26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon.W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr ANDREW JONES presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the House of Representatives take any action necessary to ensure that the Government does not implement the resolution of the Security Council of the United Nations imposing economic sanctions upon the Government and people of Rhodesia.
– I wish to inform the House that the Minister for Defence, Mr Fairhall. left Australia last Thursday to visit the United States of America where he will take delivery of the first F1 1 1 aircraft. He will return on 7th September. During his absence the Postmaster-General, Mr Hulme. will act as Minister for Defence. The Minister for Civil Aviation, Mr Swartz, left Australia last Sunday to visit the United States and South America. While in South America he will attend the general assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, and will return on 8th September. During his absence the Minister for Customs and Excise, Senator Scott, will act as Minister for Civil Aviation and the Minister for National Development, Mr Fairbairn, will handle civil aviation matters in this House.
– I ask the Treasurer. Will the double taxation agreement now being completed with Japan reduce by at least 50% the amount of taxation payable in Australia by Japanese on dividends from their investments in this country? Will the value of taxation concessions to Japan exceed by an immense amount any reciprocal taxation advantages to Australia? Will the agreement boost Japanese exports to Australia and Japanese takeovers of Australian industries and resources? When will the Parliament discuss the negotiations and the agreement?
– The answer to the first two questions is no. The answer to the third question is thatI see nothing in the agreement that could lead to the kind of conclusion to which the honourable gentleman has come. The answer to the final question asked by the honourable gentleman is that as soon as the agreement has been completed, or the protocol has been signed, I will bring the matter to the Parliament for ratification.
– In view of the recently stated complaints by certain of the nine official dealers against the narrowing short term money market in Australia, can the Treasurer indicate whether these dealers will be allowed to expand their operations to the extent that they will be permitted to participate in such areas as the issue of transferable certificates of deposits by the Australian Resources Development Bank? Will the Treasurer further consider a reassessment of the types of securities generally in which the official dealers in the short term money market may operate?
– Dealers in the official money market are, as the honourable member and the House know, in a specially privileged position in that they have access to the Reserve Bank as a lender of last resort, and they can negotiate security transactions with that bank. As to the second part of the honourable member’s question, the whole subject of extending the field of operations of the official dealers in the market has been considered by me and is now in the hands of the Reserve Bank and the Treasury. Amongst other things,the Reserve Bank and the Treasury will be considering the question of whether or not transferable certificates of deposit should be a part of the assets that can be held by the official dealers. I am unable to give the honourable member a complete reply, but I can say that the matter is now being looked at and when I make a decision I will announce it to the House.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General.I preface it by reminding him that on 19th August 1964. more than 4 years ago, and on three occasions since then, he advised me that the Postmaster-General’s Department had been experimenting for some time with equipment to be installed in homes to record the number of calls made on individual telephones. I now ask him: What progress has been made by the Department with this new equipment and when does he expect installations to commence?
– I have not had a report from the Department on its investigations, but lest there be any doubt in the honourable member’s mind I would like to inform him that the new equipment would be supplied by the Post Office to individual telephone subscribers, if it were supplied at all, only as an extra. Because of the capital cost involved, and because the Post Office has not considerable surplus funds,I do not envisage this equipment being made available as part of the normal telephone equipment in a home. Individual subscribers would have to decide forthemselves whether they wanted the equipment, having in mind the charge which might be made for its installation, if, indeed, we were in a position to make such installations.
-I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport: Is he aware that the successful contractor for the building of homes for Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd at Mount Tom Price and Dampier is a New Zealand firm which is using New Zealand building materials exclusively, and that one of the reasons being given for this is that freight charges from New Zealand to north western Australia are much less than freight charges from Fremantle to north western Australia? Can the Minister say whether shipping freight rates are heavily subsidised by the New Zealand Government?
– I understand that the first part of the honourable member’s question correctly represents the position. A contract has been let, as he has suggested. I may say that in the future Australia and New Zealand must reciprocate more and more in the provision of business opportunities, both for New Zealand businesses in Australia and for Australian businesses in New Zealand. When freight rate anomalies occur in the course of such arrangements it is to be regretted. The transaction in question is purely a commercial one, and one of which I have no particular knowledge. I understand, however, that it has been possible to negotiate with the shipping company to transport some of the goods concerned as back loading, and in this way the goods have been carried in place of the ballast which would otherwise have been necessary. It is a regrettable fact that frequently one finds that it costs more to transport goods between port and port on the Australian coast than from other countries to Australian ports. To the extent that this happens, Australian businesses are denied the opportunity of being truly competitive when tenders are called for major construction projects such as those at Mount Tom Price and Dampier.
– I ask you, Mr Speaker: Has the establishment of a government constructed restaurant in the parliamentary triangle had any marked effect on the patronage, takings and profit of the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms? If it is shown that senators and members are being seduced to the plush interior of The Lobby, will the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms take the normal measures of business competition in order to woo them back and restore the finances of the Refreshment Rooms?
– Speaking as a member of the Joint House Committee, of which the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory is also a member, I point out that the Committee is meeting tomorrow morning and this matter could be brought up for discussion.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. I might explain that in October last I suggested in this House that the Government consider establishing an Australian national cemetery. The late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, informed me by letter on 14th December that the proposal was being studied by interested authorities. Can the Prime Minister give a report on the progress of that study?
– This matter is quite closely related to a study being made into the establishment of a Service departments military cemetery. The matter is under consideration by those concerned and by a joint Service committee. As soon as that commitee has brought down its report and recommendation I will let the honourable member know.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the Australian Country Party Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales, Mr Crawford, has bitterly criticised him following the readjustment of the wheat subsidy which was announced last Friday? Mr Crawford stated that the price of bread and eggs, and possibly milk, would increase and that wheat growers would receive less money. I ask the Minister: Is that statement correct?
– Yes, I read the statement in which the Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales said that he reluctantly accepted the proposal put up by the Commonwealth Government but that he felt it would lead to an increase in the price of bread and eggs. Honourable members may be interested to note comments by the Secretary of the Bread Manufacturers’ Association which are published in today’s Press. He said that there was likely to be an increase in the price of bread this year but it would not be due to the new proposition put forward by the Commonwealth Government. In fact, the increase of 6c a bushel in the price of wheat, as proposed by the Commonwealth, would result in an increase of .2c on a 2 lb load of bread. This increase in itself would not be significant and could not justify any increase in the price of bread. As to the price of eggs, I noted a statement by a representative of the egg industry to the effect that the price of eggs was determined not by the price of wheat but by the supply.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Immigration been drawn to the proposed visit of the Soviet Army choir to the Adelaide Festival of Arts next year? As it is possible that members of the choir are involved in the military invasion of Czechoslovakia at this very moment, will the Minister inform the committee organising the Festival that entry permits will not be granted to any member of the Red Army choir?
– I am not aware of any such application having been made. There are provisions for the granting of visas for cultural exchanges. The application will be considered, of course, when it is made. I think the Adelaide Festival of Arts is to be held next year. As I said, when applications are made, they will be considered. I am bound to say that I expect that visas would be granted. Equally I think I can say that I expect that the reception the Australian people might accord an artist could be expected not to reflect any cultural capacity that artist might have, unless there is a very great change in the policies of the Soviet Government in the meantime.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. I ask: Has the Australian Government made any protest to the French Government against the explosion of a hydrogen bomb in the South Pacific last weekend? If so, can the Minister make available to honourable members the text of the protest?
– The answer to the honourable gentleman’s question was given in a speech I made in this House in the debate on the motion for the adjournment last Thursday night and is available in Hansard. A protest has been made, lt was made in the usual diplomatic manner by calling in the French Ambassador and giving him a note verbale. It would not be customary in diplomatic practice to give the text of that note, but it was a text that explicitly and plainly expressed the views of the Australian Government against the holding of these tests.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is he aware that the Russian mission at the United Nations on Sunday distributed an article al the United Nations attacking Australia’s role in South Vietnam and condemning Australia and the Australian Prime Minister as being imperialist? Is he aware, too, that the former Leader of the Opposition, the right honourable member for Melbourne, is reported to have stated at the weekend that the resolution carried in this House last week condemning the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia should have condemned the United States of America also for its role in Vietnam? Is there any validity in the comparison, which certain people both here and overseas are endeavouring to draw, between the Russian aggression against Czechoslovakia and the role Australia and America are playing in Vietnam?
-I was not aware in fact that the Russian mission to the United Nations had issued a statement attacking Australia or attacking myself as Prime Minister. But in the circumstances prevailing. I think I could only take that to be a distinction, if not an honour. In regard to the major question asked by the honourable member, I can see no relationship whatsoever between the actions being taken by the United States of America and ourselves in South Vietnam and the actions being taken by the Russians and their satellite troops in Czechoslovakia. Indeed,I believe the very contrary is true.
– Does the right honourable gentleman mean that the Russians have nor used napalm yet?
– If the honourable member listens, I will tell him why I believe the contrary is true. United States forces first became involved in South Vietnam as a result of an appeal by the South Vietnamese Government to President Kennedy, who scarcely can be called an imperialist, seeking assistance to repel aggression from North Vietnam - aggression which was backed by arms and manpower coming over the border. The evidence for that aggression appears in the special report issued by the Co-Chairmen of the Geneva Convention on 2nd June 1962 after the situation had been examined by the Legal Committee of the International Convention. So what in fact is happening is entirely the reverse of what is happening in Czechoslovakia. There is no invasion by the United States or ourselves, there is no aggression by the United States or ourselves, in the way that there is invasion or aggression by the Russians in Czechoslovakia. Rather, there is an attempt to prevent an invasion and to prevent an aggression which had many of the hallmarks of the very sort of aggression which Russia is carrying out in Czechoslovakia.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. Last March I asked the right honourable gentleman whether he intended to follow, and to ensure that as far as possible his Ministers followed, the principle enunciated by Sir Robert Menzies on many occasions in such terms as these:
I think it is a very sound and proper rule that when statements are to be made in a period of lime when the House is sitting they should be made here, in the House. I have endeavoured, myself, to adhere to that rule very closely.
On that occasion the Minister for Primary Industry had made a public statement on the reconstruction of the dairy industry on the Friday after the House rose and before it resumed. I ask whether the right honourable gentleman has noted that last Friday the same Minister made a statement on the stabilisation of the wheat industry and that the Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales expressed publicly his disappointment that the Commonwealth Government had released details of the scheme without notifying State Ministers who had been conferring with the Federal Minister. I ask him whether in the future such statements of Government policy which will require Commonwealth legislation and State cooperation will be made in this Parliament when it is sitting.
– The Minister for Primary industry may well wish to answer this question himself. I would merely, by way of preface to an answer he might give, point out to the Leader of the Opposition that the Minister for Primary Industry in the instances to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred has been conferring with other people. The discussions were between, in one instance, the wheat industry and the Minister and, in the other instance, between the dairy industry and the Minister. There were and are reasons why it was necessary for the Minister to make the statements at the time he did. I suggest that the Minister may care to expand on that.
– He can make a statement after question rime.
– If I might-
-Order! Does the Leader of the Opposition wish to have the Minister enunciate on this matter in some other way?
– He will have leave after question time to make a statement here.
– You want to debate it.
– Yes, and you want to avoid a debate.
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat and the Leader of the Opposition will cease interjecting.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral or the Prime Minister whether either honourable gentleman is unduly disturbed at the fourth postponement of the death sentence, upon a man in Darwin. Does either honourable gentleman appreciate the anguish that would be caused to a person in that man’s position? Does either honourable gentleman agree that if a death penalty has to be postponed on as many as four occasions it should not be carried out and that a final decision ought to be made, given the Government’s policy, one way or the other?
– A final decision will be made by those responsible as soon as may be.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question. Will the honourable gentleman inform the House of the reasons that caused him to make his statement about the wheat industry on Friday last?
- Mr Speaker, I hope I am not going to be gagged now. There has been a tradition over the years for the Commonwealth to negotiate a new wheat stabilisation and marketing scheme with the Australian Wheat Growers Federation and the State Ministers of Agriculture. These negotiations take a considerable time. In this instance I have had four discussions with the Federation and three with the State Ministers. All the people concerned were informed that I would make a public statement as to the progress of the negotiations on 2nd August, but at the request of the Federation I refrained from doing so. However, I told these people that on 23rd August, the final occasion that I was to meet them, I would make a public statement. This has been in conformity with the procedures that have been carried out over the past 20 years. A report on the negotiations is made when we reach the final negotiating position. This was the stage we reached on Friday and there has been no departure whatever from the principle that has applied in the past.
