level at 31st March, will give the States this year an additional amount of $6m. The addition of the special grant will give n total of $llm - a very welcome addition to the States’ finances. It certainly will be most welcome in Tasmania, where services have to be expanded and increased to cope with the vast mineral developments taking place on the west coast, at Savage River, Cleveland and Renison Bell. The State has to provide, of course, new access roads, housing, hospital services and school facilities, and this is a very costly business. It also has to continue the essential services that are now provided by the State. We also have our problems, of course, resulting from the recent disastrous bush fires, and the receipt by Tasmania of its share of this amount of Slim will be very timely indeed.
For these reasons I have very much pleasure in supporting the measure.
Debate (on motion by Mr
Bill presented by Mr Chipp, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to establish an Australian Tourist Commission for the purpose of the encouragement of visits to Australia, and travel in Australia, by people from other countries. The Government’s intention to introduce this measure was foreshadowed by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and the present Acting Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) in their policy speeches in November last year.
The Government’s role in the development of overseas tourism to Australia comes within the responsibilities of my colleague, the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry. It is a great privilege for me, as Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Industry in Tourist Activities, to present the Bill to the House. The Bill brings to fruition the considerable time and effort’ which the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry has devoted to the development of this proposal for an Australian Tourist Commission and I want to record my personal appreciation, as a comparative newcomer to this work, of the opportunity to be associated with it.
The Government proposes the establishment of this Commission as the first major step towards a greater level of efforts to promote tourism in Australia. Earnings from spendings in Australia by visitors from other countries are already a major source of overseas exchange for the Australian balance of payments. Receipts from visitors’ spendings are stated by the Commonwealth Statistician to have been $59m in 1965-66. I understand that the Australian National Travel Association’s estimates would in fact put an even higher figure than this on Australia’s earnings from overseas visitors. At the very least, this figure can be augmented by the earnings of Qantas Empire Airways Ltd from the carriage of overseas passengers visiting Australia. I am informed that Qantas estimates those earnings at around a net $6m a year at the present time.
Taking the Commonwealth Statistician’s figure and that of Qantas together, earnings from overseas visitors to Australia totalled at least $65m in 1965-66 and were Australia’s ninth most important earner of foreign exchange in that year. This performance puts earnings from visitors’ spendings in a class with industries which one widely recognises as large export industries. In 1965-66 overseas tourism to Australia earned Australia a little less than exports from iron and steel, recorded at $70m, and sugar and dairy products, each recorded at S94m, but more than motor vehicles and parts at $42m and chemicals at the same amount.
I refer to the earnings Australia gains >n balance of payments terms from the spendings of overseas visitors. It will be apparent to honourable members also tha; these earnings are valuable additional income in the hands of a very widely spread range of commercial interests in the Australian community. Not only the airline or bus or taxi and the hotel and motel or restauranteur derive an income from serving the overseas tourist, but the retailer, the manufacturer and many other sectors of Australian commerce and industry directly cr indirectly derive income from the demands which the tourist generates in the course of his visit to Australia. Not only do these various industries benefit from overseas tourism to Australia but the demands created also result in employment opportunities for a wide cross-section of workers throughout the Australian community.
Tourism is not only a useful earner of vital overseas exchange for Australia and a generator of additional income to the community; it is also an instrument for international goodwill and understanding. Australians are hospitable people and we can extend our reputation for friend,liness and easygoing hospitality by bringing people from other countries into direct contact with these admirable features of our way of life as welcome visitors to this country. We can influence their understanding of Australia - its national aims, objectives and problems. They can influence our understanding of their countries. This range of casual and informal contacts at all levels of the community is a long way removed from the international meetings of heads of governments and the high policy aspects of international dealings between countries, but I believe that it can in the long run also be a potent force for international understanding and, indeed, peace.
The Government’s recognition of the importance of overseas tourism is by no means new. The Australian National Travel Association, which is a voluntary private association has, since 1929, undertaken the task of promoting overseas tourism to Australia. In this it has had the full support of Australian governments. This support has been of a very tangible nature Since 1952-53 this Government has made grants in successive years to the association totalling almost $5m up to and including the grant for 1966-67 of $862,000. The Government’s grants have in fact represented about 70% of the association’s finance in any one year since 1956-57.
The Government’s decision to establish an Australian Tourist Commission has, in fact, resulted from a proposal put forward by the Australian National Travel Association itself. In 1964 the Association, with considerable foresight, commissioned studies by the United States firms of consultants, Harris, Kerr, Forster and Co. and Stanton Robbins and Co. Inc., of the tourist situation in Australia and Australia’s potential to attract greater numbers of tourists in the future. A report by these consultants was made to ANTA in September 1965. It was a comprehensive report on all aspects of Australia’s potential to attract greater numbers of tourists and the problems which might be faced in achieving greater numbers.
The consultants’ reports projected targets for Australia’s travel markets and their potentials. They projected that by 1970 Australia should take as a target the attraction of 320,000 overseas visitors and that by 1975 this target should have grown to 607,000 visitors. The consultants went on to estimate visitor expenditures based on their projections of market targets. They estimated visitor expenditures by 1970 in Australia totalling $120m. They estimated that by 1975 achievement of the market target of 607,000 visitors by that time would result in visitor expenditures totalling $208m. The consultants put forward these projections and estimates subject to certain major conditions. These conditions were:
The Australian National Travel Association gave this report considerable study during late 1965 and 1966. The Board of the Association came to the following view, and I quote a letter from the Chairman of the Association, Mr John Bates, to the Acting Prime Minister:
Whilst ANTA has been an effective marketing organisation in the past, the dimensions of world tourism today and the accelerated pace of its development since the advent of jet air transportation require a marketing operation of much greater magnitude than hitherto. This we believe necessitates a different approach to tourist promotion and leaves no alternative but for the Commonwealth Government to accept greater and more direct responsibility for the finance required.
An official Commonwealth instrumentality with legislative backing would confer the status and authority needed to provide more positive leadership to the tourist industry in the promotion of Australia overseas on a more sustained and concerted basis than has been possible in the past. ANTA believes that its reconstitution as an authority would facilitate the maintenance of the best features of the present organisation, such as its co-operation with the States and its partnership with the tourist industry in promotional campaigns, and at the same time provide a fresh impetus for vigorous, professionally-run marketing.
ANTA, reconstituted as recommended, would bring Australia more into line with the great majority of national tourist organisations and place us in a stronger competitive position.
The Association has done a splendid job. I pay this tribute, and I am pleased to see that the Chairman, members of the Board of the Association, and also the General Manager, are in the gallery this afternoon, Mr Deputy Speaker. It has mounted promotional campaigns in the countries from which Australia draws most of its visitors and has been instrumental in developing in those countries an awakening interest of Australia’s many tourist attractions. Because in the past I have not been directly associated with the Government’s effort in relation to tourism I can be quite objective in saying that it has been in large measure due to this Government’s assistance that the Australian National Travel Association has been so effective in attracting visitors to Australia in the past.
It has also served uniquely to bring together the many interests that are involved in the network of industries and institutions in Australia which have an interest in serving the overseas visitor. Its honorary board includes men drawn from the major international carriers who bring visitors to Australia, the Australian accommodation and internal transport industries, Australian manufacturers, retailers and other commercial interests, together with representatives of the State tourist authorities and representatives of Commonwealth departments. These men have served on the board of the National Travel Association in the main in a personal capacity because of the special skills they bring from their background rather than as formal representatives of their industries. The Australian National Travel Association is to be commended for its great wisdom and foresight, and indeed its selflessness, in proposing that it relinquish what has been in the past its major activity.
The Association has asked the Commonwealth Government to accept, as a direct responsibility, the task of encouraging people in other countries to visit Australia. The Government has accepted this task because it recognises that Australia’s potential as a place to which tourists can be attracted, and the benefits for Australia from those tourists, are so great as to warrant the Commonwealth taking the job on. It is not an easy task. Proud though we all are of this country’s many attractions, Australia nevertheless is a long distance from the European and North American continents, from whence the great bulk of tourists originate. Australia is not well known to the average person in Europe or North America. Australian efforts to overcome this obstacle and to attract tourists face considerable competition from the promotional efforts which many other countries, mindful of the gains to them from attracting overseas tourists, are presently engaged in. Time, distance, competition and unfamiliarity are all major obstacles with which the Australian National Travel Association has contended so ably in the past, and with which the Australian Tourist Commission will have to contend in the future.
The Government strongly hopes that the members of the Association will recognise its considerable value as a unique organisation bringing together all the interests in Australia relating to overseas visitors. Although the National Travel Association no longer will be carrying on the task of promoting Australia’s attractions overseas, the Government strongly hopes that it will remain in existence as an industry voice and as a place where many industries together can stimulate and co-ordinate their efforts to attract and serve overseas visitors. I shall refer again to this matter when I come to the provisions of the Bill itself
I come now to the main provisions ‘of the Bill. I refer first to the purpose and powers of the Commission, which are set out in Part III of the Bill in clauses 15 and 16. Clause 15 reads:
The Commission is established for the purpose of the encouragement of visits to Australia, and travel in Australia, by people from other countries.
The Government intends that the Commission’s activities shall be concerned primarily with overseas promotion of Australia’s tourist attractions, with the object of attracting increased numbers of overseas visitors to Australia. The Commission will, of course, be based in Australia, and some of its activities will take place in Australia. But by far the greater part of its work will be carried out overseas in the countries from which tourists are to be attracted.
I elaborate on this point because the Government wants to make it clear that it is in no way intended that the Commission should compete with either the State instrumentalities or commercial enterprises in their activities within Australia nor concern itself with attracting movement of Australian tourists from one State to another State. The activities of the various State instrumentalities within Australia and the activities of Australian commercial enterprises are to be augmented and assisted by the Commission with respect to overseas visitors only.
The powers of the Commission are set out in clause 16. The Commission is given a general power to do anything which may prove to be conducive to or necessary or convenient to be done for carrying out its purpose of encouraging overseas tourists to Australia. The range of activities which will make up the Commission’s main undertakings can be seen from the paragraphs of clause 16(2) of the Bill. These paragraphs will give the Commission power to carry out publicity campaigns and other forms of publicity to publicise Australia’s tourist attractions and facilities in Australia to cater for the tourist. The Commission will no doubt undertake promotional activities of many kinds in overseas countries. It will run publicity campaigns by advertising Australia’s attractions in magazines, by special presentations such as lecture tours, by films, and so on.
The Commission will be empowered to work with the industries servicing tourists, such as travel agents and transport operators who, both in Australia and overseas, play a vital commercial role in stimulating an overseas visitor’s interest in coming to Australia and facilitating his visit by planning his tour, in making the necessary travel and accommodation bookings for him, and in the whole range of services needed to ensure that the tourist is properly looked after. The Commission will devote a great deal of its energies to working with travel agents and tour operators in other countries and will aim to generate an interest on their part in selling travel to Australia to their customers. The Commission may produce magazines, pamphlets, brochures and other publications to stimulate this interest further. It may also produce sales aids for the travel agents and other industries concerned with attracting and servicing the tourists, so that these enterprises not only will be stimulated into selling Australia but will be assisted by informative literature spelling out the attractions Australia possesses, how the tourist may go about arranging his tour, what it will cost, where he might stay, how long he will need to travel between places of interest and so on. It may also produce promotional literature of these kinds for direct circulation to the actual tourist himself, to stimulate his interest in coming to Australia.
The Australian National Travel Association has already done a great deal in this direction. I believe that the Commission will be able to take this work considerably further, that it will be able to build up in the overseas countries from which the bulk of our tourists are to come greaty increased interest in Australia, and by adroit salesmanship and servicing turn people into actual tourists. The Commission may also act in a research way to collect information on the variety of matters which affect Australia’s tourist potential. It may, for example, study the promotional techniques of other countries. It may study the behaviour of the overseas tourists themselves - how much they have to spend, their age and other social facts about them. In effect the Commission may, by systematic studies of this kind, amass a store of valuable marketing information about Australia’s potential customers. It may amass this information, not only for its own purposes in deciding how it will go about its promotional tasks, but also as valuable information to be made available in suitable forms to the many Australian industries which may use it to influence their own commercial decisions about their services for the overseas visitor.
In the process the Commission may also study the Australian facilities and amenities. It will need to do this to inform its own mind on what it is setting out to promote. The industries concerned may welcome comparative studies of this kind for the information they will gain about their standards of services as compared with the standards of others in different parts of Australia and in overseas countries.
The Commission will also be given a power to undertake the provision of assistance to travel agents, transport operators and other appropriate bodies or persons in arranging travel, accommodation or other services or facilities for people visiting Australia. This power is especially circumscribed, and I want to make a few remarks about it for this reason. The Commission is empowered to undertake the task of assisting with these arrangements only in a country outside Australia and with the further limitation that the Commission is to be satisfied that no Australian enterprise is also undertaking that kind of service in that country. The purpose of this power, briefly stated, is to enable the Commission to act with the travel industries as a commercial arranger of travel in circumstances where Australia might otherwise lose the interest of potential tourists from a particular country because there are no commercial facilities in that country geared to arrange travel to Australia. It is a power which may not be used to any great extent. Its existence will, however, enable the Commission to bridge any gaps which might exist for the time being in the Australian tourist industries’ ability to service potential tourists from countries which do not at present provide a large share of the visitors coming to Australia. I have no doubt that in using this power the Commission will be working towards the day when the Australian industries themselves move into providing these services in such countries. The Commission’s role in this respect is one of a pathfinder and a stimulus rather than a continuing commercial operator.
Sub-clause (3) of clause 16 empowers the Commission, in paragraph (a), to act jointly or in co-operation with any other person or organisation in its activities. The Australian National Travel Association has in the past developed joint promotional campaigns with international carriers and other industries concerned with the overseas tourist. These campaigns have been financed on a matching $1 for $1 basis by a grant from the Commonwealth and contributions from industries concerned. The Government attaches great importance to the principle of partnership embodied in this arrangement and hopes that the Commission will receive the support and co-operation of the industries involved, in the same way as the Australian National Travel Association has received it in the past. The Commission is therefore specifically empowered to carry out joint activities of this kind.
Honourable members will note that subclause (4) of clause 16 precludes the Commission from carrying on any business except in certain prescribed areas. So far as the great bulk of its activities is concerned, the Commission will not be trading in any sense of that term. It is fundamentally an organisation to promote Australia’s attractions by publicity and similar means. But it has been given the power to sell some of its publications if expert opinion judges this to be appropriate and desirable, lt has been given the power to charge for the supply of information collected under the research activities which I outlined earlier if, again, it seems desirable to make such charges for some kinds of work undertaken. It has also the power to charge for the service of assisting to make arrangements for travel in countries outside Australia, which I mentioned immediately before passing to this point. Honourable members will appreciate that these activities, if they do in fact prove to be both necessary and desirable adjuncts to the Commission’s main task, are minor features of its function.
Honourable members will also note that by clause 17 sub-clause (I) the Minister is empowered, as is I believe customary in relation to statutory authorities of this kind, to direct the Commission with respect to matters of policy, including directions with respect to the general nature and extent of its operations.
The Australian National Travel Association, in proposing that the Government establish the Commission, has stressed the virtue of giving the Commission considerable freedom to determine its own activities and make its own decisions about the most effective way of carrying out its purpose. The Government respects this view and intends that the Commission shall, in the ordinary course of its affairs, have a free hand to make its own expert decisions on how best its purpose is to be achieved within the powers it has been given.
I turn now to the constitution of the Commission as stated in clause 6 of Part II of the Bill. The Commission is to consist of five voting members and two non-voting members, each member being appointed by the Governor-General. The Australian National Travel Association ha» lightly stressed the advantages of the partnership which it has embodied between the Australian industries concerned with servicing overseas visitors and the State and Commonwealth Governments. The Association has proposed to the Government that the membership of the Commission should be constituted in a way that retains the essential spirit of this partnership. The Government completely accepts this view and has therefore proposed a membership for the Commission which it believes will effectively embody this principle of partnership.
At the same time the Australian National Travel Association has rightly stressed that to be an effective decision making unit the Commission must be comparatively small in numbers. The constitution of the Commission’s membership has been the subject of considerable thought and study in consultation with the Board of the Australian National Travel Association. There have also been discussions with the State tourist ministers and their departmental advisers on this question. The membership proposed for the Commission has resulted from these consultative processes.
