26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr JAMES presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the Government implement Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by providing increased social service and housing benefits for the aged, the invalid, the widowed and their dependants.
A similar petition was presented by Mr Arthur.
Petitions severally received.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Defence. Has he or his Department prepared any plans for Australia to have an Israeli type capacity for defence? If so, has Cabinet yet discussed these plans? If it has, will the House have an opportunity to discuss them before the end of the current 3-year defence programme? If the House will not have such an opportunity before then, how soon will it be able to discuss such plans?
– The defence plans of the Australian Government are well known and have been announced from time to time. I tell the honourable gentleman that the defence situation facing the country is under constant and, at the moment, very deep study. When and if there is a change in the Government’s policy it will be announced in this House.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether he can confirm or deny the report from an American source that of 30 ships which arrived in Haiphong from non-Communist countries during the first quarter of 1968, 26 were flying the British flag. Also, can the Minister confirm or deny the report of the State Department in Washington, quoted in the Congressional Record No. H2722 by Mr Chamberlain, I think, which stated that more than 85% of the calls made at North Vietnamese ports in 1967 were by Hong Kong registered ships flying the British flag but under the effective control of Chinese Communists?
-I am not in a position to confirm or deny figures at such short notice, particularly figures relating to the current 6 months. Of course thisis a matter that has been under close attention from the Australian Government. If the question had related to the calendar year 1967 I would have been able to furnish some information from my memory, but I cannot do this in respect of this half of 1968. I would like to make a simple point, though, that in many of the figures that are quoted not a clear enough distinction is made between ships - that is, separate vessels - and arrivals. To over-simplify it perhaps, in any given period, one ship might make as many as a dozen arrivals; so one has to keep in mind clearly the distinction between ships and arrivals. Having made that comment, I will undertake to obtain the information for the honourable gentleman.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Is the Devaluation Reporting Committee, which was appointed to consider the effects of the devaluation of sterling, also listing those industries that will benefit from the Government’s decision not to devalue the Australian dollar? When does the Treasurer expect that those benefiting from the Government’s decision will be able to pass on those benefits to the Australian public? What steps are being considered by the Commonwealth Government to ensure that the public receives the benefits of, as well as recompense for the losses caused by, the devaluation of sterling?
– Fundamentally it was the attitude of the Government that we should protect those industries that could show demonstrable and unavoidable losses due to the effects of devaluation. This seemed to be an equitable and appropriate measure to be taken by the Government. As to those industries that will benefit from it, the market economy itself must work out the way in which reductions in costs will be passed on to the public.
– Will it?
– I do not know whether it will, because we do not interfere in a Socialist way with the workings of the business community. What we can hope is that those industries that do have the opportunity of lowering their costs on the Australian market will either pass on the benefit to the public or ensure that no cost rises occur as a result of arbitration and other decisions.
– The Treasurer will be aware that many people on fixed incomes, particularly those on superannuation, the amount of which debars them from receiving any fringe benefits under the Social Services Act and yet makes them liable for the payment of income tax, are finding it increasingly difficult to meet their obligations and live decently. Will the Minister give special consideration to this group of people when framing his Budget?
– As the honourable gentleman well knows, a means test applies to income that is earned over and above the pension. It is the policy of the Government consistently to liberalise that means test as opportunity arises if the financial position is sound enough to permit it to do so. I understand the case put by the honourable gentleman. I assure him that just as we liberalised the means test immediately after the last election policy speech, we will take another opportunity, during considerations of the Budget, to examine the position again, and if there is any prospect of liberalisation we will give it the closest consideration. However, I do not want to create false expectations. I merely state that wc will give the matter the most cautious attention. I can make no promises whatever as to what the Budget is likely to contain.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. Does the Commissioner of Taxation assess the profits of oil companies in Australia on a landed cost of $2. 25 a barrel for imported crude oil? On what cost basis are the profits made by Esso-BHP from the Gippsland and Bass Strait fields to be calculated? Will the Treasurer check the statement of Dr A. Hunter of the Australian National University that such oil can be landed at the refinery gate in Melbourne at a cost of $1.20 a barrel?
– Naturally I do not keep in my head figures relating to the cost basis on which profits of international oil corporations are taxed. The honourable gentleman may be correct in what he says. I will make a check for him to ascertain whether any facts can be released under the provisions of the Act and to find out whether the statement is correct. As to the second part of his question regarding the way in which the oil profits of Esso-BHP will be taxed, they will be taxed under the provisions of the taxation law as they apply to all companies, including oil companies. There will be no discrimination for or against Esso-BHP. As to the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question relating to Dr Hunter’s analysis, I will have the figures examined by my colleague the Minister for National Development and by my own Department and I will, if possible, let the honourable gentleman know the results of the examination.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs. 1 refer to the oft-repeated statement by Hanoi that the bombing of North Vietnam must cease before any agreement will be reached. I ask: Has the United States Government or the Australian Government ever countered this statement, which has given the Communists a considerable propaganda advantage, by laying down the specific condition that the North Vietnam Communist Government must stop sending its troops into South Vietnam before the bombing ceases?
– The United States Government, in the mouth of the President, has first of all limited the area of bombing, and as a result of that limitation up to about 80% of the population of North Vietnam is now in areas completely free from any bombing. In making that limitation of the area of bombing the President of the United States made it quite clear that if there were a response from Hanoi to show that in answer to the American restraint there would be some North Vietnamese restraint, consideration could then be given to a further reduction of the bombing. Up to date no response of any kind indicating that Hanoi would be prepared to restrain its activities in any way at all has been seen. Indeed, since the limitation of the area of bombing the North Vietnamese have continued to infiltrate and reinforce and resupply in the South, they have continued their attacks at an even increased level of activity and they have shown no response of any kind at all.
-I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, by pointing out that it is stated regularly that there is a serious shortage of skilled tradesmen in Australia. I also point out that each year a considerable number of boys in the Geelong district offer themselves for or seek places as apprentices but are not able to be placed. Last year the Department of Labour and National Service placed approximately 100 boys in employment outside the Geelong area. Will the Minister give consideration to granting to these boys the Commonwealth living away from home allowance which is paid to boys in country areas, and thus remove a serious anomaly regarding Geelong boys who have to live away from home?
– The Minister of Labour and Industry in Victoria has raised this question with me and currently, following his representations.I am having special inquiries made into the matter and we are examining some of our procedures. At this stageI cannot predict the outcome because, as the honourable member will realise, anything that is done will have to be done on an Australia-wide basis. I hope to be able to clarify the matter before very long.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. I refer to the investigating team which some months ago made preliminary investigations of a number of sites on the Queensland coast for an Army marine base. Can the Minister please indicate the present position?
– I am aware of the interest which the honourable member has taken in this matter. I can tell him, firstly, that the working committee has now completed its report and. secondly, that the report has been considered by the Military Board. I hope shortly to be in a position to bring some proposals before the Cabinet.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. Did Esso-BHP obtain its exploration areas off-shore and make its decisions on operations on the Gippsland shelf and in Bass Strait prior to the Tariff Board inquiry into Australian crude oil values in 1965? If so, how does the Minister maintain that the exploration incentive recommended by the Tariff Board influenced Esso-BHP in its decisions to explore and later to produce? Does he still maintain that this will justify the payment of an incentive at the rate of $87m per annum at the end of the bounty period?
– At the time the incentive price was announced to the House by my colleague the Minister for Trade and Industry the only discoveries of oil in Australia were a commercial field at Moonie, which was producing less than 2% of our requirements, and at Barrow Island where oil had been struck. At that time it was doubtful whether oil would be produced at Barrow Island because it was a remote field in which considerable difficulties were experienced because of poor permeability of rocks. Therefore there was no doubt that the incentive which was introduced and which, incidentally, was not opposed by any member of the Opposition when the matter came before the House, encouraged the Barrow Island operators to make the field commercial. At that time the only known discovery in Gippsland was of gas. No oil had been discovered there at the time that this incentive was brought in. 1 am particularly happy that it now seems that we will have a profitable oil field in Australia, because if we have a profitable oil field we will have a healthy oil search industry. It is an extraordinary thing that the Opposition seems now suddenly to have taken the attitude that it is disappointed that the Government’s policy of incentive payments and encouragement of the search for oil in Australia has been partially successful. The discoveries which have been made will bring immense benefits to Australia. The first benefit will be our reduced requirement to import crude oil from overseas. By the end of 1970, in addition to receiving increased royalties and increased taxation, we will be saving $240ra annually, and the total saving from the discovery of oil on the Gippsland shelf over the life of the field will be $2,400m. In addition new industries will be developed and we will be able to increase our exports. Esso-BHP intends to export 1 million tons of liquid petroleum gas fairly shortly because this quantity will be surplus to Australian requirements. Although these enormous benefits are accruing from the incentives that the present Australian Government has given, all that the Opposition seems to want to do is to rely permanently on the importation of crude oil from overseas.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware that children of Service personnel are disadvantaged with their schooling by frequent changes of schools due to transfers of their parents and that the education allowances prescribed by the regulations are inadequate? ls he aware also that before Service personnel can receive these benefits the Service boards have to approve, and that to date they have been very strict in their decisions on this matter?
– I think it is one of the unavoidable and, perhaps, unfortunate facts of Service life that there should be continual movement of servicemen with consequent disruption of the education of their children. I will look into the other matters raised by the honourable member and, perhaps, give him a reply as soon as possible.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that at the close of dealings on the share markets on 2nd instant, a day of fairly wild speculations in mineral investments, the unearned capital gain of the market value of shares for five companies - Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd, Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd, the Western Mining Corporation and Mt Isa Mines Ltd - exceeded $4,800,000,000. Is it a fact that this unearned capital gain is almost six times greater than the net amount that is raised from company taxation in Australia and is more than three times greater than the net amount raised by taxation on individuals? I ask further: Is it a fact that another mineral company at the close of share market dealings yesterday added nearly $400m in unearned capital gain to its assets? Therefore, I ask: In view of the pressing financial needs of the Commonwealth to provide better social services and repatriation pensions, to undertake more national development projects, to meet the cost of an expanded defence bill, to avert the critical developments in the education systems of the States and to handle satisfactorily many other responsibilities, does the Treasurer consider that staggeringly large unearned capital gains such as those I have mentioned should continue to go untaxed into the pockets of speculators, especially in view of the fact that the Government is considering an increase in income tax in relation to the forthcoming Budget?
-Order! I would suggest to honourable members that questions addressed to Ministers should be shorter than some of those we have had. The purpose of question time is to enable honourable members to obtain information from Ministers. I think that honourable members, when framing their questions, should have regard to the interests of other honourable members who also wish to ask questions during this limited period. I call the Treasurer.
- Mr Speaker, I have nothing to add to the answer that you have already given.
– In directing my question to the Attorney-General, I refer him to my request in this House last year, and to his subsequent agreement, that he use the occasion of the. meeting of the various State Attorneys-General as an opportunity to discuss the possibility of uniform legislation to protect our fellow countrymen from bugging and mechanical hearing aids. I ask the Attorney-General: Have these discussions begun? If they have, did the State AttorneysGeneral accept the aforementioned devices as a danger to our basic freedom which should be protected by the strongest possible legislation?
– Following the interest shown by the honourable member for Griffith in this matter, I had it placed on the agenda of the Standing Committee of the Attorneys-General. The matter was discussed and a committee of State and Commonwealth officers was appointed to give us a report on the matter. The report was presented in February at the last meeting of the Standing Committee. The general effect of the report was that there were certain areas which it was not advisable to cover. That is to say, it was regarded as impracticable to adopt a licensing system for manufacture or trade. It was thought inappropriate to make evidence procured by these eavesdropping devices inadmissible. There were difficulties in preventing use in public places and so on.
The upshot was there was general agreement that we explore further the possibility of dealing with the situation as it1 applied to private dwelling places. This matter was referred back to the committee of officers for a further report to be prepared for us. I anticipate that we will get a report at our next meeting, when we will consider the matter further. As to the attitude of the other Attorneys-General, I do not think I should discuss this in detail. The meetings are confidential. I would say, however, that some doubts were expressed about the extent of the use of these devices. One of the matters on which the officers were required to give us further advice was the extent of the problem. All I would add to my answer is that when I attended the International Conference on Human Rights, held in Teheran, France did bring forward a resolution raising this problem. In the result, there was general agreement that it was necessary to take some action to protect the privacy of individuals against the use of electronic devices for eavesdropping. The plenary session passed the resolution which, amongst other things, included recommendations relating to this matter.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral any further information for the House regarding the building of a television station to serve Cairns and district? When is construction likely to commence? Will the project be referred to the Public Works Committee? Will the installation to be erected on Mount Bartle Frere be a low powered station, a high powered station or a system of translators?
– I am not in a position to give any details of this matter at the moment. Preference will be given to erecting in this area a high powered station rather than a combination of translators. No system of translators can give more than about 90% coverage to the area. The Government feels that it has a responsibility to provide the greatest coverage possible. The installation of a television station in the Cairns area will probably be the most expensive installation of its kind in Australia. This matter has not yet come before the Government in detail. When the Government has indicated its attitude in tha matter I will make an announcement.
– 1 ask the Minister for Health a question. I preface my question by pointing out that considerable anxiety still exists in the minds of many people concerning the possible introduction of foot and mouth disease, notwithstanding the Minister’s assurance in answer to a question recently asked by me that precautions being taken were adequate. In the circumstances will the Minister take all possible steps to see that all requirements of the regulations are fully understood and adhered to, with particular reference to the complete and accurate details required on declarations and with special reference to people coming to Australia after travelling in countries overseas? Will he also draw attention to the penalties provided for omissions from declarations and for making false and misleading declarations?
– I agree with the honourable gentleman that it is vitally important that the Australian people should thoroughly understand the necessity for complying with the various measures laid down to ensure that foot and mouth disease and other exotic diseases do not enter Australia. I will certainly examine what measures we can take in this matter additional to the quite considerable activities already undertaken. I compliment the honourable gentleman for asking his question, because in so doing he is in a sense assisting our objective. As regards the last part of the question, while I have been Minister for Health I have examined every case brought to my attention of allegations that the procedures referred to by the honourable member have not been properly carried out. I find as a result of these examinations that there is a considerable misunderstanding as to what is required, what is done and what it is directed to.
A passenger in an aircraft is handed a form which includes a declaration that he is required to make when he enters Australia. Included in this is a declaration as to whether he has been on a farm or whether he has had any contact with farm animals or abattoirs. In addition to that, when he reaches the first port of entry, the customs officers are required to ask him, firstly, whether he has read the form and, secondly, whether he has anything to declare. A customs officer repeats the question - and I emphasise this point - whether he has been on a farm or had any contact with animals or animal products. My officers and T over quite a long period have carried out spot checks at airports to ensure that this is being done, and I am quite convinced that it is in fact being done very thoroughly indeed by the customs officers. But I would make this point: Even if a person answers yes to the question whether he has been on a farm, he is then asked where the farm was, and quite often he has been in a country where foot and mouth disease does not exist. In that case there is no further need for the procedures to be followed and this is a source of a great deal of misunderstanding. I would add a further point in answering
– I rise to order. You, Mr Speaker, gave certain directions to me earlier today. Will you also give a similar direction to Ministers who are replying to questions?
– There is no substance in the point of order. The matter is in the discretion of the Chair.
– Tell him to put his foot in his mouth.
– I can readily believe that the honourable member for Bendigo is not interested in this matter and does not appreciate its importance.
-Order! There are far too many interjections.
– The other matter which often leads to misunderstanding is that the person may have been in a country in which foot and mouth disease is present but not on a farm or in contact with animals. This information is brought out as a result of this declaration. Foot and mouth disease may be raging in Northumberland, but a person is extremely unlikely to pick up the virus in Piccadilly or Trafalgar Square.
-Order! The House will come to order.
– Given these procedures, I believe that if the true situation is not revealed or the person is not properly examined, then it would be due to either an unwitting or a deliberate false declaration on the part of the person concerned, for which there are specific penalties under customs law.
-Order! I would draw honourable members’ attention to the fact that I requested on a previous occasion that both questions and replies be kept to a reasonable length. What I said to the honourable member for Oxley applies equally, I think, to Ministers replying to questions..
– I desire to ask the Minister for Health a question. A firm manufacturing baby prams in my electorate has reported to me that it is gravely affected by the use of the pill. In addition, the pill is having a serious affect on the natural increase of the population, although the Treasurer, I admit, has taken up this challenge with vigour and vitality. I ask the Minister: Will he take action to protect pram manufacturers in Australia?
– I will be glad to look at the matter that the honourable member has raised.
– In addressing a question to the Minister for the Army, I refer to recent outbreaks of serious and dangerous bush fires on military property adjoining the Heathcote residential district in the southern area of Sydney. Is the Minister aware that this Army land is used as an artillery firing range and that, when called out to fight bush fires, the volunteers in local bush Aire brigades have been subjected to great danger from unexploded ammunition that is scattered throughout the bushland? Is the Minister aware also that there is a great need for the closest possible co-operation and co-ordination between the military authorities and the volunteer bush fire brigades in this area? If so, would he be prepared to arrange a conference of all interested parties so that the danger to this fast growing suburban area of Sydney may be eliminated?
– The Army has certainly been conscious over the years of the fire risk in the Heathcote area and has sought to meet this problem by co-operating with local authorities. The problem of unexploded ammunition arises partly because this ammunition dates back to the First World War. As a result, it is virtually impossible to say that the area has been completely cleared of unexploded rounds. In more recent times, what are known as impact areas have ben kept under very close control. Immediately after firing, searches are made for any blinds that may have occurred. As a precautionary measure, the range is closed periodically and additional searches for unexploded ammunition are carried out. Sometimes after heavy rain some ammunition is found to be exposed. In that event action is taken to explode the exposed rounds. I shall be glad to see whether a conference of the kind suggested by the honourable member can be arranged with a view to exploring fully any ideas which he may have for minimising the fire risk at Heathcote. T shall discuss the matter with him after question time.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral still inclined to agree that there should be an option of trial by jury for offences punishable by 12 months imprisonment? I believe the Minister will recognise the quotation from his speech on the Defence Force Protection Bill last August, when he opposed an amendment proposed by me before he moved one of his own. Can he cite any statute so far enacted by the Commonwealth under which a person can be sentenced to imprisonment for more than 12 months without having the option of trial by jury?
– The first part of the question relates to a matter of policy which I believe I should not dilate on at question time. I will treat the second part of the question as being on notice and will supply the information to the honourable member. He is no doubt aware that there is a substantial number of offences, particularly under State laws, in respect of which magistrates have power to impose imprisonment for 2 years or more and in respect of which there is no option of trial by jury. The question of such an option often turns on the circumstances of the particular offence. However, I shall endeavour to supply further details to the honourable member in writing.
– My question is directed also to the Attorney-General. Has the honourable gentleman’s attention been drawn to two documents circulating in this Parliament carrying the authorisation of members of the Association for International Cooperation and Disarmament and other Communist-front organisations? Is the Minister aware that the document dealing with the defaulting soldier Townsend his been quoted extensively by the Opposition during the recent debate on the National Service Bill? Is he aware also that the other document explains to young men how they may avoid national service and, if they are called up for service, how they may sabotage our military effort? As this publication is also circulating on the campus of the University of Sydney, should not some urgent action be taken to suppress these treasonable activities?
– I am aware of the documents to which the honourable member has referred, having read each of them. I find the second one, ‘How to Avoid the Draft’, rather remarkable. As I have called for a report on it, I do not think I should make any further comment on it at this stage. Should I find after receiving the report that I am in a position to give a further answer to the honourable member, I will do so.
CABINET DISCUSSIONS Mr CLYDE CAMERON- I should like to ask the Treasurer whether the copy of Max Newton’s ‘Incentive’ which he is holding in his hand is the one in which an article is headed ‘Mr McMahon speaks out for oil companies in Cabinet’. This is what Mr Newton says in his book:
Since Mr McMahon is said to have received-
-Order! The honourable member cannot proceed to read from a publication. He may refer to it but only to the extent necessary to make his question intelligible.
-It was worth a try. If the Treasurer has had time to read the article - and he seems to have been reading it for quite a while - will he state whether it correctly represents his attitude?
– If the honourable gentleman is correct in his reference to an article in ‘Incentive’ he should know that what takes place in Cabinet occurs under the oath of secrecy. If any Minister conveyed any information to Mr Newton about what transpired in Cabinet he -would be breaking that oath. I am sure that the honourable member for Hindmarsh, as much as any other member of this House, would deplore a breach of Cabinet secrecy. For this very reason I am somewhat surprised that he would ask a question involving secrecy of Cabinet discussions.’
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Supply. Is there unemployment among many people who were previously employed in the aircraft building industry? Does the Minister know that there is an increasing demand for light aircraft, but the capital outlay needed to establish production prohibits private enterprise from fully entering this field? Will the Minister have the aircraft industry generally investigated with a view to gaining the dual advantage of the Government supplying demand and creating employment opportunities?
– I think I should first point out that it is not necessary for the Government to create facilities for employment opportunities in this field. As has been pointed out previously, adequate opportunities are open to people wishing to gain employment in the engineering trades associated with the aircraft industry. Nevertheless, the honourable member’s point is quite well taken. Unfortunately, the market for light aircraft in this country is insufficient to sustain domestic production at this time. I have not the slightest doubt that as the demand for these aircraft rises and continues to expand, production in this field will become economic. The Government has requested the Department of Defence to consider what its forward needs are likely to be in terms of light aircraft, both the fixed wing and the rotary wing type. However, at this point it does not appear that there will be a big enough market from this Department to sustain all-out Australian production of light aircraft. Nevertheless, as in regard to military aircraft that are being assembled here, the Government will go as far as it possibly can to increase the Australian content in these machines. I have no doubt that over a period the Australian content of these part built, part produced and part assembled aircraft in Australia will continue to rise. When the market increases to the point that local production is economic, I have no doubt that one or both of the two quite powerful private enterprise organisations interested will undertake production.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) agreed to:
That leave of absence for 1 month be given to the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) on the ground of public business overseas.
– I move:
That legislation be enacted to assert Australian territorial control over the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria and the waters of the Great Barrier Reef.
This matter is of considerable interest not only to the people of Queensland but also, I think, to all Australians interested in the control of the waters off the coast of the Australian continent. I notice that the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) intends to speak in this debate. It is to be hoped that he will give an explanation as to why the Government has not proceeded to counteract the blatant breaking of Australian laws in northern parts of this country. I hope he will not attempt to spend all his time in this debate arguing on legal -grounds why something cannot be done. The Australian people, particularly those in northern areas, are becoming somewhat fed-up with the complacency and the inability or incapacity of the Government to do something about the control of these waters. The Government particularly should do something about the blatant intrusion of Japanese fishermen and fishing boats not only within the 12-mile limit but within the 3-mile limit and their indiscriminate landings on our islands and on the coast. Nothing is being done about them by the State or Federal governments.
The present 12-mile fishing limit legislation seems to be a complete farce. I believe it farcical because the legislation is faulty. The Act is indefinable and, I believe, legally unenforceable to such a degree that foreign countries are treating this nation with contempt. The Government’s belated and reluctant decision to use the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force to spot and control these waters is welcome. But it would seem that the patrol officers concerned would need to take a course in international law, particularly when they have to patrol the complex Barrier Reef. As I see it, the effect of these patrols would be psychological only. A successful prosecution of any foreign fishermen found working this complex of islands, cays, enclaves and reefs which form the Barrier Reef would not be possible even in a kangaroo court.
There is a complete lack of hydrological information on the charts for this area. There is no definition or determination about partly submerged and wholly submerged reefs, their relationship and distance from other islands - and such complex things affect international law. How on earth can Australia hope to enforce the 12- mile limit and even the 3-mile territorial limit when there are this mass of complex reefs, some partly submerged and others wholly submerged, and a great chain of islands? One can argue theoretically that for 3 miles around a particular island the waters are territorial and that the 12-mile limit is related to that 3 miles, but it is not good enough just to theorise. Where and how does one define what is a reef, what is an island and what, in some parts, is the coastline of the complex Barrier Reef? Neither the Federal Government nor the
Queensland Government is clear on Australia’s territorial limits within the Barrier Reef. From interpretations of the Constitution it would appear that the State has complete jurisdiction over waters within the 3-mile limit, but I notice that many legal men who have written on this subject express doubt about whether the State has the right to claim this. Irrespective of who claims jurisdiction, whether it be the State Government or the Commonwealth Government, something has to be done about delineating, defining and determining the extent of Australian jurisdiction within this area.
While this farce continues, Japanese and other foreign interests make their own rules and continue unchecked to plunder the resources of our northern areas. The Government refuses to enact any legislation. It refuses to go ahead with the debate on the Fisheries Bill that was introduced on 20th March. The only recourse that the Opposition has in this Parliament is to raise this matter by way of question, or substantive motion, or as a definite matter of urgent public importance. While this situation persists we have the unprecedented movement of foreign shipping in the Gulf of Carpentaria and within the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. Nothing is being done and the position is becoming farcical. Yesterday the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) said that the Navy and the Air Force would co-operate to patrol these waters, but how can they do this when they and the Government do not even know the area over which Australia has jurisdiction? I repeat: This pussy footing attitude and the stalling tactics of the Commonwealth Government in relation to the blatant breaking of Australian laws by foreign fishing interests operating along the Queensland coast must be ended without delay.
Instead of dodging the issue and being unwilling to offend Japan, Indonesia, Formosa and Communist China, the Government should take some positive steps, grasp the initiative and show a strong hand. It should at least tell the Queensland Government and the Australian people just where the 12-mile limit is, just where the territorial waters within the 3- mile limit are, and what waters we control. Local fishermen do not know and they have been working in these areas for many years.
The Commonwealth Government must take the initiative and unilaterally declare its ownership of the waters and resources of the Great Barrier Reef and the Gulf of Carpentaria on behalf of Australia. I believe that such action would have the support of the people who are fed up with the negative and don’t care attitude of a Cabinet dominated by Sydney and Melbourne thought. No doubt such action would be challenged in the International Court of Justice but there are plenty of precedents set by overseas governments which have taken similar unilateral action. Let us act first and argue about the international complications afterwards. Very important issues are involved. The unique characteristics of the Great Barrier Reef make it one of the undisputed wonders of the world, and preservation and conservation of this priceless asset for Australia must be fundamental to the policy of all political parties, both now and in the future.
The Barrier Reef’s export earning capacity is just one other reason why the Government must take some positive action to assert control over the waters of the reef, as well as the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria where there are tremendous shoals of prawns and fish which represent enormous wealth. Most of them have been located as a result of research by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and by State governments. As soon as we establish fishing grounds, in come the foreign fishing vessels, full steam ahead, to exploit and plunder these resources.
The biological makeup of marine life and the coral structure of the Great Barrier Reef are delicate, as most biologists who are concerned with marine deposits on the Great Barrier Reef know. We have to take some action to prevent irreparable damage being done, not only by foreign mining interests but also by fishermen. We now see that all of these leases, which include leases on the islands of the Barrier Reef, have been subject to exploration by mining companies. Everybody knows that, if oil is found, conservation issues will be of secondary or the lowest importance as against the insatiable greed for oil of foreign companies. If the State Government is unable to control and to police the waters of the Barrier Reef and the Gulf of Carpentaria, it should hand over those constitutional powers, if it can legally do so, to the Federal Government so that it can do something about the matter. In this instance there is no room for petty State jealousies as regards the control of our coastal waters. Today we see the spectacle of foreign interests, which have well equipped boats, treating the Queensland and Federal Governments with contempt. They know that our few naval boats are located in the south. I doubt whether some of these boats would be fast enough to catch even the mother ships. Under the present conditions it is open go in the north for all the foreign interests. The north is wide open for smuggling, the drug traffic, the introduction of disease risks and to illegal landings on the islands along the coastline and even in Arnhem Land, and in the Gulf country, allowing consorting with the natives. The overall objective of ‘foreign interests is to acquire as quickly as possible the resources of the area. Foreign interests - whether they be mining or fishing interests - are concerned only in making a quick profit. Their insatiable greed for exploitation is such that they have no regard whatsoever for the damage that they can do, particularly to the coral in the Barrier Reef. They have no regard whatsoever for the feelings of Australians.
The unpalatable fact is that the Federal Government, through its policies of shameful subservience to foreign governments, is actively and actually encouraging the activities of foreign fishermen in our waters. Although the Federal Parliament is the place in which to make announcements concerning policy matters, no announcement concerning this matter has been made in this Parliament. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) makes frequent announcements in newspapers in the north concerning joint ventures and the fact that the Government actually allows foreign fishermen to operate in northern waters. The place to make these statements is in this Parliament so that an opportunity is given for debate on them. This was almost compulsory under Sir Robert Menzies. He said that important policy statements should be made in this Parliament, not outside it. Why should we have to learn from newspapers about the operations of foreign fishermen and about the fact that they have been given the right to operate in Australian waters? We do not read about these matters in newspapers in the south because the Government makes sure that the reports are kept out of southern newspapers.
While the law is being blatantly abused in northern areas, the danger of the introduction of exotic diseases, such as foot and mouth disease, becomes graver because uppoliced, uncontrolled and illegal landings are taking place. But the Government refuses to act. Furthermore, there is an ambiguity in interpretation between the Federal and State Governments as regards the control of these territorial waters and the exact delineation of the 12-mile limit. Who controls, for example, the Ashmore and Cartier Islands, which were the subject of legislation last year? It has been known for years that Indonesian fishermen are landing on these islands. Does the Government do anything about it? Who owns the islands? Are they owned by Australia or by Indonesia? Of course, if oil is discovered on these islands we will have a first class diplomatic argument as to who owns them.
The provisions of the present Fisheries Act relating to the 12-mile limit are useless so far as they relate to an effective policing of the waters within the Barrier Reef. I wish to make it quite clear that the Opposition does not argue, and has not argued, for a complete exclusion of foreign interests from the waters of the north; it simply argues that the Australian Government should have complete control over those waters. It does not have control of them today. One reason for this is that we do not even know which waters are ours and which waters we should control in terms of the 3-mile and 12-mile limits. In determining the situation in the Gulf of Carpentaria we have the precedent of Hudson Bay in Canada which was mentioned earlier. The Gulf of Carpentaria is an indentation in our coastline and is a legally defined inland bay in which there are no international shipping lanes. It could and it should be claimed as Australian water on historic grounds.
The main reason for claiming the waters of the Barrier Reef is not only to stop the plundering of its resources but also to conserve for Australia and future Australians those waters and the great resources of the
Barrier Reef. Australia has an obligation to the present generation and to future generations to control the great natural resources in the waters, on the reefs and on the seabed, particularly in the area of the Barrier Reef where, if mining companies are lel loose, there will be unparalleled damage to one of the great wonders of the world. I admit that this is a complex argument, but it is about time something was done by Australia to show some initiative. At present there is nothing but confusion as to who owns these waters and who owns the reefs. When one studies some of the literature one finds that in 1863, just after Queensland was separated from New South Wales, law officers determined that Queensland was justified in claiming ownership of all islands off the Queensland coast. This decision resulted from a claim by New South Wales that the islands belonged to that State. At one stage New South Wales tried to claim even the Barrier Reef islands. For this reason it was necessary to get a determination from the law officers.
In 1872 the Colonial Office agreed that letters patent should be issued giving Queensland the right to annexe all islands off the Queensland coast to a distance of 60 miles, but at no stage was it ever suggested that the State should lay claim to waters between the islands of the Great Barrier Reef. Anybody who is familiar with these islands and the Reef knows that in between 3 miles and 12 miles from the islands it is quite possible in many instances to find areas which would be part of the high seas. Unless an area of water is completely enclosed, who has the right to that part which forms part of the high seas? Again this is a complex matter. The best advice that I. can obtain on the subject reveals that if an enclave of this kind is less than 2 miles wide the Federal or State Government has a right to control it. If it is more than 2 miles wide it is part of the high seas. If it is open at both ends it is part of the high seas. It seems that the best legal brains would argue on this question for a long time without arriving at any decision.
So far as I and the Opposition generally are concerned something positive must be done to prevent this blatant breaking of Australian laws within the 3-mile and 12-mile limits by foreign interests. They treat our laws with utter contempt, yet they arc being shepherded and given every encouragement by the Acting Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) who claims that foreign fishermen who operate in these areas are acting within the law. It is no good saying that they will all be gone from the area within 5 or 6 years. The fact is that with so many foreign fishermen swarming in no prawns will be left in the Gulf of Carpentaria by that time. The honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton), unlike the Minister who lives in Bairnsdale, knows something about this area. I am sure that he will tell the House that there are literally hundreds of Japanese fishing boats operating in the Gulf of Carpentaria. The Acting Minister for Primary Industry asks where is our proof that this is happening. If the Government were to send Royal Australian Air Force aircraft over that area it would find plenty of proof. If it asked the fishermen operating from Karumba it would get plenty of proof.
Over the years the idea has developed in Queensland that the waters of the Barrier Reef are the property of the State Government. This belief is due partly to maps which have been drawn of that area. Delineations of the Queensland coastline sometimes reveal a line linking the outer reef with all the islands and from that it would seem that the waters of the Barrier Reef are in fact Queensland’s territory. But so far as the Fisheries Act is concerned this is certainly not the case. A legal opinion given to the Queensland Government was that cays which are uncovered at low water but which are completely covered at high water are legally the property of the Queensland Government. This seems to be contrary to what is generally accepted with respect to international law. While this confusion continues, while we have learned lawyers like Professor O’Connell. Dr Lumb and others giving different interpretations, how can we possibly hope to solve the problem, unless the Federal Government takes the initiative and does something to define these areas. In my opinion it should take the initiative and claim the waters of the Barrier Reef and the Gulf of Carpentaria. There are strong arguments in favour of the Government doing so, both on historic and physical grounds.
I hope that when the Attorney-General speaks on this subject we will not be told in every sentence that we cannot do something. We want to know what Is going to be done to police the laws and to stop the intrusion of foreign fishermen and foreign boats which are illegally entering Australian waters. Let us not hear learned arguments about air space and the validity of the picture frame approach by Indonesia to its territorial waters. We want to know what the Government is going to do with respect to the waters of the Barrier Reef and the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Does it intend to continue to allow, without expressing any opposition, the blatant intrusion of foreign fishermen into these areas?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
– The Government cannot accept this motion which was moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). I was surprised to find that, although his language is generally rather exaggerated, whereas previously he has been at fault on or uncertain about the law, this time he was inclined to go astray with his facts also. There is no doubt that the Great Barrier Reef is one of the great natural wonders of the world. Neither the Commonwealth Government nor the Queensland Government needs to be reminded of this or of the importance of preserving the Reef and of protecting its natural resources. Both Governments are mindful of the need to conserve particularly the important prawn fisheries in the Gulf of Carpentaria. I shall outline to the House in a moment the measures that already exist for the protection of the Great Barrier Reef and also additional legislative measures that the Commonwealth has under consideration at the moment in consultation with the Queensland Government.
My colleague the Acting Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) will inform the House of the situation relating to fisheries in the Gulf of Carpentaria and of the steps that the Commonwealth is taking in the form of additional naval and air patrols which were mentioned by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) in answer to a question asked in this place. As far as fishing in that area is concerned it will be understood that, in respect of the
Gulf of Carpentaria, provision is made first for certain joint fishing companies. There are four joint foreign and Australian interests while the rest of the companies involved are Australian.
I wish to describe first of all what would be involved if the Government adopted the terms of the motion submitted by the honourable member for Dawson. To give effect to the motion, it would be necessary to seal off the waters inside the outer line of the Great Barrier Reef and the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria and to make those waters technically internal waters of Australia. Australia’s territorial area would be measured then from the outer limits of the line of the Great Barrier Reef and from the straight line across the top of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Action of this kind certainly would raise important questions of international law and international policy. As a great island continent, Australia is dependent on keeping open its sea and air routes to other countries, particularly in the region of South-East Asia. I think there was a glancing reference in the speech of the honourable member for Dawson to the effect that we were at present in dispute with other countries in relation to closing off areas of sea by joining islands. Australia has even greater interests to take into account and to weigh in the scale beyond those of the fishing problem which seems to be exercising the mind of the honourable member for Dawson.
I would not wish, by anything that 1 say today, when I come to discuss the legal position to foreclose the possibility in the event of changes in the international law of Australia taking some action to make wider claims other than those it is making at the present time. Probably no other field of international law is more in a state of flux than this field. There is a considerable amount of change and even the territorial limits claimed by different countries vary very widely, some of the South American countries claiming up to 200 miles.