As far as the dairy farm marginal reconstruction scheme is concerned, lnc honourable member for Bendigo has asked this question before and has Deer given an answer before. My predecessor in office, the right honourable member for Fisher, as Minister for Primary Industry, introduced the new 5-year stabilisation scheme for the dairy industry and announced in this House in his second reading speech the principle that there would be reconstruction of the small marginal dairy farms. That was the principle which allowed me then to commence negotiations with the State Ministers for Agriculture. I have reported on those negotiations to a certain point. But until those negotiations are complete and until there is acceptance of them from this Government, T will not be in a position to announce to this House the final position.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I preface my question by stating that in reply to an earlier question today the Prime Minister said that the Government of South Vietnam had invited the United States Government to send troops to South Vietnam. Can the Prime Minister inform me how that so-called Government of South Vietnam was elected? What are the date and details of that election? When were the first United States forces sent to South Vietnam?
- Mr Speaker, the Government in question, which appealed for aid to President Kennedy and the United States, was the government led by President Diem and the reason-
– What happened to him?
– He was later killed. Do you approve of that?
– How was he elected?
– Order! The honourable member for Reid has asked his question.
– The reasons advanced in favour of seeking support from the United States were reasons which came not from President Diem but from a report of the legal committee of the international commission published in the special report of the Co-Chairman of the Geneva Conference onIndo-China.
– Stating that both sides were found guilty of aggression?
– Now, since the honourable member has asked the question, I can quote from that report.
– How was Diem elected? How was. he elected?
– Order!I warn the honourable member for Reid. He has already asked his question. He has interjected three times since then.
– This quotation comes not from the Government of South Vietnam but from the international commission. I quote:
In examining the complaints and the supporting material, in particular the documentary material, sent by the South Vietnamese mission, the committee has come to the further conclusion that there is evidence to show that the Vietcong has allowed the zone in the North to be used for inciting, encouraging and supporting hostile activities in the zone in the South aimed at the overthrow of the administration in the South. The use of the zone in the North for such activities is a violation of various articles of the agreement.
Also, Mr Speaker, in support of that, and again from the committee, I can quote:
Having examined the complaints and the supporting material sent by the South Vietnamese mission, the committee has come to the conclusion that, in specific instances, there is evidence to show that armed and unarmed personnel, arms, munitions and other supplies have been sent from the zone in the North to the zone in the South with the object of supporting, organising and carrying on hostile activities including attacks directed against the armed forces and administration of the South.
Mr Speaker, that is certainly an impartial report. That was the basis of seeking for support from the United States. That is the basis of the answer I previously gave that in acceding to that request the United States was not committing aggression but seeking to prevent aggression being committed.
-I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry.I refer to the announcement by the Minister setting out the Commonwealth’s proposal for a Commonwealth wheat stabilisation scheme. Is the Minister’s statement as reported correct? Is it also correct to say that the wheat growers will receive less for their wheat under the new proposal than in previous years? Has the Australian Wheat Growers Federation accepted the scheme? If it does not agree with the proposal put forward by the Commonwealth, what alternative is there to cover the 1968-69 harvest and subsequent harvests?
– In the course of negotiations with the wheat industry a position was reached in which the Commonwealth proposed a new base price for the guarantee of 200 million bushels of wheat and a new home consumption price. When these two prices are averaged together you arrive at a weighted price of$1. 48 per bushel, which is 4c per bushel above what the base price was when the current scheme commenced 5 years ago. 1 believe that this is a sound and reasonable proposition for the industry.
It has been difficult to negotiate with the industry something that is acceptable to all bodies. The main reason for this difficulty is that if we maintain the old cost of production formula which has existed up to the present time, it will place undue strain on the Commonwealth Government by way of payment of subsidies and undue strain on the consumer by way of increased prices. I have not received a final report from the industry as to its reaction to the Commonwealth’s proposal - it wanted time to confer with the Wheat Growers Federation and with the State organisations - but if it were categorically to refuse to accept the proposal and if the Commonwealth were to abrogate its responsibility completely regarding any stabilisation or marketing scheme, the consequences would be quite terrifying. There would be no Australian Wheat Board, no organisation to collect this season’s wheat, no organisation to market and export our wheat and no home consumption price. Of course, the Commonwealth is not prepared to abrogate its responsibility in this regard.
If the position were reached in which the industry did not find the proposal acceptable the Commonwealth would go ahead and propose legislation to enable the Wheat Board to continue in existence and to allow the stabilisation scheme that has been proposed to proceed. The stabilisation scheme will give stability of income to the wheat grower. If the proposal that we are putting forward were to be judged against production in the last 5 years, the wheat grower would receive a little more income than he has received under the current scheme.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether it is his intention, as head of the Commonwealth Public Service, to grant Commonwealth employees 4 weeks annual leave in order to bring them into line with public servants in New South Wales? If not, why not?
– I was not aware that I was, in fact, the titular head of the Commonwealth Public Service, but I will look into the matter and see whether the honourable member is correct.
– After a few more years you will learn these things.
– Thank you very much. As to the rest of the question, it is obviously a matter of policy and therefore quite unsuitable for answering at question time.
– I direct my question to the Attorney-General. I refer to bugging and the use of mechanical listening devices. The Minister will recall my original request, over 12 months ago, that this matter be placed on the agenda of the Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General conference so that consideration could be given by the States to introducing uniform legislation to ban this most obnoxious and human rights-eroding practice. Is the Minister aware that the Victorian Government is showing a commendable lead and is presently drafting legislation to this end? Is he able to advise the House whether discussion at the various conferences can give honourable members from other States hope that similar legislation might be introduced into their own States in the not too distant future?
– It is true that following on a question directed to me by the honourable member for Griffith this matter was placed on the agenda of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. It has been discussed, and at the meeting in July here in Canberra we had a draft Bill before us. There was a substantial measure of agreement but there were some differences which led us to refer the draft Bill back to the officers and to ask them to bring forward a fresh draft at the meeting to be held in Perth on 31st October and 1st November. I note that in the meantime a Bill which appears to be very similar in many respects to the Bill which was before us has been introduced in the Victorian Parliament. I have had a letter from the Victorian Attorney-General with a copy of the draft Bill and I understand that after the Bill is introduced it is proposed to allow it to stand over until after the next meeting of the Standing Committee of AttorneysGeneral. I would only express the hope that if there is any public discussion on the Victorian Bill it will enable us to reach a better informed conclusion at our next meeting.
– I ask the Treasurer: What was the cost of outstanding defence orders abroad for ships, aircraft and other equipment and supplies as at 30th June last?
– I am sorry I do not have the figures in my head. I will obtain them and let the honourable member have them.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. Does the Commonwealth Government have the constitutional power to legislate to establish a national energy board similar to the Canadian board to control various forms of energy in Australia, particularly to control interstate pipeline transportation of oil and natural gas? If the Commonwealth Government does have the constitutional power would such a board ensure a more equitable distribution of oil and gas throughout Australia and the development of a properly rationalised pipe transport system for these fuels?
– I think that that part of the question which relates to the Constitution should be directed to my colleague, the Attorney-General, and not to me. I would say that the States have constitutional authority over energy and power and that the Commonwealth does not have the authority to force any State to use a form of energy or power which it does not desire to use. The Commonwealth’s position in the interstate pipelining of oil and gas is protected by section 92 of the Constitution and also by the off-shore oil legislation under which agreement has been arrived at between the States and the Commonwealth to encourage the interstate use of gas. I forget the actual terms of the legislation but both the State and Commonwealth Ministers agreed to encourage and not to seek to restrict the use of gas interstate to the greatest extent possible.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. 1 refer to the recent announcement by Dr Prebisch that a reduction in the production of free market sugar by up to 28% may be necessary in the event of a new international sugar agreement being negotiated. 1 ask the Minister whether the Australian Government agrees with the proposed significant reduction in the production of free market sugar. If production is reduced, will it not be the first time in Australia’s history that a major primary industry has been forced to reduce production because of government legislation?
– I would be a poor negotiator, if it is likely to fall to my lot to negotiate this matter, to declare my position now before I get into the negotiations. F hope not to be as simple as that. But I can assure the honourable member for Dawson that at any international conference on sugar in recent years the Premier of Queensland and representatives of every sector of the Australian sugar industry have been in attendance.
Any agreement that may be reached by the Commonwealth Government as the recognised authority would be reached only after hearing the views of and, in all probability, receiving the approval of the Queensland Government and the various sectors of the Australian sugar industry. As to the possibility of a reduction in peak production of sugar, the honourable member, representing as he does a sugar area and having an earlier association with the sugar industry, will know that the historic pattern of an international sugar agreement has been to allot quotas to exporting countries and agree upon objective prices, adding to or subtracting from the quotas so as to keep prices as near as possible to the price objectives. So you enter upon negotiations with the knowledge that if the eventual agreement follows the traditional pattern you will be allotted a quota. When agreement was reached some years ago between the sugar industry and the Queensland Government to increase substantially the production and marketing of Australian sugar it was done with the full knowledge that the more we produced and marketed the greater we could expect our quota to be if an international agreement was reached. It was never assumed by the Queensland Government or the sugar industry that the quota allotted to Australia would reflect our ultimate capacity to produce. I assure the honourable member that if a sugar agreement is negotiated the quota allotted to Australia will be higher than any previously allotted to us.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question about the provision of television facilities in the Northern Territory. In view of the Minister’s previous statement on this subject, and the existence of some confusion in the north concerning television, will the Minister advise the House of the present position in this matter and say when these outback areas may expect this medium?
– The provision of television in the Northern Territory is dealt with in two sections. One relates to the Darwin area and one to the remainder of the Northern Territory. Some 6 months ago I told the House that the Government would extend national television into the Darwin area. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board is continually investigating the possibility of extending television not only in the Northern Territory but in other parts of
Australia. It was as a result of investigations of this kind that the Government decided to extend television to Darwin, Mount Isa, Renmark, Kalgoorlie and Geraldton, the latter two centres being in Western Australia. The Broadcasting Control Board is engaged on a continuing survey into the extension of television facilities. I cannot at this stage hold out any hope that television will be further extended into areas of the Northern Territory. I have received from the Australian Broadcasting Commission a report about the proposed Darwin television station, which I am presently considering. I hope that a decision on a national station for Darwin will not be too long delayed.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Interior been drawn to the sworn evidence last Thursday of a member of the Legislative Council of New South Wales that at the last election for the division of Eden-Monaro he paid $1,094 to a police agent to solicit Yugoslavs on the Snowy Mountains scheme to work and vote for Liberal Party and Country Party candidates? Is it a breach of the Commonwealth Electoral Act to undertake such an expenditure or such activities on behalf of a candidate? If the honourable gentleman has not yet had the evidence brought to his notice, or has not yet formed a view on the matter, will he make a statement to the House when he has done so?
– This matter has not previously been brought to my attention. I will look at the substance of the question asked and give the honourable gentleman a considered reply.
– In view of the unhappy plight of Czechoslovakia can the Minister for Immigration assure the House that the Australian Government will provide maximum facilities to enable refugees to come to this country?
– Australia’s reputation in refugee matters is in the forefront of the international community. In the present circumstances that have been precipitated upon Czechoslovakia it is apparent that there could be refugees. If such a situation eventuated the Australian Government would respond as it has in similar situations in the past and as I am sure the Australian people would wish it to do. I think that answers the honourable gentleman’s question, except that perhaps I should say that in this eventuality we would, within just a few hours, be able to have officers at the places where the refugees would be to try to resolve these very tragic human problems.
– My attention has been drawn to the fact that some microphones in the chamber are being altered from the angle at which they are set. If honourable members would refrain from moving them from the angle at which they are set a more effective broadcast of the proceedings would be obtained.
- Mr Speaker, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-66 I present the reports relating to the following proposed works:
Pier Telephone Exchange, Perth, and Engineering Services to Neighbourhood Unit No. 3, Casuarina District, Darwin.
I seek leave to make a short statement about these two reports.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The first of these two reports relates to the Pier Telephone Exchange in Perth and the second to the engineering services in Neighbourhood Unit No. 3, Casuarina district, Darwin. In respect of the first proposal I draw the attention of the House to paragraph 56 of the Committee’s report, which states:
In view of the poor service available to subscribers connected to the Pier local subscribers exchange, the Committee believe that there is an urgent need for this work. We therefore urge the Department of Works to proceed with construction with all possible despatch and take any reasonable step it can which will hasten occupancy of the extensions.