Sub-clause (3) of clause 6 of the Bill provides that two of the voting members shall be persons appointed from among persons nominated by a body or association that is approved by the Minister as being representative of the industries in Australia connected with tourism. As I said earlier, the Government hopes that the many industries and interests at present among the members of the Australian National Travel Association will retain their membership of that body and that it will continue to be, as it has been in the past, a unique and valuable association bringing together the many industries which have a part to play in servicing the overseas tourist. This is or course a matter for those industries and interests themselves to decide.
However, if the Australian National Travel Association remains in existence and continues to be the effective meeting place that it has been in the past, then the Government, with great pleasure, will recognise it as the body or association to be approved by the Minister in the terms of sub-clause (3) of clause 6 of the Bill. This recognition will give the Australian National Travel Association the right to nominate a .panel of persons from whom two of the voting members of the Commission shall be appointed. These men will be appointed for their knowledge and understanding of Australia’s task in stimulating a greatly increased number of overseas tourists to Australia. They will be selected for their personal abilities and the energies which they will be able to bring to this task as members of the Commission.
It is also provided that at least one of the remaining three voting members of the Commission shall be an officer of the Public Service of the Commonwealth. Officers of the Prime Minister’s Department, the Australian News and Information Bureau of the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Trade and Industry have been members of the honorary board of the Australian National Travel Association in the past.
Tt is proposed that an officer of the Department of Trade and Industry be appointed to the Commission. The Minister for Trade and Industry will carry the ministerial responsibility for the work of the Commission and it is appropriate that ona of his advisers should serve on the Com mission. Honourable members will be aware of the dynamic reputation that the Department of Trade and Industry has built up over recent years. Under the Minister for Trade and Industry it has been this Department’s task to bring the present proposal for a Tourist Commission to the legislative stage. It has been my pleasure to be associated with this Department, and with its senior officials, and, Mr Speaker, I want to pay a personal tribute to the imagination, drive and capacity which it has brought to its many functions. It may be appropriate in certain situations for a second member to be appointed from Commonwealth Departments. For example, the special Commonwealth-State relations involved in tourist matters may make it appropriate for a representative of the Prime Minister’s Department to be appointed in some circumstances.
The State Ministers of tourism have for some years formed themselves into a Tourist Ministers’ Council which meets to discuss the many problems relating to tourists which are of concern to the States. The Tourist Ministers’ Council has proposed to the Acting Prime Minister, as the Minister for Trade and Industry, that he be represented at the Council’s meetings in the future. The Acting Prime Minister has indicated that either he or myself will serve in this way.
It will be clear from my remarks earlier that the Commission’s role is separate from that of the State authorities, who are properly concerned with the facilities and amenities to be developed and maintained within their sovereign boundaries. The Commission’s task of attracting tourists here, and the task which the States share with Australian industries of looking after them while in Australia, must nevertheless be the product of joint thinking and planning if the total results are to be achieved.
As a further link, the State Governments are to be given the right, by sub-clause (5) of clause 6, to nominate the two non-voting members of the Australian Tourist Commission. This arrangement is designed to enable the State Governments to remain in continuous liaison with the thinking and planning of the Commission. These members will attend all meetings of the Commission and participate freely in the
Commission’s deliberations, bringing thenown special experience and background to bear on the Commission’s tasks. The Government has deliberately left the question of these nominations entirely in the hands of the States. They are free to propose, for appointment by the GovernorGeneral, any two persons whom they judge to be the most effective persons to serve as their link with the Commission and to convey the consensus of the views of all the States on matters related to the Commission’s activities.
Honourable members will note subclause (2) of clause 7 of the Bill. The purpose of this sub-clause is to provide for either a part time or full time Chairman of the Commission. This provision has been made to give flexibility in the executive arrangements of the Commission. The remaining members of the Commission, both voting and non voting, will be appointed on a part time basis, any officers of the Commonwealth Public Service being appointed ex officio. The Bill also provides, in section 18, for the appointment by the Commission of a General Manager who shall, under the Commission, manage its affairs.
Clause 21 of the Bill provides for the Parliament to appropriate moneys for the purposes of the Commission. I want to say a few words about the Government’s intentions in this respect. In putting forward the proposal for an Australian Tourist Commission the Australian National Travel Association began its consideration from its conviction that there were immense gains to be made in the numbers of overseas visitors to Australia and Australian earnings from them. The Board of the Australian National Travel Association became convinced that to bring this potential into reality required promotion and related efforts of a different magnitude from those carried out in the past. The Board became convinced that a new approach to overseas tourism was necessary in Australia. For that reason it came to the conclusion that it should ask the Commonwealth Government to accept the prime responsibility in a direct way.
Throughout the deliberations which have led up to the proposal embodied in this Bill the Government has itself recognised the vast potential for greater numbers of overseas visitors and vastly increased earnings which Australia might achieve with proper policies to this end. The establishment of the Australian Tourist Commission is a first step towards this objective. The Government’s grants have stimulated the valuable flow of overseas visitors which we enjoy today. But large as these grants have been the Government considers that they fall short of financing the level of activities needed to ensure that full advantage is taken of Australia’s tourist potential. The Government accepts as an integral part of the proposal to establish the Australian Tourist Commission the need to equip it with greater finances than the Australian National Travel Association has had in the past. The Government intends that the establishment of the Australian Tourist Commission will lift Australia’s tourist efforts into a new era.
It is not of course possible at this early stage to indicate the amounts of finance which the Government may make available for the Commission’s first year of operations, which for practical purposes will begin in July of this year. Honourable members will understand that this amount will need to be determined in the context of the total Commonwealth budgetary situation. The Government is however agreed that to achieve Australia’s full tourist potential the Australian Tourist Commission will need to be provided with increased finance. The Government hopes that the industries and the State governments which have supported the Australian National Travel Association financially in the past will also recognise the full extent of the potential before us and join with the Commission, financially and in other ways, to ensure fully effective promotional activities to achieve this potential.
These efforts directed at’ stimulating a greater flow of tourists from overseas are by no means the whole of the task to be undertaken. I said earlier that attracting the tourist to Australia is only half the task. Just as important is the development of the many amenities, services and facilities inside Australia needed to ensure that the tourist is effectively catered for during his visit. Massive capital investments will be needed from the industries concerned. I do not underestimate the difficulties and problems which may he faced in mounting the efforts necessary to meet the expected demands. State governments will also be aware of this problem.
The Government hopes that its decisions in the overseas promotional field will stimulate equivalent decisions within Australia so that the total network of Commonwealth, State and private enterprise interests involved will work together to achieve the rich potential which Australia possesses in this field. The time has come for Australia’s tourist drive to change to a higher gear. The state of Australian development, and the state of development of international travel, combine to offer us a rich potential if we accelerate our efforts to a tempo which will succeed in attracting greater numbers of tourists. The opportunities are there. It is now up to Australia to make its bid. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr 3. F. Cairns) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
Debate resumed (vide page 1018).
– As outlined by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), who -led for the Opposition in this debate, we do not oppose the Bill, but we criticise its inadequacy. It has been truly said that finance is government. Today we find the prophecy of that great and celebrated former Prime Minister, Alfred Deakin, fully achieved. His prophecy, may I remind honourable members, was that the States of Australia would ultimately be tied to the financial chariot wheels of the Federal Government. And so we find the situation today.
Constitutionally, our relationship with the States is quite paradoxical. As any law student will tell you, Sir, we are governing under a limited Constitution, and we are dealing with States which themselves are sovereign and which existed long before the National Parliament was established under the Commonwealth Constitution. Accordingly, our relations are greatly fettered and circumscribed by the obvious and continued limitations of that Constitution. In particular, anyone who reads in a general sense through the Constitution will find quite a preoccupation in that early era with the questions of free trade, excise and protection. A very considerable part of the Constitution is devoted to the allocation as between the States and the Commonwealth of revenues from customs and excise duties. Today those things are relatively minor in terms of a modern state, in an age of technology. We have arrived finally at the position where we no longer have merely three smaller States which are classified as mendicants; we have no fewer than six sovereign States which are in degrees of graduated mendicancy vis-a-vis the Commonwealth, which itself operates under a limited Constitution.
The final wrecking of the financial sovereignty of the States has, of course, been by the introduction of uniform taxation under the pressures generated by World War II when, obviously, as a matter of commonsense in a period of grave national danger, it was necessary for the then Prime Minister to introduce such legislation. With the end of the war and an attempted reversion to the status quo, the priority in taxation of the Commonwealth was established, and now we come to the point which we might term the very nadir of financial tutelage, when even attempts to devise formulas for tax reimbursements and supplementary grants have to be abandoned. We have now reached the stage where the only rights of the States are those conferred by grants in aid under section 96 of the Constitution.
In this connection, it is interesting to quote from the second reading speech of the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) when introducing the measure. In that speech he said:
Honourable members may recall that the former system of tax reimbursements and supplementary grants to compensate the States for loss of income tax revenue arising from the adoption of the uniform tax system was replaced in 1959 by arrangements for the payment of financial assistance grants.
Today, the States are in a position of complete financial tutelage. They depend upon the whim, the caprice or sense of national responsibility of the Federal Government of the day for the financial sinews of their administration. It is interesting to note, too, that many of the current financial problems of the States arose from the last Budget. In that regard it is also interesting to note that the Commonwealth itself has a built-in profit from every wage increase resulting from decisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. A calculation has been made that over and above the added wage responsibilities of the Commonwealth Government, flowing from any such increase a profit of $70m a year is made in extra taxation of wages. The woes of the States since the last basic wage increase have flowed largely from the fact that the Commonwealth Government has pocketed with a smirk that $70m.
The original formula under the States’ reimbursement legislation was based on wage variations and population variations. I want to touch in this regard upon the special burdens which are imposed on the States by the present programme of immigration. We all welcome immigration, are proud of it and take credit that our former leader, the honourable Arthur Calwell, was responsible for its introduction. It has gone beyond any question of party controversy but nevertheless - and it is typical of the attitude of the Commonwealth Government in respect of the States in offloading its responsibilities on to them - we should consider the actual costs of immigration to the various States. To bring an average migrant family into and settle them in Australia costs the average State government a capital outlay of some $13,000. I am speaking in terms of a family comprising a man, his wife and three children of schoolgoing age, which I think is the average British family. It is necessary for there to be an outlay of $7,500 for the house and land that accommodates them. In an all-electric home today 7kW or 7*kW of power is required to operate the stove and other heating appliances. This will cost another $1,200. Hospital space for the same family will cost not less than $2,000. This is based on the optimum provision of eight hospital beds per 1,000 people. The average cost today for the establishment of a hospital bed is between $16,000 and $18,000. The cost of the provision of water and sewerage and the construction of dams will absorb another $800. Public transport will cost $400. The aggregate, without going into the minutiae of State expenditure on public utilities, will be $13,000.
Let us have a look at local government. Local government, of course, is the Cinderella of the system of government today. The technique of governmental responsibility in Australia seems to follow this well established and time honoured pattern. Firstly, where possible, Federal responsibilities in financial terms are offloaded on to State governments and, in turn, State governments offload as many of their responsibilities on to local government as local government is prepared to accept. Yesterday, in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ was a very interesting article on local government finance. It stated:
As Professor R. C. Gates pointed out in an address to the Cities and Towns Local Government Development Association of Queensland in Gympie last week, there are one Federal Government, six State Governments, and 900 local government authorities in Australia and of these local governments are very much the Cinderellas of the governmental system.
They have no constitutional guarantee of their functions or revenue resources and, largely because of the revenue restraints imposed on them, generally lack enterprise and finance.
The Opposition gets a gratuitous bouquet from the editorial writer who states:
Clearly the Whitlam-style Labor Party has started to give some thought to local government’s claim on Federal finance despite the fact that the larger State Governments make the most noise.
The editorial continues:
Indeed anyone concerned with the quality of life as well as the direct subsidies and material benefits must . be deeply concerned for the state of local government finances.
Professor Gates points out that local taxes, almost all from real property rates, provide about 55 per cent of funds for local government outlays, profits and depreciation allowances of business undertakings about 12 per cent, State Government grants about 14 per cent and net borrowingsabout 19 per cent.
These problems, of course, are under investigation by a royal commission established by the present New South Wales Government. Its findings are awaited with considerable interest. Submissions were made by the Council of the City of Greater Wollongong, which I have the honour to represent. The submissions were lengthy. I have a copy of them with me which I intend to present to the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) for his perusal at the request, by resolution, of that Council.
Within my own constituency we have had a growth in population, following on the development of the steel industry, from 63,000 in 1947, on the amalgamation of four local governing areas into a city, to at least 180,000, and possibly 190,000 if we include the unnaturalised migrant population. It has been utterly impossible within that area for local government to cope with the problems of development - legitimate problems of development - that have been imposed upon it by the remarkable growth of heavy industry. We have, of course, within my constituency the largest steel producing centre of the southern “hemisphere. Repeatedly the Wollongong Council has applied for direct grants in aid from the Federal Government, and it has invariably been refused, the stock answer being, of course, that grants are normally given to the State Government and it is its responsibility as to how they should be distributed. But there are precedents in the case of the City of Greater Wollongong for direct aid being given. Direct aid was given for the water supply for heavy industry. Another grant was given for the establishment of a coal loading plant at Port Kembla harbour.
Unless and until we can get some established relationship, based on a fair, sensible and democratic formula, as to the respective rights and responsibilities of the State governments and the Federal Government to share the national revenues there is an increasing case to be presented - and it will be presented by other honourable members of this House as well as myself - for direct grants in aid to local government. At present the Wollongong City Council is staggering under one particular impost in relation to subsidising the provision of sewerage. With the population explosion that has occurred within my constituency, and because of the urban sprawl, it has not been possible to sufficiently regulate the development of the area to a point where the installation of sewerage would be economically viable, and the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board has sought and obtained a substantial financial commitment by the Wollongong Council for the purpose of offsetting half of the cost of certain sewerage extensions. In the process it has literally pauperised the Council to the point where certain vital work has had to be put into the discard and it will remain there for the next four years. The Council is in a critical condition and it is getting short shrift from the State Government and equally short shrift from the Commonwealth Government. I would be lacking in my duty to my constituents if I failed to raise their case in the National Parliament.
In general terms local government is given the short end of the stick when it comes to the allocation of loan funds. Local government and semi-government borrowings are at a further disadvantage in that the interest rates that are payable to investors are lower than those that are available - and there are not the tax concession deductions available - in Federal Government and State government borrowings. A further example of the parsimony of the Commonwealth Government is its refusal to make even an ex gratia payment in respect of the migrant hostels. In my constituency, migrant hostels have a total population - constantly on the move of course - of more than 3,000. These people generate wear and tear on the roads and make demands on public utilities. But this Government, to its discredit, has refused to make any ex gratia payment. In contradistinction, the Commonwelth Banking Corporation, which has no statutory liability to pay rates to any council, does as a matter of decency and fairness make an ex gratia payment equal to the amount that it would have been liable to pay if it were responsible for the payment of rates.
I come to the question of roads generally. In New South Wales we have some 132,000 miles of main roads, arterial roads and secondary roads. The burden of their construction and maintenance is borne by 4,250,000 people. Let us contrast that with the United Kingdom, where the total road mileage is less than half that figure. It is about 65,000 miles. But the burden is shared by some 52 million people. That may temper the criticism of unthinking persons who choose to attack State and local government authorities for the limitations of our roads system. Of course, the Commonwealth Government again has done nothing to help. We find under the Commonwealth aid roads legislation that, because of the political persuasion exerted by a pressure group - commonly known as the Australian Country Party - a very substantial amount of excise duty on petrol and distillate goes into rural development while major centres of population are literally starved. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament recently made a scathing and fully justifiable attack on the Commonwealth Government for its niggardly attitude to the financing of road development.
The railways also suffer a similar burden. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), who is capable of an occasional intelligent contribution to debates, said that we should rationalise our railway systems and that if we did so we would be able to reduce charges considerably. Let me reply to the honourable member in these terms: New South Wales has some 6,000 miles of railway line under government control. If we were to adopt the tenets of private business and restrict ourselves to the rail traffic between, say, Sydney and Maitland, Sydney and Bathurst and Sydney and Melbourne, with about 1,200 miles of railway lines, we would have one of the best paying railway systems in the southern hemisphere. The rest of the lines naturally have been constructed to encourage development and the various governments of the day, either because of prescience or because of local pressures, have seen fit to expand these into railway services that are and will be for quite a number of years relatively unprofitable. At the same time, all sorts of pressures are applied. I have heard members of the Australian Country Party in the State Parliament whingeing and cringing in the morning, and asking for freight concessions for starving stock, and then at night blackguarding the Government for failing to make the railways pay. They want it both ways; they want the best of both worlds.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
- Mr Speaker, as I was saying before the suspension of the sitting, one of the major tragedies in relation to the railway systems of the various States has been the fact that land which appreciated considerably in value because of the construction of the railways was not taxed wholly or in part so that some proportion of the appreciation of values could be returned to the finances of those States.