Concerning settled international law, I think the honourable member realises that the claim that he wishes us to make would be protested immediately and that we could not uphold what we had done if we were taken before the International Court of Justice. I think the honourable member realises this. But he still wishes us to make the claim as a gesture. However, if we do so, that would raise in itself a considerable problem for Australia not only in the way that I have mentioned in relation to sea and air lanes but also in relation to the attitude that has been taken always by the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Our action would bring Australia into conflict with those countries.
I wish to say a word as to the position both as regards the Great Barrier Reef and the Gulf of Carpentaria. So far as the Great Barrier Reef is concerned, it is generally understood by members here that the territorial water goes out from the 3-mile limit measured from the low water mark. Currently, the Commonwealth has announced baselines and is drawing a map to show where the baselines around the whole of the coast of Australia are. This is a very lengthy and, indeed, an extremely expensive mapping operation. But it is well on the way and this will make clear where these limits are. It has been necessary to apply the 1958 convention to a number of bavs and islands and to make decisions as to the applicability of international law in drawing these baselines. But the territorial limit is 3 miles out.
The House is aware also that the Government has recently, by amendments to the Fisheries Act, extended the fishing limit out to 12 miles. The honourable member for Dawson rather treats this Act with a degree of scorn. The fact is that this will be of importance to the fishing industry. It will he enforced to the best of our ability. Australia has such a long coastline that the problems of enforcement are very great indeed. Rut as has been announced, the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) is taking action in conjunction with the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) to use the naval and air forces of the Commonwealth specifically in relation to this task. The Commonwealth is presently in consultation with other nations which seek to come into the 1 2-mile limit area. It is simply not true to say that this Act is to be a dead letter and that the 12-mile limit provision will not be observed. New Zealand has had the experience of extending its limit to the 12-mile mark and is finding that it is getting the benefit of this extension. The Commonwealth Government has extended the Australian limit. As I say, conferences are in progress at the present time with those who wish to get particular rights which perhaps would impinge on what we have done.
The other thing of course - and this particularly applies to the Great Barrier Reef itself- is that the Commonwealth Government has legislative power in regard to the continental shelf. So far as there are islands and so far as the Great Barrier Reef itself at certain points is above high water at all times, these areas are the territory of Queensland. There is a territorial area of 3 miles around the Reef. There would be a fishing limit of 12 miles around it. This, the honourable member for Dawson says, is difficult for fishermen. I do not think that it is as difficult as the honourable member says. His attack really is on the international law rules. He just does not like them because they create difficulties. Every nation of the world has these difficulties. It is simply not helpful to say that these rules lead to difficulties in determining whether a fisherman is inside or outside the 12-mile limit. There has been no great practical difficulty in the past in determining these matters. 1 come now to that part of the Great Barrier Reef - this is the major part of it - that is below water at high tide. This is not the territory of Queensland; it is part of the continental shelf of Australia. The continental shelf of Australia extends out beyond the Reef and it includes the portions of the Reef to which I have referred. This gives us power to legislate with respect to fish which are attached to the Reef and with respect to minerals and other matters on the sea bed. As the House will be aware we have, concerning fish, the Pearl Fisheries Act which deals with certain types of fish, trochus shell, pearl shell, green snail, beche-de-mer and so on. lt would be possible to extend the provisions of this Act. This is under consideration, as a further step, at the present time, with the Minister for Primary Industry in consultation with Queensland so that this legislation would cover what it does not now cover - for example, clams on the Great Barrier Reef. If it is made an offence in breach of the Act to take these things when the Act is amended, it would be a matter of policing the provisions to see whether any foreign fishermen or any Australian national took those things from the Reef in breach of the Act. This is one way in which the Commonwealth Government is acting to determine what it may be prepared to do to cover the situation.
In addition to those things that I have mentioned, minerals and dead coral would not be covered by the Pearl Fisheries Act. In this regard, the Commonwealth however could act on its own or it could act in consultation with the Queensland Government with the introduction of joint legislation by both Governments. Discussion is occurring between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government rather along the line of joint legislation in this field - that is, other than fish, taking minerals on or near the Reef - so that this would be covered by joint legislation. This is a matter which concerns not only Queesland. If a pattern is established there, it will concern the southern States as well in certain respects on the continental shelf. It is not therefore a matter that can be done overnight.
Considerable progress is being made in these fields. Indeed, I was interested to see yesterday a report prepared by the Great Barrier Reef Association. This was the report of a legal sub-committee which was convened by Dr R. D. Lumb of the University of Queensland, who is regarded as knowledgeable in this field of law. The conclusion to which the committee came was that it would be preferable for the Commonwealth to deal with the Great Barrier Reef under its power regarding the continental shelf but that concerning the exploitation of the mineral or non-living - as the committee calls them - resources of the Great Barrier Reef, it would be preferable for the Commonwealth and Queensland to act in conjunction. It is interesting to find that this quite independent body has arrived at recommendations, which have been passed on to us, which are in line with the activity which has been pursued by the Commonwealth and Queensland. The subcommittee does not favour the extreme action advocated by the honourable member for Dawson, namely that we should do something which we know we could not hold to under international law.
As regards the Gulf of Carpentaria, the honourable member knows the position there. This matter has been discussed in the House on other occasions, but still the honourable member persists in citing the precedent of Hudson Bay and stating that we should claim for Australia the Gulf of Carpentaria. I would say simply that because of the width and configuration of the Gulf of Carpentaria, it is a type of bay which normally, under international law, has been accepted as unclaimable. I do not wish to foreclose Australia’s position should there be any change in future thinking on this matter of international law, but under the ordinary rules we are entitled to territorial waters extending 3 miles from the shores of the Gulf. We already have fishing rights in the waters extending 12 miles from the shores of the Gulf.
The honourable member has said that we should close off the Gulf. The Gulf measures 320 nautical miles across. It is clear from Article VII of the Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, which we signed in 1963, that we are not entitled to close off the Gulf as internal waters. Two cases are referred to in Article VII where, in spite of the existence of a wide mouth, such as we have in the Gulf of Carpentaria, a special claim may be made. One case is that of a so-called historic bay. The other is where the straight base line system provided for in Article IV is applied. Article IV does not help us so far as the Gulf of Carpentaria is concerned.
All that remains for us is to consider whether we should claim the Gulf as an historic bay. I suppose it is on this provision that the honourable member would found his argument: Hudson Bay is an historic bay and therefore we should be able to claim the Gulf of Carpentaria as an historic bay. The difference between the two areas is so marked that it is not possible to base a claim on the Hudson Bay precedent. If one studies the map one will see the difference in configuration between the two areas. But there is also a difference in their histories. There is only one practical entrance to Hudson Bay; there is a channel into the Atlantic. That channel or strait is 500 miles long. The eastern entrance is 35 miles wide and the western entrance is 45 miles wide. That is a narrow strait. Hudson Bay is virtually a land-locked sea.
But this is not the only matter of difference between Hudson Bay and the Gulf of Carpentaria. Exclusive occupation of Hudson Bay has been held since 1670, first by the Hudson Bay Company and later by its successor, the Canadian Government, who in fact excluded people from the Bay and have therefore complied with the rules which would make it an historic bay under Canada’s exclusive jurisdiction. Unfortunately we cannot make this claim in relation to the Gulf of Carpentaria. In the past we have not acted in such a way as to be able to claim that we have excluded people from the area and made it an historic bay. Therefore we do not have the necessary foundation on which to base a claim that the Gulf of Carpentaria is an historic bay. To cite Hudson Bay as a precedent serves no purpose. I think the honourable member for Dawson is well aware of these facts. They have been stated before. But this topic which he raises with such zest is a sure-fire topic for publicity in the Queensland Press. One has doubts about the honourable member’s motives. The honourable member must know that his proposition that we should declare the Gulf of Carpentaria to be internal waters is futile.
The other matter raised by the honourable member dealt with Ashmore and Cartier Islands. He said that he wanted to know whether they belong to Australia. This is not a case of the relevant information not being available. It is rather a case of the honourable member being ignorant of existing information. There is no doubt that the islands are Australian territory. They are a Territory of the Commonwealth, administered along with, for example, the Northern Territory. The slightest inquiry would have enabled the honourable member to ascertain this fact. It is true that occasionally Indonesian subsistence fishermen are seen to be visiting the place, but these visits do not constitute a territorial claim. There is no suggestion that Australia’s ownership of the islands is in question. The Royal Australian Navy makes periodic visits to the islands. Grants - well advertised - have been made by Australia of exploration permits covering the islands. Suggestions that the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government are supine and idle in these matters and that doubt exists as to our ownership of the Ashmore and Cartier Islands are suggestions one might make with the arrogance of ignorance. These are not statements one would make if one took the slightest trouble to ascertain the facts. The Government opposes the motion.
– I am grateful to the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) for his remarks. I did not know, as I am sure the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) did not know, all the facts concerning the Gulf of Carpentaria. I did not know that the Gulf could not be closed off. I was hoping that it would be possible to close it off. The Gulf is a magnificent source of fish. The potential exists there for a fishing industry worth $80m or $100m. There are vast quantities of prawns and fish in the waters of the Gulf. I have been hopeful that the Government would try to keep this industry for Australia. I think that there’ is sufficient finance within the Australian fishing industry to cope with the potential of the Gulf of Carpentaria without allowing foreign companies to intrude there. At the present time there is talk of the Commonwealth compelling foreign companies to establish processing factories in Australia if they propose to take fish from around our coast. Why should we allow such companies to erect processing plants? Why could we not have one processing plant in the Northern Territory and one in Queensland? These could be built by the Government itself or by co-operatives subsidised by the Government. My proposal would be less expensive in the long run than to have several processing plants would be. If we had one plant in the Northern Territory and another in Queensland all fishing vessels in the areas could bring their catches to those plants, and from there the processed food could be dispatched to the Australian consumer or to export markets.
There is a great potential for a fishing industry in the Gulf of Carpentaria. If we cannot control the waters of the Gulf let us at least protect what we do own - the area within the 12 mile limit. It is all very well for the Attorney-General to give us the legal position, but he did not say what the Government proposes to do to protect our rights over fishing in the 12 mile zone. It is more than 12 months since I first raised this matter. Since then, other honourable members have become interested in it. I am glad that they have, because I do not want anybody to think that I treat this matter as a political football or some kind of political gimmick. Fishing in these waters is our natural heritage and should be developed by us, not by foreigners of any kind. I deliberately call them foreign vessels because the Japanese are not the only ones who come down from the north and fish in our waters. If we are to claim this as our own we must do something about it. The Attorney-General never told us anything about what kind of action the Government will take except the Queensland Government, in co-operation with the Federal Government, will do something. But this Government has not said what it will do. If the matter is to be left to the Array, Navy and Air Force, I am afraid we may as well forget about it altogether. These forces may be able to carry out a certain amount of surveillance but they will not be able to protect the whole industry. At the present time the Queensland Government has the idea that the local fishermen, as soon as they see foreign vessels in their area, should report them. To whom? To the police at Cairns or the police at Townsville? They have no ships to deal with the matter. The Air Force may receive the information over the radio, but so will the foreign vessels. These vessels are well equipped with highly technical radar and wireless systems which are tuned into every wavelength in Australia, even to the police reports every day, the aerial ambulance service and the flying doctor service. They pick up all the information, and as soon as they know there is some move on, off they go. We must do something about this problem by a patrolling system. I suggest a separate system because it involves not only the fishing industry but also health and customs, and another thing that has come to my mind is our navigation regulations. These are also involved. I will give you one instance. These matters can be proved. I am not telling funny tales. If honourable members want proof I will give it to them, but I do not have time now to give proof in every case. I mention the ‘Papuan Prince’, a name that has been bandied about in this place and another place. It is owned by a Federal member on the Government side, or he has an interest in it. This
Papuan Prince’ flies the Australian flag because it is said that its place of registration is Madang. I am doubtful that vessels can be registered at Madang. Perhaps it was Port Moresby.
– No. It was Madang.
– If it is registered in New Guinea or any other Australian territory it is entitled to fly the Australian flag, but it is not entitled to be captained by a foreign captain who does not hold a Board of Trade ticket or an Australian licence. The captain of this vessel goes into Thursday Island without a pilot; he can bring his vessel to the docks in Cairns if he likes. This constitutes a breach of Australian Navigation Regulations. These breaches can occur all the time in the north. There are people landing contrary to customs and health regulations, and we do nothing about it.
– That ship cannot fish in our waters unless it is licensed.
– I am not talking about fishing in the waters. It is licensed to fish in the waters. I am talking about the navigation of the ship by a foreign captain who does not hold a Board of Trade ticket, which is against the regulations. It should be captained by a person holding a Board of Trade ticket which allows him to come into Australian ports, particularly when the ship is flying an Australian flag. I draw the attention of the House to this matter because it is most important. The most important thing from the point of view of health regulations is in relation to these processing plants that these companies will put on our land. The Federal Government must come in because customs and health regulations will be involved. We cannot allow these people to come here to establish their processing factories and do what they like without being examined or giving a certificate that they are free from certain diseases. This would be dangerous to many industries of Australia and the community at large.
The fishing industry, as I said before, can be completely controlled by Australian people, Australian boats and Australian crews. There is no reason why we should allow joint ventures even on a 40- 60 basis. There are plenty of fishermen looking for work. There are plenty of boats available and there is plenty of finance available. I have letters here from companies guaranteeing finance. Many interested people are coming from the south because of the bigger potential of the fishing industry in the north. They are coming from the southern ports right into the Gulf and up into the Northern Territory. It is important that we pay attention to this and I ask the Government to consider again the establishment of these processing plants. There is a lot more involved than I have so far mentioned. Water is scarce. Getting water to these processing plants is very costly and will add to the cost of the product of the industry. This is another reason why I say we should have only one processing plant in Queensland and possible one in the Northern Territory. This should be one of the Government’s aims. If the Government does not believe in governmentowned institutions, why not make this a co-operative venture and give the industry financial support? The industry is there. It has been tested by Government scientists and shown to be worthwhile. It must be worthwhile because foreign people are interested in it. If it is as good as the experts say it is - and I think it is - we should look at the question of establishing one processing plant only. Each joint company has to guarantee that it will establish a processing plant. This is ridiculous. It will cost a lot’ of money and will add to the cost of the product from which we are trying to gain some revenue. It is a good money spinner overseas and also on the domestic market.
I turn now to the Great Barrier Reef. I am glad to see that the Reef has now been defined as part of the continental shelf. I found it difficult to understand how the Reef can be part of the continental shelf when there are channels between the shelf and the mainland more than 100 fathoms deep. There are shipping lanes between the Reef and the mainland. I am quite content with the definition. I am happy about it. If the Reef is part of the continental shelf we have control of it. As the Attorney-General stated, it is something worth preserving not only because it is a natural wonder but also because it has a lot of potential for research and for scientists who want to study its food potential. I am glad to see that clams are to be protected under legislation being prepared for the preservation of the coral reef.
This should have been done long ago. I tried to point out before how the reef is deteriorating because of the actions of humans. We have all read about the crown of thorns or, as we know it, the starfish which is taking over in certain parts of the reef. Its depredations can be plainly seen around Green Island, particularly where tourists or collectors have been taking what we call the trumpet shell. I do not know the technical name of it but it is known locally as the trumpet shell. I believe from the experts that the trumpet shells keep down the numbers of starfish. It upsets the whole balance of the reef when one is taken and the other is left. I wish someone would find some use for the starfish because we have thousands of them.
– Where is Green Island?
– I will tell you later. You have been there once. Clams are part of the reef itself. They are embedded in the coral of the reef. To extract the clams the coral has to be broken and the reef destroyed. This is what is taking place. I want to inform the House that the fishermen responsible are not only Japanese. I have never referred to these vessels as Japanese. I have used the phrase ‘foreign vessels’. The vessels are Formosan, Chinese, or of some other nationality. I know that not only one nation is responsible. The operations of these vessels are disrupting and endangering the whole life of the reef. As I said before, the reef acts as a barrier along much of the Queensland coast and it is very necessary that the reef be protected and not allowed to deteriorate. Any honourable members who have not travelled through Queensland have missed seeing the best part of Australia. If honourable members have the opportunity to go to that State, they will find that the coastal towns are on the coastal fiats. If it were not for the Barrier Reef these towns, at certain periods of the year, would probably be swamped and washed away. That is why the reef is so important to Queensland.
The Barrier Reef is also part of Australia’s continental shelf. I suppose it has sedimentary basins that could be exploited for the production of oil. This is something we should watch. I was glad to hear the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) say that the Commonwealth still has some say in oil exploration. Drilling for oil anywhere along the reef could absolutely ruin it. We saw what happened off the English coast, where fish and other marine life were killed by oil as a result of a tanker running aground. We know the cost of getting rid of oil from the water and the shore line. Oil spillage in Barrier Reef waters would inevitably occur if drilling took place in the area. Oil could very well kill all the marine life and the reef would eventually die. This would be a tragedy not only for Australia and Queensland but for the world. I appeal to the Government to take some definite action to protect not only Australian fishing rights but also the Barrier Reef.
As I said before, the only way to protect our rights is to form a surveillance service separate from the armed Services. We could call this service the coast guard service or the protective service. It would not matter what we called it as long as it was an adequate force. It should not have just one or two ships. A worthwhile organisation must be established. I believe that money spent in organising a patrol service would be a worthwhile investment for the future, lt is necessary that such a service be introduced as soon as possible so as to prevent foreign vessels from encroaching in our territorial waters. More foreign vessels are operating around the Australian coast this year than was the case last year, when 100 foreign vessels operated in the Gulf of Carpentaria and 50 along the Queensland coast. The fishing grounds are getting so crowded that these foreign vessels are now coming down the coast as far as Sydney. Perhaps when they come down as far as Melbourne someone in the Government will take notice.
– They are operating outside Newcastle.
– Thank goodness for that, in a way. The further south they come the more interest the Government will take in protecting our resources.
Members of the Opposition are greatly concerned about Australian fishing rights and the protection of the Great Barrier Reef. We are concerned also about the enforcement of quarantine requirements to protect the health of both the public and our sheep and cattle. At present, about 50 of the 100 foreign fishing vessels operating along the Australian coast send parties ashore to obtain supplies of water and wood. Members of these parties go as far as 5 to 10 miles inland. I believe this situation is serious from a health point of view. Whether honourable members believe it or not, the north of Australia is still part of the Australian continent. Once an exotic sheep or cattle disease broke out it would spread like wildfire throughout the whole of the continent. We can imagine what the effect on the cattle and sheep industries, which are so vital to this country, would bc if this happened. We know what rights we have, but for goodness sake let us take every action we can to preserve them. It is no good leaving the protection of these rights as a part time job for the Navy or the Air Force. It is necessary that one special service be maintained to protect the interests of all concerned.
-I must say at the outset that I appreciated the way in which the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton) tackled this question. He did so with a much more commonsense approach and with better information than did the previous Opposition speaker in the debate, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). I would like to put the mind of the honourable member for Leichhardt at rest in relation to one or two points that he raised. He spoke of the desirability of establishing shore based plants - one in the Northern Territory and one in Queensland. I would like him to understand that when the Government considered its policy on the devolopment of the fishing industry, it looked very closely at the possible siting of bases at various points around the Australian coast. It finally came to the conclusion, after a careful study, that the most efficient and effective way of developing the industry was not to develop one shore based plant in the Northern Territory and one in Queensland, as the honourable member for Leichhardt has suggested, but rather to proceed as we are now proceeding. We want to establish a number of shore based plants. After a study of the question, the Government came to the conclusion that shore based plants ought to be close to the zone of operations. We believe that this arrangement would be more efficient and less costly than the methods suggested by the honourable member for Leichhardt. So the methods suggested by him were considered. Only time will tell whether the Government’s conclusions are correct.
The honourable member for Leichhardt expressed some concern over the idea that Australian fishermen might not be able to take part in the industry if joint operations were allowed. 1 will have more to say about this later in my address because I want to point out exactly what the Government has in mind in respect to joint operations and the protection it has provided for the Australian fishing industry. The honourable member can rest assured that a prawn fisherman who knows his business will be able to find a position for himself in the industry in the Northern Territory or Queensland. I have no doubt that a prawn fisherman who does not have a licence to work in the industry, and who is an expert fisherman, would be able to obtain a job with one of the licensed operators.
The Opposition is asking the Government to enact legislation to assert Australian territorial control over the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Great Barrier Reef. The Attorney-General dealt with this matter very fully and in depth and proved that the Opposition’s motion envisages the wrong approach. Indeed, it is an unusual approach. What honourable members propose is unilateral action. The honourable member for Dawson, in a very emotional address which showed him to be ill informed, spoke of precedents for what he proposed. He was challenged by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) to name a precedent but he did not bother to give this information. The fact is that not one of the countries to which Australia traditionally is tied by international conventions would take unilateral action in regard to boundaries. These countries include the United Kingdom, the United Slates of America, Canada, Japan, France, Norway and West Germany.
– Read some facts.
– It is about time the honourable member learnt some. Australia does not want to take action which would not be enforceable in international law. If we did so, we would be challenged in the International Court of Justice and as a result could find ourselves awfully embarrassed. We could also fail to stop these pirate fishing operations. I believe that Labor’s approach is wrong. If Opposition members are prepared to listen to the Government they will see that it is very much concerned about the questions that they have raised. The Government is doing something constructive. If Australia were to take unilateral action, countries to the north of us which have an interest in these matters could declare similar waters in their own region to be their own territorial waters. In such an event Australia could find itself denied access to South East Asia.
As I say, the Government recognises the problem but it does not agree with the Labor Party’s approach to it. The adoption of that approach would result in failure to control the prawn fishing industry and would bring us into international disrepute. In view of what the honourable member for Dawson had to say, I should like to spell out some details about the prawn fishing industry. The facts are that the Government had known for many years that there were prawns in the Gulf of Carpentaria, but it had no knowledge of the extent of these resources or their commercial significance. The Commonwealth and Queensland Governments jointly financed a survey between July 1963 and August 1965 under the technical direction of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to evaluate resources in the south east corner of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Messrs Craig Mostyn and Co. Pty Ltd established a base at Karumba and helped considerably by providing facilities, including a commercial vessel, to undertake the survey. The same company has built up a successful prawn processing plant at Karumba to handle the catch from some 15 to 20 vessels operating in the area. Because of the survey, the commercial operations from Karumba and exploratory fishing operations in other areas, it is confidently expected that the prawn resources of northern Australia will be considerable. There are good prospects for developing an annual export industry of 50 million lbs weight of prawns valued at $30m. Operations in the Gulf of
Carpentaria are expected to produce about 25 million lbs weight of prawns valued at $15m. These estimates are only rough, and it will not be until operations have been under way for some time that we shall really be able to assess the annual value of the industry.
Towards the end of the survey Japanese fishermen moved into the Gulf of Carpentaria and began exploratory operations, particularly around Groote Eylandt, and they were quickly followed by a number of commercial vessels. Interest in the development of the prawning industry in the north brought many inquiries from Australian companies, some of which proposed joint ventures with Japanese firms that had been operating in the area. Following the Government’s announcement on the 12-mile exclusive fishing zone the Japanese Government advised that it could not agree to the unilateral declaration. However, the Japanese accepted the opportunity offered by the Australian Government to countries which had been fishing in the declared zone to seek agreement on some form of phaseout arrangements. Talks on this aspect were resumed in Canberra last week and they are continuing. Under interim arrangements the Japanese were not allowed to continue any operations inside the Barrier Reef or in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Japanese prawn trawlers operated by companies associated with the joint venture projects awaiting ministerial approval were permitted to continue operations within the declared fishing zone pending a decision. These approvals have now been granted and the operations will be conducted under Australian legislation.
The use of foreign vessels and crews has been approved on condition that they will be replaced by Australian vessels and crews within 5 years. This is the sort of security that has been built into the arrangement to protect the Australian industry. The honourable member for Dawson, who complained about this matter, should appreciate that by this security arrangement all Japanese operations in the Gulf of Carpentaria will terminate by the end of the 5-year period. This procedure must certainly be regarded as providing built-in protection for the Australian industry, which should be commended, not attacked emotionally and on such bad foundations as was done by the honourable member for Dawson.
Commonwealth and State Ministers res ponsible for fisheries matters had been dis-= cussing the question of joint ventures for a number of years. Before the meeting of Fisheries Ministers held in Perth in September last year the Commonwealth Government agreed to support a proposal for the establishment of joint venture projects under strictly limiting conditions provided the State Ministers also supported the propositi. Subsequently the State Fisheries Ministers agreed to joint ventures with foreign companies but only in special cases and under special conditions. All joint venture proposals will be considered on their individual merits and must be approved by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) and the appropriate Minister responsible for fisheries in the State or Territory concerned. The decision will be influenced by the fishery in which the joint venture is to be conducted. As a general rule, joint ventures will be confined to fisheries in a particular area or which exploit a particular species of fish not yet adequately developed by Australian fishermen. The use of foreign vessels and crews will be considered only On a temporary basis. Any joint venture proposal must include provision for replacement of foreign vessels and crews with Australian vessels and crews within 5 years and whilst operating they will function under Australian laws.
Approval for the entry of foreign vessels must first be obtained from the Commonwealth Minister for Shipping and Transport and the entry may be subject to customs duty. The entry of foreign crews will also be subject to approval by the Commonwealth Departments of Immigration and Labour and National Service. I am sure that the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton) will be pleased to learn that the Commonwealth Department of Health will take care of the particular points that he raised.- In general, agreement to the temporary entry of foreign personnel will largely be determined by the nature of the work to be undertaken. Evidence must also be submitted that the use of foreign vessels and crews will accelerate or increase the efficiency or development of the fisheries concerned.
Although opportunity will be provided for joint venture projects, the possible effect of market competition from fish landed by foreign-crewed vessels will also be carefully considered to ensure that the interests of Australian fishermen are preserved. A foreign company wanting to establish a joint venture project should first make arrangements with the person or concern with which it proposes to operate in Australia. In any joint venture the Australian partner is the one to apply to the appropriate Ministers for the necessary approvals.
The honourable member for Dawson made a great fuss over the release by the Minister for Primary Industry and myself of a statement naming certain companies involved in joint ventures, while the House was not in session. He claimed that the practice of releasing such information when the House was in session was always followed when Sir Robert Menzies was Prime Minister. The honourable member should realise that the statement was released during a period of about 3 weeks when the House had adjourned for Easter and the Anzac ceremonies. In fact, the Australian interests involved were parties to contracts that hud to be signed by a certain date. The Government was under pressure to release the names of the companies concerned before time expired, otherwise it would have been quite pleased to follow the procedure requested by the honourable member, f feel that the interests of Australia’s prawn fishing industry come first, not the wishes of the honourable member for Dawson.
– The apology is accepted.
– I thank the honourable member. Only four Australian companies have been approved for joint venture projects. They are W. Angliss and Co. (Aust.) Ltd, Gollin and Co., Hickman Holdings Ltd and South Sea Fishing Company. They had been approached by four leading Japanese fishing companies which had been operating in northern waters. The Ministers concerned agree that the establishment of shore-based processing plants would be an essential feature of the new industry. They agreed also that some restrictions would have to he placed on the location and number of processing plants to avoid overcapitalisation and to ensure that each unit would form the basis of a viable industry, which was one of the points brought out by the honourable member for Leichhardt.
Subsequently there have been a number of developments in the Gulf of Carpentaria. A processing plant serving between 15 and 20 Australian prawn trawlers has been established at Karumba by Craig Mostyn and Co. A depot to receive prawns from the fishing vessels for transport to processing plants on the east coast has been established at Karumba by Markwell Fisheries Pty Ltd. Approval has been granted to South Sea Fishing Company to establish a prawn-processing plant at Weipa. This joint venture company, of which 51% of the shares are held by Australian interests and 49% by Japanese interests, was originally established at Madang in New Guinea, lt will continue to use Japanese built and crewed factory ships until the shore plant is built. All prawns will be caught by Australian-owned trawlers. Negotiations are proceeding for the establishment of a shore plant by an Australian company at Thursday Island, and another Australian company is negotiating to establish a shore plant at Burketown. In addition, steps are being taken to establish an Aboriginal co-operative processing plant at Mornington Island.
On the Northern Territory side of the Gulf of Carpentaria approval has been granted to Northern Meat Export Company, M. G. Kaylis Gulf Fisheries Pty Ltd and Craig Mostyn and Co. - each of which is an Australian company - to establish shore plants in the Roper River, Blue Mud Bay and Gove areas respectively. In addition, the establishment of a further shore-based plant in the McArthur River area is being considered. The three joint venture projects approved for the Northern Territory will have to establish their shore bases at Darwin. The fishing vessels attached to them, including the Japanese vessels using Japanese crews, will be permitted to operate in the Gulf of Carpentaria for a period of not more than 5 years, after which time all fishing operations will have to be carried out by Australian boats and crews.
The major arguments in favour of establishing joint venture projects were that the creation of a substantial export industry based on prawns would be accelerated and-
-Order! As it is now 2 hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House, the debate on the motion is interrupted.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Bowen) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the discussion of notices being extended until 12.45 p.m.
– Another argument used in favour of establishing joint venture projects was the fact that Japanese companies involved in them were already engaged in prawning operations off the north coast of Australia and legally could continue to operate with as many vessels as they wished. However, they have given an undertaking not to continue independent operations now that the joint venture projects have been approved. That might be of some interest to the honourable member for Dawson.
The Government did not believe at any time that Australians -could not develop this industry and it is fully aware of the development that has taken place off the Western Australian coast. Nevertheless, the two arguments I mentioned are valid, particularly since the prospects for the prawn industry are such that the opportunities for Australian companies and Australian fishermen to participate will not be weakened but in fact are likely to be strengthened by the entry of the Japanese interests. Claims in the Press about foreign operations in the Gulf appear to be somewhat exaggerated. As far as is known, all Japanese vessels operating for prawns across the north of Australia are associated with the approved joint venture projects and their continued operation will be subject to the normal provisions of the Australian legislation. Other than the Japanese, it is possible that at some future date vessels from Taiwan and Korea may enter this fishery beyond the 12-mile limit. However, it is expected that before this occurs the Australian operation will have been so firmly established that competition from such foreign vessels will not be significant.
If the pirate prawn operations continued there would be several ways to deal with the problem. Firstly, the pirate operators would need to compete on international markets and my understanding is that the shore based operations getting under way would be far more economic. If the operators came from countries other than Japan they would be unlikely to succeed or compete successfully for markets as the main market is Japan itself. They would need to get a licence from the Japanese Fishery Agency and Australia would be in a strong position for consultations.
Only yesterday the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) foreshadowed increased patrol activity by the Royal Australian Navy. The Department of Primary Industry and the Department of Defence have had discussions about patrol activity for some time now and a survey has been taken to try to obtain ways of covering the points required on this vast coastline. I do not know when the arrangements will be announced. It may involve a joint operation by the Air Force and the Navy but certainly there will be increased patrol activity in the area.
As to the Great Barrier Reef, the position, as explained by the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen), is that all islands above the high water mark now have a 3-mile seal around them plus a further 9-mile fishing zone so that a large portion of the Reef is covered. The parts of the Reef not covered are protected by the Pearl Fisheries Act. That legislation protects pearl shell, trocus beche-de-mer and green snail. The Government has been actively studying the question and considering whether at this time the Act should be extended to cover clams, shell fish and the coral reef itself. This would prevent despoliation and destruction of one of nature’s wonders.
I oppose the resolution moved by the honourable member for Dawson. The action he proposes would be illegal under international law. The action proposed by the Government will lawfully correct any weaknesses and will protect Australian fishermen and Australian interests in fishing as well as the Great Barried Reef itself.
– I support the resolution moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and supported very ably by my colleague the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton). The Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) has spoken about the Great Barrier Reef from the viewpoint of one who enjoys the comfort of living in the south, and not as the honourable members for Leichhardt and Dawson do. I would point out that the electoral boundary of the honourable member for Leichhardt extends to within 2 miles of the coast of Papua and New Guinea. He cannot share the comfort of the Minister who believes that every action is being taken and every safeguard is being provided. The Minister read passages from a very informative document prepared by the Department of Primary Industry and I thank him for that information. He spoke of the arrangements that have been made about the joint fishing ventures in the Gulf of Carpentaria. At the moment the Minister is representing the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony).
The Minister for the Interior pointed out that under this joint proposal the use of foreign vessels and crews will be on a temporary basis only. He stipulated the temporary basis as being for not more than 5 years. But I have some experience of fishing. If the Minister cared to check with the Fisheries Branch of the Department of Primary Industry he would find that most of the prawn beds discovered in recent times were worked out in less than 5 years. I would pay a tribute at this stage to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for its work on prawns. There could be reasons why the beds were worked out in that period. Indeed, various reasons have been put forward. One of them is that there was continuous trawling of these areas and this prevented the growth of the smaller prawns. The taking of the smaller prawns has resulted in the despoliation of the prawning areas.
I can remember the prawning beds that were found some 8 or 9 years ago in the Tin Can Bay and Fraser Island area. Up to 100 prawning trawlers, from 8 feet to 18 feet long, were operating from Tin Can Bay and returning after a night’s operation with loads of up to 2,000 lb of prawns. They would set out at 4 o’clock the next afternoon, if the weather was right, for another load. This went on for a short while and today at Tin Can Bay there would not be more than half a dozen trawlers operating. None of them is making a good living. I spoke to one fisherman who has spent all his life in that area and he said that he would still be taking prawns until he died. He is dead, but fishermen are not taking prawns in anywhere near the same quantity.
If continuous operations are allowed within the Gulf- of Carpentaria waters the same situation will result. If unrestricted trawling is permitted outside the 12-mile limit - and it will be unrestricted, if we take notice of what the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) said - and if it continues for 5 years, I am prepared to say that there will not be a living for the people in that area irrespective of the extent of the prawning grounds in the Gulf at the moment. I say that the Government has been over-generous in allowing this fishing. I ask the Minister to confer with his colleague with a view to ascertaining whether some sort of restriction such as a closed season should be introduced, at least within the Gulf area, to ensure, that the prawning grounds are protected and are not fished out because of the taking of small prawns. This has occurred in the past. The Minister would realise this if he lived further north, say in New South Wales. At Moreton Bay and along the coast from Caloundra the prawning beds have been worked out. There are not enough prawns there now whereas the fishermen were able to make a living previously. They are now restricted to the taking of small prawns and only occasionally do they get a decent catch. Earlier there was a real bonanza. The same position will apply in the Gulf.
I appeal to the Minister to have something done about getting at least a closed season. However, according to the AttorneyGeneral we could not operate a closed season outside the 12-mile limit. The Attorney-General told us what could not be done. He gave all the legal reasons why it could not be done and why he could not accept the resolution moved by the honourable member for Dawson. He quoted reasons but he still has not made it clear, to me at any rate, that the Gulf of Carpentaria is and different to, say, Hudson Bay. The position is that the Queensland. Government claims that the State’s boundaries extend right across the Torres Strait and take in islands within Torres Strait and also take in the major portion of the Great Barrier Reef. It claims that the waters in these areas are Queensland territorial waters. I am sure that the Acting Premier of Queensland, Mr Chalk, will be disappointed with what has been suggested by the AttorneyGeneral in this respect. Mr Chalk is reported as having said on 24th May.
If foreign fishing vessels fish in our territorial waters contrary to the laws of Queensland the State will be constrained to exercise its powers of law, including the seizing and forfeiture of any offending vessel and the arrest of its crew.
Under what powers could the Queensland Government do this? Prior to 1901 Queensland did have a navy, but it handed it over to the Commonwealth Government. As the Commonwealth Government has the powers I should like to see more vessels of the patrol boat type, and perhaps a little faster, stationed at different ports along the Queensland coast so that they could make occasional patrols of the areas to ascertain what is happening.
In the ‘Australian Fisheries Newsletter’ of March 1968, it was reported that the New Zealand Prime Minister, Mr Holyoake, had announced on 26th January that a Japanese fishing vessel had been recalled to Japan. An article in that publication pointed out that at 3 a.m. on 20th January HMNZS Kahawai’ detected, by means of radar and search lights, dories fishing within New Zealand’s territorial waters. Two Japanese mother ships were well outside the 6-mile limit, but the dories. were not. The Japanese Embassy was advised and the ships were recalled. I am pleased that another Queenslander, the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) intends to speak, but I am sorry that not much time remains for debating this motion. I am glad to note that the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) and the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) have voiced their support of what the honourable member for Dawson has said outside the Parliament.