The evidence given to the Committee was to the effect that after approval to proceed is given the preparation of final drawings and tender documents will take about 6 months, and that the construction of the work is expected to take about 15 months after a contract is let. In view of the very critical situation which exists in the Perth telephone area the Committee urges the respective departments to use every effort to shorten this period. It should be pointed out that the demand for facilities in Western Australia, due to a very rapid commercial expansion following the development of mineral deposits in that State, has produced an increase of 300% in telephone subscribers compared with a Commonwealth average of 250%, and that the business community particularly is handicapped.
As to the second report, I draw particular attention to paragraphs 39 and 40 which state:
It has been evident for some time that major additional sewage disposal facilities would be required in Darwin. We were told that a proposal is to be referred to the Committee soon for the construction of a major treatment works in the Leanyer Swamp area and that when the initial part of this system is operating, sewage from Moil will be reticulated to it. The trunk sewer to Leanyer Swamp is to pass through Moil and will be capable of serving both the Casuarina and Dripstone districts.
There was some conflict in the evidence given to the Committee about the time when the system will need to be operating. It was apparent, however, that plans for residential subdivisions are ahead of those for sewage disposal and that the occupation of neighbourhood units after Moil can only proceed if the trunk sewer and the facility at Leanyer Swamp are available. It is therefore imperative that the Government come to an early decision about the provision of additional sewage disposal facilities in Darwin in order that there is no consequent delay in the provision of housing.
This is the only concern that the Committee felt over the project under report. On behalf of the Committee I request that when the expediency motion for the construction of these works is moved in this House the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly), who in this chamber represents the Minister of Works (Senator Wright) give the Parliament some indication of what steps the appropriate department intends to take to see that the programme for the new sewerage system is implemented in adequate time to allow occupancy of the bouses constructed under the project.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
Debate resumed from 22 August (vide page 502), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Whitlam had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘this House is of opinion that the Budget is inadequate in that it does not make provision:
to lighten taxes and health costs for families and to increase benefits for them,
to plan defence procurement and expenditure,
to meet the problems of Australia’s capital and provincial cities, and
to retain control and promote development of Australia’s mineral, fuel, land and marine resources’.
– The present Government has enjoyed an uninterrupted reign in office for 19 years. Whilst it has brought down its Budget once a year, and also an occasional supplementary Budget, it has asked the people to vote, either at elections for the House of Representatives or the Senate or on referendum proposals, eleven times, or about once every 20 months. The present Budget can be described as another of the Government’s election Budgets. I am sure that by now the people are browned off at the Government’s cynical approach to problems that require attention. The Opposition is willing to accommodate the Government at any time in a contest on this issue, and I am sure the people of Australia will show in no uncertain manner in the near future that they have had their fill of this Government and that they will remove it from office.
This election Budget is objectionable in many ways. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has tried to gain some advantage by describing it as a social document of great achievement. Surely this is nonsense. The people who were denied increases in social service benefits were denied them because the Government was not concerned then and is not concerned now at their plight; it is concerned only with its political prospects. This cynicism denied social service beneficiaries a rise a year ago and subjected them to additional and unnecessary hardship. Surely it must be apparent that if they had been granted an increase in the 1967-68 Budget their plight might have been slightly better than it is today, lt this is a compassionate Budget the Government must stand fully condemned for having been lacking in compassion for the people during the last 2 years.
People with no other income but the pension have a very difficult and bleak existence. It should not be forgotten that almost 70% of those who are receiving pensions receive no other income. The difficulty of their plight can be demonstrated by the fact that a married pensioner couple who have no other income receive $50 a fortnight while a married man receiving worker’s compensation gets $62 for the same period. What $1 a week means in relation to the cost of living is further highlighted by the claim which the Australian Council of Trade Unions is now arguing for an increase of $11.10 a week before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Denying people their rights for political advantage was begun by Prime Minister Menzies. For 2 years there has been a continuing rise in the cost of living. Because of Government policy, the recipients of social services have had to endure unnecessary hardship.
In this year’s Budget expenditure has been increased by $479m or 7.8%. To mention just two items, the increase in defence spending is $102m, and the increase in payments to the States for works and housing is $146m. The amount allocated to cover the increase in social service and repatriation benefits is $111 m. This means that from the increase of S479m in the Government’s expenditure this year only $11 lm has been devoted to social service and repatriation benefits. When this fact emerges from an analysis of the Government’s actions I am forced to the conclusion that, in spite of its claim that this Budget is an outstanding social document, that it is a compassionate document, somewhere along the way compassion has been lost.
This Budget - the second in succession - is a deficit budget. Last year the deficit was $644m. This year the estimated deficit is S544m. This means that for two successive years the total deficit will have been $1,1 88m. When this Government introduces a deficit Budget it claims that it is acting correctly. On other occasions, when there is no election in the offing, it falls back on the old cliches about the need to have a balanced Budget. This year the usual practice that this Government slavishly follows will again be resorted to; bank credit amounting to about $400m will be raised internally and, for the balance, the Government will range far and wide in the international money market taking what it can get where it can get it. In the past Treasurers of this Government have roundly condemned this method of financing budgets but, like lots of other things which this Government does, it now adopts as its own a particular method which yesterday it criticised.
The Government proposes to raise an additional sum of Si 09m in a full year through new forms of taxation. It proposes a tax increase of 24% on a very extensive field of commodities and goods, lt is increasing the fees for broadcast and television licences and for air navigation. The increase in navigation charges will result in an increase in air fares and freight charges. The condition of the economy has been stated by the Treasurer in these terms:
We have entered 1968-69 wilh a generally buoyant economy. Employment is high and rising and, wilh it, ihe level of wages and salary incomes.
If this is so, why has the Government done so little for social service recipients and why has it been necessary to impose increased taxation?
At this stage I would like to say something about the defence vote. The amount allocated to defence this year has been increased by about $!01m, but an examination shows that whilst there will be an increase in personnel, there will be little or nothing more in the field of modern weapons. In the Navy the Government has run out of money or ideas - possibly both. In reply to a question upon notice - No. 372- the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly), among other things, said:
Plans for reconstruction of further Heel units are being considered but no definite prospects can be staled at this time.
Judging by this statement, I would say there is no future for the Navy. This procrastination must end. The Government must make up its mind as to what it intends to do in this very important field. The unified command of our military forces is a matter (hat should be receiving the serious attention of our Goverment. Years ago, when Sir Robert Menzies was Prime Minister, this matter was the subject of a one-man report. The decision of the gentleman who presented that report as to what direction proposals on this matter should take was effectively stifled by the Menzies Government which steadily declined to make public the reported conclusion. Other countries, including Canada, have adopted the system of a single command for defence forces. Why cannot we in Australia do likewise? Such a system would undoubtedly speed up decision making, eliminate dead ends and avoid expensive and costly overlapping that undoubtedly occurs in our present system.
I now want to make some observations on our merchant marine. This field is highlighted by the recent statement that the Soviet Union proposed to make determined efforts to break into the Europe-Australia shipping run. They are proposing to make two sailings a month with a fleet of fast cargo ships operating between Baltic ports and Australia. If a meeting that is to take place in Moscow in the near future fails to bring about agreement, it is quite possible that there could be a fierce war between ships of the four companies that make up the shipping conference concerned and the Russian freighters. Some English purchasers of our wool have had their purchases carried by Russian ships. Russian purchases of our wool have reached a total of 150,000 bales annually, of which four-fifths have been carried in Russian ships, lt is significant that the conference lines made a reduction of 4.5% in freight rates. This is the first time that such a move has been made. I think it should be noted also that Poland has made, and continues to make, determined efforts to enter this trade and has scheduled twelve sailings with modern ships for the next year. Australia has become the prize for the struggle that will develop in the near future between the various overseas shipping interests. German interests and also Scandinavian lines are involved.
Australia should be making determined efforts to enter this trade rather than leave it to foreigners. This aspect of the Government’s policy is fraught with danger to this country. The Australian National Line should be developing its own fleet for this purpose. It is true that our National Line is participating in a very limited manner in trade to the Far East, but for too long this Government has neglected its responsibility in this vital field of overseas shipping. Even at this late hour 1 hope that the Government will take positive action to remove the despondency that prevails in this country on this matter. Our continued failure to take action could have disastrous results. No government can indefinitely continue to take the calculated risks that this Government apparently is prepared to take.
I would now like to tura briefly to another field in which the Government has failed to protect property and national interests. This is the field of foreign investment in Australia. Foreign capital is operating on a scale and in a manner that are causing grave concern to many of our citizens. I hope that the Government does not become too complacent on this issue, because the near defeat of the Western Australian Liberal Government recently should cause the Liberal Party in Western Australia some concern. If it does not heed the result of this election the result at the next election could be quite different. T think it is well to recall the rather pungent comment that was made by an observer in Western Australia on the night of the recent poll. He told a responsible Minister of the State Liberal Government: ‘It is a pity that foreign interests - Japanese. American, French, Swiss and the like - that are permitted to come into the State do not have a vote’. Perhaps the day is coming when the Liberal Party will need their votes in order to stay in office. This could quite easily happen to the Federal Government. The people of this country are not as complacent and as absolutely unconcerned as this Government is about the effects that the inflow of foreign capital is having on our economy.
Containerisation was recently the subject of an inquiry by the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes. The findings and conclusions of this Committee have been made public. I do not think that the Committee paid sufficient attention to the probable effects of the development of this method of shipping on people living in the areas affected. Notwithstanding the Committee’s conclusions, the problems of increased volume and hazards in the field of traffic will vitally affect people living in the areas adjacent to terminals for container shipping services. The district of Balmain, in my electorate, is a very old suburb of Sydney which will be affected. It has a magnificent waterfront that has been despoiled by industrialisation. Industrial development by the Maritime Services Board of New South Wales can only have further detrimental effects. Because of the vital need for shipping to carry our trade, and the consequent importance of shipping to the Commonwealth, it is hard to believe that this Government should not be involved in this development.
Sydney is Australia’s No. 1 port at the moment. How long it will remain so only the future will show. With the development of containerisation the quick turnround of vessels will be the important feature of operations, and ships will call at only a limited number of ports in Australia - possibly only one, and not two or three as is now the case. It is quite possible that overseas ships will call at only one port, unload and load their containerised cargo and leave for abroad on their return trip. The cargoes that they have brought to Australia will then be distributed throughout the Commonwealth from the port of unloading. The Maritime Services Board of New South Wales is about 3 years behind developments in this field that have taken place in Victoria. It is quite possible that this initial disadvantage will turn out to be a permanent one. As containerisation represents a new phase of development in shipping and as it proclaims the future movement and method of shipping. I believe that the New South Wales authority should have developed terminal complexes for container services away from Sydney Harbour and placed them on the shores of Botany Bay.
I turn to another subject that shows that governments, like individuals, should honour their undertakings. Some years ago, following representations that 1 made on behalf of the Leichhardt Municipal Council, the then Minister for the Navy promised that if the Commonwealth Government proposed to dispose of land it owned at Balmain - it was a deepwater frontage adjoining property owned by Poole and Steel - it would give the Council the opportunity to obtain it and said that the Council would be advised of the Commonwealth’s intentions. Nothing of the kind ever happened. We find that the Navy transferred the property to the Maritime Services Board which in turn leased it to a company that now proposes to build a tank farm in an area with a high density population. The Commonwealth could not give this land to the local council so that it could be developed as a living and residential area, but it could hand the property to a State instrumentality and allow it to become what it is today. The Government repudiated its promise to the Leichhardt Municipal Council and, as far as 1 know, the Council is still waiting for information from the Commonwealth Government to fulfil the promise it made 10 years ago. This may not appear to be very important to people who are not affected, but it is this kind of happening that ensures that this Parliament receives the opprobrium it sometimes deserves.