Another major tragedy of the various States, of course, is that ever since they were colonised there has been an indiscriminate alienation of the Crown lands. In many cases it has been necessary for the various States to repurchase or acquire for purposes of local settlement at fantastically increased values some of the lands that were alienated in the good old days when anything went, provided that a person was a favourite of the Governor of the day.
Every year we have the Premiers Conference and the Australian Loan Council meetings, and the proceedings there are as ritualised as a brolga dance. There is an annual sham battle and a good deal of synthetic fury. The victors, of course, go home trumpeting their own praises, but invariably a few months later we hear howls of anguish from the various States about the shabby treatment they have received. Of course, as part of the farce the Commonwealth Government has prepared in advance the exact offers that it intends to make, and the utmost that is ever achieved is perhaps a minimal extortion of $2m or $3m apiece, and in return for that there is a good deal of bargaining behind the Speaker’s Chair.
At the present time the States of Australia are beggars at their own feasts. They are treated very summarily by the Federal Government. I think that in 1961, the official figures showing total Commonwealth Government securities on issue, or Commonwealth borrowings, shall we say, illustrate the true position better than any words of mine. In 1961 they amounted to $3,2 14m. In 1965, four years later, they had dropped to $3,133m, a drop of about $100m. In the same period - and the rub is here - the State borrowings had increased from $5,630m to $7,090m, an increase of about $ 1,400m. Where would the Commonwealth Government be if it were not for the existence of railways, roads, bridges, harbours, the industries in the various States, the irrigation schemes and the coal and steel production in the respective component States of the Commonwealth? As it is, the wealth is produced by them, but it is garnered by the Commonwealth and a niggardly amount of it is returned.
– The honourable member has not mentioned the Sinking Fund which also has to be taken into account.
– We will throw that in as well.
– You must compare one with the other and state the facts accurately.
– It has been the consistent practice of the Minister’s Government right through its term of office to off-load onto the States the financial responsibilities, to garner the tax revenue and give them a miserly and niggardly portion in return.
– Also we handle the Sinking Fund for them. The honourable member has not done his homework.
– I have, only too well. The Minister will have the opportunity to answer me if he chooses. In relation to urban redevelopment, we find that the heart of all our major cities is decaying. I say that relatively, of course. Commerce and industry is still there, but we find depopulation and a general exodus to the perimeter of the various conurbations throughout Australia. On a lesser scale this applies even within my own city of Wollongong. There are a number of reasons for this, and the main one is obviously that no State Government has yet tackled or been able to tackle the true question of urban redevelopment. The answer is simply multistorey building. We find throughout the world today the phenomenon of people leaving the country areas because of the impact of mechanisation on primary production. They are congregating in the towns, and the problems that are being created there are not being correctly assessed. Australia lags miserably behind the rest of the world in terms of urban redevelopment.
We hear a good deal from the Country Party about decentralisation, but the decentralisation which that Party advocates and which it would have the States and the Commonwealth financing is one based on its own political survival. From my experience within my own constituency, I know that a goodly proportion of the men coming into secondary industry were formerly ekeing out an existence in some of the country towns as part time labourers in primary production. Those people have been attracted by relatively better wages, although these are still capable of further improvement. We as a Party believe in decentralisation, but decentralisation of a very different kind from that which is associated with political survival for a pressure group. We believe in the development of Australia as a whole, and we believe particularly in northern development. The towns and cities that will emerge there will be based on the mineral wealth of Australia, on the development of the smelting of ores, and on the processing and fabrication of metals. Undoubtedly further steel mills and steel furnaces will be established in northern Australia. Of course, there will be rural development, too.
So far as the political allies of the Liberal Party are concerned, they have one thought and one thought only, and that is to secure their own political survival which is threatened by the coming redistribution. Unless they can achieve their objective, they will be, to borrow the simile of a former member of this House, dragged screaming like greedy kids from the political tart shop. There should be a national approach to the problems of Australia. We live in one of the most arid countries in the world, and when we hear criticism of the distorted development of Australia perhaps the criticism by the Country Party might be curbed by the thought that the development of Australia - the boomerang of development, as it is generally called, in the eastern, south eastern and portion of the southern perimeter of the continent - has been conditioned mainly by sea transport. The fact that the inland of Australia has not been fully developed and populated has been due to the inadequacy of inland transport in the early days. One of the classical illustrations of this, I suppose, is that in the early days the Hawkesbury River flats were the granary of Sydney and it was cheaper to take grain by boat down the Hawkesbury River to Sydney than it was to cart it a matter of 30 miles. The cost of transport of a 1-ton dray load of wheat to Sydney was about £18 10s. whereas the total value of a ton of wheat was £20. It was only because wool was more valuable and the transport costs represented only a small proportion of its value that inland development occurred at all in the early days of Australia.
We in this country have been for two generations in the grip of an agrarian pressure group, which has just one idea and no thought for the truly national interests of Australia. This Government has chosen to give it from time to time concessions that have reacted to the general detriment of the country. That Party is nothing more than a political excrescence, and the day when its reign ends will be the day that Australia truly progresses and becomes a first-class and democratic nation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howson) read a third time.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill 1967.
Tasmania Grant (Gordon River Road) Bill 1967.
Debate resumed from 5 April (vide page 922), on motion by Mr Howson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Speaker, this Bill seeks to amend section 8 of the Income Tax Act 1966 and section 7 of the Income Tax (Partnerships and Trusts) Act 1966. It stems from proposed adjustments to the means test provision in the social service legislation. It relates to what is known broadly as the age allowance provisions of the income tax law, under which a person may receive a social service pension, which is now $13 a week, and in addition may have what is known as a permissible income, which was previously $7 a week, without payment of tax. The ceiling has therefore been $20 a week. The permissible income of $7 is to be increased to $10 for single persons and $17 for married couples.
It has long been regarded as an anomaly that any male person over 65 and any female over 60 should be taxed if he or she receives an income less than I have just mentioned. It has been believed that there should be a floor, as it were, below which no tax should be paid and above which tax should begin to apply. Unless there were a sliding scale an anomaly could exist because, if a person earned $1 over the permitted amount, that person could be asked to pay $70 or $80 in tax. Because of this possibility, there are what are known as shading out provisions.
Every time the pension or, as in this case, the permissible income is altered, it is necessary also to vary the age allowance provisions in the income tax law. That is what this Bill purports to do but, as I will endeavour to show in a moment, it departs from what the logic of the age allowance requires. On behalf of the Opposition I now move the following amendment, which I shall explain in more detail in a moment or two:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘while not opposing the passage of this Bill with its limited benefits for aged persons, this House is of opinion that the adjustment of the age allowance for tax purposes should be for the full year instead of pro rata for ten weeks only’.
This amendment will be seconded by the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor).
I appreciate that this is rather technical legislation, but it seems to me that the Government has been very petty in the way it is now seeking to amend it. For instance, immediately the next financial year starts it will be necessary to introduce amending legislation in precisely the same terms as are contained in my amendment. Alterations to the basic rate of pension have generally been made to apply as from about 1st November. In other words, one third of the financial year has expired before the new pension rate has become payable. When the age allowance has been adjusted on such occasions it has been conceded that the adjustment should apply to the full annual amount of the pension adjustment. In all equity and logic, that is what the Government ought to have done on this occasion. However, what it is seeking to do is to increase the permissible income by $30, which presumably is the amount by which the means test for age pension purposes will be adjusted. Only some will get the benefit because, like a string of sausages, the benefit will go down from $3 to 3c a week. The age allowance is to be adjusted upwards by only $30 - presumably for five pension periods. As there are only five pension periods until the end of this financial year, presumably the maximum increase in permissible income that anyone may receive in that period will be $30, on the basis of $3 a week for ten weeks. The Government is adopting the niggardly approach of increasing the permissible income by only $30 instead of by $156, which the logic of the matter demands.
Income tax is based on an annual assessment of a person’s financial circumstances. If one looks at the age allowance in other cases one finds that it has always been a multiple of thirteen, because it has been worked out on the basis of a full annual increase. On other occasions, when the pension has been increased as from November and one third of the financial year has gone, it has not been regarded as illogical for those who would be taxpayers except for the operation of the age allowance to be given the full twelve months increment when the age allowance was adjusted. On this occasion, because we are at the nether end of a financial year rather than in the early part, the Government has taken a parsimonious and petty approach and has adjusted the permissible income by only $30. Although I have looked closely at this I cannot see any logic that may have motivated the Government in doing it this way. It is, of course, the result of a promise made by the Government at election time. That promise was contained in the policy speech delivered in November, which is about the time at which, in normal circumstances, social service amendments would be put through the Parliament. But I cannot see any logical reason for providing a limit of $30. This appears to represent a most niggardly approach. After all, the people concerned do not have to lodge their income tax returns until after 1st July 1967. The people receiving the advantage of the pension increase start to benefit immediately. There is no direct relationship between the $30 that those people will get between now and the end of June and the amount of income tax concession which some people are going to receive.
As the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr Howson) said in presenting this legislation, this thing has always been correlated, or collated - I am not sure which word he used-
– Yes, correlated, and to my mind it has been correlated on an annual basis, not a pro rata basis. That is the basic point of my amendment. If on a weekly basis a person is entitled to a certain pension and a certain permissible income, the same amount, in essence, is multiplied by fifty-two to give the age allowance. The Government is departing from that practice on this occasion, and I point out that even if it does not alter the pension in the next Budget - and I hope that it will do - and it does not alter the permissible income, to get back to the logic of this provision it will have to make a separate amendment to insert in the income tax provisions the precise terms of the amendment or amendments that perhaps I could move but am not going to move in the Committee stage. I am making my point in the form of a second reading amendment in order to direct attention to it. but if I had, as I could have, proceeded to the point of an amendment at the Committee stage this would have involved six separate amendments to clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill now before us. These amendments would have been as follows:
– Some people, having once had the experience, want to repeat it two or three times. One may jest about this matter but it is a matter of some concern to not very many people. I suggest that the Government give it sympathetic consideration.
I rest my case at this point, hoping that the Government may reconsider its niggardly pro rata approach to this matter of permissible income. I hope, that it will see the error of the expert advice it has received and will benevolently concede that the permissible income for this year should be increased by the full $156.
– Order! Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– The purpose of the Bill is to extend a taxation concession which was first granted by this Government in the 1951-52 income year to persons of pensionable age but who are not pensioners. The Bill was designed to see that they do not have to pay income tax on an income which is no higher than that which pensioners are permitted to earn tax free. So it follows naturally that each time there is a relaxation of the means test, as has happened on this occasion, some adjustment has to be made to the income tax age allowance.
Let us see ‘how the allowance works. I will use the figures that will apply after the passage of the current social services legislation, which increases permissible earnings by $3 a week. A pensioner couple in receipt of the full amount of pension will receive $23.50 a week. They will be permitted to have an income of $17 a week, thus enabling them to have a total income of $40.50 a week tax free. In addition they may have exempt income, because for social services purposes rent, dividends or interest which they derive from property is not counted. The actual value of the property itself does count in the calculation of their assets, but the income from the property is ignored. To the best of my belief it is ignored also for income tax purposes, because I have never been aware of any pensioner in receipt of 100% pension being assessed for income tax. 1 do not quarrel with that.
In addition the pensioner enjoys a great many concessions. For instance, the pensioner medical service must be worth a great deal of money to pensioners who, because they are in receipt of the pension, must be sixty or sixty-five years of age. In addition, pensioners enjoy concessions with regard to telephone rentals and television and broadcasting licence fees. They get quite a number of concessions from various State authorities. Probably all States grant concessions relating to train, tram and omnibus fares. Pensioners receive concessions with respect to gas and electricity accounts. Some get free firewood and in many cases their rates are deferred. I do not quarrel with any of this. I have always stood for the best possible deal for pensioners that the economy can stand.
At the same time I do not believe that people who are the same age as pensioners and who would be pensioners but for the fact that they have provided for themselves should be any worse off than pensioners. The people who have provided for themselves have done so perhaps because they have continued to work. Quite a lot of people who have reached retiring age want to stay at work for various reasons. Some feel that they have something useful to contribute. Some perhaps need the extra money. Others want to keep themselves occupied. Remember that the retiring age of sixty years for women and sixty-five for men was fixed a long time ago when people of those ages were regarded as old. Today many people of those ages are performing very useful functions. Some of them have saved their money during their working lives and invested it in real estate or other investments. Because they have provided for themselves they receive none of the concessions to which I have referred. If the income they have provided for themselves is no higher than $40.50 a week, they pay no income tax. Later, if they claim the age allowance - it is their duty to notify the Taxation Branch that they have reached the age for which the age allowance is granted - their tax is calculated by one of two methods. Firstly the Taxation Branch calculates the tax by the normal method - gross income less medical expenses for a start, and as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) pointed out, as people become older their medical expenses naturally tend to become higher. In addition they receive a deduction for educational expenses if they still have dependent children undergoing educational training. They get a deduction for any rates they pay to local government or water supply authorities.
They get a deduction for life assurance premiums on policies for which they may still be paying. Some policies are whole of life policies, not endowment policies expiring at a particular time. They get a deduction for premiums paid in respect of accident insurance policies. They get a deduction for donations made to approved charities. That is the first method by which the tax may be calculated.
In the second method no regard is paid to the first $40.50 a week. Thereafter income tax is charged at the rate of 45% on the amount by which the weekly income exceeds $40.50. I want to make it clear that the taxpayer is never the loser; he pays whichever is the lesser amount. When the income is such that the tax calculated by the second method, that is the age tax allowance method, is equal to the tax calculated by the normal method, the concession cuts out. On many occasions in the past few years, as recorded in ‘Hansard’, I have said that in my opinion the rate of 45% on the excess income is far too high. In many cases the effective rate of taxation is much higher than 45% because of the fact that there are no concessional deductions. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports referred to the fact that there were no concessional deductions. I have been saying this for years and to date I have been a voice crying in the wilderness. I am glad to have the support of the honourable member and I hope I will have the support of other honourable members on both sides of the House so that we may do something in the matter to give justice to these people. But up to the present time the rate of 45% has been calculated on their gross income. People in this group lose the right to deductions which are allowed to every other group of taxpayers. At the same time many of them have to pay income tax to provide free medical services and other concessions to pensioners who are in the same age group as they are. Because these people to whom I refer have provided for their old age, not only are they denied concessions for themselves but they have to contribute to provide concessions for other people. These people should be encouraged instead of being given a kick to help them on their way.
– The honourable member has made reference to the nine-twentieths provision, has he not?
– Well, nine-twentieths is the same as 45%. That is only another way of saying nine-twentieths. I have decimalised it.
– He has decimalised it.
– We are using decimal currency now. It was originally written in as 9s in the £1, but there is not much sense in talking about 9s in the £1 when we are dealing with dollars and cents. It is easier to understand as 45%.
Many of these people are working when they could be sitting back and waiting for the taxpayers to pay them $23.50 per week and give them all the other concessions. They find that they are being penalised because of their thrift. It is not penalised to the extent that it was under a Labor government because the age allowance did not exist when Labor was in office. It is a good thing that we are progressing. I hope that in another ten years we will not be able to look back and say that the stage we reached in this year was the ultimate.
The people in the group to which I have referred contribute to the national income. They are doing a useful job by keeping themselves off the list of unemployed. If they were to register for employment admittedly they would not receive unemployment benefits; but they are entitled to register and a lot of them, by earning income for themselves, do not clutter the list. We ought to be helping them. It is just a question of what we should do to help them. Perhaps one way would be to reduce from 45% to 20% or even 25% - to 4s or 5s in the £1, if honourable members prefer me to put it that way - the rate of tax they pay on income over the exempt amount. Alternatively we could allow them concessional deductions and tax them at the normal rate on the balance, or we could do both. I cannot see any reason why we could not do both.
I could suggest a third method which I have mentioned previously in this House and which I believe has the blessing of the Australian Taxpayers Association, if that is worth anything. The Association believes that this third method would be simple to calculate and would be perfectly fair in its operation. We could grant a concession to persons of pensionable age who are not pensioners. Briefly, the method would work in this way: after calculating the rate of tax that a taxpayer should pay after taking into account the present age allowance the Government could deduct an amount of $4 for each year by which his age, and also that of his wife, exceeded sixty-five or sixty, as the case may be. In other words, when the man reached sixty-six years of age he would get a deduction of $4 from his assessment for that year. When he reached seventy years of age he would get a deduction of $20 from his assessment As I have indicated, his wife’s deductions would apply from the time that she turned sixty years of age.