– I am grateful to the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) for sitting down and enabling me to have 2 or 3 minutes in which to state my view, and, I believe, the view of my colleagues on this side of the House. I have time only to state these simple propositions. First, I agree that it would be a disaster of the first order for Australia if our fishing industry were to be destroyed by allowing it to be mined, as it were. It should be farmed and developed. I do not think that this proposition has to be argued at all. The second proposition - and, again, I do not think it has to be argued - is that as far as our territorial waters and our jurisdiction as it now extends to the 12-mile zone are concerned, that area should be protected, and protected completely against any shipping coming into it. This is a case that has been stated repeatedly and with great clarity and vigour by the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett). It is not only the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton) and other honourable gentlemen opposite who are concerned about this issue. The honourable member for Herbert went on record a long time ago as having said that our waters must be protected against people coming in and infringing our rights in those waters.
Australia is a party to a number of international conventions dealing with the sea and with fishing industries. I hope that no honourable gentleman opposite will contend that we, as a party to an international convention, having entered into it should turn round and shun, in the first instance, our responsibilities towards the other contracting parties and, secondly, ignore the rights that stem from such conventions. The principal convention with which we are involved in the present debate is the convention dealing with the territorial sea and the contiguous zone. That is in force, so far as Australia is concerned. This Parliament, of course, is sharply limited in its field of operations.
– Order! The time allotted for precedence to general business has expired. The honourable member for Moreton will have leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day under general business for the next sitting.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr McMahon, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to continue for another 5 years - and in a revised form - the incentive provided through the payroll tax law for manufacturers and others to increase exports from Australia. The pay-roll tax incentive is one of two incentives for exporters that are provided through the taxation laws. The other measure takes the form of an income tax concession based on expenditure to find and develop export markets.
Some time ago the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) announced that the Government had decided to make a number of changes in the two export incentive schemes. Subsequently the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Sinclair) made a statement outlining in a fairly detailed way the scope of the contemplated revisions. This Bill gives effect to the decisions on the pay-roll tax incentive. It has not yet been practicable to draft legislation to implement the decision on the income tax incentive for export market development.
I assure the House that the Government is proceeding with the drafting of the necessary legislation. It will be brought down in the Budget session and will be effective as from 1st July 1968. The pay-roll tax incentive is one based on export performance. It provides a financial benefit to exporters in relation to increases in exports over those made in a specified base period. Speaking broadly, the benefit takes the form of a rebate of pay-roll tax paid by persons who export goods or whose goods are exported.
The present incentive was first introduced in 1961 and operated until the end of the financial year 1962-63. It was then renewed for a further 5 years so that it now terminates at the end of the current financial year. The Government is satisfied that the scheme has served very well the purposes of encouraging export activity. At the same time, however, it sees the necessity for some reforms. Some of these are desirable from the viewpoint of those engaged in export activity. Others have been found desirable by the Government in its review of the taxation concessions that it is appropriate to offer exporters in the changed circumstances since the measures were first introduced as an incentive to export action.
A major change proposed by the Bill is the introduction of a new and simplified formula relating rebate entitlements only to increases in export sales. Hitherto, the rebate has been determined in relation to the proportion that increases in export sales bear to the total receipts of a business. The new formula, on the other hand, will provide that the entitlement to a rebate of pay-roll tax will simply be 10.5% of the increase in the value of exports. The increase in exports will be calculated by deducting from the current year’s exports the average annual exports in a base period.
Under the present scheme, the increase in exports in any year is the excess of exports of that year over the average of exports in the years 1958-59 and 1959-60. The Government has concluded that this fixed base period is now too remote as a base to be used for determining a rebate for exports for 1968-69 and future years. It has been decided, therefore, to replace the present base period with a 3 year period which moves forward each year but remains 5 years behind the year of export. For example, in 1968-69, the first year of operation of the new scheme, the base period will be the 3 years 1960-61 to 1962-63. In the next year, the base period will be the 3 years 1961-62 to 1963-64, and so on. This moving base necessitates special provisions to ensure that taxpayers newly entering into export activities are treated on an equitable basis as compared with established exporters. The Bill contains such provisions.
A criticism that has been levelled at the present system is that many exporters achieve export results which would entitle them to greater benefits if the rebate were not limited to the amount of the pay-roll tax that they pay for the particular year. The new scheme will include a provision to allow exporters to carry forward, for a period of 3 years, an amount of an excess rebate entitlement for a financial year that does not exceed 50% of their pay-roll tax liability for that year.
The Bill proposes an improved export certificate system which, it is expected, will also be of considerable assistance to exporters whose export results for a financial year will, under the new formula, entitle them to greater benefits than the amount of their payroll tax liability for that year. Under the existing scheme a producer for export can issue export certificates to firms which have supplied him with materials or components of a kind that he has used in goods he has exported. These certificates effectively transfer to the supplying firms some, or all, of the producer’s increases in exports. However, before the rebate value of the certificates to the supplier can be ascertained, it is necessary for the amounts stated in the certificates to be taken into account by the supplier for the purposes of the existing and rather involved formula as though they were his own increases in exports.
Under the new scheme, the exporter will be able to pass to his suppliers certificates which will, in effect, represent in the hands of the supplier a direct entitlement to a rebate of payroll tax paid by the supplier. In fact, they will show on their face the amount of payroll tax rebate the supplier may obtain. Suppliers will therefore find the value of certificates much easier to assess than under the old scheme and it will be much simpler for them to make a claim for rebate. In addition, present limitations on the value of certificates which an exporter may issue to a supplier are to be modified so as to encourage a more widespread use of the export certificate system.
In contrast to the present scheme, the new scheme will also permit the issue of export certificates to export merchants involved in export sales of goods they have acquired from the producers of the goods. To prevent undue benefits being obtained through the issue of certificates to export merchants, however, it is provided that the rebate to be allowed to a merchant cannot exceed an amount that bears to his payroll tax liability for a year the same proportion as his export sales in the year bear to his total sales in the year.
Special arrangements have been made under the new scheme in recognition that the exports of some firms may have been adversely affected by the recent devaluation of foreign currencies. It is proposed by the Bill that exporters, who are able to demonstrate that the overall value of increased exports achieved in 1968-69 has been materially affected in an adverse way by devaluation, will be permitted to substitute, for the purposes of their 1968-69 rebate, the Increase in exports over the present base period achieved in either 1967-68 or 1966- 67. These cases will be examined individually by the Department of Trade and Industry and, where the facts warrant it, a certificate will be issued entitling the exporter to select, for his rebate entitlement in 1968-69, an export increase achieved under the old scheme in respect of 1967-68 or 1966-67 or the actual increase under the new scheme in 1968-69.
In some cases affected by devaluation, the exports of either or both of the substitute years may have been abnormally high as a result of unusual trading conditions. In these cases, there will be authority for the value of the exports in the year selected by the exporter to be reduced to a more normal level. The exporter will have a right to have any such reduction reviewed by a taxation board of review and may elect, in the light of the board’s decision, to adopt the exports of such of the 3 years as are most advantageous to him for rebate purposes. 1 mention that cases of this kind are expected to be few in number.
I turn now to the types of export activity that will be eligible for the rebate under the new scheme. Some additions are proposed to the scope of activity covered by the existing scheme. On the other hand, certain exports which are eligible under the present scheme will not be eligible under the new. First, I mention goods which are exported in an unassembled or partly assembled condition. Under the present scheme, manufacturers of such goods, other than of motor vehicles, can claim a payroll tax rebate only in respect of the value of components included in the export pack which, broadly speaking, they themselves have processed. Under the scheme, however, manufacturers will be able to claim as their exports the full value of the unassembled or partly assembled goods, provided that these goods can, on assembly, be converted to a usable article and the manufacturers are engaged in producing such articles in Australia. There are the further qualifications that the manufacturers must, speaking broadly, use Australian goods as far as practicable in their manufacturing operations and establish that the export pack contains a minimum of 50% Australian content.
The export of certain know-how and professional services will also be within the compass of the new scheme. As to knowhow, it will be required that the knowledge or information exported have a meaningful Australian content. One objective of this is to encourage Australian research in this area. Container system units specially designed for transport by ship or aircraft, and for convenience of transfer of goods from one form of transport to another without unloading or repacking, are specifically brought within the ambit of eligible exports by the Bill.
The broad approach the Government has adopted in its review of the payroll tax rebate scheme is that the incentive should be concentrated on exports of manufactures and primary products, where the need for incentives is greatest. Although they have been eligible in the past, exports of petroleum products, minerals, mineral concentrates, alumina and iron pellets or other agglomerates of iron will not participate in the new scheme. The Government has taken the view that there is not the same need for such an incentive in this area. The inclusion of this area would have meant either a substantially smaller scale of rebates than is now proposed for the exports to be covered by the scheme or a very large addition to the prospective cost of the scheme. 1 mention, however, that minerals of a kind used as fertilisers will not be excluded, nor will salt or products obtained from the treatment of salt. No change is being made by the Bill in the availability of the rebate to gold producers.
A further point, which I am sure honourable members will quickly appreciate, is that to form a judgment of the operation and effect of a scheme such as this from time to time, it is necessary for Ministers and departments concerned with policy aspects to have all reasonable access to information as to how the scheme is working out in practice. For this reason the Bill will empower the Commissioner of Taxation to communicate information of this kind to Ministers, and to the Secretaries of the Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry, if the Treasurer is satisfied that the information is necessary for the purpose I have mentioned. Officials receiving such information will be under the same obligations to maintain secrecy as apply to taxation officers.
A memorandum explaining technical aspects of the Bill is to be made available to honourable members and I do not think it is necessary for me to speak to the Bill at any greater length at this stage. I commend the Bill to the House.
Bill (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr McMahon, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to obtain parliamentary approval of a further contribution to the Internationa] Development Association of a sum not exceeding the equivalent of $US24m. As most honourable members are probably aware, the International Development Association, or IDA as it is more commonly called, is an affiliate of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. It was set up in 1960 because many less-developed countries were not able, or could not afford, to borrow overseas on commercial terms. Many of these poorer countries did not have access to international capital markets because they
IDA loans, or development credits as they are called, bear no interest and are repayable over 50 years with a 10 year period of grace. A small service charge of¾ of 1% per annum is levied to cover IDA administrative expenses. I would emphasise that, notwithstanding these soft terms, the projects which IDA finances are subject to the same rigorous analysis and appraisal with respect to both their economic worth and their technical feasibility as the World Bank itself applies in its own lending operations. In point of fact, the two institutions have a common staff.
IDA now has more than 100 member countries which are divided into two broad categories. The more economically advanced countries are classified as Part I members. They are required to pay all of their capital subscriptions in convertible currency. The less developed countries are classified as Part II countries and 90% of their capital subscriptions may be paid in local currency which they are under no obligation to convert. In 1960 Part I member countries, including Australia, agreed to subscribe roughly $US150m a year to the initial capital stock of IDA over a 5 year period. Australia’s share of this total was 2.7% involving us in annual contributions equivalent to SUS4.04m.
In 1963 Part I member countries agreed to replenish IDA resources over the 3 years 1965-66 to 1967-68 at the rate of roughly $US250m a year. Australia’s share of this total was 2.7%, involving us in annual contributions equivalent to $US6.6m, which was about two-thirds greater than the rate of our subscription to IDA initial capital stock.
All of these resources - which have been supplemented by interest on investments, six additional voluntary contributions by Sweden totalling $US28m, and transfers amounting to $US210m which the World Bank has made to IDA out of Bank profits - have now been almost fully committed by
IDA for lending to less-developed countries. As at 31st May 1968, IDA had agreed to provide credits totalling SUS 1,746m to thirty-eight member countries or territories, leaving it with uncommitted resources at that time of only about$US50m. The need for a second replenishment of IDA resources is therefore urgent if IDA is to make any further loans.
After lengthy negotiations, Part I member countries agreed, subject to parliamentary approval in their respective countries, to a second replenishment of IDA resources at the rate of $US400m a year over the next three years. This represents a 60% increase on the rate of contribution under the first replenishment exercise. This agreement on replenishment at the rate of $US400m a year was reached only after some modifications to the scale of contributions of Part I countries. The United States, France, Australia and South Africa have reduced their percentage shares of the total contributions and Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden have increased theirs. In addition, Switzerland, which is not a member of IDA, has agreed to participate in this replenishment exercise by providing a loan equivalent to$US 12m. This loan will be on the same terms as IDA lends. I ask for leave to have incorported in Hansard a table which compares the prospective contributions to IDA by Part I member countries and Switzerland over the next 3 years with actual contributions to both IDA’s initial capital and the first replenishment exercise.
– There being no objection, leave is granted, subject to the usual terms and conditions governing the incorporation of material in Hansard.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. The document reads:
Honourable members will observe from the table that, in this replenishment’, Australia’s share has been reduced from 2.7% to 2%. Having regard in particular to the numerous demands being made on Australia for aid of all kinds, the Government felt that 2% was a more appropriate share for Australia to undertake. The Government also had in mind that Australia’s overall official aid performance is relatively much better than that of all other Part I countries except France. If contributions had been based on relative national incomes of all Part I countries, a figure of 1.7% would have emerged for Australia. In all the circumstances, therefore, a figure of 2% seems to be reasonable enough. I might add that, despite the reduction in our percentage share, the greatly increased amounts agreed upon for this replenishment will involve an increase of about 20%, from $US6.6m to $US8m, in Australia’s annual contributions to IDA.
Agreement on this second replenishment exercise was also subject to some changes in respect of financing procedures. IDA’s present policy of arranging procurement of goods and services on the basis of competitive international tendering will remain. But, in an effort to help the United States in its present balance of payments difficulties, it was agreed that during the period to 30th June 1971 and for as long thereafter as might be necessary and IDA’s resources would allow, IDA would call upon the United States “contribution only to the extent required to finance goods procured within the United States. This was intended to mitigate the adverse effects of IDA’s operations upon the United States balance of payments position. Such amounts of the United States contributions as were deferred would, of course, remain subject to call by IDA if it should exhaust all its other resources. Because of the uncertainties which surround our own balance of payments position, our representatives made it clear that any agreement on our part to contribute the equivalent of $US24m to this replenishment exercise would carry with it the explicit understanding that, should Australia run into serious balance of payments difficulties, IDA would sympathetically explore ways of achieving a mutually satisfactory variation in the calls it made on Australia.
This agreement to replenish IDA’s resources at a considerably higher level over the next three years is subject to at least twelve countries with pledges totalling not less than $US950m notifying the IDA management that they have taken all the legislative steps necessary to authorise payment of their respective contributions. It is hoped that this will be achieved by 30th June next, so as to avoid any hiatus in IDA’s lending operations, but inquiries which we have recently made in various overseas capitals suggest that it may not be possible for a sufficient number of countries to meet this deadline. In that event, however, it seems likely that this period will be extended. Because of the size of the contribution of the United States the agreement cannot enter into effect unless and until it is ratified by that country. In any case, there seems every reason for Australia doing everything it can to see that IDA resources are replenished at the earliest possible date. IDA is by far the largest soft-lending agency in the world today. It has unrivalled expertise in matters affecting the economic development of poorer countries. It enjoys a very high reputation, as an efficient, businesslike institution which concentrates upon financing projects which are both economically viable and technically sound. Moreover, nearly threequarters of all IDA credits to date have gone to developing countries in Asia. Last year, India alone received credits worth $US200m from IDA and Indonesia should also receive substantial assistance in future when this replenishment exercise is completed.
The World Bank has accepted that Papua-New Guinea is an ‘IDA type country’ eligible to borrow on soft terms from the Association. In fact, proposals to borrow from IDA and from the World Bank on the territory’s behalf are under consideration at the present time. This should please all honourable members. I need hardly add that the less-developed countries themselves attach great importance to the early replenishment of IDA resources. This Bill provides us with an opportunity to demonstrate again our support of IDA, an effective and efficient organisation, and our willingness to contribute again, through IDA, to help the lessdeveloped countries achieve faster rates of growth and improved standards of living. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Freeth, and read a first time.
– Mr Speaker, I move:
On 7th May, when introducing the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill 1968, the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) informed the House that the Government proposed to introduce a second DFRB Bill during this session to deal with those members who extend their service and pensioners who serve again. This Bill establishes the conditions under which certain of these members will contribute to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund and makes provision for pension on eventual entitlement. At present only officers of the Regular Forces and Regular Force other ranks members engaged for 6 years or more enjoy membership of the fund. In the case of officers, whose ages for retirement from the Regular Forces range from 45 years upward, their entitlement to contribute to the Fund ceases when they retire from the Regular Force even though their service may continue for many years in a Reserve or Supplementary Force. Similarly, an other rank member of the Regular Forces who, on establishing entitlement to pension after 20 years’ service from age 20, transfers to a Reserve or Supplementary Force, also loses the right to contribute to the Fund and a better pension. The two Bills will enable such members to continue their contributions to the Fund.
Contributing members who continue to serve without breaking continuity will contribute on the same basis as previously. Pensioners who serve again and meet the qualifications of a contributor will contribute on the percentage of salary basis that has applied to members entering the Fund since 14th December 1959. Age on first entering the Fund will determine the percentage rate of the contributions. Should a pensioner re-enter at a rank lower than his rank on first retirement he may contribute on the basis of his new rank or, alternatively, elect to contribute on the basis of the pension category appropriate to his rank at first retirement. Pension will not. be paid during the period the pensioner is again contributing to the Fund. Benefits payable under the Act can vary according to whether a member retires before or, alternatively, on or after the retiring age for his rank.
Because different retiring ages may apply to the same rank according to the particular force in which a member is serving, provision has been made in this Bill to prevent a member who continues to serve being placed at a disadvantage. For example the retiring age for a major in the Australian Regular Army is 47 years, but the retiring age increases to 60 years if the major transfers to the Regular Army Supplement. In certain circumstances, the higher retiring age would operate to the detriment of the member and even extinguish a pension entitlement that would have been established had the member chosen to retire at the earlier retiring age instead of transferring to the other force and continuing to serve. Accordingly, the Bill provides for the Permanent Force retiring age to apply in lieu of a greater retiring age for the purposes of certain provisions. Should the member’s retiring age for rank be less than the Permanent Force retiring age, then the lesser retiring age for rank will apply for the purposes of those provisions.
Subject to these adjustments of retiring age provisions, contributing members who continue to serve will establish pension entitlement in accordance with existing provisions of the principal Act or the legislation that applies to contributors who entered the Fund before 14th December 1959. An age retirement pensioner who, during his previous service, was contributing for his full entitlement and who, on retirement after his further service, has attained the same or a higher rank than the rank on first retirement, will receive pension in accordance with the provisions of the principal Act, adjustment being made for the periods during which he did not contribute to the Fund. In those cases where the pensioner did not contribute for his full entitlement during his previous service, commuted part of his pension after retirement, or retires on the second occasion at a lower rank, the pension payable at second retirement will be at such rate as is determined, by the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board as being appropriate having regard to all the circumstances of the case. In broad terms, the pensioner at second retirement will receive the pension payable prior to recommencing service plus an additional amount determined by his category at second retirement and the period during which he contributed following re-entry.
Provision also has been made to cover the case of an invalidity pensioner who returns and who, on second retirement, has nol sufficient contributory service to qualify for pension. Such a person will be granted in retrospect a refund of contributions and invalidity gratuity in respect of his earlier service less the pension received while a pensioner. In addition there will be paid to him his contributions in respect of his second period of service and gratuity if so entitled.
The principal Act at present requires a member who retires without entitlement to pension on other than invalidity grounds, and who subsequently returns to service, to re-enter the Fund as a new member; he does not have the option of refunding contributions and gratuity and having his earlier service qualify as service for pension purposes. The current Bill does not vary this principle, but in the light of representations that have recently been made by the Chairman of the Government Members Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Committee, the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Stokes), the Government proposes to examine this question in conjunction with other matters raised by that Committee with a view to bringing forward legislation in relation to any changes decided upon in the Budget session later this year.
The Bill also makes special provision for those pensioners serving immediately before the commencing date of the new legisation who will not again contribute. Should such a pensioner be retired on invalidity grounds with incapacity for civilian employment of 60% or more or should he die while serving, the retirement pension previously payable will be replaced by the generally higher rate of pension that would have been payable had death or invalidity discharge occurred at the time of the earlier retirement. These special provisions will also apply to pensioners who served again and either retired on invalidity grounds or died between 28th June 1965 and the commencing date. The additional cost of these pensions will be met by the Commonwealth. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
– I move:
This course has been taken for very many years by successive Leaders of the House. The purpose of the- motion is to facilitate the business of the House. In order to get through the legislative business of the House it is necessary to have the opportunity to introduce measures after 11 p.m. It is not my intention that new business of what might be described a major character should be introduced after 1 1 p.m.
– The Opposition opposes this motion. The motion is carried only in order that new business may be initiated after 1 1 o’clock at. night. No motion is required to permit business to proceed which has been initiated one second before 1 1 p.m. Honourable members will see the pattern if they look at their daily Hansard for this sessional period. So far this year we have sat on 23 nights. On only 7 of those nights have we adjourned before 11 o’clock. Of the other 16 nights, on 4 occasions we have sat until after midnight. On each of the last 7 nights on which we have sat we have not adjourned until after 1 1 o’clock. Let me recall to honourable gentlemen the times at which we have adjourned on the last 7 nights on which wc have sat as follows:
It cannot be said that during this sessional period we have not been able to do our business after 11 p.m. So far this year we have sat more than twice as often after 11 p.m. as we have adjourned before 11 p.m. We have sat till after midnight on four occasions and on the last three sitting nights we have sat till after midnight. We should recognise that sooner or later the Australian National Parliament must sit for more days and nights in the year. We sit on fewer days in the year now than we did in the 1940s during and after the war. We sit on fewer days in the year now than we did in many of the years before the First World War. The British Parliament and the American Congress sit for very many more days than we sit in this National Parliament.
– Do they sit as often at night?
– Not so often. On any day we do sit, we sit at night. There are occasions when the British Parliament and the American Congress do not sit at night, but the American Congress and the British Parliament have a great deal of committee work. We have comparatively very little committee work. Accordingly we should recognise the fact that members of Parliament in all the legislatures with which we compare ourselves sit more days than we do in the Parliament and many times the number of days any of us sit on committees.
– What is the total number of hours they sit?
– I cannot answer that, but I believe one would find that in any week when either the Westminster or the Washington legislature sits, the legislators sit more days in the week than is the case with our legislature.
– What about the size of the quorums?
– I accept that. If that is the trouble let us reduce the quorum.
– Do you mean that? Are you prepared to reduce the quorum?
– Reduce the quorum? Yes, I will consider that.
– You said if that is the problem you would do it. Will you agree to do it?
– The problem I am dealing with-
– If you examine Hansard you will find that you said you would agree to it.
– I have not said I will agree to it.
– He said he would consider it.
– He said he would consider it after he had said he would agree to it.
– Of course I will consider it. It is true that our quorum here is larger than the quorum in Westminster, but the issue we are debating is whether this House should permit the Government to initiate business after 1 1 o’clock at night. The only excuse for initiating business after 11 o’clock at night is that the Parliament cannot otherwise debate the measures which the Government will introduce in the number of days which the Government allows Parliament’ to sit. The way to tackle this is to have the Parliament sit on more days. If this involves hardships to members, one method of alleviating that hardship is to reduce the quorum. For instance, at Westminster the Parliament sits over the dinner period and no quorums are called during that time. There are various methods by which one can alleviate the hardships of members. Nevertheless let us acknowledge that this Parliament has not increased the number of its sitting days. All comparable legislatures have increased the numbers of their sitting days.
I was asked a question by the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) by way of interjection, about the number of sitting hours. I believe that the number of hours which the American Congress or the British House of Commons sit in any week when they do sit is greater than the number of the hours during which this House sits in any week in which it sits. When one looks over the course of a whole year, I think one will find that those legislatures sit many more hours than we sit in this chamber.
We object to having new business brought in after 1 1 o’clock. It sometimes suits the Government to have business debated after 1 1 o’clock. The Minister says that he will not introduce any controversial matters after 1 1 o’clock. He will be able to, but by the same token, 1 think it can be said that if he puts a proposition to my Deputy, as leader of the proceedings on our side, or to me, that a matter pf a formal character should be brought in - a first reading or even a second reading - we would not dismiss it out of hand. There are occasions on which we will very willingly collaborate in having a matter brought in in adequate time for people to read it over a weekend or before a weekly Caucus meeting. For instance, it would suit a very great number of honourable members to have a first reading or even a second reading after 11 o’clock on a Thursday night if this gave them an opportunity to look at a matter on the week-end. On these matters the Opposition has not been obdurate. But the reason being advanced by the Government is that this should be as a matter of course, not as a matter of leave.
As I say, it often suits the Government to have matters debated after 11 o’clock. We go off the air at 11.30 p.m. The morning papers go to bed well before that. Accordingly things which are said after 11.30 at night cannot be heard by anybody over the radio. Things which are said after 9.30 at night are very rarely reported in the newspapers the following morning. The Government can take advantage of these circumstances whenever it wishes, because if a debate has started a second before 1 1 o’clock it can go all night. The Standing Orders permit this. None of us should approve of it but, as I pointed out, it has happened. It has happened the last two nights when the National Service Bill has been discussed. We will not facilitate the initiation of new matter after 11 o’clock. Any debate that has been commenced before 1 1 o’clock can go all night.
What matters are to be brought in? If one looks at the notice paper and compares it with the blue business sheet for today, one will notice there is not a very great number of Bills still on the notice paper. Of the Bills which are on the notice paper and have not yet been debated my Party has already decided ils attitude on all except three. Accordingly there is no reason to believe that at the rate which is anticipated by today’s business sheet we will not be able to get through the Bills on the notice paper in a very few more sitting days. We have never objected to the number of days on which Parliament sits; we have objected to the lateness of the hours Parliament sits. The Minister has not stated what legislation he has in mind to introduce after 1 1 o’clock or what business he has in mind to resume after 11 o’clock. He has given no reasons why matters must be initiated or brought up after 1 1 o’clock. Accordingly, we will vote against the motion.
– Are you suggesting that there will be a first reading after 1 1 p.m.?
– I say that if the Leader of the House puts such a proposition to us we will certainly consider it. We have not been obstructive in these matters. The Government can always seek leave to introduce a measure after 1 1 p.m. Any member, of course, can object to leave being granted. But I do not think-
– You cannot control your followers.
-Order! I suggest that the Minister’s remarks should be directed to the Chair,
– The Leader of the House would not be able to control honourable members on his side of the chamber if he sought leave to introduce new matters after 11 p.m. The Leader of the House wants a blank cheque to bring in new business after 11 o’clock. I reiterate that the Opposition has not been in any way obstructive. The Leader of the House cannot point to any instance in which we have obstructed the introduction of new legislation for which there has been a reasonable case. But he has not made any such case here. He is asking for a blank cheque for the rest of the sessional period to enable the Government to bring in new business or to introduce other business after 11 p.m. The Minister has not stated which Bills are to be introduced after 11 o’clock. He has not stated what issues he has in mind. Accordingly, the Opposition resists the proposal that this Wank cheque be given.
– I support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). For 67 years the power to introduce new business after 1 1 p.m. has been in the hands of every government. If I had my way I would remove from the Standing Orders for good provision for this privilege. When the Australian Labor Party was in office this practice was carried on. The present Government has continued it. This matter was discussed by the Standing Orders Committee at the end of last year. The Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden). who is Leader of the House, opposed the idea that the power to introduce new legislation after 11 p.m. should be taken out of the hands of the Government. The thoughts I put forward at that meeting are the same as the thoughts I hold now. I still believe that no government should have the right to introduce new legislation at the ridiculous hour of 11 p.m. Most sensible people are in bed at that hour. I am absolutely opposed to the motion moved by the Leader of the House on behalf of the Government. A motion in similar terms will be moved just before the end of the Budget sessional period.
Civilised thinking has certainly not penetrated the minds of those who plan the work of this Parliament for the Government, even after all these years of so called civilisation. 1 regard the present practice of introducing new business after 11 p.m. as barbaric treatment of the Parliament and its officers and members. I stress that it is not only members of the Parliament who are affected by late nights; the staff of the Parliament, including transport drivers and the Hansard staff, is involved also. Members of the staff are no less human than members are. But they have to work on at least a solid hour after honourable members depart, no matter what the hour.
– Unfortunately, they have no say.
– They have no say; they have to work on and remain silent. After they finish work they go home and try to sleep as best they can. They have to be back here in time for the commencement of the next sitting, often after a very short interval. It is utterly and completely inhuman for the Government to persist with this motion.
Last Tuesday’s sitting was adjourned at 1.10 a.m. on Wednesday. Wednesday’ssitting was adjourned at 12.56 this morning. We were back at work again at 9 a.m. this morning. Not only is the Labor Party opposed to the introduction of new legislation after 11 p.m.; it is opposed also to this House sitting beyond 12 midnight when ordinary debates are in progress. We told the Leader of the House last year that he would get no co-operation from us if he persisted in the practice of extending the sitting time beyond midnight. We are prepared to sit beyond midnight occasionally, if necessary. But we are not prepared to sit past midnight as regularly as has been the case this session. The House still has twenty-one Bills to debate. Ifwe took 2 more weeks and adjourned the sittings on 13th June we would not have to sit late at night in order to finish.
The House finished debating the National Service Bill at about 9.30 last night. In 2 days, we had eighteen divisions on that Bill in Committee. Between 9.30 last night and 12.56 this morning, six Bills were passed through this House. In the light of these facts, the Minister cannot say that we are unco-operative in relation to the passing of legislation. Why is this motion brought forward? We believe we should be able to deal with our business adequately by 11 p.m. each day. After all, we are supposed to be living in a civilised age. 1 add my protest to that expressed by the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon. We resist the motion.
Why cannot the Government’s planners introduce all new legislation before 11 p.m.? Why do they persist in introducing new legislation after 11 o’clock? We could sit another week in order to avoid late night sittings. The Opposition has said this time and time again. My leader criticised the Government for causing the Parliament to meet on fewer days than the last Labor Government required us to meet. This happened, it is true. But if the people of Australia consider that members of this Parliament do no more than sit here all day and pass legislation, they have another think coming. The biggest part of the programme that a member of Parliament has to undertake is undertaken outside the Parliament, in his own electorate. Nevertheless, the Opposition is prepared to sit an extra week or two if necessary so that the daily sitting can finish at 11 o’clock at night instead of at midnight or later. That is a reasonable and rational proposition. I, as Opposition Whip, would do all I could to co-operate with the Government in working under such arrangements. But I consider the present motion inhuman and barbaric.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. W. J. Aston)
Majority . . . . 31
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Mr Snedden’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. W. J. Aston)
Majority . . . . 31
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Snedden, and read a first time.
– I move:
The main purpose of this Bill is to reduce the qualifying period for furlough entitlement of Commonwealth employees coming under the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act and who are retrenched. The Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act contains the furlough provisions relating to a wide range of Commonwealth staff members, including those of various statutory authorities and temporary employees in the Commonwealth Public Service. Currently, an employee who is retrenched is eligible to apply for a furlough payment if he has had at least 8 years qualifying service.
The Government has for some time been considering whether this qualifying period of 8 years should be reduced. Late last year, in another place, the now Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), when speaking about staff of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, said:
I am prepared to say that the Government will press forward the examination, which has already begun, of the superannuation and furlough benefits to apply on retrenchment to all Crown employees, of whom the members of the staff of the ASIA would be some, with the intention of introducing legislation in the autumn session. Any legislation which is introduced will apply retrospectively to those members of the staff of the ASIA involved in redundancy as a consequence of the introduction of the permanent employment scheme.
The Government has now completed its consideration of this matter and has decided that the qualifying period for furlough benefits on retrenchment should be cut by half - that is, reduced from 8 years to 4 years. I interpose here to say that a companion Public Service Bill will shortly be introduced and a related Superannuation Bill will follow.
In deciding to legislate for this reduced qualifying period of 4 years the Government desires to see uniformity of treatment of employees whose furlough benefit accrues because of termination of employment through no fault of their own. The
Bill aligns the qualifying period on retrenchment with that for retirement on account of ill health and that for payment in lieu of furlough to the dependants of an employee who dies. As promised by the Government on the occasion quoted above, this amendment will be retrospective to 1st September 1967, the date of the first retrenchment from the staff of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority.
The Bill also seeks to reduce from 8 years to 4 years the qualifying period for furlough for persons who retire after age 60, thus bringing it into line with a similar existing provision in the Public Service Act. This proposed amendment will also apply to an employee who retires, in accordance with the terms and conditions of employment in a particular field, by reason only of having attained an age less than 60 years, for example, an air hostess. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Webb) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Snedden, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This short Bill, as I foreshadowed a few moments ago, is a companion measure to the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Bill (No. 2) 1968. The Public Service Act contains provisions for the furlough benefits of permanent officers of the Commonwealth Public Service. Temporary employees are, as I said earlier, covered by the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act. In section 20 of the Public Service Act there is provision for the retirement - that is, the retrenchment - of an officer who is excess to staffing requirements. The provision is rarely used and action under it would only be taken as a last resort. [Quroum formed.] It is, however, obviously necessary that the furlough benefits in the Public Service Act do not lag behind those in the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act.
This Bill therefore provides for reduction of the furlough qualifying period, in the event of retirement under section 20 of the Public Service Act, from 8 years to 4 years.
The proposed amendment, like the similar provision contained in the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Bill (No. 2) 1968, will be retrospective to 1st September 1967, although no case of retirement under section 20 is expected to occur between then and the date of Royal assent to this measure, if it is passed by the Parliament. I commend this Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Webb) adjourned.
Bill- by leave - presented by Mr Snedden, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill will amend the Superannuation Act 1922-1967 by removing the qualifying period for eligibility for retrenchment benefits provided by the Act. The amendments have become necessary in consequence of the Government’s decisions concerning the furlough and superannuation benefits of Commonwealth employees who are retrenched. [Quorum formed.] In this respect, this is a companion measure to the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Bill (No. 2) 1968 and the Public Service Bill 1968. At present the Superannuation Act provides that to qualify for retrenchment benefits a Superannuation Fund contributor must have contributed for not less than 10 years and a Provident Account contributor must have been in continuous employment for not less than 10 years immediately before the termination of his service.
For the Superannuation Fund contributor the retrenchment benefit is a lump sum equivalent to the amount of contributions paid by him to the Fund plus an amount equivalent to the contributions that the Commonwealth would have paid had the Commonwealth contributed to the Fund at the same time as the contributor. The retrenched employee is given the option of receiving an actuarial equivalent pension in lieu of the lump sum. The Provident Account contributor who qualifies for the retrenchment benefits receives a lump sum equivalent to three times the amount of his contributions plus interest.
Contributors to both the Superannuation Fund and the Provident Account who at present do not qualify for retrenchment benefits are deemed to have been discharged and receive a refund of their own contributions without any Commonwealth supplement. The amendments contained in this Bill, my removing the qualifying period provisions, will have the effect of extending the benefits currently provided for those who qualify for retrenchment benefits, to all contributors whose service is compulsorily terminated for the reason that their services or position is not necessary. The amendments will have retrospective effect from 1st September 1967, in common with the companion Bills that I have introduced. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Webb) adjourned.
– I move:
The proposal involves the erection in brick construction of an accommodation block for senior sailors and senior members of the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service, a galley and mess for junior sailors and junior members of the WRANS, and a victualling store. The galley and mess and the victualling store will be single storey buildings and the accommodation block will consist of ground and two upper floors. The estimated cost of the work is Si. 2m. I table plans of the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
– Mr Speaker, I direct your attention to the state of the House.
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)Ring the bells.
Mr Bryant - For the benefit of the Government supporter who is interjecting I say that I am entitled-
-Order! 1 suggest that the honourable member conform with the Standing Orders of the House and speak only when he is called on to speak. [Quorum formed.]
– The purpose of the Bill is to implement the changes in the constitutional arrangements for the Northern Territory which I informed the House on 16th May had been agreed to by the Government. The major change proposed is embodied in the proposal to amend the composition of the Legislative Council by increasing the number of seats for elected members from eight to eleven, and abolishing the three seats for nominated nonofficial members. A number of other amendments to the principal Act will be necessary as a consequence of this change, including provision for the appointment of three elected members to the Administrator’s Council.