I conclude by referring to the Commonwealth Public Service. In view of the importance of the Public Service, the effect it has on our economy and the impact it has on the lives of our citizens, the time has long since been reached when some independent inquiry should be made into the efficiency of the Public Service Board. In Australia, no provision is made for an appeal to a body outside the Public Service. Matters affecting the Public Service are resolved by making an appeal from Caesar to Caesar. There are many defenders of the Public Service in this Parliament, and they may be justified in defending it. The Public Service Board may be as efficient as its defenders claim it is, but impartial observers will never be satisfied until these claims can be tested. Other countries have made their public services the subject of inquiries and these inquiries have even been undertaken by royal commissions. The Public Service in the United Kingdom is periodically the subject of a review by either a royal commission or an independent arbitrator. No government in the world rests upon or accepts advice from its Public Service in the way that this Government does. I believe that it would be in the interests of overyone if the organisation of the Public Service were examined. We should not be content with merely referring matters to the Public Service, permitting it to hold an inquiry upon itself and then being satisfied with its reply. Other countries with public services that have greater traditions than we have are quite willing to allow their public service to be the subject of an inquiry. I for the life of me cannot understand why the Government is so determined not to have such an inquiry in this country.
I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam).
– The Budget before the House at this time is an important document that moves in a number of directions. I believe that in some respects it moves in the correct way. The people who really need assistance are in fact obtaining considerable assistance from this Budget. I should like to comment now on some of the points made by the honourable member for Dalley (Mr O’Connor). I find myself in agreement on one point and in disagreement on another. He referred to freight charges and to the port of Sydney. He made the point that, with the new container method of handling cargo, there may come a time when Australia will have one major port and that cargo will move from this point to other parts of Australia by methods of transport other than shipping. This is a thought that has been expressed for some time, but when the situation has been analysed over the years it has been discovered that this is not an economic proposition. The number of major ports handling cargo will be reduced and next year we will have three major ports. However, my view is that more than three major ports receiving container ships will be needed in a country as large as Australia is.
The honourable member referred to the difficulties in the port of Sydney and the position of the new terminal for handling cargo in containers. I could not be more in agreement with him. The New South Wales Maritime Services Board has not looked far enough into the future in deciding to act as it is now acting. It is quite obvious from the exerience gained in other parts of the world that this sort of concept cannot be handled in a built-up or congested area. The need is to move the service out into other areas. Perhaps I will have something more to say on this subject later. However, I think it is a pity that this development has been undertaken and a large amount of money spent without proper consideration being given to the future and to the need to move into an area where greater acreage is available.
The major item mentioned by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in the Budget was defence. The sum allocated to this item is S 1,2 17m. Of course, this is the prime responsibility of the Commonwealth Parliament. Even since the Budget was brought into the House a couple of weeks ago, it has become more evident to the people of Australia and of other countries that we must keep a very watchful eye on the activities of certain nations. There had been some murmurings about the possibility that Russia would in fact walk into Czechoslovakia and would do what she has done. What does the present crisis mean to the many small countries around the world? Are they safe? Surely they must be asking themselves these questions. What border will be crossed next?
This is a very serious situation for them and our own position in Australia is changing. It has changed in the last year or two and it will change until the 1970s. The fact is that Great Britain has decided to withdraw from South East Asia. This obviously will mean a change for Australia. However, from discussing this, as I have quite recently, I have become quite convinced that although Britain may be making some changes in her defence situation and may be withdrawing from South East Asia, she has no intention of turning her back on Australia and New Zealand and of breaking the links that have existed since our country started to develop. Britain will not go back on Australia and New Zealand. The role that Britain will play in this area is a matter for negotiation between Australia and Britain to determine. It is quite ridiculous to suggest that Britain would take its troops home and do nothing about our situation if ever we needed assistance.
A lot has been said about what America may or may not do in the future. I cannot believe that America would not continue to assist Australia in its hour of need. The presidential election is occupying the attention of most Americans at this time, but whatever the result of that election may be I believe that America will continue to be an ally of Australia and New Zealand and, regardless of who is elected to bc ihe President of the United States, will not go out of Vietnam. I cannot believe that the United States would turn its back on this part of the world. However, these are matters which, no doubt will be debated and considered not only by the Australian Government alone and also with the New Zealand Government but by our other allies and the administrations of the United States and Great Britain. I have no doubt that some satisfactory solution will be reached by which we will retain our links not only with the United States but also with Great Britain.
Whilst 1 am talking on defence, I wish to mention a matter in relation to our national servicemen who are returning to civilian life after completing their 2 years service. Legislation was before this House embodying recommendations or agreements to the effect that on the return of national servicemen to civilian life certain capital moneys would be made available to them to assist them to set themselves up in a way of life into which they wished to enter or to return to the occupation which they followed prior to call up. One of those provisions was that S6.000 in capital would be made available to a national serviceman who had completed 2 years service. This piece of legislation definitely is not working. This enactment was based upon the original legislation concerning the war service land settlement scheme. In that instance, the legislation did work because the circumstances were entirely different. The Government at that time, as the present Government is doing, found millions of pounds for the purpose of purchasing properties for men who had served in the last war in order that each man would have the capital asset with which to carry out farming activities. But the principle which applied to that legislation and which enabled it to operate as the Government wished it to operate cannot he applied to the legislation governing the present scheme under which $6,000 is made available to national servicemen after completing their training.
In many cases the problem is that the security offered is not sufficient. We all know that it is quite impossible in these days to buy a property for $6,000. Some of our former national servicemen operate on a share farming basis or follow some other type of farming which is not what we might term full farming. They have not the capital to enable them to follow full farming pursuits. Obviously the same security cannot be available now as was available under the war service land settlement scheme. When the institution which is charged under the Act to do the right thing in these matters considers that not sufficient security is available in the form of bonds or real estate, it refuses an application. 1 feel sure that this was not the intention of the Government when it introduced this scheme. I believe quite strongly that the Government should move to rectify this anomaly not in the future but immediately, lt was intended, promised and understood that national servicemen when they were discharged should be given a reasonable opportunity to participate in this field.
If full security is available in the form of real estate or bonds before a grant of $6,000 is paid, the legislation is of no use at all. Naturally, a national serviceman, if he has full security or obtains this from his father or from some other source, can walk into a bank and obtain the same sort of capital. But if a payment under this scheme is to be made only on the same terms and conditions as would be offered by a monetary organisation, rn my book the legislation is not doing the job that it set out to do. How this measure can be amended. T am not too sure. If it can be amended only by enacting new legislation, that legislation should be introduced. But 1 am not too sure that new legislation is required. Whatever is required, the anomalies should be rectified to give to these national servicemen what was intended by this Parliament when the legislation was passed.
The increase in the expenditure from the National Welfare Fund is to be approximately $S5m. As 1 mentioned when I began my speech, there may be many citizens in our community who require assistance at this time. I feel that in many cases they have been given assistance. Respecting the National Welfare Fund, I suggest that we should not look wholly or in isolation at the actual monetary payment which is made in any Budget. We must take into consideration all of the other aspects of government assistance - I refer to assistance for homes for the aged and assistance of this type - to get a full appreciation of what is happening at the moment. I feel that some improvement has been made for these people.
I do wish to mention on this occasion something in relation to what we call today the cost price squeeze in many industries. Mention was made during question time today of the new wheal stabilisation agreement. This piece of machinery comes forward for consideration every 5 years. It is always difficult for the Federal Government, the wheat industry representatives and also the Stale governments that are involved to arrive at an agreement. In fact, complementary legislation must bc passed by the State governments. Although the Commonwealth Government has to find the money the State governments have the power respecting this matter, lt is quite traditional that the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, when it negotiates in this matter with the Federal Government, seeks the best agreement that it can get for its members This is fair enough. The Federal Government has to come clown with a proposal that is considered by all concerned to be sound. The full details of the new proposals have not been agreed upon yet. But the Min ster for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has said that he has made a statement in relation to the situation which has been arrived at at the moment. As I understand ii. the members of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation throughout Australia will be debating this statement. In fact, a meeting is being held in Western Australia at this time to debate the proposals made by the Government and by the Federation.
In considering this matter. I think that we must take a look at where we are going concerning agricultural industries. Everybody associated with agricultural industries as well as a number of other people associated with other industries is very concerned at the level of increase in the cost structure over recent years in agriculture. In looking at this situation, I think one can discern if one studies the facts what the trend is. Every effort should be made to bring some balance into the economy in relation to these industries which have been affected in the main. I wish to refer to the ‘Quarterly Review of Agricultural Economies’ which is published by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. I refer to the edition of April 1968. The ‘Quarterly Review’ taking as its base the figure 100 representing the average of the 5 years ended 30th June 1950 sets out ‘Indexes of Prices Received and Paid bv Farmers -
Australia and States’. For example, on the base figure of 100, we find that the indexes of prices received in Australia in December 1967 were: wool, 131; wheat, 137; meats - including I believe pig meats - 288; and dairy products, 216. I name but a few. The average for ‘all products’ was 186.
I turn now to the indexes of prices paid in Australia. Equipment and supplies in the agricultural industry - I again use the base figure of 100 - for December 1967 stood at 247. Wages represented 334 while services and overheads stood at 301. Total production and marketing expenses represented 280. The total expenditure in this respect came down to 269. If we compare that figure of 269 with the index for prices received for all products in Australia, which as I mentioned was 186, we see that there is quite a discrepancy - in anybody’s language. If we look at the ratio of prices received to prices paid in Australia, we find that for the same period the figures were: Wool. 49; wheat, 51; meats, 107; and dairy products, 80. Obviously, ‘meats’ is the best item in Australia. The total for ‘all products’ in the ratio of prices received to prices paid is 69.
These figures are quite revealing respecting what is happening in these industries. But they cannot he looked al alone. We must consider at the same time what the Government is doing for these industries. As I have said in this House before, we must endeavour to take these things on balance and do the right thing for each industry concerned. I have spoken previously in relation to wheat. A considerable amount of money will be involved in the new scheme for the next 5 years alone. When we look at the assistance which the Commonwealth has given by way of payments to industry we sec that in 1968-69. it is estimated, rural industries will receive approximately Si 79m, which will be an increase of approximately S35.5m on 1967-68. Payments to manufacturing industries this year will total approximately S20.6m. which is an increase of approximately S4.9m on 1967-68. Payments to mining industries will total approximately SI 5.3m this year, which is a reduction of approximately SI. 9m over the previous year. Commonwealth payments to industry this year will total approximately S217m. which is an increase of approximately S37m on 1967-68. So in looking at the overall situation the Commonwealth recognises that the payment of bounties on superphosphate and on other items is one way in which it can provide assistance to industry.
Despite this. I believe that one of the biggest problems which we must watch very closely in Australia is the cost-price problem. The publication entitled ‘The Australian Economy 1968’ contains a couple of rather interesting comments. One which appears on page 13 states:
The contribution lo export earnings we shall continue to require of our rural industries makes it highly important that they should operate economically - that is, they should be capable of producing at costs that will be fully recovered in the prices received for sales in export markets. In this context, ‘costs’ must be measured in terms of the real costs to the nation. Unfortunately, rising costs have been eroding the economic base of the rural industries and there will be serious effects - particularly for the balance of payments - if this goes on.
That is very real and very sound advice. We know how primary industries have contributed to our development and balance of payments position up to the present time. We know how important it is for them to continue to do this, irrespective of the assistance that other industries may be providing at the present time. But if the cost problem is not solved, to some extent these industries will be in serious trouble. We know that the wool industry was confronted with serious problems in 1967-68. We do not forget that in 1951, and on one occasion since then, the industry has been offered assistance by the Commonwealth Government and that on both occasions it has tossed the assistance out the window. I believe that if the amounts of assistance which were offered by the Commonwealth on those two occasions were added together they would total more than the amount of assistance that has been given to the wheat and dairy industries up to the present time. Another interesting comment in the publication ‘The Australian Economy 1968” is:
Wool prices, for example, were on average about 13Cp less than those obtained in 1966-67 and iiic value of wool export*, was down by about $100 million. As a whole, rural exports earned about $130 million less than in the previous year.
That is another indication of the situation which faces primary industries. I believe that we must keep this matter in mind in all our operations within Australia at the national level. Pressures have developed in certain industries particularly in my own Stale of Western Australia, which have an effect on other industries around them. Industries which are able to pass on increases in costs are perhaps in a satisfactory position, but there are industries, particularly the primary industries, which are not able to do this. Reference was made today to the proposed wheat stabilisation scheme. We noted that the guaranteed cost of production figure is different from the figure for the home consumption price. The Government’s policy has been to ensure that the portion of production consumed in Australia by Australians pays for the total cost of production. My time has expired so I must finish on that note.