I think this is a quite fair method, because by working on a flat rate the wealthy person of pensionable age would not get a greater concession than would the person who was earning an amount just in excess of the pension. I am not pretending that merely because a person turns sixtyfive years of age he is among the indigent poor. Some of these people are better off than members of this House will ever be. But if we institute a principle which is to apply right through and if we make a flat rate calculation, we will not be granting any greater benefit to those who are better placed than we would be granting to others not so well placed. This method in addition to being perfectly fair would provide an increasing benefit with increasing age, when I think the greatest help is needed. With increasing age not only do medical expenses increase but even the cost of maintaining a pensioner’s home increases. The older a person becomes the more he has to spend on these things, and I believe that by adopting the suggestion that I have made he would receive the greatest help at a time when the extra money would do him the greatest amount of good. In addition, I believe that it would be quite simple to operate.
This is not a contentious Bill. The Opposition has signified its agreement to it. I thank the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) for having it introduced, even though it merely follows a principle which was introduced some years ago. I hope the Treasurer will have a look at the principles I have enunciated and that when the amending Bill to which the honourable member for Melbourne Ports referred is introduced to apply to the next taxation year he will do something about the suggestions I have made.
– It gives me considerable pleasure to support this Bill which relates to income tax as it applies to aged persons. The only point I query is whether we are doing enough for these people. I am inclined to agree with some of the statements of the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox). The people who will be affected by this Bill started their working lives about fifty years ago. To give some indication of the situation at that time, the Budget of this Parliament in 1910 or 1911 amounted to £l6m, or $32m in today’s currency. Today the situation is quite different. The last Budget amounted to approximately $6,000m. The people who started out their working lives at the time to which I have referred have now retired and have come within the scope of this Bill. On many occasions they find themselves suffering considerable hardship.
If we consider the way that Australia has developed over this intervening period - and it is now being developed further - we find that these people were prepared to go out and take up a job of work which they liked. Sometimes, of course, they did not like doing what they had to do, but nevertheless they had the initiative to go out and build up this country. They had very little, but many of them were determined to carve out a life and establish a family home by their own means. They went through life building up what they could until they arrived at the time of retirement. Now they obviously are living on the earnings of many years. In the society in which we find ourselves today many of these people are in considerable difficulty. They are in the situation where they cannot receive the benefits that age pensioners receive from the taxpayers of this country. Of course, many of them like to retain their independence. Indeed, in many cases they have to because of the circumstances in which they find themselves. Because they are earning more than a certain income or because they have certain means which are not really sufficient to provide their needs, they are not in receipt of many of the things which pensioners are receiving.
The honourable member for Henty mentioned some of these things, and I agree with him. I believe that the Government should look at these matters more closely because, as I said before, many of these people are in dire circumstances because of increased costs. They are living on savings which they provided for themselves over a long period of time. That money was earned earnestly and sincerely but is not sufficient to provide for them in their old age. I believe that the Commonwealth Government could grant a telephone rental concession to all persons over sixty-five years of age. To do so would cause no great hardship to the economy of this country. A reduction of 50% or something like that would be of tremendous assistance. Some people of this age may not want a telephone but usually the reverse is the case. Perhaps many of them have been without a telephone for a great part of their lives but when they reach this age and are living alone they feel that they should have a telephone and usually there is only one reason why some of them do not have one. Elderly people can derive great comfort from the knowledge that they can contact the outside world quickly should they wish to do so. They may be in poor health or may have families in various parts of Australia, or beyond, and the telephone is one medium by which they can keep in touch, even if it is only to receive inward calls. For many the cost of rental is the big worry. We should give serious consideration to making telephones available to these people at no more than half the normal rental, whether it is the city rental or the country rental.
Similar concessions should be granted in respect of television and wireless licences which also come within the control of the Commonwealth Government. People in this age group generally are not able to get around very well and so do not travel much. They prefer to stay at home and enjoy amenities such as radio and television. Many people who have worked hard all their lives and retained their independence cannot afford these amenities and I believe that the Commonwealth should assist them. The Bill we are discussing, of course, is in line with another Bill which was introduced in the House recently. But I do raise a number of questions relating to pensioners and to people of pensionable age who do not receive pensions. I think that the entire situation facing people over sixty-five years of age should be looked at.
We are particularly short of skilled workers in Australia today. Certainly this is so in the State from which I come and I have no doubt that a similar situation exists in the other States. In these circumstances we should be doing everything we can to encourage elderly people to continue an active and useful life, not only for their own benefit but for the benefit of the country. Many people of sixty-five years - the generally accepted retiring age - are quite capable of continuing to do a useful job in our society. We should give them more encouragement to do this by allowing them tax concessions on their earnings. How many times have honourable members heard people of sixty or sixty-five years saying: ‘It looks as though I am no good any more. They are going to throw me out on to the scrap heap.’? We all hear that said quite often. People like to feel that they are useful and that they are wanted by the community. The spirit of independence is characteristic of Australians. They like to feel that they can still do a good day’s work and that they are still useful to society.
I believe that the Commonwealth should examine all these matters in the light of the circumstances we find ourselves in today. We have a very healthy climate - vastly different from that of some other countries. Many of our people live and work in the open air. I know from working amongst people of this type that many of them want to continue working. They enjoy the open air life and the healthy environment. But if they are told that they are no earthly use any more and should go on the pension their incentive and their spirit are destroyed. If we are to continue building this country, with our small population of about 11 million people and our great expanse of territory, surely we need all the skills and abilities that we can muster.
If skilled and able people want to continue to work after attaining the age of sixty or sixty-five and so help to build this great nation, then surely it is within the power of the Commonwealth to pass legislation to enable them to do so. We hear all sorts of arguments about disadvantages to the younger workers and to the nation if this were done. But in Australia today there is a job for any Australian - young, middle-aged or elderly - who is prepared to go ahead, learn and work. There is no doubt about that. We have to maintain incentive. If the Australian people lose their incentives and their individuality, then as a democracy we may as well pack up. I do not suggest that this will happen here but it has happened in some countries. When incentive goes industry lags and life is not as interesting as it should be.
Incentive is not something that should be given only to persons just leaving school and starting out to find an occupation. Incentives should exist throughout life. If men wish to continue working when they reach retiring age, and they still have the ability to do so, then why not let them? Skills are far too scarce for us to throw willing people on the rubbish dump, as it were. I could never agree with this practice. We know that many men have served as very useful members of this Parliament for long after the age of sixty-five. If it is fair enough here it is fair enough in every walk of life.
This Bill will give a little more incentive to the people affected by it. But this is only one of the matters we should look at. There are many incentives which the Commonwealth could offer to people of this age group to make their lot much easier and more enjoyable. 1 do not like the suggestion one hears from time to time that people who have saved their money to be independent should get rid of it quickly in order to qualify for a pension. I do not think it is right that this should have to happen. Our legislation should be broad enough to take account of most of those circumstances in order to allow elderly people to continue the life they have known and have been used to. Because of the rate at which this country is developing and because of our cost-price squeeze, as we call it, for many years people will be finding themselves in a difficult position upon retirement. I feel that it would be a most worth-while exercise for the Government to look at these points to see what incentives can be given to these people in the ways that I and the honourable member for Henty have mentioned. These are only a few of the directions in which help can be given. There are many more. They would not cost the
Commonwealth Government very much, but the granting of the incentives would mean a tremendous amount to a vast number of people of this particular age.
– We have before us the Income Tax (Aged Persons) Bill 1967, and I want to point out at the beginning of my comments that the Bill simply extends the existing age allowance by the amount of $156 being the liberalisation of the means test under the Social Services Act now under consideration. For the purpose of this current income tax year there is provision, of course, for only a proportionate amount of that extension. It is in this connection that I note the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) has moved his amendment. I am sorry that I did not hear the whole of his contribution but he evidently feels that this is only fiddling with the age allowance, and I have some sympathy with him. I am disappointed that we should take such a small proportion for the balance of the financial year of such an insignificant item; but these are some of the things that we have to accept.
I turn to the income tax return form to refresh my mind and the memories of honourable members as to what the form actually states with regard to the age allowance. On the front of the return, there is reference to an age allowance. The particulars required in connection with this have to be completed by male and female taxpayers born before the years 1901 or 1906 who claim this allowance. The first impression gained by aged people is that this is an age allowance which will apply to all taxpayers born before those years. It is significant that in the return the taxpayer who receives a Commonwealth pension, whether it be war, invalid, age or widow’s pension, is not required to set down that pension as income; it is treated as being exempt. Yet, on the front page, in connection with the age allowance, an aged taxpayer is required to draw back into the statement on the return the exempt pension and exempt income that are not required to be stated elsewhere. This is a requirement to establish this so-called net income. It is misleading particularly to elderly people who do not employ a taxation agent to fill out their returns. Of course, if they are exempt they do not have to put in a return, but if they are a little above the limits about which we are going to speak and about which others have spoken, then, of course, the submission of the return is essential and they are going to be taxed, and we want to show the House that they are taxed pretty severely, as my colleague the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) said in his speech a few moments ago.
So I do not like the provision on the front of the return, and I would be only one of thousands in the country who feel that we ought to find a formula different from this so that we do not call these elderly people to come back to a statement of the exempt or pension income. Then there is an explanation on the return form of what this age allowance is. The words ‘age allowance’ appear very prominently on the form and elderly people say ‘Oh, there is an allowance for us.’ At first flush, they think they are exempt, but then there is the explanation. That is, the limitation of tax payable. When honourable members and senators write making representations on behalf of elderly people they get back a long letter which tries to support and sustain this provision. It refers to this, of course, as being a helpful provision. It is said to be a limitation of tax payable. As the honourable member for Henty has pointed out, when you read through it you find that when you pass a figure that is set down - the equivalent figure for the current full pension, plus permissible income - the elderly person is to be taxed at the rate of nine-twentieths, or 45%, of what is called the excess income.
When this is taken factually - I want to put a concrete case - it is disconcerting. But let us go back to the history of this age allowance. I am pleased to use a summary supplied urgently at my request by the Commissioner for Taxation. The age allowance provision was brought into our taxation legislation in 1951. It was first applied in the interests of elderly people for the taxable year 1952. Broadly stated, the exemption point is based on the sum of the maximum age pension and the maximum amount of independent income that might be derived by an aged person without any reduction occurring in the pension. In the year 1966 it was $624 for the pension plus $364 permissible separate income. lt is interesting to note how this Government has increased social service benefits in the period from 1952 to 1966. Indeed, the increase in social service benefits in that period has been most impressive. Likewise, there has been an adjustment year by year, as required, to this age allowance, lt was lifted from the exemption point of £234 in 1952 to $958 in 1966. But, with respect to the single person, for example, there is supplied for my information a column which I try now to use in simple terms. It relates to the reduced tax which may be payable on the amount between last year’s ceiling of $989 for complete exemption and $1,148. This is referred to as the marginal allowance or marginal relief which is granted. This again, in the Bill before us tonight, is adjusted upwards because of the increase in the permissible income.
Until 1963, both taxpayer and spouse were required to have reached pensionable age. From 1964 onwards, no limit is specified with respect to the age of a spouse. I draw attention to the fact that the Government adopted this recommendation from the Ligertwood Committee which was a Commonwealth committee on taxation review. With that summary in mind, I would like to move on to say that it seems to me that aggrieved aged taxpayers who make their representations genuinely to members regarding the operations of this age allowance are deserving of the sympathy and understanding of the Government. As I have stated, the net income which is referred to in the return form, again as taxable income, without a shadow of doubt, causes complexity in the minds of many people, aged and others, who may look into the subject. This is not my view only, for when I turn to the report of the Ligertwood Committee of 1961, I find that in chapter 8 the Committee has tabulated much of the material which had been put to it regarding the tax payable by aged persons. It dealt with the taxable income or net income test in the following terms:
It has been proposed to us that Age Allowance should be based on a ‘Taxable Income’ rather than a ‘Net Income’ test.
The Committee remarks:
From the submissions received and discussions with the writers thereof, it is evident that ‘net income’ creates confusion in the minds of aged persons, and the term is often not understood by them.
The Committee also says:
The complexity in the law is, to some extent, the cause of misunderstandings, and the linking of Age Allowance income-limit to a periodically changing age pension does not assist towards a clear comprehension of the taxation provisions.
Another difficulty is that after ascertaining his taxable income on the income tax return form, an aged person is required to ascertain ‘net income’ by adding to the figure of taxable income the amount of concessional and some other deductions as well as the amount of exempt income (such as pensions) - which latter amount is not otherwise required to be entered on the return form.
My contribution a few moments ago is immediately confirmed strongly and earnestly by a committee of taxation experts who did a job for the Commonwealth in 1961. Some of my colleagues may have missed the following point that that Committee made:
It is apparent from the submissions that one or more of the following erroneous views are held by many aged persons. This has arisen largely from complexities in the existing provisions, particularly those relating to ‘net income’. For example, it is often erroneously thought that a net income’ test means that:
The taxpayer is being assessed on a figure of taxable income equal to the net income, whereas net income is only used to determine the limitation of the tax payable.
The aged person is denied concessional deductions for dependants, medical expenses, &c. - this is not so for the same reason as (I).
In this respect the Committee stated:
In our opinion, the main scope for review of Age Allowance provisions lies in simplification and removal of complexities.
Here is the nub of it. The Committee referred to policy and said that policymaking lay with the Government. It stated:
The liberalisation of Age Allowance is a matter of Government policy and being a concession, is subject to anomalies and inconsistencies which can never be entirely eliminated, as each variation of the provisions only served to move the line of demarcation to a different point.
It should be noted that although the Committee recommended that taxable income should replace net income, this was not adopted by the Government. Income, under the age allowance, is normal income such as superannuation, which an elderly person who has been frugal and thrifty and made provision for his elderly age is receiving, plus any dividends on investments. As I have said it has to be added to by any exempt income or exempt pension. To get the exempt income, as the honourable member for Henty said, one can only deduct the expenses relative to deriving any income. In other words, there is no recognition of trying to get to the point of limiting the tax payable. There is no recognition of any deduction for medical and hospital benefits, and these must be paid by the elderly people who are not in receipt of a pensioner medical card. There is no deduction for medical and hospital expenses, which are an increasing burden on elderly people. There is no allowance for personal accident insurance. If elderly people make gifts, these are not taken into account. If they own their own home they must pay rates and taxes and these are not allowed. Someone surely had a brainstorm when this procedure was conceived in this fashion.
Surely the basic intention of the age allowance is to exempt from taxation income up to the amount of the full age pension plus permissible income. Whilst an aged person may think that his thrift and his provision for his old age - which, of course, has relieved the Commonwealth from paying him social service benefits, no doubt for a number of years- will entitle him to an exemption similar to that achieved by those dependent upon the pension and with limited income, he finds it just does not work out thai way. Because he receives more than his neighbour, notwithstanding his advanced age and the exemption his neighbour enjoys, he is helped, so the authorities claim, by a limitation of taxation payable. This marginal relief is available up to a predetermined figure; $1,264 for a single person and $2,958 for a married couple. These predetermined figures will apply in future, according to this Bill. But the taxation payable on the excess income within these margins last year was nine-twentieths of the excess plus 2%.
I ask: How scientific was the choice of this rate? Let an aged taxpayer speak for himself. In August last year I received a letter, which I submitted to the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and when the Treasurer said to me yesterday that he could not follow or understand me, I was amazed, because this letter would be typical of many representations made to him. The letter is from an elderly man, aged seventy-two years, who is receiving a part war pension. He is a ret/red Commonwealth public servant. He writes as follows:
I wish to bring to your notice what I consider to be a definite piece of trickery made to deceive those seeking relief under the age allowance in respect of taxation. If the combined income of taxpayer and spouse does not exceed $1,372 no tax is payable but if the combined income exceeded $1,872 but was not more than $2,700 tax payable shall not exceed nine-twentieths of the excess over $1,872 plus 2i%. This is where I contend the deception lies.