In my statement on 18th May I said that the decision to replace the nominated non-official members by three elected members was an important one. It is important to the people of the Northern Territory because it will increase the elected representation in the Legislative Council. It is important also because the way in which the new arrangements operate in practice could have a bearing on the course of constitutional development in the Territory in later years. Mr Speaker, the Government has been accused of many things for its attitude to constitutional change in the Territory. It is said that we are intent on retaining control of the Territory for as long as possible; that we wish to deny the legitimate political rights of the people of this vast area of the Commonwealth; and that Canberra control is stultifying development there. None of these accusations is justified. This Bill is in itself a denial of these charges.
The Government’s policy is not determined by a desire to retain control of the Territory for as long as possible. There are, however, certain principles with which it considers the arrangements for the government of the Territory must be consistent in the interests of good government. These principles were set out in the statement made by the present Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes), who was formerly Minister for Territories, when he informed the House in May of last year of the result of talks between the Government and representatives of the Legislative Council. There have been significant changes in the arrangements for the government of the Territory since the Legislative Council was first established in 1948. Every change has been directed to increasing the participation by residents in decisions concerning the Territory, although Commonwealth expenditure has been increasing in recent years at an average of approximately 15% per annum.
In 1960 the Legislative Council was reconstituted so that official members did not form a majority of the members. At the same time the Administrator’s Council was established to give some of the elected and non-official members of the Legislative Council a say in matters concerning the executive government of the Territory, and the Act was also amended at the request of the Legislative Council to enable the Governor-General to return ordinances with recommended amendments as an alternative to disallowance or the withholding of assent. In 1965 the Administrator was withdrawn from the Legislative Council, which now elects its own President. The Darwin City Council has been responsible for local government in that city since 1957. It is, and has been since its inception, receiving generous financial assistance from the Commonwealth. The Government stands willing to consider similar assistance for other town areas of the Territory interested in running their own civic affairs. This year discussions have been held with the Town Management Board for Alice Springs on the possibility of local government there and I am hopeful that we will soon see the second local government authority in the Territory.
When discussing the governmental arrangements for the Territory, local government is often ignored. The tendency is to look at the arrangements at the top of the political structure without examining the structure as a whole. Local government is an important tier of the structure by which we, as a people, govern ourselves. The opportunity exists in the Northern Territory for the people outside Darwin to exercise a measure of self government through local government authorities and at the same time gain the administrative experience necessary to exercise responsibility at a higher level of government.
The people of the Territory are not without political rights. They elect a member to this Parliament who has now the same voting rights as other members of this House. The elected members have, since 1960, constituted the largest single group of members in the Legislative Council and this Bill proposes that the people should elect a majority of the members of the Council from the next general elections to be held this year. The Administrator’s Council provides the means for elected members to participate in executive decisions concerning the Territory and there has been increasing consultation with that Council on a wide range of subjects including the large development proposals for the Territory.
On the question of the economic development of the Territory, any one with any familiarity with the Territory would affirm the great strides forward that have been made there in recent times. Population has increased during the last 10 years from 38,000 to about 62,000. The value of new buildings approved for construction has risen from $4.6m in 1956-57 to $13.2m in 1966-67. New vehicles registered in the year 1956-57 totalled 700 while new registrations in 1966-67 were 2,700. Savings banks’ deposits which stood at $3.8m in 1956-57 rose to $12.5m in 1966-67 and the number of civilian employees increased from less than 8,000 to about 16,000 over the same period. There are other figures which could be quoted to illustrate the development of the Territory - the mining and quarrying production increased from $9.2m in 1956-57 to $20.5m in 1967; the growth in retail sales from $13. 5m to $40m in this period. The fact is that the Northern Territory can no longer be represented as the Cinderella of the Commonwealth. It is one of the most exciting development areas of Australia.
It is true that the Territory with a population of 62,000 has more people than some States when self-government was given. The conditions existing when the various States were accorded the right of selfgovernment are far different from the conditions of to-day. Australia is a developing country, and the Northern Territory is one of the fastest developing areas. Development means money to provide the special services needed and it requires people with the necessary skills to enable development to take place.
The Commonwealth is spending approximately $61. 6m in the Northern Territory this year on State-type functions. Revenues of a State-type raised in the Territory will be approximately $8. 9m. The excess of about $53m represents the direct contribution by the Commonwealth - and the Australian taxpayers, I might add - to the costs of administering the Territory. On a per capita basis - $860 - this is far more than the grants to the States by the Commonwealth which this year range from about $94 per capita for Victoria to $231 for Tasmania.
I have given these figures to illustrate the . financial position of the Territory because this must be borne in mind when discussing possible forms of government for the Territory. Responsibility in government comes through those who have the political power deciding between the various competing demands for funds, and having made these decisions, determining then how the burden of meeting the costs of government shall be distributed among the community they represent. The likely level of revenue which would be available to a possible executive drawn from the Territory would clearly be insufficient to sustain ‘responsible government’ in the proper sense even with generous State-type assistance grants from the Commonwealth.
The Northern Territory is an integral part of the Commonwealth under the Constitution and its future lies, as the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has said, as part of our Federal system. Developments taking place there have a long-terra national importance for all Australians. Yet, to put the Territory into proper perspective there is still approximately 62,000 people residing in an area which comprises one sixth of our continent.
The provision for an elected majority in the Legislative Council is a welcome step forward, lt represents a considerable increase in local participation and responsibility in government. With this change we will have advanced to a stage at which the constitutional theorist might say there is an imbalance in the distribution of executive and legislative power in the Territory. I should perhaps illustrate the point I am trying to bring out. Ordinances passed by the Council which have only local1 significance and do not affect the structure of administration are normally accepted. Since 1960 the Council has made over 450 ordinances and there have been only fifteen substantive cases of rejection of whole ordinances and one case of disallowance of a single section in the period to 1967.
There are, however, developments in the Territory which have national significance. I would mention the development of bauxite at Gove, manganese at Groote Eylandt, silver and lead at McArthur River, sorghum at Tipperary, and the various proposals for establishing prawning and wood chip industries in the Territory. All these are heavy investment industries and development is preceded by detailed consultation with the Government. Wherever possible the views of the Administrator’s Council are sought at appropriate stages of the negotiations.
In these policy areas it is to be expected that the elected members of the Legislative Council would give a reasonable recognition to the Government’s responsibilities when considering legislative proposals. In a similar category are matters concerning the welfare of Aboriginals; the implementation of agreements between the States and the Commonwealth for uniform legislation; the administrative arrangements for the government of the Territory; the financial responsibility of the Commonwealth in the Territory; and policies for economic development including land and mineral development. Despite some overlap in the distribution of authority and responsibility between the Government and the Legislative Council, the Government believes that there is no reason why these new arrangements should not work well in practice given that there is goodwill on both sides.
The other charge proposed by this Bill is unrelated to the composition of the Legislative Council. It concerns the power of the Governor-General in regard to ordinances. The Act now provides that the Governor-General may disallow an ordinance or part of an ordinance assented to by the Administrator. Where an ordinance has been reserved by the Administrator for the Governor-General’s pleasure, the Governor-General may assent to, or withhold assent from, the ordinance, or return the ordinance to the Administrator with recommended amendments. Though an ordinance can be disallowed in part, assent cannot be withheld from part of an ordinance.
The Bill1 proposes a new provision, similar to that included recently in the Papua and New Guinea Act, to provide that the Governor-General may withhold assent from part of an ordinance. The advantage in this to the legislative councillors is that if an ordinance introduced by an elected member contains an unacceptable provision which is not fundamental to the ordinance as a whole, it would then be possible to allow the major part of the ordinance to stand, only the unacceptable provision being omitted.
Government is most effective when the people take an active interest in it. I would hope that the change in the composition of the Legislative Council which this Bill proposes will be an encouragement to people to widen their interest in matters which come before the Legislative Council. Government for the people requires that the people be prepared to make their views known through those who represent them in the political institutions. lt is fitting that I should pay a tribute to those who have since 1960 served as nonofficial members of the Legislative Council: Their position has not been easy. They have been subject at times to considerable pressures and have had difficult decisions to make. I believe that they have consistently been guided by their view of what was best for the welfare of the Northern Territory and I express to them the thanks of the Government and the Parliament for their public service.
As I said earlier, the Territory is going through an exciting stage of development. New mineral discoveries, agricultural development through new crops and methods, and new projects to develop other natural resources such as fishing and forestry, are changing the face of the Territory and the attitude to it of people who have money to invest. I am confident that the Territory will continue to grow, to the betterment not only of those people who live there but to the advantage of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 15 May (vide page 1469), on motion by Mr Freeth:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– On behalf of the Opposition I move the following amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘this House, whilst not declining to give the Bil] a second reading, is of opinion that the financing of the purchase of aircraft by the Australian National Airlines Commission should be met from revenue and not from a loan raised overseas’.
The purpose of the Bill is, as the Minister for Air and Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr Freeth) said, to seek the approval of Parliament to the borrowing by the Commonwealth of 16.8 million Deutsche Marks, which is the equivalent in Australian terms of about $3.75m. The money is to be borrowed from the Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt, Germany, to assist in financing the purchase of four Fokker Friendship quick change aircraft by the Australian National Airlines Commission. I say in passing that in my view the Fokker Friendship is the most uncomfortable aeroplane that we are called upon to travel in. I do not know why so many seats are jammed into so little space with so little distance between them. I take it that this is part of what is called the rationalisation between the two airlines. In order to fit four more people into the aircraft, everybody is made uncomfortable.
However, four such aircraft are to be purchased and their price is a fairly meagre sum of S3. 75m. It is at this point that we take issue.
The Commonwealth’s purpose in going into this transaction is to underwrite the purchase on behalf of Trans-Australia Airlines. The Government arranges the finance and, in turn, TAA repays both the principal and the interest from subsequent earnings. I cannot understand why a government such as ours with a budget of about $5,000m, in a country whose international reserves are of the order of $ 1,000m, finds it necessary to borrow a sum so small as $3.75m over a 4 or 5-year period, lt is even more difficult to understand when the interest rate is to be the equivalent of nearly 7%. In our view this is a highly imprudent way financially to encompass such a transaction.
– If the amount is so small, why worry about it?
– We could well ignore many small things, but sometimes life is patterned by an accumulation of small things which add up to something somewhat larger. In this instance the transaction, in terms of national accounts, is small. Why should we have to go through what is the humiliating process, almost, of a hire purchase transaction, with all the hidden clauses written into a document? In this instance the document is rather more unusual because it is in German and not in English. This puts it outside our linguistic comprehension, whatever the difficulties might be on legal grounds when it is translated.
In passing I should like to say something about the translation of the schedule to the Bill. As honourable members know, Bills which are presented to the House are not incorporated in Hansard. I suppose that for the most part the view is taken that what is presented becomes an Act and is freely available somewhere else. However, neither Bills nor schedules to Bills are usually incorporated in Hansard, yet when introducing this measure the Minister said:
One unusual feature is that the definitive text of the agreement is in German. This text is shown as the schedule to the Bill. Copies of an English translation of the text are available to honourable members and, at the conclusion of this speech, I will seek leave of the House to have the translation incorporated in Hansard in order to have a permanent record.
I raised this point at the time of the second reading speech before I sought the adjournment of the debate. I think sometimes that we should have a little better clarification than we seem to have of what should be incorporated in Hansard. 1 have suggested that sometimes there seem to me to be very good reasons why explanatory memorandums which are attached to Bills ought to be incorporated in Hansard, but of course there is sometimes the difficulty that they are so bulky that there would be difficulties and technical problems associated with the printing of a daily Hansard. I concede this. Nevertheless, within these memorandums there is explanatory material which would certainly illuminate the pages of Hansard for anyone who may read them later. Surely the purpose for which Hansard is printed is that later somebody will be able to read it. If it is read it should be as comprehensible as possible. In my view it would be more comprehensible if this explanatory material were incorporated.
What we have before us on this occasion seems to be a rather peculiar compromise. With all respect, 1 doubt that the incorporation of this schedule was decided after consultation with Mr Speaker. I think, rather, that somebody in a department thought that something would be achieved by having a translation of a schedule, which normally would not appear in Hansard, incorporated on this occasion. I think that this is a point which is worthy of consideration by those who are responsible for this sort of thing and I mention it in passing. Some may have thought that the purpose would have been served had there been an English translation of the schedule attached to the Bill because, after all, it is the Bill that people will want to read. Presumably when this legislation is passed, if it is passed, the schedule which will be attached to the Act will be in German with no English translation. Whether it will be convenient for those who want to look at the Bill to go through Hansard to get a translation I do not know. I submit that if legally the schedule must be in German, a better arrangement would have been to append to the Bill at least what purported to be an authoritative translation, rather than have it incorporated in Hansard. However, as 1 have said, I make that comment only in passing.
I should like now to make a couple of observations on remarks made by the Minister in his second reading speech. As .1 have said, we object to this measure because we think the sum is trivial and the interest rate is exorbitant. The Minister said in referring to the interest rate:
The overall average interest cost of the borrowing will be a minimum of 6.65% per annum and a maximum of 7.04% per annum.
Conceivably it could be as low as an average 6.65%, but it could be as high as a little more than 7%. 1 would incline to the view that it will be nearer to the higher than to the lower alternative. 1 have suggested that the effective borrowing rate will be about 7%. The Minister assisting the Treasurer said:
The average interest rate will be high by historical standards, but compares very favourably with rates being paid overseas by other borrowers in foreign capital markets.
A little later he said:
Another point is that, while the average interest rate is much higher than we would have contemplated a few years back, the interest we now earn overseas on the investment of our international reserves is also much higher than we would have believed possible some years ago. lt seems to be a peculiar kind of justification for borrowing this money at a high rate of interest for the Minister to say that at the same time as we are borrowing this money we are earning a high rate of interest on our short term loans overseas. This loan is a long term one. The transaction involves a period of some 4 years or 5 years before final repayment is made. lt seems to me that the Government is becoming rather indifferent to the interest rate that prevails. We on our side have suggested always that more people in the community gain by interest rates being low than profit by interest rates being high. Generally the people and interests which profit by the general interest rate being high are a fairly select section of the community. On the other hand, the borrowers, such as the people with mortgage accounts, hire purchase agreements and so on, who are the ordinary run of people in the community, are the ones in the long run who are mulcted by high interest rates. The contention that, because we are earning reasonable rates on the funds that we have invested overseas we can be indifferent to the rates at which we borrow overseas, seems to rae to be absurd. We are doing the national housekeeping. After all, this is what this measure is concerned with.
The Minister Assisting the Treasurer seems to justify this action also by stating in his second reading speech:
The borrowing will be authorised under the 1967-68 programme approved for the Commonwealth at the Loan Council meeting in June 1967 and will be additional to the Commonwealth’s approved programme of $123m for State housing purposes. The terms and conditions of the loan have been approved by the Loan Council.
Of course everybody knows that the terms and conditions that are approved by the Loan Council are approved under what are sometimes called the ‘gentlemen’s agreement arrangements’ and mainly represent what the uncomfortable State Premiers agree to with the pistol pointed at their heads by the Commonwealth Treasurer. 1 think that it is time we dropped this sort of national humbug. The Loan Council, for all practical purposes, is simply a kind of residual legatee for the funds that the Commonwealth believes are left over for State works programmes. But to suggest as a justification for this measure that it has the approval of the State Premiers seems to me to be a very weak reed indeed to lean upon.
The Government also justifies this borrowing which is part of an assembly of small things as my friend, the honourable member for Barton (Mr Arthur), mentioned a few minutes ago, by saying that it is wrong just to look at this matter in isolation and that we ought to look at this measure over the period of years that it has been in operation. In his speech, the Minister Assisting the Treasurer, stated:
The fact that this is the eighth occasion on which parliamentary approval has been sought for this borrowing means that the original measure must have been passed quite a number of years ago. I would submit again that had this payment been arranged in the first instance as a cash transaction the Commonwealth in aggregate would have been so much better off, interest rates on foreign borrowings being as high as they are.
After all, it seems to me to be rather absurd, when short term funds are available for the Government to commit itself to repayments over a 4-year or 5-year period to an additional charge of 35% of the cost of the transaction. I do not know whether our new colleague, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Dobie), who has had, I understand, some experience in the field of practical banking, is prepared to justify this kind of transaction in the circumstances and in accordance with the terms as proposed. I think it is accepted always that some people in the community have to take advantage of credit transactions if they want larger sums of money at one point of time than their resources enabled them to get immediately. After all, this is what the banks and financial institutions are for. Nevertheless, it is still a very prudent rule that the best arrangement, if one is able to manage it, is to pay cash as one goes.
We submit that this is the situation that the Commonwealth is in at the moment in terms of its large national resources and also the availability of accumulated funds. I do not wish to go into the reasons why what is said to be a credit in our international transactions is not, as it were, what it appears to be. A simple comparision is that of a man who regards his financial position as stable if he has a bit of cash in the bank or a little money to rattle in his pocket, whereas he should look at the whole balance sheet which includes his includes his liabilities as well as one’s assets. Of course we all know that the sum which temporarily appears as our international reserves is simply an accumulation over a considerable number of years of the difference between what we have earned by exports and paid out for imports, plus that rather obscure other item that is called capital inflow. While we appear to have $ 1,000m or so of international reserves, in effect we have assets in Australia of approximately $6,000m which are owned by people outside Australia. Whether in those circumstances our situation is to be regarded as strong is open to a variety of interpretations.
I rather thought that some of the backpatting that went on after Britain’s devaluation of sterling recently was uncalled for. The suggestion was that Australia was a prudent country and not foolish like the United
Kingdom and the United States of America which had lived beyond their means. Somehow Australia was more virtuous in a financial sense. I suggest that such a view represents a pretty quick reading of our international transactions over the last 10 years or IS years. Some of those matters will be brought out by my colleagues during this debate. In conclusion, I will repeat the amendment that I have moved on behalf of the Opposition to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘this House, whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, is of opinion that the financing of the purchase of aircraft by the Australian National Airlines Commission should be met from revenue and not from a loan raised overseas’.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– 1 second the amendment.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I certainly listened to the speech of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) with great interest. I must confess that I did not agree with most of his basic philosophy. But I did agree entirely with his comments on the Fokker Friendship aircraft. As he can well imagine, for one of my size the question of comfort in such aircraft does not even arise. However, the experts have chosen that aircraft and we are stuck with it and so we must go on with this measure.
Despite the seeming regularity with which these airline equipment loan Bills are brought before the House, I believe the House should be constantly reminded that, as far as the Government is concerned, we welcome overseas borrowing of this nature. Indeed, it follows the long term policy of the Liberal Government. In a country that is desperately short of its own capital; in a country that must be dedicated to a policy of strong development of its resources; in a country where we can display a stable government; in a country where we are subject to the vagaries of world prices for our exports of primary produce and traumatic seasonal fluctuation, we must borrow so that we can exploit our energies and resources in our own time. To suggest, as the Opposition so regularly ‘ does, that we should finance our business enterprises from within is a long way from reality. If I may refer to the comment made by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) I would point out that cash as you go is not really the way to run a government. At a time when we are unable to supply sufficient capital to meet expansion plans and when our local money market is strained to its limit, we should welcome an agreement which allows us to obtain satisfactory finance from reputable and reliable overseas financial institutions.
On the one hand we hear honourable members opposite critcising borrowings in Australia by overseas companies. We are told that this causes an undue and unnecessary strain on our banks. This claim is perfectly true. After all, the national finance cake’ is only so big and may be shared only so far. But it is a’ specious argument we hear from the Opposition benches that our financial institutions miss out on interest income when loans are obtained overseas. The great problem is not a case of Australian organisations missing out on loans; it is a serious case of finding enough funds in Australia to go round. However, when we are able to secure loans of this type overseas for Australian enterprises, the Government becomes subjected to the continuing criticism of the Opposition that such loans should have been undertaken within our own shores, if indeed such loans should have been sought at all.
It is certainly a quaint carry-over from pre-Keynesian days to suggest that we should finance our activities only from current revenues or accumulated savings. Yet this is the basis for most of the thinking on the Opposition benches when it comes to financing both government and private enterprise alike. For all too long we have heard such out-dated and old-fashioned ideas from the Labor Party. This is all right if there is going to be slow and uneventful growth; if we are to wait for our savings to accumulate. But if we are to grow at a rate in keeping with the general excitement that charges throughout the Australian community today, it is necessary for us to augment our base of resources so that we can develop as we should.
Our policy, which includes the encouragement of fixed investment from overseas and the searching for loan markets throughout the world at a time when international loan funds are not freely available, is to develop Australia as fast as we possibly can, and this Bill continues our policy of augmenting our capacity to develop.
One notes that the finance provided under this Bill is for four new quick change versions of the Fokker Friendship propjet aircraft at a cost of $lm each. It represents a considerable achievement to have been granted a 93.8% loan on the total purchase price of $4m, and the financial negotiators of TAA are to be congratulated. No doubt the Deutsche Bank has some agreement with the Fokker company - N.V. Koninklijke Nederlandsche Vliegtuigenfabriek Fokker Amsterdam - but it speaks highly for the reputation of the Australian Government and Australian businessmen that such a high loan ratio was granted by this leading world bank in West Germany, h should be constantly borne in mind that the international money market for any country, whether at the governmental or private level, is narrow. After all, when the Government goes to New York and London for funds it is only a narrow and specialised portion of that market which has any interest at all in investing in Australian loans. So it is worth recalling at this time some of the banking institutions which have granted loans to the Australian National Airlines Commission in the past few years. In 1963 the Morgan Guaranty Trust Co. of New York lent us $11m. In 1964 we borrowed from such organisations as the Bankers Trust Co., the Morgan Guaranty Trust Co. of New York, the Chase Manhattan Bank, the Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Co. of Chicago and the American Security and Trust Co. In 1966 we dealt with all of the organisations to which I have referred as well as the Chemical Bank New York Trust Co., the Irving Trust Co., the United California Bank, the Northern Trust Co. and the Bank of America National Trust and Security Association. Last year we dealt with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce Ltd. This year we are borrowing from the Deutsche Bank of Frankfurt. It is a very healthy sign that in a limited market we have been able to obtain funds from such a wide range of financial institutions over the years, and this for TAA alone. The criticism is often levelled - we heard it again today from the honourable member for Melbourne Ports - that this is not the time to borrow such a relatively small sum as $3. 75m. Surely this is the very time to build up our international reserves at a time when our international reserves are in a healthy position, for this is when the rest of the world has its greatest faith in us and it is a time when we can borrow on the best possible terms.
Though the rate of interest may appear to be somewhat high, it is certainly a satisfactory rate when one considers the present tightness of the international money market. It is certainly not exorbitant, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports suggested; in fact he was quite firm about it. As the Minister for Air (Mr Freeth) stated in his second reading speech, the overall average interest cost will be a minimum of 6.65% and a maximum of 7.04% per annum. It must be remembered that despite international conditions this is still only fractionally higher than the average rate of 6.5% which was the interest cost in a similar loan obtained from the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in 1967. The variable interest rate which is now being charged is a normal feature overseas and it is quite obvious that in our future borrowings overseas this feature will be included.
Apart from the political philosophy behind borrowing overseas the fact remains that this Bill allows the importation of an asset of economic value to Australia. I believe that despite the discomfort of the Fokkers we can be justly proud of the record of our domestic airlines and their capacity to install modern fleets of aircraft.
My main reservation about this Bill is a concern that the four Fokker Friendships are to be used to modernise existing services operated by the Australian National Airlines Commission. I hope that these new aircraft will not be used by TAA as a lever to expand into new routes in Australia, more particularly when we see the situation of TAA’s fleet in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, which is not properly equipped to handle the routes it operates there. Anyone who has been forced to travel in the uncomfortable and poorly equipped DC3s operated by TAA in New Guinea - I think they are called sidesaddle DC3s - can only be amazed that these new Fokker aircraft will not provide relief from the passenger pressures that hit the Territory during peak periods, such as school holidays. My own experience earlier this year of such features as non-fitting safety belts and lack of cabin crew is an example of what the residents of certain parts of New Guinea have grown to regard as normal first-class service from TAA during peak periods. I would hope that (here will be some benefit accruing to the longsuffering travellers in the Territory and the staff of TAA from the new aircraft provided by the Bill now before us. It has been a keen disappointment that no remarks were made to this effect during the Minister’s second reading speech. One can only assume that if TAA is not going to equip its New Guinea fleet with modern, safe and efficient aircraft, in the near future, then the obvious answer lies in TAA foregoing some of the routes it holds at the present time. I would draw the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) to these deficiencies which obviously are not to be cured by the equipment being bought under the loan funds being approved by this Bill.
Mr Deputy Speaker, there are so many features on the financial aspects of this matter which are to be commended. The use of loan finance with a favourable interest cost, the use of overseas finance with a consequent easing of pressure on the Australian money market, allow us to bring in assets of a proper economic value straight away. It means that we can achieve greater efficiency in our airline system while the repayment of the loan and the interest can be met out of a more efficient airline operated on a larger scale. Although this Bill is small in amount, it follows the philosophy of this Government that we should build up our international reserves, and because of this reason alone, if for no other, it should be supported. The size of international reserves should not be related to the size of this Bill and I would hope that subsequent speakers do not do so. I can only hope that the standard of financial negotiations, which has been high, will be matched or improved in all services provided by the Australian National Airlines Commission, particularly in the territory of Papua and New Guinea.
In conclusion, I agree with the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) in expressing concern at the fact that the governing text of this contract should have been brought forward in German. I hope that there is no legal complication regarding the translation, because this is not unknown in business transactions in this country. It is one thing to have a classical German translation; it is another thing to have a commercial German translation. I would hope that we could be assured legally that there are no loopholes in this governing text. Finally, I would just like to comment that, apart from our international reserves, borrowing overseas in itself relieves pressure on interest rates in our own country. We must remember this point when we do go overseas to borrow. I hope that we will continue to try to borrow overseas. I hope that we will continue to be successful in our borrowing overseas. Far too often the Australian community takes it for granted that when we seek a loan overseas we will get it. As I mentioned earlier - and I emphasise it again - the borrowing market for Australia in international money markets is very narrow indeed. I believe that all people connected with this and other borrowings overseas for Australia should be highly commended.
Mr PETERS (Scullin) [4.29J- Mr Deputy Speaker, I have no objection to the $3,750,000 being raised in order to provide aeroplanes for Trans-Australia Airlines. Unlike the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Dobie) I think that TAA is competing in difficult circumstances with a private enterprise and is still maintaining an excellent service for the travelling public. If it were not hamstrung to the extent it is in the interests of a privately owned airline in this country, then it would be able to give even greater service to the people of Australia. I am not in a position, nor is the honourable member for Hughes, to determine whether the exact amounts that are being allocated for the provision of aeroplanes are being spent in exactly the manner in which they ought to be spent. That of course can only be determined by people who are employed in the industry from day to day - technicians, engineers and experts. The only objection to the Bill that is now before the House is that the amount of $3,750,000 for the purchase of these aeroplanes should not be raised as a loan in Germany but should come out of revenue. That means in effect that the aeroplanes should -be paid for out of reserve funds that Australia has available overseas. In reality there are only two ways in which these aeroplanes could be paid for. One is to raise a loan and the other is to pay for the aero, ines out of the funds that the Australian Government controls overseas. In order to determine which of the two methods is the better method we must examine exactly what happens when we negotiate a loan overseas in order to purchase aeroplanes and also what happens when we pay for them out of your funds overseas. If w.e borrow overseas, what happens is that we get the aeroplanes and the overseas investors get nothing at all immediately, but periodically they get a proportion of the $3,750,000 plus 7% interest plus accommodation fees and fees of that description. Tha’ 7% interest of course is free of all Australian taxation. If in Australia we raise a 7% loan, the people who subscribe to it would pay taxation to the Australian Government out of the interest they receive. Generally, I would say. the investing public is a rather wealthy section of the community, and the real return to the Australian investors would not be 7% but about 31%. Therefore the Germans get 7% while the Australians would get 3i% if the loan were raised here. In spite of that grave disability I still say that it is preferable to raise loans in order to finance overseas obligations of this country than to allow those overseas obligations to be financed per medium of investments in this country by those who are providing some requisite for the Australian community. These investors get in return for the money invested, the farms, mines and factories of Australia. The loan is a preferable method to that, but that is not the choice that lies before us. In this case the correct choice is not between raising a loan and financing the purchase of these aeroplanes out of investment money coming here from overseas;, the choice is whether we pay for the aeroplanes out of moneys we already have overseas or raise a loan overseas to .pay for them. The honourable member for Hughes said we have particularly healthy reserve funds overseas; that our reserves are higher than they have been for a considerable length of time. How can we better spread reserve funds than upon essentials that we cannot provide, such as aeroplanes? If overseas funds are good for anything, they are good for one thing - that is, the provision of those requisites that are essential to the promotion of the development of this country and which we ourselves cannot provide from within Australia. So we say to the Government: ‘Use your healthy funds for the purchase of aeroplanes’. Once we obtain overseas funds we have to decide what they will ultimately be used for. We have to decide whether they will be used for essentials. During the last 8 months capital inflow into this country has totalled $850m.
– That was portfolio investment.
– It was partly direct investment and partly other kinds of investment. The S>850m represents the nominal, the declared, amount shown by the official records. But all that $850m did not come here. In reality a proportion of this sum stayed outside Australia and buttressed and increased our overseas funds. Why did not this portion of the funds come into Australia? Capital comes mainly in the form of imports. Though the value of imports has been greater than ever before, it has not been as great as the S850m nominal inflow of capital. Exports paid for a certain proportion of our imports; about $801 m worth were not paid for by exports but were paid by overseas capital. Nearly $50m of the $850m described in the official records as capital inflow did not in fact enter Australia as imports, but was used to buttress our overseas funds. The point that I make is that the tendency is to spend money on all kinds of things when one has it. Mr Deputy Speaker, when the Minister for Social Services has finished his speech I shall, with your permission, resume mine.
-Order! The conversation across the table is far too loud.
– I think the honourable gentlemen at the table should either leave the chamber or refrain from talking while I am addressing the House.
-Order! The honourable member will address the Chair.
– I shall proceed, Sir. I was explaining for the benefit of the House that over a short period of 8 months the value of imports exceeded exports by $80 lm. This was the greatest deficit ever in our trading balance.
– You told us that.
– Yes, 1 did, and I will tell you this-
– Order! The honourable member for Scullin will address the Chair and cease taking notice of interjections.
– I am addressing the Chair and also answering the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King). During this 8 months period manufactured goods to the value of $2,000m were imported into Australia - an increase of more than $100m compared with the same 8 months of the previous year. The manufactured goods imported included clothing, textiles, footwear, furniture and toys. A major proportion of these goods could have been manufactured in Australian workshops by Australian workers. At present employees in the boot trade are being put off work because of the decrease in the proportion of our needs of boots and footwear being manufactured in Australia. Complaints have been received from manufacturers of shirts and clothing in all parts of Australia about competition by imported manufactured goods.
– What has that to do with Friendship aircraft?
– The question is whether we should import boots, shirts, clothing, furniture and toys or whether we should buy the aeroplanes that we need. If we reduce our overseas funds by $3,750,000 to pay for aeroplanes, we shall reduce the inflow of goods such as I have just mentioned. An honourable member opposite shakes his head. Apparently he disagrees. I draw his attention to the fact that in 1951 the Government encouraged imports into Australia. It flooded this country with imports. Then in 1952 the Prime Minister had to make a broadcast announcing restrictions on imports. Restrictions were imposed in panic because our overseas funds were dangerously low. We then purchased very little overseas, because we had no funds. If we have no funds we purchase very little, but if we have increasing funds overseas we are encouraged to expend our overseas resources on all kinds of goods, essential and otherwise.
– And we should thank the primary producers.
– As the honourable member says, we should thank the primary producers.
-I think the honourable member should get back to the Bill. Its purpose is to approve the lending of money to an Australian airline. 1 ask the honourable member to restrict his remarks to that subject and to disregard interjections.
– Do you, Sir, contend that I will depart from the scope of the provisions of the Bill if I explain to the House exactly what takes place when we utilise our overseas funds for the purpose of purchasing aeroplanes? That is . what this measure is concerned with.
-The honourable member is taking too much notice of interjections. He is making a good speech but he should keep to the subject matter of the Bill. If he does this, his speech will be an even better one.
– I agree with that portion of your homily in which you state that I would make a good speech if I disregarded interjections, Sir. It should be ..obvious to all honourable members that we have a choice in determining how. we . are to use the capital we have at present. The Opposition believes that we should utilise the resources of Australia, whether they are overseas funds or whether they, are other funds allocated for the purpose of buying things that are essential, for the promotion of the welfare of. the people of this country.
The Opposition regards aircraft as essential. Therefore we favour using our overseas funds to purchase them. Those funds could not be used for a better purpose. Unfortunately, all too often funds are diverted to other purposes conferring far less benefit to the nation, including the purchase of imports such as footwear, textiles and manufactured clothing. This policy has worse than a negative effect; it can be utterly disastrous for existing Australian industries producing those commodities. Often workers engaged in those industries lose their jobs because of such a policy. Many workers at Geelong and elsewhere are out of employment, and others are no longer engaged in jobs where their capacities may be exploited to the full. Many of them are no longer working in industries for which they have been trained. This sort of thing has happened to. people originally trained in the footwear industry, in the clothing manufacturing industry, in toy factories and in furniture factories. These people have to seek work of an unskilled type because of competition from goods imported from overseas. Those commodities should be manufactured in Australia, thereby enabling a better use of capital, creating employment and giving this country a better chance to plan an economy based upon local production, and enabling the nation to stand, as it were, on its own feet instead of having to rely more and more upon financial support of this type from other countries.
As the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) has put it, the sum involved here is not big. It is a mere $3. 75m. What is such a sum to a nation which over the past 20 years has increased its indebtedness to other countries by more than $6,000m? By comparison it is a grain of sand on the sea shore or a drop of water in the ocean. However, the multiplication of grains of sand makes up all the sand found upon all our sea shores and the multiplication of drops of water in the sea makes up the oceans of the world. For this reason we on this side want a reversal of the Government’s total policy before disaster occurs. We oppose a proposition that some members might regard as not of great significance.
– The purpose of the Bill before the House is to raise in Germany a sum of 16,800,000 German marks, which in Australian currency is the equivalent of $3,750,000. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) has moved this amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘this House, whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, is of opinion that the financing of the purchase of aircraft by the Australian National Airlines Commission should be met from revenue and nol from a loan raised overseas’.
I question the need for raising this loan and, for that matter, some other loans that have been raised overseas in recent years. Australians make great use of aircraft. They take advantage of one of the major internal airline systems of the world as shown by the last Civil Aviation Report available, that for the year 1966-1967, which shows that 4,324,278 passengers embarked on aircraft in Australia, travelling a total of 1,358,892,000 seat-miles. It is clear, therefore, that Australians make considerable use of their internal air services. All the aircraft that are operated by our international operator, Qantas Airways Ltd, together with those of the internal operators, Trans-Australia Airlines, Ansett-ANA, Airlines of New South Wales, MacRobertsonMiller Airlines Ltd, Airlines of South Australia, Ansett Flying Boat Services, Connellan Airways and East West Airlines, have been purchased overseas. Not one part of those aircraft has been built in Australia. It is high time that the Government, perhaps the responsible Minister, presented a report on this matter.
Australia already has a number of quite substantial aircraft industries. Included among them is De Havilland Aircraft Pty Ltd in Sydney, the Government Aircraft Factories at Avalon and Fishermen’s Bend and the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation’s works at Fishermen’s Bend. Among them they engage a couple of thousand employees. Unfortunately, this industry is in trouble. The reply given to a question asked this month by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports reveals that already 120 employees have been laid off at the Government Aircraft Factory at Fishermen’s Bend and dismissal notices for another 150 are pending. Indeed, this very day a deputation of representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions has come to Canberra to present arguments why men should not be laid off by the Government industry. I am bringing facts like this to the attention of honourable members in support of my contention that it is high time that the Aus- tralian aircraft industry, both private and Government, should make a more concerted move into the aircraft construction field, if not in building complete aircraft, at least in constructing parts for them.
