26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Mr Speaker, I formally advise the House of the death on 25th August of Stanley Melbourne Bruce, a former Prime Minister, who during a long and active life served Australia with outstanding distinction and ability. Lord Bruce was a remarkable Australian and he has an assured place in our history. His qualities won him recognition not only in his own country but as a world stateman. Since his death I have received many messages of regret and tribute from a wide range of quarters, including one from Her Majesty the Queen and another from Mr Wilson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
In a single lifetime Lord Bruce embraced many careers and in all of them attained eminent achievement - as a soldier, as a parliamentarian, as a diplomat, as a world statesman, as a university chancellor and as a sportsman. In particular he will be remembered as one of Australia’s most distinguished Prime Ministers. He became the first Australian born President of the League of Nations and he was the first Australian citizen to take his seat in the House of Lords, where he established himself as a spokesman for Australia. Lord Forrest was an earlier Australian appointee to that chamber but he never actually took his seat there. The wide ranging vision of Lord Bruce was always directed to practical ends and his thinking was both imaginative and constructive. I mention the World Food Council, the British Finance Council, the Australian Loan Council and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which was the earlier name of the present Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, as exemplifying the practical bent of his statesmanship. The latter two organisations are an important part of the structure of Commonwealth policy formation and planning.
These are only highlights of a lifetime devoted by this man to the service of his country and to the service of mankind. It is fitting to place on record some of the details of this service. Stanley Bruce was born in Melbourne and received his earlier education there. He enlisted in the British Army in the First World War and was at Gallipoli. He was twice wounded and for his gallantry he was awarded the Military Cross and the Croix de Guerre with Palm. He represented the Division of Flinders in this House from 1918 to 1929 and again from 1931 to 1933. After his election to the Parliament in 1918 his rise was rapid. He became Treasurer in 1921 and he also represented Australia at the League of Nations in that year. He represented Australia at the League from 1932 until 1939 and was appointed President of the Council of the League in 1936. He was the first Australian to hold this important international position.
In 1923, at the agc of 39 - which I think was the youngest age of any Prime Minister of an English speaking country since Pitt the Younger - he became Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs. These portfolios he administered until 1929. He was also Minister for Health from April 1927 to February 1928 and Minister for Trade and Customs from May to November 1928. He represented Australia at the World Economic Conference in 1923 and at the Imperial Conferences in 1923 and 1926. He was President of the Commonwealth Board of Trade from 1923 to 1928. He became a Privy Councillor in 1923 and in 1927 His Majesty King George V appointed him a Companion of Honour.
He was defeated in the general election of 1929 and, as students of Australian political history will recall, that was a landslide election. One other distinction - if he would have thought of it as such, and I think that with his own special brand of humour he would have so regarded it - that he attained at that time was that he became the only Australian Prime Minister to lose his seat while holding that office. But with the landslide rolling the other way in 1931 he was re-elected. He became an Honorary Minister from January 1932 to October 1933, being Assistant Treasurer from January to June 1932 and Acting Minister for External Affairs from March to July 1932. He led an Australian delegation to the Imperial Economic Conference in Ottawa in 1932. He went on to England as Australian Minister in London, a position which he held until October 1933 when he resigned his seat in the House of Representatives. He was then appointed High Commissioner for Australia in London and served with great distinction in that capacity for the next 12 years until 1945. From 1942 to 1945 he was the Australian representative in the British War Cabinet and on the Pacific War Council. His Majesty King George VI made him a viscount in the new year’s honours list of 1947, and his speeches in the House of Lords reflected his wide-ranging statesmanship. His voice was always listened to with respect and had great force in that chamber. It was a voice which on any matter touching his own country worked to Australia’s advantage.
Although he lived so much of his life outside Australia, anyone who came in contact with him, as I at times was privileged to do, knew of the love he held for this country and his confident faith that it would become a country of greatness. In the international field he took up the position of Chairman of the Preparatory Commission, Food and Agricultural Organisation, in 1946, and he was Chairman of the World Food Council from 1947 to 1951. He was also Chairman of the Finance Corporation for Industry from 1947 to 1957. While in our day activities of this kind have become recognised as part of the normal international bill of fare - interest in the food problems of countries lacking adequate food resources, interest in the development of underdeveloped countries - in those days this was pioneering work, and I am sure that what has since emerged owes much to the drive, the imagination and the constructive approach brought to these matters by Lord Bruce.
In Australia he became the first Chancellor of the Australian National University, this in 1951. He remained Chancellor for ten years. Among his many attributes Stanley Bruce was a sportsman of some note. As in all other fields he seemed to achieve success in this field also. He will be remembered at Cambridge University for his rowing prowess. I believe that he was captain of the winning Cambridge crew of 1904. He was a very capable golfer and gained eminence in this field by becoming Captain of the Royal and Ancient
Golf Club of St Andrews in 1955. I imagine that he is the only Australian ever to have held that position.
These facts and figures are the barest outline of the career of a truly remarkable and great Australian - a man who made a tremendous contribution to his country at home and abroad. He was Prime Minister of Australia during six significant years of the history of our young Commonwealth and relatively early in the life of our Federation. This was a period of innovation, consolidation and growing trade. He was active in the areas of tariff policy and export development. He had a driving force devoted to migration and progress, and T have already mentioned the contribution that he made in a period when it became important to have the finances of the Commonwealth and the States brought into closer co-ordination through the financial agreements and the establishment of the Australian Loan Council. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is a continuing monument to the enterprise which he and his great friend and partner, the late Sir Earle Page, brought to these tasks.
I mention Sir Earle Page because what I have said of Lord Bruce should be remembered in association with the partner in the first coalition of its kind in Australian history, which ran for the full period of Lord Bruce’s Prime Ministership. It was a very cordial relationship, as anyone who has heard Sir Earle speak of Lord Bruce would warmly endorse. His Prime Ministerial period had ended six years before I entered this chamber, but I can vividly recall the affection and regard expressed for him by his former ministerial colleagues and his parliamentary colleagues. It is perhaps one of the warmest and most sincere tributes that could be paid to his memory that his leadership in a period of significance in Australian history had attracted to it the warmth of affection and respect of his colleagues. Any leader would be proud to feel, as he left the public life of the Parliament, that his parliamentary colleagues were able to speak with such genuine feeling about him. I move:
That this House expresses its deep regret at the death on 25th August 1967 of the Right Honourable Viscount Bruce of Melbourne and Westminster Gardens in the- City of Westminster, a member of this House for the Division of
Flinders from 1918 to 1929 and again from 1931 to 1933, and Prime Minister of Australia for more than six years. It places on record its appreciation of his long and distinguished public service.
– I support the motion which the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) has moved. It is seldom that the word ‘unique’ can be applied so aptly to a political career as it can be to that of the late Lord Bruce. The rapidity of his parliamentary rise was unique in our history; the suddenness and extent of his fall were unique. The length, variety and richness of his achievement after the end of his parliamentary career were unique.
He was the youngest Prime Minister of Australia, save Watson, and the youngest Australian-born Prime Minister. As the Prime Minister has said today, he achieved the highest office after only five years in the Parliament. Yet his entry into the Parliament had been the absolute beginning of his political career. He was the only Prime Minister to have graduated from an English university or, as we have been reminded, to have rowed for one, the only Prime Minister to have practised at the English bar and the only Prime Minister to have been decorated in war. Save for Barton, he was the only Prime Minister never to serve at any time as a member of the Opposition. He was the only Prime Minister to have lost his seat in Parliament at the time of his incumbency. So complete a fall stands as a reminder to all who follow or wish to follow him of the infinite mutability of human affairs. The man who vanquished him, the Right Honourable E. J. Holloway, who was the Labor candidate for Flinders in 1929, is one of the very few from those days who survive him.
Lord Bruce was the first Prime Minister to exercise office in Canberra. Those who were members of the Parliament at that time could scarcely have expected that when the Prime Minister of their day died one of the first tributes should come from the then one year old daughter of the Duke of York who opened the Parliament, the infant whom few would then have expected to become the Queen of Australia.
When Lord Bruce became Prime Minister, Australia had only half its present population. Canberra itself consisted of little more than Parliament House and a few ancillary buildings and dwellings. Lord Bruce was later to become the first Chancellor of this city’s university and Australia’s only national university. He was the only Prime Minister to be raised to the peerage and the first Australian parliamentarian to take his seat in the House of Lords. He would seem, through Australian eyes, to have had a singular fitness for that place in comparison with any of his predecessors or his successors. As a schoolboy in Canberra, sitting in the strangers’ gallery opposite where you sit, Mr Speaker, I was able to observe the singular distinctions of his style. He possessed a patrician hauteur which perhaps led him into political difficulties, combined with a singular unflappability which enabled him to survive those difficulties and setbacks with calm indifference.
He signed the financial agreement with the States which first established Commonwealth dominance in the raising of loans as surely as the Curtin Labor Government’s uniform taxation measures established Commonwealth supremacy in the raising of revenue. It was his ironic responsibility to preside in the 1930s over the conversion of our overseas loans from the high interest rates which his Government had established in the 1920s. It is altogether fitting that we should pay tribute to his memory in this Parliament, whose history he enriched, whose role he raised and in whose annals he played so dominant, controversial, dramatic and honourable a part.
– I wish to associate myself and the Australian Country Party with the condolence motion moved by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and with the remarks made by him and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). Today we honour an outstanding Australian who was a former Prime Minister. This House rarely honours a Prime Minister. For six years Lord Bruce held the responsibility of guiding the destiny of this nation. It is only fitting that there should be paid to him a tribute such as has been paid by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. I should like to be able to talk of this man through having personally known him, but unfortunately his term of office ended before I was born. So I must rely on the historians and people who did know him.
This morning I picked up a book which had been written about him. One of his parliamentary colleagues described him as a man who was proud, patient, tolerant, persuasive and compelling, dignified and good tempered, and one who spoke clearly and with clarity of expression. Surely that is unique for any parliamentarian.
He had particular significance for my own Party. It was he who first formed a coalition government. It was a coalition between the Nationalist Party and the Australian Country Party. He saw the wisdom of the two Parties working together for the benefit of Australia, and it was a successful coalition. It was known as the BrucePage coalition. During the period it was in office, some outstanding legislation was passed, particularly in relation to financial matters and the relationship between the Commonwealth and the State Governments. The Bruce-Page relationship was unique. On one side was a tolerant, well tempered and learned man; on the other side was Sir Earle Page, who was a man with tremendous drive, ebullience and a determination to get things done. I have heard it said that Page would bring forward 100 ideas in one month and Bruce would accept only one. Bruce was the steadying hand. He used discretion and had the wisdom to pick out the best of the ideas proposed by Page. On this occasion, on behalf of my Party, I say that we are very sorry to note the passing of a great Australian and a man who made an indelible mark on the history of our nation.
– I have asked to be recognised on this occasion simply to speak briefly about the human qualities of the late Lord Bruce. I had the privilege of working with him at one time. I do not claim as good a knowledge of him as could be claimed by one of my predecessors in office who now occupies a post so high that I cannot mention it in this place. There are two officers of the Department of External Affairs still serving, Mr Alfred Stirling and Mr John Oldham, who also in a close personal relationship with him worked in the interests of Australia.
I met him only in the wartime years in London in circumstances that were of some embarrassment to each of us and might have caused strain between us if Bruce had been a lesser man. In a nutshell, the Australian Minister of that day had appointed me to a post that Lord Bruce might normally have expected to have occupied. But the nobility of his spirit, the generosity of his character and the great courtesy of his nature showed itself in the way in which, at a time of difficulty, he not only accepted the fact that the appointment had been made but gave me a great deal of kindly help and advice and established himself in my regard and affection in a way in which few other prominent Australians have.
I was privileged on that slender foundation to have worked alongside him and in later years, after he left the direct service of Australia - he never ceased to work for Australia - to develop something of a friendship with him. Of recent years I was never in London without having a conversation with him. I look back with some satisfaction on those conversations for the value they were to me and because, out of them, emerged an arrangement for adding his archives to the archives of the Australian Government. Contrary to many popular opinions, this was a man not only of great courtesy but of fineness of spirit, a thorough patriot and a man who throughout his life had kept steadily before him the possibility of serving Australia and had dedicated himself to that purpose.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honourable members standing in their places.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed that the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria has disclosed that some Australian cigarettes are 40% more dangerous than the average cigarette smoked in America and that it believes that action should be taken to encourage manufacturers to produce a less dangerous cigarette? Will he inquire into and report to the Parliament on whether action can be taken to this end by the adjustment of tax deductions allowed for advertising by cigarette retailers?
– I shall ask the Minister for Health to deal with the technical aspects of this question.
– What about the taxation aspect?
– I will consider that.
– I have seen the report. It is obviously something that should be further investigated. I believe that the appropriate body to undertake the investigation is the National Health and Medical Research Council, which exists to advise both the Commonwealth and the States on public health matters. I shall refer the question to that body immediately. The Council will be meeting next month, so it should be able to give consideration to this question fairly speedily.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is it not a fact that stringent restrictions are imposed by legislation of this Parliament upon the capacity of the security service to engage in telephone tapping? Can he give details of these restrictions and assure the House that at all times they have been applied to members of Parliament?
– Security has always been a matter for the ministerial responsibility of the Prime Minister, although some of the security functions are delegated to the Attorney-General. The Act of 1960 - the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act - prohibits telephone interceptions. It docs provide an exception, narrowly stated and subject to strict controls. The Director-General may request the Attorney-General to issue a warrant. Noone else may request it. The AttorneyGeneral may then issue a warrant only if he is satisfied of two things: First, that the telephone service is being used in relation to activities prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth, and, secondly, that interception is likely to assist security in carrying out intelligence functions relevant to the security of the Commonwealth. The security of the Commonwealth is defined, and is confined to acts of espionage, sabotage or subversion. I have the assurance of the Attorney-General that if the question of intercepting the telephone service of a member of Parliament ever did arise - and it could only do so in the circumstances I have outlined - he would consult with me as ministerial head of Commonwealth security before carrying out his function under the Act. I stress that, because I know there has been some public disquiet arising out of earlier discussion.
I, myself, have always been conscious of the importance of people feeling that they can communicate freely with members of this Parliament and being assured that whatever they communicated was conveyed in confidence and indeed held in confidence by the people to whom their representations were addressed. I hope that the explanation I have given of the position and the fact that before any such action could occur there would be consultation between the Attorney-General and myself - and this could apply only in the circumstances I have outlined here - will help to remove any public disquiet on this score.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question supplementary to that just asked by the honourable member for Robertson. Last Thursday, in answer to a question from me, the Attorney-General recalled that prior to the statutory position which now applies to telephones, there had been an assurance by the right honourable gentleman’s predecessor in 1953 that the telephones of members of Parliament were not monitored. I ask the right honourable gentleman whether he can give a similar assurance that telegrams and letters to members of Parliament, neither of which are covered by statutory provision, are not intercepted by any Government agency. 1 also ask him whether, in regard to the telephones about which he has just made a statement, he has ever been consulted by the present Attorney-General or the previous Attorney-General.
– As to the last part of the honourable member’s question, there is the well established rule of practice - and I am not going beyond what I have said in the House today - that questions of a probing character of that kind are not answered as they relate to the Security Organisation. I thought I had made it quite clear that the only circumstances in which there could be telephone interception were those outlined and only after consultation with myself. I will treat the earlier part of the honourable member’s question as on notice and give him a considered reply.
– I ask the Minister assisting the Minister for Trade and Industry: Is it a fact that over the last three years imports of knitted coats, cardigans, jumpers and the like have increased by some 400%. Has any approach been made to the Government for assistance in combating this influx which is causing considerable damage to the Australian knitting industry, a major employer of labour in decentralised areas and a significant user of wool and other Australian raw materials?
– I understand that in each of the last two years there has been an approximate doubling of imports of knitted goods to which the honourable member has referred in his question. As a result, the local industry has made representations to the Government complaining of the effect of these imports upon its receipts and its own production. Accordingly, an inquiry has been instituted by the Department of Trade and Industry to see whether or not there should be a request for examination of the situation by the Tariff Board. If, as a result of this preliminary inquiry, which is being carried out as expeditiously as possible, it should be thought necessary that urgent reference to the Special Advisory Authority be made, this will be done.
– I desire to address a question to the Treasurer. In view of the important implications for Australia particularly and world trade generally, will the right honourable gentleman supply honourable members with documentation on the background as well as the current discussions concerning what is broadly described as international liquidity and specifically the proposals emanating from what is called the Group of Ten’?
– Already, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced that the Group of Ten - or the Group of Eleven as it now should properly be called - has agreed to the creation of new drawing rights in the International Monetary Fund. These will be made available to all member countries involved without discrimination. However, there are many important questions that still remain to be answered, such as the extent of the drawing rights: the creation of the drawing rights; whether only the Group of Ten and the other big countries comprising 85% of the total contributors will create the money; what is called reconstitution; and what is to be done about those that can be regarded as inveterate drawers on the fund. Nonetheless what I will do for the honourable gentleman is to get together all of the papers 1 can and let him have them. If other honourable members would like to have it, background information will be made available to them.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. I refer to proposals for the Commonwealth Government to assist the States with water conservation through the allocation of $50m. Can the Minister say whether there will be any unnecessary duplication in the investigation of the efficacy of such proposals? Will the Australian Government be satisfied with the engineering competency of the States’ investigating teams? As such proposals have the imprimatur of the States will he restate the type of investigations the Australian Government will pursue?
– The Federal Government obviously will have to lean quite heavily on the State water resources organisations in order to get an assessment of the various projects. I do not think that at the present moment I can add very greatly to this. We have been in touch with the States and have asked them individually to submit proposals. We have received indications from all of them that they will be interested in submitting proposals, but at present we have received requests from only three of the six States. These are being looked into. I have instructed my Department that there is an urgency in this matter, and at the earliest possible moment after we receive the proposals and are able to assess them we will be in a position to start on this Commonwealth programme.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that the employment system on the Sydney and Melbourne waterfront will be changed as from 1st July this year to provide for permanent employment? Does this mean that 360 persons now employed by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority will no longer be required? Is the Minister aware that at least 60% of these employees have lengths of service with the Authority averaging twelve years and that they are contributors to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund or Provident Fund but have not yet fully qualified for long service leave entitlements? Has the Government any plan to safeguard the superannuation, provident fund and long service leave entitlements of these people and their continued employment in the Commonwealth Public Service on their present salary classifications? Finally, is the Minister aware that the majority of these people are permanent employees of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority and are not necessarily permanent public servants?
– I did make an announcement some little while ago that the Government proposed to introduce the necessary legislation to give effect to the recommendations contained in the Woodward report. This legislation is now in course of preparation and, provided the Parliament passes it, will enable the parties concerned to get under way with the new scheme. It is too early to say what precisely will be the effect of the new provisions on the staff of the Stevedoring Industry Authority, but a good many will probably be needed to man the new arrangements to be set up under the stevedoring companies. There could be some redundancy in the Authority, but its employees are our own servants and we shall certainly do our utmost to look after their interests. I shall not be able to give any more precise details until the exact shape of the new arrangement is seen.
– In replying to a question last week the Prime Minister said he would shortly be in possession of the text of a letter to Mr Humphrey, President of the United States Senate, concerning the forthcoming Vietnamese elections. Is he now in a position to supply that text?
- Mr Speaker, this was a letter from Air Vice-Marshal Ky, as Prime Minister of South Vietnam, to Mr Humphrey, as President of the United
States Senate, and I read to the House the message that Prime Minister Ky had sent to me in which he referred to this letter. I think it would be of general interest to honourable members to have the full context. It is rather a long letter and therefore I shall seek leave of the House to have it incorporated in Hansard, but before doing so, perhaps I might read to the House one passage which I think will indicate tha tone of the letter. It is this:
As my Government is nearing the completion of its term of duty, I sincerely feel that we have dispatched our task with honesty and effectiveness under the most difficult circumstances.
I take special pride in the fact that we have successfully started the course toward democracy and equality for a society which was imprisoned within the deep walls of feudalism, corruption and intolerable social discrepancies.
In spite of war, subversion and several grave crises, my Government has undertaken to organise five nationwide elections of” vital importance within about a year’s time: Elections for the Constituent Assembly in September 1966, elections for hamlet and village administration in April-May 1967, presidential and senatorial elections next September, and elections for the Lower House next October.
I do not know of any better way to warrant our determination to stay the course toward democracy.
For it would be proper for all concerned to acknowledge the painful dilemma of our nation, torn between the dream to attain the integrity of democratic life and the necessity to fight for survival.
We have lost many of our people, our soldiers, our cadremen in the past elections, and undoubtedly we shall lose many more in the coming weeks. We must devote a great deal of resources to the exercise of democracy which are badly needed on the battlefield. We run the risk of subversion and division at a time when the nation must unite in the face of the enemy.
Yet we have all accepted the challenge without a shadow of reluctance.
That is only a small portion of quite a long letter. With the concurrence of the House I incorporate the full text of the letter in Hansard.
Dear Mr President,
I take the liberty to write to you at a time when the events in my country occasion passionate debates in the Congress of the United States.
Since the American and Vietnamese nations are together defending freedom, and are consenting to tremendous sacrifices, I deem it my duty to affirm again the principles which command the conduct of national affairs by my Government.
The defence of freedom in Vietnam requires more than our joint efforts at war; it involves first and foremost our mutual commitment to the achievement of democracy and social justice.
Should we stray from that basic commitment, or should you misconstrue our purposes, our alliance would indeed be in jeopardy.
As my Government is nearing the completion of its term of duty, I sincerely feel that we have dispatched our task with honesty and effectiveness under most difficult circumstances.
I take special pride in the fact that we have successfully started the course toward democracy and equality for a society which was imprisoned within the deep walls of feudalism, corruption and intolerable social discrepancies.
In spite of war, subversion and several grave crises, my Government has undertaken to organise five nationwide elections of vital importance within about a year’s time: elections for the Constituent Assembly in September 1966, elections for hamlet and village administration in April-May 1967, presidential and senatorial elections next September, and elections for the Lower House next October.
I do not know of any better way to warrant our determination to stay the course toward democracy.
For it would be proper for all concerned to acknowledge the painful dilemma of our nation, torn between the dream to attain the integrity of democratic life and the necessity to fight for survival.
We have lost many of our people, our soldiers, our cadremen in the past elections, and undoubtedly we shall lose many more in the coming weeks. We must devote a great deal of resources to the exercise of democracy which are badly needed on the battlefield. We run the risk of subversion and division at a time when the nation must unite in the face of the enemy.
Yet we have all accepted the challenge without a shadow of reluctance.
It seems a cruel irony that some of our friends chose this very moment to voice doubt on our sincerity.
Perhaps the fact that my Government includes officers of the armed forces leads to misgivings, for I know of the inherent distrust towards military government in the advanced societies.
But in our present historical context, the Vietnamese armed forces are of a very particular nature: 700,000 of our young men are under arms in a nation of fifteen million people.
Our armed forces are not composed of militarists or people inclined to the use of force or violence, but of all the generations of Vietnamese within the age of offering the fullest measure of service to their imperilled fatherland.
They are the present and the future of our nation.
Furthermore, my Government did not seize power. It was a civilian Government which, unable to resolve instability and division, passed on to the armed forces the burden of preserving the nation from collapsing.
We then formed a mixed team of civilians and military leaders, decided that our term of duty was to be a transitional one, and set out to establish the very rapid time-table for the advent of representative government.
We are now reaching the final stage of that time- table.
Of course, two years are a very short period of time.
We are convinced that we have engaged our country on the right path, but we are also aware that the tasks which we have begun, such as rural development, reorganisation of the administration and of the army, reinforcement of the national economy, need to be continued.
That is why, in good conscience, we deemed it our duty to run for offices in due democratic process.
We hope that the people of Vietnam will entrust us with further responsibilities on the basis of our past performances.
But should the people decide otherwise, we shall readily accept their verdict.
I am particularly sad to hear accusations that the Vietnamese armed forces will resort to coups in the event the election returns should be unfavourable to us.
We have devoted the finest hours of the pas! two years to bringing about the first democratic institutions in our country; we shall not be the ones to destroy them.
I have repeatedly warned our soldiers, our civil servants, our cadremen against rigging the elections in any manner, for I think that dishonest elections would deprive our country of democracy for a long period of time.
In 1963, the people and the army overthrew a dictatorial government which was issued from dishonest elections.
That a few Press correspondents should misquote my word of caution against unfair elections and make it sound like a threat of coup was, after all, understandable.
But for a moment, I felt very discouraged to see some of the best friends of my country give credence to those inaccurate reports.
Time and again I have proved that 1 am capable of placing the interest of our nation above all possible personal ambition: The decision I made on the 30t.h of June to withdraw from the Presidential race and to seek the Vice-Presidency instead, was another instance of my sincerity.
I see therefore, no reason for attributing to ill faith on the part of my Government the difficulties that the candidates may encounter in their campaigning.
My country is short of physical facilities, several of our airfields are still unsafe, and the wind blows where it may. In my opinion, a dignified attitude, for those among us whose ambition it is to be public servants by popular choice should be to endure those misfortunes and persevere in seeking the support of the electorate, and not to display resentment against the adverse conditions which prevail for our entire people.
In the meanwhile, I am satisfied that our Government has done its very best to give all candidates a fair share of the means of campaigning.
The same amount of money is alloted to all tickets.
The Government television and radio allow equal time to all candidates in direct broadcast, and anybody in Vietnam can testify that those means are used at their fullest capacity by our opponents.
The Vietnamese Press is free, and, in part, quite virulently anti-Government. On the other hand the foreign Press is at full liberty to cover the campaign and the forthcoming elections.
If by the standards of a country with a long experience in the exercise of democracy, and free from the predicaments of war and underdevelopment, our elections still present serious shortcomings, I am the first Vietnamese to deplore that situation.
But I can say without any doubt in my conscience that my Government does not deserve any lesson in honesty and patriotism from any quarter.
I am afraid that persistent criticism without substantiated evidence on the part of some prominent American figures may, in the long run, impair the harmony of our joint efforts.
Hie Vietnamese are a proud people, they will accept any amount of tribulations and sufferings, but their dead count as much as the dead from all the friendly lands, and they will admit no discrimination in all the men’s supreme tribute to freedom and human dignity.
I see an urgent need, Mr President, for all of us to keep an appropriate perspective in the partnership between nations, large and small, which are in pursuit of a> common ideal, for intemperate reliance upon the physical scale of strength would be the negation of that very ideal.
Mr President, may I ask you to convey my letter to all the distinguished members of the Senate of the United States.
I stand in profound respect for the great traditions of democracy and justice embodied in your institutions.
I greatly value the support of Congress of the United States for the cause of Vietnam, and 1 am always ready to discuss in total candor with the distinguished senators who wish to further examine the development concerning the common endeavour of our two nations.
Air Vice-Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. I refer the honourable gentleman to statements that have been made recently, and particularly to an article in this morning’s ‘Australian Financial Review’, that critical decisions will soon have to be made on the future of the Government Aircraft Factories and the Weapons Research Establishment. I ask the Minister: What plans has the Government to maintain the operation of the Government Aircraft Factories when the Mirage project ends? What plans has the Government to maintain operation of the Weapons
Research Establishment at a high level as British defence spending abroad is reduced substantially over the next few years?
– These are two relatively unrelated questions. I think there was a report in today’s Press dealing with the future of the Woomera rocket range, with which the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury is of course associated. The agreement under which this is to operate for the next year is in the same terms as those applying heretofore. The arrangement to operate after 1968 is still the subject of agreement between the Australian Government and the United Kingdom Government except in relation to one aspect, which perhaps is the major aspect, and that is that the range will continue to be operated as a partnership. I think that the honourable gentleman will be aware of our interest in the tripartite arrangement with the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Australia dealing with Project SPARTA. There is a considerable work load still on the European Launcher Development Organisation and the programme until 1970 is, if anything, likely to be in excess of that which has occupied the last two years.
The honourable gentleman has asked about the aircraft industry and about the Government Aircraft Factories in particular. The Government is concerned about the health of the entire aircraft industry which, as he knows, extends far beyond the boundaries of the Government Aircraft Factories. Clearly the Australian defence Services do not generate requirements for aircraft at a rate that would fully occupy the facilities of Australia’s aircraft factories. Nevertheless, in the last few weeks we have had a number of high level discussions with representatives of the Department of Defence, the Department of Supply and the Department of Air and related departments concerning the forward work load. At present the Chiefs of Staff, in conjunction with the Joint War Production Committee, are undertaking a study looking ahead to the kind of requirement that will develop in the RAAF. Nobody should underestimate the enormous difficulties of dealing with an aircraft industry which in this country is so widely scattered. I hope that we shall be able in the next month or two to make some announcement of prospects, anyhow.
– fay question is directed to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that the cost of drugs used in State public hospitals is subsidised by the Commonwealth under the national health scheme? If so, what is the basis on which reimbursement is made?
– The answer to the first part of the question is ‘Yes’. Under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme the Commonwealth meets the full cost of drugs prescribed in public hospitals, plus a 20% mark up for handling and administrative charges and the like. Just by way of illustration I point out that in 1965-66 in New South Wales, where there has been some discussion of this matter, this would have amounted to 79% of the cost of the drugs used in public hospitals.
– In directing a question to the Prime Minister I refer to the practice of his Government and his Party of continually talking about and pointing to what is in the view of Government supporters the dire threat of the downthrust of Chinese Communism. Again referring to substantial sales of steel to China by Australia, I ask: Is this steel capable of being used in any kind of weapon of war? Even if not, is it a fact that these sales would strengthen China as a nation and so enable it to threaten Australia as the Government suggests it will do? Is it a fact that even if the steel cannot be used for the manufacture of weapons of war its sale to China will release sectors of the Chinese steel industry for the manufacture of war weapons? Is the bombing of North Vietnam, which the Government advocates and supports, intended in part to stop the supply of material from China? Would Australian steel and other commodities be part of such supplies? How can the Government justify such a double standard of foreign and trade policy?