I have checked his figures carefully and the Department agrees that they are correct. The Commissioner of Taxation accepts all of his calculations as an accurate statement of the facts. His letter continues:
The average pensioner would understand that he would be taxed on the amount which exceeds $1,872 but in reality this nine-twentieths is 9s. in the £1 or 90c in every $2. Why can’t the Treasurer be honest and state clearly that excess income above £936 or $1,872 is taxable at the rate of 9s. in the £ or 90c for every $2 plus 2i%1
The writer then refers to his own case and states:
I am a retired Commonwealth public servant aged seventy-two years superannuated at £793 per annum which naturally debars my wife and self from receiving the full old age pension. My grievance is that the total income of myself and wife for 1965-66 is $2,004 made up as follows: $1,654 superannuation, $114 interest on investment, plus war service pension which makes our total income $2,004.
This is only $132 excess income under the age allowance statement to which I have drawn attention. His taxation on this $132 excess, in accordance with the ninetwentieths, is $60.90. The writer states:
You will note that the excess is made up of war pension, thus the present Government is paying me war pension with the right hand and taking a lump back with the left hand. I hope you will bring this blatant anomaly before the Treasurer.
I can assure him that I did, but I did not get very far, because the concept is being retained. I am not one who criticises my own Treasurer and my own Government. I am one who has very loyally supported what I believe has been constructive taxation legislation and impartial social service legislation. The social service problem for the fixed income earner was eased, I firmly believe and I believe all honourable members will agree with me, when we brought in the merging of the means test a few years ago, but in this area of income tax for aged people we need the Government to be more sympathetic and practical. I believe that the interpretation of the age allowance needs to be reviewed. We need a formula that will set a generous income limit, along the lines of the marginal area that is set out in the Bill, and grant an exemption similar to that which is enjoyed by the pensioner with a pension plus permissible income. This should be nontaxable for those people who are within the limit of income to which I have referred, and we should require a tax contribution less punitive on any excess. I do not think much is involved in this. It can be seen from what I have just said that I am not advocating that the elderly millionaire or a person of a somewhat lesser status should receive this, but I am saying that, within, say, $4,000 or some figure that can be assessed by the Government and its advisers, there should be granted an exemption similar to that enjoyed by other old people.
– Do you believe that there should be a tapering system?
– We have talked about a tapering system and a graduation. I do not mind if it is worked in this way, but I cannot find that the advisers to the Government are on sound ground here. .1 have in mind all that has been written about the net income and the taxable income in the very reputable report of the Ligertwood Committee in 1961. I think also of the representations that have been made to the Treasurer over a period of years and letters such as the one I have mentioned, which, I believe, has not received the deep consideration and understanding that 1 would have expected. When I take all this into account, I believe that we are on sound ground in saying that perhaps the advisers can sec the necessity for something to be done and for one reason or another the Government, with all its wisdom, has been blind to the points that have been underlined in this debate. I have some sympathy for my friend opposite, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, who invariably makes a considered speech on these matters. I know that he is niggling the Government when he says: ‘I have an amendment. I think it is a very small thing when you give this extension because of the increase in the means test of $156. You have pruned it back this time to $30.’ I have some sympathy for this and perhaps someone will ask: ‘Why do you say that?’ I say it because I believe it. I believe that with the income tax legislation we should try to do something practical and something of which we can be proud and that we must approach this in the spirit in which we have approached social services and achieved success with this Government.
I am not satisfied that we are doing the right thing for aged people. I am certainly a critic of the income tax form submitted by taxpayers each year. I do not need to go over the points I have made. I am disappointed when I read the Minister’s second reading speech and try to have a convincing argument advanced to me to sustain the measure. Knowing that other colleagues believe as I believe, I will leave my comments at that. I am not prepared to support the Opposition’s amendment in its entirety. I think it is a niggling amendment, but I have some sympathy with it. I hope sincerely that the arguments we have advanced in this debate and the representations that have been made in correspondence to the Treasurer will be taken in the spirit that they are offered and that in a very short time, perhaps before the next Budget, we will find a completely new outlook on the age allowance in the income tax legislation.
– The Bill seeks to amend the Income Tax Act to increase the exemption for aged people. It follows the undertakings given by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) in his policy speech and is consequent upon the amendment made by the Bill that has been introduced to widen the means test. These provisions may apply to men aged sixty-five years or more and to women aged sixty years or more if they are residents of Australia. For the current financial year, the age allowance exempts from tax an eligible aged person whose net income does not exceed $1,040. In the case of a married couple who meet the prescribed tests, exemption is provided if their combined net income is not greater than $1,950. A measure of relief is also provided by the age allowance where the net income is somewhat in excess of those exemption limits.
In the case of a single person the maximum income level is $1,221 and in the case of a married couple it is $2,882.
A Bill to amend the Social Services Act 1947-1966 was introduced in the last few days. It proposes to increase the means test for age pension purposes by $156 per annum. It is anticipated that there will be five pension pay days in the period from the date on which it is hoped this legislation will become effective until 30th June of this year. On a pro rata basis what is in effect the permissible income will be increased by $30 for that period. So the measure we are discussing tonight is designed to lift the exemption limits for the age allowance for income tax purposes. The exemption limits for the age allowance are correlated with the sum of the full age pension and the maximum amount of permissible income for the purposes of the age pension. In order to maintain that position, the Bill that we are discussing proposes an amendment of the Income Tax Act to increase by $30 the exemption limits for the age allowance. The new limits will, therefore, be $1,070 for a single person and $.1,980 for a married couple. Consequential adjustments of the maximum net incomes to which marginal relief is granted are also proposed by the Bill. The new income levels for this purpose will be $1,264 for a single person and $2,958 for a married couple.
I do not think that any honourable member could object to the Bill. The Opposition has moved a minor amendment, but in doing so says that it is not opposing the Bill as such but is suggesting a further increase. I support the Bill as it is. However, it does raise the problem of superannuated people in the community. I have in my electorate a fairly large number of people who have retired and for whose problem I have the greatest sympathy. The Opposition’s amendment does not solve their problem. These people have saved and accumulated capital throughout their working lives. When they retire they find that they are just outside the limits of the means test as it exists now and they will still be outside it even with the liberalisation proposed in the Social Services Bill. Consequently, they are unable to obtain a pension and, more importantly, they are unable to obtain the very helpful fringe benefits that were added, I think, in 1965. I refer to the extension of the pensioner medical service to all people in receipt of social service pensions. As I have said before in this place, I consider that this is a matter of considerable importance. It has been one of the highlights of the welfare legislation in the term of this Government since 1949 and indeed in the history of the national welfare of this country.
The widening of the legislation means that all those who are in receipt of a pension are able to get full benefit in terms not only of general practitioner medical services and public ward hospital treatment but also of pharmaceutical benefits. The importance of this is that it removes from the minds of aged people the fear of the cost of a crippling disease. As has been pointed out, modern medicine has shown an ability to maintain life. It does not necessarily cure the physical problems of aged people but it helps to maintain their lives. It has not advanced to such a stage at present where it provides complete cures for many illnesses, but in many cases it has enabled continuing medical treatment, possibly outside a hospital.
It is a very real fear of aged people that they may have to incur continual medical expenses. Therefore, the extension of the pensioner medical service two years ago was to me a matter of considerable importance. In the last two Budget debates 1 have suggested to the Government matters which would help to overcome this fear of people who are outside the pension scheme because of the operation of the means test but who are of pensionable age. One of the suggestions was for a total medicare extension and the other was for a subsidy of medical benefits. An alternative suggestion was that the Government should make up the difference between what the contributor to a medical benefits fund pays and the amount he receives back from the fund. This subsidy would relieve the fear people feel as they grow older. I know this from the contacts I have had with aged people.
If this is not possible, then I believe that there is a very great necessity for some fairness to be shown to those people who through good fortune or good sense have been able to save but because of their savings are unable to receive the benefit of either the pension or the fringe benefits that go with it. Therefore I support fully the remarks and suggestions of the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) and the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) who advocated that consideration be given by the Government for taxation relief to be given to people who are of a pensionable age but who are on a limited income. This is particularly necessary because of the difference that exists between the position of a person on the maximum amount of pension and who has permissible earnings, and that of a person whose savings preclude him from receiving the pension and all the benefits that go with it. The provision of a graduated scale of tax would be of real benefit, lt would be a recognition of the savings these people have made either by contributions to superannuation funds or, if they have not been able to contribute to superannuation funds, their good fortune in being able perhaps to run an effective business or to save during their working lives in order to invest in other forms of capital. lt is the importance of this question of graduation and relief to people who are of pensionable age but who, because of the means test are unable to receive the pension or the fringe benefits that go with it, that prompts me to ask the Government to consider this matter. I realise, of course, that as this taxation year is coming to a close no benefit could accrue at this stage. However, I support other honourable members on this side who have made this recommendation for inclusion in the next Budget. I believe that it will not cost the Government very much, but it will in real terms be a very great and important benefit to the people concerned.
I have proposed other things in the past in terms of the widening of the means test. I support the ultimate abolition of the means test and its replacement by some form of national superannuation or annuities. In the meantime, there are areas where support can be given to aged people to alleviate the problems they are facing. Anomalies are caused by the very fact that some people have had the good fortune to be able to save or, through frugality, have saved for their retirement. 1 think the principal legislation in this matter is of considerable importance because it is leaning towards the widening of the means test and ultimately its abolition. Each time the pension is increased because of rises in the cost of living, so in a small way is the means test widened. This present move is very important because it is fulfilling a philosophy and a policy which is pursued by my Party and which I support and believe in. The aim, as I have said, is a gradual widening of the means test towards its ultimate abolition. We would then have in Australia a situation where the vast majority of the people when they retire were in receipt of superannuation or retirement benefits and the Government would not need to provide pensions for them.
Of course, a small group in the community would still need support. Those people possibly would have a limited and very narrow means test applied to them because either through their inability to work as a result of illness or some other similar unfortunate factor in their lives they would not be in receipt of superannuation benefits. But they would need government support. I hope that we will reach a stage where the Government’s main interest in this field is to remove from aged people fear of ill health. The Government can do this by providing assistance not only with doctors’ fees and hospital fees but also with pharmaceutical expenses and with the extension of the pensioner medical service, so that the medical entitlement card is available to all people of retirement age. It is in this context that once again I raise the problem which we will face in the next generation or so because of a larger number of people who will have retired because of our advance into the age of technology and automation. More should be done in this area, because we are faced with problems of earlier retirement and greater leisure time. I commend the Old Peoples National Welfare Council for the work it is doing, and the Government for giving it a grant for research in this field. If I may philosophise for a moment, the very structure of our democracy will be based on the people, particularly those who are out of work - possibly because of retirement - but who believe they are still able to contribute to the development and life of the community,
I support this measure, which is supplementary to the more important measure introduced this week to widen the means test and which I hope we will discuss next week. I repeat that I would like to see some assistance being given to those who through frugality, ability and good fortune have been able to save money during their working lives but who because of the means test have been unable to receive either the pension or, more importantly, the fringe benefits that go with it.
– We have had a good illustration tonight, especially in the excellent speech of the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver), of the viciousness of the means test and related legislation. I commend the honourable member sincerely for the way he treated this subject and the evidence he presented to this Parliament to illustrate the way in which the age allowance operates. The letter he read from an age pensioner of seventy-two years and the details of that particular case ought to have nudged the heart* of any Treasurer, but obviously the present Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has allowed an encasement of hardness to form around his heart. He could not understand the case, and he did nothing about it.
The honourable member for Swan was courageous in criticising the Treasurers attitude to that particular case, and I commend him for his comments. I do not expect the honourable member for Swan to vote for the amendment, which is in line with one portion of our ideas on this subject. It seeks to extend the benefit from ten weeks to twelve months. However, his contribution deserves to be read by every honourable member who was not present to hear him speak.
– Particularly Government members.
– Yes, it would be a good thing if Government members read it, because he dealt with the whole problem around which this debate revolves. I have a great admiration for the officers of the Department of Social Services, who try to unravel the amendments made by this Parliament to the social services legislation and which are necessary only because we have a means test. The means test is gradually being abandoned but in the process one anomaly after another is being brought to the surface. When one anomaly is cured we create others. It is a fantastic story of confusion - of a hotchpotch of amendments and decisions by this Parliament over a number of years.
I have listened to debate on this subject for nearly twenty years and as a result I am quite convinced that the sooner the National Government brings in a national superannuation scheme the better it will be for the Parliament, for all the departments involved, and for the aged, the widows and the invalids. This debate has provided further evidence of confusion worse confounded and of injustice piled on injustice because of the operation of the wretched means test which creates so much extra work for so many people.
Just imagine, Mr Deputy Speaker, how much less work would be involved within the Department of Social Services alone if there were no means test. Hundreds of hours of work would be saved every year and all aged, sick and widowed people would be given national superannuation payments. There would be no involved legislation in this Parliament. As I have indicated, every male on reaching the age of sixty-five years and every female on reaching the age of sixty years would get a superannuation payment irrespective of his or her identity, place of work, income or assets. This arrangement would be clear cut, businesslike, just and humane. This means test is unjust and inhumane, although naturally there is some humanity in the legislation because a tremendous sum is paid out each year in social service benefits. I do not know the exact figure, but it must be at least $ 1,000m a year.
– It is $ 1,300m.
– I thank the honourable member for his interjection. Of course, 600,000 pensioners are being helped, but many people on the fringe are dying before they are able to get one cent in social service benefits just because they have a few dollars too many in the bank. This wretched piece of legislation was introduced into our social service structure years ago. In effect it is denying humanity and Christian treatment to thousands of deserving Australians who, just because they have saved money or have provided for their old age, are denied the benefits of the legislation, even though they have contributed thousands of dollars in taxation over the years. The officers of the Department who have to interpret amendment upon amendment to this wretched Act are to be congratulated on being able to follow the amendments we make. There are some members of the Government who suffer brainstorms when they decide to make amendments to social service legislation, but the officers of the Department of Social Services have to interpret those brainstorms, and they must suffer many nightmares in trying to do so. I must pay tribute to the officers of the Department of Social Services in Tasmania, particularly those in Launceston and in the State head office in Hobart. They bring infinite patience and infinite dedication to the job of interpreting the amendments that we authorise in this Parliament. They do a magnificent job, but their task would be much easier if there were no means test.
A few weeks ago the State conference of the Australian Labor Party at Devonport passed an important resolution which is to go before the federal conference for further discussion. Our resolution was to the effect that when a Labor Government comes to power it will immediately introduce a national superannuation scheme. Nothing less than this will be sufficient. New Zealand has introduced such a scheme. I have received the full details of it from the responsible Minister in New Zealand and I can say that the scheme is a credit to that country. Everybody pays so much in the £1 towards this scheme in the regular taxation payments, the amount varying according to the means of the taxpayer. The money goes into a fund out of which all social service payments are made. A person receives his pension or superannuation payment when he reaches the stipulated age. irrespective of his income or the money that he has in the bank. It is a humane and sensible scheme. Having listened to this debate tonight I am more than ever convinced that we must move quickly to introduce this kind of national superannuation scheme. It would do away with such wretched anomalies as we have been discussing tonight.
The legislation before use proposes to increase the permissible income of a pensioner by $30 over the next ten weeks, or $156 over a full year. This represents a slight easing of the means test. But as soon as we make this provision to help one section of the community by easing the means test we encounter taxation problems such as those which have been pointed out by honourable members in this debate. The honourable member for Swan condemned the whole concept of this legislation. Just before I came in to speak in this debate I was told by the secretary of my colleague the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard) of many cases that have been dealt with in the honourable member’s office in Launceston similar to the case mentioned by the honourable member for Swan tonight. We have heard how the Government pays a part repatriation pension, but because this lifts the income of the recipient beyond the permissible level he has to pay tax on that repatriation pension, or part of it, even as much as half of it. Where is the sanity in that kind of arrangement?
I am trying to point out the anomalies that we create when we try to correct an injustice brought about by the means test provisions. I know that honourable members on the other side of the House do not treat this as a political matter. This is one of the subjects that none of us treats politically. We all feel frustrated by this means test. We feel deeply for the people who are denied a pension because of a few dollars income. We should all get together and make sure that before the next five years have ended we will have in this country a sensible national superannuation scheme. It would have the unanimous support of this House and, I feel sure, of everybody outside the House.