Since 15th April 1957 the Government has negotiated on behalf of Qantas Airways Ltd and the Australian National Airlines Commission overseas loans totalling $250,340,000. Of this sum $247,340,000 was raised in the United States of America and $3m in Canada. Over the past 5 years Australia has imported other aircraft to the value of $120,314,000 and, in the same period, unassembled parts of aircraft to the value of $6,407,000. These figures reveal the tremendous amount of money that is going overseas, thereby providing employment opportunities in the aircraft industries of other countries. Instead, we in Australia should be developing and expanding our own aircraft industry. We have seen the position with the Mirage aircraft. Parts have been imported for them. The aircraft were imported to Australia in an unassembled condition and were assembled in Victoria. Some time ago one of the Mirage aircraft was involved in an accident and according to a report, a reassembly exercise was conducted with it. Apparently it had been a complete writeoff but it was reassembled by the Australian aircraft industry.
There is a great need for us to develop our aircraft industry, bearing in mind that in the last 11 years we have had to borrow $US250m overseas in order to meet the cost of aircraft. We have seen the announced requirements of the Australian airline industry. We know that TransAustralia Airlines and Ansett-ANA have announced already that in the next 5 years they will require aircraft which will cost about $100m. To pay for those aircraft, additional money will have to be borrowed overseas. Will those overseas loans be at reasonable rates of interest? Will they be at the average rate of 7% which applies to the loans raised under the Bill we are discussing?
Let us consider the requirements of Qantas. It already has placed a production line deposit on four Concorde A supersonic transports with spares. If we proceed with the purchase of these aircraft they will be delivered in 1974 at an estimated cost of $70m. Qantas also has placed a tentative order with the Boeing organisation for six supersonic transports which will allegedly be developed in 1976. These aircraft are not being built yet and are only at the drawing board stage. If Qantas proceeds with the purchase of these aircraft they will cost in the vicinity of $200m. The estimated price - the guess-timate price - of these aircraft is between $26m and $31m each. This was the estimate given in 1966. Since that time Boeing has run into additional trouble with these supersonic transports. It is facing weight problems. So we do not yet know whether the price will be $26m or $36m. The latest information was that Boeing had pushed the price up to a little over $31m. If Qantas proceeds with the purchase of those Boeing supersonic transports then Australia will need to borrow an additional $200m for them by 1976.
Furthermore, Qantas has placed a firm order for four Boeing 747s to be delivered in 1971. The cost of those aircraft is $123m. Qantas also has an option on an additional two aircraft for delivery in 1972 at an approximate cost of some $62m. In the last 11 years we have had to borrow $US247m and $Can3m - the difference is so little that I think it would be safe to say $US250m- and the figures I have quoted clearly indicate to honourable members what we can expect to have to borrow overseas in the next 5 or 6 years. The Government considers that it is quite proper to give to the oil companies a subsidy of 75c a barrel for crude oil because it says that local oil production will save $2,400m over a period of 10, 15 or 20 years. The Government does not appear to have stated any actual time over which this sum will be saved.
What concerns me most of all is that no attempt is being made to establish in Australia this kind of aircraft industry. I am not suggesting for’ one second that the big aircraft should be entirely built in Australia. I have been over the mock-up of a Boeing 747. It is a huge aircraft. I realise the capital expenditure necessary to build it. I realise the capital expenditure required to build the Lockheed L10-11 or the B.A.C. 111. But there is one think I did learn last year during my wanderings through the various factories of the aircraft industry: That when a government imposes certain conditions on the borrowing of money for these aircraft, or the importation of the aircraft, the manufacturers are prepared to permit the airline concerned - whether national airline or commercial airline - through its government, to have the local aircraft industry make certain parts of the aircraft. Large sections of aircraft today are being built or prefabricated in Canada and transported to the United States of America for assembly in Los Angeles, Seattle and other centres where there are big aircraft manufacturing establishments.
The same thing applies in Italy with Alitalia, the Italian airline. One of the conditions imposed by the Italian Government on the import of a particular aircraft was that a certain amount of it had to be built in that country. Australia is purchasing a large number of aircraft. Figures I quoted show that in the last 5 years the cost of aircraft imports has been at the rate of $127m. So far as future requirements are concerned we know that TAA and AnsettANA want at least another $100m worth of aircraft in the next 5 years. I have given the figures relating to Qantas.
I ask the Government what it is doing about imposing conditions on aircraft manufacturers so that parts of those aircraft can be manufactured in Australia. Does the Government have any idea of the size of the jigs that are used in the aircraft manufacturing industry? Manufacturers build a jig and proceed to make 100, 150 or 200 parts off it. There is no reason why this jig work cannot be done in Australia. There is no reason why wing assemblies, fuselage assemblies and tail assemblies cannot be constructed in Australia. We already have an efficient aircraft industry operating at Fishermen’s Bend. We have a government industry and a private industry. The private industry is made up of some fairly substantial representatives of Australian industry. I notice that the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd is one of the major shareholders in it.
The point I wish to emphasise is that if we are ever to develop an Australian aircraft industry we shall have to start very shortly. This would be one way of overcoming the need to borrow overseas such substantial amounts of money as have been borrowed in the last 11 years - some $US250m. I ask the Government seriously to examine the question of developing another Australian industry. Honourable members opposite may talk all they like about the costs involved. The United States and Canada have the highest labour cost factor in the world today. But the United States is the largest supplier of aircraft in the world. Admittedly the United States does have the industry and the turnover to absorb this large labour cost. Labour costs in United States industry are roughly double those in Australia. If the Americans can develop this type of industry with such a labour component there is no reason why we cannot fit into the pattern and in this way avoid the necessity for borrowing such large sums of money for the purchase of aircraft. I know that, as far as Qantas is concerned, it will be said that that airline is a great overseas income earner for Australia. We accept the fact, but this is a way whereby we could avoid the need to borrow to purchase these aircraft and at the same time we would be developing our own industry.
I have been through one of the Fokker factories where the new F28 is being built. I wonder whether TAA should not be buying F28 aircraft, which are pure jets, instead of F27 aircraft. Some report should be made to the Parliament. All we know is that a Bill has been introduced to authorise the borrowing of $3. 75m by Trans- Australia Airlines to purchase some F27 aircraft. We have not had a report on why we should purchase aircraft of that type. A similar thing happened a few years ago when no report was given to the Parliament - and no explanation was forthcoming from the Department of Civil Aviation - about why Lockheed Electras should have been purchased in preference to the French Caravelle aircraft. Anyone who has travelled in Electras and Caravelles knows that the Government and TAA were sold a pup by Ansett-ANA. I should like to know what was the rake-off for AnsettANA that actuated it in bringing pressure to bear on the Government to buy Electras instead of Caravelles, because there is no comparison between the two aircraft. At present Electras are being phased out. TAA is trying to get rid of its Electra machines. Qantas has got rid of its Electras. Every airline in the world is getting rid of Electra aircraft because the type is outdated. The Caravelle, on the other hand, is probably one of the most popular aircraft in Europe today. I repeat: We have had presented to the Parliament no report that would justify buying the F27 aircraft instead of the F28, which is the latest aircraft being constructed by the Fokker company.
The capital outlay involved in setting up an aircraft industry is not too great and there is no reason why, if we are to buy DC9 aircraft, the Australian Government should not say to the Douglas company: ‘If we are to spend S50m, S60m or $10Om on buying your aircraft, it shall be a condition of the purchase that some component part of the aircraft be built in Australia’. It does not matter whether we are buying DC9 or DC8 machines or the Douglas air bus. There is no reason in the world why parts of these aircraft should not be built in Australia. The Italian Government, as a condition for the purchase of aircraft from the United States of America, requires that parts of the aircraft have to be built in Italy. It is time Australia started to drive a hard bargain. When we examine the different types of aircraft in the world today-
-Order! I remind the honourable member that he can make passing references to these matters but that he should return to the subject matter of the Bill, which is the raising of loan money.
– What I am trying to point out, Mr Deputy Speaker, is that I do not consider that there is any great need to borrow this money. I am trying to suggest ways whereby it need not be necessary for Australia to borrow so much. We have borrowed $250m from overseas in the last 11 years and our borrowing will really escalate in the next 5 years. I believe I should point out these facts to honourable members and to you, Sir, and should suggest how much borrowing can be avoided. I ask you to extend leniency to me and to accept my explanation.
– Passing references to matters other than the subject of the Bill are acceptable.
– I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. When we examine different types of aircraft - for example, the Boeing 707, the Douglas DC8 or the Convair - we realise there is not much difference between them. It may be argued that a Boeing 707 can do something that a DC8 cannot do, and that if we examined the different airlines that are operating throughout the world we could see that there may be some advantages in the Boeing 707 as against the DC8. Some time ago there was some discussion in this Parliament about whether approval should be granted to TAA and Ansett-ANA to purchase DC9 aircraft instead of BACIII machines. We were told that the DC9 was a much better aircraft than the BACIII. Of course, the British Aircraft Corporation does not agree with that opinion, and neither do a lot of airlines in the United States of America. We must bear in mind that the DC9 is an American aircraft which is built in Los Angeles and the BACIII is built in England; yet in recent years - and since the DC9 has been on sale - over sixty BACIII aircraft have been delivered to and are operating in the United States by American airlines.
We should be prepared to do a bit of bargaining with aircraft manufacturers so as to avoid the borrowing overseas of huge amounts. It is interesting to examine the amounts that have been borrowed since 1957 for Australian airlines. On 15th April 1957 Qantas borrowed $US9,230,000 from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and at the same time approval was given for serial notes agreements worth $US17,770,000. In other words, the borrowing of $US27m was authorised then. On 10th October 1958 the Australian National Airlines Commission was given approval to borrow $US3m and Qantas to borrow $US13m. On 9th December 1960 Qantas was enabled to borrow $US30m. On 13th December 1960 the National Airlines Commission was given approval to borrow $US2m. On 27th August Qantas was empowered to borrow $US4,600,000. On 31st May 1963 the Australian National Airlines Commission was authorised to borrow $US11m and Qantas $US9. On 6th May 1964 Qantas was enabled to borrow $US25m. On 23rd November 1964 the Australian National Airlines Commission and Qantas received approval to borrow $US30m, and on 21st March 1966, $US54m. On 15th November 1967 the National Airlines Commission was authorised to borrow $Can3m and Qantas $US68,740,000. Surely Australia, as a customer of this magnitude, is entitled to do a bit of bargaining in deciding whether to buy Douglas aircraft or Boeing aircraft or a DC9 instead of a BACIII. A condition of our purchases should be a requirement that the Australian aircraft industry be permitted to build sections of the aircraft. I question the need to borrow the large sums it is proposed to borrow.
In the next 5 years we will need to borrow $100m to meet the requirements of TAA and Ansett-ANA- $ 123m to meet a firm order for four Boeing 747 aircraft to be delivered in 1971; possibly another $60m 12 months later for the purchase of two more 747 aircraft, an option for which has already been lodged; and $70m for the purchase of four Concorde aircraft in about 1970. It must be obvious from these, figures that the Parliament must look seriously at the need for borrowing sums of this magnitude for aircraft when, by negotiation, we could work out a deal with the manufacturers under which much of the work could be carried out in Australia, thereby developing the Australian aircraft industry, providing employment for Australians, and avoiding the need for such borrowings overseas..
- Mr Speaker, perhaps it could be considered that we are widening the ambit of the discussion of this Bill. I realise that we are bound by your ruling in this regard, but I do not think that we are really widening the discussion. I think that the points raised on both sides of the House concerning the significance of the financial arrangements, associated with the Bill and the implications of the policy regarding the financing of the purchase of these aircraft overseas need to be very carefully considered at the present time. In my opinion discussion from both sides of the House so far has been very timely and will prove to be useful in relation to consideration of the broad spectrum of civil aviation needs in the next 5 to 10 years.
Dealing specifically with the propositions put forward by the Opposition on this occasion I refer, firstly, to the amendment moved by the honourable member for
Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) wherein he proposes that the financing of the purchase of these aircraft should be met from revenue and not from a loan raised overseas. I am somewhat at a loss to cope with the changes in policy in regard to this matter which the Opposition has been propagating over the last 12 months. I detect that it has changed from an extreme isolationist position of no foreign investment whatever in this country or no foreign borrowings at all to a situation, in the last 6 months, in which the use of debenture moneys is more acceptable to its way of thinking. And suddenly this afternoon we have another complete change in thinking.
The Opposition suggests that the financing of the purchase of these aircraft should be met from revenue. What does the Opposition mean by ‘revenue’? For years, and in particular in recent months, the Opposition, particularly the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters), has been attacking this Government from a different angle on the question of overseas money coming into this country and the money which we expend overseas. Is the Opposition suggesting that there should be a greater imbalance in our current balance of payments? That is the only conclusion which I can draw from the Opposition’s argument on this occasion. There have been three changes in the Opposition’s policy in less than 12 months.
I come to another point, which I think was well made by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, that the size of this loan of $3. 75m has to be considered in the broader spectrum of borrowing on the over-* seas market to purchase a wider range of goods, but civil aviation equipment in particular. This loan of $3.75m is an important factor in our policy. It is just as important as if it were $300m, which is the figure we will spend on purchasing civil aviation equipment in the next 10 years. That point was made by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). It is an important point, and I shall return to it shortly.
The honourable member for Newcastle specifically referred to the development of an Australian aircraft industry. One would be recreant to his trust if he were to dismiss out of hand the possibility of the development of an aircraft industry in the
Australian industrial theatre. I immediately acknowledge this point which was made by the honourable member for Newcastle. Secondly, I believe that the Tariff Board erred in its judgment on the question of providing assistance to the single engine aircraft industry in this country. Although it is too late to help the Victa people, I sincerely hope that the Tariff Board will adopt a more favourable attitude in its inquiry to be held shortly in regard to the Transavia Corporation Pty Ltd.
Leaving this question aside and bearing in mind the other point put forward by the honourable member for Newcastle regarding the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and the development of an aircraft industry in this country, I believe that he is being unrealistic as to what is being done in the civil aviation industry today. Although the amount of the loan to be raised under this Bill is a large one when viewed against our balance of payments, I invite the honourable member’s attention to the colossal orders which have been placed for almost every type of aircraft. The honourable member for Newcastle referred to the Lockheed 1011. I think that 160 of these aircraft have been ordered 4 years ahead. A colossal number of B747 aircraft have been ordered. A large order has also been placed for B707 aircraft.
I realise that the honourable member for Newcastle is making the point that we ought to do something under licence, similar to what we are doing with the Macchi and Mirage aircraft, but we have to consider the practicalities of that proposition at this time. Again I assure him that I do not dismiss this proposition out of hand as being impossible, but I believe that at this stage it would be impracticable to do what he has suggested. I shall be interested to hear from him further argument “on this subject at any time in the near future.
I return to the specific points that I want to raise under the Bill. We note that already $50m has been arranged for TAA in loan funds overseas. TAA has taken up approximately $40m. An amount of $10m has been paid back but there is one figure missing here. We assume that an amount of $10m is still to be taken up. When we add another $3.75m to these figures, TAA’s borrowings will total approximately $54m.
In the international field, borrowings by Qantas Airways Ltd total $237m, of which approximately $90m has been repaid. These are not insignificant amounts, and they impress upon us the points made earlier by the honourable member for Newcastle and I hope, in some small way, the proposition that I am advocating now, that the principles associated with the financing of these aircraft overseas are significant in our future planning.
The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Dobie) put forward a very learned case on the question of the present world economic conditions. I invite the attention of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports to the points raised by the honourable member for Hughes. Clearly the question of liquidity is occupying the attention of everybody - so much so that today in this House a most significant statement was made on the question of special drawing rights from the Internation Monetary Fund or the World Bank. It was probably the most important fiscal statement made in this House since the depression of the 1930s. If this procedure outlined today is adopted, I believe that it will result in a complete new psychology in the world, so far as finance is concerned. The proposition is probably more significant than anything put forward by Keynes. I understand that he proposed this sort of idea some time ago. It is a most important factor, and for the purposes of the argument on this Bill I use it to stress the importance of the shortage of liquidity in the world financial theatre today.
Opinions on this country’s situation have been repeated over and over again by honourable members on this side of the House. We are a developing country. This Government is adopting a courageous attitude. The amount of overseas investment that is coming into Australia is an indication of the Government’s confidence in the people of Australia to develop our 3 million square miles of country. We believe that this type of investment will pay off quite handsomely in the long run. The honourable member for Newcastle adopted the attitude of a Jeremiah concerning the future of our civil aviation industry. The honourable member for Scullin consistently attacks overseas investment in Australia. The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) is poised ready to pounce upon us again in a similar manner. He will adopt a similar Jeremiah attitude towards overseas investment. I am not advocating overseas investment in a wide and extravagant manner, but I am suggesting that this Government is taking the problem by the horns and is getting results. Again I invite the attention of the honourable member for Scullin and the honourable member for Reid to the success already achieved and to the potential of the new international bank which has been established here. I invite them to consider also the success of the Mount Newman project. These things may tend to be irrelevant to the subject before the House-
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)Order! I think the honourable member is correct.
– I beseech you, Sir, to bear with me in my endeavour to convey these thoughts to honourable gentlemen opposite in order to bring their thinking into line with what is needed in Australia so far as investment and national development are concerned. I realise that you are probably duty bound to call me to order for wandering so wide, but I want to bring back into line those honourable members opposite who wander off on an endless number of tracks.
-Order! The honourable member should get back to the contents of the Bill.
– I come back now to the Bill and I shall mention three points.
– The honourable member cannot find his place. He will fill in time somehow.
– My difficulty is that I have so much material on this subject that I just do not know where to start in order to convince honourable members opposite of their shortcomings. By this Bill we are pursuing a policy of using debenture moneys for financing the purchase of aircraft. Under this policy we have been able to achieve certain standards which have been established now for at least three decades. I have gone into detail to show that the Opposition has advocated consistently that we use debenture moneys for the purpose of defending or developing this country. Time and again honourable members opposite have put forward this view, but today they have switched completely and they now want the Government to finance purchases from revenue. Perhaps through the honourable member for Reid the Opposition can draw together some comparisons of its policy so that we may hear arguments of some substance before the debate on this Bill concludes. I should like to know what it is that the Opposition propounds as a method of financing the international borrowing which is necessary to keep civil aviation in Australia in the forefront.
I propose now to draw upon statements which have been made in this House by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) and a number of others on the question of international shipping. I remind the House of the way in which they have pounded at the Government for its inability to move into the field of international shipping. They have done this repeatedly and have criticised the Government because it would not move into this field. I invite their attention to the situation in this country where the problems of civil aviation are completely different. Shipping has been carried on for centuries. There was shipping before this country was thought of. It has been difficult to break into international shipping, and honourable members opposite know very well that to force our way into it with a one way traffic would force our ships to impose a freight rate which would be impossible for the Australian primary producers and exporters to bear.
– We have never said anything about one way traffic.
– Perhaps the honourable gentleman would tell me how we would get a back-loading and break through the cartels.
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member that the debate is becoming rather wide. I and my predecessor in the chair have been fairly lenient, but a discussion of shipping and cartels is very wide of the Bill and is not relevant to the debate. I ask the honourable member to come back to the Bill.
– Very well, Sir.
– Do not forget the cartels.
– Order! The honourable member for Newcastle has already spoken in the debate.
– He provoked me.
-Order! The honourable member for Newcastle will cease interjecting.
– I was attempting to use the shipping industry as an analogy so that members of the Opposition would understand that the situation that obtains in that industry does not prevail in civil aviation. Through Qantas Airways Limited, Australia is in the front row of operators in civil aviation. The situation that prevails in the shipping industry cannot prevail in civil aviation. It has been through policies such as we see in this Bill that we have been able to consolidate the efforts of people like Kingsford-Smith, Ulm, Turner of Qantas and the other founders of airline policy in Australia.
I submit to the House, and particularly to honourable members opposite, that the performance by Qantas and by this Government with its two airlines policy has placed Australian civil aviation in an unassailable position where, by the use of this type of financing, we now rank among the first seven in the world and, on sheer work load, we are fifth. All that we are doing by this measure is to add about $3. 75m to the $50m which has already been borrowed for the purpose of expanding TAA’s aircraft fleet As I said earlier, $237m has been borrowed to finance the purchase of aircraft by Qantas, and by this Bill we will increase the amount for TAA to $53.75m. In approaching this legislation it is important to bear in mind, as the honourable member for Newcastle attempted to elaborate for us, that this is only the beginning. It has taken us 10 years to mount up a debt of this magnitude, or to achieve this kind of investment, which is probably a preferable way of presenting it to the House. When we add to the amounts already borrowed the $120m or $140m which will be required for the purchase of jumbo jets, the amount needed for the Concordes and the American SSTs, it is apparent that we will have a total investment of about $600m.
If I were to elaborate on the services that will be required for these aircraft it would become apparent that we need to think in big terms in our approach to civil aviation in the future. We must never allow ourselves to arrive at the situation in which we find ourselves in the shipping world where about $200m goes out of this country each year for freights. These are things which should be remembered by the honourable members for Melbourne Ports and Reid, and should be borne in mind particularly by the honourable member for Scullin. Tremendous savings of international payments are achieved by the international activities of Qantas under this Government’s international civil airline policies. There is tremendous significance in this and I invite honourable members opposite to study with sincerity what I have said on this subject, If they were to consider these realities they would find that their arguments would lose 50% of their strength.
The situation to which I have referred in relation to international airlines will be the same for the domestic services. Two very good articles by Stanley Brogden appeared in this morning’s ‘Australian’. I commend them to those who are interested in civil aviation. Has the Opposition considered that in the next 5 to 8 years we can expect to spend another $100m for the same purposes as the expenditure to be provided under the Bill? Our annual expenditure on aircraft will be about three times as much as the $3. 75m mentioned in this Bill. These are reasons why I exhort the House and the people of Australia to address themselves to the question of civil aviation. For us it is not just a matter of having spectacular aircraft or aircraft of a tremendous size, although these will be necessary if we are to develop as one of the great trading nations with a promising economic future. We have established a position in civil aviation over the last three decades. Let us not lose that position by inadequate thinking or by setting limited horizons. We must ensure that the Government, the people of this country and particularly those associated with civil aviation do not suffer from what we decide in this place. I hope that the whole country will stand behind us in a greater appreciation of what offers in the world today.
One point in this Bill aroused some concern. I refer to the letters ‘qc’ after the word ‘Friendship’. Those letters stand for quick change. I commend to the attention of honourable members, whom I know are responsible people, the implications of acquiring quick change aircraft. Freight is a big factor in aviation, in the international field and in the domestic field. It is a big, looming, lucrative field. It has been shown very clearly that the organised freight forwarders can reduce freights to about 40% of the rates charged by the Post Office. This will give some indication of the savings to be gained with palletisation and containerisation in the freight field in civil aviation and also of the economics of these operations in the future.
There are two approaches which can be made to the freight problem with quick change aircraft. One is by using aircraft purely as freighter aircraft and undertaking this work during the day. The other approach - and this is the one that is outlined by the airlines - will have an inevitable result, of which I warn members like the honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) and the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), who are in the House now, and other honourable members who represent areas which are situated around the main airports of this country. Inherent in this Bill, for which our approval is sought, is the information that quick change aircraft will mean passenger flights by day and freight flights by night.
My colleagues, the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Lee) and the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Stokes), and many other honourable members have emphasised this point before - the increase in the noise hazard. I certainly believe that in raising this matter now I am not departing from the terms of the Bill which provides for the acquisition of quick change aircraft. I am concerned that these Fokker Friendship aircraft are to be quick change aircraft. Irrespective of the economies that these aircraft may bring TAA in their initial impact, the fact that they are quick change aircraft brings up the problem of noise. I know that I speak for many members of this House when I say that 1 certainly view with alarm the trends in this field and the lack of action by the Department of Civil Aviation in this matter, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne.
I hope that we can look forward to greater support from all sides of the House for some relief. How much longer must certain sectors of this community continue to bear the unfair burden of harassment 24 hours a day whilst other sectors of the community reap the economic benefit? That is the net crux of the situation. In fact, investment in research into noise abatement is well overdue. Indeed, it is long overdue. There are many ways in which this problem can be studied. The acquisition of modern aircraft, as proposed under this Bill, must be considered in the light of the impact of those aircraft on the community. Before this Parliament votes terrific sums of money for the purchase of aircraft - as it has done before, as it is proposing to do today and as it will do no doubt in the future - honourable members must consider the impact of the acquisition.
I have spoken at length to stress to this House the importance of economics to civil aviation in this country. At the same time I emphasise the point that no part of the economic burden which will come with this acquisition should be carried by a small segment of the community. I commend this problem to the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz). I view with alarm the suggestion by AnsettANA that it looks forward to the lifting of the ban on operations out of major city airports by jets between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. That is why this type of quick change aircraft is to be acquired. As far as I am concerned, this is an undesirable trend. It is an undesirable trend as far as a number of honourable members of this House and hundreds of thousands of people in our community are concerned.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that we must overcome this problem with a positive approach. There is no need for us to hold back any of the moneys that will be made available by the passage of this Bill. What I do suggest is that before we allocate vast sums of money overseas to expand the economic situation of airlines and civil aviation generally, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the Department of Civil Aviation and the industry generally should address themselves to inquiry into the impact of noise on people. This inquiry should cover not only the major cities of
Australia but also the major cities of the rest of the world. This must be done before consideration is given to the short term economic benefits to any particular airline by the introduction of these aircraft.
I reject the proposition contained in the amendment that has been moved by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. His amendment conjures up in my mind the belief that the honourable member finds himself in a difficult position in his caucus when he puts forward such a proposition as this. While the honourable member’s mind may be in the proposition he enunciated, I do not believe that his heart and soul are. I believe that the proposition put forward by the honourable member represents the wrong type of financing to procure aircraft for Australian airlines companies. The proposition put forward by the Minister for Air in introducing the Bill - that this purchase be financed by an international loan - offers good opportunities for the future. This loan is to be obtained from the Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt, Germany. I certainly would encourage the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and the Treasury to do anything that they can to foster in the European field the raising of loans by way of debenture moneys for this country. Whether these loans be for financing the purchase of aircraft or other purposes, by raising them the Treasurer and the Treasury will be doing this country a great and good service. It will represent a practical investment and the benefit that will be reaped will be shown in the balance sheets of TAA, Ansett-ANA and Qantas over and over again, just as the benefit of this policy has been shown to pay off handsomely in the past.
This is the very argument that is advanced in the field of national development by the honourable member for Scullin and the honourable member for Reid. Yet, they propose to support this amendment which goes completely against their own proposition. If carried, this amendment would take revenue out of Australia. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports suggested that increased taxation was not needed. Here he promotes an idea which must generate an activity which would gather momentum towards the very thing which he disclaimed was necessary just 2 weeks ago. Where do we stand with the Opposition concerning its financial policy? Has it any policy internally or externally about finance for this country?
I know that the honourable member for Reid is to speak after me in this debate. I hope that he will have much more substance to put into this proposition than he has offered on previous occasions. Time after time we have listened to his propositions concerning debenture moneys. I hope that he will give his support to this Bill tonight. He is bound to get some opposition from this side of the House if he does not. He will be called on to account for the change in his policy. He will be asked to say who changed it for him - whether it was in the Caucus or whether he was subject to some other influence inside the party room. We will be very interested to see the result of any change in his policy. I must admit that, knowing his background, I look forward with great enthusiasm to his support-
– Order! The honourable member will direct his remarks to the purpose of the Bill. His remarks are outside the ambit of the Bill.
– With great respect, Mr Speaker, I ask for your tolerance by remarking that the principle of this Bill is tremendously important and that the gentlemen opposite are opposing it.
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member that he return immediately to discussing the contents of the Bill. The scope of the Bill is narrow. The Chair has been very lenient during the whole of this debate in allowing a wide coverage of various fields relating to it. I remind the honourable member that this is a Bill for an Act to approve the raising by way of loan of moneys in the currency of the Federal Republic of Germany to be lent to the Australian National Airlines Commission, and for related purposes.
– That is right. It relates to the raising of moneys and the policy of raising this type of debenture money. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports has suggested that we change the method of financing the purchase of these aircraft. He suggests that they should be purchased from our own revenue rather than by the debenture type of investment proposed. This is a complete change in the Opposition’s policy. Nobody has given any explanation as to why the policy of the Opposition has changed.
In conclusion, I make two points: First, I hope that the honourable member for Reid who will be the last speaker for the Opposition will give an explanation for its change in policy. Secondly, I hope that in the future we will look more closely at the raising of any moneys that involves the acquisition of quick change aircraft and consider the implications that may arise regarding the matter of noise abatement.
- Mr Speaker, the Loan (Airlines Equipment) Bill 1968, which we are now discussing, seeks the approval of Parliament to the borrowing by the Commonwealth of $3. 75m from the Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt, Germany, to assist in financing the purchase of four Fokker Friendship quick change aircraft by the Australian National Airlines Commission. We favour the efficient expansion of Trans-Australia Airlines and its equipping with modern aircraft. The Australian Labor Party was responsible for bringing TAA into being. We believe that it should be an expanding and efficient airline. In fact we support the purchase of the aircraft referred to in the Bill. We seek a forward looking policy for TAA, not an inward looking policy as was advocated by the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Dobie). He and his colleagues do not want to see TAA expand and compete favourably with Ansett-ANA. They have done everything in their power to foster and to bolster the oligopoly, Ansett-ANA.
Under this Bill $3.75m is being borrowed at a minimum interest rate of 6.65% per annum and a maximum rate of 7.04% . One might say that the average - something like 7% - is high, but one could argue that money is particularly dear on today’s international money market; perhaps the dearest it has been for years. The honourable member for Hughes and the honourable member for St George (Mr Bosman) referred to world fiscal policy. I might have something to say on that subject later. The interest rate of the Federal Reserve Board in the United States is 6i%, which is the highest it has been since the depression days of 1929.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) has moved:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘this House, whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, is of opinion that the financing of the purchase of aircraft by the Australian National Airlines Commission should be met from revenue and not from a loan raised overseas’.
The honourable member for Hughes said that the Government’s action as given effect to in this Bill is part of its long term policy. If this were so I am sure that we on this side of the House would not oppose this legislation. When we consider our balance of payments position and the need to develop this country we must place matters in their order of priority. Normally there is no better way to borrow money than at the government level. Even if you borrow at the exorbitant interest rate of 7% it is better to raise money at the government level than by means of the unplanned, indiscriminate inflow of foreign investment into the country, which is earning up to 600% on the original investment. I submit that the Government’s action in borrowing this $3. 75m is not part of its long term policy. The Government does not have a policy of economic planning, internally and externally. It has no control over foreign investment in this country. From 1st July 1950 to 30th June 1967 the Government has had a deficit balance of current account of $6,215m. This year it expects the figure to increase by a further $ 1,000m. This year the Government will have its highest annual deficit balance on current account in its history - $ 1,000m. We must examine how we are to finance development in Australia. We must look at the wider aspects of foreign investment in this country. What is the best type of investment you can get? One could argue that the best type of investment is government to government loans. One could argue, as the Minister for Air (Mr Freeth) said in his second reading speech:
The Commonwealth will be the borrower in the first place, and the full proceeds of the loan will be made available to TAA on terms and conditions to be determined by the Treasurer . . the Commonwealth will, as usual, merely assume the function of the intermediary in these arrangements.
Those are sound approaches if they were applied to the overall plan of foreign investment in this country. If the Government set out to control foreign investment in this country according to a plan it could try to get more government to government loans. Even the Government could borrow from foreign investment and on some occasions could act as agent for the private sector, as in the case of Ansett-ANA.
How are we to correct the imbalance of payments to which I have referred? We must have a positive policy with regard to exports. We must have a policy with regard to exports insurance companies. We must establish an overseas shipping line. As the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) pointed out earlier in the debate, our international airline - Qantas - is one of the most efficient airlines in the world. If we can operate an international airline so efficiently as to be able to compete with the world’s best, surely we can operate an international shipping line successfully. We have to plan our imports and exports. This is a matter which I cannot touch on at any length at this stage. One huge deficit to which I have earlier referred has been brought about in the main by the indiscriminate and unplanned inflow of private investment. The Government does not care what type of investment comes into this country as long as it fills the gap between exports and imports. Between 1st July 1950 and 30th June 1966 private foreign investment flowing into Australia amounted to more than $5, 000m. We must look to the amount of money that has gone out of the country in the form of dividends. This has amounted to something like $3, 207m during this period. The honourable member for St George (Mr Bosman) looks surprised.
– What has this to do with the Bill?
– The honourable member looks’ surprised. The inflow of private investment capital up until the end of June 1966 was some $5,000m, and the amount paid out by way of dividends-
– Order! I remind the honourable member for Reid that I drew the attention of the previous speaker to the terms of the Bill, and I suggest that the honourable member address himself to the Bill.
– With respect to the Chair, this is a loan of money in the currency of the Federal Republic of Germany. It is a loan on the foreign market and must affect our overall balance of payments position. The explanation, as appears from the Minister’s second reading speech, is that this transaction is a part of the financing of our balance of payments. As the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) has said, over the next 5 years we will face a further expenditure of $3 00m for further purchases of aircraft for TransAustralia Airlines, Ansett-ANA and Qantas Airways Ltd. Consequently we must consider seriously how we are going to cover this expenditure with our international balances.
I direct the attention of the House to the trend of Government spending. In 1950 our overseas liabilities amounted to $ 1,098m. This amount covered both State and Federal Governments, but it was all borrowed through the Federal Government. By 1966-67 the amount had increased to $l,532m. The cost of financing this capital increased from $36m a year to about $72m a year. Then we come to the private sector. The cost of financing the capital in this sector in 1950 was $137m, but by 1966 it had increased to $656m. Obviously the cost of financing private capital is a good deal more than that of financing Government borrowing. We support the principle of government-to-government borrowing. This has been the policy of the Australian Labor Party. But the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) explained that at this stage of our development our international reserves are such that it would have been better to finance these purchases out of revenue than to raise an international loan. If the Government establishes suitable priorities in its overseas borrowings, we will support it, but we will not support the Government until it does so. Perhaps this is an appropriate time to suspend the sitting, Mr Speaker.
– Order! The honourable member for Reid will either continue speaking until 6 o’clock or resume his seat.
– It seems that some private arrangements have been made while I have been on my feet and that the Government wants to get this legislation through before 6 o’clock.
– Keep talking.
– I have been instructed by my colleague the honourable member for Wills that I must keep talking. I must follow his command. I was dealing with the matter of priorities in overseas investment. If the Government had a plan for foreign investment, if it would make a determination that one kind of investment is better than the other, then we might support it. In our view borrowing at the government-to-government level is the best arrangement.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– As I understand that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) wishes to make a statement, I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - Amendments to the Articles of Agreement of the International Monetary Fund have been proposed by the Executive Directors of the Fund. A report of the Executive Directors containing the amendments is available in the Parliamentary Library.
As Australian Governor of the Fund, I am required to vote on the proposal before 31st May 1968. Adoption of the resolution requires a simple majority of Governors exercising two-thirds of the total voting power. If the resolution is duly adopted, the amendments will enter into force when accepted by 60% of the member governments exercising 80% of the total voting power.
It is intended that I, as the Australian Governor of the Fund, cast a vote in favour of the resolution. Such a vote will not commit the Australian Government, but it is desirable that honourable members be aware that an Australian vote will be recorded in favour of the resolution.
The basic purpose of the amendments is to establish a system of special drawing rights within the Fund. These special drawing rights constitute a new method by which international liquidity’, or the reserve assets of the trading countries of the world, can be deliberately expanded in accordance with decisions reached through an international consensus of opinion - expressed through the votes of ministerial representatives of the countries participating in the schemeas to what is the appropriate level of reserve assets at the time.
Discussions on the creation of a new form of reserve asset have been going on for some time. They have been inspired by the growing belief that the international monetary system as it now operates is unlikely to provide, in the period ahead, reserves sufficient to support a continued healthy growth in world trade. At present, the reserve assets of the trading world consist largely of gold, foreign exchange and drawing rights on the International Monetary Fund. The proportion of world reserves to world trade fell from 67% in 1951 to 39% in 1967. A number of factors contributed to this decline. For one thing, there has been virtually no addition to the world’s official gold reserves in recent years. Newly mined gold has been largely absorbed by private hoarders and industrial users. Since 1948 the proportion of official gold reserves to the world’s total reserves has declined from 70% to 54%.