– The Minister for External Affairs will answer the question.
– The honourable gentleman has asked a great number of questions and he prefaced them all by misrepresentation of the Government’s policy. Principally in statements that I have made to this House, the Government has never refrained from directing or hesitating to direct attention to the significance of China and to the danger caused by the present extreme policies of Peking to the security of this region and to all other questions affecting this part of the world. At the same time we have also made it plain that our policy is certainly not one of isolating China and that one of the great diplomatic tasks that lie ahead of us and all other countries is to find a way in which we can live alongside China. That has been the consistent theme of statements of the Government’s policy, and the honourable member unfortunately has misrepresented it.
I turn now to the particular subject of exports of Australian steel to China. First I refer to the position concerning trade with China. I trust that the honourable gentleman and his colleagues will recognise that trade can be ons of the most potent factors in normalising relations between countries. The significant thing which has happened and which probably has passed unnoticed by the honourable gentleman is that whereas the non-Communist countries about five years ago supplied approximately one-third of China’s total trade they are now supplying about 70% of it. As a result of the development of trade a breach between China and the non-Communist world today would hurt China far more than it would have five years ago. In this development of trade Australia has played only a very small part. We have a list of items on which there is a total embargo for purposes of trade with China because these items are thought to be of strategic significance in any warlike activity indulged in by China. There are two other lists of items, in respect of which special permission is required. There is not a total embargo on them but there is an embargo to the extent that they cannot be sent to China without special reference to the Minister, and the responsible Minister in this case is myself.
Over the last two or three years, the only applications for permission have been in respect of steel products. In every case when an application has come before me to supply steel to China it has been accompanied by certification, satisfying to me, that the type of steel involved could not be put to direct warlike use. The only types of steel that have been exported to China - and I see the honourable member for Cunningham listening with close attention because these commodities come from his electorate and their production provides employment for his constituents - have been tin plate scrap, tin plate of a type suitable for making cans for canned goods, toys and casings for electric torches, and mild steel sheet of restricted thickness, of small gauge suitable for converting into roofing materials, guttering and other items of that kind. These are the only materials in respect of which permission to export has been granted.
This export of steel from Australia represents 2% of China’s total imports of steel, I am talking now of Australia’s exports to China in the 1966-67 year. It also represents .3% of China’s total steel production. So if anyone wants to impart any large significance to Australian trade with China in steel products he must pay due attention, first, to the very small proportion that Australian exports of steel to China represent of China’s total production of steel, and also of the total amount of steel that China is receiving from elsewhere. Secondly, he must pay attention to the fact that the type of steel that is sent is of no direct strategic importance, or cannot be put directly into military use.
This trade with China is a matter of policy, and in the determination of trade policy with China from time to time the Government tries to make that policy fit in with both the realities and the dangers of the present short-term situation and with our hopes that gradually, over a period, the normalisation of relations may be achieved.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development. I refer to the honourable gentleman’s Press release announcing that storage difficulties necessitate the transfer of uranium concentrates from Rum Jungle to Lucas Heights in Sydney. Will all the stocks be used at the new point of storage? If not, has a thorough evaluation -of the economics of double handling been made? Is there vacant accommodation available at Lucas Heights or will capital expenditure be involved? Finally, is there any possibility of temporary storage facilities at Rum Jungle meeting the situation for a reasonable number of years?
– It is necessary to transfer this uranium, which is stored at Rum Jungle, for a number of reasons. One is that there is not adequate storage available there and additional storage facilities would need to be built, whereas suitable storage accommodation is available at Lucas Heights. Another reason is that I and members of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission have become a little concerned at the difficulty of maintaining a close survey over this very valuable material. As I have previously informed honourable members, it is worth, at current prices, about $20m. As this material is not easy to keep well guarded it was felt that it was safer for the Government to take it to Lucas Heights. I think this answers the honourable gentleman’s question. At present no decision has been made as to where this material is likely to be used. It is only being stored.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Is it the intention of the Commonwealth Government, under its new powers in relation to Aboriginals and its new census powers, to ascertain separate health and mortality statistics relating to Australian Aboriginals so that the effectiveness of policies relating to their welfare may be assessed?
– I hope soon to make a statement about the consideration we have been giving to these various matters following the outcome of the recent referendum. I shall have the particular matters raised by the honourable gentleman studied in order to see whether I can cover them in my statement or whether I can give him an earlier answer.
– Will the Treasurer give consideration to the establishment of a drought bond fund? Could income invested in such bonds be deducted from taxable income until such time as the bonds mature or are cashed on some prearranged basis?
– Prior to my becoming Treasurer consideration had been given to this problem by Treasury officials and by at least one of my predecessors. On those occasions it had been decided that there were real complications in permitting deductibility of the interest received. It was felt also that there were other complications. Nonetheless, during the course of the last few weeks, since I read certain reports in the newspapers, and particularly since I read the honourable gentleman’s speech delivered in the House last week, I have asked my officials to look at the matter again. This will be under consideration shortly.
– 1 ask the Minister for External Affairs a question supplementary to that asked a few minutes ago by the honourable member for Bendigo. The Minister will remember that in his reply to the earlier question he indicated that one of the best avenues through which normal relations with Communist China could bc developed - remember that it is desirable to do this - would be through development of trade with that country. Will he contact the United States of America and advise the Government of that country that its policy of a total embargo on trade with Communist China is prejudicial in the extreme-
-Order! The honourable member is now giving information.
– No, I am asking whether the Minister will contact the Government of the United States of America and advise it that its policy of a total embargo on trade with Communist China is prejudicial to the establishment of normal relations with China. Will the Minister report back to this Parliament how his censure fares?
– I am sure that in the United States of America the statement made by the honourable gentleman will be read with respect.
– I ask the Minister for the Army a question. In the South Australian Parliament last Tuesday the Premier of South Australia stated that one of the reasons for the large number of unoccupied homes for rental or purchase in Smithfield and adjacent areas was that the Housing
Trust of South Australia had built the homes because the Commonwealth Government had repeatedly stated that an ordnance depot and workshop would be built on nearby Commonwealth owned land. In view of the South Australian Premier’s constant unwarranted efforts to blame the Commonwealth Government for his own maladministration, will the Minister state whether such a statement has ever been made in the name of the Commonwealth Government and how many service men would reasonably be expected to purchase such a home if an optimum size ordnance depot were constructed on this land?
– I find it difficult to understand on what basis the Premier of South Australia made his statement in the South Australian Parliament, if, as I am sure it is, it is accurately reported by the honourable member. The facts in this situation are that some considerable time ago the Commonwealth acquired in the Elizabeth area about 270 acres for a future ordnance depot. This is a long term requirement because the existing ordnance facilities in the Adelaide area are most unsatisfactory. They are divided and split up into different locations. They are expensive to operate. This has always been a very long term requirement and never at any time has any firm indication been given about when the ordnance depot would be built. We currently hope that construction will begin in 1.971 or 1972 - in this order of time - but this will depend on the availability of finance and the completion of a number of much higher priority items where our main Army expansion has taken place in the three eastern States.
About forty-four members of the Regular Army would work at an ordnance depot of the size we would establish there and about fifty-three civilians. This would not be a net addition to employment in the Army in the Adelaide and Elizabeth areas; it would be a transfer of those already employed in the ordnance areas in the centre of Adelaide. I would imagine that a number of civilians who have been settled in Adelaide for some time would want to maintain their existing homes and would not want to transfer to Elizabeth. We believe there would be a request for about twenty or twenty-five homes at the most if and when the ordnance depot is completed and even this number could be reduced to some extent because Adelaide is one of the few areas where there is not a shortage of Army homes. Members may prefer to live in the city and commute to Elizabeth. There is no basis or justification for the statement made by the South Australian Premier.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Did bis predecessor in office rejoice in the title of ‘Pig Iron Bob’ following his approval of the export of steel to Japan? In view of the fervid assurances given by the Minister for External Affairs in reply to the honourable member for Bendigo as to the nature of exports to China, will the Prime Minister accept the honorific of Tin Plate Harold’?
-Order! The question is out of order.
– I should just like to make the comment, Mr Speaker, that the former Prime Minister enjoyed an undefeated record of leadership of this Parliament for eighteen years. If that is a consequence of the honorific, I accept the title gladly.
– Can the Prime Minister inform me of the function of the Australian observers at the proposed elections in South Vietnam? Are they merely to report to Cabinet or are they to reassure public opinion that the elections are free from corruption? If they are the latter, will he now agree that our observer team should have a wider representation and should include representatives from outside the Public Service - people such as academics and representatives of both sides of the Parliament?
– The team of observers appointed to observe the elections in Vietnam was drawn from a corps of people who are professionally trained and experienced in the job of reporting events in foreign lands. In that respect they have qualifications as high as could be found anywhere else in Australia. As for impartiality, they belong to a Public Service which, when it thinks of the Government of Australia, T am sure does not think of a government drawn from any party but is prepared, in the traditions of the Public Service, to serve whatever government of Australia is created by the people of Australia. I would hope that this House generally would not assume that because any officer is a member of the Commonwealth Public Service he ceases to be capable of complete political impartiality. Furthermore, the job to be done is one that requires some experience of foreign countries.
In addition to a report from the team we have appointed we will receive as an official report to the Government the report from our own Ambassador. That will be a confidential report as his reports normally are. In addition there will be, as I have already ascertained, a very considerable representation of the Australian Press from journalists who are experienced in service in Asia. The only instruction, if it could be called an instruction, to the team of observers who have been appointed is, as I publicly announced, that in good conscience they are to report on their own judgment. I have the utmost confidence that in good conscience they will report on their own judgment. They certainly have not received any instructions or been given any indication from the Government that they will be expected to do otherwise.
– My question which relates to trade is addressed to the Minister assisting the Minister for Trade and Industry. In view of the latest information that neither China, as expected, nor Russia, which is perhaps not so expected, is to be a signatory to the new International Wheat Agreement, what is the effect on export price levels up to 1st July next year likely to be in view of an expected world surplus of wheat? How gilt edged is the Agreement likely to be after that date if all nations are not signatories and if world production continues to rise?
– In the first part of his question the honourable gentleman has asked about the likely stability of the world wheat market in a period up to 1st July next year. The stability of the market from the point of view of Australia’s exports is covered to some extent by our bilateral agreement with the United Kingdom. That agreement covers a percentage of our wheat exports. Beyond that it is a matter for negotiation between Australia as a seller and the various countries which are buyers of our wheat crop. In this regard at this very moment the Australian Wheat Board has in East Africa, I understand, some representatives who are pursuing negotiations, and constantly members of the Wheat Board are endeavouring to negotiate contracts for the sale of Australian wheat. There is no certainty that the price of wheat will remain at any particular level in that period up to 1st July 1968, but it is hoped that as recently an international agreement has been negotiated no sales will be made at a price below the minimum prices agreed.
In reply to the second part of the honourable gentleman’s question, the fact that in this instance the International Wheat Agreement is to be allied with the GATT negotiations and the Kennedy Round reductions of tariff within GATT, I believe there is a greater measure of certainty for the future of trade negotiations within the International Wheat Agreement than perhaps there might otherwise have been. 1 am confident that in terms of future trade and future sales of wheat this will mean that there should be certainty that Australian wheat sales can be negotiated at and above the agreed price.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Navy. Is it a fact that the Department of Supply is taking over the motor vehicle inventory of the Department of the Navy and the motor transport workshops repair facilities and technical personnel as a package deal? Can the Minister advise me why technical personnel from Bunnerong motor transport workshops have applied to the Garden Island establishment for positions? Finally, can the Minister advise me whether the motor transport workshop situated at Fizgerald Avenue, Maroubra, is to be closed down completely?
– The answer to the first part of the honourable gentleman’s question is Yes. A study has been made and it has been found there would be greater efficiency in the supply and conduct of vehicles if they were taken over by the Department of Supply. I am not in a position to tell the honourable gentleman the exact number of drivers who have applied to Garden Island for employment, but I can tell him that a guarantee has been given to all drivers at Bunnerong that their services will be maintained. No-one will be dismissed.
– It is closing down.
– Order! The honourable member has asked his question.
– The Minister did not answer it.
– On 17th August, during a Grievance Day debate, I spoke about the new salary scale in Papua and New Guinea. In the course of my speech, I said that when the salary scale was reduced those on the former salary scale were threatened with reductions but because of the uproar the threat was withdrawn. 1 find that in making this statement I misrepresented the position and, in effect, harmed the Minister for Territories (Mr Barnes), the Department of Territories and the Administration of Papua and New Guinea. I now know that while the salary scale was reduced it was never proposed to reduce the salaries of those being paid on the old scale and that the retention of old scale salaries by local civil servants who were employed before the reduced scale was introduced was always part of the proposal. Accordingly, I wish to apologise to the Minister, the Department and the Administration for this mis-statement of one important aspect of the policy. Of course, this does not involve a retraction of criticism of the general policy of introducing the new salary scale, but the Minister and his servants are entitled to have their policy accurately stated. I regret the inaccuracy.
Bill presented by Mr Howson, and read a first time.
– I move:
Mr Speaker, the Excise Tariff Bill now before the House provides for amendments to the Excise Tariff 1921-1967. The purpose of the amendment is to enact the increased rates of duty on canned fruit contained in Excise Tariff Proposals No. 1, introduced into the House on 16th March 1967. On the recommendation of the Australian Canned Fruits Board the rates of excise duty on canned apricots, peaches and mixtures thereof were increased in the Proposal from 20c to 30c per dozen 29 oz can, basic container, with equivalent increases on other can sizes. It will be recalled that when the Government introduced amending legislation in 1963 to reconstitute the Australian Canned Fruits Board, it agreed to impose an exise duty on canned deciduous fruits entered for consumption within Australia so as to provide the Board with additional funds to assist the industry in developing markets for the greatly increased supplies of fruit that had become available. The proposal advanced by the industry at the time and accepted by the Government was that the maximum rate of excise duty that could be imposed would be 60c per dozen 29 oz cans with the operative rate from time to time within this ceiling to be decided on the recommendation of the Board. This proposal has the substantial support of canners and growers.
The previous rate of 20c per dozen 29 oz cans yielded about $1.2m a year. This money is expended by the Board in exercising its functions under the provisions of the Canned Fruits Export Marketing Act 1963-1966 ‘to encourage, assist and promote the exportation of canned fruits from Australia and the consumption and sale outside Australia’.
Over recent years there has been a large increase in the availability of canned deciduous fruits for export. Production increased from 7.3 million cartons in 1963 to an estimated 10.5 million cartons in 1967 and it is expected that the availability of fruit for canning from existing plantings will continue to grow. Home consumption accounts for about three million cartons a year which means that at present pack levels about 7.5 million cartons are available for export yearly. In 1966 there was a record movement of 6.6 million cartons to overseas markets but even so the stock carryover assumed a relatively high level of two million cartons. Our main competitor, South Africa, is also increasing production at a fairly fast rate and has now taken over as the leading supplier in the major United Kingdom market.
The funds obtained from the excise duty have enabled the industry to obtain some foothold in the major markets on the continent of Europe, particularly in Germany, where the sales level has risen from a nominal level in 1963 to about 800,000 cartons last year. The Board has also been able to intensify promotional activity in Canada with a corresponding increase in trade from 150 cartons in 1963 to 700,000 cartons in 1966.
The Board, backed by canning interests representing a substantial proportion of production, and the central growers’ organisation - the Australian Canning Fruitgrowers Association - has sought the increase in duty contained in the Bill so that additional funds will be provided for the further developmental work needed to move the increased supplies of fruit currently available. The Government is fully seized with the need to give all reasonable assistance to the Board and that industry in their efforts not only to consolidate but to expand all possible overseas outlets for our canned deciduous fruits. It agrees that the Board will require additional revenue for the purpose at this stage. Accordingly, it has been pleased to accept the Board’s recommendation which, at present home consumption levels, will provide an additional $600,000 in a full year. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr. J. F. Cairns) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 24 August (vide page 491), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Whitlam had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘this House condemns the Budget because -
– Many of my colleagues in this debate have given chapter and verse of statements in which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has tried to mislead the House and the country in matters relating to foreign affairs and defence. This afternoon, I want to say something about his performance in the health field, which I administer. In his Budget speech, he made the sweeping statement that the administration of health services in Australia is wasteful and inefficient. Such allegations are easily made and it is equally easy to leave the impression, as he has done and as members of his Party habitually do, that the alleged waste and inefficiency would somehow be removed automatically if the health services were socialised. They clearly intend to socialise the health services. This can be seen by anyone who reads the pamphlet, with the man of destiny on the cover - a portrait of the Leader of the Opposition - which was put out following the recent Conference in Adelaide. I am frankly puzzled by this apparently widespread assumption in the Australian Labour Party that you automatically improve health services by a process of socialisation. It is recognised everywhere in the world that governments have a part to play in bringing health services within the reach of every person in the community who needs them. The precise part that governments should play is a question for rational debate, and I am convinced that the right answer will vary from place to place, depending to a substantial extent on the Constitution, the degree, of development and particular local factors which apply in every country. But to begin an examination of such a question on the premise that more socialisation means more or better services is plainly nonsense.
I suggest that it would be useful for us to get down to bedrock and consider the question of what we in the Parliament should be trying to achieve in our approach to national health services. The Government’s primary objective is to maintain and develop a system under which the best health services that our doctors and hospitals can provide are within the financial means of every man, woman and child in the community. In this respect we are, I believe, considerably ahead of such advanced countries as the United States of America and Canada. The United States of America is now moving on medicine for aged persons and Canada has a FederalProvince hospital arrangement, but with these exceptions medical services are generally regarded as a matter of individual responsibility. In Australia we have recognised that one of the consequences of leaving health services entirely as a private matter is that many people are unable to get all the medical attention they need. There are indications that this deficiency is gaining increased recognition in the United States and Canada.
But it is one thing to recognise this as a deficiency and another thing altogether to jump hastily from this point, as the Labor Party has done, to the position that all would be well if only there were a socialised system under which the citizen would not be responsible at all for the cost of individual treatment. The Labor Party did nol see when it was in power, and it apparently still has its eyes determinedly closed on the question, that there are price tags on a completely bureaucratic health scheme. The first price tag is the built-in inflation of costs to the taxpayers which such schemes impose and which inevitably leads to some form of rationing of the services provided; the second is that the patient must suffer some infringement of his right of choice; and the third is that doctors and other health practitioners are inevitably made subject to an even greater degree of restriction.
By declaring that a completely bureaucratic health scheme is a scheme in which medical services are and must be rationed I do not speak lightly. It follows from proper reasoning, and is a fact of experience, that services will be rationed by the amount of taxpayers’ money that governments are prepared to set aside for this purpose, and in certain circumstances this may mean strict rationing indeed. Anyone who is familiar with long waiting lists for so called non-urgent operations in a socialised system will be aware of the reality of this situation. Any honourable member who seeks further enlightenment on this point may care to refer to a publication entitled ‘Medicine and Polities’ by Mr Enoch Powell, who was Minister of Health in the United Kingdom from 1960 to 1963. I content myself with quoting one passage which, of course, is on the United Kingdom health scheme, which states:
Thus, outside as well as inside the hospitals the figure on the supply side of the equation is fixed at any particular time by those complex forces that determine the state’s decisions on expenditure. With this figure demand has to be brought into balance. Virtually unlimited as it is by nature, and unrationed by price, it has nevertheless to be squeezed down somehow so as to equal the supply. In brutal simplicity, it has to be rationed; and to understand the methods of rationing is also essential for understanding Medicine and Politics. The task is not made easier by the political convention that the existence of any rationing at all must be strenuously denied. The public are encouraged to believe that rationing in medical care was banished by the National Health Service, and that the very idea of rationing being applied to medical care Ls immoral and repugnant. Consequently when they, and the medical profession too, come face to face in practice with the various forms of rationing to which the National Health Service must resort, the usual result is bewilderment, frustration and irritation.
The worst kind of rationing is that which is unacknowledged, for it is the essence of a good rationing system to be intelligible and consciously accepted. This is not possible where ils very existence has to be repudiated.
In this country this Government does not feel the need to apologise for the fact that our health scheme is a compromise between extremes. It balances Government assistance with individual responsibility. It enables people to make proper provision while they are healthy against the time when they or their dependants may be ill. Should they suffer illness, their freedom to choose their own doctor is absolutely safeguarded. Special arrangements take care of the needs of pensioners and of those who suffer from extended periods of illness. It is, in fact, a compromise which gives us the best of all worlds.
The Leader of the Opposition says that our health scheme is wasteful, but what does he mean by that? Is it really wasteful to allow a patient to choose his doctor, his chemist and where he will receive hospital care? ls it really wasteful to allow small hospital and medical benefits funds to exist when they operate on a non-profit making basis and within limits on management expenses which are lower than the levels applying in commercial insurance? This repeated talk by honour able gentlemen opposite about the multiplicity of health insurance funds has become something of a parrot cry. What are the facts about these funds?
In the early 1950s when the Government adopted the policy of support of voluntary health insurance it was determined to make the policy a success. One of the steps taken was to seek the interest of friendly societies and other community groups who had already had a good deal of experience of insurance-type health arrangements with hospitals and doctors. Through the energetic and practical approach of the Minister for Health of the time, the late Sir Earle Page, and his officers, by 1954 some 127 funds were approved under the National Health Act as hospital benefits funds and eighty funds were approved as medical benefits funds. Many of the funds were approved for both hospital and medical benefits purposes. The number of funds approved today in 109 hospital and 78 medical. Allowing for dual funds, there are 1 17 separate funds altogether, which is 19 less than in 1954.
The participation of friendly societies and other community group funds has played a notable part in the rapid and successful development of the voluntary insurance scheme. Today, their members receive a service which, I believe, is generally speaking as good as or better than the service received by the members of the larger funds. There is no demand from members of these funds, so far as I am aware, that their funds be driven out of the scheme. Their management expenses are subject io the same official scrutiny as are the expenses of the larger funds. Indeed, the management expenses are in many cases contributed to by the commercial or community enterprises with which they are associated. I cannot see any reason why these funds should be driven out of the national health scheme. If I have not convinced members of the Opposition on this point I will conclude my remarks in this respect by observing that the names of all the funds are notified periodically in the Commonwealth Gazette’. Honourable members who wish to see the number of funds reduced might indicate to the House which funds they would propose to deregister from the national health scheme. The members and the managements of those funds, as well as the House, would then know where they stood with the honourable members concerned.
I move on from this particular question to the more general question of the standing of the National Health Scheme in the eyes of the community. One good measure of value for money is what the people who are paying think of the services they get. By this yardstick the people of Australia have no doubts about the medical and hospital benefits schemes. The most recent figures show that 8,846,000 people, or 76% of the population, are covered by medical benefits; that 9,342,000 people, or 80% of the population, are covered by hospital benefits; that 1,043,000 pensioners, or 8.9% of the population, receive free medical, hospital and pharmaceutical treatment. There are also those people in the population - for instance those in the armed services - who receive free medical and hospital treatment outside the voluntary health insurance scheme. In all, the medical and hospital benefit schemes are giving just about a saturation coverage to those people who need services. From these figures there seems to be no doubt about the public acceptance of voluntary health insurance. They express in essence the sum of millions of individual decisions in favour of voluntary health insurance.
There are, of course, complaints that health insurance is becoming too costly as the fees for medical and hospital treatment rise, although I would make the point in passing that the patient’s share of the average medical fee last year was smaller than at any time since the scheme began. Nevertheless, costs have risen. One good reason why health costs are rising is that the services are being constantly improved and are being used more than ever before. Good service always begets demand and this is what is happening with health services. The rise in the cost of health services is certainly related to the rising expectation of the public of good health services. Ten years ago the average person received 2.6 medical services under the medical benefits scheme. In 1966-67 that number had risen to 3.4 services.
The Government is critically aware of the pressure of costs on the national health scheme and will continue to do all it can in the context of total development priorities to maintain and extend health benefits. It must be borne in mind, however, that the Commonwealth Government is not alone responsible for health services in Australia. Government activities in health, as in every other field, must be pursued in accordance with the Constitution. Under the Constitution the Commonwealth’s powers and responsibilities regarding hospitals, for example, are expressed to be in relation to ‘hospital benefits’ - not the establishment or maintenance of hospitals, not the financing of hospitals, but ‘hospital benefits’. Public and private hospitals had been established in Australia long before the Commonwealth even had power to pay hospital benefits. The conduct and financing of those hospitals is, by long standing tradition and practice, a State government responsibility. What the Commonwealth does is to administer a hospital benefits scheme by means of which people are enabled, with Commonwealth help, to take out insurance coverage against the amounts of hospital fees at whatever level they may be fixed by hospital or State authorities. The fees for hospital services have indeed risen in most States but the levels of these fees are related to decisions not by the Commonwealth Government but by the State governments. Commonwealth assistance by way of hospital benefit payments and payments on behalf of pensioners is the same for each State and yet, for instance, the Government of Queensland is providing hospital treatment free while the Victorian Government, as is its constitutional right I hasten to add, has decided that its hospital charges to patients must be set at relatively high levels.
Figures on sources of revenue of public hospital finance in the various States show that the Victorian Government pays only 52.1% of the maintenance costs of its hospitals compared with 56.8% by the New South Wales Government, 75.8% by the Queensland Government, 60.5% by the South Australian Government, 61.6% by the Western Australian Government and 66.7% by the Tasmanian Government. How the States should finance their hospital systems and what they charge for hospital treatment is not a matter which the Commonwealth either wants to, or could, control. The overriding advantage of our scheme is that every individual can insure himself against having to meet hospital fees, whatever those fees may be. In addition, the Commonwealth has made arrangements with public hospitals under which hospitals which provide free public ward treatment for social service pensioners are paid a pensioner hospital benefit by the Commonwealth. This is an invaluable right from the pensioners point of view and no less than 4,516,197 pensioner bed days were provided free of charge by public hospitals in 1966-67 in pursuance of this arrangement.
State Ministers sometimes complain that this Commonwealth benefit is not enough and no doubt we would have this complaint at whatever level the benefit were fixed. However, the essential facts are that the rate of benefit has been increased from $1.20 a day in 1962 to $5 in 1967. That is, it has been increased fourfold in that short period. The amount paid by way of pensioner benefits to public hospitals in 1966-67 was $18,731,000- a not inconsiderable addition to the incomes of hospitals which, generally speaking, have collected very little in hospital fees from pensioners throughout their history. Besides free hospital treatment, pensioners also receive the free general practitioner service, one of the greatest social services to pensioners introduced by any government in Australian history. Over one million persons - pensioners and dependants - receive this service as of right and negotiations are proceeding with the Australian Medical Association with the objective of extending the service to the persons who have recently become pensioners as a result of the 1967 relaxation of the means test.
It is worth mentioning here, because it is not often understood, that the pensioner medical service is not just a social service provided in isolation. It is a recognition of the fact that in a system based on health insurance there are some individuals who cannot afford to insure. It is sometimes forgotten that this includes not only old people who are adjudged to be in this category but also many younger people who are in receipt of the invalid pension. It is the existence of the pensioner medical service together with the traditional outpatient and specialist in-patient services provided by public hospitals that allows me to say with confidence that no-one in this country need be denied the best of medical treatment because for some reason or other he or she cannot afford to pay for it.
I should like to say a little about the pharmaceutical benefits scheme - another magnificent success story by the Government in the health field. Comments from the Opposition benches rarely, if ever, reflect a proper understanding of what this scheme is achieving; least of all the illconceived comments of the Leader of the Opposition in his speech on the Budget. The most common sources of crippling expense for individuals are hospital bills, doctors bills and drug costs. The burden of hospital bills and doctors bills is greatly relieved by the voluntary insurance scheme. The burden of drug costs is likewise largely removed from the individual’s shoulders by a properly conducted government scheme. In this case the cost of pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners is met entirely by the Government and the cost of general pharmaceutical benefits is met by the Government except for the first 50c on each prescription. This scheme has done immeasurable good in relieving financial hardship- enabling sick people readily to secure life-saving and disease-preventing drugs even of a most expensive kind - and, to some extent, it pays for itself in reducing the length of hospital treatment and absence from employment. It is a costly scheme, a very costly scheme. Its increasing cost is a continuing source of worry to the Government. The increasing costs are not, however, simply a matter of bigger payments to chemists and drug companies. Negotiations with drug companies are continually being carried out with a view to arriving at equitable prices, and savings of $3.7m were effected by these negotiations last year - and, of course, the benefit of negotiations in earlier years also continued to accumulate. Their success is measured by the fact that the average price per prescription last year was below that of 1962. The increasing costs in this field as in others are a reflection of increased services - the addition of new drugs to the list and more prescribing of many drugs.
In this matter our scheme, like any government drug scheme, depends on the good sense of doctors. The Government would naturally like to see the cost of the scheme reduced but recognises that this is a field in which safety standards and availability of supplies are of paramount importance. In the field of drug safety the Government is particularly proud of its record. Australia has been relatively free of druginduced illnesses of a serious character which have been a significant problem in some countries. This is largely due to the good sense observed in prescribing by our medical profession. But I believe that the kind of pharmaceutical benefits scheme we have is playing a significant part in keeping drug usage relatively safe in this country; that is, the listings of drugs as benefits, quantities that may be prescribed as benefits, purposes of use and so forth, are all subject to detailed prior study by the experts who comprise the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. Very eminent drug authorities from overseas have commended our scheme and have counselled me to resist strongly attempts to change its fundamental character.