When we start tampering with the means test the question always arises: what criteria shall we work by? The Government says: ‘The cost of living has gone up by so much per cent. We raised the income of pensioners last year, we must not raise i! this year but we will raise it in the year following’. Then the question arises: how are we to equate the pension to the increased cost of living? Who will judge what is just? So we find that a man in a Government office, or two men working together, or six men or even more in committee, say: ‘It should be raised by 50 cents a week’. But no norm is ever established which we can follow on other occasions. We work on a kind of hit or miss principle when we make pension increases. The whole procedure is ridiculous. It is not businesslike. In my opinion it is completely unchristian, and I regret that we have to bring in a bill like this which still creates anomalies, which still denies benefits to many people and which still forces hundreds and thousands of people who receive the age allowance to pay taxes. Whatever we do tonight the fact remains that thousands of people will still pay tax even though they are pensioners because their income is above even the increased level. So we do not solve the problem at all but merely postpone it for another day. This Parliament must introduce a national superannuation scheme as soon as possible to give justice to all people deserving of social service benefits.
– I rise to support this Bill for a number of reasons, principally because it brings relief to a section of the Australian community to which I sincerely believe we owe a great deal of appreciation for the work that they have done on behalf of the community. These people have occupied positions of some substance in the community in the past, even as far back as fifteen or twenty years or even more if they have enjoyed good health. I have listened with keen interest to the contributions made to this debate. I have particularly appreciated the suggestions made by the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox), the very comprehensive coverage by the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) and the outstanding performance by the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Bridges-Maxwell). With no political bias at all I must say I am disappointed in the contributions by the Opposition to a debate of such importance.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) is obviously conscious of the need for some improvement in the treatment of this section of our community. It is disappointing that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), who has been noted in this House for his contributions to debates on social services and repatriation, has not joined in this discussion. I believe he could have made a substantial contribution. I am disappointed also that the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) has chosen to get right out of the picture and concentrate on this matter of the means test. His submissions appeared to me to be completely negative. I can see from the smile on the face of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports that he agrees with me.
The honourable member for Henty made a submission which has considerable merit. The honourable member for Swan has also made a suggestion as to how we may overcome the problem of the disadvantage suffered by the people in the relevant category. The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Bridges-Maxwell) also made suggestions as to what we might do in this field. I am disappointed at the lack of practical suggestions from the honourable member for Melbourne Ports and his colleagues. Obviously they recognise the need for change but the amendment which has been moved is crude to the point of being quite useless in the long term. It smacks of political expediency for the moment. It is quite useless for 1967-68 and succeeding years. It is an example of dreadfully short term thinking.
I will endeavour tonight to open up a different field and give suggestions as to where we might offer some relief to those people whose income places them in what is termed the shaded area outside the exemption. To assist the House I will use the old figures; that is, those applying up to the point at which a change is made by this Bill. I will not confuse the issue by adverting to adjustments for this year or possible adjustments that may be made for succeeding years in the coming budget session. The Government could quite easily have refrained from increasing permissible income at all this year. I would like the Minister in charge of the Bill to convey to the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) an acknowledgment that it is a good thing not to bypass these people who will obtain some benefit from the increase in permissible income. They have been bypassed in the past whereas those in the pensioner groups have been looked after. Contrary to allegations made by honourable members opposite, the means test has now been attended to in a most graphic manner. There is no doubt that the increase of $1,560 in the value of assets is not something to be dismissed as a miscellaneous minor item. This is quite a graphic move forward in this field. The same argument applies to the increase of $156 in permissible income. Notwithstanding what the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) has said about the means test, I commend the Government for its courage in developing a system whereby the single pensioner is given an advantage pro rata to the age pension. The word ‘advantage’ is perhaps not the most appropriate to use on this occasion, but the single pensioner is given an opportunity of a slow step down.
I submit to the Treasurer for earnest consideration a suggestion, which I think the honourable member for Melbourne Ports made by way of interjection, that there should be some kind of tapering system. Whereas we now have an exemption of $1,020 in the case of single pensioners and then a shaded area before the exemption cuts out, I think we need at least another shaded area or perhaps even a third shaded area. Before this can be done it may be necessary to engage in a greater actuarial study of the outcome in the long term.
Four categories of pensioners are affected. Firstly, single pensioners; those people in the shaded area; those people beyond the range of the shaded area and those people in the shaded area but beyond the shaded area again in the marriage range. I hope by example to indicate that three out of those four categories are at a decided disadvantage compared with the pensioner group in the long term following the application of this income tax legislation. If a single pensioner has a gross income of $1,014 he is entitled to receive a pension of 50c a week. In addition he receives free medical, hospital and pharmaceutical care. He also enjoys a rebate of rates. Honourable members may say hurriedly that they will dismiss that because it has nothing to do with the Commonwealth, but let us face it: it is a realistic fact of life in most areas today that a pensioner in this group obtains a rebate of rates. He is at a distinct advantage compared with a person in the shaded area or outside the shaded area. In addition the pensioner receives a reduction of his broadcasting and television licence fees and in respect of his telephone rental. Again honourable members may rush in and say that these things are not necessaries of life, but I will contend with anyone as to whether a television set or at least a radio is a necessary of life once you reach the age of sixty or sixty-five years. Indeed, in latter years one may care to place the telephone in this same category. This then is the situation of a pensioner who comes within the exemption limits.
Now I turn to the second case. 1 ask honourable members to follow my arguments closely because it is easy to become very confused. This fact has been acknowledged around the chamber tonight. If a man has a gross income of $1,050 a year he is beyond the exemption limit. His tax is calculated as follows: from the amount of $1,050 he is given an exemption of $1,040, leaving a balance of $10. Tax is calculated on the basis of nine-twentieths of that amount, which gives him a tax of $4.50. To that figure is added a levy, if I may so describe it, of 24%, which is equal to 10c, making his total tax $4.60.
Let me refer back to the first case. That man immediately obtains his pension of 50c a week or $26 a year, which increases his income immediately to $1,040. That figure is just $10 a year less than that of the man in the second case. But let us look at that second man. From that extra $10 he has to pay his own hospital and medical expenses, his rates, and his television and broadcast licence fees. Investigations made in the last year by social service authorities show that the fringe medical benefits available to pensioners were worth about $1.60 a week calculated on a statistical basis. If that figure were applied to a single pensioner you would get a figure of about $83 a year, and I submit that this is a fair figure to put forward in a statistical exercise such as this. I admit that the amount could fall well below the figure I have quoted, but honourable members will know from experience that in possibly at least 50% of cases the amount will be higher, otherwise we would not have reached such an average figure. So we know that the medical concessions are worth about $83 a year. Rates on an average house in an average suburban area would amount to about $50 a year.
I do not think that is an inflated figure. Indeed, rates paid by pensioners living in better class areas could well be more. We then add amounts paid for television and radio licences. The rebate for a television licence is $9 and for a radio licence $4.50. For a telephone the rebate is $ 13. This adds up to $159.50 per annum. That is the concessional amount which these people are receiving.
– Not all pensioners have their rent rebated.
– I mentioned that earlier. But it is done in the main.
– Some of them have it accumulated against their estate.
– This is so. May I add for the benefit of the Minister that in some cases a pensioner may not only get a rebate but he may have the unpaid portion deducted from his estate. 1 have used this figure because 1 gather that many councils rebate the whole of the rates. I believe that it is right to bring rates into this argument.
I have referred to the figure of $159.50. We must add to that the amount of $4.60 which this man pays in tax. That gives us an amount of $164.10. If we deduct from that amount his $10 advantage, the pensioner has a decided advantage of $154.10 over the person who falls within the shaded area. His income is $895.90 as against the pensioner’s income of $1,040. lt is possible - when I use the word ‘possible’ I do not want honourable members to think that this is just an isolated case - for a person outside the shaded area who is not benefiting from any exemption to pass right back through the shaded area and to be at a disadvantage when compared to the pensioner.
I will give honourable members an example of this. I am dealing only with the single pensioner at present. The sum of $1,221 is the limit of the shaded area. I intend to use only the figure which I used in the case of a person who is within the shaded atea. It must be borne in mind that any extended illness or any problem which may occur would cause a person to move up and to come within the deduction area for income tax purposes. This could well exacerbate the problem which I am now about to outline to the House. A person of pensionable age may be in receipt of say $1, 250. This is not just a figure snapped out of the air. I have adopted a margin of $30. It can be applied in any example from $1,250 upwards, but I have used the sum of $1,250 throughout for the sake of the exercise. A man with a gross income of $1,250 becomes entitled to the usual deductions that apply to any person. So using the statistical figure of $159.50 as used in case one, this would bring him down to a net income of $1,090.50. The tax payable on this amount is $66.46. If we deduct the amount of $66.46 we get a sum of $1,034, which I admit is only $6 below the exemption which I quoted in an earlier example. However, the point I make is that a man who has organised his life, arranged for superannuation, and has calculated that he would receive a return of $1,250 a year now finds himself in the situation where he is at a disadvantage compared with the man who is receiving $1,040 a year.
I now move into the married area. It is bad enough to deny a married man the advantage of the means test but to reduce him to a sum lower than that received by those who are receiving a pension is really too much. I invite honourable members to consider the problem of the married person. My figures are changed only by doubling the medical figure to a round sum of about $170. Honourable members will remember I previously took the figure of $83 or $85. I am sorry to confuse the House by using so many statistics but, as I said earlier, I hope honourable members will try to follow the argument I am putting forward and thus see that the people in these three categories are at a distinct disadvantage. As I said, my figures are changed only by doubling the medical figure to a round sum of $170. This makes the total deduction $246.50. In the first example, that is in the case of people in the shaded area, I referred to a person earning $1,970, which is only a little over the qualifying amount of $1,950. It is just $20 over. This is the gross income for this particular person, whose income falls in the shaded area. His tax concession will be $1,970 less $1,950. This gives an equation of
I hope honour able members are following me. This works out at $9 plus 2½% or $9.22, leaving this person at an advantage of $10.78 when compared to any superannuitant who has had his money made up to $1,950 by a part pension. So, from an income of $1,970 we deduct $246.50 and we arrive at a sum of $1,723.50. Then, by deducting tax amounting to $9.22, we obtain an amount of $1,714.28. When we compare that with the amount of $1,950 that is received by a pensioner who has qualified under this Act, the man in question is at a disadvantage of $135.72 per annum. He is at a disadvantage when compared to his contemporary, if I might so describe him.
In the last example we have the only area in which a person gets any advantage at all. I refer to the married person outside the shaded area. I certainly hope that honourable members are still following me. I am referring to the person outside the shaded area who is not entitled to any tax exemption whatsoever. He is receiving an income exceeding $2,882 per annum. I have allocated this person an income of $2,940 per year for the purpose of the exercise. This is comparable with the example which I quoted for the single pensioner. From the amount of $2,940 we deduct the sum of $246.50 to which I referred earlier. I wish those honourable members opposite who are interjecting would give me a fair go. I am trying to explain a very involved formula which will affect many people. I will repeat again what I said. Under this formula, if we deduct $246.50 from $2,940 we are left with $2,693.50. For a man paying taxation the tax on that figure would be $380.23. That would leave a balance of $2,313.27. Under this formula the extreme figure for this taxation deduction is $1,980. Thus the man receiving $2,940 would have an advantage. He would receive the benefit of $463.27.
Under this formula such a man would be the only person to benefit from the legislation. What the actuarial details will reveal when this legislation is examined later I do not know. I will concede that point. But these figures prove conclusively that some action is needed to give some benefit, particularly in the shaded areas that I have mentioned, to both single and married people. Perhaps the first thing to do is to give the people in the shaded areas the same benefits of taxation deductions as are given to any other taxpayer. Then the ninetwentieths formula could be applied outside the shaded areas.
At all events there is no doubt in my mind that we need to do something about this aspect of our taxation laws. The honourable member for Wilmot mentioned what he called the many shortcomings of this Government in relation to the means test. I do not agree with him that there have been shortcomings. I believe that what the Government parties promised in their policy speeches - including what we are instituting tonight in this Bill - will help to raise the social service legislation of Australia to a very desirable level. It will enable recipients of social services to derive the greatest advantage from these benefits. Therefore I believe that the processes we are following at the moment are in the best interests of the people. However, I do believe that in this field we need some new thinking and a new appreciation of what is involved. This legislation is an example of the many things that honourable members on this side of the House are trying to do to improve the social welfare legislation of Australia. In its seventeen years of office, this Government has brought about more improvements in our social welfare legislation than were introduced in all the other years since Federation in 1901. I know that the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters) would like me to emphasise that point. The income tax concession for aged persons was regarded as a great step forward when it was first introduced, but it is only one of many innovations and improvements that the Government has sponsored and it has been overshadowed by more recent concessions, particularly in the field of taxation. I hope that the Minister for Social Services will again confer with the senior members of his Department on the matter which was brought forward very ably by the honourable members for Henty, Swan and Robertson. It is a very comprehensive matter. I hope he will re-examine the question and then introduce in the Budget session a more liberal taxation formula which will benefit all those people concerned who have given great service to Australia in all walks of life and have played their part in building up the country. When people retire from their vocations they are entitled to continue to enjoy the same standard of living to which they have been accustomed. Unfortunately many of them today find that the value of their superannuation payments has been eroded, not only by legislation of this type but also by changes that are inevitable in a growing nation such as Australia.
Australia is developing tremendously under the brilliant leadership of this Government. Nevertheless we have an obligation to safeguard the standard of living of superannuitants and other retired people. I hope that the Minister will reconsider the matter and make the strongest recommendations to the Treasurer. I do not believe that the whole concept is wrong as the honourable member for Wilmot said. The idea is good. But there is a need to examine the legislation once again and to consider its mechanics and perhaps to widen its application.
– I am pleased that this Bill proposes to alleviate the means test, but in my opinion it does not go sufficiently far. Before going into details I must say that I regret that the Opposition has not contributed anything worthwhile to this debate. The alleviation of the means test is regarded throughout Australia as being of the greatest importance and it should engage the attention of every honourable member in this place. The honourable members for Henty (Mr Fox), Swan (Mr Cleaver), Robertson (Mr BridgesMaxwell) and St George (Mr Bosman) have made worthwhile contributions to this debate. The honourable member for Swan showed that a person receiving $132 in excess of the allowable income had to pay S63 in tax under the so-called ninetwentieths formula and thus received a taxation rebate of about $60. To my mind this is not good enough. We need legislation that will provide progressively increasing taxation allowances for all people of sixtyfive years of age and over. I feel, too, that it should apply to everyone within this marginal range. In his second reading speech the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) said:
For the current financial year, the age allowance exempts from tax an eligible aged person whose net income does not exceed $1,040. In the case of a married couple who meet the prescribed tests, exemption is provided if their combined net income is not greater than $1,950.
The Minister goes on to say:
A measure of relief is provided also by the age allowance where the net income is somewhat in excess of those exemption limits. The maximum income levels to which marginal relief is granted are $1,221 and $2,882 for single and married persons respectively.
I draw the attention of the House to the fact that the marginal relief for the single person - the difference between $1,040 and $1,221 - is $181 whereas for the married couple, it is $932, which represents the difference between $1,950 and $2,882. That is most desirable. I point out, however, that under the formula explained by the honourable for St George (Mr Bosman) the tax payable by the married couple in receipt of $2,882 would be $441 and this is most undesirable. Having in mind the complexity of figures mentioned by the honourable member for St George I suggest that it is about time we introduced some realism into the legislation and gave the aged persons a definite age allowance, as suggested by the Ligertwood Committee, so that they will not be confused. My suggestion is that this allowance be $1,040 plus the fringe benefits obtained by a single age pensioner. Let us put these benefits at $300. In my opinion, the age allowance should be $1,340 on attaining the age of sixty-five years, and it should be a definite allowance. All income earned in excess of the $1,340 should be treated as assessable income for taxation purposes. To give an example, if a man’s total independent income was $1,500, then he would be taxed on $160.
It is useless to go into all sorts of formulas for they only confuse the aged people. If we are genuine, if we sincerely want to assist these people, the only way to do it is give them a definite age allowance and tax them only on income derived after that point. I trust that I have made myself clear. The important thing is that unless we give a definite age allowance without all these formulas we shall not be doing a good service to the aged persons whom most of us are so anxious to assist. I think that all honourable members on both sides of the House will agree that repatriation and service pensions must nor be included in any income tax assessment in any circumstances whatsoever. I emphasise that the only way to get over the present difficulty and to avoid anomalies is to grant a definite age allowance of $1,040 plus the fringe benefits of $300 and to tax income only from that point on. The married couples should be treated on a pro rata basis.
– I should like to associate myself with the remarks made from this side of the Home by the honourable members for Henty (Mr Fox), Swan (Mr Cleaver), St George (Mr Bosman), Robertson (Mr BridgesMaxwell) and Mitchell (Mr Irwin). I am not going to gild the lily any further. I hope the Government will see the force of the contentions which have been put forward here and which I think are an improvement on the good policy which the Government is putting forward in this Bill.