Meanwhile, the United States dollar has increased in importance as a reserve asset, rising from 6% of the total world reserves in 1948 to 25% at the present time. This increase in United States dollar holdings has been fed in recent years by very large balance of payments deficits in the United States of America. However, there has been a growing reluctance on the part of the surplus countries in western Europe, particularly France, to hold increasing amounts of United States dollars. This also applies to sterling, the other main reserve currency. Neither the United States nor Britain can go on running external deficits; both have set out to eliminate their deficits and thus check the outflow of funds to other countries. So there are definite limits to the contribution which increased holdings of foreign currency will make to international liquidity in the period ahead.
It is true that there have been general increases in member countries’ drawing rights on the Fund. But while a country can draw virtually on demand, its ‘gold* tranche - an amount normally equivalent to 25% of its ‘quota* in the Fund - drawings on the higher ‘credit’ tranches are subject to conditions that become more exacting as the proportion of its quota a country seeks to draw increases. Moreover, drawings under existing arrangements are repayable within a period of 3 to 5 years, or earlier if the country’s reserves improve fast enough.
One possibility would have been to increase the official price of gold. However, for some time it has been evident that the United States is strongly opposed to this and, except for France, the other main industrial countries also are against it. The recent decision by the ‘gold pool’ countries to establish a two-tier price system for gold has to be seen as a move against an increase in the official price.
The approach of the leading industrial countries and most countries in the International Monetary Fund to the ‘international liquidity’ question has been to look towards the creation of a completely new form of reserve asset which would be acceptable to all member countries. At the 1967 annual meeting of the Fund, at Rio De Janeiro, a draft outline of a scheme was submitted to the Governors and I supported endorsement of the outline by the Governors. The outline took account of Australia’s position on a number of points. In particular, the new facility would be under the management of the Fund, and secondly, the new reserve asset would be allocated on a nondiscriminatory basis.
At the Rio meeting, the Executive Directors of the Fund were asked to prepare amendments to the Fund articles which would establish a new special drawing right facility within the Fund along the lines of the outlined scheme. After a good deal of work inside the ‘group of ten’ - who are representatives of the United States, Britain, Canada, Japan and six major European countries - and in the Fund Board, agreement has now been reached on a scheme which is set out in the report I have mentioned. The Australian Executive Director participated in the drafting of the report in the Fund Board.
The main features of the proposed new facility may be summarised as follows:
The special drawing rights to be created through the International Monetary Fund will give participating countries in balance of payments need the right to obtain from other participating countries, in exchange for special drawing rights, an equivalent amount in convertible currencies that can be used to settle external obligations.
Special drawing rights will be allocated to Fund members agreeing to participate in the scheme in proportion to existing Fund quotas. Decisions on the creation of the special drawing rights will require the approval of an 85% majority of the total voting power.
Countries will be able to use their special drawing rights at will to meet balance of payments needs.
The quantative use of SDRs by any participant will be limited to 70%, on the average, of the SDRs allocated to that country over a 5-year period.
Fund members will not be obliged to accept unlimited amounts of special drawing rights from other countries. Participants are committed to accept, against convertible currency, an amount of special drawing rights equal to twice the original allocation of SDRs to that country. Interest will be charged on special drawing rights used and interest will be paid on SDRs received and held.
It may help honourable members to understand the new facility if I give a hypothetical example of what the new scheme could mean for Australia. Australia’s Fund quota is $US500m or 2.4% of total quotas. If a decision were taken to allocate $US5,000m in special drawing rights during the first basic period of 5 years, Australia would receive special drawing rights amounting to $US24m per annum, or $US120m over the whole period. Australia would be entitled to use these amounts without question when it needed to do so for balance of payments reasons. Net use over the 5-year period could not, however, exceed 70% of SUS 120m, or $US84m.
These figures are purely illustrative but they indicate that the new facility could provide a useful addition to Australia’s reserve assets in time of need and of course as time passes and additional allocations are made the cumulative total addition to the reserve assets of participants will grow.
The facility is of special interest to Australia since the new reserve asset will in effect be gold-guaranteed and not subject to the exchange risks associated with holding currencies.
Some misunderstandings about the scheme have been voiced in the Press concerning the conditionality of the new reserve asset. I cannot emphasise too strongly that the scheme will in no way impinge upon our rights to conduct our own affairs both internally and externally. The only obligations which Austalia would incur are those connected with the holding of the new asset itself, and these are subject to the quantitative limitations I have mentioned. In addition to the proposal to establish this new facility, certain other changes are to be made in Fund practices and procedures, as set out in the report of the executive directors. Perhaps the most important amendment is the one providing for a change in voting requirements. If the resolution is approved, general changes in the quotas affecting all Fund members will require an 85% instead of an 80% majority.
A similar requirement will apply to a uniform change in par values in the Fund. An 85% majority will also be required for activation of the special drawing rights facility. This change in majority requirement was sought by the Europeans to give the Common Market countries a power of veto previously enjoyed only by the United States. However, I believe the new majority requirement is unlikely to represent any great change in practice. It has become an established working arrangement in the Fund for major decisions affecting all its members not to be taken unless there is near-unanimity. In these circumstances, whether the legal majority is 80% or 85% is not likely to make a great deal of difference.
Australia has been an active member of the International Financial Community and is in good standing with the rest of the International Financial Community. The Australian dollar is regarded as a strong currency and is one of a few convertible currencies used by the Fund in its transactions. Of course, if we do not participate in the scheme, and the scheme is activated, we will miss out on our share of the new reserve asset taken up by other countries. It is with considerations of this kind in mind that Australia will vote in favour of the resolution.
If the resolution is duly adopted by a majority of governors’ votes legislation will be introduced providing for Australia’s acceptance of the proposed amendments and, subject to parliamentary approval, the Fund will be advised that Australia has accepted the amendments. The present intention is to bring this matter before Parliament at an early date. I present the following paper:
Motion (by Mr Fairbairn) proposed.
That the House take note of the paper.
– I should like to say a few things about this proposal. The Treasurer has not given us much time to consider it.
– Order! If the honourable member wishes to speak to the paper he will have to seek leave of the House to do so.
– I think I am speaking to the paper.
– Is the honourable member speaking to the motion?
– I am. The Treasurer has intimated that he intends to have the House vote on this proposal on 31 May 1968, which of course is tomorrow, so not much time is available for honourable members to deliberate upon it. I agree with the Treasurer that the international monetary system as it now functions is unlikely to provide sufficient reserves in the near future to support a continued, healthy growth in world trade. We on this side of the House have always believed that the world is a healthier place when trade is flowing well than when it is flowing badly. The decision mentioned by the Treasurer is certainly a significant one.
I am pleased to hear that at this stage the Government does not intend to support an increase in the price of gold as a solution for international monetary problems, which may well resolve themselves in the years ahead. However, some people think that the world’s trade problems could be solved if tomorrow, by a stroke of the pen, it were decided that gold is worth $70 an ounce instead of $35. Countries which are fortunate enough to hold gold reserves and countries which mine gold would be the fortunate immediate beneficiaries of such a change. Naturally such a decision would react rather unfairly by giving an immediate bonus to those countries.
As we on this side of the House see things, the big economic problem still facing the world is the disparity between what might be called the rich and the poor nations. Nothing in the Treasurer’s statement would seem to indicate that this essential problem is being grappled with. There is quite a substantial body of literature available on special drawing rights and other devices. Various plans have been put forward, the Triffin plan, the Rueff plan, the Group of Ten and several others, each of which have been criticised - 1 think with some justification - on the ground that they tend to represent a rich-man’s-club approach to problems to the detriment of the poorer nations.
As has been pointed out on other occasions, the mere dropping of a few cents per pound in the price of rubber, tin or other commodities can take as much away from some countries in loss of export earnings as they receive from various aid schemes. I was interested to hear the Treasurer say that the proportion of world reserves to world trade declined from 67% in 1951 to 39% in 1967. This movement would seem to me to point to the fact that trade can be carried on independently of the level of reserves. The volume of world trade in 1967 was much higher than it was in 1951, but it was promoted with a smaller proportion of reserves, which would seem to imply that it is not so much the level of reserves that is important as the transferability of reserves, or the ability on the part of those who want to buy goods from other countries to pay for them.
Recently honourable members have witnessed a change come across the international monetary scene, due to the recent battle, mainly by the French who provoked a run on gold. In turn, America’s international trade and military commitments have resulted in a deficit of trade for that nation. Of course, a deficit of trade for the United States of America results in an accumulation of dollars in other countries. Imbalances like this are the real problems that confront us now and will continue to do so in the future. The Treasurer has stated: i cannot emphasise too strongly that the scheme will in no way impringe upon our rights to conduct our own affairs both internally and externally.
– A big question mark should be placed after that.
– I think that one should at least take note of it. One lesson surely was learnt in the depression years. My friend on the Government side was speaking this afternoon about the Keynesian revolution. One outcome of that revolution was the belief that just because there was an economic cataclysm in one part of the world was no reason for it to affect the internal economy of another place. Of course, if trade does not flow properly there must be some indirect consequences. Nowadays it is believed that monetary management is essentially an internal matter. Nevertheless if external trade is to be permitted we still do need to have arguments about the acceptability of the medium in which that trade can be promoted. For many years we had the shibboleth of the gold standard and I must confess that this gold standard dies very hard. I know that there are people in various parts of the world who believe that gold is still the only acceptable medium ultimately. I should think it pretty sad if that were so, however fortunate it might be for those who still mine gold, including Australia.
I hope that the Treasurer will make arrangements, as I have suggested on an earlier occasion, for a White Paper to be presented to the Parliament which would embody in essence most of the deliberations that have taken place in this field, because they are fundamental. He suggested that he would bring legislation before the Parliament at an early date. I think that the early date he mentioned is not likely to be prior to the presentation of the Budget. It would be possible for his experts in the Treasury to present the details and the background of this matter, perhaps in the form of a special Treasury bulletin. We could then consider the matter at a later date and at least would be armed with the essential information. We would be able to determine for ourselves whether the scheme impinges in any way upon our right to conduct our own affairs internally and externally. I am comforted in the knowledge that the Treasurer believes that the measures will not do this. However, at this short notice, I have not time to examine the subject fully. I thank the Treasurer for his courtesy in making available to me this afternoon a copy of his statement. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date. Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 1842).
– This Bill, about which I was speaking before the sitting was suspended, seeks the approval of the Parliament for the borrowing by the Commonwealth of $3.75m from the Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt, Germany, to finance the purchase of four Fokker Friendship quick change aircraft for the Australian National Airlines Commissions. We support the purchase of these aircraft. As I said earlier, Trans-Australian Airlines, which is controlled by the Commission, was created by a Labor administration. Therefore we want to see TAA develop efficiently. We want it to have an expanding policy in order to compete against the oligopoly Ansett-ANA and its subsidies. The interest cost of this loan will be a minimum of 6.65% per annum and a maximum of 7.04% per annum.
The Minister Assisting the Treasurer, Mr Freeth, in his second reading speech, said that this was a very high interest rate. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) explained a few minutes ago that there are difficulties in the fiscal world, particularly because of the run of gold. We know that there was a particular run of gold and on the United States dollar, and that the United States is in a difficult position. Because of this and because of internal problems the United States Government has been trying for many months to introduce a 10% surcharge tax in an effort to strengthen the economy. Even the Federal Reserve Board raised its interest rate to some 6i% - the highest interest rate in that country since 1929. Therefore we know that interest rates for borrowings on the international market are high. We know in respect of this Bill that the rate of 7% is very high to pay for a loan to purchase aircraft. But we have to recognise the fact that this is a government loan.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) moved an amendment to the motion that this Bill be now read a second time. The amendment is as folows
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘this House, whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, is of opinion that the financing of the purchase of aircraft by the Australian National Airlines Commission should be met from revenue and not from a loan raised overseas’.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports explained that he believed that our federal reserves at this stage were ample to provide this small loan of some $3.75m from our own revenue. Two earlier speakers, the honourable members for Hughes (Mr Dobie) and St George (Mr Bosman) said that this was part of the Government’s long term policy. If it were part of the Government’s policy the Opposition might not have decided to move this amendment. The position is that this Government has no planned or detailed policy on borowing from overseas. It determines no priorities. All that this Government is concerned about is closing the gap in the imbalance on the current account.
Australia’s deficit with all countries from 1950-51 to the end of June 1967 was over $6,200m. We do not have the latest figures yet. But in a recent report from the Australia and New Zealand Bank Ltd it was estimated that this year the imbalance will rise to over $l,000m. This is the highest that it has risen in the 17 or 18 years that this Government has been in office. We have had high deficits in previous years but never as high as this year. Our deficit with the United States last year was $543m. The year before it was S593m. In 1964-65 it was $596m. In 1963-64 it was $395m and in 1962-63 it was $324m. In fact, during the administration of this Government our deficit on the current account with the United States has risen to an astronomical total of about S4,828m. During the same period we have had a total deficit with the United Kingdom of about S4,890m. The combined deficit with those two countries for that period is nearly S 10,000m. Our deficit with all countries during that period was something like $6,200m. We have had credits with some countries, particularly with Japan, China, some of the European Economic Community countries and some of the East European countries.
Of course we have to pay for this deficit somehow. Consequently this Government merely has been prepared to to close this gap by allowing any type of indiscriminate foreign investment funds to flow into this country. Up to 1966 private investment funds of over $5,000m have come to Australia. One might ask on what basis this investment has come into Australia. Has it been planned in any way? Is it related to any system of priorities? If we were to determine priorities according to which is the lesser evil, one could argue that government to government borrowing, even at a cost of 7% or 8%, would be preferable to indiscriminate, unplanned private foreign investment which is earning, in some instances, up to 600% on the original investment.
If the Government said that the proposed loan would be part of an overall long term plan the Opposition probably would support the measure, but there has been no determination of priorities whatsoever. The Government is not concerned about the private capital that flows into Australia, sometimes taking over established Australian companies. It is of no concern to the Government if foreign capital is responsible for creating a product which may assist in import replacement or may produce non-essential products that are already over-produced in Australia. The Government is not concerned about whether new private capital assists our export drive.
There is no control or planning of foreign investment in Australia. In fact foreign investment might buy another Australian farm, another company, another mine or another commercial building. If this Government adopted some planned priorities instead of a catch as catch can basis in relation to foreign investment, one might not be so critical, but the Government lives from year to year. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) said that we are selling a bit of our heritage every year; so honourable members opposite should not start claiming that the proposed loan will be part of a long term plan. We believe that there should be a planned basis for borrowing on a government to government level. The Minister for Air (Mr Freeth), who is Minister assisting the Treasurer, made an interesting suggestion in his second reading speech. He said that the Commonwealth was only an agent for TransAustralia Airlines. It would be a good thing if, in fact, the Government had a positive policy and did act as agent in trying to get government to government loans to aid the private sector of Australian industry instead of selling out Australian industry.
The aircraft that will be purchased as a result of this loan will make TAA a more efficient airline. The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) said that in the next 5 years we will probably need to spend an additional $300m on aircraft for TAA, Ansett-ANA and Qantas. I remind the House that it was a Labor administration that put Qantas on its feet and now Qantas is one of the great airlines of the world; so when I talk about Qantas I speak with pride. It is interesting to study government borrowing since 1950. In 1950 we owed $ 1,000m overseas and this cost us $3 6m a year in repayments.
– Was that for foreign investment?
– It was government borrowing on a government to government level. By 1967 our borrowing had risen to $l,500m and repayments were about $72m per annum. If we examine borrowing for the private sector - and I quote from material prepared by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library Statistical Service - we find that the total paid up value of shares, debentures, unsecured notes and other obligations of Australan companies held by overseas companies or individuals in 1950 amounted to $263m, and the total payout was $70m. By 1966 the total value of shares and so forth had risen to $2,788m and the payout was $282m. From this one can see that it is far better to borrow on a government to government level and on a planned basis, but the Government has no planned policy for foreign investment. We should determine our imports in relation to our balance of trade and until such time as we do that we will continue to sell a little bit of our heritage every year, as the Deputy Prime Minister has said. It is time that the Government members stopped talking and started acting. The Government should control the ownership of Australian assets. The Government is not doing so; it is not planning our economy and protecting Australia against exploitation by indiscriminate foreign investment.
In some respects the proposed loan is a step in the right direction, but we want to see borrowing more broadly based. If borrowing were planned, we could support it, but at present we have a catch as catch can system. I agree with the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) that it would be better to finance the purchase of these aircraft out of revenue.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Crean’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. W. J. Aston.)
Majority . . . . 28
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Fairbairn) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 2 May (vide page 1062), on motion by Mr Wentworth:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I move:
That all words after’ That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof:’whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill this House is of opinion that in order to avoid delayed and unequal payments the Commonwealth should accept the responsibility of paying uniform benefits as soon as a maintenance application has been lodged or imprisonment has commenced’.
The purpose of the Bill is to assist the States in helping mothers of children who are not eligible for benefits under the Social Services Act. These consist of, firstly, deserted wives during the first 6 months of desertion; secondly, wives during the first 6 months of the husband’s imprisonment; and, thirdly, deserted de facto wives of prisoners, and other unmarried mothers. This matter has been the responsibility of the States, particularly where children are concerned. As the State governments have met the cost there is a wide difference in benefits, particularly in Queensland and Victoria.
Under this legislation the Commonwealth proposes to share 50% of the cost of increasing the benefits to a uniform rate of $20.50 per week for a class A widow with one child, or 50% of the State expenditure, whichever is the less. The arrangements, eligibility and rates will be the responsibility of each State, with individual hardship the test of eligibility. It is, we are told, to be an incentive for a more uniform level of benefit, and it is hoped - and I repeat the word ‘hoped’ - that the States will raise the benefits to approximately the level for a class A widow with one child; that is, to $20.50 per week.
Under this legislation no provision is made for school books or free transport, and the maximum liability of the Commonwealth will be 50% of the rate of $20.50 per week for a class A widow with one child. The Commonwealth is to pay a 50% benefit also to certain unmarried mothers who are permanently ineligible for a Commonwealth widow’s pension. These persons would be deserted de facto wives, de facto wives of pensioners, women who have contracted bigamous marriages, and unmarried mothers. These payments will be made as from 1st January 1968 and, according to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), the cost will be Jim in a full year.
There is one other important matter. That is, that Victoria is not a party to this agreement. Consequently, under this legislation there will be no benefit whatever to any person in Victoria. I will deal with this in more detail later, but it is a glaring and unjust omission, and it deserves the strongest criticism. The Minister in his flowery way said that this is the first venture in a joint Commonwealth participation in the social services field. In this, we are told, we are emulating the United States of America and Canada. This is indeed a remarkable change, because at one time we set the standard and the United States and Canada followed our lead.
The Opposition does not oppose this legislation, because bitter experience has taught us that any meagre benefits or promise of benefits given to deserving people dependent on social services provided by this Government are rare and must be grasped with both hands when the opportunity knocks. Whilst we do not oppose the passing of the Bill, there are a number of observations that I desire to make in a quite impartial manner. The amendment, on which I will elaborate later, is an indication that we believe that this matter is a Commonwealth responsibility and that benefits to those within its scope should be paid equitably and at an earlier date. Quite frankly, we on this side of the Parliament are disappointed in and distressed about the Minister for Social Services. Our feelings are no doubt shared by many people. To say the least, he is a promising Minister, but a very poor performer. In fact, even the Commonwealth Pensioners Federation is disillusioned. Reports indicate that on a visit to Canberra recently members of the Federation were seen by the Minister for a few minutes only on these matters, and the Secretary of the Federation, Mrs Ellis of Melbourne, is reported to have said:
It is the worst hearing we have had from a Government Minister in the 13 years we have been corning to Canberra for pre-Budget submissions. It is a pretty poor show from a’ man who promised a new deal for pensioner!). We were banking on Mr Wentworth. It was our first meeting with him, but we were disappointed and disillusioned.
We all share that disappointment and disillusionment. When we consider those who have gone before him in this portfolio, and particularly the present Australian Ambassador in Dublin, we see that the pensioners’ statement is hardly a compliment to his ability. The Minister was to herald a revolutionary change in the outdated social service policy of the Government. We expected him to tear asunder the cobwebs covering the programme of this tired and decadent Tory administration and introduce long overdue changes to give justice to those who are so deserving and yet so neglected. Amongst other things we looked for increased rates of benefit for widows and others, freedom from want, abolition of the means test and social justice. In other words, we expected a stimulating, exciting programme for the future from this new Minister for Social Services. Indeed, we were fortified in our hopes by reading and listening to his vibrant, heart-rending appeals from his lonely back bench, his penetrating attacks on the Government and his evident determination, with standard on high, to achieve his objectives in the field of social services. But what a disappointment and what a tragedy it has been to us all.
He is now the Minister responsible for the social service programme of the Government and is able to make the changes that he for so long advocated. But what a dramatic change in his outlook. From a gladiator in the cause of social justice to a grim defender of Government policy; no longer fearless and critical, but grim, determined and unyielding in his defence of the lagging policies of the Government. Instead of announcements of reform, we now hear constantly his grim words of retreat: This is a matter of Government policy’. Let us look at his first Bill to assist deserted wives, his first big effort, his big moment, his big achievement. There were great expectations, but we suffer great disappointment. What does the Bill contain? That is almost a million dollar question, Mr Speaker. I deal first with the means test. It is not removed, mind you, nor is it relieved; it is worsened against the needy, suffering, deserted wives and children. The measure will affect 12,087 wives and 3,105 children, a total of 15,192 persons. In fact a means test within a means test is to be imposed by this legislation.
Secondly, unless the States increase their present benefit rates there is to be no increase in benefits for the women and children concerned. At this stage there is only a hope - not a demand - that the States will not treat the Commonwealth contribution as a permanent subsidy towards the benefits that they pay but will increase the benefit to the deserted people concerned. Thirdly, the benefits, if any, are different in every State, based on State boundaries and not on needs. Furthermore, the Minister has said nothing in regard to what has to be done in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. I shall deal with this a little later, and rather tellingly, I hope. The rates payable are years behind the cost of living, and in some cases they have not been increased for several years. In fact the very basis of the Bill, the Class A widow’s rate, has been unchanged for 2 years and children’s allowances have remained the same since 1961, a period of 7 years. This is nothing short of a national scandal.
The 6 months’ waiting period is still unchanged for women and children in destitute circumstances. Victoria is not even in the scheme and there is no promise or assurance that it ever will be. The 25% of deserted wives and children in Australia who reside in Victoria will be expected to live on unemployment benefits which have not been increased since 1962, a period of more than 6 years. The Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory are not covered by the Bill. Evidently, although people resident in the Territories are Australians, they do not seem to matter. Finally, this Minister has abrogated his rights as a Minister. The Commonwealth’s rights and responsibilities have been surrendered to the States for reasons which are difficult to understand and which are indefensible. Forgotten are the hopes, the aspirations and the sentiments so dramatically, so rebelliously, expressed in days gone by by the Minister. Forgotten are the pledges and dreams of a new deal for wives and children in need.
His road to the Ministry was long and tedious, but his change of mind was immediate. No longer is he the whale among the minnows; no longer is he a giant among the pygmies; no longer does the roaring lion for social justice roam the Government jungle trails; he is now a captive, well fed and contented, sitting tamely at the feet of his master, resisting reforms, as timid and docile as a Wave Hill mouse. How are the mighty fallen, and how are the needy forgotten!
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member might make some reference to the Bill.
- Mr Speaker, I thought it was important that I should make a passing reference to the right honourable gentleman who introduced the Bill. Let us now examine the Bill in more detail. Every
State imposes a severe means test on benefits paid and this measure will provide a means test within a means test. The Minister himself said:
Ultimately, if the States respond to the incentive, the benefits should rise to approximately the Class A widow 1966 rates under Commonwealth legislation. Let us consider the means test which is imposed by some States, and particularly Victoria and Queensland, in respect of this legislation. All States impose a means test; they probably have to do so because of the restrictive financial policies of this Government.
– Will these still apply?
– Yes, these will apply, and another restriction will be superimposed. Let us consider Queensland first of all. That State gives emergent family assistance. This is a cash amount calculated on the basis of $2.35 for a mother and $2.45 for the first child, if the child has not reached 14 years of age. This amount is increased also by $1 in respect of each other child for whom emergent assistance is granted, with an additional 10c if the child is under 14 years. That Liberal-Country Party Government really lets its head go on assistance to dependent wives and children. Payment of this form of assistance is made pending a decision as to whether or not permanent family assistance is to be granted in respect of the children. Emergent family assistance is not granted to a mother who is in receipt in her own right of either Commonwealth unemployment, sickness or other benefits. However, payment in respect of the children is continued only where an applicant is paying a high rent or board. The same kind of means test goes right through the Queensland system. All money received by the mother is taken into consideration and contributions by elder members of the family are also considered. So much for the Minister’s great story about how he will relieve the means test.
In Victoria, which is the most backward State of our time under the Bolte Liberal and Country Party Government, where circumstances warrant financial help is provided for children under 15 years and for older children attending school full time. This supplementary payment is not a flat rate entitlement but varies in accordance with differences and changes in family circumstances. The maximum amount payable is $4 per week for each eligible child. Assistance is not paid if there are no children in the family. Furthermore, where State supplementary assistance is applied for, it is a condition that every other legal remedy for support of the children shall have been sought. In other words, the Commonwealth benefit or pension already mentioned must be sought if it applies, as must also any other entitlement to income that the family may have, such as war pensions or income under wills, estates, etc. Where the father has deserted the family, the mother must take or commence whatever legal action is available to her to obtain maintenance from him before her application for family assistance can be considered. My information on the system in Victoria then goes on to outline the most rigorous means test, a subject that I shall deal with further when I deal with Victoria generally.
I have given a broad outline of the fact that means tests will apply in a most rigorous way. The Minister has always been a most outspoken advocate of the abolition of the means test with respect to deserted wives, pensions and other benefits, yet the first legislation that he introduces indicates a tightening of the means test provisions in the field of social services. In fact the means test in the States under this Minister and through this legislation will be tougher and tighter. It will be a means test within a means test and in effect is a complete departure from the Minister’s own expressed high ideals on this subject. His advance from the backbench to the Ministry has indeed wrought a sudden change on this aspect of this once colourful cavalier and crusader for the abolition of the means test.
What are the benefits under the Bill? Under the Bill introduced by the Minister, there is to be no increase in the benefits to the women and children concerned until the States increase their present rate of benefit. It will mean more to these women and children only if and when the States increase their benefits. At present, it is just a base for a proposal from which they could increase their rates and ultimately bring them into line with the class A widows’ pension. At the present time, in effect, we are only reducing the State liability as the States may deduct this Commonwealth subsidy being made r. present under the means test and thus conserve their own finances if they feel so inclined. I repeat that the only way this Bill can be any good is by the States increasing their benefits to the rate of a class A widows’ pension for one or more children.
In his second reading speech the Minister had this to say:
The Minister’s speech also carried such expressions as: ‘It is hoped’; ‘The Commonwealth expects’; and ‘It should prove to be of great benefit’. They were the Minister’s best hopes and aspirations. These are desirable hopes. It is to be hoped that ultimately they will bear fruit otherwise this Bill will be a complete and utter failure.
The Bill provides for State grants on a certain basis to assist those deserted wives in certain categories in the first 6 months prior to being granted a pension. What is to stop the Commonwealth accepting full responsibility now? It has the machinery and finance to do so. Yet it is proposed to make money available which, as I shall show later, means that for those covered by this Bill the benefit will vary subject to the States increasing their payments - not according to the needs of the recipient but according to the State in which the recipient lives. This is alarming and unjust as every person in need in this country should be granted a pension accordingly and not because he or she happens to be in or out of an imaginery State boundary.
It is difficult to get comparisons of what is available concerning benefits paid in the various States because these vary in many ways. However it is a reasonable comparison to show the amount that each State pays because this indicates the wide disparity as a result of State borders and, in most cases, under Liberal governments. I now wish to quote for the benefit of the House the official figures given to me showing the amounts paid in the various States at this time. I quote first the example of New South Wales where the maximum State assistance for a deserted wife with children, as one would expect in a State which enjoyed a Labor government for a long time, leads the way. A woman with one child receives a payment of $16.25 per week. In Victoria, the same woman would receive $4 per week. In Queensland the benefit is $4.85 per week. In South Australia the benefit is $17 per week; in Western Australia, $16.25 per week; and in Tasmania, $16.50 per week. In New South Wales certain other provisions exist. But in Victoria the maximum total pension or gross income cannot exceed the minimum wage of $33.75 per week.
In New South Wales the payment made per week to a widow with two children is $18.25. In Victoria it is only $8 per week. Honourable members must not forget that Victoria is not a party to this agreement. In Queensland the weekly payment for a widow with two children is $7.35. In South Australia the payment is $18.50 per week. The situation there improved considerably under the Dunstan Government. In Western Australia the payment is $17.75 per week while in Tasmania it is $18.75 per week. These figures, which are somewhat elaborate, indicate the payments to widows with a child or with two children. They show the wide disparity that exists. In Victoria, which is not a beneficiary under this legislation, the benefits paid at this time are scandalous. In Queensland, to say the least, the benefits paid are in the same category. Right through this legislation now before the House we find the varying amounts which the Government is trying to equalise in a manner which, I have said, cannot work unless the States co-operate.
The Commonwealth will meet only 50% of the class A widows’ pension. Honourable members should not forget that this is at 1966 rates. Otherwise the Commonwealth will meet only 50% of the State benefit. The Commonwealth will meet 50% of whichever benefit is the lesser. The
States wanted the Commonwealth to meet the benefits 100%, but the Commonwealth refused because it would not accept its responsibility to pay the full benefits. The figures that I have quoted support our amendment proposing that these benefits should be administered and should come within the Social Services Act. The machinery of the Commonwealth should be used to implement them.
Let us look now at the new Minister’s proposals for increasing the rate of payments under this social service legislation which this wizard of future social progress has introduced. The Minister said that the Bill provides for payment by the Commonwealth of a maximum of 50% of a class A widow’s pension which is Si 3 per week. This benefit was last increased on 4th April 1966. Even if this is a good scheme, the Minister is still 24 months behind the times. The mother’s allowance of $4 per week has remained unchanged since 8th October 1963 when it was introduced. The child’s allowance of $1.50 per week has not changed since 5th October 1961, 7 years ago, when it went up by 35c. The supplementary assistance benefit of $2 per week has not changed since 14th October 1965. This means that the total payment for a woman with one child would be $20.50 per week. In other words, the benefits now being given are at rates going back in one case 7 years, in another case 5 years, in a further case 3 years and in the final case. 2 years. Yet the Minister calls himself the new and future hope of people dependent on social service payments. The allowable income rate is $4 per week and this has remained unchanged since it was introduced on 8th October 1963. This means that all the Minister is hoping under this Bill is that the States will increase their rates to the miserable allowances of the Commonwealth which, as I have shown so far as the rate is concerned, has not changed for up to 7 years.
The first thing that the Minister should do is to increase the rates of social services all round. I refer to those social services which are years behind the cost of living increases. It is bad enough under this Bill for the Minister to express only ‘the hope that the States will fall into line’. The basis of the payments should have been a demand that the States pay the increase commensurate with what the Commonwealth pays. This would have been done if the Commonwealth administered the Bill itself. I am certain that Victoria at least will only subsidise its payments from this allocation to the States as it did when widows’ pensions were increased in 1966. On that occasion, as the Minister no doubt remembers, the Victorian Bolte Government reduced the sustenance benefit payable by it by exactly the amount of the increase granted by the Commonwealth.
I wish to inform honourable members of what a member of the Country Party in Victoria had to say about the action of the Victorian Government on that occasion. Let us remember that Country Party members would not criticise wrongly - only Liberal Party members would do that. This newspaper report reads:
In a biting attack on the Government the Country Party leader (Mr Moss) said: ‘It must get the prize for the meanest Government in Australia’.
This is the State that the Minister hopes ultimately will enter this scheme. This newspaper report states also: . . Mr Lovegrove said: ‘The Government has seized upon this impoverished and defenceless section of the community to effect its economies.
It has acted with callous severity.’
The Government did this by reducing deserted wives’ benefits by the amount by which widows’ pensions were increased in 1966. What hopes can the Minister have of the Bolte Government? Even the Country Party has given him away, and it will put up with almost anything.
Again, why should deserted wives and wives of prisoners have, to wait a period of 6 months for the pension to be granted? After all, there is no doubt that a man has left home when he has been sentenced to stay in Long Bay or Pentridge for 6 months. He just will not be back for that period. If he did return without permission, he would end up in a gaol for incorrigibles There can be no reason whatever for not paying the pension to his wife immediately after his term of imprisonment has commenced.
I can understand that the Department might well say that it would not be fair to give the pension to the wife of a prisoner when a deserted wife has to wait 6 months. But why should the deserted wife wait? I should imagine that the Department, subject to an application being made to a court for maintenance, could take that application as prima facie evidence that the husband had deserted. This does not mean that it has to be approved, but this would be proof of desertion and even if in some cases the husband returned subsequently the amount to be recovered or written off, for that matter, would be very small compared with the general1 expenditure.
Let us have a look at the State of Victoria which as I said before will not be included in the benefits payable under this Bill. Every State, with the exception of Victoria, at least has agreed on the principles incorporated in the Bill. Victoria, according to the Minister, relates its assistance to children only in the mother’s care, paying $4 per week per child, subject to certain ceilings. There is no assistance at all for the mother. In Victoria she might as well not exist. In 1947 the Commonwealth Government decided to pay deserted- wives and wives of prisoners in Victoria a special benefit at unemployment benefit rates during the 6 months waiting period. The present rate is $8.25 plus $1.50 for children, making a total of $9.75. This payment will be taken into consideration when the States make their meagre payments. Victoria has not yet decided whether it should participate in this scheme. If any indication is needed as to why the Bolte Government should be turned out of office, its shabby record with regard to this humane legislation certainly justifies its removal from office.
Let us look at the situation in Victoria. Let us see what the niggardly Bolte Government pays to deserted wives and children in Victoria. State assistance in Victoria is paid only for children, the maximum amount being $4 a week per child. The actual assistance payable in any given case, subject to the maximum of $4 a week per child and a proviso that the total income cannot exceed $33.70 a week, which is the minimum wage, is the amount by which the family’s net income - the actual income, which includes Commonwealth special benefit but excludes child endowment, less rent or house purchase repayments rates, etc., and hire purchase commitments up to $2.50 a week on essential items - falls short of what is described as the required income for the family. With one child a deserted wife in Victoria will get a Commonwealth benefit of $9.75. This amount has not been increased since 1962. She will get in addition $4 a week maximum State assistance, ignoring the ceiling of $33.70. Required income for State assistance purposes, ignoring rent, etc., is $12.65. state assistance payable, ignoring rent, etc., will be $2.90. The special benefit plus State assistance, ignoring rent, etc., is $12.65. Under this scheme the benefit payable to a class A widow in Victoria would be $20.50 a week. The State is paying only $2.90 for a wife with one child. The total she can get from the State is $12.65. Because of the vicious means test applied in Victoria, a Victorian deserted wife with six children will get only $24.40 on which to keep her family. State assistance for a deserted wife with two children, paying housing commission rent of $3 a week and essential hire purchase repayments of 75c a week would be assessed as follows: Income or special benefit, $11.25; less rent $3, hire purchase 75c; net income $7.50. The required income according to the formula for a mother and two children is $15.30. The State assistance payable in that case will be $7.80. It is a very complicated system. The means test is vicious. It is apparent that this legislation will not provide any benefits to deserted wives in Victoria.
Victoria has a very poor record under the Bolte Government. In 1966 the Victorian Government reduced the allowance payable to a deserted wife by exactly the amount of the increase in pensions that year. This Bill does nothing to assist Victorian deserted wives and their children. The position in Victoria is made worse by Sir Henry Bolte’s actions in the past. Little as Victorian wives and mothers will receive from the State of Victoria, they will not do much better under Commonwealth legislation. Since 1947 they have been paid the unemployment benefit for the 6 months waiting period. What is the extent of this benefit? The rate for a married person is $8.25 a week. This rate was last increased on 1st March 1962 . by 75c when the Government’s majority had been reduced to one. The amount is supplemented by a payment of $1.50 for each child. This amount was increased from the former rate by 25c on the same date in 1962 and for the same reason. The total payment to a woman with one child is $9.75. It is more than 6 years since the rate was increased. All this boils down to the fact that all that the Commonwealth is doing for these deserving people is paying rates of unemployment benefit which have remained unchanged for more than 6 years. No wonder the Minister for Social Services is going to sleep. I too would like to forget all about this. Now, because Victoria will not participate in the Commonwealth’s scheme, these unfortunate women in that State must depend on a handout that is almost 7 years behind the cost of living. The Victorian means test is harsh and unrelenting, as is to be expected from the Bolte Government. I do not know whether husbands in Victoria are more prone to desert, despite the fact that under Sir Henry Bolte capital punishment still applies. It may be that Pentridge is more inviting than Long Bay. The fact is, however, that although eligibility differs from State to State, on a rough basis Victoria accounts for about 25% of Commonwealth recipients of these benefits.