– I join with the other honourable members on this side of the House in supporting the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). I say at the outset that the people who have described this Commonwealth Budget as being a compassionate Budget have either a grim, satirical sense of humour or little knowledge of the requirements of the ordinary Australian. Pensioners have been given a pre-election handout. They and ths families of workers and primary producers have little cause to rejoice at the Budget. Single pensioners have received an increase of $1 per week and married pensioners have received a smaller increase. I am sure these increases will be absorbed by increases in general sales tax. from 121% to 15%. Indirect taxation falls more heavily on the families of workers and primary producers.
A better way in which to increase revenue would have been to increase the rate of personal income tax. There are many reasons why the method of raising additional revenue from taxes, even from income taxation should be revised. A week ago we listened to an excellent speech which was delivered by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). He referred to the effects of the present method of taxation and pointed out the anomalies that exist under the present system. I feci sure that honourable members, particularly those whose sympathies lie with the ordinary people, who listened to the speech by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports or who will read it will appreciate the points that he made. The additional21/2% sales tax on soap, detergents, school requisites, general hardware, furniture, commercial vehicles, spare parts and tyres will place an additional burden on the ordinary people. The people in whom I am particularly interested - and I am sure that the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) is also interested in these people - are those livingin rural centres. They will have to carry this additional burden because they will have to pay sales tax on items sold in retail stores in country towns after freight and handling charges have been added. The burden will lie on them more than on the people in the cities. 1 am sure the Australian people will not be deluded into believing that increases in company taxation will not be passed on to the consumer at the end of the line. I refer to the primary producer, the pensioner, the superannuitant and the housewife. But they will not be able to pass the increases on. This is in keeping with the LiberalCountry Party Government’s policy regarding increases in costs. We have all heard of 3D, but I wish to refer to 2D. The first D refers to decimal currency and the second to devaluation. In both instances the Government adopted the same attitude. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) said that there would be no sharp increase in the cost of living as a result of the introduction of decimal currency. He said that there would be a smooth changeover and that the price of some items would be reduced. It is my experience that a decrease in price of an item has occurred only when at the same time the quantity of the item when packed has been reduced. Whereas, before the introduction of decimal currency, a person was able to buy a box containing 60 matches for 2d, now he pays 2c for a box containing a smaller number of matches. So it goes on. There is a smaller quantity in packets of chocolates and sweets. We find that there are fewer in the packet. I remember asking questions of the Treasurer and the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, about the Government’s attitude to this and I was told that the Government would condemn anyone who used the introduction of decimal currency to add a bit more lining to his pocket. But nothing was done. I do not believe there are many people who are convinced that the introduc tion of decimal currency did not give others an opportunity to add a little bit more to the lining of their pockets.
In the current year, because of the devaluation of sterling, the Commonwealth government is paying compensation amounting to$35m to rural industries and $2m to manufacturing industries. A sum of$21m was paid to primary industries in the last financial year. No payment was made to manufacturing industries last year. Altogether a sum of$58m will have been paid out as compensation to industries that have been affected by devaluation. I imagine that the Cabinet fully considered the benefits that would have been gained by not devaluing the Australian currency in line with sterling. It believed there was more to be gained by not devaluing. As a consequence industries with markets in the United Kingdom and other countries that devalued their currency were offered compensation; that was only right. What of the gains? Surely the gains achieved by not devaluing have been greater than the cost if we had devalued our currency. Who has received the gains? I asked the Treasurer this question and he said the gains would be passed on or would be used to absorb rising costs. 1 have seen no evidence of any gains being passed on to the consumer or of any reduction in the cost of goods imported from the United Kingdom or other countries which devalued their currency. There has not been a reduction in the price of such items as far as I can ascertain. I am still looking for any instance where there has been a reduction.
The other angle left open by the Treasurer was that these gains would be used to absorb rising costs. Does this not mean that those industries which are in a position to gain by the Government’s policy not to devalue will be better off than those industries which are not? The outcome has been the same in regard to both decimal currency and devaluation. There is very little concern for the consumer. Many of the benefits are not being passed on to the consumer, who in many cases is being charged more and will also have to face additional charges because of the decision of the Government to increase sales tax. This method of indirect tax places a heavy burden on people in decentralised areas. I looked for evidence of some relief in two sections of the Austraiian economy - rural industry and house building. I feel that I should say something about farmers and house buyers. The honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) spoke of the need for finance for people in rural industry. I am sure that many honourable members know of quite capable sons of farmers who have a great deal of experience but who have been denied the opportunity to go on the land because of the high cost of finance. This matter was raised in relation to the dairy industry rehabilitation scheme. Who will provide the finance and at what rate? Will money be available to a farmer who has the opportunity and who wishes to purchase land adjoining his property so that he may expand and operate much more efficiently than previously?
There is a need for cheaper finance in rural industry and for house building. The Treasurer announced in his Budget Speech that there would be an increase in the maximum amount of money available for home buyers in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. To inform myself, in the last day or so, I looked at the price of homes listed for sale in Canberra and found that very few were listed at under $15,000, which is a long way ahead of the maximum loan of $8,000 available to young couples. In many cases these people have to turn to the dearer money to bridge the gap between the amount available on loan and the total price of a home. Both husband and wife have to go to work. We are fast developing a two wage economy: unless both husband and wife work a married couple just mark time, lt is not in the interest of families or of young children when both parents go to work.
We are fast developing a peasant economy around our primary industries. I know personally farmers in sugar areas who a few years ago considered themselves to be fairly well off. They have the land; they have the cane. But they are not getting good prices. Whereas years ago they employed one or two men, farmers are carrying out work in partnership, which one might say is more economic. In other cases they are getting their wives to help them on the farms. 1 am sure that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, being somewhere about my own age, would remember, if you went to school in a rural area, that children nodded off to sleep at 10 o’clock in the morning because they had been up at 4 o’clock rounding up cows to do the milking, and that they had to leave to go back at 3 p.m. because they had to help again with the milking. I do not know whether any of them came off any better or any worse for it, but I do know that they had to suffer considerable hardship which I do not believe that Australian children today, in what we claim to be an affluent society, should have to suffer. It is wrong for any section of our community to exist under these conditions while others can revel in the lap of luxury.
The sugar industry is being boosted at the moment by loans from the Commonwealth to guarantee the price for No. 1 pool sugar. The Government subsidy is just holding the dairying industry together. In many of these industries there is not the same affluence as there is outside. Just let us look at the profits that have been made from nonproductive speculation. We have need in Australia for the cash that is going to overseas investors. Millions of dollars have changed hands because someone has thought that certain shares, particularly mining shares, are worth more. Overnight people become millionaires and multimillionaires without turning a hand to produce anything for the country. All that they produce is an increase in the value of their shares. When a slump comes, some people burn their fingers, but this never happens to the smarties. They will have made their non-productive profits - profits that are nontaxable. Compare the lot of these people with that of the people to whom I earlier referred.
I see little cause for complacency in the community - for believing that all is well. It is not good enough for the Government simply to give the pensioners an extra $1 in the pension in the hope that they will vote for the Government at the end of the year. Uncontrolled speculation, particularly of the kind we have witnessed in the last 6 months, is not good for the country. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) pointed out that people are paying high prices for land and are using such expenditure as a means of escaping taxes. Business people are paying so much for land that the sons of farmers cannot compete with them. The farmer is not sufficiently affluent to place his son on the land. Cheap finance is not available to the man on the land, just as it is not available to the home seeker. Something should be done urgently to increase housing loans. Recently the Government set up the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, but it is not the banks, the traditional providers of finance for housing, that are having recourse to the Corporation; it is the building societies. The average proportion of a housing loan insured with the Corporation is, in the case of old buildings, about 73%, and in the case of all buildings, 83%. Most old buildings are in established areas. In the main, they are the larger type of home. They are sought by young couples who cannot afford a new home, but they rarely can get adequate finance with which to buy an old home. Young people who obtain some finance for the purchase of an old home are forced to obtain at a high rate of interest the remainder of the finance needed, necessitating in many cases their working at two jobs in order to pay ofl the loans. This is a situation that cannot be allowed to continue if Australia is to develop. Some of the concessions provided in this Budget could have been better used in assisting prospective home owners. This would have benefited the nation in the long run.
Those who describe the Budget as a compassionate Budget designed to help those in need have been misled. When the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was elected to office by his Party some of his speeches led people to say: ‘This man is different to the late Mr Harold Holt’. The Prime Minister may be fortunate that he has not been a Treasurer. The people felt that the Prime Minister would offer them something. They remembered also the speeches made by the new Minister for Social Services (Mr. Wentworth). The Gurindjis will remember what the Minister promised to do for Aboriginals. The people who put their faith in the Minister for Social Services and the Prime Minister have been sadly betrayed. One newspaper correspondent, commenting on the action of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in kissing a pensioner on the steps of Parliament House, said that it was the kiss of Judas.
– The Budget represents a comprehensive assessment of the economy and will ensure continued and steady growth in our national product. The honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) said that the public has been misled by statements that this is a compassionate Budget. Some of us may think that the pensioners should have received a little more increase in the pension, but social services must be considered in the full context of the Budget. If we have regard to the fact that pensioners have been relieved of the anxiety associated with long term illness and have been given other concessions, we must agree that this is a compassionate Budget.
In the limited time available to me it is impossible to refer in detail to the many aspects of the Budget. For this reason 1 intend to dwell mainly on the need for more action to be taken by the Government to stem the eternal population drift to the cities, lt is up to us to pay something more than lip service to the essential problem of decentralisation. I suggest that some positive plan of regional development should be undertaken as a matter of urgency. Recently I was fortunate to be able to travel to the countries bordering the Indian Ocean as a representative of the first official Australian parliamentary delegation to visit that region. 1 found that, without exception, the people of those developing countries look upon Australia as a land of great wealth. I formed the opinion that in addition to looking to us for financial aid they expect a lead from us in the field of technology. I noticed that they are grateful for what Australia is doing for them. In the countries that we visited - Mauritius, Madagascar, Tanzania, Malawi, Kenya and Ceylon - technical advisers from Australia in the fields of agriculture, animal husbandry and fertiliser technology, as well as university lecturers and medical and dental experts, were working with the people, advising and helping them. There was evidence in those countries of Australian financial aid in the form of agricultural institutions and other substantial gifts that have been made without strings attached. The provision of this aid has had a tangible influence on the attitude of these people towards Australia and was responsible, I am sure, to a large extent for the very hospitable way in which we were received.
I explained to many people in the countries which I visited. that Australia is a young and developing country. 1 pointed out that although we are extremely fortunate in the diversification of our development, very real problems associated with this development limit our ability to assist other countries. However, I am sure that our efforts overseas are greatly appreciated. 1 hope that our contributions to worthy projects overseas will increase.
No country is so rich that it can achieve everything that it would like to achieve. This is certainly true of Australia. For all our wealth of primary productivity and our recently discovered fantastically large mineral wealth we are faced with the stark, naked reality that we are the world’s driest continent. Our main centres of population are congregated in our areas of highest rainfall. Even so, occasionally rainfall in these areas fails to reach the expected level. Undoubtedly this is one of the main inhibiting features in the development of this land. Australian primary producers have, generally speaking, become hardened to this situation and usually triumph over this fact of life, which would break the hearts of farmers from other parts of the world. Our farmers have developed a hardiness that has become an Australian characteristic. This same character typifies the toughness of those who have built and who are building our industries. 1 refer to industrial development in country areas as well as in city areas, because the attitudes of mind of the people concerned are relatively the same. Strangely enough though. I think that as a nation we are not strongly water conscious. I believe that the recent drought made quite an impression on most people, but with the coming of the general rains this year many people are already forgetting the last drought. One has only to look at the modern homes that have been constructed to see the lack of water consciousness. A large percentage of these homes have no rainwater storage. Provision for rainwater storage should be made a compulsory requirement by all States. It would certainly relieve the burden of water shortage in times of drought.
Over the years great advances have been made in pasture improvement and this has resulted in increased carrying capacity. Fertilising methods in the less productive areas have increased our yields. But the rainfall has not increased with the result that we are now more susceptible to a dry season than ever before. We are now living closer to the margin, in terms of rainfall, than a few years ago, and this trend will continue. The Commonwealth Government must step up the programme for water conservation, catchment and reticulation. Too many rivers still run to waste and too much waste still runs into rivers. The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) has indicated that efforts will be intensified in relation to the hydrology of small catchments, particularly with respect to the yield of farm dams, investigation of the effects of changes in land management on the quantity and quality of water and, finally, methods whereby the techniques for finding and developing subterranean water sources can be improved. This indicates that the Government is devoting some attention to this important matter. The problem is not confined to country areas where water storage and pipeline systems are a vital necessity; it also concerns city people and it is one of the main considerations for industry. I was pleased when the Minister for National Development announced recently a Commonwealth Government allocation of $130,000 for a new water research programme. This will complement research already being carried out by government agencies, universities and other organisations.