Mr TURNBULL (Mallee) [10.371- I should like to associate myself with the remarks of the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett), who spoke On this subject. I thought his speech was a good one, and I endorse everything he said.
– in reply - The House has been dealing with two matters. One related to the amendment proposed by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) and the other covered the whole problem in a much wider context. I shall address myself first to the amendment and say at the outset that the Government rejects it. Let me briefly indicate the reasons that have led the Government to the action that it is now proposing in this Bill. I shall deal first with the history of the age allowance, which, as has been said dates back to 1951. We have endeavoured at all times to correlate the allowance with the sum total of the age pension and what is in effect the permissible income which the age pensioner may receive without affecting his entitlement: Prior to 1951, there was no correlation at all and there were anomalies. I need not go into that for we have dealt with it at some length.
We introduced the age allowance first in 1951 and have progressively adjusted it. The first adjustment was made in 1954. It was adjusted again in 1958, 1961, and 1966. We are adjusting it again now. AH we are setting out to do by this Bill is to maintain the correlation that has existed in the past. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports has stated that in the past we have usually made the adjustment in November and that in effect what might be termed a three-month bonus has gone with the age allowance. He pointed out that on this occasion instead of being a threemonth bonus there should be a nine-month bonus. Because we have allowed what might be called a three-month bonus in the past, I do not see how it can be logically argued that we are now departing from an established principle in not granting a ninemonth bonus.
– But the Minister has not really allowed a bonus. What he has done is to apply this on an annual basis and he is still continuing to do so.
– I do not think so. There were three options open to us when the means test was altered under the Act which we will deal with next week. We could have made no change in the taxation allowance-
– The Government would have been silly if it had done so.
– Not necessarily.
– It would have breached its whole principle if it had done so.
– We could have done it on a pro rata basis and, thirdly, we could have managed the lot.
– But the Government-
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)Order! The honourable member for Melbourne Ports will cease interjecting and the Minister will address the Chair.
– The honourable member for Melbourne Ports has asked me for numbers. I am informed that the number of people concerned is in the region of 15,000 to 20,000 and that the cost to revenue will be about $2m in the next financial year. The main reason why we are making this change is that if we did not do so the people who received the additional pension would actually miss out because the additional pension might take them over the income level.
– The Minister is using his imagination now and is not stating facts.
– No. I am sorry that the honourable member doubts my veracity.
– I doubt the Minister’s logic; I do not doubt his veracity.
– The honourable member was suggesting that I was almost getting into the realms of imagination.
-Order! 1 ask the Minister and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports to cease their private conversation at the table and direct their remarks through the Chair.
– There were three options open to the Government. In view of the short period that remains before the conclusion of this financial year I think the Government took the wisest and most logical of the three options. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports and I will not agree on this, but to my mind we have not departed from logic to the extent he thinks we have. We recognise that for a full year it will be necessary to increase the agc allowance to the full amount of $156. When we come to the Budget session and we review all of these matters in the Budget context, then the Act will have to be amended along those lines. I do not think it is necessary to change the situation now when we know that action will be taken when we look at all these matters as we do at the time of the Budget next August. That deals with the immediate problem of the amendment which, as I have said, the Government intends to reject.
On the wider matters dealing with the whole question of the age allowance I remind the House, firstly, of the basic concept under which this age allowance was brought in. It was to equate the spendable income of a taxpayer with the spendable income of a pensioner. That was the reason why deductions of one sort or another were not taken into consideration when relating the age allowance accordingly. Over and above the age allowance there has been this graduated scale - the 45% or nine-twentieths - which has figured in many of the speeches tonight. I would say to those honourable members who have given much thought to it and whose contributions have been extremely thoughtful and worth while that most of the anomalies they have raised have been created by the marginal or fringe benefits open to pensioners - benefits that were not available to pensioners when the age allowance was introduced in 1951. Most of the anomalies relate to the fringe benefits, particularly to the pensioner medical service. I do not think that council rates, gifts and so forth, which have been mentioned, are so relevant. They, too, relate to fringe benefits and have caused the anomalies that have been mentioned. As Minister assisting the Treasurer I have received many representations over the last few months in which many suggestions for dealing with these anomalies have been brought to my notice. Some of them have been reiterated tonight; some have not. But it is quite obvious from what has been said that there are matters that need further investigation. As always at Budget time we shall review these but some special matters have been raised tonight. We shall have a look at them and in due course at Budget time the decisions of the Government will be made known. I hope that will deal with most of the matters raised in the debate.
Question put -
That the words proposedto be omitted (Mr Crean’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. W. J. Aston)
Majority .. ..26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I want to make just one point at this stage. It follows upon the explanation given by the Minister for Air (Mr Howson), who gave the cost that would have been incurred if my amendment had been carried. I ask all honourable members on the Government side, who claimed that they were concerned about the injustices to this type of taxpayer, to note that the failure to pass my amendment means that 15,000 to 20,000 people in aggregate will be deprived of $2m. I ask the Government to give the matter a little more consideration, because it is still not too late. When it is necessary to amend this legislation in August or September of next year it will still not be too late to make the amendment retrospective so as to apply to income tax assessments for the year ended 30th June 1967. Logically, the amendment should have been accepted tonight and I suggest that the Minister was speaking not on grounds of logic but on grounds of imagination. The effect of the Government’s refusal to accept the amendment proposed by the Opposition has been to deprive of about $2m between 15,000 and 20,000 people, who the Government claims are worthy people.
There seems to be a mysterious process by which honourable members opposite can approach the Treasurer. Apparently they have to ask the Minister at the Table to do it. Why can it not be done in the party room? The honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) is seeking to interject. I suggest that he read the speech which I delivered this evening and he may then agree with my view of the need for the amendment proposed by the Opposition. The amount ought not to have been $30; it ought to have been $156.
It will still not be too late to repair the damage when an amendment identical with the amendment I have proposed tonight is made in August or September of next year. A small clause could be added to make the amendment apply to assessments of income tax for the year ended 30th June 1967. In that way about 15,000 to 20,000 people will be able to keep about $2m in their pockets instead of it being paid into the Government’s pocket. The proposal will not affect this year’s Budget - it will affect next year’s Budget - so there would be no need to replan this year’s financial arrangements.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howson) - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Recently in a section of the Press and also by some people it has been alleged that inefficient and uneconomic industries are being kept in existence in this country by what are termed super high tariffs. I do not contradict those statements, but I desire some clarification of them. Many different kinds of manufacturing industries operate in the electorate I represent. They give employment to many thousands of workers. I am anxious to know which, if any, of those industries are considered to be uneconomic or inefficient.
When it is said that there are inefficient and uneconomic industries that do not deserve tariff protection and those particular industries are not specified, the people associated with every protected industry in Australia are entitled to think that the bone is pointed at their particular industry. So I ask: Which are the inefficient and uneconomic industries? Are they the footwear, textile, drugs and motor car manufacturing industries? Are they the industry manufacturing engineering requisites and a dozen other industries that enjoy tariff protection and in many cases are seeking increased protection? The production costs of these Australian industries are much higher than the cost of processing similar goods in Europe, Japan, China and elsewhere. The prices payable by the Australian consumers of goods made in Australia are immensely higher than would be the prices of similar articles imported into this country free of tariffs.
How does anyone decide what is an economic or efficient industry? Does the selling price of an article have any part in the reaching of such a decision? I do not think that the selling price of an article is a determining factor in deciding whether or not the industry that produces it is efficient. The Australian Labor Party has a policy in connection with trade and tariffs. It is as follows:
Effective tariff protection of Australian industry and import embargoes in favour of Australian industry capable of supplying the home market, in each case subject to control of prices, to protection of Australian working conditions, and to due efficiency in production.
However ‘due efficiency in production’ does not mean that the cost of production or the price of an article determines whether or not an industry is efficient. The textile industries were brought into existence under the protection of tariffs introduced by Labor, even though textiles could have been brought from other countries more cheaply than they could be produced in Australia. Australians, of course, believe that bringing them in under such conditions was justified.
I know that at the end of the last century free traders stated that tariff barriers would protect inefficient industries and would enable the exploitation of the consumer. They have continued to say the same thing ever since. Protectionists recognised the dangers of exploitation, and it was Labor that insisted that consumers and employees as well as industries should be afforded protection. That, of course, is set out in the policy of Labor. Everyone knows that employment in rural industries has decreased since 1939 but that the population has increased by more than four million. Without vast secondary industries this population increase could not have been absorbed. This causes me to ask: Is there any article manufactured and sold in Australia that could not have been manufactured in some other country and sold in Australia much more cheaply if it were not for tariffs that all importers and most primary producers describe as super-high tariffs? Australia pays bounties to primary producers, such as dairy farmers, and the Government helps other rural industries with forms of subsidies and guaranteed prices. Are these industries also inefficient and uneconomic?
It has been stated that there is a danger of someone wedded to high protection being appointed to the Tariff Board. There is the greater danger that free traders could be appointed to the Tariff Board. However, my purpose in speaking was more to seek information than to give it. So I again ask: Which Australian industries are uneconomic and inefficient? How can the efficiency of an industry be determined? That, of course, can be decided by members of this House just as expertly as it can be decided by anybody who is appointed to a particular government department or a government board.
– I was glad to hear the remarks of the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters) and to know that there is room in the Australian Labor Party for healthy differences of opinion on tariff matters. However, it does strike me as strange that on some matters there is room for differences of opinion in the Labor Party but that ou other matters there is not. The honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns), who of course is the real leader of the Labor Party in matters of policy and whose ideas govern honourable members opposite, remarked some time ago that the Labor Party stood next to the Communists in the political spectrum. If we go through the membership of the Labor Party and go to the left with the Communists we find a very great degree of tolerance. There is room for differences of opinion. But apparently if we go to the right there is no room for such differences of opinion. In that case, if one disagrees, one is expelled or, as the honourable member for Scullin had to do, one has to betray one’s principles and walk out on one’s friends as he did on that memorable occasion when the Australian Democratic Labor Party broke away from the ALP. All I want to say is that in some ways-
– I rise to order. I do not desire to interrupt the honourable gentleman’s speech, but he knows nothing about what took place at the time referred to. I have never walked out on friends in my life.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. There is no substance in the point of order.
– May I set the mind of the honourable member for Potter’s Field at rest. I do know something about this because I have talked to some people who were his friends but who are his friends no longer, for reasons which he very well knows but which I will not go into in this place. I want to bring to the attention of. the House a pamphlet which has appealed in Melbourne and which says certain things which I think we should look at. It is authorised by a Mr P. O’Brien who is President of the Melbourne University ALP Club. I do not know the gentleman and I do not know the standing of the club. I do not know whether he is one of the people who has incurred the displeasure of the Communist-minded executive of the ALP of Victoria. This is a pamphlet which I have not been able to check in all details but which I have been able to check in some detail. I found it to be correct in substance in the matters that I have been able to follow up.
The pamphlet refers to a person called Bert Nolan who is, I understand, a member of the Victorian executive of the Labor Party. He is one of the people who issue instructions to members opposite, one of the people who, because they have executive selection in Victoria, determine who is going to be in this Parliament and who is not’ going to be in this Parliament on the Labor side. According to the pamphlet, this man Nolan has a very heavy degree of Communist sympathy. Apparently he wrote a pamphlet after a visit to Communist East Germany in which he praised the infamous Ulbricht. I say that be is infamous because he is a murderer and an associate of murderers.
– Who is that?
– Walter Ulbricht, the leader of the Communist State of East Germany. Anybody who praises this man is praising somebody who is in the Hitler class. 1 have not been able to obtain a copy of this pamphlet and therefore I make this public appeal to anybody who has a copy of the pamphlet which Mr Nolan wrote to let me see it so that I can check, as I have not yet been able to check, the statement made by Mr O’Brien of the Melbourne University ALP Club that Mr Nolan actually did this rather disgraceful thing. Until I see the pamphlet I will not condemn Mr Nolan in this regard He may or may not have praised Mr Ulbricht. Then we find some things that I have been able to check. Mr Nolan is an official - I think the Secretary - of the Seamen’s Union. According to the remarks of the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) in this House on 9th March, Mr Nolan said that the Seamen’s Union was not run by the Australian Labor Party, the Communists, the Liberals, the Country Party or any other political party. If Mr Nolan said that, he must have been telling a little white lie, or perhaps a little red lie, because the Seamen’s Union is run as an apanage of the Communist Party. If honourable members do not know that they should look up some of the facts. They should remember who Mr Elliott is in the Seamen’s Union and the way in which the Seamen’s Union has co-operated with the World Federation of Trade Unions, which is the Communist trade union front.
It seems to me a little distressing that the honourable member for Gellibrand should get up in this House and quote with approval a statement by Nolan that is demonstrably false. I take it that Nolan did make the statement, since the honourable member quoted it. This man apparently said he had nothing to do with the Boonaroo’ affair. It is somewhat remarkable that on 8th March, a time when he said he was on holidays and had nothing to do with the ‘Boonaroo’ decision - again I quote from the honourable member for Gellibrand - the Communist newspaper Tribune’ carried a statement from him which seems to me to indicate a fair degree of implication in the affair. The fact that he gave what was described as a special statement to the Communist Tribune’ carries its own implications. It is remarkable, is it not, that the honourable member for Gellibrand should have got up in this House to defend this man who is obviously closely associated with the Communist Party?
I have checked in the columns of the Melbourne Press the statements made in the pamphlet I have spoken of. I have checked in ‘Hansard’ the remarks made by the honourable member for Gellibrand, and I think there is something to explain. If this man Nolan is as close an associate of the Communists as he appears to be, if he does endorse, as he did in a speech at the University of Melbourne, I think on 15th March last, Communist policy in regard to the Seamen’s Union and the manning of the ‘Boonaroo,’ and if he did fly in the face of declared Australian Labor Party policy in regard to this, why is he still on the Labor Party Executive?
On some matters there is room for difference of opinion in the Labor Party. If you are pro-Communist a great deal of latitude will be given to you, but if you are anti-Communist you will get very short shrift. Unfortunately, this can be demonstrated time and time again in the history of the Australian Labor Party. I suggest to my friends opposite that they should be a little ashamed of being associated with the Victorian Australian Labor Party Executive which, by its policy and its left wing methods, shows itself to be a very willing ally of the Communist Party, a very willing co-operator in Communist policies. Gentlemen, what do you think?
- Mr Speaker, when the honourable member for McKellar (Mr Wentworth) goes on like this, it is hard to believe that he was once probably the prettiest little baby in the world, that people loved him and that he had things to offer. Tonight, of course, in a moment of aberration the honourable member says that he is still looking for facts about the Australian Labor Party. He has never allowed facts to interfere with his orations before. He mentioned the question of the selections made by the Victorian Executive of the Australian Labor Party. I would think that there is plenty of evidence to show that the selections of candidates for Federal elections made by the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party are much more effective ones than the selection system that is followed by the Mackellar Branch of the Liberal Party in New South Wales. But that is not the reason why I rose tonight. After all, these aberrations have been going on for long enough and the honourable member for Mackellar can rave as he will.
Tonight, I rise to speak to this House having had conferred upon me for the second time the honour of representing this House on the Council of the National Library of Australia. 1 was a little hurt that the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden), when introducing this matter, did not indulge in fulsome praise of my efforts on the Council in the past as he did when referring to the appointment df the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) to another council. But that is not the reason why 1 rose tonight, either. I wish to make some form of report to the members of this House on the Council of the National Library. Rising on the foreshores of Lake Burley Griffin is the largest single building undertaken so far in Canberra. It is costing some $7m or $8m. I think that the actual architecture, the art forms, the design and everything that goes with it are a credit to the people responsible for them. I do not claim any of the responsibility.
I invite honourable members to join me in some kind of inspection of the building which could be held, perhaps, on Thursday morning of next week if we can make the necessary arrangements and it is not raining. 1 suggest that we make a formal patrol of the building to see what is going on. I shall endeavour to let honourable members know what arrangements are made through the National Capital Development Commission. A week or so ago, some of us had a look at the National Library. It is a credit to the National Capital Development Commission. If it is not the most important building in Canberra so far, it is the largest building that has been put up in Canberra.
Forgetting the things that the honourable member for Mackellar said earlier tonight, I report to the House as in duty bound as his representative and your representative. Sir, on the Council of the National Library.