It is apparent that the Minister is prepared to allow 503 wives and 1,452 children to exist in Victoria on benefits 7 years behind the cost of living, with no possibility of an increase in the rates. To say the least this is a scandalous and unacceptable situation. It is beyond the bounds of social justice. I do not share the Minister’s confidence that Sir Henry Bolte will ultimately accept the scheme. As we all know, Sir Henry will not even accept the Country Party, which is his coalition partner. I see the right honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) - a former Minister - smiling, because he is in agreement with my views. The whole position could be remedied and justice given by the Commonwealth’s accepting its full responsibility and increasing the rates.
What is the position in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory? These territories are naturally not included in the Bill as they are the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. This means that the Minister and the Government could, if they desired, give perfect benefits to people residing in those Territories. But what is the position? In the Australian Capital Territory the scheme is based precisely on that of New South Wales, which, naturally, was introduced by a Labor Government. It is significant that the Commonwealth Government, which constantly criticsed the former Labor Government in New South Wales, evidently now endorses its policy on this matter in its entirety. For 20 years the Commonwealth Government has not been able to come up with one idea of its own to improve social services, but for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory it has adopted in its entirety the scheme introduced in New South Wales by a Labor Government. It does not matter how good or how bad that scheme was; this Government endorsed it because it could not think of a better scheme. I am pleased that the Commonwealth has adopted Labor’s plan.
In the Australian Capital Territory the present maximum rate of social welfare benefit payable to deserted wives and women with husbands in prison and with dependent children during the 6 months prior to qualifying for a social services pension is $28.50 a fortnight. This comprises $16.50 cash sustenance and $12 mothers’ allowance per fortnight. A means test is applied, allowable income being $4 a fortnight. Section 27 of the New South Wales Child Welfare Act has been adopted for application in the Territory. 1 am reliably informed that on 1st May this year 20 deserted wives were receiving social welfare benefits and 43 were receiving allowances under section 27. The financial assistance provided by the Welfare Section of the Department of the Interior to needy persons in the Australian Capital Territory is similar to that provided in New South Wales by the New South Wales Department of Social Welfare and Child Welfare. The Minister has not indicated that these deserving women residing in the Australian Capital Territory will be brought within the scope of the Bill now before us. Are these women to be left to battle on benefits lesthan will be payable in other States? 1 understand that in the Northern Territory benefits to deserted wives are paid under section 12 of the Social Welfare Ordinance, No. 31 of 1964 The assistance payable is broadly similar to that payable in New South Wales. Again I point to the fact that these benefits were introduced in New South Wales by a Labor Government which the Commonwealth Government refuses to acknowledge as having done a considerable amount of good for New South Wales. The Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory are areas in which this Government might well have given expression to an enlightened programme of assistance to deserted wives. Instead it has plundered a scheme introduced by a Labor Government. It is obvious that were it not for Labor thinking and were it not for regular elections, this Government would never get a bright idea. Increases in the amounts payable in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory have been few and far between. Nothing has been said about women in these Territories coming within the scope of this legislation. I would like to hear from the Minister on this point. Information about the situation in the Northern Territory is difficult to obtain but I understand that the position is broadly as I have stated.
Disregarding the situation - in the States, the benefits payable under this legislation prove that the Commonwealth has failed to measure up to its responsibilities. It has a case to answer in its own Teritories. I now want to bring the Minister up to date on the Commonwealth Constitution and his responsibilities in respect of social services. Section 51 part 5 Powers of the Parliament says:
The Parliament shall, subject to this constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to:
The provision of maternity allowances, widow’ pensions, child endowment, unemployment, pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services (but not so as to authorise any form of civil conscription), benefits to students and family endowment.
This amendment to the Constitution gave effect to the desire of the people that all citizens should share in the programme of social justice, and not be debarred because of State boundaries and backward Tory administration. It is therefore regrettable that such a humane and deserving problem as that of deserted wives and children should be treated by the Government as an exercise in Commonwealth-State relations.
It is more regrettable also that there is no benefit to anyone unless, to use the term used by the Minister, the States come to the party financially, and then they will be paid at vastly different rates. This could have been avoided by the Government accepting its responsibility in this field as laid down by the Constitution. There can be no excuse for the Commonwealth Government condoning differential payments between States, penalising mothers and children in certain States, particularly in Victoria and Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, and this is precisely what this Bill is doing. Deserted wives and children should be brought under Federal legislation in accordance with the basis of our amendment that uniformity of benefits throughout Australia be established as a firm and just policy. States should bear the full responsibility through welfare departments to sustain mothers and children only until Commonwealth responsibility arises, which should be almost immediately.
In this Bill we find the Commonwealth abrogating its responsibility and passing them to the States. As a matter of fact, it does the same in regard to age and invalid pensions. If it were not for some State Governments and local government authorities carrying out the Commonwealth’s functions to look after the aged, the sick and the infirm, the plight of many of these people would be very grim indeed. Again, I repeat, there is no guarantee that the States will raise the payments, and until proof is given by actions I have serious doubts that this Bill will benefit those concerned. It is a hand-out in the form of a subsidy for the meagre benefits already paid by the States. It is true that the incentive is there, but even so the subsidy at this stage is limited to half of what the States are paying, which in most cases, particularly in Queensland and Victoria, is very small indeed. It is also noted that expenditure will be back-dated to 1st January 1968. We do not disagree with this but suggest that it is contrary to the argument advanced by the Government when we seek to have age and invalid pensions back-dated at Budget time.
The Australian Labor Party believes in social justice, equality of benefit, the elimination of poverty, and freedom from want. We once thought that the Minister shared these views with us. We are dedicated to the social and economic welfare of all Australians no matter in what State they may be domiciled. We are opposed to discrimination in benefits between needy people simply because of State boundaries. We are prepared to accept our responsibilities as laid down by referendum of the people - an obligation to provide social welfare to citizens everywhere in Australia. It is for these reasons that I seek endorsement by the House of the amendment so that all in need may enjoy any benefits to which they are entitled equitably, with a minimum of delay and with the avoidance of hardship and suffering.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, until 1966 there was a very distinguished representative in this House for the seat of Sturt, Sir Keith Wilson. He had a very incisive appreciation of the Opposition and made this very telling statement: The Labor Party in office is totally different from the Labor Party in opposition. There has never been anyone in this House who has given more emphasis and more endorsement to that statement than the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly).
– But you have had an attack on the Minister. He has had a change too.
– We have had an attack on the Minister by the honourable member for Grayndler. I am not sure whose finest hour it is tonight; whether it is that of the Minister’s or of the honourable member for Grayndler. At al] events, we have had an attack on the Minister tonight. I remind the House that the honourable member for Grayndler has been a member here since 1943. He was also a member of a Labor Government from 1941 until 1949. That magnificent Labor Government was supposed to stand only for the people. Let us have a look at what it did in 1949 for the welfare of the people of this country. We have heard a great dissertation by the honourable member for Grayndler. He was a man who sat in this House and put up his hand and said ‘Aye’ to a motion in 1949 by that famous man, the late Mr Ben Chifley. What was the Labour Government’s contribution to social welfare on that occasion? Let me give one instance. It provided four shillings a week to the dependants of pensioners. I remind the House of this after the dissertation of some 45 minutes by the honourable member for Grayndler tonight. Indeed, I invite the House and all those who are interested in social services and social welfare to go back over the record and study the situation regarding pensions payable by this Government to a variety of areas in the general social welfare field. They will come up with a conclusive appreciation that, despite the erosion of pensions by increases in costs, in every category, with perhaps the exception of child endowment, pensions payable by this Government today have a better buying value than those paid by the Labor Government in the 1940s. I invite people to do their homework and study the situation. In the field of invalid pensions and aged pensions they will see that the purchasing power of the pensions is much greater than it was in 1949.
The legislation before the House here tonight deals with deserted wives, whose position is comparable in some ways with that of the Class A widow. I am astonished at the impertinence, almost, of the honourable member for Grayndler in getting up in this House and suggesting to the people of Australia that the Labor Party has ever done better for the Class A widow than this Government has done in 20 years of power. It is clear that the pension of the Class A widow today has 80% more buying power than the pension offered by the Labor Government in the 1940s. The record of that Government was a sorry one indeed. I suppose we will have Opposition members one after the other tonight crying out about what they would do if the Labor Party were in government. I invite the people of Australia to study the record of the 1940s. Some of the members who were here in the 1940s are still here, and they will do the same as they did then if they ever get the opportunity to govern. They can talk all night about what they will do on the social welfare programme, but I invite the Australian people to study the record and decide what they would do. All that members of the Australian Labor Party can do today is look back to 1949. The people would quickly remind members of the present Opposition that they have short memories. The result of the election in 1949 was not completely divorced from the treatment the Labor Government handed out to pensioners, or rather the treatment it did not hand out to the pensioners in that period. The Opposition has gone to great lengths tonight to denigrate the Victorian situation. It has particularly referred to the reduction of benefits paid by the Victorian Government when the Commonwealth Department of Social Services increased its benefits in a particular year.
Again, it is important that honourable members in this House and everyone else in Australia knows that the so called Labor Government of New South Wales, which has been vaunted by the honourable member for Grayndler tonight, in fact did the very same thing not once but on several occasions. It carried on this practice until it was brought to heel by a publicity campaign instituted by the parties that now form the Askin Government in New South Wales. They brought this practice to a stop very quickly. Again, the record will show just how vulnerable are the arguments of the honourable member for Grayndler. But let us direct our attention to the Bill before us tonight. This Bill breaks new ground in social services. I believe we must compliment the new Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) on the fact that he has been able to break this new ground. Social services is an important field. The sheer practical considerations that arise in dealing with pensions do not reveal the complete answer to the special problem of providing for the needs of deserted wives in the early months of desertion.
Despite the disparaging remarks made by the honourable member for Grayndler, 1 ask him in all sincerity to consider this issue from the point of view of humanity, though he may consider it to be simple. He was disparaging to the point of saying that this Government is mean because it does not pay a full pension to a deserted wife. But I ask the honourable member to consider the other side of the picture. The ready availability of a full pension might be to the satisfaction of a recipient. But I remind him of the importance of the home and family in the general make-up of the Australian society. The family is the basic and fundamental unit in our society. I would enthusiastically support any effort to increase pensions. But I believe that the Minister does well in treading warily in entering this new field of benefit. He has proceeded with caution. 1 hope that this is perhaps only the beginning of more favourable treatment for other pensioners. I am particularly apprehensive about the attitude adopted towards the States. I believe it is a 50-50 argument as to whether the Commonwealth is right or the States are right. Ought we to give the States an open ended arrangement under which they could write their own ticket and send the bill to the Commonwealth? On the other hand, because of the size of the bill, 1 doubt whether the Commonwealth should place much emphasis on the question of control over the funds involved. The Minister is aware that I have some apprehension in this regard. I am not getting away from the substance of the Bill when I say that the honourable member for Grayndler made some mighty disparaging remarks about the Victorias ‘situation. The fact is that Victoria is not completely shut out of the operation of this Bill; the door is still open. The honourable member suggested that the benefits envisaged could not be paid in Victoria. There is an agreement between the Commonwealth and the other five States.
Legislation concerning the Territories will be dealt with later tonight. The honourable member for Grayndler, in his enthusiasm to belabour the honourable gentleman who has now succeeded to the front bench and become Minister for Social Services, has run away with himself in a manner for which only he is renowned. The Bill before the House is breaking new ground. T would hope that this measure will lead to a lot of other help for deserted wives. I mentioned earlier that deserted wives are not unassociated with class A widows. As I said before, the Minister has broken new ground in this legislation. 1 wonder whether he appreciates the size of the field which has to be conquered in regard to deserted wives. We need a new approach towards the welfare of the widow with children or the class A widow with children who is in a similar position. We put the deserted wife on a base rate along with other groups of pensioners. I can understand the Government’s endeavour to keep to a formula. I know the vagaries of political life. Once we break away from a formula in one instance, everyone can justifiably argue that it should be departed from in other eases. But I believe the Commonwealth can hold the formula and still accommodate a new approach towards class A widows.
In this House I have often made the apparently brutal statement that deserted wives are dangerous women. Of course, I use the expression in a somewhat metaphorical manner. Such a woman is dangerous because she is responsible for young children. Whether the merits of the case are one way or the other is of no consequence; the important consideration is what happens to the children. This is important to us as a government. It is important that we ensure that a child can be reared in conditions of reasonable standards and can attain reasonable standards in later life. If we do not ensure that, we run the risk of exacerbating the problems caused by the situation into which the child is bom. lt is about time we at the Commonwealth level made an appreciation of the substance of this problem and its possible impact on the whole Australian way of life. Indeed, an inquiry and perhaps some research in this field would be valuable. Some research was carried out in 1959 by Miss Jean Aitken-Swan who conducted a survey of the economic conditions of widows with dependent children on behalf of the Australian Council of Social Service. I commend to the honourable member for Grayndler and other honourable members who are interested in social services a study of the report on that survey. I ask the Minister in particular to study this report, because it gives an insight into the ambivalent attitude of the Australian society towards the widow with children. When I use the words ‘widow and children’ I use them in the broadest sense. I overlooked mentioning earlier the fact that the Minister, in bringing in a wider category of women - de facto women with children - at the Commonwealth level, covers the whole ambit. Until such time as we recognise the problems and acknowledge our responsibility we are only asking for trouble.
An enormous sum of money would not be involved. The cost would be reasonable. I invite the Minister to investigate this subject in some depth to see whether we can solve the problem. I believe we can hold the basic pension rate where it is at present and also retain the formula applied to groups of pensioners other than the category with which we are concerned here. But there is a wide field for the giving of aid in this area with loadings added according to the size of the family. I refer to the question of educational allowances for class A widows.
Some figures I have might interest the Minister, because they give an indication of what it would cost to provide education allowances for the children of a class A widow. Although I am straying somewhat from the Bill and I have figures only in respect of class A widows, I crave the indulgence of the House to refer to them so that I may emphasise my point on how this group of widows might be assisted under this legislation. It is estimated that for class A widows an education allowance of Si a week for children between the ages of 5 and 12 years would cost the Government approximately $2,500,000 a year. An education allowance of $2 a week for children in the 13 to 15 years age group would also cost annually about $2,500,000. For children in the older group, those between 16 years and 21 years - the young people who are now having such a significant influence upon society generally - an education allowance of $4 a week would cost only an estimated $750,000 a year. The total estimated amount required for all children of class A widows attending school is approximately $5,750,000. This sum may seem quite substantial, but it is small by comparison with the additional annual allocation of $40m that would be required to give all pensioners an extra $1 a week.
It is dreadful that widows should have to approach headmasters of schools, various statutory authorities and other people as mendicants. All too often the children of these widows have to inform their teachers that they cannot pay, for example, their sports fees. Certainly the headmaster of a school has a discretion available to him, but one cannot ignore the fact that the human element is involved. Often the widow is stripped of her dignity. So are her children. It is important for honourable members to appreciate this fact. Some honourable members might have been embarrassed in a similar way during their early years. The backward attitude of other days should not be permitted to prevail in a modern society. Every child should have an opportunity to attend school and lead a normal life. He should not be exposed to childish brutality. I am sure that all honourable members realise that no-one can be more brutal to a fellow human being than a young child can. The children of widows should not be exposed to this sort of conduct because of their poverty. They should have the same opportunities as other children.
It might be argued by some honourable members that financial assistance of the sort I am advocating should be the responsibility of the various States. I question whether it is. I believe that this responsibility lies clearly with the Commonwealth. Therefore I commend the provision of the type of educational allowances I have mentioned, even if in the initial stage an allowance for children in one of the age groups I have mentioned is omitted. For example, an allocation for education allowances to children in the 16 to 21 years group alone would cost $750,000, or for only those in the 13 years to 15 years group, $2,500,000 a year. A grant of this type would at least do something positive to enable these children to flick back their shoulders and stand upright among their fellow students.
I have been referring to only a few of the things inherent in this Bill, which represents a breakthrough and a definite improvement on the situation which often pertained in the days of old when the death of a husband meant sackcloth and ashes for the widow.,. In those days the widow would often retire to the back room. Sometimes she would move to another district to escape the scorn of her neighbours. This kind of treatment has gone by the board, but it is important that we should keep attempting to encourage a more enlightened approach to these members of our society.
I am sure that some members of this House will agree with me that it is high time for the Attorney-General to consider placing on the agenda of a future meeting of the Attorneys-General the need to institute a system for bringing to book recreant husbands who have deserted their wives. A modification to the law in this respect is long overdue. I appreciate that this matter can be argued from various points of view. I am willing to admit that this sort of conduct is occurring right, left and centre. I could well be asked what I would do if I were placed in the sort of situation that confronts some recreant husbands. I would probably do the same as they do, but this is not the point at issue. The substantive point is what happens to the man’s wife and children? At some time or another every member of this Parliament has been approached by a deserted wife who has children to care for. Often her story is that her husband has left her and gone to another State.
I ask the Attorney-General to consider my suggestion, irrespective of whether civil liberties may seem to be involved. Also 1 ask the Treasurer to consider requiring that a man must produce a taxation clearance before he can be taken on by a new employer. This would assist in tracing a deserting husband. By some means like this it might be possible to induce a better sense of responsibility into some men. I deplore the need to point to standards set by other societies. However, 1 feel I should point out that a scheme such as the one I have suggested has been most successful in some Scandinavian countries.
When I first saw a copy of the Bill I admit to having some reservations about it, as did the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly). However, I do not believe that the honourable member for Grayndler gave deep thought to the measure. Or may his attitude be attributed to the fact that he could not resist the opportunity to attempt to score off his distinguished adversary, the Minister? I understand that the honourable member for Grayndler and the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) entered this Parliament at about the same time, lt was wonderful to watch the two honourable members on either side of the table. Al all events, I firmly believe that one should reject the Opposition’s submission, which was delivered per medium of its able spokesmen on social services. I recommend that this legislation be supported by all honourable members.
– I do not know whether the honourable member for St George (Mr Bosman) believes what he just said. Probably he was simply attempting to impress his audience and the general public. He is a member of a political party that has shared the reins of Government since 1949. All honourable members know that for years many sections of the community have been crying out for a better social services deal from the Government. As I listened to the honourable member refer to social service provisions under a Labor Government in 1949 I could not help casting my mind back - and I suggest that the honourable member should also do so - to 1910 when under Tory governments there were no social services. If he cares to go back a little further into the history of the Labor movement in Australia he will learn that the Hon. J. T. Lang was the first to introduce social service benefits for the people. Although he talks about what Labor did in 1949 he would be well advised to delve further into the history of our social services legislation.
The honourable member for St George, who referred to the decline in the purchasing power of money, might gain a better idea of the real situation by interviewing some of his pensioner constituents. If he did, he would learn how the pensioner has suffered since the changeover to decimal currency and how pensioners generally are not receiving a fair go. Many of them are unable to afford the necessities of life. If the honourable member were to conduct a short survey in an electorate like mine he would soon learn about the underprivileged conditions of some deserted wives and age pensioners, many of whom are hard pressed living on what is left over after paying rent. Then I think he could stand in this Parliament and praise the Government for what it has been doing. At this time I do not think anybody who has anything to do with these unfortunate people could be proud of the way they exist in our community.
I feel that this Bill, as presented by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), is somewhat premature. I think it has been introduced by him in order that he can say: ‘Well, I got something on the statute book in the first session of the National Parliament after I became Minister for Social Services.’ Since 1 became a member of this House I have heard the Minister, when he occupied his former position on a back bench, criticising the Government for its legislation in the social service field. Many of us read the articles he wrote for the newspapers. A great many of us thought that when he became Minister he would provide salvation for these people. Many of us thought that the great hero had arrived and that this defender of the pensioners who had come to the front bench would do something for them. 1 think history has shown already that this was the quickest way that the Government could gag him. I think the Minister already has issued a notice to members of his staff that they should give a block answer to any questions they receive. I want to read this answer to honourable members. Members of the Labor Party have asked three questions and on each occasion the same answer was given. The answer reads:
The Government has already indicated that it will review all aspects of social services and the mailers raised by the honourable member will receive careful consideration. Any decisions to broaden the conditions of eligibility for pensions will be taken and announced in the usual way.
In other words: ‘I have been gagged by the Government and we will, if the Government sees fit, introduce some measure to give economic justice to these unfortunate people.’
As I said earlier, I regard this legislation as somewhat premature. After all, what we are being asked to do is to commit $lm of the taxpayers’ money to the respective States so that they can assist deserted wives. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that deserted wives and their children will get any benefit under this legislation because the States have to agree to this scheme. If the States do not agree we are virtually giving them a handout. We have no control over the money. If the State governments retain the existing benefits the deserted wives will not receive anything out of this scheme. Nor -will the children benefit.
The Minister, in his second reading speech, said that he hoped the States would come to the party and join in the scheme. But looking through the Bill I do not see that we have this guarantee. I feel we should have it. After all, we are committing the taxpayers’ money. I do not see any guarantee anywhere in the Bill and if we do not get it we should not hand the money over to the States. We should not let the States handle it and allow them to decide whether or not to give it to these people. We should ensure that the deserted wives do get some further benefit from this Bill.
Honourable members know that the benefits given to deserted wives vary considerably in the several States. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) said it is those States in which the Labor Party has been in power for years that lead in social services legislation. There is no doubt that as a result of Labor governments, following governments have had at least to maintain that standard. We know that at the present time South Australia pays the most to a deserted wife. We also know that until recently there was a Labor government in that State for 3 years. However, because of a gerrymander, Labor is now the Opposition in South Australia, but at least during the period it occupied the Government benches there was some social economic justice given to deserted wives. We of the Labor Party are proud to be able to say that South Australia pays the highest amount in the Commonwealth. New South Wales, which has always given a lead, paid a fair and just pension. At the present time the amount paid in New South Wales is $16.20. In Tasmania it is $16.50. Tasmania, again, has a Labor government. It is those States which have Labor governments that are aware of the responsibility for the welfare of deserted wives and other social service recipients and they have assisted these people.
Let us consider States run by the Liberal Party at the present time, such as Queensland, where all that is given to deserted wives is S4.85 plus 50c for each child. Victoria virtually gives nothing. Because the
Victorian Government of the day made no provision whatsoever for these unfortunate people, in 1947 the Federal Labor Government came to the party and paid a special benefit under the social service legislation. This was unknown to many honourable members when I first came into this Parliament because it was never printed in the social service legislation. It was only when the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee inquired into social services and presented a report that it became known that the Commonwealth was paying this benefit for Victoria. I attempted to find out then what the amounts were but unfortunately they were not available. It was not until the matter was raised in this Parliament and the former Minister for Social Services was requested to provide this information that we knew then, in 1966, that the Commonwealth was paying $160,000 to Victoria for deserted wives and their children. This meant that another handout was being given to Victoria while the other States had to find money from their own taxation resources to pay pensions to deserted wives. Now we find that at the present time it is costing the Commonwealth $300,000 to provide these pensions.
I cannot see the Victorian Government agreeing to any measure which will mean that it will have to pay something to deserted wives because the Commonwealth is now providing this money. I think it is a pity that under the Constitution the Commonwealth is not paying it to the other States. Anyway, the Commonwealth is providing this money at present and what benefit will the Victorians get out of agreeing to pay anything extra for deserted wives? Those unfortunate people will get nothing. I do not think the Victorian Government will agree to this scheme but at least deserted wives in the other States will benefit from the legislation.
This may appear on paper to be good legislation but I think we have to look at how it will operate. I hope that the Minister, in his reply, will be able to enlighten us a great deal more as to exactly what the States will agree to. I do not think the Commonwealth should just give this money to the States and allow them to determine what they will do with it. We have to see that the widow with children benefits under this legislation. After all, to secure a decent standard of living one needs money. The deserted wife needs money to enable her to educate her children properly. If children do not receive an adequate education they will not be able to secure good employment later in life. If the deserted wife does not receive sufficient money, she and her children will not enjoy the same standards of living and education that are enjoyed by families in which husbands and wives both work and the children have all the necessaries of life and enjoy a decent education because the parents can afford it. When a family breaks up it is always the children who suffer. We, as a Parliament, should be looking after such children. I do not know whether it might not be better to increase the benefit payable to children to ensure that they have decent clothes to wear to school, that they get a good education and that they have the same standard of living as other sections of the community.
At present it is costing the States collectively about $1.5m annually in benefits to deserted wives, de facto wives, prisoners’ wives and prisoners’ de facto wives. If we give the States Sim, these benefits will in future cost the States only $0.5m. We must ensure that the Sim that is given to the States goes to the children, the deserted wives and the widows for whom it is intended. I do not know that I agree that the States should control the expenditure of this money. I would rather see control retained by the Commonwealth Government. While control is retained by the Commonwealth, this Parliament has some say. I do not believe that we should be doing what we have been doing for many years in this Parliament - legislating in respect of specific grants to the States for particular projects. Once the money is given to the States, nine times out of ten we have no further control over it. We do not know whether it is being spent wisely or whether it is being wasted. We do not know whether people are being overpaid for jobs that are not up to proper standards. I do not believe that we ought to hand this money to the States; it should be retained by the Department of Social Services which should pay it to these unfortunate people. It does not matter whether the payment is made as an extra benefit above what the States pay; we should at least retain control over the money.
It is during the first few weeks after a wife has been deserted that she and her children really suffer. Immediately a woman is deserted by her husband she can issue a warrant against him. The Commonwealth will help her financially, and this is quire proper. After all, if husbands who desert their wives go interstate it is hard to track them down, especially if they change their names. It is very hard to serve husbands with writs in order to get them to appear in court. It could take months before a decision is given by the court, and in that time these women have to live on hand outs of cash and food from charitable organisations and also from the State social welfare departments. If we grant relief to these women immediately they apply to a court, they will receive some assistance while they are waiting for a decision to be given by the court.
In 1967 the Victorian Family Council carried out a survey among deserted wives in Victoria. As a result of the survey the Council found that almost 90% of deserted mothers who depend on statutory benefits have an income below the poverty line as defined by the Institute of Applied Economics Research, and two thirds of them have an income below the requirements of the Victorian Social Welfare Department. This survey gives an indication of how these unfortunate women are attempting to exist in this country today. I feel - as I think the majority of members on this side of the House do - somewhat ashamed when I realise that there are people in the community living in a state of poverty. It is very difficult to convince the Government that this state of affairs exists in our affluent society. I believe that many honourable members opposite are not aware that this situation exists.
In my own electorate - and the honourable member for West Sydney (Mr Minogue) will confirm this - I know of people who, because of the amount of rent they have to pay, are living in a state of poverty and are depending on charities because they have insufficient means of support. They do not have sufficient income to enable them to buy the bare necessaries of life. I believe that some honourable members opposite should take a greater interest in this matter. They should endeavour at least to do something within their own party rooms in order to see that these unfortunate people have at least the same opportunity that is available to other sections of the community. Honourable members opposite should be agitating for greater social service benefits. Some people may ask: ‘Where will we get the money from in order to provide greater social service benefits?’ That is the great old cry. The Government can find money to waste on purchasing Fill aircraft. It gives open cheques to people. It says: ‘You build the aircraft. We do not care what they will cost. We will pay it.’ The Government can find money when it wants to go to war. It can waste money on bombs and waste money in many other ways. But the Government can never find the money to give economic justice to people who have to depend on hand-outs.
I believe that many sections of the community could afford to give a little extra to help these unfortunate people. There are many people in the community who would not mind giving a little extra to see that someone else had ample to eat and a decent home to live in. The Opposition is not able to do these things merely by agitating for them. We raise these questions in order to attempt to embarrass the Government into doing something for these unfortunate people. The members of the present Government are responsible because, after all, they have control of the Treasury. They say what taxation shall be raised and by what means it shall be raised. They also say how the revenue derived from taxation shall be spent. The Treasurer and his staff are the people who hold the purse strings of the nation. The Government should make a supreme effort to do something about the means test. The cry for an easing of the means test is growing stronger all the time.
I am of the opinion that it can be eased in certain ways, but it is also my firm belief that those persons in receipt of the basic rate pension are the ones who should be helped first. They are receiving but the barest of handouts from the Government. I hope that the Minister will increase his agitation with the Government with a view to getting economic justice for these unfortunate people and so help both them and their children in their way of life. If he does this, I am sure it will be greatly appreciated by all those who are in need.
– I should like to take this, the first opportunity I have had, publicly to congratulate the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) on his appointment as Minister for Social Services. I am certain that it is a portfolio to which he can bring a great deal of talent as well as an abundance of sympathy and understanding. I should like to congratulate him also upon introducing this particular Bill as his first measure. 1 believe that it will bring justice to an unfortunate group of women who previously, in my opinion, were badly treated.
The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) was very harsh in his criticism of both the Minister and the Government. But his criticism of the rates of pension paid to A class widows by this Government has a very phoney ring about it. In fact, it is worse than that. I think his criticism was nothing but sheer hypocrisy and humbug. The last Labor Government paid a widow with two children $4.75 a week.
– When was that - 20 years ago?
– I will come to that. This Government pays her $20 a week. If she has to pay rent, this Government pays her $22 a week. Under a Labor Government, which did not make any allowance for additional children, the widow with four children received $4.75 a week. This Government pays her $23 a week, and $25 a week if she is paying rent. Let me put it in another way so that the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) might better understand what I am saying. He says that I am going back 20 years. During the period in which the basic wage has increased by about 164%, the rates paid to a widow with two children by this Liberal and Country Party Government have increased by up to 363%, and those paid to a widow with four children by up to 426%. I leave it to the Australian people and the widows themselves to judge which Party really has the interests of the widows at heart. It was not my intention to refer to Labor’s shocking treatment of widows, but I was provoked by the honourable member for Grayndler who, I believe, quite unfairly attacked both the Minister and the Government.
– It has taken you 20 years to do this.
– We have gradually increased it over the years. It is a far better record than the Labor Government had in the past and it is far better than Labor is ever likely to have in the future because I do not think I will-live to see the day when the Labor Party is on this side of the House again.
Last year, the Victorian Family Council, the President of which is Senator Marie Breen, conducted a study into the circumstances in which deserted wives are placed. I believe that the public is indebted to Senator Breen and to the sub-committee of the Family Council for the report which has been published by that sub-committee. This report stated among other things that whilst the deserted wife and mother is subject to the same stress and difficulties which face the widow, whilst she bears a certain stigma in society, the unmarried mother is even more unacceptable to society. Frequently the financial circumstances of a deserted mother are much worse than those of a widow, the reason being that many widows have group-up families who can care for them. Quite often a widow’s late husband has made provision by way of an assurance policy on his life and, if he has been accidentally killed, in quite a number of cases the widow has received compensation. None of these benefits will make up for the loss of her husband and partner, but they do help to ease the financial burden placed on her by the Joss of the breadwinner.
The deserted mother in most cases, although not always, is worse off. Usually she is deserted quite early in life. She is left with a number of young children to maintain and rarely would she have grown up children to assist her. In the case of de facto wives and other unmarried mothers there is no assurance policy and no compensation is paid for the loss of a partner. Whereas the widow qualifies for a social service benefit from the date of the death of her husband, the deserted wife has to wait for up to 6 months from the time at which she was deserted before she qualifies for a widow’s pension or its equivalent. A prisoner’s wife has to wait 6 months from the time at which her husband was first imprisoned before she qualifies for the equivalent of the widow’s pension. She receives the same rate as the deserted wife. In Victoria the Commonwealth Government has paid a special benefit at a rate which is equivalent to the unemployment benefit and women in Victoria have been dependent upon the State Government for any other benefits. However, under the terms of this legislation, in the five States which have already accepted the proposition put forward by the Minister, they can receive an amount which is equivalent to that paid to a Class A widow. The Commonwealth will contribute 50% of this amount and the States will contribute the remaining 50%.
The de facto wives and unmarried mothers who at present do not qualify for the Commonwealth contribution will continue to receive this benefit indefinitely or, rather, for so long as the States continue to regard them as eligible for a benefit and continue to pay them a State benefit. In those circumstances the Commonwealth will match the States’ contribution to the extent of a total payment equivalent to that paid to a Class A widow. The position in Victoria is that since 1947 the Commonwealth has paid a special benefit which, as I have mentioned, is at a rate equivalent to the unemployment benefit. This benefit has been paid in Victoria to deserted wives and the wives of prisoners for the 6 months period which must have elapsed before they have become eligible to receive Commonwealth benefits. I believe that at the present time the Victorian Government is paying an allowance of $4 per week for each dependent child. In the case of a widow with two dependent children, this means that in Victoria at present she receives $11.25 per week from the Commonwealth, which is the rate of the special benefit, and $8 per week from the State Government, making a total of $19.25. She receives that amount quite apart from the child endowment that she receives. Under the terms of this legislation, if she is paying rent and has no income or property it is possible for her to receive, in those States which have accepted the legislation, as much as $22 per week, of which the Commonwealth will contribute $11. In that instance she would be on the same financial footing as a Class A widow.
I should like to point out that the number of widows in these categories - deserted wives, the wives of prisoners, deserted de facto wives and unmarried mothers - has been steadily increasing. It has not been possible for me to obtain figures for all States because the Commonwealth has been paying this benefit only in Victoria. Honourable members may be interested to know that for the quarter ended 31st March the figures for Victoria have shown an increase from 372 to 559 in the past 2 years. That is quite a substantial increase.
The report of the Victorian Family Council, to which I referred earlier, stated that a survey that was conducted in New South Wales revealed that 35.4% of deserted mothers have one child; 31.6% have two children; and 33% have three or more children. The report also pointed out that deserted mothers have psychological problems that are not experienced by widows. That is because they have been deserted, not widowed. The research conducted by. the Council has shown that these psychological problems frequently have a serious impact on the mental health of the deserted mother and often have a very strong influence on the character of the children. We have to add to all of that the fact that, like the widow, the more dependent children a deserted or unmarried mother has the more difficult it is for her to take a job.
For these reasons I am pleased that the new Minister for Social Services has recognised the needs of the deserted mother by making it possible in those States that have indicated their acceptance of this legislation for her to be placed on the same financial footing as the Class A widow as far as Commonwealth pensions are concerned. I hope that Victoria will indicate its acceptance of this legislation. In addition, the passage of this Bill will result in the payment of Commonwealth social service benefits to some women who previously were ineligible to receive them. For these reasons I support the Bill and wish it a speedy passage.
-! am one member who wants the Parliament to know that I welcome the introduction of this Bill - not because of what it contains but because the new Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) apparently has recognised, at least to some degree, the acute suffering and poverty that many wives and children have been enduring down through the years immediately after the break-up of their marriages. More often than not it is in the initial period of a separation that the finances of the family are put under the greatest strain. It is at that time that the need of deserted mothers for assistance is most urgent, especially if they occupy a housing commission home or are unable to meet their rent, in which case they immediately face eviction and the possible loss of their children to State welfare officers.
Time and time again husbands clear off and leave their families absolutely destitute. In those circumstances, were it not for charitable organisations to which many families appeal for help - for example, the Smith Family, the St Vincent de Paul Society, city missions and church organisations - I do not really know what would happen to many of them. But, of course, there is a limit to the resources that charitable organisations have at their disposal. I suggest that the needs of these organisations could well be examined by the Government when it has a surplus of goods and clothing from the Services to dispose of, as occurred last week.
Insofar as this Bill proposes that the Commonwealth will meet half the cost of any expenditure, up to the equivalent of a class A widow pension, that State governments incur in providing food, clothing and cash payments to deserted wives and their children it is a step in the right direction and the Minister is to be congratulated on its introduction. However, I point out that the concept of a deserted wife’s pension or the payment of financial assistance to such people is not new. It is now more than 25 years since the economic problems that plague deserted wives and their children were first considered by this Parliament.