One of the urgent needs for regional development is a more adequate water supply, and this can never be overemphasised. Another major obstacle that needs to be overcome to promote decentralisation is the need for fast, reliable and cheap transport. Transport is a high priority requirement for regional development. We must realise that there are now twelve million people in Australia. This is a lot of people. Australia spends a far higher proportion of the national income on transport than do most other countries, and the Government concedes the importance of this aspect of the Australian economy. But we must not forget that as our population increases the unit cost to each of us for this most important facility will fall. There has to be a further rationalisation in the transport field. I know that a certain amount has been done in this regard, but I am sure that there is much scope for saving through a rationalisation study of transport as a whole. Air, road, rail and sea transport services should be carefully assessed to discover which of these services is suited to particular fields of transport. In this way we could achieve the best from each service. To this end I believe that a national transport council, representative of all transport services and all industries and commerce, should be established. These representatives could get together to work out an integrated transport system that would benefit all concerned.
If we intend to undertake decentralisation seriously as a nation then suitable transport facilities must be provided. Such a national council, when established, could carefully assess our needs. Distances from markets are measured by realists in terms of time and dollars. Everyone - no matter whether he is a businessman, farmer, manufacturer, professional man, country or city worker - must gain from a strong co-ordinated approach to transport services and costs. Much has been said over many years about the importance of transport to decentralisation. The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) and myself have been stressing the importance and urgency of constructing a new railway line from Tarcoola to Alice Springs. We believe that this line should be extended even to Darwin, and perhaps to other areas to the east and west. We are very concerned that the productive potential of the north of South Australia and the Northern Territory is being held up for the lack of quick, reliable transport which is necessary for the development of the mineral and pastoral areas in these parts of Australia.
I have also repeatedly directed the Government’s attention to the necessity of providing more money to enable the Eyre Highway to be sealed so that South Australia and Western Australia can be better linked. 1 have advocated that Woomera and other towns throughout Australia be given more consideration and a greater allocation of the grants made under the Commonwealth-States road agreement. The points that I have mentioned have been talked about for years no doubt, but the issues need strenuous re-examination, constructive thought and action so that we can come to grips with this problem. I believe that the initiative and drive have to come from the Commonwealth Government. This encouragement, although undoubtedly very costly initially, would prove to be a profitable investment for the future.
Centralisation certainly has some advantages, but it. does reach a point where it ceases to be economic, and I am sure that in the large cities this point is rapidly approaching. We are arriving at a stage in the cities where any nominal reduction in working hours is absorbed in the increased time it takes people to get to and from work. The honourable member for Lalor (Mr Lee) mentioned this important point during the adjournment debate last Wednesday. I agree that he raised an issue that has to be faced. Some people living in remote suburbs and working 40 hours a week have to travel for several hours a day, and it is obvious that this situation will become much worse in the future. It is in everyone’s interest that this increasingly uneconomic centralisation trend be arrested. It is not an easy project because we have, in a sense, to demagnetise our main centres of population. However, I suggest that it can be done. It has been the policy of the Government, when seeking to start an industry in competition with established overseas companies, to give it tariff protection or to provide a bounty in order that the industry may survive the strenuous initial competition by these overseas concerns. J can see no reason why this principle should not be applied in the formative years to an industry that wishes to commence production in a new area. According to the Constitution this cannot be done by means of a tariff, but something equivalent to an area bounty could be considered. This is not without precedent, as zone allowances for taxation purposes are made in many areas of Australia. Industries could be allowed some subsidy to assist in wage payments or in other ways, and the amount could be phased out over 5 or 6 years. This should help to offset the difficulties that are usually experienced during the period until markets are established. The amount of bounty could be determined by the same kind of inquiry as is conducted by the Tariff Board, and the same general principles could be applied.
Decentralisation - or regional development as I prefer to call it - cannot be generated without the initial co-operation of the people who live in the areas concerned. The initiative will almost certainly have to come from this source, provided that the people can be assured that the Government will offer practical and financial support for any worthy proposals. I read with interest in yesterday’s ‘Australian Financial Review’ that two governments are planning big decentralisation developments. One is planned in Victoria at Westernport Bay. According to the article the Victorian Government’s policy is aimed at industrialising the region and attracting a large population without destroying existing attractions and without the decline in amenity that is often associated with the concept of industrialisation. The district earmarked for development is about 35 to 40 miles south east of Melbourne. I also read that the New South Wales and Victorian governments are expected to press the Commonwealth for special grants to encourage industrial development on a large scale in the AlburyWodonga region. Both governments and the Commonwealth have shown interest in the idea of ploughing public funds into selected country centres with the idea of nursing them to a stage where they can attract sufficient industry to grow rapidly into viable cities and take some of the strain off Sydney and Melbourne. This is a tangible way in which the Commonwealth Government can display an active interest in decentralisation. The States are showing keen interest in such developments and are asking for support, and the Commonwealth should support their programmes. The article to which I have referred concluded with these words:
The Mayor of Albury . . . told the ‘Review Albury had developed industrially on its own initiative, and had few regional government offices other than the Valuer-General’s office. He said it cost the community $12,000 a year from council and local business funds to maintain an industries promotion officer.
There must be many other parts of Australia where similar developments could take place. For example, in the northern Spencer Gulf area in my electorate there is an industrial complex in three centres supporting a population of more than 55,000 people and also a large regional population. Although the centres are about 50 miles apart, I believe a regional committee similar to the one established in Albury could be formed by the city councils and other interested bodies to assess the needs of the region. This committee would have to consider many questions. What is the present employment pattern in the area? Are there sufficient jobs for the people who are leaving school? is there a balanced demand for labour? What can be done to provide employment for females? How many jobs would be necessary ea,:h year, allowing for school leavers and the inflow of migrants and others?
After a study of the industrial pattern an assessment could be made of industries which could service or augment those already established. What type of industry could make use of the natural resources? What types of workers are available in the region? The committee could also consider where the major markets for proposed industries are located, what new markets could be developed closer at hand and what special problems and costs would be involved in the establishment of the proposed industries. It could decide whether these problems would be temporary or permanent and how they might best be overcome. These are the kinds of investigations that would have to be carried out locally so that an informed case could be presented to the Government.
It is generally accepted that a city of 50,000 people becomes self generating, being able to support service industries and other ventures. I cannot see why this should not apply also to centres reasonably close to each other and having a total population reaching this critical figure of 50,000. I do not think it is necessarily a question of starting completely from scratch because there are regional centres with populations of 20,000 or more that can be developed by the sort of approach I am suggesting. I have already given the illustration of the Albury-Wodonga region.
The population of Whyalla, which is in the northern Spencer Gulf area, is increasing at the rate of almost 3,000 a year, and this rate will continue for the next 4 years. Planning at present is on the assumption that the population will eventually reach 100,000. There is an area near Port Augusta where large salt leases which were being operated a few years ago are now lying idle. There is a marvellous opportunity for a company to explore for a comparatively small outlay the potential of large scale salt production. The lease extended over almost 2,000 acres and the potential could be built up to a million tons a year, according to expert advice. For a relatively small expenditure a deep-water port could be provided nearby to accommodate ships of up to 50,000 tons. The industry could develop to a stage at which a petrochemical works could be economical, particularly as natural gas from the Gidgealpa field will shortly be available. Factories making both industrial and domestic clothing could be established to absorb female labour. There are many other possibilities.
A regional tourist committee could be established. There is already one at Port Pirie and there has been discussion on the feasibility of establishing a tourist office at Port Augusta. This proposal could be extended further to include all other major centres in the area, with profit to all concerned. I give these examples of what could be done in the northern Spencer Gulf region because it is in my electorate and 1 am well acquainted with it. I am sure, however, that there are many other places where similar suggestions could be adopted.
I mentioned that a population of 50,000 or so makes a community self generating. We have a classic example of this in Canberra, where external stimulus was required initially but where the growth of the city has now become self generating. As regional areas are developed and populations increase, university colleges and later full scale universities, with many faculties, would become practical possibilities.
But all this will not just happen. It must be made to happen. With a balanced employment pattern, improved transport and the other services that I have mentioned, there is obvious scope for substantial growth throughout Australia controlled along the lines that 1 have suggested. It is estimated that by the end of this century our population will have increased to twenty-eight million. Do we want to see a continued drift of country people to the existing large cities in search of job opportunities for their children, or do we want to develop decentralised areas to populations of 300,000 to 500.000, linked with more numerous smaller centres with up to 100,000 each? These centres would have all the advantages of cities without the disadvantages of the urban sprawl that is becoming worse each year. They would also retain the kind of community spirit that i> practically non-existent in the larger cities today.
Perhaps some honourable members will smile at these thoughts and consider them nothing more than pipe dreams, but I appeal to the Government to consider seriously what I have said. I hope that some of these suggestions will prove worthy of adoption by the Government and that a further contribution to the regional development of this great country will be made.
– The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) commenced his Budget Speech by quoting these words from the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral on the opening of Parliament for the first Gorton Ministry:
My Government will review ihe field of social welfare with the object of assisting those in most need while at the same time not discouraging thrift, self help and self reliance.
The Treasurer concluded his Speech by saying:
We owe another debt - a debt to those who have done their day’s work and are now aged and infirm, to the sick and the handicapped and to those who have sustained disabilities in war. A Budget has largely to be a process of analysis and calculation; but it ought never to exclude humane and social values. We have sought 10 give them an honoured place in this Budget.
The Treasurer endeavoured to create the impression, when using those words, that this Government was a government full of compassion, sympathy and feeling, that it was a government prepared and willing to accept its responsibilities to the family, the aged, the sick and the disabled. But his Budget proves otherwise. 1 admit that certain miserly concessions have been made; they are not nearly as many or as great as most Australians would have hoped. Many small concessions which would have cost little but would have helped many in urgent need of consideration and sympathy have been completely overlooked. To emphasise my point I shall cite two cases concerning widows and deserted wives.
Last Thursday I asked the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) a question which highlighted examples of lack of sympathy and understanding on the part of the Government. The Minister gave me very short shrift in his answer. As a backbencher and as a new Minister he made great play of his professed belief that our social services legislation needed overhaul and amendment. My question dealt with the cancellation of widows’ pensions for mothers of sub-normal children when those children reached 16 years of age. lt also dealt with the Government’s failure to pay a widow’s pension to an innocent woman who had been a party to a bigamous marriage. How any government can fail to appreciate the great needs of such women is beyond my comprehension. A woman with a sub-normal child has been called upon to carry a far greater burden here on earth than have most other men and women. For her to be widowed or deserted adds immensely to that burden. A woman in such a position has to devote an enormous amount of time to the welfare of her child. She has the constant worry that the child, because of its affliction, might endanger itself. For 16 years she becomes accustomed to caring for her child’s needs and requirements. The child - it will never be anything more than a child - depends upon the mother’s presence, love, understanding and attention. But then, because the mother is under 45 years of age when the child reaches the age of 16, her widow’s pension is cancelled. She has to seek employment. She has to leave her child alone in the home or rely upon someone else to care for the child while she is away at work. The child feels lost and is frightened. Its source of confidence and affection is removed for a great portion of the day. The mother is worried and disillusioned.
In my opinion this woman has one of two decisions to make: Firstly, she can hand the child over to a State institution and turn against her motherly instincts. Or secondly, she can seek employment suitable to her, in many cases, untrained and inexperienced state. Whichever of these decisions she makes, she is entitled to turn against society, to feel unwanted and unloved. Her nerves and her health are under constant pressure. One way or the other, in a matter of time she is likely lo be compelled to seek the assistance of the Government. To fail to amend our social service legislation to provide for cases similar to this is a crime against humanity. No Government and no Minister can claim to be acting with compassion while this sort of thing is allowed to happen to even one person in our community. There cannot be many women under the age of 45 years who are widowed and who have a sub-normal child. If the Government were to introduce legislation to permit continued payment of the widow’s pension in these circumstances, the cost would be infinitesimal. Any expense to the Government would certainly be more than repaid with gratitude.