The last thing I. have to say, or rather to repeat, is that it is easy enough to use extreme words, as the Leader of the Opposition has done, to allege, without the backing of facts, that health services are wasteful or inefficient. If the Opposition would care to do its homework, to think hard on the matter of health services, it might be prepared to admit that one does not get the best health care by extreme measures. A national health service has an entity of its own and one does not get the best results by beating it into a form dictated by doctrinaire thinking. The best results come from moulding natural growth and the human resources of knowledge, dedication and trust. This is exactly what our scheme does. It recognises that health services should be highly personalised; that human dignity is as important as physical good health; and that every person should have the right to choose from whom, when and how he receives medical, hospital or pharmaceutical treatment. It recognises that the people who provide health services have a right to be adequately rewarded, not only in terms of money but in terms of professional satisfaction; and that the patients in any health service cannot hope to receive the best treatment unless the doctors, the nurses, the administrators and the technicians involved are working within a system which allows them to fulfil their legitimate aspirations.
While proud of the advances made, the Government is conscious of the need for development and for adjustments to meet the demands of changing circumstances. One such development was announced in this Budget - although the Leader of the Opposition said that the Budget made no reference to health services - when the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) foreshadowed legislation to authorise the provision, on the basis of a hiring charge, of hearing aids for pensioners by the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories. Some 24,000 persons, including over 6,000 children, are already benefiting from this service, and its extension to pensioners is a further step forward. It will be followed by other steps in other fields, all properly worked out on the basis of need and responsibility and subject to the demands on the Government in the context of its overall responsibilities.
– The Budget, brought down by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) on 15th August, displays a scandalous and callous disregard of the plight and welfare of the age, invalid and widow pensioners. This is evidenced by the failure of the Government to adjust the pension rates despite the admission by the Treasurer that the consumer price index rose by 2% in the first three quarters and by 5% in the last quarter of the financial year ended 30th June 1967. This indicates that the pensioner is compelled to absorb the price increases in what I submit is already a most inadequate pension. If the pension rate, as adjusted in the 1966 Budget, were deemed to be a reasonable amount to exist on then, it must be recognised by any person possessing humanitarian principles and a sense of justice that this Government stands condemned for allowing the living standards of pensioners to deterioriate in this so called lotus land. It is interesting to note a report, which appeared in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on Monday, 2 1 st August, of an interview with the Treasurer on the Melbourne television programme ‘Meet the Press’. He is reported as saying:
The Federal Budget is an investors’ Budget and above all a businessman’s budget. If normal manufacturing and commercial interests take the message to heart we will have a good year.
Press commentators unanimously agree that it is most definitely not a pensioners budget. If the pensioners take the message to heart, they will look forward to a black year ahead. The Treasurer was questioned about the failure by the Government to increase pensions. He said that he had sympathy for the pensioners because they had been left out of the Budget. He added:
Last year I was able to give them an increase of $1-
I interpose here to say that that is not wholly true - but when I saw the deficit I had, and the other people we had to look after-
I do not know what ‘the other people we had to look after’ means - 1 had to recognise the difficulties. On this occasion f doubted if the economy could afford it. I did this against this background which I do not like mentioning - that once we touch them they cost us something of the order of $50m.
The Treasurer’s statement about last year’s increase was not true because married pensioner couples received 75c each, not $1. The Treasurer also said that he had sympathy for the pensioners because they had been left out of the Budget, lt seems that the only benefit for the pensioners in this Budget is the Treasurer’s sympathy, which is very poor consolation, lt will not help to meet increased prices for everyday essential commodities. The likelihood of further price increases between now and the presentation of the 1968 Budget, which is the earliest time that the pensioners can hope for a review of the pension, must also be taken into consideration. If the 5% cost of living increase for the last financial year had been taken into account the pension for a single person would have been increased by 65c from $13 to $13.65 and the combined married rate would have been increased by $1.15 from $23.50 to $24.65.
In a television interview the Treasurer stated that once he touched them - meaning pensions - they cost something of the order of $50m, and yet our defence expenditure is to be increased by $168m from $950m to $1,1 18m. This is reminiscent of the pre-World War II days in Germany and the Nazi policy of guns before butter. This Budget has been aptly named a malnutrition Budget for the pensioners, par ticularly when it is realised that 82% of the pensioners have no income other than the pension. The Government’s theme is not one cent for the pensioner. This is a betrayal of the pioneers who have made it possible for some of us to enjoy the privileges and benefits of the affluent society. It is a mean and despicable Budget of riches for the rich and poverty for the poor.
The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser) spoke very forcibly last Tuesday evening regarding the miserable attitude of the Government in not increasing the pension. An invalid pensioner from West End, Brisbane, was listening to the honourable member’s speech and wrote a letter to the honourable member. He has given me permission to read it. I will read all of it because it illustrates what some of the pensioners have to go through and what the Government does to assist them. The letter is as follows: 1 have just been listening to you speaking in the House, and in no uncertain manner re the pension set up.
We do not know how to exist and wonder if you would be kind enough to inform the House of cases such as ours. We feci as others thai the hypocrites on the Government side must, or should, know these things, but as expected they don’t care.
I was declared by the Commonwealth doctors to be permanently incapacitated for work in May 1964, and given an invalid pension at 62 years and my wife an allowance. For many years prior (about five) we lived on my life’s savings and as I was unable to do anything much due to a heart trouble and severe attacks of arthritis, etc., also spinal trouble. Never asked for charity or other assistance until now. 1 cannot find suitable ground-floor flat accommodation for less than $10 a week. My wife is not game to leave me for long enough to even look for spare-time work even if she was permitted to. So you can see that we and any similar cases are forced to live in these conditions. Self $26 fortnight, wife $12 fortnight = $38 less $20 rent leaving $8-$9 a week which is $4.50 each for everything a week. They must know that today this is not only inhumane but impossible. Normal living by those who oppose you or us probably eat more meat in a week than that buys.
However, if you would speak on our behalves, and remind them that all of us have subscribed towards pensions all our lives, and there would not be many of our age who would expect any more than enough pension to reasonably live on.
I would now like to refer to another branch of social services. I refer to the unemployment and sickness benefits. These rates are as follows: For a single person, $8.25; for a man and wife an extra $3 each, taking that figure up to $14.25; and for one child $1.50. Those rates have not been adjusted since 15th August 1961, despite the fact that prices have sky-rocketed over this period. In 1961 the pension rate was much lower than it is today and the fact that unemployment and sickness benefits have not increased is certainly a blot on the Government’s record. Let me give some examples of how difficult it is for people to survive on this meagre and parsimonious benefit. It is recognised that several thousand people receive unemployment or sickness benefit on a permanent basis. This stems from the fact that many are chronically ill and physically incapable of doing anything but light work, of which very little is available, and yet they do not qualify for an invalid pension because they are not deemed to be 85% permanently incapacitated. Most honourable members would know of the difficulties confronting an unskilled person with a chronic ailment or poor physical condition in finding suitable employment, particularly if he was between 55 and 65 years of age.
I shall cite a case that I handled only 3 or 4 weeks ago for one of my constituents. This man’s sickness benefit of $8.25 had not arrived on the day that it should have. I immediately contacted the Department and stated that the cheque had not arrived. A departmental officer informed me that he would look into the matter straight away and would advise me of the position in ten minutes. During the wait for his call I asked the pensioner about his financial position. He informed me that he did not have a penny to his name and that the $8.25 a week was his only income. But that is not all. He told me he paid $6 a week for a room in a lodging house - the cheapest accommodation available - which left him with the magnificent sum of $2.25 a week to live on. Incidentally, he was 63 years of age and about 5 feet in height with absolutely no hope of finding unskilled work.
I would like now to examine the position of a man and wife on unemployment and sickness benefit. As I stated before, that rate is $14.25 and with one child it is $15.75 plus 50c child endowment, a total of $16.25 a week. With two children the rate is $17.25 plus $1.50 child endowment, a total of $18.75 a week. Does any honourable member or any self-professed Christian deem these rates of benefit to be adequate to tide over a family during the unemployment or sickness of the breadwinner? It is true that some of the people may have a bank account to keep them going for a while. However, there are many families in the lower income brackets paying off a home or paying exorbitant rent. They get heavily in debt after a period on unemployment or sickness benefit. The debt takes many long months to pay off, and then only by depriving themselves and their children of everyday essential commodities.
I would like now to discuss the class B widow’s pension. Approximately 38,000 women receive this benefit. Here, I shall point out one of the Government’s many inconsistencies in retaining the present pension rate of $11.75 a week. First it informs us that single age and invalid pensioners are in more needy circumstances than are married pensioners and it gives the single age or invalid pensioner $13 a week compared to $11.75 each for a married pensioner couple. There is a differential of $1.25 a week. Yet the Government pays a class B widow a pension that is equivalent only to that payable to each of a married pensioner couple. In my view this does not make sense. Class B widows have to pay as much for rent and essential commodities as a single age or invalid pensioner has to pay. Labor’s social services policy is designed to eliminate these anomalies and inequities by providing for a base rate of $14 a week payable to all persons in receipt of social service benefits, with yearly reviews according to changes in the cost of living. This would increase the rate paid to a single age or invalid pensioner by $1 a week, from $13 to $14; the total for a married pensioner couple by $4.50 a week, from $23.50 to $28; the rate for a class B widow by $2.25 a week, from $11.75 to $14; the unemployment or sickness benefit payable to a single person by $5.75, from $8.25 to $14, and the rate for a man with a dependent wife by $13.75, from $14.25 to $28.
It is well to remember that those in the categories that I have mentioned pay the same prices for meat, bread, milk, eggs, vegetables and other food and for clothing as does any other person. It is interesting to note that often in speeches and public utterances we are told that we are living in an affluent society or a lotus land. It would be ridiculous to assert that the vast majority of pensioners are enjoying the standard of living envisaged in those descriptions, because many of our pensioners are poverty striken and frustrated, with very little hope of future wellbeing or happiness. I am extremely doubtful whether any members on the Government side of the Parliament have ever experienced difficulty because of lack of money when purchasing essential commodities. I doubt whether many of them have ever been on unemployment or sickness benefit, struggling to keep a wife and children. So, few if any of them would know what it is to live in poverty. I have always found that experience is the best teacher in matters of this kind. I went through these things in the 1930s with my wife and baby daughter. However, when Labor’s policy on social services is announced we hear from our Liberal and Australian Country Party opponents the same old familiar squeal: Where will they find the money?’ This is reminiscent of bygone days. When in 192<5 a Labor government in New South Wales introduced for the first time in Australia child endowment, widows pensions and workers compensation and reduced the working week from forty-eight to forty-four hours, this was bitterly assailed by the anti-Labor Opposition of the time with the cry: ‘We cannot afford it. The State will be bankrupt.’ In 1947 a Labor government in New South Wales introduced the forty-hour week and again we heard the same old moans and groans. In the 1950s long service leave and compulsory annual leave were introduced by Labor and we were subjected to further protests by our Liberal and Country Party opponents. If Labor had been deterred by the attitude of our opponents the Australian people would not be enjoying the social and industrial benefits that exist today.
I now want to discuss the tax concessions included in the Budget. The Treasurer stated:
The allowances for maintenance of dependants have remained unchanged since the financial year 1957-58 and in that time their value to taxpayers with families has diminished a good deal.
That is certainly an admission of the Government’s tardiness in dealing with the income tax field. The concessional deductions for dependants are to be increased by 526, the allowance for a wife being increased from $286 to $312, that foi one child under sixteen from $182 to $208, and that for other children under sixteen from $130 to $156. These increases exemplify the policy of this Liberal-Country Party coalition Government which is aimed at giving a larger slice of the cake to those in the high income bracket and only a few crumbs to those on lower incomes. The larger the income, of course, the greater is the value of the concession. Let me illustrate what these increased concessional deductions mean. On a taxable income of $2,000 a year the additional deduction will save $5.16 for a taxpayer with a dependant wife, $10.30 for a taxpayer with a wife and one child, $15.45 if there are two children and $20.60 if there are three children. For a taxable income of $10,000 a year the corresponding figures are $13.44, $26.88, $40.32 and $53.76. In terms of money value the person paying tax on an income of $10,000 a year receives over 160% more than the person with a taxable income of $2,000 a year. The higher the income above $10,000 the larger is the concession.
This comparison poses two questions. The first is: Does the person on $2,000 a year really need bigger concessions? I submit, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the answer is definitely ‘Yes’. The second question is: Does the person on $10,000 or more a year really need concessions? I submit that th: answer is definitely ‘No’. In addition, further evidence of the manner in which this Government takes care of the tall poppies is seen in the raising of the maximum limit of deductions for life assurance and superannuation by $400, from $800 to $1,200. This concession is of no earthly use to those in the lower income group and few in the middle income group would gain by it. However, the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), the Treasurer and other Ministers, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. (Mr Barnard) would receive a cash benefit of more than $200 a year from this concession. This is a case in which the Government’s motto is: ‘Help those that help you, but help yourself first’.
It is interesting to note another section of the Treasurer’s Budget speech. Under the heading ‘Growth of the Public Sector’ he said:
One reason why we have drawn the reins on public spending more tightly than before is to provide room for balanced expansion of the private sector. For some years now the public sector has been setting the pace and doing so strongly. That it should have done so is in part based on historical need; that is, the need for large and rapid defence expansion coinciding with unparallelled demands for works to serve great new developments and improve facilities for education, transport, power and fuel supply - in a word, to establish the foundations for larger economic growth. In the four years from 1962-63 to 1966-67 public authority spending as a proportion of total spending has grown from 19% to 21%.
Those remarks imply that the Government intends to damp down public spending. However, the Treasurer did no specify to which section the brakes were to be applied. Could it be to northern development, dam construction, the provision of power and fuel supplies, transport, health services, postal services or the standardisation of rail gauges? Which activity or service will suffer most, or will all be affected in part? The attitude of members of the Country Party on this aspect of the Budget is mystifying and inexplicable to me. I would have thought that they would be attacking the Government’s proposed restraint on public spending, especially as it might affect postal and telephone services in rural areas. On numerous occasions by means of questions addressed to the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) and during debates members of the Country Party have cried out for new telephone exchanges and improved postal facilities. These are entirely dependent on public spending, as is water conservation, which is imperative for the future development and progress of our primary industries.
Power and fuel are also important to the man on the land. There is a great need for improved educational facilities in our country districts, but such improvement can be effected only by public spending. One is really amazed to hear Country Party members advocating a policy of decentralisation while at the same time condoning the Government’s policy of restraint on public spending. Surely any person with even the least spark of intelligence realises that the successful implementation of planned decentralisation depends to a large extent on the expenditure of public moneys. This conclusion is supported by the fact that private enterprise has done very little, if anything, to establish manufacturing industries in rural areas. On its past record it is doubtful that private enterprise intends ever doing so unless it obtains substantial assistance in the form of public moneys.
In winding up my remarks, Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to say something about defence expenditure and particularly the estimates of cost of the Fill aircraft and the Charles Adams destroyers. The original announcement of the purchase of the twenty-four Fill aircraft, made before the 1963 election, gave the cost as $112m. The latest estimated cost is $212m and what the aircraft will finally cost Australia is still not known. So the cost of the Fill aircraft, which has already risen by SI 00m over the original estimate, is still spiralling, and perhaps another $40m or $50m will have to be added to the latest estimates. The report of the Auditor-General, which was distributed only two weeks ago, also reveals extraordinary increases in unit prices of some items of spares for the two Charles Adams class destroyers for the Navy. The cost has almost trebled, having risen from $3m to nearly $9m.
As one scribe has put it, our defence spending is an expensive mess. This laxity and carelessness with the taxpayers’ money indicates that the Government is not competent to enter into financial contracts for the purchase of defence equipment. In the last few years quite a few private enterprise financial organisations have gone bankrupt, with a great deal of the public’s invested money going down the drain because of laxity and mismanagement. However, these organisations have been mere novices at financial bungling compared to the Commonwealth Government.
Finally let me put to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the record of this Government’s fiscal policy reminds me of a well known saying: America has Bing Crosby and Bob Hope; we have Harold Holt and no hope.
– The honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) has expressed concern at the Budget provisions for expenditure in the public sector. Let me remind him, for a start, that payments to and for the States have increased by about $ 130.7m. This is in the public sector and it is a considerable increase. The honourable member also expressed concern for the older people of this country. We all agree that the nation as a whole must accept certain financial responsibilities in this connection, but I remind the honourable member that the only way in which a country can increase payments in this direction is by maintaining a strong economy. We must look at the Budget as a whole. We must look at industry as a whole. I believe that a budget should inspire confidence in the people and in industry. The Budget is a document which appears overnight, lt is a document to which people and industry look to give them confidence to continue in a businesslike fashion not only in Australia itself but also beyond her shores. 1 feel sure that this Budget has engendered such confidence.
But there are a few points that we should not overlook. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) referred in his Budget Speech to seasonal conditions and also to external results having been mixed. He referred to our balance of payments position over the twelve months period as compared with the position in the previous twelve months. Here we see a decline in capital inflow, although exports have been quite healthy. I think this points up a very significant part of the Budget and a matter which is very important to Australia’s future. If we are to continue to do the things we want to do, and should in fact be doing, we must ensure a continued flow of exports from this country in ever increasing quantity and ever improving quality. All nations derive their real wealth, their fresh money, from the soil. We in Australia rely on rural products for 80% of our export income, and when our exports of rural products decline the whole economy must be affected. I hope to say a few words on this subject later in my speech.
The Treasurer said in his speech that rural industries will depend, as always, very mud. on seasonal conditions. No doubt he was thinking, as we must all think, of the adverse seasonal conditions which Australia has been experiencing during the last few years and which, of course, have bad a significant detrimental effect on the whole of the economy. I think wc are rather fortunate to have emerged from these unfor tunate experiences as well as we have done. We know the effects that such conditions have had on the whole economy in the past. No doubt they have had an important effect in the last couple of years, and I am sure there are many individuals in many parts of Australia who are still feeling the effects of these adverse seasonal conditions.
The Treasurer referred to increased wage rates and said:
Already rising wage rates have created a cost problem, worrying for all, serious for the exporting industries and acute in the case of same sections of the wool industry.
I point out that this speech was written probably before the drop in wool prices that occurred only a week or so ago, and which must have made the situation even more serious. Although the economy may be in a quite happy and sound condition in some areas, this is certainly a worrying time for the people in the wool industry, especially those who, during the last few years, have been developing their properties. They are faced with rising costs on the one hand and a decline in the return for their product on the other, and this is a situation which this Government and the country as a whole must not overlook. I wish to say something more about this matter also later in my speech.
I have already directed attention to the fact that payments to and for the States have been increased by the significant amount of Si 30.7m and I would like to comment on one or two of the amounts making up this total. I notice that in this Budget for the first time there is a provision for financial assistance for teachers’ colleges. The amount involved is some $8m. I believe that our educational programme is of great importance to all industries and all people in Australia. As for my own State of Western Australia, this provision will assist greatly to put these colleges in a better condition. I am sure it will also be valuable in other parts of the Commonwealth. Colleges of advanced education are also to benefit by about $5.6m more than was provided in the previous year. This also is a very interesting item.
I want to refer also to the provision in respect of road safety practices. I think the figure is the same as last year, $ 1 1 6.000. This is a very small amount and I want to say a word or two about this tremendous problem which exists not only in this country but also in all other countries that have great numbers of motor cars on their roads, and in numbers that are increasing every year. Human lives are being lost in such numbers that the position is becoming absolutely chaotic. I have read a tremendous amount of material on this subject, as have other honourable members and other people in Australia. Only recently I have turned to this subject again. A great deal of material, such as the results of research programmes in various countries, is available. A lot of data has been collected, but very little has been done to reduce the toll of the road. In Australia we have done very little. The road toll continues to increase every year. This is not a matter that can be left to the States; it is a national tragedy that these accidents should be occurring on our roads. Greater provision should be made in the Budget for road safety. The amount set aside in the Budget for road safety seems to be the only avenue by which we are attempting to tackle this dreadful problem of the ever increasing toll of the road. Who knows what the answer is. I do not. It is useless to do something merely for the sake of doing something. Certain measures have been adopted in this country and in other countries, but without any great success. To apply some regulation merely for the sake of doing something, without achieving anything, is useless. With every $1 of the tremendous amount that wc spend on roads we should be planning for road safety. We spend millions of dollars on roads in Australia. In spending that money we should be trying to reduce the road toll.
Reference is made in the Budget to water supply for Western Australia. Without being parochial, this is an important matter. It is important throughout Australia. This is a field in which the Commonwealth should be continually active. In the west we are endeavouring to extend our water supplies to many areas. The same thing is happening all over Australia. If more had been done in this direction in New South Wales and other parts of the country prior to the recent drought, the country would now be carrying many more sheep and cattle than it is. Western Australia is endeavouring to expand its water reticulation services throughout its agricultural areas, in an endeavour to provide security and insurance for the stock producers of that State. Under the present agreement the Commonwealth is matching State contributions on a $1 for Si basis. I hope that this arrangement will be continued in future years. This is the kind of thing which we should be encouraging in order to safeguard those industries upon which we rely so heavily at the moment in order to maintain our balance of payments position. If we do not continue to increase our exports from primary industries we will find ourselves in real difficulties.
I turn now to the matter of national service training. The Government has agreed to provide discharged national service trainees with an amount of $6,000 should they wish to take up farming. This, surely, is a modest sum. An amount of $6,000 does not go very far today. If this amount is to be supplemented from some other source it may be adequate but if not, it will not go very far under present circumstances.
I make no apology for again raising the matter of war service homes. Until recently war service homes were made available to eligible persons returning from overseas service only if they lived in certain areas. In practice it was not possible to get a war service home unless one lived in a city or town. It is almost impossible to get a war service home on a property or a farm outside a town. This is not good enough. The ice has been broken to some extent as regards freehold properties. But generally speaking the present situation has no application to freehold properties. If a national serviceman wishes to take up an occupation as a farmer he is more likely, as far as Western Australia is concerned, to go on to what we call a conditional purchase block. If he gets his $6,000 for this purpose - I hope that there will be no restrictions in these cases - under present circumstances he would not be eligible for a war service home. I am not prepared to say that that man is not entitled to a war service home. He is. The legislation intended that such a man should get a war service home. There is no reason why such a chap, who wants to develop a farm as an asset not only to himself, but to the country, should be denied a war service home. Having raised this matter again in the House, I hope that the Government will rectify the anomaly. I do not voice my criticism of the present situation without advancing any alternative proposition. 1 will not refer to it here, but such a proposition with the Government in black and white. There is no real problem about the matter. 1 have always been baffled as to why there should be this discrimination against farmers.
The Budget provides an amount of $240m for expenditure on capital works for the Post Office. This amount is higher than we have seen in recent years. Speaking from memory, it is about twice as much as was provided four years ago. The honourable member for Watson said that we should have some regard to the extra costs with which primary industries will be faced as a result of the proposed increases in Post Office charges. When the proposed increases were before the House on an earlier occasion I raised this matter. The increases now proposed are of the order of 20% compared with the former proposition for increases of from 33% to 50%. Nobody likes extra costs. I do not like them any better than anybody else but today people in country areas are repeatedly asking for more telephones and more automatic exchanges. How can these be supplied unless the Post Office has more capital? If anybody cares to examine the balance sheets of the Post Office they will see that the increased charges are essential if we are to provide the services that are so urgently required not only in country areas but also in metropolitan areas. The pressure for these additional services is tremendous, but I hope that the extra costs will not be with us for ever. I suggest that the Post Office should be looking towards economies in this field. Having introduced automatic exchanges throughout country areas in the next few years, the Post Office should ensure that full use is made of the channels available, thus at least holding costs and, if possible, reducing them.
I would like to say something about the amount provided by the Commonwealth in aid for roads. This year the amount under this heading has been increased by about $10m. In the administration of this Act we have a system in which 40% of road funds is made available to country areas for use on roads which are not classified as main roads or highways. There has been much talk over the last few years about whether this is a reasonable allocation. In my view 40% is not enough in the light of present circumstances. If we look at the situation seriously we find that there is tremendous expansion in agricultural areas. Time and again it has been said in this place that we should decentralise to keep down the population of the cities and to encourage factories and other industries to establish themselves in country areas. But if we are to achieve this surely we must inject more moneys and services into these areas. One way of doing this would be to improve roads in these districts.
I suggests that if we want to keep up our overseas balance of payments and produce more goods we should be looking at the services which the Commonwealth together with States makes available for country areas. I have just been talking about telephones as a communications system, but roads also are an important part of our communications system. In considering the apportionment of road funds let us decide whether this section which now receives 40% should not be getting 50%. Only then will we be able to hold our heads high and say that we are doing something about decentralisation in a big way. 1 should like now to make a few comments on wool promotion and research. At the beginning of my remarks I mentioned the situation in which the woolgrower found himself when the Budget was written and now finds himself since the Budget has been presented because of the fall in wool prices. In the Budget we find that the estimate for wool promotion and research has increased by $3.2m for 1967-68. The total amount which is to be made available this year for promotion and research is $29.2m. That is indeed a lot of money. The research and promotion within Australia and outside Australia performed by the Wool Secretariat and other bodies is costing the woolgrower and the taxpayer a lot of money. In view of the size of the investment it is fair enough to look for a return. Having invested this money over the years and having been told by many people that promotion and research will be the answer to our problems we find it pretty hard to be met with a document at the end of this time which discloses lower wool prices.
A document brought out by the Australian Wool Board gives the average prices for the week ending 25th August 1967. I assume that the document is authentic. The average price in that week for 64’s average on a clean basis was 87c. This was a drop of 7c from the previous week. But that was not the greatest fall in prices; some were down 8c and others were down 9c, particularly in the 58’s and 56’s. When we have a drop of this magnitude we must wonder what is going on in Australia and in other places. If there is no more stability than this in the wool market within one week then surely we must look for something else. As a parliamentarian and one who is responsible in his own small way for a section of the public purse, when I look at these figures and consider how much has been spent on wool promotion and research, which we are told is of benefit not only to the woolgrower but also to the public purse, I have to look round to see what is going on a hd endeavour to learn the reason for it.
The present situation reminds me of conditions in 1921 when the wool situation was almost impossible after the Frist World War. At that time when the price of wool was down to about 8d. per lb the government of the day considered that the economy of the country was at stake. Because of the importance that it attached to wool it. decided that something had to bc done about the situation, so it introduced a small scheme which did not cost the Government anything but which brought in a reserve price of 8d. per lb for wool prior to its movement outside Australia. When the Government introduced the measure the vote was 34 in favour and 3 against, so there was a favourable reaction to what the Government was doing. In 1921 the average price of greasy wool sold at auction was 9.83c according to information given to me by the Australian Wool Board. At that stage the price had started to move up after the Government had imposed an embargo on the sale of wool at less than 8d. per lb. In 1921-22 the price had increased to 10.42c. In 1923 it rose to 15.13c per lb and in 1924 it climbed to 19.74c per lb. Then in 1925 it rose again to 22.46c per lb. In these increases we saw the stabilising effect of the small measure which had been introduced by the Government. It had the effect of bringing confidence into the market, a confidence such as that which I spoke of earlier in my remarks. From that time until after tha Second World War the price was all over the place. During the Second World War there were appraisements and other methods adopted as post Joint Organisation schemes, so T come next to prices after the war.
In 1946-47 the average price per lb of greasy wool was 20.41c. In 1948 it had reached 32.92c, in 1949 it was up to 40.06c, in 1950 it was 52.79c and then in 1951 it was up to 120.16c. We must ignore that figure because that was in a situation which was brought about by the Korean War. The price in 1952 was 60.35c, so in that year we had come back to a situation in which the price was reasonably sound. In our present situation it is our responsibility to look at the industry to see what can be done to assist it. Although I am concerned with the industry it is not for me to tell it what it should do. However, I feel that it should be considering all aspects and trying to do something about the situation instead of squealing, as some have suggested it has been doing over the years, and blaming tariffs and other factors. If the tariffs were causing chaos in the wool industry prior to the opening of the season, what has caused the price to drop a further 7i% or 10%? Again we must look at the situation from the outside. The Australian Financial Review’ of 21st February 1967 carries the heading ‘UK Industry Wants Stable Wool Price’. The article presents the views of a trade mission which came to Australia earlier in the year and urged that some action be taken. The article states:
Urgent measures were needed to stabilise the price of Australian wool, members of a British wool textile trade mission to Australia said in Sydney yesterday.
Fluctuations in wool prices, compared with the relative stability of synthetics, created severe problems of forward planning for manufacturers and discouraged consumption of wool, they said.
With the whole textile business increasingly oriented to the final marketing of finished products, reasonable stability in raw material prices was highly desirable if prices, raw material mixes, designs and promotion campaigns were to be properly planned.
I could go on to quote the article in full, but anybody who wants to read it can do so as I have given the reference to it. In the article the textile industry is asking for some stability in the market, but what have we done about it? We find that the Australian
Wool Board has a marketing committee which is to report to the Wool Conference in October - far too late.
What concerns me is this: We have organisations of wool growers other than the Australian Wool Board. We have organisations associated with the Australian Wool Industry Conference and so on. However, we find that, according to ‘Muster’ of 26th July last, other people are submitting plans in the interim and the graziers are in favour of a wool plan. The woolbrokers have submitted a plan and the General Council of the Graziers Association of New South Wales has accepted it. Why do they not wait until their own industry organisation comes forward with a plan? Why can this industry not be organised so that it can stand on its own feet and submit its own plan? Why should it cut across other plans? Are the brokers or whoever may be submitting a plan, considering the prospect of the Australian Wool Board preparing a plan and submitting their own before the Board can act? The ‘Farmer’s Weekly’ in a headline said that the wool buyers were supporting a free enterprise marketing plan. I suppose that this is the same plan. It is cutting right across the action that the industry itself should be taking. The industry should be seriously considering the present position. It should look at all the facts, as I hope the Board is, and it should wait until it has all the information it needs. I quite agree with the Treasurer that the industry is suffering from a cost problem. If it does not solve its problem and if it does not organise its own camp, as it were, to bring stability to the industry, it will be in even worse trouble than it is now.