Hansard of 22nd May 1947 reveals that the then Minister for Social Services, Senator McKenna, had no doubt in his mind that the Social Services Consolidation Bill 1947, which he was introducing at that time, would cover such cases as deserted wives and their children prior to the 6 months period., and spinsters who could not find employment as they aged. He specifically referred to the position of Victoria at that time and to the fact that clause 124 which provided for special benefits in fact covered deserted wives during the first 6 months of their desertion. It is ironical therefore that the Minister for Social Services should refer in his second reading speech, more than 25 years later, to the Victorian attitude of 1947. In the face of the great progress that has been made in the field of social service legislation in the intervening period, it is ironical that the Minister is prepared to allow Victoria to remain out of line with the other States of the Commonwealth in the way in which it deals with deserted wives and unmarried mothers.
The benefits under the proposed legislation undoubtedly are much better for deserted women in Victoria than are the benefits that they are at present receiving under the Victorian legislation. I could perhaps sympathise with the earlier Victorian attitude to deserted wives because, as I see it, deserted wives and their children in the early period of their desertion in Victoria were provided for much more sympathetically by the Commonwealth Department of Social Services, as has been the case in New South Wales, in relation to the payment of special benefits. In many instances in New South Wales the Department of Social Services refuses to pay special benefits and it gives no reason for doing so. I instance the case of a woman who had married when she was very young. She had two children of that marriage. Her husband cleared out and left her destitute. Some years later, apparently by subterfuge, he obtained a divorce, after which she formed a de facto relationship with another person in order to provide for herself and her children. Over a period of approximately 8 years, three children were born of the association. Last year, the de facto husband left home and again the woman, with her five children, was left destitute. For some time she was supported by her parents. Apparently both the Commonwealth Department of Social Services and the New South Wales Department of Child Welfare and Social Welfare refused her assistance. Yet, section 124 of the Social Services Act 1947-1964, which is found in Division 6, Special Benefits, clearly makes provision for the payment of a special benefit to persons who are not eligible to receive other types of social service benefits.
Why the Department of Social Services refuses to exercise its prerogative under the Act in many instances, I will never know. This aspect of the present Social Services Act is in itself a challenge to the handling of this legislation by the Government. Section 124 reads:
The Director-General may, in his descretion, grant a special benefit under this Division to a person -
who is not in receipt of a pension or allowance under Part 111. or IV. of this Act or a service pension under the Repatriation Act 1920-1954;
who is not qualified to receive an unemployment benefit or a sickness benefit; and
with respect to whom the Director-General is satisfied that, by reason of age, physical or mental disability or domestic circumstances, or for any other reason, that person is unable to earn a sufficient livelihood for himself and his dependants (if any).
It will be seen that the section of the Act that I have just quoted in fact does cover all types of cases which may come before the Department. That is, of course, if the Department is being administered by a sympathetic Director-General because when all is said and done, the Director-General is held responsible for the administration of his Department and especially for the granting of special benefits. In view of the Government’s attitude on the subject of special benefits, and to keep the record straight, I quote in part a speech made by Senator McKenna, as Minister for Social Services, when replying to the second reading debate on the Social Services Consolidation Bill 1947 on 22nd May 1947. The passage, which begins at page 2743 of Hansard, reads:
It is impossible to legislate for all eventualities, and, from the debate that has occurred, it is apparent that honourable senators on both sides of the chamber have in mind cases that will not be covered by the Bill. However, a perusal of the measure in the amended form will show that an effort has been made to give discretionary power to the officers who will administer it so that when a case does not fall within the four walls of a particular benefit something may be done to alleviate hardship. 1 draw particular attention to clause 124, which deals with special benefits. A special benefit will be available when no other specific type of benefit can be invoked-
Several honourable senators opposite mentioned the new provision for the payment of what is called a widow’s pension to the wives of men who are in prison.
It may be suggested that something should be done in proper cases for the wives of men who are in prison for periods of less than 6 months. The reason why that period was selected is that, in the provision for women who have been deserted by their husbands, the desertion must continue for a period of 6 months before benefit becomes payable. From the viewpoint of this legislature, it would have been indefensible to deny a position to a deserted wife until a period of 6 months had elapsed, but to grant an allowance to u woman whose husband had just previously gone to prison. Lest honourable senators may fear that hardship will be imposed on a woman whose husband is in’ prison for less than 6 months, I refer them to the provisions of clause 124. Mere, again, the provision for special benefits comes to the rescue. This provision may be applied in any cases in which the circumstances warrant its invocation.
Senator Allan MacDonald was concerned about the position of spinsters who have no one to provide for them, and he suggested that the eligible age for pension should be reduced from 60 to 55 years in their case. I do not agree with his contention. If the Government had introduced unemployment and sickness benefits before it introduced the widows’ pensions scheme I doubt whether such provision would have been made in the case of women who have no dependent children. The plight of these women can be met in either of two ways under present legislation. If a woman is prepared to work but cannot find work she is entitled to unemployment benefit. If there are special circumstances impelling women to stay at home to care for their relatives they are eligible to receive a special benefit at the same rate. In view of that provision, I do not think there is any reason to make special provision for spinsters or to alter the eligible age.
Senator Aylett; ls that provided for in the social services scheme?
– That is provided for by clause 124.
What I have just read will give honourable members an indication of the reasons why I have expressed sympathy with the attitude of Victoria over the past 25 years or so. In my view the present proposal will provide much greater benefits for deserted wives, immediately after their being deserted, than are being paid in Victoria at present under the special benefits provision of the Social Services Act. I am at a loss to understand why the Victorian Government has elected to remain aloof from the present proposition. Returning to the case to which I referred, I state that the matter was brought to my notice, in the first instance, by the woman’s mother, who expressed concern about the welfare of the five children that her daughter had borne and about the fact that the mother herself had to go to work to help keep her daughter and the daughters children. An inquiry by me at the Newcastle office of the Department of Social Welfare revealed that the State benefit to the woman and her children had been stopped, allegedly because the woman was no good and because she drank and frequented hotels. The officer concerned stated that on visiting the woman’s home she was drunk and would not answer the door. The woman told me that she had been shopping, had got her clothes wet, and was in her nightgown and not presentable when the inspector called. Honourable members can see what happens when bureaucrats administer social welfare in New South Wales. I ask the Minister: Was section 124 of the Act not applicable in that instance, or are we to expect that children are to be allowed to starve in a community of full and plenty because the Commonwealth will not honour its own legislation or because a State inspector objected to a woman having a drink or two at one time or another?
I am pleased to say that a widow’s pension was granted to the woman, with an allowance for two of her children, as from 18th October last. But I understand that the Department of Social Welfare has refused to pay anything for the other three children, who are still required to live on their mother’s pension.
On 25th January this year I wrote to the Minister for Social Services about the plight of the three children for whom no allowance is paid. It took until last week to get a considered reply, which in short stated that the children have no entitlement under Federal law. Apparently, as far as the Commonwealth is concerned, they can starve. I am pleased that the Minister is in the House. Knowing the patience with which he usually examines problems that confront him I doubt very much whether he bothered to study my representations or to read the reply which was prepared for him to sign. For instance, in his letter to me the Minister quoted the definition of a child. Section 59 of the Social Services Act provides that a child born of a woman, being a dependent female, and of the man in respect of whom she was a dependent female, is eligible to receive sustenance. Of course, honourable members will know that the provision 1 quote deals with de facto wives. For a de facto wife to have entitlement under the Act section 59 requires that the relationship of husband and wife must have existed continuously on a permanent basis for more than 3 years. The association to which I have referred had continued for more than 8 years, as witness the ages of the children - 8 years, 5 years and 1 year. The Minister will know that I have again written to him about the matter. I appeal to him to study my representations with a view to rectifying something which he must know is wrong. He must know that the refusal of his officers to grant sustenance to these children is wrong.
The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) has moved an amendment which I wholeheartedly support. The amendment is designed to ensure that deserted wives and their children are not required, as at present, to wait for the payment of a pension until after a magistrate has made an order on a wife’s application for maintenance. Quite often maintenance cases are drawn out for months before they are finalised. In my view this Bill should be withdrawn and made considerably wider. It contains only six clauses, including two of a machinery nature. Despite its importance it is possibly the vaguest Bill I have ever seen introduced into this Parliament in my 18 years here. It is patently clear that there is to be an abdication of authority by the Minister in favour of the States so far as the administration of this legislation is concerned. At this stage in our development this is wrong. It is well known by many people that in New South Wales the social welfare means test often operates against applicants and is oppressive, lt is a means test for which there are no fixed rules. Nor do applicants receive amounts of assistance according to their needs or the size of their families. The Minister’s statement that the Commonwealth expects that the test for eligibility of deserted wives to receive assistance will still be individual hardship is, to say the least, kite flying, because things do not work out that way - certainly not in New South Wales. In my experience many officers of the New South Wales Department of Social Welfare do the very thing in the administration of the Department that the Minister has said should not be done. In his second reading speech he said:
In the case of deserted wives, the fact of desertion may be difficult to establish during the first 6 months as the husband may well decide to return; and indeed Government action should not be calculated to impede any reconciliation. In such circumstances, administration of relief requires a detailed knowledge of the facts of each case, and general rule of thumb principles should not ba relied upon.
Experience shows that some officers in various departments do apply rule of thumb methods, on occasions as hard as they possibly can. The provisions of this Bill will give them a helping hand to apply their rule of thumb methods still harder because the Commonwealth will not be administering the legislation. For example, clause 3 of the Bil’l provides:
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - person in relation to whom this Act applies’ means a woman who has the custody, care and control of a child or children, but is not in receipt of pension, allowance or other benefit under Part III., IV., VH., VIIa. or VIII. of the Social Services Act.
Does the Minister know that literally hundreds of age pensioners have the custody, care and control of a child or children who may be illegitimate for even their own? Are those children to be denied any assistance under this Bill? If that is what the Bill means, it should be thrown out and a new one drafted. When all is said and done, no child should be made to suffer the result of its parents folly.
Paragraph (a) of clause 3 of the Bill applies to a wife who has been deserted by her husband without just cause. Why has the Minister been so harsh in his stipulation of ‘without just cause’? Is he aware that some men will go to any lengths to lay the blame for the breakup of their marriage on their wife or to obtain a divorce? Often the wife does not even defend an action, sometimes under duress or threat or through ignorance or lack of finance, the husband often being aided by an unscrupulous lawyer who has been well and truly paid to do the husband’s bidding. I know case after case in which the wife has been made aware that she has been divorced when someone has told her that he has read it in the Press or when she herself las read it in the Press.
Does the Minister know that almost every week young women in this country ate being raped by packs of touts and that many of the girls concerned become pregnant? Does he know that rather than expose themselves to the public gaze and the disgrace of the whole sordid affair they have had their babies quietly after which relatives or friends take them and rear them? Is the Minister aware that some girls in other circumstances become pregnant and after the birth of the child give it to a grandparent or relative to rear rather than abandon it? Are those children to be denied the payment of an allowance simply because the person who has the custody, care and control of it may be a pensioner? If they are, then it is high time that we learned a lesson from the social welfare legislation of many overseas countries such as Denmark, Sweden, Germany and others.
Perhaps the Minister may care to have a further look at this part of the Bill and amend it in another place for I honestly believe that it would be much more economical in the long run for the Government to grant pensioner relatives of single women and some widows an allowance for having the custody, care and control of a child rather than have the mother herself become a pensioner. In my view the Government should make very clear to the mothers of Australia that irrespective of the circumstances neither they nor the children they bear will ever be allowed to go hungry or to become destitute during the children’s infancy or school years. No child should become the victim of a broken marriage or an outcast of society in this country simply because of his misfortune of birth. Yet that has been happening for years and nothing has been done until now by any government to rectify it. In New South Wales I understand that a child’s birth may now be legitimatised, but of course that does not help to fill an empty stomach. The Minister has told us that he expects the assistance which is to be given to the States under this Bill to cost initially Sim in a full year. Yet there is not one word said of any provision in the Act for the apprehension of runaway husbands and fathers whereby they can be brought before a court, irrespective of elapsed time, and compelled to meet the cost of their folly. I know there are a lot of people from whom nothing much could be obtained. There are however some who do become comparatively well off in the course of time, and the law should always be seeking them out in an effort to extract from them the maintenance they owe their wives. In my view the cost involved would be money well spent. I suppose that down through the years deserted women have lost millions of dollars simply because they have been persuaded by court officers, solicitors and others to forego arrears of maintenance owing to them by ex-husbands and boy friends. Maintenance owing by fathers of illegitimate children should always be a debt against them until it has been paid.
No Parliament, State or Federal, in this country has even really tried to come to grips with the problem of deserting husbands who refuse to meet their maintenance orders. In recent years the Commonwealth Matrimonial Causes Act and its regulations have made it easier for the processing and serving of maintenance orders, but that is as far as it has gone. For instance, a woman whose husband had left her a short time after marriage had sought and was granted maintenance for the child of the marriage, but over a period of possibly 9 or 10 years she received nothing for the child, simply because the husband skipped from State to State and later to our mandated Territory of New Guinea to avoid being served with warrants for his arrest. From time to time he would return to Newcastle with impunity because he apparently knew that a warrant for his arrest was at, say, Darwin and he knew another warrant could not be issued while the first one was still current. I suggest that in such cases the legislation should provide for duplicate court orders for a man’s arrest in whatever city or town he may turn up. After an arrest had been made a notification could be sent through the police for the withdrawal of other warrants that were also in existence for his arrest. The costs involved could be debited to the arrested person and that would be a further debt he would have to clear up. I understand that the man I have in mind is at present on one of the islands around New Guinea but. as 1 have stated, he is known to have visited Newcastle several times in the past few years with impunity.
The Bill does nothing to discourage this type of case. I express the view that legislation could be enacted which would make a warrant, once it had been issued, operable anywhere in Australia or its Territories. In effect, once a man has fathered a child and the law has pronounced judgment on that man’s responsibilities, whether to the child or to its mother or both, I suggest that the regulations should be so fluid as to allow for the collective action of both Federal and State administrations in the apprehension of a culprit so as to bring him face to face with his responsibilities in the shortest possible time.
The failure of the Minister to have included in the Bill provisions for hospital, medical, pharmaceutical, travelling, transport and school books concessions for deserted wives and their children is indicative of the Government’s lack of real concern for these people.I am sure that a future Labor Government immediately on return to office will rectify this anomaly. I support the amendment of the Opposition.
Debate (on motion by Mr Erwin) adjourned.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Overseas Telecommunications Bill 1968. Post and Telegraph Bill (No. 2) 1968. Queensland Grant (Maraboon Dam) Bill 1968. States Grants (Drought Assistance) Bill 1968. States Grants (Drought Reimbursement) Bill 1968.
Victoria Grant (River Murray Salinity) Bill 1968.
Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Bill 1968. Loans Securities Bill 1968. Commonwealth Railways Bill 1968.
International Disputes - Transport in Northern Australia
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I want to refer to a very grave event that has happened in the course of the last few hours. That is the unanimous decision by the Security Council of the United Nations Organisation calling upon all member countries of the United Nations to impose complete sanctions against Rhodesia. I do not want to argue the merits or demerits of the position of the Rhodesian Government but I want to stress, if I may, the gravity of the decision that has been taken and to invite the Australian Parliament to look into the future to the possible consequences if the Security Council’s decision goes unchallenged and unexamined. The Security Council’s decision to impose complete sanctions upon Rhodesia is taken pursuant to Article 41 of the Charter of the United Nations Organisation. Before complete sanctions can be imposed there are two prerequisites. The first is that the available facilities under Article 39 and the various articles in Chapter VI of the Charter be exhausted. These are the various procedures dealing with conciliation. The second prerequisite is that both of the parties to the dispute be heard by the Security Council. That is provided in Article 32. I want to read it because it is most important. It states a very elementary principle of justice:
Any Member of the United Nations which is not a member of the Security Council or any state which is not a Member of the United Nations, if it is a party to a dispute under consideration by the Security Council, shall - -
Not ‘may’ - be invited to participate, without vote, in the discussion relating to the dispute.
There are two ways in which the United Kingdom could have referred this matter to the United Nations. It could have referred it under Chapter VI of the Charter or it could have referred it under Chapter VII of the Charter. If the reference were made under Chapter VI of the Charter the country making the reference could not vote and in this instance the United Kingdom did vote. So the only conclusion to be drawn is that the reference was made under Chapter VII of the Charter.
Dealing with the prerequisites - the existence of a dispute, the various conciliatory measures and the calling of the parties to the dispute -I invite the House to take the view that these procedures were not observed. So the Security Council’s assumption of jurisdiction in this matter is in my view - and I state it with humility - completely and utterly illegal. 1 have been in this place a little too long to be under any delusions of grandeur. It is completely wrong to expect that a private member of the Australian Parliament will disturb this procedure but I hope that every other private member sitting in this Parliament will follow through the consequences of what has happened, if at some time in the future this country is involved in a dispute and is not heard by the Security Council. One would not need to be loo fanciful in one’s thinking to imagine what may happen. I contemplate the possibility that in the next 5 or 10 years this country’s immigration policy will be most severely under attack by the United Nations Organisation, ls any person going seriously to put to me that we will regard it as being a respectable display of justice or an expression of equity in the broadest sense, if we are not to be heard in our own defence in order to state our view? I do not argue the merits of the Rhodesian situation. 1 presume to remind the House that before there was the unilateral declaration of independence, I asked the then Minister for External Affairs in this Parliament to send a deputation, not from the Government, but from the Parliament, to Rhodesia and to accredit to that delegation representatives of Australian newspapers. My request failed.
Whoever decides something not having heard the other party albeit it pleases him he is deciding justly, it will be by no means just.
They were proud words written many centuries ago. They are words which deserve to be recaptured by those who live in this generation and who have some anxiety for future generations.
The ghost of a man who once was a member of this House walks here tonight. I refer to the late Dr Evatt. In about 1946, as a result of his enterprise, a country in similar circumstances to Rhodesia was heard before the Security Council. This country was Indonesia. At the time Indonesia was not a sovereign state and that was the claim by the Netherlands. It was Dr Evatt’s persistence, his insistence and his sense of justice that made him say: ‘These people, even though they are not a sovereign nation, must be heard’. The Australian delegate to the Security Council in that year said that an invitation should he extended to the Government of Indonesia to participate in discussions.
I confess to my own sense of inadequacy and recognise my own position as a private member of this Parliament, but I am not completely overwhelmed by those circumstances and I hope I can invite the representative of the Australian Government on this occasion to say to the Security Council that this matter should be referred to the International Court of Justice to determine whether the Security Council has validly or legally assumed jurisdiction in this dispute. I hope I will not speak in vain. This is a matter of uncommon importance no matter what views we may have on the tragic events that have poured out of the African continent over the last 20 years. I do not want to discuss the matter of racial conflicts. But I do want to discuss matters of justice and the difficulties that are encountered in trying to reconcile the immense differences between people who live in different milieu. That is why I hope that the plea of a private member of the Australian Parliament to the Government that this matter be referred to the International Court of Justice will not fall on deaf or unsympathetic ears.
– It is most gratifying to me that for the first time in this chamber I have heard support for my argument that international disputes should be referred to the International Court of Justice. I appeal to the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) to apply the same eloquent argument to a far more grave dispute in which this country is directly involved, and to support me in my endeavours to have the Government take action to have the Vietnam dispute referred to the International Court of Justice in exactly the same way he suggests in relation to another dispute. That need is far more pressing and far more urgent and attending to it is far more a duty of this country.
– I join the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) and the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) in the hope that international disputes will be referred to the International Court of Justice. However, I am very doubtful about the result because the last time the Court delivered a judgment the United Nations threw it overboard. It does not seem to be of much use establishing an international court of justice if the body which set it up will not accept its decisions.
Like the honourable member for Moreton I am very disturbed at events reported in the Press tonight. I hope that the Australian Government will display the same moral fortitude, (as distinct from the craven turpitude) which was displayed at the Commonwealth High Commissioners Conference held in London in September last, by Malawi, Lesotho, and Botswana and even by Uganda. Uganda began a discussion on the abolition of sanctions against Rhodesia, but for obvious reasons backed out, situated as it is - and I sympathise with its situation between Burundi and Tanzania, countries which are both under the influence of the Chinese Communists. That influence will be considerably increased now that a railway is to be constructed from Dar-es-Salaam into Zambia. I sympathise with Uganda in not having pushed the matter as far as the other three African States did. Uganda is bordered on the north by Sudan and has about 160,000 refugees as a result of the efforts of the Moslem north to eliminate the African south in Sudan.
At the High Commissioners Conference to which I have referred, Botswana, Lesotho and Malawi, knowing that the Africans themselves - the people whom the sanctions were supposed to help - were the people most affected and hit hardest by the sanctions, put on the agenda a motion recommending the abolition of the sanctions and voted for it. I suppose that somebody will ask how I know that that took place at the conference, because the proceedings were classified. I read of the proceedings in the Press when travelling in southern Africa. Since then I have tried to ascertain whether the report was correct. I have received the answer: ‘I cannot tell you, because the matter was classified, but I can say that Uganda was very annoyed because there was a Press leak’. I do not think I need to say anything further about whether my interpretation is correct. Leaks to the Press have been known to happen even in Parliament House.
Do not Australians realise that the difference of opinion between Rhodesia and Britain is an internal matter? The United Nations, by its declaration in the Twenty-First Session of the General Assembly, proposed by the Soviet Union, stated:
Status of the implementation of the declaration on the inadmissibility of intervention in the domestic affairs of States and the protection of their independence and sovereignty . . .
Reaffirming all the principles and rules embodied in the declaration . . . deems it to be its bounden duty:
To urge the immediate cessation of intervention, in any form whatever, in the domestic or external affairs of States;
To condemn all forms of intervention in the domestic or external affairs of States as a basic source of danger to the cause of world peace;
To call upon all States to carry out faithfully their obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and the provisions of the declaration . . .
I think even my learned and honourable friends in this House will agree with me that it was illogical, illegal and farcical to suggest that the United Nations could take this action under that part of the constitution because Rhodesia is a threat to world peace. Rhodesia has not attacked and does not propose to attack anybody. How can anyone suggest that Rhodesia constitutes a threat to world peace? If Rhodesia were considered to constitute such a threat, how many other countries should have priority in this sanctimonious sanctions business? Is not Communist
China, with her policy of genocide in Tibet and North Korea and her openly stated policy of aggression for world conquest, more a threat to world peace than Rhodesia? Yet out of the fifteen members of the present Security Council ten voted on the last occasion, against their own Charter provision, for the admission of Communist China to the United Nations to the exclusion of the Republic of China. The ten member countries which so voted were Algeria, France, Denmark, Ethiopia, India, Hungary, Pakistan, Senegal, the United Kingdom and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Is the United Nations a model of legality when, as I said earlier, having established the International Court of Justice it refused to accept its decision on South West Africa, which does not want home rule anyway but does want homelands? All eleven African races who live in South West Africa want homelands. This was the position when the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) and I were there.
Is not Australia aware that the whole purpose of the exercises against South Africa, South West Africa, Rhodesia, Angola and Mozambique is to create the same chaos in southern Africa as has unfortunately occurred in the Congo and in Nigeria. Personally I back Malawi, Botswana and Lesotho who, although they do not agree with the internal policies of Rhodesia and South Africa or Portugal - and I do not agree entirely, either - know that sympathy and understanding, and participating in regional co-operation and development, will do more to alter policies than ostracism and hatred will, and that the former attitude will rapidly raise the standard of living of all races in their region. Do the Communists want this? No, sir.
Why are these attacks being made on the only area in Africa where there is real peace and progress, disturbed only by terrorists and bloody murderers who are classified by the United Nations as freedom fighters. Did U Thant ever object to his own country, Burma, sending back to India 200,000 or more Indian traders and their families? Why does Australia have to support blindly the most disastrous government Britain has had since the time of
George III? Not content with bringing Britain to her knees, the present’ British Government wants to rub her nose in the dirt. This is a government that blockades Beira and sends ship after ship flying the British flag into Haiphong, a government that refuses spare parts and ammunititon to naval ships in South Africa yet since the Suez Canal was closed has sent 55 ships of her navy into South African ports for repairs, revictualling and refuelling. Truly it is a mad, mad world, and international relationships are in a sad, sad mess. How silly can our own Government get when we accept Rhodesian money for our wheat, yet the Commonwealth Bank refuses to clear a $5 cheque that an Australian godfather wishes to send his godson in Rhodesia? It is high time we had the courage, perspicacity and vision of Dr Banda, Sir Seretse Khama and Chief Jonathan and said that we would have no part in a vindictive farce originated by the British Government that will hit hardest the Africans, the very people it is supposed to help. Whatever one may think of the internal policies of Rhodesia and South Africa, Dr Banda is right. This ostracism is no way to right wrongs or maintain peace, particularly when countries such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom cannot solve their own interracial problems, France is bordering on anarchy and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic and its satellites do not believe in democracy by any manner of means.
– Does the honourable member think that we should declare war on them?
– I do not. I hope, like all of us do, that one day we will reach the parliament of man and the federation of the’ world, but this cannot be done by force or fraud and it will not be done by tearing up the original charter of the United Nations:
– On the 16th of this month I spoke on the chaotic situation regarding road and rail transport in the Northern Territory and the north of South Australia. My attention has been drawn to an article in the ‘Australian’ of Friday, . 17th May concerning surface communications between Port Augusta and Alice Springs. I claim to have been misrepresented in that article. That article tends to create the impression that I stated that I had the support of my Australian Country Party colleagues in my plea for better communications ‘but the Liberals’ in the words of the report ‘could not care less*.
– That would be right, too.
– Wait. There is more. Mr Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. I stated that my plea had been supported by my Country Party colleagues and my colleagues in the Liberal Party of Australia. The fact is that the proposal for a new railway line from Port Augusta to Alice Springs was jointly put forward by myself and my Liberal Party colleague the honourable member for Grey (Mr Jessop) and it has already received the support of the Government members national development and transport committees. Those two committees comprise supporters of the coalition Government. The future of the north depends on reliable transport so that the efforts of the honourable member for Grey, myself and these committees should be supported rather than made the subject of sensationalism in an effort to cause division amongst the coalition Government.
– Earlier tonight we heard three honourable members urge that the current dispute in respect of Rhodesia, and in particular the decision of the United Nations Security Council to have total sanctions imposed, be referred to the Internationa] Court of Justice. In raising this matter we heard a very powerful plea from the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) to which I wholeheartedly subscribe. He made the point very clearly that the decision of the Security Council was in fact invalid, being contrary to the expressed Charter of the United Nations. I think that the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) indicated fairly clearly that there is a double standard in this matter in that some nations are selected for treatment in this way and others who in some respects have, perhaps, a far worse record are left to control their affairs with impunity. I think one must seriously question the objectivity of the Security Council and the United Nations generally when decisions of this type are made. After all, Rhodesia has a stable regime and any resistance to it is not broadly based. Any movements for independence and rule by the African people themselves have been made only by a very few disreputable demagogues. They have endeavoured to impose their own views by violent means but with very little success.
When we are considering these problems I think it fundamental to consider the welfare of the people themselves - the humble people, the ordinary people. It has yet to be demonstrated how they will benefit by a substitution of the present stable regime which allows prosperity for all sections of the community. I might add that I have not been to Rhodesia, despite the utterly inaccurate allegations of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), but I have spoken to many people from that country and have read very widely on this subject. I am quite satisfied that prosperity is open to all races in that country, but I believe that the situation that would follow if the African peoples had home rule or any autonomy in the foreseeable future would be disastrous.
We have very many disastrous examples in the African continent. In fact, I think we could look in vain for any democratic form of government. All these objections to Rhodesia have been raised under the name of democracy and yet one can look in vain for democracy in the northern part of the continent. I know a number of Africans whom I am proud to call my friends. I have a great respect for them. They are a lively people and they have many good qualities. But the capacity for restraint in government is not included in those qualities; nor is there a wholehearted respect for democracy. However, I believe these things will come in time, although they are not yet apparent.
– How long?
– I am not a prophet. I cannot say how long this will take. It is absurd to put a time limit on this. That time will be when there are clear signs that the rights, the safety and the freedom of the ordinary people can be safeguarded. That is the logical time. To impose a time limit on this would be childish or doctrinaire. This week we have seen dreadful happenings in Nigeria, not for the first time, and this, of course, was racial discrimination. What I am speaking about, and what other honourable members have spoken about, has no relationship to racialism whatever. We are concerned purely for the people of the country. But we look at the African continent and see racialism in all its most evil forms because the African people, as all honourable members know but may readily tend to forget, are not a homogeneous people. There are many ethnic groups there with different capacities and different capabilities. In many African countries there is discrimination. We see examples of this in the Congo. We see the dreadful result in Nigeria. For the second time we have seen almost genocidal attacks made on different ethnic peoples and groups of people. The Sudan has a religious problem and a racial problem. Thousands upon thousands of people are being slaughtered or driven across the borders into Uganda and other countries where they seek asylum, with varying degrees of success. Uganda itself tends to be homogeneous but the people of Buganda are being less and less successful in their attempts to gain equality in the Government of that country and I understand they are becoming very dissatisfied with what is happening there.
We look for democracy on the African continent but where do we find it? Do we find it in the countries in the Congo area? Do we have it in Nigeria, or Sudan or
Ghana? Do we find it in any of those countries? Even Kenya, although it is a parliamentary democracy, is subject to the very strong personality of one man. Uganda, next door to it, has a dictatorship and a very unsavory one at that.
So it is quite obvious that within the African continent terrible things are occurring. Almost genocidal attacks are being made on people. There is racial discrimination. There is no democracy. The rights of the poor, humble people are not being safeguarded. On the contrary those people are being oppressed in many instances. This is not happening in Rhodesia where, for doctrinaire and semantic reasons, people with vested interests outside those countries are trying to stir up further trouble. It would be a disaster if Australia subscribed to this dreadful declaration and singled out Rhodesia, probably the most innocent of all the countries I have mentioned, for total sanctions. So I join my own plea to that of the other honourable members who have spoken tonight in urging that this be referred to the International Court of Justice, and certainly that Australia do not subscribe to this latest recommendation until the matter is determined by the International Court of Justice.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.21 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
Noise Nuisance of Jet Aircraft (Question No. 97)
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
The situation regarding anti-noise requirements at the overseas airports mentioned are as follows and, at each place, are applicable to both international and domestic operations.
As far as it is known, there are no penalties prescribed by the authorities concerned for an occasional infringement of the noise abatement requirements at any of the subject airports.
In the case of London Airport, if a captain repeatedly fails to comply with the prescribed procedures, the British authorities ask the operator to discipline the captain or remove him from operations at that airport. Should infringements continue to occur, the operator can be prohibited from using London Airport.
Where an infringement of the noise abatement requirements occurs at New York Airport, the operator and pilot are advised of the specific occurrence and urged to comply strictly with the requirements in future operations.
The Department has no information to hand on the action taken by other overseas airport authorities on infringements of noise abatement requirements but it is reasonable to assume that it is in line with that adopted by the British authorities and the Port of New York Authority.
The noise abatement procedures applied at Australia’s international airports are as follows:
No specific penalties are prescribed for infringements of these requirements, but the’ DirectorGeneral has the power to take appropriate action should it be necessary. As the requirements were drawn up in consultation with the operators who fully appreciate their need, infringements are rare and generally inadvertent.
Measured results are not yet available to allow precise comparisons to be made between the noise generated by the Rolls Royce RB207 engine and that generated by:
However, Rolls Royce and Pratt & Whitney both claim that their new subsonic engines (RB207 and JT9D) will be quieter than present day engines during take-off by about 3 to 4 PNdB. Similar claims are made for these engines during the landing phase, where the noise reduction is stated to be about 4 to 5 PNdB. From consideration of the changes in design, these claims appear to be reasonable, although they will naturally have to be verified in actual operation. Unless significant changes are made to the engines intended for the supersonic aircraft, it appears likely that these engines will be somewhat noisier, in themselves, than current engine types.
The measures currently being taken by my Department to cope wilh (he problem are explained in the answer to part (3) of the question. They are the same for international and domestic operations. These are in accord with section (iv) of the Summary of Conclusions of the London Noise Conference relating to the employment of operational noise abatement procedures, and with section (v) of the same summary stating that ‘. . . every practicable means of reducing noise must be employed concurrently*. My Department subscribes fully to all five conclusions of the London Noise Conference and to the suggestions made for future action which might be taken to deal with the problem under conditions of increased traffic. In this regard, my Department is active in the following respects:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
– The Minister for Housing has provided the following answers to the honourable member’s questions:
In this situation it is fairly inevitable that the demand for State-built dwellings and for cooperative society loans should exceed the supply, and broadly this has been the situation since the co-operative societies movement began, and more particularly since the societies first received the benefit of Commonwealth advances in 1956.
asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Rt Hon. J. McEwen, Minister for. Trade and Industry;
Hon. J. D. Anthony, Minister for Primary Industry.
Hon. J. C. A. Pizzey, Premier of the State of Queensland.
Mr D. H. McKay, Deputy Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry;
Sir Alan Summerville, Agent-General for Queensland, London;
Mr R. S. Livingston, First Assistant Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry;
Mr O. Wolfensberger, Chairman, Queensland Sugar Board;
Mr F. P. Donovan, Minister (Commercial), Australian Embassy, Brussels;
Mr L. R. Kentwell, Assistant Secretary, Department of Primary Industry;
Mr P. C. J. Curtis, Counsellor, Australian Permanent Mission, Geneva;
Mr W. J. Byrne, Senior Marketing Officer, Department of Primary Industry;
Mr N. Dillman, Clerk, Commodity Policy Division, Department of Trade and Industry.
Mr C. H. T. Curtis, Under Secretary, Premier’s Department, State of Queensland;
Mr A. B. Henderson, Secretary, Australian Cane Growers’ Council;
Mr E. T. S. Pearce, Secretary, Australian Sugar Producers’ Association;
Mr J. A. Desmarchelier, Economist, Australian Sugar Producers’ Association;
Mr P. T. Wheen, Assistant General Manager, Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd;
Mr A. J. Campbell, Director of Export Development, Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd;
Mr J. G. Campbell, Assistant Export Manager, Raw Sugar Marketing Division, Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd;
Mr G. Winterton, Marketing Officer, Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd.
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable members questions are as follows: 1 and 2.
Mr A. 3. Campbell
Since he joined the Department in 1956, Mr Campbell has led a number of delegations to international commodity conferences, and to GATT meetings. He accompanied the Minister to EEC discussions in 1962 and to the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement Talks in 1967.
While in Brussels as Special Commercial Counsellor from 1962 to 1963 he was continually involved in international conferences and discussions.
Mr G. P. Phillips
Mr Phillips has led five delegations to the GATT and UNCTAD since 1959 and was involved in numerous international commodity conferences and discussions while in London from 1961 to 1963 as Special Commercial Advisor. He has also attended trade agreement talks in many countries including Indonesia, Japan and New Zealand.
Mr E. P. McClintock
Mr McClintock accompanied the Minister to New Zealand in 1960 for trade talks.
Messrs Kemp, Lowe and Barry
These officers did not attend any overseas con ferences.
Mr J. H. Willis
Mr Willis attended a meeting of the Overseas Trade Publicity Committee in London in 1966.
Mr W. Callaghan
Since 1963 Mr Callaghan has led six delegations engaged in trade talks in New Zealand, United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom, Europe, Singapore and Hong Kong. He also accompanied the Minister to New Zealand in 1963.
Mr G. P. Phillips ; The Australian Mining Industry Council.
Mr E. P. McClintock ; Development Finance Co.
Mr J. H. Willis ; Private business.
Mr J. P. Kemp ; British Tobacco Ltd.
Mr W. S. Lowe ; John P. Young & Associates.
Mr B. R. Barry; Irish & Michelmore, Chartered Accountants.
Mr W. Callaghan ; Australian Industries Development Association.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice:
Which Departments operate scientific laboratories and for what purpose does each do so?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
How many persons in Australia under age 21 paid taxation for the year ended 30 June 1967, and what was the total amount of taxation paid by these persons?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Taxation statistics are not classified according to age of taxpayers. Accordingly it is not possible from available statistics to ascertain either the number of persons under age 21 who pay taxation or the amounts of tax they pay.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 May 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19680530_reps_26_hor59/>.