The other instance I mentioned in my recent question related to a woman who was tricked into a bigamous marriage by a plausible rogue. She acted in all innocence. Her marriage was performed in accordance with the laws of the land, lt was consummated and a child was born. A few months later her supposed husband was arrested and gaoled for non-payment of maintenance to his legal wife and two children. Her world collapsed around her. She was left with a young baby and no income. She is not entitled to a widow’s pension because her child is nol regarded as a qualifying child under the provisions of the Social Services Act. The woman was compelled to seek employment. As she had no-one to tend her child while she was at work she had to place it in a child minding centre at a cost of Si 4. 10 a week. She is away from her child for about 12 hours every week day. When I asked my question, the Minister callously answered by saying that this was a matter for the State government. He mentioned legislation passed by this Parliament during the last session, but to my knowledge corresponding legislation has no vet been implemented by the State governments.
Hard and fast rules on social service legislation do not assist cases such as I have mentioned. Ministerial discretion should be granted in our legislation to provide for these cases. It was no fault of the woman who was bigamously married that she was taken in. She acted in good faith and within the laws of the land. Because she is away from her young baby for such a length of time on 5 or 6 days a week the child is likely to grow away from her. I ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker, how any Treasurer can claim that his government is acting with humanity and compassion when it allows this type of thing to continue.
In the field of social service legislation some strange, rough and tough decisions are made with respect to invalid pensions. One case that came to my notice not long ago involved a woman whose youngest child turned 16 years of age a few months before the mother turned 45 years of age. The mother’s widows pension was cancelled while she was in hospital receiving treatment for a weight problem. She weighed 27 stone. While she was in hospital her weight came down to 21 stone but she was discharged from hospital because her widow’s pension had been cancelled and she was no longer entitled to free hospitalisation. Her application for an invalid pension was considered while she was in hospital but was rejected because, within the terms of the Act, she was considered not to be permanently unfit. I wonder whether the doctor who made this decision would be prepared to employ her as his receptionist - an untrained, unskilled woman weighing 21 stone who suffers from two or three other ailments as well. I wonder whether the Commonwealth Government and its doctors would classify her as fit for employment in the Public Service. She is now receiving unemployment benefit and is likely to be doing so for a long time because I am certain that no public employer or private employer would engage her for work. She has looked after her home and her children for a number of years and is untrained and unskilled. Therefore, in a matter of time, she is likely to be declared permanently unfit for work and to be placed on the list of those receiving an invalid pension. In rhe meantime she will continue to receive either sickness benefit or unemployment benefit. When mentioning this case I might also add that this woman has two sons in our armed forces. I cannot see how decisions such as those I have mentioned can be sustained by a government which claims to be humane and compassionate.
I turn now, Mr Deputy Speaker, to the subject of education. I fail to understand the thinking of any government that can place in a Budget at the head of its priorities for education the granting of aid for approved capital projects such as libraries and pre-school education, when there is an urgent need to overcome such things as a shortage of teachers, a shortage of buildings, a shortage of teachers with sufficiently high qualifications to maintain the standards now required by our curriculum, inadequate buildings that are in need of repair, and inadequate teaching aids. Yet this Government gives priority to school libraries.
– To rich schools as well as poor schools.
– To both government schools and private schools. Perhaps these funds will go to schools that have no shelter sheds, to schools with playgrounds which need maintenance, and to schools where the buildings need repair. So the Government will provide glorious libraries at schools where children cannot play in the playgrounds with safety. The Australian Labor Party has said, at the last three general elections, that until a national inquiry is conducted into pre-school, primary school and technical education no government can get its education priorities in the right order.
Three weeks ago the honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) and I addressed a meeting of parents and friends from 28 Catholic schools in the western suburbs of Sydney. There were approximately 650 people present. Dr Tony Millar, on behalf of those parents, outlined the need for increased aid for Catholic schools in New South Wales. Amongst other things he informed the meeting that last year the Catholic education system in New South Wales operated with a deficit of $700,000. Last year in the Sydney archdiocese alone, there were 256 primary schools and 96 secondary or regional schools. More than $85. 5m has been spent on new buildings since the introduction of the Wyndham scheme and on that amount of money there is a large interest debt to be met each year. There are over 100,000 pupils in the parochial schools in the Sydney area. Of this number 75% are in primary schools and 25% are in secondary schools. Last year the payment of lay teachers’ salaries cost $4m. The amount is expected to rise to $51/2m this year. The increase will be brought about largely by increases in salaries that are expected, plus provision for superannuation, long service leave and annual leave entitlements. School fees bring in approximately $4.1m per year and school enrolments increase by between 5,000 and 7,000 pupils each year.
Dr Millar said in the course of his address that the selective closing of schools seemed to be the only solution if increased aid was not forthcoming from the Commonwealth and State Governments. He suggested, on behalf of the 650 parents representing 28 Catholic schools in the western suburbs of Sydney, that an education commission should be established to take the topic of aid for independent schools out of politics. Also, he suggested the payment of lay teachers’ salaries and the recognition of Catholic teacher training establishments by governments. Further he suggested the making of grants for the repair and maintenance of buildings and for the provision of- libraries. He suggested also that the 10% of places that are now available in Stale Government teacher training colleges should be increased.
I have outlined these points to show some of the problems that confront Catholic schools in New South Wales. Also, I have outlined some of the suggestions made by a spokesman on behalf of parents for the solution of some of those problems. But if we add to the suggestions and the complaints that I have mentioned all the suggestions and complaints that are made by State Premiers on behalf of government schools and by others on behalf of other independent schools, we find that these problems continue to mount. An inquiry into pre-school, primary, secondary and technical education is urgently needed to enable us to decide our priorilies. I make no suggestions at this stage as to which level of education should receive top priority and which should be at the bottom of the list. But education is now so important in our community. The dual system has operated for a great number of years and no government can allow that system to operate inefficiently. While 25% or more of our school pupils attend independent schools, the Commonwealth Government and State governments everywhere must look at the problem and decide where the money that is available for education can be best used in the interests of all the pupils in State and non-government schools.
At the meeting I attended the other night I was in the happy position of being able to quote directly from the policy speech of the Australian Labor Party for the Federal general election of 1966 and from the policy speech of the New South Wales Branch of the Labor Party for the State general election in 1968. I was able to point out to Dr Millar and other parents that most of the problems that were confronting them had already been discussed and that decisions on methods of dealing with those problems had been taken by the Australian Labor Party. In the policy speech for the Federal election delivered in November 1966 by the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), the Labor Party promised an inquiry into all aspects of primary, secondary and technical education in government and non-government schools to determine the needs, in order of priority, of each system of education. That policy promised the immediate adoption of proposals in the report of the Martin Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education in Australia for Commonwealth assistance to teacher training, so that a sufficient number of teachers would be trained annually for both government and non-government schools, lt promised the continuation of existing benefits to non-government schools. Further, the Labor Party promised the payment of $22m a year to qualified lay teachers in primary and secondary non-government schools on the basis of 60c a week for each child in primary schools and 80c a week for each child in secondary schools. The Labor Party further suggested that the Commonwealth was to accept responsibility for financing university education and teacher training for State and non-government schools.
In the policy speech delivered by the Honourable Jack Renshaw on behalf of the New South Wales Branch of the Labor Party in February 1968, the establishment of an education commission was promised. Also, the Labor Party promised to end the bonding system to enable graduates of State teachers colleges to teach at State or nonState schools in New South Wales. Labor’s policy for the State election promised an increased intake of teacher trainees, additional teachers colleges, and an increase in the number of secondary school1 scholarships and in bursary payments for children at primary and secondary schools. Further, subsidies were to be paid to secondary pupils in the form of living away from home allowances. After discussion with the appropriate authorities, a Labor government in New South Wales would implement a system for the payment of salaries of qualified lay teachers in non-State schools. The State Branch of the Labor Party further promised a continuation of existing benefits to non-State schools.
At the meeting I attended on about the 7th August this year I was able to indicate to the people present what the Australian
Labor Party would do on a Federal1 and State basis for non-government schools throughout Australia. The same problems that confront State and non-State schools in New South Wales confront schools in all other States. It is time that this Government in particular - the Government that receives, in the form of income and sales tax and customs and excise duties, the money for distribution to the States - faced up to these problems and assisted the State governments to solve them.
Before I conclude my speech - we have been asked to restrict ourselves to 20 minutes each - I just want to mention to the House that the figures 1 have quoted this afternoon for Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Sydney deal only with parochial schools and not with any of the so called private schools in New South Wales. To anyone who may have some idea that I am making a plea for schools that are regarded as schools for the sons of rich people. I point out that I am not. I am talking about ordinary, everyday parents in New South Wales, and for that matter throughout Australia.
In his speech delivered on Tuesday, 20th August, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), speaking on education, had this to say:
As to State aid, it must be frankly acknowledged that the Commonwealth must help both the government and non-government schools and cannot help one sector alone of the dual system.
I agree with that statement and I also agree with the amendment that has been moved on behalf of the Opposition by the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) moved an amendment containing four different propositions. I do not intend to make any detailed comment on the amendment other than to say that I believe that people in country areas will have noted that the emphasis in one of those propositions and throughout his speech has been on the cities.I admit that he did throw in the provincial cities to soften the blow a little. This concentration in the cities is already being linked with the policy of one vote one value which has made itself so very apparent in the submissions made on behalf of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labor Party in relation to the redistribution of electoral boundaries, as I well know.
The time allowed to us by arrangement on this occasion is 20 minutes. Because of this, I know the reason will be understood if I deal mainly with matters which affect the major export industries. The speech of the Leader of the Opposition contained many implied criticisms of underspending. The honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart), who has just finished, went both ways. He criticised overspending in some instances and underspending in others. 1 would like to answer some of these criticisms, but I do not have time to do so now and I will have to wait until we are debating the Estimates. I would especially like to answer the criticisms relating to education.
As I see it, the Budget is full of instances of increased expenditure in the national cause. It is, therefore, quite unrealistic to talk in terms of lighter taxes, as one part of the amendment does. What is the position of our economy at the moment? On the credit side, we have an economy that permits an ever increasing level of personal savings. Savings bank deposits, which are a very good indication of the state of the economy, increased last year by $457m. This is an increase of 8% on the previous year. Depositors’ balances in savings banks amounted to $6,222m at the end of June. With a population of 12 million people, this gives an average of more than $500 for every man, woman, child and babe in arms in the country. This seems to me to be a very satisfactory level.
It could be said that this figure is largely responsible for Australia having devoted a higher proportion of its national product to fixed capital investment than has any other country with the exception of Japan. I stand open to correction on this, but I think that Japan leads in this field. Australia comes next with about 27%, then Canada with 25%, New Zealand with a little less, and the United Kingdom and the United States of America on about the same mark, somewhere between 15% and 20%. We enjoy the fourth highest living standard in the world, coming after the United States,
Canada and Sweden in that order. A further factor appears from the Budget. Our balance of payments is in surplus for the year to the extent of$78m, as against the deficit of$1 20m last year. I will have more to say about the current account situation in a moment. Employment has increased, and at the end of June the number of persons receiving unemployment benefit was at the lowest level for nearly 2 years.
I come now to the debit side. I believe that we should present both sides of the picture. Our current account deficit has increased by S427m. Imports have increased by $345m. That in itself is not bad. The level of imports does not matter - probably the higher the better - if it is related realistically to the level of exports. The predominant cause of this situation in the last 12 months is that rural exports have decreased. This has a hurtful effect on the producer and an adverse effect on the nation.It as caused overdraft levels to rise considerably. Let us here pay tribute, as we should, to the work of the wool houses and the terrific load they arc carrying at this time. There has been a very small increase in the export of meats of all types. The export of dairy products, wheat and flour is down. Wool, hides and skins are also well down on the previous year. Current levels are substantially below previous levels. But the main decrease in rural output -I refer here to output rather than exports - has been in wheat, which has dropped from 466.6 million bushels to an estimate of 277 million bushels. The production of wool has increased, but I assure anyone who does not already know that the effects of the severe drought in the eastern States are not reflected in those figures as yet.
This is the background against which negotiations are taking place for the future wheat stabilisation scheme. I do not intend to devote much time to this subject, because of the restriction on time and also because I believe negotiations on the scheme are still proceeding. The Commonwealth again has submitted proposals. The State governments are reported to be considering the proposals. The industry organisations are also considering the proposals, and their opinions are obviously divided. But I want on behalf of the many wheat growers [ represent to highlight some aspects that should be considered in these talks. If it is too late to consider them in the talks, it will not do any harm for these aspects to be placed before the general public. They are quite often overlooked.