I have heard the problems of the wheat industry discussed and I have heard it said that there is a world surplus of wheat. What does this mean for the future of the wheat industry? I think a question was asked on this problem today. But I have heard talk about the surplus of wheat since I was a small boy. We were in trouble in the wheat industry until measures were adopted to overcome the problems within the industry in those days. Machinery has been created to deal with the situations that may arise. The industry can act to meet difficulties not only in the Australian market but also in the world markets, and the Minister for
Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) has been doing this in the last few months. He has achieved good results. Why does not the other major Australian industry recognise the results that can be obtained and organise itself? It should take note of all that has happened in the past and should go forward with confidence.
– Both at national elections and at times when we are debating the Budget, the people want to know the important differences that exist between the main parties in the nation. I intend to try to cover some of that ground this afternoon and then to refer specifically to some trade matters, which come more within my own responsibility on behalf of the Opposition. I submit that Australia has reached the stage in her history where change is needed. We have become a very conservative country, but we face a very challenging world. The change that is needed is in the main objectives of national government policy. Those objectives, under recent governments, have been to maintain full employment and to seek for or hope for a rapid rate of economic growth. These objectives are general or aggregate objectives. They are not much concerned with how people are employed or how economic growth is made up or of what it consists. Government policy in recent years has not really been concerned to determine whether what we are doing is economic or efficient. It has tried only to ensure that businessmen make plenty of profits and that people do not lose their jobs. If they did, they would vote against the Government, and that is why this policy is adopted.
The Government has never been primarily concerned to end the education crisis - everyone knows there is a shortage of teachers, a shortage of schools, inadequate tuition and so on - or to relieve the burden of ill health, and this hits most the people who can bear it least, or to provide better housing for the poorer people or to raise pensions systematically. All these objectives involve public expenditure and action, and under recent Australian governments they have always been secondary to and dependent on private interests and incomes. When private income allowed public provision for education, health, housing and pensions to be increased, it was increased. If private income and interests were not suited by such increases, they were not made. This has always been the attitude of the Menzies and Holt Governments and the 1967 Budget is the most drastic illustration of this attitude that I have seen in my twelve years in this Parliament. Private interests are not suited by an increase in expenditure on pensions, health, education and housing for the poorer people under present circumstances. Therefore no increases worth mentioning have been made. Pensioners must go without because it does not suit private interests to have anything else happen.
Under Liberal Governments, public expenditure and action have always remained secondary and dependent on private interests and have been a pump primer for private interests. They have never been a requirement that had to come first or were chosen in preference to private interests. This was always done in circumstances of what has been called affluence. It was for a long time thought that affluence was enough, but more and more it is being recognised that affluence is not enough because it leaves too many people out. A change in public policy is on the way; it must come. This condition of leaving too many people out cannot be tolerated for ever. The time has come when education, health, housing and pensions can no longer be treated as secondary and dependent. For a while, at any rate, they must be put first. Equally, we must be concerned to bring about greater economy and efficiency in Australia, and not merely to provide protection, privileges and profits, irrespective of what is done by those who receive them.
The change of internal objective does not require anything revolutionary, radical, disturbing or doctrinaire. This is the only answer to our proposals for change that ever comes from the other side of the House. It does not require the nationalisation of industry. It should result in more public enterprise, such as in the production of pharmaceutical drugs. It will not mean that more people will pay more taxation. Indeed, it will probably mean that many people will pay less taxtion. The people of Australia must know that if they elect the Australian Labor Government to office it will mean that at least $10Om each year will be set aside to provide regularly and systematically for education, health, housing and pensions. Whilst tax revenue will play an important part in this provision, it is wrong to assume that there will be an increase in all or most tax rates to provide for it. The Holt and Menzies Governments have provided thousands of millions of dollars for Government expenditure on its chosen objectives. This has involved much waste and luxury spending. We have the example of the expenditure of $2 1.6m on VIP aircraft this year. But there has been no general increase in tax rates. It is a commonplace statement and it is true, that money can always be provided for war but not for essentials inside the country. What the Government has done to provide for luxury spending and extravagance on the purchase of aircraft overseas, with a lack of care in costing and so on, Labor can do to provide money for essentials I have mentioned. What the Liberal Government can do to provide millions of dollars for its policies without increasing taxation, Labor can do too. Labor will put education, health, housing and pensions in such a position of priority that increases in them will be regularly and systematically provided for.
Certainly there must be a change in the tax structure. Taxation in Australia today is more unfair than ever before in the history of our federation. It must be completely reviewed. Inflation has lifted the average and near average income earners into tax categories far higher than they experienced when Labor was last in office. Consequently they pay absolutely and proportionately more in taxation. This means not only that wage and salary earners but professional people, such as doctors, dentists, surveyors, engineers, architects and so on, have been caught in this way, but that inflation and the tax system have allowed more and more people who are in business to avoid and evade taxation, to shift more and more of their private living expenses to their companies’ accounts and to make more and more income out’ of the sale and appreciation of assets. Taxation deductions have benefited more and more higher income earners who gain from them in proportion to the size of their income. The pendulum has swung too far. Higher income earners nowadays can cut their expenditure on education and insurance by half or more than half simply by gaining tax refunds, while the average income earner’s expenditure on education is increasing and provision for his old age is less adequate than it was before.
The provision of regular and systematic increases in education, health, housing and pensions to the extent of, perhaps, $100m a year depends not mainly on taxation. It depends also on changes in interest rates and in banking policy. It is probable that these increases could be achieved. At the same time, tax rates for average income earners and for professional people could be reduced. To achieve these objectives we need to move beyond the general objectives of full employment and economic growth. We need a policy of planned national strength not only to provide regularly and systematically for essentials but also for external purposes. Externally the objectives of the Menzies-Holt Governments have been always to assume that we are in serious danger from China; and to assume further that’ we are incapable of defending ourselves and therefore have to be dependent upon an ally, the United States of America. This policy may or may not be successful, but it is contradictory, cynical and politically dishonest. Sir Robert Menzies laid it down some years ago when he said that what we faced was ‘the downward thrust of China between the Indian and Pacific Oceans’. This is the position that the Government has always taken up. During the last election it circulated a leaflet all over Australia. It consisted of a map of Asia showing red arrows extending from China to Australia and a pencil drawing a line south of China. It stated, in effect: ‘It is your choice. Where do you draw the line?’
Assuming that China is the enemy and that the line must be drawn as the Government indicates, how has the Liberal Party drawn the line since and before the last election? It has drawn the line by allowing and encouraging China to be sold, since 1961-62, $863 worth of goods, including $7.9m worth of iron, steel and tin, including $4m worth only in the last twelve months. It is time this humbug came to an end. In Government policy it is no offence - indeed, it is creditable - for Australian wheat growers to acquire $663m from wheat sales and for the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and its associates to acquire $7.9m out of selling iron and steel to the enemy who, according to the Government, is the substance of all threats to Australia and is the substance of the appeal that the Liberal Party has made for so long to the electorate. But it is to become a criminal offence for a few university students to give a few dollars worth of aid to a national liberation front in Vietnam which, according to the Government, does not exist in its own right, but is merely an agent manipulated by Hanoi and Peking.
As I said, it is time that this humbug came to an end. Australian Government foreign policy is a humbug based on political cynicism and dishonesty. Unless it is brought to an end all of us - the Opposition, the electors and everyone else - will become equally responsible for its humbug and hypocrisy. The Government must be required to say either that China does not represent a threat to Australia and so we should continue to trade with her or that, conversely, China threatens Australia and Australian trade with China must be brought to an end. We are either in danger from China or we are not. If we are in danger then we must cease building up China’s strength by supplying her with wheat, wool, iron, steel, tin, chemicals and tallow. If we are not in danger from China then we should trade with her in the reasonable hope that this will result in her becoming more reasonable and amenable.
The Government’s policy of relying on the United States of America to defend Australia may or may not be successful. But even if successful, we should do all that we can to build up our own national economic strength. Whilst it may be quite inconceivable to the Government and its supporters that we shall ever have to stand up for ourselves in international affairs and that we shall ever have to disagree with America, it should not be impossible for them to agree that we might someday have to stand up for ourselves against, say, China or Japan or Indonesia. Economic strength is vital on this situation.
– Then the Libs would walk out.
– They did before. We cannot have a semblance of independence in foreign policy unless we increase our economic strength. We are not doing this well enough. There is widespread belief and concern that much inefficiency and lack of economy is being protected by tariffs in Australia. The minority report in the 1966 Tariff Board Report stated:
Protection has been afforded to virtually all applicants whose production has been of significance in terms of employment or investment . . The indications which have emerged as to the Board’s general policy have been, at best, vague. In consequence, the inducements to new investments have been spread widely rather than being concentrated in the areas likely to yield the greatest economic benefits.
One result of this can well be a rapid increase in investment, capital assets and profits, but a slow increase in productivity. At the recent Australian Labor Party Conference in Adelaide, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) produced figures of the Australian economy 1967 which suggest that this is the case.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports showed that Australia stood high in the list of comparable countries in the proportion of resources going into capital equipment. In 1965-66, Australia invested 27.1% of her gross national product in fixed capital investment. Australia was second on the list - exceeded only by Japan. But the productivity position was very different. At the same time Australia’s rate of growth of total productivity was only 2.3% per annum - much lower in the list of comparable countries. It was exceeded by Japan, Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Norway and Belgium and it was equal to Denmark. These figures and the circumstances suggest that it has been too easy to invest in Australia, to accumulate assets, to buy and sell assets, to take over assets and to make untaxed capital gains out of buying and selling assets. But this has not helped the growth of productivity. Why should anyone think much about helping productivity when he can make thousands, and in some cases millions, out of speculation, that is, out of buying and selling existing assets? So the value of accumulated assets grows and grows and income acquired from them grows - and much of it is untaxed - but productivity, the more effective use of assets, does not grow proportionately. The pendulum has swung a little too far.
But what does the Government have to say about the tariff making policy which has such an important effect upon this position? The Minister for Trade and Industry postures and blusters and says everything is satisfactory. He replies that any criticism of tariff policy by the Labor Party means that it is changing its whole policy on protection. He says that we would sacrifice Australian industry and employment. This distortion, this extravagance not only makes effective debate impossible but suggests that the Minister is not thinking constructively about tariff policy at all. Here, as in foreign policy, the reaction of the Government is the same. In both economic policy and foreign policy there are difficult problems on which debate and discussion are essential. There is room in both economic and foreign policy for more than one point of view. However, in each case, when the Opposition puts forward a policy that differs from that of the Government, what happens? In foreign policy and in economic policy Government speakers do not examine the Opposition’s proposals and say that this or that might be wrong with them. They do not defend their own policy. They attack the Labor Party and its members. In the case of foreign policy they allege disloyalty and they bleat out: ‘Are you supporting the National Liberation Front?’ They allege that Labor Party members spoke at some meeting or other. The Prime Minister employs his staff for hours on end apparently going around picking up pamphlets and leaflets to demonstrate this. They make these allegations and often incorrectly but never do they say to the Opposition that its policy is wrong because of this or that. There is no debate to speak of in this House about policy and it is becoming a state of affairs in which whatever is put forward from this side is answered by personal accusations from the other side of the House. This form of attack is now led by the Prime Minister. I consider that this is not sufficiently good for a national Parliament.
Similarly, with economic policy, when the Minister for Trade and Industry is criticised by the Labor Party he does not answer our criticism by trying to show it is wrong - he merely tries to invoke fear in the minds of the public by asserting that the Labor Party would destroy Australian industry. He did this towards the end of the last session. I would say about the Minister for Trade and Industry that in most respects he is far less guilty than his colleagues in the Liberal Party. We cannot increase our national economic strength as we might unless we do a good deal of re-thinking and unless this results in action. The majority of the Tariff Board, no less than the minority, wants these things to happen. Apparently the Board agrees that there should be a systematic review of major Australian industries. The Board states that this review should enable it:
To indicate more clearly those protected industries or sections of industries which are relatively more economic and efficient than the general run of import competing industries and which might therefore be encouraged to develop rapidly.
But the Tariff Board is unable at present to carry out a systematic review of major Australian industries. It has not sufficient members, sufficient staff, sufficient resources nor sufficient powers. The Minister actually recognises this and recently considered, and then rejected, a strange proposal to appoint part time members. What does the Minister propose to do now? When will he tell us? These are the answers that ought to be coming from the other side of the House instead of a silly lot of poppypcock about someone who might have attended a meeting somewhere or other. These are the kind of things that Ministers on the other side of the House should be trying to answer. Whatever it is that is delaying action in respect of the Tariff Board we can be sure that action is being delayed and that action is necessary. The Tariff Board thinks a systematic review of major Australian industries is essential. That is stated in the 1966 report. However, this is not taking place.
In the recent Joseph Fisher Lecture in Adelaide, Professor W. M. Corden, who is perhaps Australia’s leading academic tariff specialist, said in relation to the tariffs reviewed between 1965 and 1967:
It must be stressed that the tariffs reviewed are only the top of the iceberg which happened to emerge, in the period considered; many important tariffs were not looked at and indeed have not been looked at for many years.
How far from a systematic review of major Australian industries was the Board’s work has been shown by figures produced by
Professor Corden.. He stated that between July 1965 and April 1967, fifty-seven Tariff Board reports were tabled in Parliament. Of these, only fifteen dealt with industries or sections of industries employing at least SOO persons. Although satisfactory employment figures are not available, according to Professor Corden, for the industries dealt with in these fifteen reports - and I will not say now what that indicates about the adequacy of the Board’s work - Professor Corden considers that only three were large. These were industries that manufactured motor cars which had 64,000 employees; footwear which had 23,000 employees and chemicals which had 9,000 employees. All the rest together did not exceed 25,000 employees or a total for the largest fifteen industries examined by the Board in two years of not more than 121.000 employees. If we allow 500 employees for each of the industries or sections of industries covered by the other forty-two reports submitted by the Board in the last two years, then industries employing only about 140,000 persons were considered by the Board in this period.
Wc in the Australian Labor Party cannot claim to know whether tariffs are too high or too low. We cannot claim to know to what extent industries may be uneconomic or inefficient, but we do know that the Tariff Board and the Government do not know either. We know that the Tariff Board considers that there should be a systematic review of major Australian industries, and we do know that this review has not been made and is not being made and we know that the Tariff Board has its hands completely full in reviewing those few industries with which it has been concerned since 1965. We know from this that the Tariff Board cannot make a systematic review of major industries unless it is enlarged and much more fully equipped. How much longer are we to wait for action to be taken?
Section 17 of the Tariff Board Act allows the Tariff Board to initiate inquiries itself. This section of the Act has not been used for years. The Tariff Board has never had the resources to be able to make use of the section. However, a larger and better equipped Tariff Board is not the most difficult problem to overcome. What is the Board to do after it is enlarged and better equipped? Under the present Government there appear to be two probable alternatives. The first is the prevailing one. In the words of the minority report it is to: afford protection to virtually all applicants whose production has been of significance in terms of employment or investment.
This pays no regard to what might be efficient or economic. This may be called the McEwen approach. The other alternative can be called the McMahon line. It is to argue that tariffs are no longer necessary to maintain full employment in Australia. According to this reasoning, full employment can always be maintained by a few carefully chosen Keynesian monetary techniques and within this aggregate of full employment, resources, aided by a few bench mark tariffs, will find their most productive employment in the best of all possible worlds. Neither the superprotectionist nor the modern free trade policies are appropriate for Australia’s needs. What seems to be needed is what the Tariff Board itself wants to do but cannot do - to adopt what it calls in its 1966 report, a planned approach and to undertake a systematic review of major Australian industries and to indicate more clearly those protected industries or sections of industries which might be encouraged to develop rapidly. The Board reported:
This kind of approach will help to isolate those protected industries or sections of industries which are relatively less economic or less efficient or both.
The Board recognised that in some cases tariffs would not be granted or would be withdrawn, and stated that this: will raise difficult issues arising from the loss of investment and the disruption of employment.
But we have to realise that some of these things must happen, and prepare properly for them. The Board suggests that we do not adopt what is simply the McMahon line and allow the losses to be carried by those directly affected. On the contrary, the Board stated:
There may be scope, as suggested by the Vernon Committee, for some form of assistance from the Government.
If we are to follow this planned approach to the development of industry in Australia assistance must include adequate disemployment or transfer allowances to employees and full and adequate retraining benefits as well as planned re-employment.
We are today only in the early and rudimentary stages of industrial development in Australia. What rapidly growing automation is likely to do will be equalled by what must be done to get the most efficient and most economic industrial structure of which we are capable. Many things must be done. I submit, in conclusion, that it is time we got humbug and cynicism out of government. It is time we determined to provide at least $100m every year for education, health, housing and pensions so that we can regularly and systemically get rid of crises in education, get rid of povery and get rid of inequity. We must be concerned seriously with the inequity of the tax structure, which must be reviewed from top to bottom. There is almost certainly inefficiency and lack of economy in Australian industry, both secondary and primary. The Tariff Board, properly equipped, can do much to cure them. We must have a policy that will ensure that the individuals who are adversely affected by these inevitable changes in the future will not have to bear exclusively the cost of those changes. This is not only not likely to be done now; it cannot be done now. Much needs to be done and much can be done without any great changes in our way of life, but the changes are significant enough to require an Australian Labor Party Government in office to achieve them.
These are issues that ought to be continuously before the Parliament, and we have the right to expect from the Government that they will be taken seriously and that they will be dealt with as the policy of the alternative government of this country. We have a right to expect that the Government will give up the humbug, cynicism and shallow smears and slanders with which it conducts its campaign in this House and outside it.
– This Budget anticipates a total Government expenditure of $6,483m - a rise of $56 lm over 1966-67. Anticipated expenditure under the main heads of National Welfare Fund, payments to the States and defence take up the same percentage of expenditure as they did last year, while State works and housing show a rise of something like $32m. The estimated deficit rises comparably, leaving, for all practical purposes, an increase of $561 m available for the purposes of government, without increased taxation. This is the picture of a country financing tremendous national development, expanded services - both Commonwealth and State; and unavoidable defence increases, from the expansion of its economy, and doing it with full employment and with rising standards of living. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) seeks to condemn the Budget because, among other things, it places defence costs on those least able to bear them, but the figures I quoted a moment ago show clearly that this situation is the same as it was in the last Budget. The Opposition’s condemnation is therefore, just a new slogan for the purposes of a new year.
I should like to say something about our foreign policy and the defence effort which supports it, but, more importantly, about the implications of the Opposition’s invitation to the people of this country to turn out the Liberal Party-Country Party Government and replace it with a Labor Government - incidentally, accepting the policies which would go with that change. Perhaps before this address is finished I will have an opportunity to accept the invitation of the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) and to deal in detail with some of the Opposition’s statements of its own policy. If we study the Opposition’s contributions to debates on defence, foreign affairs and the Budget in recent days there arise two completely unavoidable conclusions. The Labor Party has little place in its policy for meaningful defence. But if there is an absence of defence strategy there is no absence of political strategy, and clearly the use of the slogan to which I have referred indicates a strategy designed to encourage the people of this young and growing country, being thrown increasingly on its own resources in one of the most turbulent areas of the world, to value social benefits more than .they do national security. The same kind of policy, practised by the Labor Government of the United Kingdom, is one of the basic reasons behind the necessity for the United Kingdom to cut her defence commitments east of Suez, perhaps bringing in sight the end of the United Kingdom’s magnificent record as keeper of the world’s peace for so long a period.
No-one would deplore more than we in Australia deplore that this should be so.
Realistically, the probability of Britain’s ultimate withdrawal from the Far East has always been understood by the Government. We have, nevertheless, been glad to accept assurances by that Government of a continued military presence in this area within Britain’s financial competence. Labor’s charge that our Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) was attempting to deceive the Australian public about the likelihood of an ultimate British withdrawal turns out to be, in fact, a charge that the British Government has deceived us. The Labor Party may answer that. For our part, we reject the charge on behalf of the British Government. Eighteen months ago the Government of the United Kingdom gave quite specific undertakings that defence forces would be retained in the Far East while bases were available for .them on acceptable terms. In the event, the United Kingdom Government has been obliged to admit that its programme has failed to arrest the downturn in the British economy. The Government has been obliged to seek a new accommodation with the facts, so that the United Kingdom’s defence cuts are both deeper and earlier than had been promised.
It is an interesting commentary on Labor Party policies that it should be the Opposition’s shadow Minister for External Affairs, the honourable member for Yarra - or does he still occupy that spot?-
– The Leader of the Opposition is the shadow Minister. The Minister for Defence knows that.
– I am grateful that the honourable member for Yarra is not the shadow Minister for External Affairs, but nevertheless he expressed his Party’s belief that the word of the British Labor Government is not to be taken. On 17th August, it will be recalled, the honourable member for Yarra said:
Prime Minister Wilson is trying to paper over the facts. He is a politician.
I venture to suggest that there are a lot of people in this place who are proud to call themselves politicians and who would resent that kind of insinuation; but, of course, we were listening to the voice of experience, because the honourable member for Yarra himself is the world’s most expert paperhanger. Twelve months ago the then-Leader of the Opposition, Mr Calwell, chose to fight the last general election on the issue of our foreign policy as embodied in the acceptance of our moral and treaty obligations under SEATO for the security of the protocol state of South Vietnam. It might be recalled that at that time Professor Arndt of the Australian National University, in an article in the ‘Canberra Times’ of Thursday 28th April, wrote:
The point 1 want to stress is that it is primarily, if not wholly, because on balance they want Communism to win in Vietnam, that all the Government’s most active critics, and in particular, the leaders of the ALP Left, like Calwell and Cairns, oppose the present policy.
These are the words of a man deliberately writing an article at a most important time in this country’s political history - a man who, in the past, has been a supporter of the Australian Labor Party. But the general election is now a matter of history. The balanced judgment of the Australian people returned this Government, which has a clear appreciation of the issues in South East Asia. But the Opposition has a new leader who has high hopes of rebuilding the prestige of his party, which only deep-going reform would ensure. He has had limited success; so limited indeed that for all practical purposes, in the context of today, the Australian Labor Party of 1967 is identical with the Australian Labor Party of 1966. So are its policies and so would be the outcome of their application.
The Leader of the Opposition urged that Australia should use its influence to correct the present course of the war in Vietnam to bring about an armistice, an amnesty and the asylum required for the people of South Vietnam. I would like to devote a word or two to each of those suggestions, but in reverse order. The Leader of the Opposition knows very well that Australia is taking the only effective course that is open to guarantee the asylum required for the people of South Vietnam - asylum in their own country that is free of Vietcong terrorism, supported by the National Liberation Front, and free of aggression by the Communists of the north. Incidentally, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) is reported to have acknowledged this aggression during the course of a visit to Saigon in words reported in the ‘Age’ of 26th May as follows:
Mr Barnard said he was satisfied there was a large scale invasion of South Vietnam by North Vietnamese troops.
Mr Barnard is also reported as having said at a meeting in Cooma later that: lt was regrettable that continued United States presence was necessary to assure the security of South Vietnam.
The Leader of the Opposition demands an amnesty - for whom? I presume it is for the Vietcong, who have terrorised and continued to terrorise the people of South Vietnam and who are now trying to break up and discredit democratic elections in that State. On the subject of an amnesty, let me refer to the views of Sir Robert Thompson, developed as a result of his personal experience of the emergency in Malaya for twelve years from 1948 to 1960 and the three and one-half years he spent in South Vietnam from September 1961 to March 1965 as head of the British Advisory Mission. Sir Robert would speak from deep personal experience. He said:
There are two objections- one legal and the other political. Amnesty is a term which, in law, implies the granting of a free pardon to all persons for any crimes they have committed. Moreover, if an amnesty continues indefinitely, it may easily imply a free pardon for crimes not yet committed. No Government can go so far as that, without forfeiting respect or without looking as if the offer is made from a position of weakness. The political objection is that the announcement of an amnesty would be quickly exploited by the Communists as propaganda for a peace offensive of their own on the lines that their High Command accepts the Government’s offer on behalf of all its units and is ready to stop the shooting in exchange for recognition of the Communist Party as a legitimate party with equal rights.
The Leader of the Opposition is surely out on this second count, with one to go. I come now to the question of an armistice. In this respect the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) says that the Labor Party believes the time has come to make a gesture towards negotiation and that this gesture should be the discontinuation of the bombing of North Vietnam. He went on to say that if the United States were to agree to a suspension of the bombing of North Vietnam at this time, taking into account - and I emphasise this point - the things that have been said over a long period of time by the Government of North
Vietnam, the United States would be making a gesture not of weakness but of strength.
– Who said that?
– The honourable member for Brisbane. Honourable members probably will recall the occasion. Through diplomatic channels, through pauses in bombing, through truces for many reasons, the United States has sought every reasonable opportunity to invite the North Vietnamese Government to negotiations. All that has been said over a long period of time, to use the words of the honourable member for Brisbane, has been a repetition of Hanoi’s insistence on terms of negotiation which would amount to unconditional surrender by the free world forces of the objectives of their engagement and the abandonment of the democratic people of South Vietnam to the tender mercies of the Communist powers. Acceptance of the terms would also guarantee recognition of the National Liberation Front and, more importantly, the establishment of that organisation in a position to take over the government of South Vietnam. There would be no undertaking of withdrawal from South Vietnam of the eighteen regiments of North Vietnamese troops presently engaged in aggression in that country.
The honourable member for Brisbane said that the Australian Government could suggest that the United States make a gesture that might provide the starting point for negotiations. Nobody knows better than he that the psychological warfare of Hanoi, aided and abetted by Communists all round the world, has sought an unconditional end to the bombing of North Vietnam without any indication whatsoever that negotiations might follow. Cessation of bombing would represent a military victory of the greatest benefit to North Vietnam and of the direst consequences to the South. If the war goes on without promise of early victory it is because the United States has limited its activities so that the people of North Vietnam will not suffer for the demands of their Communist leaders. I repeat that nothing could be more helpful to Hanoi and nothing could be so detrimental to the interests of the people of the South than that the aggressors should be granted a kind of refuge in North
Vietnam, which they have established in the otherwise neutral States of Laos and Cambodia.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, before the suspension of the sitting 1 had been putting the proposition that the Opposition, by its amendment condemning the Budget, had invited the Australian people to change a Liberal-Australian Country Party government for one of Labor persuasion. The only difficulty is that this would mean accepting policies vastly differing from ours and having unknown but serious consequences. I had dealt with some of the demands made by the Leader of the Opposition who sought an armistice, an amnesty and asylum in all affairs in Vietnam. I had pointed out that if there were to be in Vietnam an armistice to the pattern demanded by the Opposition it would undoubtedly give the aggressors and the National Liberation Front the same kind of refuge in North Vietnam that they had taken illegally in Laos and Cambodia. If we were to have an amnesty it would no doubt leave the Vietcong and, again, the National Liberation Front in a position to take over the Government of South Vietnam regardless of the outcome of negotiations. I had agreed with the Leader of the Opposition about wanting asylum for the people of South Vietnam. Indeed, Sir, the basic aim of the free world forces is to secure for the people of South Vietnam a refuge and asylum free from Vietcong and terrorist aggression.
I thought it might be worthwhile to respond to the invitation given this afternoon - or perhaps one should say the complaint made this afternoon - by the honourable member for Yarra, who claimed that we on this side of the House invariably condemn, but do not discuss, the Australian Labor Party’s policy. So I thought that we might consider some of its policy this evening. First, I take from the recent Federal Conference of the Labor Party held in Adelaide the following declaration: the ALP seeks primarily to bring the war to a conclusion.
Sir, one does not engage in a war merely to reach a conclusion. What we want to know is: What kind of conclusion is sought by the Opposition, which aims at becoming the government of this country? May I therefore continue the quotation from official Labor sources:
To do so, the ALP, on achieving office, will submit to our allies that they should immediately:
cease bombing North Vietnam,
recognise the National Liberation Front as a principal party to negotiations,
transform operations in South Vietnam into holding operations thereby to avoid involvement of civilians in the war, cease the use of napalm and other objectionable materials of war and provide sanctuary for anyone seeking it.
The declaration then goes on:
Should our allies fail to take this action, the Australian Government would then consider that it bad no alternative other than to withdraw our armed forces.
I had a quaint idea that an ultimatum was something that one served on a potential enemy. But in this instance Labor proposes to serve its ultimatum on our allies, meaning, of course, the United States of America” which is certainly not in South Vietnam for its own benefit.
First, Sir, let us look at the consequences of such a course of action. Labor’s demand for an unconditional end to bombing would certainly ensure the finest kind of victory for the Communists of North Vietnam. The National Liberation Front was created by Hanoi, in the very words used there, to smash the regime in the South, to liberate the South. To liberate the South from what - from its desire for a democratic way of life? The National Liberation Front remains the political wing of the Vietcong subversives, guerillas and terrorists- doing the bidding in South Vietnam of the Government in Hanoi. To recognise the National Liberation Front would be to recognise and accept its objective - a takeover of South Vietnam. Apart from the propaganda value of mentioning napalm and other objectionable materials of war as though war of the kind forced on Vietnam by the Communists was not in itself objectionable, the Labor Party demands that the allies should provide sanctuary for anyone seeking it’. What kind of sanctuary is this to be? The Communists of North Vietnam already have sanctuary in their own country. The Vietcong and the terrorists in South Vietnam have been offered, if they want it, the benefit of South Vietnam’s Open Arms programme. The people of South Vietnam are the ones who seek sanctuary. The free world forces are trying to provide it. It is only the Communists of North Vietnam who prevent it.