- Mr Speaker, I feel that I should reply on behalf of members on this side of the House to the most charming and courteous invitation that has been offered by my distinguished friend, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). But not in a spirit other than friendship I should like to take the honourable member back to the point raised by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). Indeed, I should like to endorse my remarks by saying that, having listened to the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters), we on this side of the House are cheered that there are signs not of rift, because we do not want to see that, but of men of courage coming into the Australian Labor Party. I know that my shining friend on the other side of the Table, the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) is one who, if he has never put it in print, has acted in devious means to bring about events. Perhaps he has not been successful.
We have the situation of the honourable member for Scullin expressing disagreement. It was obvious in the House when the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) was speaking that those stern and strong honourable members on the Opposition side who to the best of their ability act on behalf of the people who work in industry in Australia - I refer to the honourable members for Scullin, Watson (Mr Cope) and Darebin (Mr Courtnay - were almost at the throat, I think, of the honourable member for Oxley. I said: Jolly good luck to them. This is a very good thing.’ We had the instance yesterday of the honourable member for West Sydney (Mr Minogue) appearing to have some difference of opinion with the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) respecting viewpoints that the honourable member for Hunter put forward regarding education. The honourable member for West Sydney ended up at page 959 of Hansard by saying that the views expressed by the honourable member for Hunter were hardly worthy of a man who stands for the name of freedom.
The great point that we want to drum over to the Opposition and to the Parliament in relation to this question of the Boonaroo’ and the ‘Jeparit’ is something that I think my friend from Mackellar neglected to mention: that is, that the matter is still before the Australian people. The case is still there because the former Leader of the Australian Labor Party, the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), said that although his Party disagreed with our Vietnam policy no impediment would be put in the way of taking supplies to our troops while they were in Vietnam. He said that that was the policy of the Australian Labor Party and the trade union movement. It is interesting indeed to find, that the said Mr Bert Nolan who is without any doubt - and the honourable member for Wills cannot deny it - a member of the Victorian Executive of the ALP-
– He is on the Executive.
– Fair enough. The honourable member admits it. He is, furthermore, a member of the trade union defence committee which has a considerable amount of power in the Labor Party in Victoria. I will run through the list of members of this trade union defence committee as I understand the membership to be. First we have Mr George Crawford of the Plumbers and Gasfitters Society, who was formerly a member of the Eureka Youth League and is now a junior vice-president of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party and a member of the central executive. We then have Mr W. O’Brien, a member of the Victorian executive of the Miscellaneous Workers Union. Then there is Mr B. Nolan, Victorian secretary of the Seamen’s Union, the general secretary of which, Mr E. V. Elliott, is a well known Communist. I think it is recognised throughout Australia that the Seamen’s Union certainly has Communist tendencies. Then there is Mr W. Butler of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. The secretary of that union in Melbourne is Laurie Carmichael who was responsible with Mr Percy Johnson for organising the recent metal trades stoppage which was contrary to the wishes of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the Melbourne Trades Hall Council. We understand that this matter is being deliberated in Melbourne tonight. I saw a television programme in which Mr Jordan said that this was a Communist inspired strike. That was not my statement but that of Mr Jordan of the Labor Party in Melbourne.
I could go on further and enumerate a number of people who actually are on the Labor Party Executive and on the trade union defence committee. There is Mr McNolty, the secretary of the Sheet Metal Working Agricultural Implements and Stovemaking Union. The president of this union, Mr Tom Wright, is a member of the central executive of the Communist Party. 1 could go on and enumerate others, many of them being office bearers in Communist unions.
What does one have to do to hold executive office in a Communist dominated union? One must depend in varying degrees on the co-operation and support of Communists to hold such office. One must have the support of the Communists in the union in order to hold such a position. Therefore a person in such a position is expected to propound policies which could be in support of Communists. I see honourable members opposite ostentatiously yawning. It is a pity the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters) was not here to put them in their place. What I have given the House are undoubtedly facts which cannot be denied, and I hope the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), who is writing furiously, will not try to deny them.
The Labor Party now has a new leader - a new broom. We hope he is a man of courage, but it is questionable whether he will turn out to be such a man. Let us consider what various members of the Labor Party have said about Communist pressures within the party. I would like to quote some comments by a former distinguished member of the Labor Party, Mr Allan Fraser. In a broadcast programme on 20th February this former member of the House of Representatives said:
The Communist aim is to destroy the Labor Party so as to clear the way for its own success. It sees that to do this it must remove the faith of the workers in the efficacy of political action. They would be helped by a position in which the Labor Party was so heavily defeated that only a handful of members from industrial strongholds would form the Labor Party in the ensuing Parliament. If so-called moderate members were driven out of the parliamentary party by defeat and out of the Labor Parly branches in despair or disgust, then the party would be open for capture at all levels.
In Victoria a State election is approaching. The Labor Party is supposed to be fighting to obtain a majority and form a government, but what do we find? We find the metal trades unions, the Seamen’s Union and others which have associations with the Australian Labor Party doing everything possible, it appears, to lose seats - not for the left wing candidates, because they are in safe seats which they cannot lose, but for moderate right wing Labor candidates who have to go out and fight elections while Percy Johnson, who is a supporter of Mr McNolty and others, and also Mr Elliott on the trade union defence committee, are putting every impediment in the way of Labor gaining office. It is interesting indeed to conjecture whether the new Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) is going to do anything about the position. He does not appear to have done much about it so far. An article appeared in the Sydney ‘Morning Herald’ on 18th November 1965 in which the following appeared:
The M.P. Mr F. E. Stewart (NSW) then caused a stir when he rose and gave two notices of motion. The first demanded a Caucus resolution that the party’s Federal executive should be advised of the urgent need to implement party rules banning unity tickets and repudiating communism.
To date we have not heard one statement from the Leader of the Opposition. Perhaps the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), who I know looks at the position of Leader of the Opposition with some envy and who I know has endeavoured to put his best foot forward to gain that position, will say that he and some of his colleagues in the Australian Labor Party do not support the Seamen’s Union in its strike against taking essential supplies to our troops in Vietnam. There is no doubt that not only politics are involved in this issue. The lives of our boys are also involved. Some of them, although I cannot think of many, may have supported, or may in the future support, the Australian Labor Party should it clean up its house.
I return to the Leader of the Opposition. He stood against the Federal Executive. He was strong; he was powerful; he used strong words; he was on TV; he was everywhere. Let us see what happened when he had to front. I shall read from a report of the Special Commonwealth Conference of the Australian Labor Party held at the Hotel Ainslie Rex, Canberra, in March 1966. In a letter to the Federal Secretary he said:
Since the Federal Executive convened the Special Federal Conference, I sent a letter to the South Australian branch at its request as follows:
Many members of the Party and its affiliated unions have been angered at the public attack I made on some decisions and members of the Federal Executive. I have already given an unreserved apology in writing to the Executive for the personal reference I made. I am glad A Special Federal Conference has been called. I now undertake to work within the framework of the Party and to accept the decision of its properly constituted authority.’ This letter represents my attitude.
Is it still his attitude? The report goes on:
Surely someone on the Labor side must make a clear statement on whether Labor supports the Seamen’s Union in this strike. Is it Labor policy to say nothing in respect of this?
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– If the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) and the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) are noted for nothing else, they are noted for their inaccuracies, their character assassination and their smearing.
– Is what I have said inaccurate?
– The honourable member has had his say, I will have mine. Let me say at the outset that the Australian Labor Party did a good job for this country before the honourable member was born. It ill becomes the honourable members I have mentioned, particularly the younger one, to berate the Australian Labor Party. When they talk about facts - I refer particularly now to the honourable member for Mackellar - they should look at facts and the history of facts. If they look at facts and the history of facts they will find that the conditions of life and the privileges that they and their children now enjoy were fought for and obtained by the sweat, blood, trials and tribulations of the Australian Labor Party.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) does not need the honourable member for La Trobe to advise him. He has the ability and the courage to do what he thinks should be done in the best interests of the Australian Labor Party. He has been able to obtain his present position without the help of either the honourable member for La Trobe or the honourable member for Mackellar, and he will go further without their help. To put the matter in the words of Henry Lawson: ‘Keep out of the tracks that we travel.’
The honourable member for Mackellar suggested that the Australian Labor Party should take action against the Seamen’s Union. Let him look at the facts. Both honourable members have quoted from Labor Party articles. If they look at the constitution of the Australian Labor Party they will see that the Party will not tolerate any interference in union affairs. If honourable members opposite want to do something about the Seamen’s Union, let them look at what the Australian Council of Trade Unions has done. When the dispute arose concerning the ‘Boonaroo’ and the Jeparit’ the ACTU called before it the Seamen’s Union and this Government - the Government of which the honourable member for La Trobe is a supporter. The ACTU said to the union and to the Government: ‘Provided you pay members of the Seamen’s Union a special allowance for handling explosives, provided you cover every seaman with comprehensive insurance, and provided you provide an escort vessel to go with the “ Boonaroo “ and the “Jeparit” to South Vietnam, we will instruct the seamen to man the vessels.’ I ask the honourable member for Mackellar to bear that in mind. To date the Government has not seen fit to sit down with the Seamen’s Union and incorporate those provisions in the seamen’s articles. If honourable members opposite want facts, let them look at the registered rules of the Seamen’s Union and they will see that it has to put any dispute before its members. Of all the members of the Union only eleven voted against manning the ‘Boonaroo’ and the Jeparit’ under the conditions laid down by the Government. These are the facts.
Why engage in character assassination, smear tactics and a diatribe about Communism? I do not know what else Government supporters would talk about if they did not have these things. Look at the true facts of the case. All I was concerned about in the case of Nolan of the Seamen’s Union was character assassination. To accuse any man of being a traitor and of committing treason is to employ hard words in anybody’s language. If the honourable member for Mackellar were unjustly hounded in the same way I would be on my feet to defend him, much as I disagree with his policies. These are the things we should fight for. If we could raise the level of our debate and not engage in character assassination and smear tactics we would increase our stature in the eyes of the people not only of Australia but of the world, and we would be better for it. The honourable member for La Trobe is new to this game. The honourable member for Mackellar is an old hand. Perhaps the honourable member for Mackellar could offer some words of wisdom to the honourable member for La Trobe. If they were accepted it would be the better for Australia and the world.
The members of the Victorian Central Executive are as clean and good as any Government supporter and could take their place alongside Government supporters in any walk of life. Because they represent a class of people with which Government supporters do not have any truck - I refer to the workers - they are of no concern to Government supporters. But we on this side have different views. We agree to disagree. I can always agree to disagree without being disagreeable. The honourable member for Mackellar believes that everybody who does not agree with him is a Communist. The honourable member for La Trobe is apeing the honourable member for Mackellar and is following in his tracks. So far their efforts have not been too successful because in the eleven years that I have been here neither of them has made any impression on the hierarchy of the Government and they have failed to gain a post in the Ministry.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.34 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Water Conservation (Question No. 63)
asked the Minister for National
Development, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1. (a) Three.
Six in total - see 4. below.
Search for Oil (Question No. 109)
asked the Minister for
National Development, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Repatriation (Question No. 112)
asked the Minister for
Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Conditions of eligibility for repatriation and war service homes benefits and taxation exemption are the same for all Service personnel serving on operational duty within a prescribed special area.
For decorations for gallantry common procedures and standards are applied by all Services in the assessment of awards.
Regarding campaign medals the qualification for the Campaign Medal issued by the Vietnamese Government is laid down by the Vietnamese authorities and is the same for all Services. For the Vietnam Medal, eligibility for ground force personnel is posting or attachment to a unit in Vietnam, for R.A.A.F. aircrew eligibility is related to operational flying and for naval personnel afloat to a period of service at sea in the area. These differences are due to the different nature of operational service rendered and follow the precedents of earlier wars.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Navy - Reserve Decoration: fifteen years qualifying service.
Volunteer Reserve Decoration: twenty years service on the Active List.
Army - Efficiency Decoration: twelve years continuous qualifying service.
Air Force - Air Efficiency Award: ten years qualifying service.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
When will the Bankruptcy Act 1966 be proclaimed?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Bankruptcy Act 1966 cannot be proclaimed until new Bankruptcy Rules have been made. These Rules are in the course of preparation. When they are ready the legal profession and the public will have to be given a short period to enable them to become familiar with the new Rules before the Act is brought into operation.
Visits by Heads of State to Australia (Question No. 71)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
The attached list records visits to Australia since 1949. Transit visits are not included.
Since January 1966 the Government has referred publicly to invitations which it has extended to the Heads of Government of Britain, New Zealand and India to visit Australia at some convenient time. It is hoped that the President of Italy will be able to visit Australia later this year.
VISITS TO AUSTRALIA SINCE 1949
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second: 3rd February to 1st April, 1954 18th February to 27th March, 1963
Foreign Heads of State
President Ngo Dinh Diem of Vietnam: 2nd to 9th September, 1957
Their Majesties the King and Queen of Thailand: 26th August to 12th September, 1962
President Tsiranana of the Malagasy Republic: 9th to 12th November, 1965
President Johnson of the United States of America: 20th to 23rd October, 1966
Heads of Government
The Rt. Honourable Peter Fraser of New Zealand: 14th to 15th April, 1949.
H.R.H. Tungi (Premier and Crown Prince) of Tonga: 11th October to 18th November, 1950
The Rt. Honourable S. G. Holland of New Zealand: 27th to 29th December, 1950 8th to 19th June, 1951 22nd February to 6th March, 1956
The Rt. Honourable D. S. Senanyake of Ceylon: 15th to 21st October, 1951
The Rt. Honourable Viscount Brookeborough of Northern Ireland: 13th December, 1953 to 25th January, 1954
The Rt. Honourable Clement Attlee of Britain: 8th to 13th September, 1954
The Rt. Honourable Sir John Kotelawala of Ceylon: 26th October to 8th November, 1955 14th to 17th November, 1955
His Excellency Mr Nobusuke Kishi of Japan: 29th November to 6th December, 1957
The Rt. Honourable Harold McMillan of Britain: 28th January to 11th February, 1958
The Rt. Honourable Walter Nash of New Zealand: 27th February to 1st March, 1958 31st March to 2nd April, 1958 14th- 16th June, 1958
The Rt. Honourable John Diefenbaker of Canada: 3rd to 5th December, 1958
The Honourable Tunku Abdul Rahman of Malaya: 29th October to 15th November, 1959
The Rt. Honourable Keith Holyoake of New Zealand: 5th to 10th May, 1962
His Excellency Mr. Hayato Ikeda of Japan: 29th September to 3rd October. 1963
His Excellency Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn of Thailand: 23rd February to 2nd March, 1966
The Honourable Giorgio Borg Olivier of Malta: 1st to 12th November, 1966
His Excellency Air Vice Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky of South Vietnam: 18th to 23rd January, 1967.
Pensions (Question No. 125)
asked the Minister for Social
Services, upon notice:
How many persons receive the single rate of (a) age and (b) invalid pension, and how many in each case receive the supplementary allowance?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In February 1967, 396,000 age pensioners and 85,000 invalid pensioners were receiving the standard rate pension. Of these, 91,000 age and 33,000 invalid pensioners were in receipt of supplementary assistance.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister represent ing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answers to the honourable member’s questions:
Imports of canned fish during the years 1963-64, 1964-65 and 1965-66 are shown in Schedule A.
Imports of frozen fish during the years 1963-64, 1964-65 and 1965-66 are shown in Schedule B.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
– The Minister for Housing has furnished the following answers to the honourable member’s questions:
With the exception of dwellings erected under clause 13 of the Agreement for allotment to serving members of the Naval, Military and Air Forces, the State is free to sell any other dwellings erected under the Agreement. Each State operates a liberal home-purchase scheme under which the latter dwellings may be purchased by persons to whom the dwellings have been allotted, including servicemen who have been allotted homes in their own right and ex-servicemen.
Dwellings erected under clause 13 of the Agreement may not be sold unless and until the Commonwealth advises the State that the dwelling ls no longer required for allotment to a serviceman. The reason for this is that these dwellings are built to provide accommodation for servicemen and their families in the locations in which the servicemen happen to be serving for the time being. When a serviceman is transferred to another State or another location in the same State, he is allotted accommodation at his new location and his former accommodation is available for the serviceman who replaces him. In view of the temporary nature of the tenancies and the continuing need to provide accommodation for defence purposes at certain locations, the sale of these dwellings to the servicemen who happen to be occupying them at the time would be quire inappropriate. There have been a number of cases, however, where servicemen-tenants who sought to buy the dwellings they were occupying when they were discharged from the Services have been sold the dwellings by special arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States concerned. In each such case, the State has agreed to provide a replacement dwelling for letting to servicemen.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 April 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19670406_reps_26_hor54/>.