But if the allies are not prepared to submit to North Vietnam a Labor governments ultimatum would stand: An Australian Labor government would withdraw our armed forces and turn our backs on treaty and moral obligations and on the people of South East Asia, all of whom, in the long term or the short term, are threatened by Communist aggression. It must be clearly understood, Sir, that any such action would powerfully aggravate the split in American public opinion sedulously fostered by Communist propagandists. Action by an Australian Labor government would almost certainly lose South Vietnam and ultimately the whole of South East Asia to Communism. It would be a powerful impetus towards the complete withdrawal of the United States from its great commitment to the containment of Communism in South East Asia.
Where, then, would we stand? The United Kingdom, as we know, will be off the mainland of South East Asia in the mid-1970s. The assurances of military support remain, but this prospect nevertheless implies a tremendous reduction in British military power. If, in the light of this fact, South East Asia were to fall to Communism and the United States were to withdraw her protective screen we would be left alone in fortress Australia. It would not be fortress enough. Our national security would be at an end. This may well be the price of a Labor government.
Let me now turn to certain aspects of this country’s defence programme that have been under attack in recent weeks, in the main by one irresponsible newspaper and a Labor Party that could not find within itself the initiative to instigate a debate on the subject but had to wait the prompting of the Auditor-General. That gentleman, in his recent annual report, has, as he is obliged to do, criticised and commented on the conduct of the defence programme. His criticisms, I may say, have been taken under attention. On other matters his report merely directed attention to extraordinary circumstances and in most instances did not imply criticism.
There have been some interesting Press reactions to this. Generally there has been acceptance of what the Government is doing. The Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’, for instance, not without some reasonable criticism, nevertheless finds a source of satisfaction in this country’s defence preparations. Honourable members opposite laugh. Of course, they will agree with the reports that they like and disagree with the others. I presume that they will enjoy what comes now. The Sydney ‘Sun’ thought it had discovered bonanza. I assume that it had run out of scandal and girl pictures, though I note that it is back in business today. Unfortunately, it did not have on its staff anybody who was capable of writing about defence.
– Don’t tell me that the Minister is a square.
– I give the honourable member an assurance, Sir. The ‘Sun’ was obliged to make a deal with its senior partner, the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, which detached a journalist from the Australian Financial Review’, who was forthwith billed - -blushingly, one would hope - as the defence expert of the ‘Sun’. He was, however, something of an expert in criticism that often implies that one should disregard the facts. He was an expert at being wise after the event and putting up theories knowing that they would never be put to the test and that he certainly would never have to take responsibility for them. Overall, Sir, he was an expert in that old Australian custom of knocking. It would be odd if, in the broad sweep of the defence programme of this country, there were not some things that could be criticised by rum or his editorial board. But they chose to describe Australia’s defence flamboyantly as a shambles. Before we enjoy that description, Sir, let us see what kind of a shambles it was said to be. This is interesting. I take leave to quote extensively from the article written by this writer, who stated:
Perhaps for the first time in history Australian forces have equipment as good as any in the world. Technically speaking the Mirage interceptors proved themselves in the Israeli-Arab war. The F111C strike aircraft is the most advanced in the world. The Orion anti-submarine planes on order for the RAAF are electronic wonders and the Charles F. Adams class guided-missile destroyers are the most modern in the US Navy.
Besides, the Army has proved itself under combat conditions and second to none in jungle warfare, and the Macchi aircraft will have both training ami ground attack capacity and so on.
He meant, of course, that there was much more in the same vein if he cared to pursue it. He might easily have gone through the whole tremendous build-up of defence in recent years and found the same kind of satisfactory result, but he has been moved to complain that the shambles is at the management and planning level. He fails to say how it can be that we have this equipment, that we have the people skilled in its management, trained to use it and dedicated to its application, if our management is so bad.
Of course, when we are dealing with the Fill we realise that it must always come in for a little criticism; it seems to be the done thing nowadays. But I believe we ought to look back to 1963 and recall that the people who are now complaining about our acquisition of the Fill are the same kind of people who were complaining then about our continued use of obsolete Canberra bombers, and today the Canberra is performing magnificently in support of our troops in action in Vietnam. In 1963 we had two options. We might, if we had wished, have bought an aircraft off the shelf, and if we had done so we would have the pleasure of seeing it rendered obsolete by the coming into service next year of the Fill which we would have rejected. The alternative was to take the legitimate risks involved in joining the United States in what was a research and development venture directed towards the production of an entirely new concept in air weapons systems. It is true that the price has gone up as research and development have proceeded. But this is the theme of modern technology. I direct attention to the fact that in the case of the Concorde, the supersonic aircraft in the production of which the United Kingdom and France have involved themselves, and which has been ordered by our own overseas airline, the research and development costs rose from £Stg150m to something like £Stg500m, and the project is not complete even now.
Certainly the price has gone up, and it it true that we have not reached a final price for it, but the Press writer complains that we have tied ourselves irrevocably to the United States programme and will be obliged to modify and extend when the
United States people modify and extend. This is certainly not so. Indeed the delayin reaching a final price for the aircraft and system stems from the fact that the final determination awaits the laborious job of studying 70,000 spare parts in relation to service life, probable frequency of replacement, likelihood of modification and so on, so that in fact we will not find ourselves tied to an American modification programme.
Then the newspaper goes on to charge that we have this fine defence equipment but there is no job for it. Let us go on praying that there will not develop a job for it. But if perchance this shouldhappen, then we would be mighty glad to have the modern equipment and the magnificently trained and dedicated servicemen skilled in the use of that equipment. Meantime, modern defence equipment is both deterrent and insurance, and what more can any defence equipment be in peacetime? No country depends on the security of its sea lanes more than does this island continent. This Government has provided equipment preponderantly for the task of maintaining that security, but nevertheless with a wide range of capabilities. It is part of our foreign policy to look forward to and hasten the day when our neighbours in South East Asia, and those who can be persuaded to join them, will strengthen regional security arrangements. Are we to come empty handed to such an arrangement? Should we wait until danger threatens and then try to equip ourselves at the last minute? Should we wait until the cost of the equipment we need is fixed and then join the queue for delivery after another five years? These are the kinds of questions we in this country must ask ourselves.
In the foreseeable future only Communism, against which we are presently engaged - and perhaps backed by the Communist powers - could threaten the security of this country. Does anybody underrate the technical competence of Russian Communism or the potential competence of Chinese Communism? The fact is that we cannot look forward to defence on the cheap. Certainly we have limited capacity for defending ourselves. The essence of our future security, therefore, lies in having powerful allies, with whom we must cooperate. We must make a contribution to that alliance in accordance with, firstly, our capacity, and, secondly, our national interest. To do less would be to sell out the future of a potentially great nation which is certainly not to be trusted in the hands of a political party which would repudiate our allies, sell out our friends and break faith with the 78,000 men and women of the Australian armed Services who have accepted the sacrifices and discomforts of service in the interests of their country’s security.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Bowen, and read a first time.
– 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is drawn for the protection of our troops, who are fighting in or near South Vietnam. It is designed to protect them not against the enemy with whom they are engaged - they have shown in no uncertain manner and with great skill and courage that they can protect themselves in that direction - but against some of their own countrymen at home, who are prepared to send assistance tothat enemy.
Honourable members will notice the reference which occurs in the long title of the Bill to operations in or near Vietnam. The inclusion of the words ‘in or near Vietnam’ will cover operations not only by our ground troops but also by our naval forces, whose vital role in the waters oft Vietnam is sometimes forgotten, and the flying activities of the Royal Australian Air Force. As I will indicate later, the Bill makes specific provision for the Act’s termination when the Vietnam operations cease.
May I go back to the circumstances which have led to the introduction of this Bill. In 1965, after a part of our defence force was sent to South Vietnam, to assist that country in repelling aggressive forces aligned against it and to assist American and other allied forces which had been committed to its aid, groups were organised within Australia to express opposition to the use of our troops in that area. The Government has watched the progress of these groups.
For a long time it appeared that they were keeping within the freedoms guaranteed to all Australians by our laws and were not attempting to turn from words to action. The Government did not wish to do anything to assist the aims of these groups by taking steps which would dramatise or exaggerate their dimensions, which were miniscule. The efforts of a group in Sydney last year, for example, to raise funds for purposes in Vietnam were highly publicised as being to aid forces opposing the South Vietnam Government. The actions of this group were kept under close scrutiny, but as the small amount raised was directed to the Red Cross for humanitarian purposes no action was called for on the part of the Government.
When the Federal elections were held at the end of the last year the issues were squarely put to the people - whether they approved the action of the Government in despatching forces to South Vietnam and whether they approved the inclusion of compulsory national servicemen in these forces. The overwhelming support given by the people to the Government’s actions resulted in a quietening for some time of even the most vocal of the small obstructionist groups. However, last month came the pronouncement from the Labor Club at Monash University that funds would be solicited to send to the so-called National Liberation Front of South Vietnam. The handful who supported this motion could hardly have hoped for the wide spread of publicity which they gained. In retrospect it is a pity that the great majority of university students who condemned these proposals could not have received equal publicity.
The Government has no desire to stifle free discussion. The right to express dissent is one which we value highly. It is a right, of course, which does not exist among those whom the students seek to help, lt is not difficult to imagine what would happen to students in Hanoi who publicly set out to raise funds to help the South Vietnamese and their allies who are engaged in the struggle. Criticism of the policies and actions of the Government is one thing; even amongst those who criticise the Government, however, I am sure that there would be a vast majority, and certainly there would be a vast majority of all Australian citizens, who would be whole heartedly with the Government in saying that the troops whom we have sent to Vietnam must be protected against actions by their fellow Australians to assist those against whom our troops are fighting.
Not only have the students passed beyond the point of discussion and dissent but people of more advanced years have now stepped on to the stage to encourage active assistance to the National Liberation Front. In the result, the Government has decided to deal with the situation by specific legislation. There is precedent for this in the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act 1947. It was decided in 1947 by the Chifley Government to pass that Act to deal with subversion directed against the Woomera Rocket Range, rather than use the provisions of the Crimes Act 1 propose now to deal in broad outline with the Bill’s provisions. The key provision is clause 3. This makes it an offence to send or take money or goods to certain named bodies that support forces opposed to our troops or to similar bodies which may be proclaimed from time to time. It also makes it an offence to give, collect or solicit money or goods with a view to money or goods being made available to assist them. The Bill sets out the names of the bodies which are to be proscribed immediately in order that no one may claim that he acted under any wrong impression as to the bodies concerned. The named bodies are the Government of North Vietnam, the Communist party of North Vietnam and the so-called National Liberation Front of South Vietnam.
Members will appreciate the necessity for inclusion of a power to proclaim other bodies which may evolve whose purpose is to assist those opposed to our troops in Vietnam but I draw attention to the fact that an Australian body cannot be so proclaimed. For the offence which I have mentioned, the Bill provides punishment either on conviction on indictment or on summary conviction. For the more serious case proceedings would be on indictment and the punishment provided is a fine not exceeding $2,000 or imprisonment not exceeding two years or both. For the less serious offence proceedings would be taken summarily and the punishment is a fine not exceeding $1,000 or imprisonment not exceeding one year or both.
Sub-clause (2) of clause 3 proscribes the inciting of collecting, giving or soliciting of funds or goods for the purposes I have mentioned or the printing or publishing of any paper for the purpose of so inciting. These provisions already exist in the Crimes Act and would apply of their own force to an incitement to commit an offence of the type which clause 3 forbids. However, to make doubly sure that anyone joining in enterprises of the nature, which this Bill sets out to punish, will be fully aware of the risks he runs, the Government is repeating the provisions against incitement in this Bill. The penalty in this case is a fine not exceeding $500 or imprisonment not exceeding six months or both and the offence is punishable summarily.
There is an exception in clause 3, subclause (3) which provides that it is not an offence to contribute money or goods to the Australian Red Cross or for that body to transmit funds or send goods to the International Red Cross. It is not intended to prevent those with genuinely humanitarian motives from giving effect to their feelings of compassion. This channel will still be open to them. The Government has decided that there may be a case for placing other specified bodies in the same position as the Australian Red Cross is placed. Provision is made in the Bill for proclaiming such bodies.
I mentioned earlier that the Government did not wish in any way to hinder the democratic right of citizens to criticise the Government’s actions and this right is enshrined in clause 4 of this Bill. I trust that this puts at rest any suggestion that the Government has any intention in introducing legislation of this type to demand support for its policy on Vietnam or to stifle criticism. The purpose of clause 5 of the Bill is to close tight any normal route for the remission of funds to people overseas, which might be used to defeat the objects of this Bill. It deals with foreign exchange.
There is one further matter in connexion with prosecution procedures laid down in the Bill to which I should draw attention and that is the restriction on the power to pursue a prosecution under this Act except with the authority of the Attorney-General. I feel that on the issues this Bill is designed to meet when passions are liable to run high, there must be a restriction on the right to launch prosecutions and they should be commenced only after a careful study of the facts.
Clause 7 imposes a liability on officers of incorporated groups for the action of the group. I feel that there should be no escape behind any shield of incorporation for people who organise offences against the provisions of this Bill.
It should, I think, be obvious to the House that it is not possible to subpoena Ho Chi Minh or any of his supporters to come to Australia to give evidence, as to the name and the day to day control of the Communist organisations in Vietnam, in a prosecution for an offence against the provisions of this Bill and hence resort must be had to a power to aver facts of this nature. This power of averment is set out in clause 8, and whilst it is true that probably all of the facts which the clause permits may be averred could be proved by tendering the certificate of a Minister, the Government feels that the evidentiary powers it proposes to use should be clearly defined.
The only other provision I will mention is the one I referred to earlier, namely, the provision for repeal of this Act when operations cease in Vietnam. This is contained in clause 11 and I believe should remove any fears that this legislation will be continued for longer than strictly necessary.
I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Whitlam) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 534).
– Order! I call the honourable member for Corio and I remind honourable members that this will be the honourable member’s maiden speech.
- Mr Speaker, I rise to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) to this Budget, which I am sure all honourable members who have taken the trouble to examine it will consider to be a most inhuman document and one which clearly shows that the Government has lost all feeling for the people. This Budget places the onus of meeting increased defence costs squarely on those people least able to afford it. I refer to the pensioners, the widows, those on fixed incomes and those who are dependent on repatriation benefits. They are the ones who must meet the increased costs of defence expenditure. A few moments ago the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) finished a speech which might well have been made in this House in 1941 because I believe that we are not in a very different situation with regard to defence from what we were in at that time when a previous government of the same colour was turned out of office.
I believe that the Australian community is entitled to know the aims of our defence policies. I have not heard from the Minister, either in his speech tonight or in any other speech in this place or elsewhere, nor have I heard, as a member of the public or as a member of the Parliament, a clear statement from a Government spokesman on what or whom we are being defended against. When the Government establishes a defence policy, before spending money I believe it has a responsibility to tell the Parliament and the people exactly what it intends to defend us against. Are we arming to defend ourselves against China? Honourable members opposite say that we are not, although their election propaganda gives the lie to their statement. Are we arming to defend ourselves against Indonesia, as we were told we were doing two or three years ago, and as we could have been doing at that time? Is this the country that we are aiming to defend and is it on this country that we must spend the moneys which we are spending?
I do not criticise expenditure on defence, provided that as a result of the expenditure we are getting defence. I doubt very much that we are getting that and I doubt whether many people in Australia believe that that is what we are getting. In presenting the Budget the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) said that expenditure on defence has risen by an amazing amount in the last four years. Very likely this is true. However, it shows that in the years prior to that rise the Government was not genuine in its statements on defence. The Government has made more than thirty statements on defence since it came to office in 1949. On at least one occasion within my knowledge it has come before the Parliament and told the people that within three years we would be in another world war. Yet on that occasion it did not increase its expenditure for defence or take any action which would have increased Australia’s defence readiness.
Social services are terribly important to those people who have to depend on them for a living. This Parliament is the only place that those people can go in order to seek a decent standard of living. If honourable members and the Government, which has a majority in the Parliament, are not prepared to give these people consideration, they have nowhere else to go. They have no recourse other than to reduce their standard of living. This is all that is left to them. I suggest that members of the community whose standards of living are lowest - the pensioners who have no other form of income, the widows who are totally dependent on the widows’ pension and who have young children to look after, the people in receipt of the repatriation benefit and especially those who served in the First World War and who are now approaching their life span of three score years and ten - have little or no means of improving their standards unless the Parliament passes the legislation which is necessary to enable them to do so.
It has been said repeatedly that we as a people and a nation are prosperous. Can we justly and honestly claim this while we serve up a pittance to people who are in the greatest need in this community? I do not intend to speak at length on this subject at this juncture, but I remind honourable members that the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) this afternoon said that our health services were readily available to all people. I suggest that this is not true. In my own constituency of Corio it is necessary for pensioners who hold a pensioner medical card to pay for each outpatient service. Admittedly they pay only 20c a day, which is not very much, but if in addition they have to pay bus fares of about 30c in order to get to the hospital to have daily treatment and they depend on a weekly pension of $15 or less, they are paying a considerable amount for a service which they should be entitled to receive without cost.
A constituent of mine who served in the First World War and who, Because he was like most Australians, I should think, and did not complain when he felt a little ill and thus has no medical record from the First World War is denied repatriation benefits because he cannot prove that he has an entitlement. He is classified as being unofficially gassed and is unable to prove that it is a war caused disability because there is no other person available who was present at that time. I suggest that any person who served in the First World War or in a war prior to that, if he is fortunate or unfortunate enough to be still alive, is entitled to full access to repatriation benefits. The cost to this country would not be great. The people concerned are those who have given this country everything that was asked of them, people who have done this country proud and people who should be given not only gratitude but tangible evidence that we as a Parliament’ and as a people appreciate what they did to defend our liberties.
We hear in this place talk about the defence of liberties of persons outside Australia and I would speak in support of any person’s liberties against anyone who would usurp those liberties. But I believe that we should start defending liberties within the Commonwealth of Australia. There are people in this country who have very little in the way of liberties, either economically or otherwise. I refer to the Aboriginal people who were the first inhabitants of Australia. They received no mention whatever in the Budget. They have been ignored completely. Rightly or wrongly we are prepared to spend $40m to defend the liberties of people in South Vietnam. The Government has a majority and has a mandate to do that. At this point of time I shall not argue about that. Yet we are not prepared to spend one cent to defend the liberties of our Aboriginal people. I do not know what sort of economics are involved in this or what sort of justice we would call if, but to my way of thinking it is not right and it is not proper.
I have been elected by the people of the electorate of Corio. To those people I extend my thanks for the honour that they have bestowed on me. To them I express the hope that I shall be able to represent them well in this Parliament. I should like also to pay some small tribute to the member who preceded me and who was unfortunately misguided in his political thinking and sat on the other side of the House. I believe that he did what he thought best for the electorate of Corio while he represented it, and quite obviously the people in the electorate thought he did it well because they sent him back to this place on eight separate occasions. I hope that I can achieve the same record. Whether I do or do not achieve it, I still express my gratitude to those who sent me here.
The electorate of Corio is one which I believe has most of the problems which face other electorates in the Commonwealth, with the exception of those in northern areas where remoteness and lack of facilities are obviously a serious problem. Within my district I have agriculture, the tourist’ industry and many other industries. We have the problem of being a non-urban area in a country where governments are prepared to assist only those in the urban areas. We have the problems of employment which come to a provincial city but which are not so obvious in metropolitan areas. Within the electorate the ancillary industries which would normally provide employment for young girls and young people generally are not evident. The major industries which employ nien and boys are large, but in the main it is the young girls who make up the rather large employment list which exists in the Corio electorate and which normally during a year makes up one-third of the unemployed in the Melbourne metropolitan district. This is too high for an area of this nature and I believe that, while this Parliament is not directly responsible, it is only at the national level that real action to promote decentralisation can be taken. By ‘decentralisation’ I do not mean merely reducing the numbers of electors in seats held by members of the Australian Country Party so that the Country Party will continue to have the same representation in this Parliament; I mean keeping the people in the country so that we will have the same number of people as well as the same number of seats. This would be * worthy aim for the Parliament.
Last week I asked a question relating to the extension of the standard gauge railway from Melbourne to the Corio electorate. This would bring the Geelong area into direct contact with areas of the southern Riverina and New South Wales. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth) said that this proposition was uneconomic. T have some knowledge of the transport industry; I ran over rails for a number of years while engaged in my employment. I also have some understanding of transport problems. I agree with the Minister that at this time the proposition would not be economic. However, this does not mean that it should not be considered. The dairy industry is uneconomic; it is costing the Australian people money. The wheat growers and the sugar growers are engaged in an uneconomic industry. If we have regard to the tariff protection enjoyed by our secondary industries, we can say that most of them are uneconomic, especially if they are judged purely on their ability to make profits without any form of assistance. A standard gauge rail link to the port of Geelong would enable Geelong to service shipping far better than the port of Melbourne can. The congestion in metropolitan areas, such as Melbourne, prevents the proper service from being given. With this rail link, Geelong could provide a better service to the southern Riverina than either Melbourne or Sydney can. Wheat, superphosphate, agricultural implements, motor vehicles and other materials could well be transported on this link. It would be of tremendous importance to the Geelong area, because it would encourage heavy industry to move there. This industry would have immediate access to interstate traffic.
I forgot to mention bogey exchange, and I do not want to neglect this aspect. Bogey exchange is a reasonably economic way of coping with the situation that we now have, but it does create delays and does not give immediate and direct access. Transport of goods by this means is not as attractive as transport by standard gauge would be. With standard gauge, goods can be loaded into trucks at one point and go directly to their destination. The capacity that can be carried by bogey exchange is limited and not a very large volume of goods can be lifted. .
The construction of a standard gauge railway is not a project that should be passed on to the Victorian Railways Com missioners. They are already paying too much for Victoria’s early venture into railway. The people who bought land in the Mallee and others similarly placed made money but the Victorian Railways Commissioners and, through them, the Victorian taxpayers are still paying at least the interest on the capital used to develop Victoria. The standard gauge railway Ls a developmental project and should be financed as such. The economic possibilities of the project and the possibility of an early return on the capita] invested should not be considered. Very few government projects of any consequence make money immediately. If the Government is doing its job, its projects are designed with the long term possibilities in mind, and I believe the long term objective of assisting the development of areas beyond capital cities is a worthy one.
A question relating to the aircraft industry was asked in the House today. This is an important industry within the Corio electorate. In 1956-57 the aircraft industry was virtually closed by the Government. Since then it has not been given sufficient encouragement to produce our defence needs. The aircraft industry was started before the last World War. A few aeroplanes were constructed before war broke out and this laid the basis for an industry that was able to produce many aircraft for Australia and for its allies during the last World War. The aircraft industry now is far more complex, lt takes much more money and much more time to build aircraft. But if the industry had been continued and developed as it should have been, we would now have been able to supply our own aircraft. We may not have been able to design and develop such highly complex aircraft as the Fill, but no-one has yet been able to convince me that this complex machine is needed for the defence of Australia. I do not know that we can defend our country with twenty-four aircraft if we are attacked. They may well be a good purchase if our defence policy is merely to supplement the forces of another country and to fit our equipment in with the equipment of those forces. But if we are trying to develop a defence system of our own, I can not see how twenty-four aircraft will be of much value. The Minister for Defence said that the Canberra bomber is doing a good job in Vietnam. This may well be so, but these aircraft have no opposition and it cannot be difficult for them to do a good job. I think the Wirraways would be good aircraft if they were flying in Vietnam now, because there is nothing to fight them.
The point is that Australia has an industrial complex, electronic capacity, the know-how and the skilled manpower to develop its own defence capacity. All that is needed is the Government’s approval. I have no doubt that honourable members know that most of the defence equipment in Sweden is manufactured in that country at very little cost. The cost to Sweden for its defence is not much more than the amount we are expending. But Sweden has 1,000 military aircraft manufactured in that country and these aircraft are at least as good as the aircraft we now have in service. This equipment is made in Sweden, but Sweden’s gross national product is not as large as ours. We are capable of manufacturing our own defence equipment if we are willing to try, and all that anyone can do is to try. We cannot afford to make mistakes, but I believe that we have the capacity and the manpower to make our own equipment.
During the last World War industries in my electorate made tanks for the Australian Army, but they are not now being consulted when the Army needs tanks. They are not even being asked whether they can manufacture the tanks that are needed and what the cost would be if they were given an order. This courtesy could well be extended to Australian industries. It is not being done now, although the Minister claims that 70% of our defence items are made in Australia.
I wish to deal now in a little more detail with the matter I mentioned briefly earlier, and that is health. The Minister for Health said this afternoon, as he said in my electorate during the by-election compaign, that we have the best health scheme in the world. I do not know how many honourable members opposite will agree with him. There are eighty-one members opposite and I can assure the Minister that if ail eighty-one of them agree with him they are the only people in Australia who do.
Our health scheme is, to say the least, a shambles. Not even the wealthy can afford it. People who work for wages are unable to meet the regular cost of health insurance. The weekly contribution of $1.67 is more than most people can afford. However, they would perhaps pay this amount willingly if In return they were given an adequate health service. A serious illness to the breadwinner now means financial ruin, unless he has considerable assets on which to rely. Even a person who has an income that is large enough to put him outside the public ward benefits in a hospital and who has paid the maximum contribution to a health fund finds himself in financial trouble if he or a member of his family suffers a prolonged illness.
I had a complaint last week from a man whose wife unfortunately lapsed into a coma some twelve weeks ago. The medical and hospital costs of this woman run to well over $100 a week. The last time I heard, she had not recovered and it did not appear as though she would recover. After twelve weeks the benefit which her husband will receive, after being a member of this scheme ever since its inception, will be $5 a day, which is the Government’s contribution. That is half the cost of a public ward bed in Victoria. This man, because of his income, could not have his wife admitted to a public ward bed. Also, because his income is such that she cannot be admitted to a public ward bed - and because of her condition I do not think that anyone would wish her to be put in such a bed - he is not entitled to free ancillary services. He must also pay for these. For the rest of the time that this woman is ill this man will have to pay at least $100 a week out of his own pocket Most likely he will pay half the cost of her hospitalisation for as long as she remains sick. This sickness could continue for a year. I do not think that this is evidence of a good hospital scheme. The benefits funds have tremendous reserves, but people who have been contributing to them since their inception are forced to meet the major cost of hospitalisation for a serious illness which normally comes to a person only once in a lifetime. There are people who are chronically ill, but most people experience in a lifetime only one or two really serious illnesses requiring long hospitalisation.
The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) attacked the health policy of the Australian Labor Party. He said that it was socialistic. If humanitarianism is socialism, then every member of this House should be proud to be a Socialist. If it is free enterprise to allow people to continue to be ill, to walk around with illnesses which should be treated and to continue to work with such illnesses because they cannot afford to leave off work because their wives and children would suffer, then I do not think that any person in this Parliament would be proud to support free enterprise The Australian Labor Party’s health policy is set down and designed on humanitarian grounds. It is designed to provide the people of this country with a health service which will enable them to receive treatment when they require it, irrespective of their ability to pay. It is stated that implementation of our policy would mean that too many people would use the hospitals. I am assured that this has happened in Britain and elsewhere. But it could have been that prior to the introduction of the British scheme fewer people used medical facilities because they were unable to afford medical treatment, and so had to deny themselves and their families access to treatment that they should have received.
At this stage I wish to refer to the preamble of the health policy which is contained in the Labor Party’s platform. I ask honourable members opposite to remember that apparently health in this country is of such small importance to the Government that it did not rate one word in the Budget Speech which was presented to this Parliament a fortnight ago. The only place in the Budget Speech where health services are mentioned is in a sub-heading above a paragraph which does not refer to health. The Government has not considered the parlous state of the health services in this country. I can assure honourable members that the hospitals and the people of this country want a new health service which will give some degree of security to people who become ill. The preamble to the Labor Party’s health policy reads as follows:
Believing that health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, and that the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is a fundamental right of every citizen, a Labor Government would promote the establishment of a comprehensive public health service available to alt who choose to use it and staffed by those who choose to serve in it.
The preamble sets out what I believe should be the aim of this Parliament, that is, to provide the people with a comprehensive health service available to all persons who choose to use it. Because of the shortness of time J do not intend to read the whole of the Labor Party’s health policy, but with the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate the balance of the policy in Hansard.
Objective: The establishment of a comprehensive Health Service providing both governmental and private services.
General Practitioner Service: The provision of General Practitioner Medical Services staffed by salaried medical practitioners willing to join and available without charge and without Means Test to persons who choose to use such services.
The payment of Commonwealth benefit to all patients who choose to use private services irrespective of their membership of voluntary insurance organisations.
Hospitalisation: A national hospital service, including hospitalisation without charge and without Means Test, in public wards of public hospitals and appropriate financial provision in approved private beds.
Additional grants to the States for hospitals supplying the following services: (a) Salaried inpatient specialist staff, (b) salaried out-patient specialist staff, (c) obstetrical, (d) domiciliary, (e) geriatric, (f) dental, (g) optometrical, (h) rehabilitation, (i) ambulance, and such other services as are necessary for comprehensive medical care, od a regional basis.
Specialist Service: Grants to the States to provide that patients in all wards of public hospitals have the option of using, without charge, the services of specialists, remunerated by salaries or sessional fees.
Mental Health: Grants to the States for Mental Health Services to provide for -
Optical Service: The provision of Optical Services staffed by salaried qualified personnel willing to join and available without charge and without Means Test to persons who choose to use such services.
Artificial Aids: Artificial limbs and hearing aids to be provided without charge for all who need them, and for this purpose the Commonwealth Artificial Limb Factories and the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories to be expanded.
Research: The promotion of health research under the over-all aegis of the National Science Foundation.
The Foundation to sponsor visits to and from overseas research centres.
The promotion of research in the field of new pharmaceutical products.
The establishment of a Health Computer Service on a national basis in which the details of an individual’s medical record may be recorded, with the person’s consent, for the purpose of research, statistics and the individual’s medical treatment
Medical Education: The establishment of an Australian Medical Education Advisory Committee comprising representatives of Australian Medical Schools and the appropriate professional bodies to advise on the revision of facilities for and the training of medical students.
Registration: The Commonwealth to approach the States and the appropriate professional bodies to achieve national recognition of qualifications, registration and uniform discipline for general medical practitioners, medical specialists and other qualified personnel.
National Standards: The Commonwealth to approach the States to achieve national drug and food standards.
The Commonwealth to approach the States to achieve national registration and control of irradiation apparatus, radio-active materials and other biophysical substances and equipment.
Commonwealth Serum Laboratories: The promotion of the manufacture, bulk purchase and wholesale distribution of pharmaceutical products through the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories.
Pharmaceutical Benefits: The dispensing of prescriptions without direct charge to the patient.
General: The conclusion and ratification of Conventions and the development of programmes under the -auspices of the General Assembly and the Specialised Agencies of the United Nations in order to promote national and international good health.
In conclusion, I wish to thank the House for its patience in hearing all that I have had to say. On the next occasion on which I speak honourable members opposite will be free to interject while I am speaking - but I am not inviting future interjections. I hope that on that next occasion I will be a little more forthright in what I have to say. It is a privilege to be given the honour of making a speech in this House. It is an honour which I treat very highly. Tonight I have mentioned some thoughts which I have carried over the many years during which I have listened to the broadcast of proceedings of this House and have had an interest in the political and social welfare of the people of this country.
In the final minutes available to me I want to say one or two words on another matter. It is unfortunate that in recent years this Parliament has descended to the level of a sniping gallery. This is a fair statement of fact. Any person who listens to debates in this House, particularly on foreign affairs, knows that honourable members merely snipe at one another. By doing this they seek to gain some political point. They do not stand on their feet and discuss the merits of what they believe in or of the policies of this nation. This is the national Parliament, and 1 believe that it is a place which should be respected by the public. 1 suggest that it will not receive this respect while members of the Parliament treat this institution with the contempt which 1 suggest some members have for it. I believe that one of the things which is important in the Parliament is that every member of it should accept his proper responsibility to debate matters that come before the Parliament. He should strive to counter his opponents wherever possible with truth, not fiction. I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– I congratulate the new member for Corio (Mr Scholes) on having passed through the stage of making his maiden speech. It is not too long ago that I went through the ceremony and enjoyed during it the peace and quiet of this House. Whilst his predecessor, if he were able to tune in by Radio Malta tonight to listen to his successor, would not have been pleased with what was said tonight, I am sure that
Oppie would have acknowledged the quickness with which his successor has grasped the methods employed in getting across a point.
I wish to express my amazement at some of the contributions made by honourable members opposite during the course of this Budget debate. We have witnessed the spectacle of desperate Opposition attempts to portray the recent Adelaide Conference of the Australian Labor Party as having ousted the Liberal Party from the pinnacle of democracy. This is like a man in gaol receiving turkey and plum pudding on Christmas Day and claiming that he is better off than the man in the street; he has lost the concept of freedom and has failed to appreciate the situation. This is what has happened to the Australian Labor Party. The ALP was made to look ridiculous four years ago when photographs were taken of the then Federal Parliamentary Labor Leader and his Deputy waiting patiently outside a conference hall to receive directions as to their Party’s policy. They were waiting to hear their instructions from a body of outsiders who were not elected representatives of the people. Obviously the now retired Leader was not unduly perturbed by ensuing criticism and it has only been a matter of months since the new Leader’s sensitiveness about this image has emerged. Undoubtedly charges about witless men did not endear the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) to the rulers of his Party and recently we saw the master plan to destroy the power of the executive of the Party fail miserably. It was a struggle for power and not for policy.
As one who has had an intense interest in the organisational side of political parties over a number of years, 1 recognise, just as the Leader of the Opposition has, the inherent weaknesses of an executive numbering hundreds. If he had been successful and received the backing of his own party in this venture, it would have spelt death to the system by which the Labor Leader is directed. This has been brought out time and again during the debate. Naturally the Leader of the Opposition would like to enjoy the freedom of making his own decisions.
– On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, I point out that according to the notice paper we are debating the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1967-1968. The honourable member is not dealing with that matter at all.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! There is no substance in the honourable member’s point of order.
– I hope that the honourable member for Wills does not feel that I am sniping at him. I am trying to present the facts. Turning to technicalities and to the illumination of facts, a Liberal leader does not receive instructions from the Liberal Party executive. Granted, there is a Liberal Party federal body, somewhat like that of the ALP, that meets annually, but this body, in close cooperation with the parliamentary representatives, shapes policy. The timing of policy implementation is left, without one string attached, entirely to the parliamentary wing to those elected by the people. Honourable members opposite have introduced to their party only a fraction of what we have taken for granted since our formation in 1944. That the Labor leader now has a ticket to go inside does not alter the position, so cleverly and clearly defined in 1963. that the Labor Party is controlled by outsiders with vested interests and not by members elected to Parliament. It would be well for the Opposition to appraise realistically the actual benefits and advantages which accrue to the non-parliamentary organisational wing by placing policy making under its control. For example, the number of unionists who receive ballot papers in ALP plebiscites and just cannot be bothered to vote must surely be taken as evidence that a great percentage of unionists are just not interested in the functioning of political parties. To offer unlimited power as a bait to build up party membership is destructive in itself because the motive of every new member is suspect. The ALP has been elected to office on only three occasions in the last half century. While outside control is retained, the figure three will remain - only the number of years out of office will increase. That is what ails the Opposition. It is not a matter of whether a conference should ba televised.
During the Budget debate, one or two honourable members opposite have expressed the opinion that this is not a debate on foreign affairs and that the subject of our defence commitments in South East Asia is irrelevant. I beg to differ. We of the Government side recognise that when more than a billion dollars is being poured into defence and equipment, a by-product must be that Budget allocations for departments concerned with national development and social services will suffer.
– I wish to raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, in order to assist Hansard. The figure stated by the honourable member should be 1,000 million and not a billion, which is the American form.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– The honourable member who arrived with Captain Phillip does not realise that the world has changed slightly. To return to my speech I believe that this expenditure on defence is, sadly enough, the price we pay for living in an unstable part of the world. Our nearest neighbour, Indonesia, caused us great concern only a matter of months back, and the uncertainty of the future of most of our neighbours is often the subject of long debates by men well and truly elevated above the plane of politics. Fair critics of the Government concede that Australia is faced with the problem of high expenditure on defence. What could be a better example of this than the fact that one Mirage jet interceptor costs the equivalent of the entire Royal Australian Air Force budget in 1936-37.
We have listened to honourable members opposite attacking defence expenditure. Even taking into account that there may well be genuine concern over the seemingly unpredictable costs of military hardware, one must not forget the Australian Labor Party’s attitude to our involvement in South East Asia. The House is fully aware that the ‘ifs’ written into the Labor Party’s policy in Adelaide recently spelt out the same line as proposed at the last election. In other words, Labor is still intent on running out on its allies if given the opportunity. The report of Mr Skermer, the Auditor-General, does not for a moment make any of us ecstatic. However, with the definite exception of one honourable member, in a general sense, I would attribute the Opposition’s concern to its now bitter obsession with the need to justify its policies of the last and lost election. It is now seizing on everything possible in its endeavours to end our commitment in Vietnam. This in itself enlarges the mantle of responsibility on the shoulders of every Minister to ensure that his department, from management to delivery boy, leaves no room for justified criticism. The exception I mentioned a moment ago is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard). We all know of his recent return from Vietnam and his call for a complete review of Labor’s policy. There were considerable rumblings following his unheeded plea and there was a possibility that he might join independents corner, as boy Robin to the member for Batman (Mr Benson). He was lucky and is now more careful as he fulfils his role of the meat between Labor’s sandwich of leadership compromise.
To conclude this segment of my address, 1 know I am on solid ground when I say that the Treasurer would be happier to use the billion dollars set aside for defence on projects within our own shores. By that I am not suggesting that he supports Labor’s policy of isolationism - of building a great wall of China across northern Australia. I would feel happier if I knew that every Australian pensioner had received an increase, as I am sure would all honourable members including Opposition members, particularly as it has been shown that the position of these people has been eroded in recent weeks. However, if the day has arrived when we must face up to the full price for our defence, let every Australian know that he must help to bear the burden because the cost of liberty has no limits and knows no favourites. Each and every one of us has to share this load and we must all accept that sometimes a continuance of improvement in living standards will be on the two steps forward, one step backward, basis. Persons on fixed incomes have had no alternative but to accept this philosophy and we have seen the community’s position improve year in, year out, with only one recent exception. Let us see the Opposition try to refute that statement.
I direct my remarks to the group that enjoys freedom of control of its own destiny under our free enterprise system. To be more specific, I speak of the manufacturer, the retailer and the developer - those who comprise the major sector of the business community. By far the majority of this group are people sensitive to their important role in our growing economy and fully cognisant of the dangers of its expanding at too rapid a rate. However, there are a few who are unconcerned. Some of them have manoeuvred themselves into the position of monopolies and some do not appear to possess an inkling of responsibility in respect of economic repercussions, when the continual and rapid escalation of profits becomes paramount. Certainly, our society is geared to improvement but there are those who make it harder for the Government to maintain our stabilised prosperity. We have been told that the minimum weekly wage rates have risen by about 7% over the year ending 30th June. The consumer price index rose in the first three quarters of 1966-67 at an annual rate of a little above 2%, yet in the recent quarter the rise approached an annual rate of 5%. The Treasurer stated that this was far too high, and with this I agree entirely.
Granted, in highly efficient low profit margin industries price increases are inevitable, but on the other hand some increases are completely unjustified. Evidence has been produced showing real gains in productivity, and in this age of increasing automation and mechanical aids I find it difficult to accept that industry is not gathering sufficient fringe benefits to allow wages to gain on the consumer price index. The record of growth in our country has more than justified the faith of the Australian people in the free enterprise system. To the small number of industrialists who look upon price increases as the easy way out I remind them of the alternatives - the imposition of price control, fiscal calamity or Socialism. In their hands, more than in the hands of the Government, lies the continuance of advancement in this country. If they sweep aside the idea that successful free enterprise calls for an honest team effort from every individual they indirectly contribute to the holding back, or, worse, the destruction, of a progressive community. Do not arm those who profess Communistic or Socialistic doctrines with amunition made available by way of greed and selfishness. We have heard the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) only this afternoon relate his plans for the final solution. We can be certain that these were not idle threats.
To those outside this Parliament who hold the sincere belief that Socialism, whether it is claimed to be democratic or not, is the answer to some of the minor ailments associated with the free enterprise system, I draw attention to a classic example of the remedy lying within the present system. Time and time again the Leader of the Opposition has claimed that complete nationalisation is the medicine for the problems of the waterfront. We are today witnessing the highly commendable example of this Liberal Party-Country Party Government bringing the employer and employee together, with the Government playing a backroom role while the two examine their problems and reorganise the system on a more acceptable, more beneficial and more workable basis.
– How many men got the sack?
– I do not think any have been sacked. The Australian people have every right to expect one byproduct to be stabilisation of shipping freight rates. Such stabilisation would be welcomed by our country people and would assist us greatly in world trade. I make no secret of the fact that I hope for an eventual decrease in freight rates. Even now, with the final effects of the Woodward inquiry still a fair way off, we have seen the idealistic theories of the Labor Party and of the Leader of the Opposition smashed, as the waterfront has already assumed the role of a much more efficient and happier place in which to earn a living under the free enterprise approach.
– I heard the honourable member say ‘Oh’. I know the situation, because I worked on the waterfront for two years and have talked with the men working there. Many of them reside in my electorate and I have discussed the position with them. Honourable members will have observed that during the last few minutes I have made statements which should leave no doubts as to my opinions of Socialism. It was only a week ago that the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) told this House of some of the realities which have emerged from the United Kingdom after three years under a Socialist Government. We all know that the Leader of the Opposition has often cited the United Kingdom as an example of what can be done, and I know that honourable members opposite will not begrudge me - a relative newcomer to this province - the opportunity of examining the United Kingdom’s recent economic record.
– Of rubbishing that Government.
– The honourable member for Wilmot says I will rubbish that Government. He has not given me a go. He must think he knows what I am going to say. Looking in retrospect at the results of the 1961 election in Australia it is obvious that I share the view of most Australians that availability of opportunity to work should be given very high priority when assessing the achievements of a government. I was rather surprised this afternoon to hear the honourable member for Yarra insinuate that the Govenment had only an electoral interest in employment, because we know that he, along with other honourable members opposite, has spoken of this subject often in the past. I would hazard the guess - a guess, because I was not here at the time - that he kicked this to death in 1961 when things were not so good. Unemployment figures tell the story of prosperity and growth in any language. When it suits them. Opposition members align themselves with the British Labour Government in the hope that moments of its glory might brush off on them by virtue of a similarity of names. It is surprising that the Leader of the Opposition was so unwise as to mention the subject of unemployment in his recent address to this House on the Budget, particularly as the United Kingdom has nearly 700,000 people looking for work, with unemployment still on the increase. Our figure of 1.4% has remained steady for some time, but according to the 22nd July issue of the ‘Economist’ Britain’s current rate is the highest in the post war period, barring that in 1947, during the fuel crisis. Britain’s growth rate continues to decline, yet honourable members opposite expect Australians to believe that Socialism will surpass everything the present system offers. Their record in the wilderness bears witness to this folly, and one has only to look back into history to see that it was a Socialist policy that swept them out of office in 1949.
We have today a humane degree of social welfare. Liberal philosophy embraces recognition of the fact that there will always be a percentage of the population in need of assistance. Over one million people in this country are classified as pensioners or their dependants, and as a percentage of the population this figure has increased under Liberal rule - not that Australia is becoming a nation of chronics but because the Government, has recognised, over the years, the needs of the community. Another social improvement brought forward by this Government has been the recognition of the plight of deserted wives and the wives of prisoners. There is now an urgent need for the State Ministers to confer and work out a proposal for Commonwealth acceptance. The Treasurer indicated this when he introduced his Budget a fortnight ago. It is now up to the States. The ball has moved to their feet, and I. ask them to get cracking. The recognition of this social problem is truly one of the greats of the 1967 Budget.
In my opinion there is no-one lower than the man who can walk out on his wife and children, leaving them to fend for themselves. Although I am not married I understand the problems of married life, but what 1 cannot understand is how any man can walk out on his responsibilities, leaving the persons he professed to love to starve. I have nothing against marriage, and I am quite sure that I will accept my responsibilities when the times comes. I would like to see implemented in this country a prison system for men who desert their wives and families. It could be a system whereby they would be sentenced to imprisonment for the same period as that which they deserted their wives and families. During the week they could be permitted to work outside. They could be returned to prison at night. Their wages could be handed over to their families. I do not believe that any man in our society has the right to throw his responsibilities on the State because each case of wife desertion means that there is a little less for those people who really need assistance. The simple answer is to get these men to accept their responsibilities fully. This would relieve our society of a financial burden.
Another matter that pleases me is that the Government has seen fit to throw aside this rather antiquated idea that by not assisting the wife of a prisoner for six months it might deter some men from perpetrating crimes with the thought in mind that if they go to gaol their wives and children will starve. There have been occasions in the past when this idea has worked, but I am quite certain that the wives and children of these prisoners have not been helped by a theory that was introduced merely to keep the gaols a little less crowded. It is commendable that the Minister has seen fit to meet this problem. Again I call on the States to look at this matter so that the position of these women and children can be corrected immediately. Some of us have been here only for months - the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) has been here for only a matter of weeks - but we all know of the sorrow and sadness in the eyes of the deserted wife and the wife of a prisoner. This is a great move and I am certain that in this respect I have the full agreement even of honourable members opposite. 1 conclude by reiterating my earlier plea to those few in the business community who look upon profit as being the only important thing in life. If we all remember that life in our community is a team effort, I am sure that many of the problems that members of the Opposition and supporters of this Government continually bring to light will disappear.
– Since the Corio by-election I have been very interested to ascertain who represented the ratbag element in the Federal Parliamentary Liberal Party, as it was described by the Australian Country Party member for Hume (Mr Pettitt). After listening to the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) I feel confident that now I know at least one of them.
I support the amendment that was so ably moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). In doing so let me state that I agree entirely with his statement that this is a Budget that lacks vision and one that is sectional to the extreme in giving to the greedy at the expenses of the needy. The reaction of the people to the Budget is fairly assessed by the following comments that have received wide publicity in the Press of Australia. The Australian Commonwealth Pensioners Federation has called the Budget a malnutrition Budget. The Federal President, Mr Barraud, described it as the most disgraceful Budget ever introduced by this Government. He said that pensioners had been left for dead and that no consideration had been given to the steep rise over the past year in the consumer price index and the general rise in the cost of living. Mr Barraud said that apparently the present Government wanted to see pensioners who because of depression and world wars were unable to add to their means, die off. The National President of the Returned Services League, Sir Arthur Lee, said the Government had completely ignored the detailed case put to it by the RSL in March. He said it had ignored the plight of totally and permanently incapacitated and general rate pensioners and had abandoned the war widows. He also said that the RSL had demonstrated year after year how pension values had been eroded but the Government had maintained a do-nothing attitude. Sir Arthur is reported to have said:
The repatriation provisions of this Budget are a disgrace to this Government, to Australia, and a betrayal to those who have suffered in war.
The Director of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Mr Daunt, said the Treasurer had brought down the expected stay-put Budget. Mr Daunt stated:
While he claims credit for good management of the economy during the financial year 1966-67, the fact remains that in the current situation some sectors of private enterprise, including the Australian motor industry, have enjoyed very little or no growth at all in demand for their products.
The President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Monk, described the Budget speech as dull and complacent. He is reported as having said that the Government was prepared to coast along on what it considered a satisfactory economic plane without regard to the suffering of people on low-level incomes.
I suggest that these comments represent the feelings of the vast majority of Australians.
In his submissions to Parliament the Treasurer indicated that during 1966-67 three of the major indicators had shown that the gross national product rose in real terms by between 5% and 6%, which was close to the best performance of recent years; that wage rates had risen by about 7%; and that prices rose in the last quarter by a percentage equivalent to an annual rate of 5%. If the figures presented by the Treasurer are correct, surely it must be clear, particularly having regard to the increase in the gross national product and in wages, that the vast majority of people in receipt of age, invalid, widows and repatriation pensions and other forms of social service benefits have not received their just share of the increased performance and in fact are now worse off than they were before. The Government, arrogant with power, not only rejected ali the major claims made to it by the pensioners association, the RSL and other bodies, but also completely ignored a warning by one of its own trusted and stalwart supporters, the Bank of New South Wales. In the Bank’s quarterly review of June of this year, issued prior to the Budget, the following statement appeared:
The present pattern of benefits still leaves gaps in the needs of hard cases and some benefits are imperfectly adapted to the achievement of their aim.
Australia’s pensions and other social service benefits are inadequate. On maternity allowances and child endowment the Bank said:
While their benefits are only marginal for those people at the higher end of the scale of income, at the lower end of the scale the payments seem quite unrelated to any assessments of needs.
Large increases in both benefits would be required to restore their original purchasing power.
On medical and hospital charges the Bank said:
If they rose too sharply the political future of the contributory health insurance scheme could be threatened.
The Bank concluded by saying that between 1960 and 1966 hospital and medical benefits and hospital services rose almost three times as fast as the average rate.
This considered appraisal of Australian social service and health benefits, completed and published prior to the finalisation of the Budget, was made by the Bank of New South Wales, an institution known as Australia’s largest and most venerable trading bank. No-one, even in the wildest flights of imagination, could describe it as an associate or supporter of the Labor Party or as an organisation prone to extreme or exaggerated pronouncements. In fact it could very rightly be described as a typical conservative big business organisation.
In the field of social services one of the very few minor increases arising from the Budget is a small but long overdue increase in child endowment. However, even this minute increase is applicable only to the fourth and subsequent children under sixteen years of age. When moving the second reading of the Social Services Bill, a measure designed to give effect to this Budget proposal, the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair), in order to be able to cite a family increase that would at least appear reasonable, was forced to make a case on the basis of a family with nine children under the age of sixteen years of age. He went to great pains to show that such a family would receive an additional benefit of $5.25 a week. What a magnificent gesture by the Government. As a family man I would be inclined to believe that any woman having the responsibility of caring for nine children under sixteen, particularly if her husband were in the low income group, would need to spend the additional $5.25 a week on pep pills and tranquiliser to enable her to cope with the normal day to day problems of sickness and the high cost of living. This increase in child endowment, miserable as it is, applies to only about 25% of Australian families. The other 75% are completely ignored by the Treasurer. Perhaps the fairest comparison in relation to child endowment is that between a family with three children - this is about the size of the average Australian family - in 1949 and a similar family today. In 1949 the endowment paid represented 11.5% of the average adult male wage. In 1967 it represents only 5%. Thus since 1949 the value and purchasing power of child endowment have decreased by more than 50%.
While on this important matter of child endowment I wish to make an urgent appeal to the Government. However, so that I shall not be misrepresented I wish to make it clear that I strongly support our migration policies. Notwithstanding this, I believe, with due respect to all, that the best migrants Australia can obtain are those who are born in this country. Accordingly, as a first step towards achieving the most desirable objectives of getting as many Australian-born citizens as possible I strongly urge the Government to increase child endowment through the whole range to levels more in keeping with the present day cost of living.
In this modern world of ours, Mr Deputy Speaker, it is usually accepted that a nation’s standard of civilisation can be assessed from the way in which it cares for its old and infirm citizens. On this basis Australia’s standard of civilisation has dropped alarmingly under the administration of the present Government. In 1949 the base rate of pension represented 24.8% of average adult male weekly earnings. In 1967, as a result of this Budget, the standard rate will be reduced to only 19.6% of the average adult wage. The situation of invalid and widows pensions and other social services is somewhat similar, and repatriation benefits, as clearly shown by the Returned Services League, have now reached an all time low. It is crystal clear that the Government is pursuing a policy based on the concept that once a citizen loses his productive capacity as a result of sickness, age or war caused injury he is to be placed in the category of the forgotten or, as the Federal President of the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners Federation more aptly puts it, is to be left to die off. Is it any wonder that today, for the first time in the history of this country, thousands of our pioneers - people who by their sweat and tears have done so much not only to establish our nation but also to defend it in two world wars - are wearing a badge bearing an appeal to the Treasurer in these terms; ‘Give us this day our daily bread’?
Thu Budget, which on the one hand almost completely ignores the needy in favour of defence needs, at the same time gives a lavish handout to the big foreign insurance companies and the wealthy by providing for an increase from $800 to $1,200 in the maximum deduction that may be made for insurance premiums or superannuation contributions in assessing income for tax purposes. This gift to the wealthy - approximately 2% of the taxpayers - completely destroys the Government’s argument that spending on social services had to be curtailed in the interests of defence. If the needs of defence are so urgent and pressing surely those who have most to lose in the event of hostilities should be the ones to contribute most to ensure the maintenance of their wealthy estates and positions of privilege. There is no doubt that as a result of this blatant and arrogant handout to its wealthy friends and masters the Government parties’ coffers will be sizeably increased by contributions to their campaign funds.
The Government’s performance in the important area of national development lacks imagination. In point of fact one could say that the Government has completely shirked its responsibilities in this field. It has succeeded in sabotaging the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority to such a degree that it will be almost nonexistent by 1974. The Government has completely ignored and apparently forgotten the great Ord River project. It has refused to listen to the pleas of the South Australian and Western Australian Governments for assistance with the Eyre Highway. At the same time it has exercised its authority and held up the important Chowilla Dam project on the score of expense when everyone knows that the longer the delay the greater the cost will be. In the light of the Government’s great concern at the rising cost of important national development projects that in the final analysis will prove of immense value to the nation it is, to say the least, most surprising that in the purchase of important defence equipment rising costs do not appear to count. In fact in some instances in which huge costs are involved foreign manufacturers have been given an open cheque. In these instances the foreign companies, whose only interest in Australia is what they can get out of us, have taken full advantage of the Government’s generosity or, should I say, more correctly its stupidity and inefficiency.
The Treasurer claimed that there would be no tax increases in this Budget. Yet in the next breath he indicated that the Government intends to press on with its proposals to increase charges for postal services. He claims that these increases are not general taxation measures but are related to particular purposes. This assertion will deceive no-one. The higher charges proposed by the Government are a definite form of indirect taxation, equivalent to an increase in personal income tax of about 5%. They are certainly inflationary, because they will affect not only individual users but also every section of industry and commerce, and the added costs - with a cost plus - will be passed on to every consumer in the form of price increases. The Treasurer claims that the Post Office will be headed for a loss of $40m this financial year if the charges are not increased as proposed. The truth is that the Post Office is operating at a considerable profit, because the suggested loss of $40m is arrived at only after the Government juggles the accounts by charging itself $60m a year interest on the money used by the Post Office. This kind of juggling was condemned by Sir Robert Menzies, the former Prime Minister, in 1959 when he said:
The proposition is that we charge ourselves interest, we throw into deficit a couple of great undertakings that we have referred to, and we then raise the wind in order to meet that deficit - because it all comes back on to us. Therefore, charging ourselves interest is merely a complicated piece of bookkeeping and does not purchase one pennyworth of financial results.
It is an affront to the people that the Government should proceed with the proposal to increase charges against a background of inefficiency on the part of the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme). The postal workers accuse him of being arrogant and unjust in industrial relations, while the public’s experience is one of inefficiency. The Government itself concedes that the Post Office is not being conducted in accordance with the best business practices, for the Treasurer himself said in his Budget Speech:
The Post Office is required to conduct its operations in accordance with the best business practice. The Government is convinced that this objective would be better served if the financial machinery of the Post Office were changed from the standard Treasury and departmental system to a commercial form more suited to business requirements. After a thorough study the Government has decided to create a Post Office Trust Account into which Post Office revenues will be paid and from which its expenditures will be met. The Department’s net requirements for capital purposes each year will be provided annually under one-line appropriations from the Budget and paid to the Trust Account.
That admission by the Treasurer is welcome. In my view it shows the need for an urgent and thorough investigation of the subject by a parliamentary committee.
Another direct result of the Budget will be rises in air fares and freights. These will affect not only those who use the facilities, because by far the biggest users of air services are the big business and commercial organisations throughout the country. In accordance with their usual business practice they will pass on these costs to the consumer by increasing the prices of the commodities that they sell. The results will be in accordance with the pattern of the Budget, which is clearly designed, as I pointed out earlier, to take from the needy in order to give to the greedy.
At this juncture, Mr Deputy Speaker. I consider it necessary to comment on some remarks made by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones) in this House last Thursday week. This seems to me to be necessary not because the honourable member’s remarks were in any way associated with this debate but because they contained so many inaccuracies that the facts must be given in reply. The honourable member had the audacity to claim that in the past two years South Australia had produced ‘a level of economic unprosperity previously unknown’. He went on to say: The disgust, contempt, outright disillusionment and despair throughout the State have never been equalled’. As if to try to convince himself that his statements had some form of substance, the honourable member then proceeded to give what he called some statistics relating to migration and unemployment. That the honourable member’s statements were without foundation is quite clear from the correct statistics, which he failed to give the House. He entirely ignored the two economic indicators which prove his statements to be false. In the first place, unemployment in South Australia, which can largely be attributed to the low level of demand for consumer durables, which in turn was greatly influenced by the 1965 drought. particularly in the eastern States, is not as high as it was in 1961. Tn fact the number of unemployed registered in the September quarter of 1961. which for South Australia was 12,148 persons, was 150% above the present level of unemployment in South Australia. Secondly, the net value of primary and secondary production has reached record levels in the last two years. In 1965-66, which is the latest year for which statistics are available, the net value of production in South Australia was $862.8m. Factory production has increased at the rate of approximately 9% per annum over the past few years. Do these figures indicate economic stagnation?
In the last two years the value of South Australia’s production has increased, and although unemployment does exist it is nowhere near the level that it reached in 1961 under a Slate Liberal Government. Of course we all deplore the fact that there is any unemployment at all, but the honourable member for Adelaide is trying, for political purposes only, to lay the blame at the door of the State Labor Government. The blame for the high level of unemployment in 1961 was not laid at the door of the State Liberal Government. It was widely recognised and accepted that this was the result of the Commonwealth Government’s horror Budget, and I tell the House tonight that the blame for the present level of unemployment in South Australia again rests with the Commonwealth Government because of its failure to take appropriate action to meet the situation.
We are all aware of the financial relationships between the State governments and the Commonwealth Government. The South Australian Government has taken every step open to it to develop further and stimulate the economy of the State. To this end it has made repeated approaches to the Commonwealth Government at meetings of the Australian Loan Council, and the Premier, Mr Dunstan, has made personal representations to the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt). A small reduction in the sales tax on motor vehicles would wipe out unemployment in the pressed metal industries in South Australia without any overall reduction in federal income, but for political purposes the Commonwealth Government has so far ignored the representations of the Premier of South Australia for such a tax reduction. It has continued to ignore his representations for a just and equitable share of the Commonwealth works programme, although the need for this is great.
The efforts of the present Premier to stimulate the building industry in South Australia are already having an effect on the industry. There is already evidence of an upward trend in employment in the building industry. A proper approach to the problem by the Commonwealth Government in the matter of its works programme would wipe out unemployment in the building industry in South Australia. Not only have the Prime Minister and the members of his Cabinet ignored the representations of the Premier of South Australia; they have also continually ignored the representations of South Australian members on this side of the Commonwealth Parliament.
The honourable member for Adelaide gave some statistics with regard to immigration. Let me say that if any State in Australia has achieved success with immigration it is South Australia. With a population representing 9% of Australia’s total population we have managed to attract and absorb 15% of immigrants to this country and nearly one quarter of all British immigrants. I shall give the House the statistics published by the Department of Immigration in its ‘Australian Immigration - Quarterly Statistics Summary’. The figures are as follows:
This was the performance of a State which has only 9% of the total population of Australia.
The honourable member for Adelaide quoted statistics purporting to give the number of migrants who have arrived in Australia. The figure of 142,761 which he gave for 1965-66 was almost correct, but he quoted a figure of 64,392 as the total migrant intake in 1963-64. The actual figure was almost double this, being 122,318, a mere 57,962 more than that given by the honourable member. He also claimed that in 1963-64 out of a total intake of 9,102 there were 824 migrants, or 9.05%, who left the State. In that year, however, the actual number of migrants who arrived in South Australia was 17,611, and since 12,767 of them were from the United Kingdom and so arc not compelled to register with the Department of Immigration, no positive statistics can be obtained as to the number of migrants leaving South Australia.
The figures quoted by the honourable member for 1965-66 were also incorrect. The actual number of migrants received in South Australia was 22,128, and not 18,343 as he claimed. In launching his attack on the deeds cf the South Australian Government the honourable member in every instance misquoted the figures which are obtainable, as we all know, in the Australian immigration statistics published by the Department of Immigration. They are easy to read and easy to follow. It is obvious that the honourable member approaches his research with the same disregard for accuracy with which he lets his words flow.
– I congratulate the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), firstly on his election to this place and secondly for the quality of his maiden speech. I am sure that all honourable members who heard him this evening will agree that he has done his homework and that we will hear more of him in the near future.
I think it is fair to say that not since Federation has there been a budget that has not received some criticism from at least some members of this House. This present Budget is no exception. While I agree that there are some very good features in the Budget, I would like to point to a few of its weaknesses. Time will not permit me to cover all the matters to which I would like to refer this evening. I am sure that many of the matters raised by honourable members opposite have been adequately answered by my colleagues on this side of the chamber and that those matters which have not been answered will be answered before the debate is concluded.
I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) on the introduction of this his second Budget, brought down at a time when there are many problems facing this Government, on the home front as well as on the international front. I think it may be said that after analysing its virtues and its weaknesses, this Budget could be classed as a play safe budget. Plenty of people are prepared to criticise it and make the usual comment that there is nothing in it for them. This is true; this will always be the position. Nevertheless I believe it is a budget that shows a certain amount of initiative. The Budget increases Australia’s expenditure for defence and education. It recognises some of the weaknesses in the National Welfare Fund. It is to be regretted that the Government could not see its way clear to increase the base rate pension and repatriation pensions.
As one representing a very large rural constituency I believe that one of the problems with which we are always faced is the problem that what would appear to be a sound and good budget often has repercussions on costs. This is a problem facing rural people today. Irrespective of one’s occupation, one is always faced with the problem of balancing one’s books. Irrespective of your returns, if your costs are increasing at a faster rate than is your income, your business must eventually fail. It is true that many primary producers are receiving moderate prices for their goods, but certainly not all of them. People engaged in the wool industry, for example, are not in my opinion receiving a just return. If the primary producer cannot produce at a figure equivalent to that which he is receiving for his goods, he is in trouble. This is the angle from which I, as a representative of these people, must view a budget.
While we may say that this Budget is not deflationary, it is certainly not inflationary. This is good. With our commitments on the international front, particularly in South East Asia, I was pleased to see a substantial increase in our defence vote. I was pleased also to see an increase in our aid to developing countries. This is something of which we all should be very proud. On the home front the increase of $51m in expenditure on education, bringing total expenditure to $194m, will be welcomed by many. No government can ignore the importance of education. I am sure that the States will appreciate the 50% increase in the allocation for this purpose.
On the debit side of the Budget we see the re-introduction of increased postal and telegraph charges. To my mind this is a bitter disappointment, particularly having regard to the effect of the increases on decentralised industries. The increases are expected to earn for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department an extra $64m in a full year. As far as 1 can see, these increases represent one of the few increases on what might be termed the taxation side, apart from the proposed introduction of special air travel charges. 1 think it is fair to say that we all appreciate the importance of revenue and that expenditure within the Post Office naturally will increase with increases in costs. But against this we have on the credit side the increased revenue that will accrue from increased business. One should cancel out the other. No doubt there are two sides to the question of Post Office increases. On the one band it is said that we must have money to carry out improvements where necessary. On the other hand, they are an added cost to the community. Both are good arguments, but my concern is for the extra burden thrown on our decentralised industries due to the general increase in trunk line charges. We hear plenty of stories, both in this place and outside, concerning what we should do in the interests of decentralisation. Increasing trunk line charges is something we should not do if we are interested in decentralisation.
I am happy to see that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) has recognised the importance of having identical charges for the subscriber trunk dialling and manual services. Honourable members will recall that, in the original proposals for increases, in some instances the rates for manual trunk calls were to be higher than those for subscriber trunk calls. In my opinion if there must be a variation the person who is receiving a second rate service is entitled to a lower fee, certainly not an increased fee. However, this anomaly has been rectified and the original proposals have been reduced by 8c in some cases, 4c in some, 2c in some and lc in others. Nevertheless, the proposed increases are substantial and will have a very detrimental effect on country business houses.
While appreciating the extra work involved in handling a trunk call, I believe that the extra cost to the subscriber is far in excess of the service rendered to him.
It will be appreciated that a short telephone conversation, say between Sydney and Melbourne, can save a businessman much time and certainly a high cost compared with what he would have to pay if he travelled between the two cities in order to transact his business. But on the postal side, the charge is no greater for a letter sent from outback Queensland, through Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth to some outlying place in Western Australia, than it would be for a letter posted from this building to an address on the other side of Canberra. The cost still will be 5c in each case. I realise that it would be impractical - even impossible - to increase postal charges in accordance with the distance travelled or the number of times a letter is handled, but I do suggest that in the case of trunk line rates a person should not be penalised because of his geographic location. The person living in a rural area pays freight on most of the items that he sells or purchases. The person who lives many miles from a capital city is penalised if he wants to tlo business with that city.
Knowing that postal and telephone charges were an issue, during the recent recess 1 took the opportunity to make inquiries from business houses and many primary producers. I checked to see how their total trunk line costs compared with costs for local calls. I was amazed, to «ny the least, that in so many cases costs for trunk line calls far outweigh the costs for metered calls. Let me give one or two illustrations. I take the case of a small businessman in a country town. He would employ fifteen or twenty persons. Over a six months period his rental amounted to $87, his metered calls to $32, his trunk calls to $387 and his phonograms to $8, making a total of a little more than $500. It can be seen from the figures I have mentioned that trunk calls have cost that subscriber ten times as much as metered calls. I have referred to only one instance. I have checked on many others and find that the same thing applies. Trunk accounts are very much greater than the normal accounts for metered calls.
To cite another instance, a businessman who employs one girl in his office had an account for local calls in the vicinity of $20 but for trunk calls it was well over $1,000. The total Postal Department account for one newspaper proprietor in my district was $9,570 for twelve months. This is only one of the fourteen newspapers in the Wimmera electorate. If honourable members calculate what a 20% increase will mean to this newspaper they will find that it represents almost $2,000. These businesses must pass on these costs. As a result of the proposed increases many of these people will find that, whereas previously they have made a profit in their business, they may in future be incurring a loss, lt is true that many subscribers outside the metropolitan area, because the number of people that they can contact for a local call fee is limited, have the privilege of a reduced rental. But to any businessman who uses his telephone extensively the rental is only a very small proportion of the total account.
We should be ever mindful of the fact that the person who uses the telephone extensively is the one who should receive the consideration of the Department because it is he who plays a big part in the Department’s revenue. The cost to the Department for a telephone used for business is little more than the cost for a person who may use the telephone only once or twice a week. However, the Government, rightly or wrongly, is determined to increase the rates. Nevertheless I appeal to the PostmasterGeneral and to the Government to deal with trunk rates in line with what I have been saying before any further revenue increases are considered.
In 1965-66 the total revenue from telephone calls was $154m. Honourable members can verify this figure from table 4 of the Financial and Statistical Bulletin. In table 29 of the same Bulletin we see that for the same year there were 2,000m local call connections and 11 6m trunk connections. Allowing for each of the local calls to average out at 4c the local calls would bring in a return of about $80m. If this is a fair assessment of revenue then we can see that it would be fair to say that trunk returns arc equal to the returns from local calls. The House may recall that in the autumn sessional period I raised the question of rural automatic telephone exchanges. Again I take the opportunity to place the problem before the House. On that occasion I referred to the number of representations that I had had from various rural areas in relation to the unfairness of the upgrading of telephone services. The case of Cope Cope exchange was one that was in question. I raise this issue again because of the feeling of those people whom I represent. This is not a case of one isolated area being in trouble but is rather a matter of principle which I believe must be sorted out on a governmental level. I have no complaints about the officers of the Department for I believe that they are doing everything within their power to give service to the people.
Since the autumn session I have had representations from many people. Some have come from individual subscribers and, naturally enough, many have come from the Cope Cope area. I have had representations from almost every worthwhile organisation connected with the rural industry. They have come from the Victorian Wheat and Woolgrowers Association, the Australian Primary Producers Union, the Graziers Association and the Agricultural Society of Victoria,” in addition to approaches by a number of shire councils and individual people. It will be seen from what I have said that I am not placing before the House something that is of a minor nature. It may be of interest to the House to note that in our various capital cities today every telephone service is classed as an automatic service. This is far from the situation that exists in areas outside the metropolitan area. The number of telephones outside the metropolitan area which are not connected to an automatic exchange is 336,078, but in the metropolitan area the total is nil. We have a long way to go before rural areas have a service equivalent to that in the metropolitan area. I suppose it would be fair to say that not one member of this House who represents an electorate outside the metropolitan area has not some subscribers who operate through a manual exchange. The Department has rightly set out on a scheme to bring those manual services up to a standard equivalent to that which is to be found everywhere in the metropolitan area. This is good as far as it goes.
– Many people in the metropolitan area do not have telephones at all.
– I remind my friend that this applies also in the country areas. Various country towns are slowly converting to automatic exchanges. In the rural areas, which I class as those areas other than major towns or cities, we have installed or are having installed telephone exchanges commonly known as RAXs, that is, rural automatic exchanges. However, in the installation of these we find many problems. The one to which I wish to draw the attention of the Postmaster-General is the lack of consistency in relation to costs. Perhaps my friend on the left, the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner), would not be aware that in the . metropolitan area a telephone is connected for a set connection fee whereas this is not always the case outside the metropolitan area. I should like to quote from a letter that I received from a district telephone manager only yesterday. In a letter dated 22nd August he stated:
Subscribers throughout the Commonwealth can therefore be generally grouped as follows:
Subscribers who can be provided with a wholly departmental service. This group represents by far the majority of the services to be provided.
I hope that my friend who represents an electorate within the city of Sydney notes that point. The letter continues:
The effect of this is that subscribers have to pay for part of their own line. For the benefit of those honourable members who do not understand the situation I point out that when a decision is made that an area is to be upgraded the departmental officers select the spot at which to locate the new exchange. The Department allocates a certain amount of money in accordance with the number of subscribers to be upgraded, but unfortunately this is insufficient to cover the total cost of the installation. This is borne out by the extract from the letter which I have just read to the House. The Department proceeds by allotting a certain amount of money for each telephone to be upgraded. When the funds are exhausted the responsibility is then on the individual subscriber to com plete the uncompleted line to his residence. In practice the result is that if a person is fortunate enough to reside in close proximity to the exchange or near the departmental lines he has the telephone installed by paying just the simple connection fee. But if he resides on the outskirts of the area to be upgraded he has the responsibility as an individual to complete the remainder of the line. This is where we see an anomaly. It is unfair, unreasonable and unjust, to say the least.
I have made a study of the number of areas where this situation has arisen and I have been amazed at the huge amounts of money that have been asked for to complete a service when the subscriber has asked the Department to give him a quote. I can cite one instance in which five subscribers were told that it would cost them $4,500 for a telephone service. When they paid this amount, the Department would erect the line. Another subscriber was called on to pay about $2,000. In my opinion, this is definitely an anomaly. In the metropolitan area, the line is connected for the cost of the connection fee. This applies also to a subscriber living in a country town or in the vicinity of a rural automatic exchange. But if the subscriber unfortunately lives a few miles further on, he must pay. The vital factor is not the distance from the parent exchange; but rather the distance from the rural automatic exchange. Many suggestions have been made by various people from time to time, and I am happy to note that a number of members of my Party are making representations in the hope that this anomaly will be corrected.
A common suggestion is that before the Department decides to upgrade an area the total cost be determined and then distributed evenly amongst the subscribers. This is good as far as it goes, but I believe that the upgrading of a present service should be done without cost. People in the cities do not pay. Why should people in country areas pay? The Postmaster-General has informed me from time to time that the Department spends about $1,000 on each telephone that is upgraded. I should like to point to an anomaly within an anomaly. As I said earlier, the total allocation from the Department is based on the number of subscribers. If a subscriber fails to complete his responsibilities, naturally part of the original allocation could be withdrawn. On the other hand, if additional subscribers come along or If additional telephones are installed, there is a further increase in the allocation. In many areas, the annual rental is the lowest rating and before a subscriber has his telephone connected he must sign a guarantee to pay the rent for at least six years. If the annual rental is multiplied by six, the resulting amount is nowhere near the total allocation of funds for that telephone. So a person who may have to supply an extra mile of telephone wire could have the service installed for nothing if he were willing to have an additional one, two, three or four telephones. I suggest that the Postmaster-General have a very close look at this anomaly.
If the total collection of funds for the subscriber were increased from $1,000, which is the figure that has been mentioned, to $1,200 or $1,400, many of the anomalies would be ironed out and a fair and equitable service would be given to many more subscribers. In answer to a question I asked in March of this year, the Postmaster-General said that 336,000 subscribers were still using manual or semi-automatic telephones. It may be of interest to note the number in each State. New South Wales had 121,000, Victoria 83,000, Queensland 62,000, South Australia 31,000, Western Australia 24,000 and Tasmania 11,000. If the departmental officers cannot give a completely new service to subscribers, they should have a further look at the system of pooling costs that I mentioned a few minutes ago. The Postmaster-General has repeatedly informed me that the regulations will not allow him or his officers compulsorily to demand finance for the erection of telephone lines. I suggest to the Postmaster-General that the demand by the Department for installation fees must also be in the same category, and I ask him to have a further look at this. The pooling of costs when installing new power lines under the regulations of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria has proved most successful. I cannot understand why this system cannot be used by the Postmaster-General’s Department.
I sympathise with the PostmasterGeneral. He has a portfolio that is cer tainly not easy to administer. The returns from the telephone and postal sections, to my mind, will never cover capital expenditure. I think the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) said this afternoon that capital expenditure this year is expected to be about $240m. The Postmaster-General’s Department should not be expected to raise this huge sum by increasing telephone, telegraph and postal rates. The Department would probably be hard pressed to manage the interest without having to worry about the capital. While the Treasury is called upon to make up the difference, the Postmaster-General will continue to have these problems. However, I urge him to consider the few thoughts that I have placed before the House and I hope that by this time next year we will see improvements in some of the situations I have mentioned and some effort made to correct the anomalies in the upgrading of country telephones.
– I congratulate the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) on his maiden speech. I also congratulate the people in the Corio electorate for giving him the opportunity to represent them. I believe that he will represent Corio for many years and will make many useful contributions to debates in this House.
I have heard many speeches in this Budget debate. No doubt it is very hard for honourable members opposite to enthuse about a Budget that offers nothing. That is probably why many of them have used the Budget debate to malign the Australian Labor Party. This always happens when an election is about to be held. No doubt honourable members from Queensland are conscious of the by-election that will be held in that State in September. It is very important for them to win the seat With that in mind, they will try to draw red herrings across the path and will try to convince electors that the Australian Labor Party is not as loyal to Australia as the Government Parties are.
The honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King), who has just concluded his speech, complained about the charges imposed by the Postmaster-General’s Department. He said that country people should not pay full rates, that they should not pay as much for their poor services as people who receive good services pay. The Government does not agree with his view. Some people in my area do not have any television reception or the television picture is snowy. In some areas the people cannot even receive radio broadcasts. They applied to the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) for a reduction of fees to compensate for the bad reception. They were told that they were not forced to buy television or radio sets and that if they do so they must pay the full rates. I mention that for the benefit of the honourable member for Wimmera. He will not get much help from the Government.
Two groups in our society are affected by the Budget. They have been called the greedy and the needy or the employers and the employees. I think the last expression is more appropriate than the first. In the first group we have professional men such as civil, electrical and mechanical engineers, doctors and dentists. In this group we also have commercial people such as hotel proprietors and business men. We also have the people who manufacture goods and those who sell them. People in this first group are not required to present a case for an increase in the cost of their services or goods to a tribunal, an industrial court or a commission. Except in the States which have prices control, these people can fix their own charges for services and goods. It may be said that the prices charged by this group are governed by competition and demand. That may have been the position long ago, but today we find that the members of this group are forming themselves into associations to determine between themselves their charges for services and goods. The question of demand is offset greatly by the hire purchase system that operates in this country. This system teaches people to live far beyond their means. It gives them the opportunity to buy goods no matter what they cost. People in the first group receive a greater benefit from the Budget than do people in the second group which includes journeymen, tradesmen and, of course, age, invalid and widow pensioners and also repatriation pensioners.
There are not many benefits in this Budget. Those that are there consist of increased child endowment, increased dependants’ allowances, an increase in the maximum tax concession for payments by a taxpayer for assurance or superannuation and the provision of bearing aids for pensioners. The wages of people in the second group to which I have referred are adjudicated upon by an industrial tribunal. This group also includes nurses and hospital staffs. They have to put their case thoroughly to a court or commission before they receive an increase of wages. We must remember that the jurists sitting on the case have to consider the question of the price of goods and the ability of industry to pay before they grant an increase in wages to these people. But what happens once a wage increase is granted? The first group of people, who do not have to go before a tribunal to substantiate a claim for increased prices, increase their prices. So the ball rolls, and so it will continue to roll until such time as prices control is introduced throughout this country.
The people in the first group will participate in the increased child endowment and the increased dependants’ allowances to which they are entitled. The people in the second group will also receive such benefits. The people in the first group also will have to pay the increased postal charges which are projected in the Budget. But they will be able to pass on the increased charges to the consumer. The people in the second group are consumers of the goods offered by the first group. They have no option other than to pay their own increased charges as well as those of the people in the first group who have passed them on in the form of price increases.
Of course, the group of people which is most affected is the pensioners. They will receive no benefit from the increased child endowment. They will receive no benefit from the increased dependants’ allowances because they pay no income tax, but they will benefit from the provision of hearing aids. Let us have a look at this miserable token which is being offered by the Government. These people will be able to acquire a hearing aid from a company for a nominal charge. The Government has not told us what the nominal charge will be. But whatever it is, it is still a charge that a pensioner cannot afford to pay. Also, how will this benefit affect people in my area or people in the country areas? Will they have to pay postage charges or air freight and insurance on these hearing aids? Who will carry this burden? It will be the pensioners. Therefore they will not receive a great deal from the provision of hearing aids. They will receive nothing else from this Bugdet. They are supposed to receive the benefit of the provision of hearing aids, but, I repeat, they have to pay a nominal charge for their delivery. I want to know who will pay the freight and insurance changes on these hearing aids when they are sent from the capital cities, because they will be available only from the capital cities. They will have to be supplied to the country.
The pensioners, who are always the worst hit group in Australia, are complaining bitterly. The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) has asked us to read out as often as possible the letters received from pensioners. I intend to assist him in this respect. I have here a letter which I received from the Cairns Branch of the Australian Pensioners League. It reads:
Once again, on behalf of the Cairns Branch of the Australian Pensioners’ League, I am asking for your help.
I have enclosed copies of two letters. One a letter I wrote on behalf of the members to Mr Sinclair Minister for Social Services, and the other, his reply to us. After reading them, you will, I feel sure, realise that Mr Sinclair in his answer to us, has side-stepped the issue.
The only portion of the letter, to which he has replied is concerning northern allowance, in which he has passed the responsibility on to the State Government
We ask you, Mr Fulton, as our Representative to bring before the members of Parliament the realisation that we, pensioners, are citizens of the Commonwealth and expect the same consideration, as any other elector of the country.
The absence of any rise for pensioners, in the recent Budget is disgraceful, as cost of living is increasing every day. The members of Parliament must have realised this when they increased their own retiring pension allowance.
The letter was signed by the Secretary of the Cairns Branch of the Australian Pensioners’ League. The letter to Mr Sinclair was as follows:
At our meeting today of the Cairns Branch of the Australian Pensioners’ League, reference was made to your speech in Adelaide recently, expressing the fact that pensioners at the present time were being well cared for.
We wish to differ most emphatically with your opinion, and ask is there two standards of living, one for Parliamentarians and one for Pensioners.
With the cost of living as it is today, we would like to inform you, that with a pension of $13 a week for a single pensioner and $11.75 for a married pensioner, it is a bare existence.
Besides the very high cost of living, we, in North Queensland, pay extra high prices because of added freight. On top of this we pay sales tax on goods after freight has been added-
That is a fact:
Although wage-earners receive northern allowances to help with these higher costs, pensioners have to try to manage without any northern allowance, or cost of living adjustments.
We ask you most sincerely to do all in your power to have a rise in all pensions granted in the next Budget, and hope these few lines have helped to enlighten you on the plight of pensioners.
I have another letter, from the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners’ Federation. I think that all honourable members have received a copy of it, but no-one from the other side of the House has referred to it. It states:
The 1967 Budget will go down in the history of Australia as the blackest Budget for pensioners ever introduced by a Federal Treasurer- 1 have heard the Budget called many things, but the Pensioners’ Federation terms it the blackest Budget’. The letter continues:
The Federation has called on all pensioners to protest by going into mourning for one year, and to wear black armbands with the wording - ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’
As each member of the House, and the Senate, stands for the Lord’s prayer, the Federation desires each representative of the people to reflect deeply in their conscience on these words - ‘Give us this day our daily bread’, and to realise that the consequence of the Black Budget of 1967 is to condemn many thousands of Australia’s aged, infirm, and widowed to malnutrition and starvation - subsequent illnesses and possible death.
Following a reported speech by the Minister for Social Services, the Hon. Ian Sinclair, to tha WA Country Party State Annual Conference, 25/7/67, the Federation replied by letter, 29/7/67, to three points made by the Minister, which tha Federation considered reflected Government thinking on Social Services and the 1967 Budget provisions.
The Black Budget of 1967 has proved the correctness of the Federation as regards Government policy on social service pensions.
At the Conference the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) made the point that Australians were not too badly off under the social services system. The Federation replied to him by stating:
This indicates that the Government will not be raising the standard of living of the 82% of pensioners whose only income is the pension- so no improvement in the general living standard of this section of Australian citizens can be expected.
Should this be the case, it shows the Government is ignoring all that has been said by the academics, social workers, the ACTU, church bodies and the Federation.
The Minister for Social Services also pointed out that the Government was trying to isolate areas of particular need. In reply to this the Federation stated:
In the past, on our deputations, you have referred to areas of ‘greater’ need. This indicates that there is a narrowing down of needs to particular’ need, which suggests that the Government will be spending as little as possible on as few as possible-so some ‘crumbs’ can be expected in this regard.
The Minister for Social Services then said:
The Government bad tried to maintain returns to people in the pension structure at a betterthaneven ratio to the rise in the consumer price index and to the rise in the general cost of living.
The Federation stated in reply:
This indicates that the Federal Government could possibly grant some small general increase in the pension as a concession to the fact of the rise in the cost of living since the 1966 Budget.
Allan Barnes reporting from Canberra. 26th July 1967, states it will be a ‘stayput’ Budget, if this is correct, then the aged, the invalid, and the widowed, will remain in the same intolerable economic position.
This shows a lack of appreciation by the Government of the cares and worries of pensioners trying to meet, on their meagre pensions, the ever rising prices, which have been thick and fast over the last few months - with more to come.
Australians will again witness a further patching up’ of our social service structure (in reference to the 1967 Budget). Our nation will continue to remain well down on the list of nations in its spending on social services.
Not a very creditable position for Australia priding itself on its affluence and its high standard of living.
The Press statement concluded:
In the forthcoming debate on the 1967 Budget the Federation hope to hear the voice of conscience from those members of the Government appalled by the lack of consideration for the weakest and most defenceless members of the community - the pensioners.
The honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett), who is from the north of Australia and whose electorate is next to mine, spoke of northern development and of the. Burdekin. He gave accurate figures regarding investigation of the Burdekin dam and I agree wholeheartedly in that respect. However, at the end of his remarks he asked: Who stopped the progress of this dam? He should know, because when the Australian Labor Party was in government in Queensland the Tinaroo Dam was constructed with no help from the Federal Government whatsoever. It was constructed for irrigation purposes. The Burdekin dam was to be the next to be constructed. But who stopped it? The present Queensland Government which is a Country PartyLiberal coalition government - as is this Federal Government - was responsible. It put a stop to further plans for water conservation north of Mackay. No plans of any kind have been prepared or are envisaged by this Commonwealth Government for the further development of water conservation in northern Queensland. I am speaking for my own area.
We have heard a lot about northern development. A number of Ministers, including the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and the previous Prime Minister. Sir Robert Menzies, have travelled through the north. Every time they go to the north of Queensland they talk about the exciting times ahead for that State and of the potential it has. The people of Queensland are still waiting for these exciting times to arrive. Improvement will come only with a change of government or a change of heart by this Government. Before this comes about the government of the day will have to consider the existing industries that are trying to survive with no help whatsoever from this Government or from the Queensland Government. Let me give honourable members a case in point.
A young and expanding steel fabricating and engineering business is performing great work for the Government as well as private enterprise throughout the north of Queensland. In its expansion it has looked for jobs further afield. An opportunity existed in New Guinea for work which could be done by this type of firm. The company proposed to tender for the work which called for a lot of prefabricated steel. However, when it came to the point of tendering it found that no ships left Cairns or Townsvills for New Guinea. The firm wrote to a shipping company and asked whether a ship could be diverted to Townsville or Cairns so that it could pick up the company’s requirements for the jobs in New Guinea. The shipping company stated that even if it had six months notice it could not guarantee that a ship would call.
After this had failed the firm had to rail its products from Cairns to Brisbane to be loaded on a ship. It placed its case before the Queensland coalition Government and asked for a concessional rate. Its request was rejected. The Government said that no concessional rate was available for such a project. This company is expected to compete against southern firms in Brisbane and Sydney although it is closer to New Guinea than those places. Ships are not available to call at ports nearby to take its products to New Guinea. This firm is trying to go ahead and can do the job. Yet, this obstacle stands in front of it and it cannot get any further ahead. How can it be expected to compete against firms from Sydney and Brisbane when it cannot get help from the Federal Government or the State governments? Many contracts are offering in New Guinea, most of them government contracts. How can this Government say in truth that it supports northern development when it lets this kind of thing go on? Industry is already trying to raise its head in northern Queensland.
The same sort of situation exists in Innisfail where Dr MaruM has a tea plantation. He is, in effect, going ahead with this project despite the knockbacks he has received when he has asked for financial assistance. I spoke with Dr Maruff and I saw the Development Bank on his behalf. The Bank said that it could not advance him any money, although the project was sound, because it was not his sole source of income and he was not living on the property. How the devil could he live on the property until such time as it became a payable proposition? He was devoting his spare time, and a lot of time that he could ill afford to spare, to this project. He was paying a locum tenens to look after his practice while he looked after the tea business. He tried to get people interested in the project, but no finance was available to enable him to expand the industry. Yet today, overseas people are interested in the area and I will bet anything that now that overseas persons are interested the scheme will go ahead, because the Government will assist them.
This situation happens all the time. Until overseas capital was invested in the beef industry in the north there were no beef roads. Individuals who held properties for years got no assistance from the Government, but once the big monopolies arrived provision was made for beef roads. Now, instead of there being twenty properties they are all owned by one group. I am not against groups having properties, but why did not the Government assist the former occupiers of the land? Honourable members opposite talk about northern development. Miners in the north could be assisted. Plenty of good minerals are to be found in the area. Companies are moving in, and I bet roads will bc built to serve the areas where companies have taken over from individuals who struggled to make a living. Individual miners knew that minerals were present, they did not want to leave the area and they wanted to mine the minerals for the benefit of Australians, but they got no assistance. However, when an overseas company or a monopoly shows interest the Government rushes to help. The same thing happened at Weipa, where millions have been spent. I am not against such development, but I ask why money was not made available to the individuals who were struggling. Why did they not get the type of assistance that big companies are getting today? Had they been helped we would be better off now.
Let us examine the pearling industry in the Torres Strait islands. The Government allowed the Japanese to establish a culture pearl industry on Thursday Island with the idea that the Japanese would teach the natives all about the- industry. However, the Japanese will not teach them. The natives do the labouring work of collecting the shells, putting in the cages and cleaning the shells. The Japanese experts do the surgical work to produce the pearls. Not one individual native has been taught this work, and it is time the Government looked at the industry to see what is going on. The only persons who have really profited from the industry are the Japanese and those people who are looking after their interests. The pearls are sent to Japan, where they are valued, and the running costs of the industry are sent back to the company manager, who, in most cases, is an Australian. He is the fellow who is doing all right, but Australia is not doing as well as it should out of the industry. The Japanese did not come here to help the Australian pearl industry. The pearls they get in Torres Strait are better than they can get from their own waters. Bigger pearls are produced here, and that is why the Japanese are in the area. I would have no objection to the Japanese coming to Australia if they carried out their agreement and taught the islanders how to cultivate pearls.
The Torres Strait islands are picturesque. I would be happy if all honourable members went there to see them for themselves. The native people are happy, friendly and proud. They are Australians and will not be classed as anything but Australians. However, the movement of Western culture into the area has deprived them of their livelihood on the islands. Most of the eligible labourers are working on the mainland for the Queensland Government Railways or for the Western Australian Government Railways, while the womenfolk and the girls and boys going to school on the islands are subjected to the influence of bad types of natives coming from New Guinea. I have said before, and I repeat now, that the Queensland Government should give these islands to the Federal Government to administer, because the islands are not being administered properly at present. In one way I do not Marne the State Government. It has not the resources to undertake proper administration. An old boat - the ‘Belvedere’ - serves the islands. I will not tell honourable members what the skipper calls this boat - it would be unparliamentary - but so much superstructure has been added to it that it is likely to turn over in a wind. It is a slow boat. Not only does it carry cargo but it transports the natives when they come to the mainland for medical and dental treatment. There are no cabins on the boat, and the natives sit on the cover of the front hold. If the weather is rough, or if it is raining, they get wet. The boat carries about sixty native passengers - men, women and children - but has only one toilet. This is the type of boat the Queensland Government uses to serve the Torres’ Strait islands. The Federal Government should give more aid to the Queensland Government to enable it to service this truly distinctive area - an area which is different from any other area on the Queensland coast.
– It has been arranged that I should speak at this hour and in case anyone hearing or reading should have in their mind the vision of a Parliament with all its power, might, majesty, dominion and glory, I would like to paint for him the scene I now see before me. Most of the newsmen have gone home because their papers have, gone to press already. This debate will cease to be broadcast in a little over ten minutes. You, Mr Deputy Speaker, are in the chair because you are paid to be in the chair. The Clerks are in their places because they are paid to be there, and Hansard is here because it is paid to be here. There are a dozen or two members present who apparently have nothing better to do. This is the state of futility to which this Parliament, so called, has come. I propose to follow the new tradition of this place. I have never before read a speech but tonight I propose to dictate a speech to Hansard and to have my thoughts duly interred with all due ceremony. So, Mr Deputy Speaker, assisted by the lectern provided by Mr Speaker, I begin to read.
I would prefer to debate the Budget as a financial document, but since matters of overwhelming importance are crowding in upon the Parliament and the nation, and the opportunity for me - as a long-time back bencher - to speak on other occasions during a short electioneering session are so limited, I shall make little more than a passing reference to the Budget as such. I would say this: The paramount tasks of a Treasurer are to ensure, as far as fiscal measures can, a climate of economic stability and progress and, as faT as possible, the channelling of national resources as between the public and private sectors and within each sector into the areas that should have priority, because all things cannot be done at once.
These tasks involve both technical skill and value judgments. I pay the tribute that is due to the Treasurer’s technical skill. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and his advisers have kept the economy on an even keel, and I do not doubt that the present Budget will keep the economy nicely balanced between the twin gulfs of unemployment and misery on the one hand and inflation, with its nemesis of depression and disruption, on the other. This is high praise. It has almost passed unnoticed among the people at large that the catastrophic swings between boom and bust, characteristic of the pre-war days, can be brought under control by the wise and expert use of the new economic tools forged in the interval - fiscal, monetary and otherwise. High praise is due to the Treasurer and his advisers for using them wisely and expertly. I shall later have something more to say about the Treasurer’s value judgment, but my main objective tonight is to be constructively critical about the failure of the Government to take note of the tides and currents of our age and times and to set the courses that will bring this nation to safety and security. No doubt I shall be accused of disloyalty to my party in suggesting that many things could be done better. My answer is that to draw the captain’s attention to the fact that the bilges are leaking is not an act of treason, though it may be presumptuous for an ordinary seaman - on this ship an ordinary member - to suggest how they might be repaired. However, I take the view that it is the function of backbenchers on the Government side to be more than a chorus of Beatles chanting ‘Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’ to everything that the Government does or does not do, and I take the risk of being misunderstood in my desire not to embarrass the Government but to save it.
I believe that this country has reached a climax in its affairs. Until the fall of Singapore in 1942 it was a colony in all but name, dependent on Britain for defence, markets, capital and know-how. From that day Australia’s destiny as a nation began. Perhaps I may now be pardoned for a little interlude with Rudyard Kipling in the course of reading this so-called speech. Of course, Rudyard Kipling is out of fashion now. He wrote a poem back in the 1890s following upon a news item in the papers of the day. The news item was this:
Above the portico a flag-staff, bearing the Union Jack, remained fluttering in the flames for some time, but ultimately when it fell the crowd rent the air with shouts, and seemed to see significance in the incident.
Kipling wrote a poem in which he called upon the winds of the world to say something about the English flag. I propose to quote only what the east wind said because this is very significant for us:
The East Wind roared: - “From the Kuriles, the Bitter Seas, I come,
And me men call the Home-Wind, for I bring the English home.
Look - look well to your shipping! By breath of my mad typhoon
I swept your close-packed Praya and beached your best at Kowloon!
The reeling junks behind me and the racing seas before,
I raped your richest roadstead - I plundered Singapore!
I set my hand on the Hoogli; as a hooded snake she rose;
And I flung your stoutest steamers to roost with the startled crows.
Never the lotus closes–
We have heard something about the lotus -
Never the lotus closes, never the wild-fowl wake But a soul goes out on the East Wind that died for England’s sake -
Man or woman or suckling, mother or bride or maid -
Because of the bones of the English the English flag is stayed.
My point is that these people have been burning the British flag and the east wind is now taking the English home; - that is the point. The English maintained peace in our part of the world and gave justice to the people for a long time, but now they are going home; the east wind is taking them home. Listening to this debate one would hardly think that this would happen. I did not reply to the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton) because what he said did not seem relevant in this context. I said that I thought this country had reached a climax in its affairs. But the realisation was postponed for us by the ANZUS treaty - we could take uncle’s hand instead of mother’s. We slept, albeit fitfully again. We were jolted half awake by Britain’s bid to enter the European Common Market in 1962. But the discovery of oil and iron ore and bauxite, and the burgeoning of our trade with Japan has been at least an economic soporific. Meanwhile our dreams were a little disturbed by the failing power, militarily and economically, of Britain. Then came a triple shock: The British White Paper on defence, setting a timetable for military withdrawal east of Suez, and I have said a little about this; another and more determined bid by Britain to enter the European Common Market, and nobody doubts that Britain will do that, if not this year then next year or the year after; and the dawning realisation, following upon the eruption of black power in the United States, growing opposition to the commitment in Vietnam and other factors, that America’s presence in Asia could be less than eternal. This was the triple shock.
Are we yet really awake and what should we do about it? The Prime Minister has compared Australians to lotus eaters, and in the past we might indeed have joined the chorus sung by Ulysses’ sailors:
Let us swear an oath, and keep it with an equal mind,
In the hollow Lotus-land to live and lie reclined On the hills like gods together, careless of mankind.
I believe that the people understand that those days are over for all time and that if properly led they are ready and willing to follow a more arduous road to salvation. Clearly a small European outpost on the fringe of an awakened Asia must by the sweat of its brow build alliances and military power and can no longer alford avoidable political frictions, economic inefficiencies and social divisions.
What are these things? There is confusion about Vietnam and our role in Vietnam; the diplomatic and military action required following the imminent withdrawal of the British and the ultimate withdrawal of the Americans from our region; the need to decide where we are going in New Guinea, and we should make it absolutely clear that there is but one goal for New Guinea and that is independence; the reform of our system of parliamentary government, both in terms of Federal-State problems and in the organisation of this Parliament, of which we have had an example tonight; the devising of a social welfare structure based on a consistent philosophy; the strengthening of the economic base by the encouragement of efficient and economic industries, whether primary or secondary, and the cutting back of those that are wasteful of resources - kindly but firmly; promoting the greater efficiency of government administration and enterprise; and, of course, a host of other things.
But before plunging into these matters In any detail, I should like to pinpoint the basic problem as I see it. For sixteen years Aus tralia was ruled by Sir Robert Menzies, and his Government inevitably invites comparison with that of Sir Robert Walpole. The policies of the two Sir Roberts are simply described in the favourite adage of the first Sir Robert: Let sleeping dogs lie. The policies in each case were probably right at the time, but times have changed and the dogs have woken. What is required is decision and dynamism. Old problems must be resolved and new policies must be explained. The procrastination and secretiveness of the past will no longer serve the needs of the nation. Let me quote the following passage from the London ‘Economist’:
The most obvious single fault of past and present governments has not been that policy was wrong but that policy decisions were taken too slowly or fudged, or not taken at all, and, still more, that the action that should have followed did not, or was intolerably delayed. These almost are exactly those of an ordered and over-rigid bureaucracy.
I hasten to add that the ‘Economist’ was referring not to Australia but India. However the cap fits precisely. What is needed is clear decisions, explanations and action: no more delays, no more tongue tied Minister, no more creaking machinery of administration. That refers to administrative machinery. Now let me plunge into detail. The people are confused over Vietnam. Has explanation been adequate? Most, I believe, understand that our participation is basic to the ANZUS Alliance and that to deliver an ultimatum to the Americans to withdraw is in practical terms to denounce the Alliance. I believe that the overwhelming majority of Australians know that this would fatally imperil our security. But have Government spokesmen ever gone much beyond this? They have the floor in the Parliament; they have access to the columns of the Press; and they are welcome on television. True, the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) has lately come forth, and the Minister for the Army (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has always been admirably articulate. But this is not enough. The British have proclaimed a phased withdrawal of military power east of Suez and the Americans have plainly stated that they do not wish to remain in Asia longer than they can help and that it is up to Asian nations, including Australia, to form their own alliances, build up their military and economic strength and establish a balance of power in this region.
I want to be fair. No doubt the many conflicting attitudes of Asian countries, as the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) pointed out the other day, must be patiently resolved before any grand alliance including elements such as India, Japan and Indonesia can be remotely contemplated. And no doubt there must be painstaking negotiations with the British and Americans before any final definition can be given to Australia’s role in the area. But need these matters be shrouded in impenetrable secrecy? Australian troops have always performed best when they have been taken into the confidence of their commanders, and the Australian people will follow if they are well led.
Suppose that we seek in the long run an all embracing alliance of Asian countries as a counterpoise to China. Even if not immediately practicable why should the objective not be plainly stated so that the Australian people understand it? Suppose that we do not propose to step into British shoes in Malaysia and Singapore or to man any base on the mainland of Asia, but that we shall assist our neighbours as far as we can if they are subjected to Communist attack and that we are prepared to enter into treaties for this purpose. Suppose that we see our basic defence role in the region as that of an arsenal’ and. the provision of highly equipped specialist forces and Army instructors rather than as a reservoir of manpower, for we do not have it. If this is so, what are our plans for the manufacture and procurement of sophisticated defence material in Australia? Let us suppose finally that we propose to build up our Army, Navy and Air Force to certain strengths, to equip them with certain armaments and to allot to them certain roles. I do not suggest for a moment that these are necessarily the answers to the twin problems of allies and arms.
I do not suggest that some things have not been said about these matters. I do not suggest that much thought and planning have not been given to them. I do not suggest that a ministerial statement will not some day be made about them. But for heaven’s sake let the nation be given leadership. Let the people know what is planned and why. Let them understand. Let them be convinced. ‘But all this will be done,’ says somebody. The pitying smile leaves me completely unmoved. Until a few years ago governments did not even pretend to give an explanation of defence policy. There came triennial reviews, and finally a couple of booklets described as White Papers. In fact they were catalogues of existing equipment and projected purchases, plentifully interspersed with pretty pictures. We have never had a White Paper on defence, as the British understand the term, that is a reasoned statement of possible threats and the roles of the Services in relation to them, besides, of course, details of the nature, size, equipment and training of forces, their base requirements, their dispositions and the costs involved. Nor is it sufficient to publish a meaningful White Paper.
I am indebted to the researches of the staff of this place for the information that in the House of Commons two days are set aside each year for a debate on the principles set out in the White Paper, and a further four days for detailed consideration of the Service estimates. Here we are lucky to get a day or less for a piecemeal debate on the estimates, without theme, core or rationale - good enough for a colony but not good enough for a nation in peril. Nor is it sufficient to publish and debate a White Paper and estimates. It is then the task of Government spokesmen, that is the relevant Ministers, to explain and justify to the public the policy embodied in the White Paper, not once but again and again, and to win public acceptance of it. It is the special task of Ministers to be expositors, teachers if you like, and not merely mediocre administrators. The nation at this time needs not only decisions, and wise decisions, but enlightenment and leadership.
Nor can a nation facing perilous days ahead continue the wastefulness and inefficiencies apparent on the domestic scene. Take the system of parliamentary government. It was a great step forward when the local bumbles of the various colonial legislatures screwed up their.courage to the point of establishing a Federal parliament. We had not the excuse of the Swiss with their French, German and Italian speaking cantons, or of the Americans who
In the heat and emergency of the War of Independence hastily combined together for the common purpose. But if federation was a timid step then, it is a blatant anachronism now. Of course there must be decentralised regional government in a continent as vast as ours, and of course there must be wide and significant local powers. But do we need sovereign states continually holding out the begging bowl and frustrating national purposes and policies? The fundamental fact is - the bright and scintillating point that stands out in the fog of obscurity and the miasma of doubt - that no government in Australia looks at the requirements of the Australian people as a whole. The States could not care less about, say, defence or the Antarctic, and the Australian Government is little concerned with sewers in Sydney or urban renewal in Melbourne. Yet all these things need to be seen in due proportion and given due priorities.
The British form of government provides the model. The Government at Westminster is responsible, for example for the general policy and the ensuring of adequate finance, not only for all the things that the Australian Government handles, but also for such matters as education, housing, health and so on. At the same time the administration is widely decentralised through county and borough councils. For example the Greater London Council caters for something like ten million people in respect of practically all the matters dealt with by the Parliament of New South Wales. Friction is eliminated, or reduced to a minimum, because the Government at Westminster recognises its responsibility, and the system of grants-in-aid both ensures general conformity with broad policy and prevents the local government bodies from holding out the begging bowl before they have brought something to the party. Similarly the Australian Government is not without influence in respect of loan works.
One must of course adopt the realistic assumption that it is impossible to reform the Australian constitution. But section 96 as it stands could prove a satisfactory vehicle for implementing the grant-in-aid system on a wide front, and some adjustment of responsibilities between Canberra and the State capitals could give the States more flexibility in coming to the party, as
I have put it. For example, the Commonwealth might well relieve the States of the burden of transport losses on the railways and the capital cost of developing main roads and harbour installations. Transport costs are a very important element in the national economy - estimated at one-fifth of the cost of all goods consumed within the community and powerfully affecting export costs as well - and there would be other advantages as well of co-ordinating all basic forms of transport to achieve a more rational, cheaper and more efficient service than is at present possible.
But parliamentary reform does not end with the federal system. Parliament itself is probably the least efficient organisation in the nation. It should be the great forum of the nation; instead it has become a rubber stamp. This is due to the secretiveness and the inarticulateness of the Executive and the failure of the Parliament to equip itself with the means of becoming informed, both through the use of parliamentary committees and the extension and deepening of its research services. But all this is another story.
I turn to our social welfare arrangements. One could hardly call it a structure, unless indeed it might be described as the house that Topsy built. The problem is easy to identify. We have remained in two minds whether we intended simply to relieve hardship or proposed to provide a superannuation scheme. The result has been that we have done neither one nor the other. Relief from hardship has been too little. Superannuation without specific contribution has been too much.
Let me illustrate the point by reference to the age and invalid pension spectrum. At one end of the scale a single pensioner without means, although he may or may not earn or receive further income not exceeding Si a week, gets a pension of $13 a week and, if he has to rent accommodation, a further $2 by way of supplementary assistance. That is, the bedrock pensioner has a total income of $15 or, in the old terminology, £7 10s a week, to provide for all his necessities. His plight, of course, in this community is pitiful in the extreme. At the other end of the spectrum, a married couple may own their own home, have a car, and other assets such as shares or bonds, amounting to $9,640, and receive the income from this investment - say, at 5%, $480 a year - without any diminution of the full pension amounting to $23.50 a week. They may have a married son, who is a doctor, to help them, and then leave him, upon the death of the last survivor, a house worth, say, $12,000 and other assets worth, say, $10,000, or a total of $22,000. In addition, I should have said, they have the advantages of the pensioner medical service and, of course, free medicine. The disparity is glaring. The single pensioner cited has an obvious grievance and the couple cited consider that since they have worked hard all of their lives they are entitled to a better deal than they have received.
The answer is clear. Hardship should be relieved with far greater humanity than at present, and special contributions should be required of those who wish to contribute to a government superannuation scheme for those whose earning power and capacity for saving is relatively small. The transition to such a situation and the details of a satisfactory scheme require much thought and elaboration, but the principle should be established and the experts set to work. An analogous problem arises in regard to child endowment. At the one end of the spectrum the payments are derisory. At the other, they amount to pin money for the affluent. The Minister has cautiously done what he dared by a small increase in the case of large families. But the savings derived from the imposition of a means test should bc applied to a significant increase in the endowment of large families. 1 now come to our national health scheme. First of all, it does not provide an adequate coverage for all normal contingencies. It is a patchwork, disfigured by many gaps. For example, there is no dental insurance. You can insure against the cost of an appendix operation costing, say, $50 but not in any meaningful sense against, say, a cancer operation costing $500. The provision for optical requirements is, to say the least of it, highly unsatisfactory. Nor are the hospitals - certainly in New South Wales, where for years the Opera House has had priority - of the required standard, though the fees are exceedingly high. Finally, the flat rate contributions for reasonable ali round insurance have become intolerably high for people in the lower income brackets. Clearly, the whole national health scheme requires radical rethinking, probably along the lines of expanding salaried specialist service at the principal hospitals in the town and country.
However, it is impossible to sustain increased defence expenditure and an improved social welfare system unless the economy has an efficient base. This has been a matter of controversy so far as tariffs are concerned. During the period of import restrictions through quotas, a number of industries grew up behind this natural wall, many of which were uneconomic. But because they existed there was a tendency to give them permanent protection later. Government policy appeared to favour the establishment of manufacturing industries, however uneconomic. This has provoked a considerable controversy. The Vernon Committee, of which Sir John Crawford, a distinguished economist and former permanent head for a number of years of the Department of Trade and Industry and subsequently head of the Research School of Pacific Studies at the Australian National University, was a distinguished member, came down in favour of a bench mark equivalent to the amount of disability suffered by Australian industry generally by reason of our special circumstances, such as wage rates and the cost of power and transport, under normal or average Australian conditions. So applications for protection should be judged with more or less severity according to whether the protection required is above or below this mark, reckoned roughly at about 30% above the costs of industries in competitor countries. The concept has been supported by Sir Leslie Melville, a former Chairman of the Tariff Board, and by Dr Cordon of the Australian National University - the foremost academic authority on tariffs generally and on the Australian tariff in particular, lt has been doubted, but not rejected outright, by a majority of members of the Tariff Board and approved by a minority of them.
The public concensus is that the matter cannot be allowed to drift into chaos much further without danger to the economic structure as a base to sustain further progress in the fields of defence, social progress and national development. The same is true of certain primary industries. Dairying is an outstanding example. It plainly requires radical reconstruction and unless we are to lose all the advantages of the AustraliaNew Zealand free trade areas, which are being rapidly eroded, Australia should confine herself to the supply of milk for the cities and towns and some other dairy products in specially favoured areas, such as Gippsland, the western district of Victoria and the south coast of New South Wales, allowing entry for a significant quantity of butter and cheese from New Zealand.
Again, I come to developmental projects sponsored by Governments. Throughout our colonial history this has been done on a haphazard basis in response to political pressures. It is a luxury that we can no longer afford. This Parliament should refuse to sanction any such project unless and until satisfied, through a study by a select committee or other committee of inquiry, that the cost is properly related to anticipated profits in foreseeable markets. By whatever means are practicable the States should be induced to toe the same line. Finally I come to government instrumentalities. The Post Office is a supreme example. But I withhold comment on this until the appropriate Bill comes before the House.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Beaton) adjourned.
House adjourned at 11.18 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1 There are real problems associated with measuring both the indirect benefits and the indirect costs associated with any development scheme. Many secondary benefits are of a welfare nature and are virtually incapable of measurement except by subjective appraisal; at the same time there are rarely available the necessary data to enable quantitative measurement of the associated indirect costs including the social overhead costs.
Moreover, it is generally agreed that in the circumstances of a fully employed economy such as Australia, the net secondary benefits from a national point of view are unlikely to be great The Bureau of Agricultural Economics which is required to examine development projects from the national point of view follows, therefore, the recommendation by the Presidential Advisory Committee on Water Resource Policy in the U.S.A., that benefit/cost ratios be computed on direct benefits and direct costs alone. 2 See (1) above. 3 See (1) above.
Irrigation (Question No. 342)
asked the Minister for
National Development, upon notice:
What is the total area of irrigationland in (a) Queensland (b) New South Wales and (c) Victoria
– The answer to. the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The total area of land under irrigation in 1965-1966 in Queensland was 332,534 acres, in New South Wales was 1,308,489 acres and in Victoria was 1,262,(61 acres.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honouable member’s question is as follows:
The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner has not completed his report on the proposed railway. At present, in order to arrive at an accurate estimate of cost he is examining technical details of the proposal, including the question of alignment.
asked the Minister for Pri mary Industry, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
In the earlier years of stabilisation export prices were above - and in some years more than double - the guaranteed price and the home consumption price. In more recent years export prices have generally not been as high as the guaranteed price. The wheat prices stabilisation fund operated entirely on grower contributions until the 1959-60 season but the balance in the Fund was insufficient to meet grower entitlements in respect of that season and the Commonwealth was required to make up the deficit. It has met its commitment each year since then.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
There is no proposal for the establishment of a broadcasting station in the vicinity of Wyndham, Western Australia.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Yes. 2. (a) Free licences are issued to blind pensioners.
an allowance under the Tuberculosis Act that but for that allowance they would be in receipt of, or eligible for, one of the pensions referred to in (i) above.
The same conditions apply in respect of free and reduced-rate television viewers’ licences and combined receiving licences covering both broadcast and television receivers except that no zoning system applies. The reduced rate for a television viewer’s licence is $3 as compared with $12 full rate. The reduced rate for a combined receiving licence is $4 as compared with $17 full rate.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Is he able to say whether quantities of Australian wheat exported to mainland China are being sent to North Vietnam?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There has been no indication in any information available to. me to suggest that quantities of Australian wheat exported to China are being sent to North Vietnam.
Air Accident at Tennant Creek (Question No. 500)
asked the Minister for Civil
Aviation, upon notice:
In view of the many disturbing features and contradictory statements concerning the Tennant Creek air disaster last September will he in the public interest cause the fullest possible inquiry to be made into every aspect of this catastrophe?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
A very thorough and comprehensive investigation of the circumstances of this accident was carried out by air safety investigators of my department. Following completion of the investigation a report was prepared and the findings were conveyed to the coroner and to other directly interested parties.
From the evidence available the investigators were not able to positively determine the cause of this accident but there was evidence to suggest that the cause might have been attributable to the combination of development of a fault in the aircraft aileron control system and some degree of incapacitation by the pilot. The investigation established that, from all practical considerations, the aircraft had been properly maintained and there was no reason to believe that it was other than airworthy at the time of departure for its last flight. During the weeks preceding the accident several operations in this aircraft had had to be aborted because of unserviceabilities which developed in the complex electronic equipment carried for survey purposes but it is significant that this, equipment has no bearing on the fundamental airworthiness of the aircraft.
My consideration of the report on this investigation included consideration as to whether or not, in the public interest, a Board of Accident Inquiry should be appointed to inquire into the cause of the accident and any other matters relating to the accident. After considering the scope of the investigation end reviewing the findings of the investigation I formed the opinion that a full investigation had been carried out and that the public interest would not be best served by the holding of an additional inquiry. In considering this matter I was cognisant of the facts that the aircraft was one engaged wholly in aerial work operations, the aircraft was not licensed for the carriage of passengers for hire or reward and that there are four only of this well proven type of aircraft on the Australian register.
In the investigation of such an accident, one aspect to be considered is whether or not the operation was being conducted in accordance with the standards prescribed by my department and to take appropriate action where necessary. In the investigation of this accident some irregularities were detected and recorded in the findings but it was determined that they did not contribute to the accident. These matters have been taken up with the operator concerned and steps have been taken to ensure that such irregularities will not recur. The operator is, of course, subject to the normal surveillance inspections made periodically by my department
Finally, I should point out that, during the currency of the investigation of this accident, allegations were made that, on an earlier occasion, a propeller had dropped off the aircraft. Investigation established firstly that the allegation could not have concerned the aircraft involved in the Tennant Creek accident and was directed at another similar aircraft operated by the same operator. Secondly it was determined that the allegation, in any event, was without foundation and that there had been no occasion on which a propeller had dropped off any aircraft in use by this operator.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What was the number of registered clubs in:
What amount of tax was paid by clubs in:
– Available taxation statistics do not reveal the information sought by the honourable member.
United States Military Installations in Australia (Question No. 315)
asked the Minister for
Defence, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1 and 2. The following American installations have been established in Australia:
United States Navy Communications Station, North West Capo
Joint Defence space research facility and a geophysical research project at Alice Springs
Deep space station as Island Lagoon, South Australia
Baker Nunn photographic satellite tracking station at Island Lagoon, South Australia
Tracking station at Carnarvon, Western Australia
Deep space station at Tidbinbilla, Australian Capital Territory
Satellite tracking and data acquisition network facility at Orroral Valley, Australian Capital Territory, and its associated mobile equipment station at Darwin, Northern Territory
Applications technology satellite station al Cooby Creek, Queensland
Tracking station at Honeysuckle Creek, Australian Capital Territory
Research station into atmospherical disturbances at Amberley, Queensland
A satellite tracking station at Smithfield, South Australia
A balloon launching station at Mildura, Victoria, for upper atmosphere observations.
The North West Cape station is for military communications purposes. The remainder are research facilities. Both civil and military research programmes are involved.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
What progress has been made, since the answer to me on 27 October 1966 (Hansard, page 2371), in introducing purely Australian legislation to replace applied Imperial legislation?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Further progress has been made in relation to this matter but it is not possible at this stage to indicate when the necessary legislation will be introduced.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
What progress has been made, since his answer to me on 27 October 1966 (Hansard, page 2371), in extending the Public Service Board provisions to the Service Boards with respect to payment in lieu of furlough to servicemen dishonourably discharged after fifteen years’ service?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Action is being taken to have the necessary amendments made to the Regulations of the various services and it is expected that this action will be completed in the near future.
asked the Minister for Trade arid Industry, upon notice:
Can he state why shipping freights are as high between Fremantle and Europe as between eastern Australian ports and Europe?
– The answers to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In Australia’s overseas trade with the United Kingdom and Europe, as in some other overseas trades, uniform freight rates apply from ail Australian ports. This policy takes account of the fact that the level of frequency of the shipping service provided in this trade is attributable jointly to shippers from all ports. In the case of Fremantle the cargoes generated in eastern ports for the Australia-United Kingdom and Europe trade allow a very high frequency of calls at Fremantle. This permits exporters in that State to take the maximum advantage of the shorter delivery time which their relative closeness to those markets makes possible.
In view of this fact, and the extreme difficulty of apportioning costs to any one port, the majority of exporters and export associations in Australia have traditionally preferred to average the costs over the whole range of Australian ports, recognising also that any cost advantage given to a port in one trade would almost certainly be cancelled by extra costs imposed for some other trade.
For example, Fremantle exporters hold an advantage in distance over exporters in the eastern States in respect of services to the United Kingdom and Europe. However, this advantage is offset by a corresponding disability when Fremantle exporters are shipping to North America. With these facts in mind, shippers and shipowners have generally agreed that uniform freight rates applying equally to all Australian ports are the most equitable solution.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
– The Minister for Housing has supplied the following answers to the honourable member’s questions:
The relevant legislation relating to strata titles in Victoria is the Strata Titles Act 1967, which came into force on 1st July 1967, with the exception of Part IV, relating to conversion of existing schemes of building subdivision, which has yet to be proclaimed. The relevant legislation in Western Australia is the Strata Titles Act 1966, which will come into force on a date yet to be fixed by proclamation.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
What has been the date and nature and result of any consultations between his department and any State concerning compensation for the victims of crimes of violence?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Department of Social Services- has not taken part in any such consultations with the States. However h is understood that the subject has been raised on several occasions within the Conference of the Federal and State AttorneysGeneral.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
Will he consider granting a full pension to a wife, who is not age 60, of an aged or invalid pensioner?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Consideration has been given on several occasions to proposals that a wife should be granted an allowance at the same rate as her husband’s pension where she is ineligible for a pension in her own right.
Successive Governments have taken the view, however, that this would not be justified as it would place such a woman in the same position as a wife who is qualified for the pension i.e. a wife who is at least 60 years of age or permanently incapacitated for work and fulfils the necessary residence requirements.
The position of a married couple where the husband is a pensioner and the wife is in receipt of a wife’s allowance was considerably improved by the amendments to the social services legislation passed by Parliament in 1965. The effect of these measures is to allow the couple a combined income by way of pension and allowances which is less by only $2.50 a week than the combined amount payable to a married couple who are both pensioners.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
What action is being taken to remove discrimination against Aboriginals with respect to social services?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There is no discrimination against Australian Aboriginals in the application of the Social Services Act.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
The League has also asked ‘that Repatriation hospital benefits should be extended to all returned men who served in the Boer War and the First World War regardless of any relationship of the disability to War Service’.
A precise estimate is not possible but, on the best available information, the cost of this proposal would be about $2m annually for operating expenses, and capital expenditure of the order of a further $2m could be required.
It might be noted that the 1967 proposal is more limited than earlier proposals by the league in that it deals with hospitalisation only and the above estimate is therefore made on that basis for those with overseas service i.e., for ‘returned men’ as referred to in the League’s submission.
Basic wage figures are available from the same source.
The following are the rates of special rate and general rate pension for each of the years in which the honourable member is interested:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 August 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19670829_reps_26_hor56/>.