I refer to a publication mentioned by my colleague the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett). I am very pleased to note that we are reading the same publications and getting much the same answers from them. I refer to the Treasury White Paper entitled ‘Australian Economy 1968’, which was issued last month. The first paragraph contains such terms as ‘disruptive economic events’, ‘severe drought’, ‘devaluation of sterling’ and ‘international monetary stresses’.It also states:
At home, costs rose disquietingly fast.
That is an ugly word but a most appropriate one. lt continues:
Apart from the rural sector the growth performance of the economy was good.
I repeat the words ‘apart from the rural sector’. The publication contains a table under the heading ‘The Cost Problem’, which sets out the annual percentage increase in the consumer price index and in the average weekly earnings. I will not go through the figures, but I refer honourable members to them. They highlight the costprice squeeze. On the one side we have the average weekly earnings and on the other side we have the consumer price index.
The publication contains the following passage:
Experience in recent years suggests that productivity lends to improve at the rate of about 21% annually. If, however, average earnings are rising by 6% or more a year, the upward push of wage costs will be strong and the general price level can be expected to rise.
I emphasise the words’the general price level can be expected to rise’. This is bad enough for the manufacturer and for the retailer, who can add this on to the costs, and for the members of the general public who are the end users; but it is disastrous for the primary producer, who has only two choices. He either takes what he is offered or, when he has orderly marketing, he has to do battle in negotiations against pretty stiff odds, as he is finding at this time.
I come to a paragraph in the publication, which has already been read by the honourable member for Canning but bears repeating. lt states:
The contribution to export earnings we shall continue to require of our rural industries-
The ‘we’ refers to the general public - makes it highly important that they should operate economically-
The primary producers are not told how to do this, and the publication does not say that it should be done efficiently, as many experts constantly tell our primary producers it should be. I will not be a party to this suggestion because J know that the general standard of efficiency of our rural industries is good by world standards. The Treasury paper on the Australian economy goes on to say: . . that is, they should be capable of producing al costs that will be fully recovered in the prices received for sales in export markets. . . . Unfortunately, rising costs have been eroding the economic base of the rural industries and there will be serious effects - particularly for the balance of payments - if this goes on.
I would say that is a profound statement. Possibly I could say that it is a masterpiece of understatement.
It is not the task of this pamphlet to tell us how to achieve those things. But I think it is rather significant that the pamphlet goes on to discuss ‘The Year Ahead’. It talks of seasonal conditions causing an increase in rural output and gross farming income. It speaks of good autumn rains which have caused us to sow record areas. It even goes so far as to tell us - I suppose some people need to be told - that more rain will be needed in the course of the growing season to ensure a successful harvest. The significant thing is that this paper continues straight on with a reference to our expanding mining industry. It talks of mining and quarrying and how this sector accounted for 2% of our gross national product in 1965-66. The paper states:
This industry is now making a rapidly increasing contribution to natural production.
I think that this is significant because it seems to me to be putting forward a view that is held by so very many people nowadays.
We have got where we are substantially through the contribution of primary industries. But things now are not good for primary industries. They are running into trouble. However, the cry seems to be: She’ll be apples! We have struck oil!* This seems to be the tendency with a lot of people in this country today. We have struck oil and we have found iron ore, bauxite, nickel, copper and so on. Those discoveries are magnificent. They are good. They are going to be wonderful for Australia. But there is still a gap and, in a hungry world, we must acknowledge that primary industries should be looked after.
I belong to a political party that believes in a growing population. The best way of increasing a population is by natural increase. We cannot achieve that objective fast enough. If we cannot increase our population in this way, we must do so by migration. But the newcomers are of no value - indeed they are a liability - without job creation. Until such time as our water resources are harnessed to a far greater degree than they are now, secondary industries must provide jobs. The encouragement of secondary and tertiary industries resulting in this movement and this faster growth has meant undue pressure on costs.
– Hear, hear!
– So many will be in agreement with me up to this time, but possibly this is where some of us might begin to part company. I believe that just as this has been brought about by a conscious purposefulness on the part of this Government, there is a necessary corollary to it. We are duty bound to see that compensating policies are brought in to counteract the undue strains thrown on to export industries. The Government has gone a long way in this regard. Taxation incentives to the man on the land are the envy of some of our other industries. Those incentives are quite good. Subsidies and bounties have made a contribution. These are part of our budgetary policy this year. Policies and preferential credit arrangements both as to amount and interest rates are of assistance in our primary industry. Taxpayers funds spent on promotion and research are important. Work carried out in the field of trade, including the finding of new markets, is very helpful indeed. I have no quarrel with it. The only suggestion I make is that I would like to see tariff measures give way a little bit more to bounty assistance. I feel that the people themselves must understand and accept the fact that just as their prosperity and security have been made possible by these growth policies, in this world we do not get anything for nothing. Somebody has to pay. Those whose efforts to earn - I refer to export industries - are made harder by growth policies have to be recompensed in all fairness and to a reasonable degree.
There is another corollary to these policies too. Secondary industry must exert still greater effort to get its house in order and to increase its efficiency. Whereasthe man on the land is told constantly: ‘Be more efficient; do more to make yourself efficient’, this advice can be turned around the other way. Undoubtedly some secondary industries are tremendously efficient. I think that some of the competition respecting big tenders overseas and some of the manufactured goods sold for export reflects great credit on some of our secondary industries.
I refer to probably the biggest industry in my electorate, the Email factory producing household appliances. I remember the manager of this organisation at one stage talking about protection. I will not forget his comment. He said to me: ‘The greatest protection against imports is the production of a quality product’. This is the principle his company has been working on. I say that other secondary industries can do this. It is easy to tell primary producers to become more efficient. Secondary industry needs to get with it in order to compete overseas under less protection than they are enjoying at the moment. Some people say constantly that the answer to the problem of our primary industries is more efficiency. But I turn that advice around and say that the answer to the national problem is: More efficiency in secondary industry. This is the biggest contribution that can be made.
I have made mention of the wheat industry. In the Budget, there are three substantial points dealing with this industry. I am not going into the question of the proposal of drought bonds because I am not clear as yet on what they are. I do not think that anybody is. I understand that the bonds will apply only in the arid areas where fodder conservation cannot take place. Therefore, I will wait to see what comes when the legislation is finally introduced. An amount of $43m is set aside for wheat stabilisation for this financial year.I am sure that the discussions now in progress will be influenced by some of the factors whichI have brought forward. A figure of$37m is made available this year for the purposes of the superphosphate subsidy. Just what this means to the Commonwealth in the way of income is hard to assess. But this is certainly one of the best business propositions that was ever introduced to increase the production of primary industries.I refer also to the subsidy of$ 14.4m for nitrogenous fertilisers. Wheat research is another matter that is mentioned. I did want to say more on this subject. However, as only a minute of my time is left, I prefer to cover this subject at some later stage, perhaps during the debate on the Estimates.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, at the outset, I certainly want to congratulate the honourable member for Calare (Mr England) on what has been a particularly thoughtful and constructive contribution to the debate. I do welcome this opportunity to speak on the Budget which, in today’s post-Keynesian period, is the essential instrument of economic policy supplemented by the effective use of monetary measures in achieving an objective of maximum economic growth without inflation.
Against the background of drought in South East Australia, as honourable members will recall, the Budget in 1967 sought to generate a solid lift in real national output; to draw the reins on public spending more tightly than before so as to allow room for a faster rate of expansion of the private sector; to encourage industry to take up excess productive capacity which existed at the time; and to boost private fixed capita] spending. That these objectives have been achieved is now a matter of record. During 1967-68, gross national product increased by 6% at current prices and consumer spending by about 8%. and the rise in Commonwealth spending has been held to 10% of the previous year’s total. There was a noticeable growth in the employment position, particularly private employment, and substantial increases in significant areas of private fixed capital expenditure.
We enter 1968-69 with confidence and conviction that the economy is generally buoyant and that we face another good year. As the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) pointed out in the Budget Speech:
Employment is high and rising and, with it, the level of wage and salary incomes. . . . Consumer spending can be expected to go on rising. Private capital expenditure, on both housing and other forms of building and construction, has gained a momentum that should keep it going strongly in the months to come. . . .
Net immigration is rising and employment could increase by 3% this year. If gains in productivity are as good as the average of recent years, this could mean an increase of as much as 6% or more in gross national product at constant prices.
These are encouraging economic indicators and the Treasurer, I believe, is to be congratulated on bringing down a Budget which lays emphasis on continued stability as a prerequisite for sound, long term growth, sees a 6% increase in gross national product in real terms, incorporates an increase in defence expenditure of $31m over last year, and proposes a number of major programmes in the keynote fields of social welfare, education, Aboriginal affairs and the rural sector. These programmes have been mentioned in detail by the Treasurer and I do not want to take time now repeating them, except to dwell for a moment on the fact that notwithstanding what the Opposition has said, the Government in this Budget has given high priority to assisting the aged, the sick and the needy.
I believe that this should give the lie once and for all to the oft quoted assertions by members of the Opposition that they possess a monopoly of concern for the underprivileged in our community. The verbal smoke screens which tend to be a characteristic stock in trade of some members of the Opposition cannot hide the fact that the most substantial and far reaching social service legislation in the Federal sphere has been introduced and implemented by Liberal-Country Party governments. It was a Liberal government which introduced Federal age pensions in this country. It was a Liberal government which introduced child endowment, homes for the aged, the national health scheme and the liberalisation of the means test on what is now five successive occasions. The measures embodied in the Budget represent a further progression in the Government’s intention to safeguard the needy and those unable to fend for themselves.
The additional expenditure programmes laid down in the Budget need to be accommodated by increased revenue. As the Treasurer stated:
In the present buoyant economic conditions, it nevertheless seems prudent to modify a little the stimulus flowing from this increase in expenditure by seeking at least a modest addition to our revenue resources.
This addition has taken the form of an increase in the general rate of sales tax to 15%, a company tax increase of 2.5c in the Si and other sundry charges. The requirement for this additional revenue could not bc expected to elicit an enthusiastic response in some sections of the community, but I believe it certainly is well within the community’s capacity to pay. It is at least a responsible approach by a responsible government, and this is far more than can bc said for what the Opposition has proposed.
In view of the Budget’s function as the essential instrument of economic policy, the Budget debate presents both Government and Opposition parties with a real opportunity to detail and spell out their orientation to our essential economic objectives, and the economic framework in which these objectives can be realised. The Treasurer set out very clearly the sense of purpose and direction which characterises the Government’s approach. But what is the Opposition’s reply? lt is very easy to speak in glib terms, as did the Leader of the Opposition, about the need to assist families and cities, but where is the substance? Where is the detail? The Opposition in fact has lapsed into its traditional role of offering a series of unsubstantiated proposals, knowing full well that it has no semblance of responsibility for meeting the costs of these proposals, ft accuses the Government of doctrinaire conservatism, yet no term could more aptly circumscribe the economic policies of the Opposition than ‘doctrinaire’. Honourable members opposite are supposedly supporters of price control as the basic answer to rising prices in this country. This is at best a misguided form of economic backseat driving. But we have heard nothing of price control from the Leader of the Opposition. Honourable members opposite are supposedly supporters of nationalisation as an important plank of Labor economic policy, but we have heard nothing of nationalisation in this debate.
They are supposedly proponents of a capital gains tax, but their support for such a tax has gone by default on this occasion.
How would the Opposition restructure defence expenditure and taxation and meet the cost of the proposals which they have foreshadowed in this debate? These are substantial questions, but we have waited in vain for constructive answers from the Opposition. The Budget makes increased provision for defence consistent with the progress made in the development of the forces and the build-up of their equipment. Whilst the increased payments to be made this financial year for the modern aircraft being obtained for the Air Force require an unusually large increase in the vote for the Department of Air. the objective of a balanced development of the three Services has not been overlooked by the Government. The increase in the vote for the Department of the Army as against expenditure last financial year is$20m or 5%. Contrary to some reports which have appeared, the vote includes a greater proportionate increase in expenditure on new arms and equipment for the Army. The Appropriation Bill shows an appropriation of $92m for equipment as against $81m for 1 967- 68. This, of course, includes provision for both capital equipment and maintenance, and does not include provision for equipment purchased under the credit arrangements with the United States of America. When ail that is taken into account, it will be found that provision for expenditure on new arms and equipment in 1968- 69 is$63m compared with$53m in the previous year - an increase of some 19%. I emphasise this particular increase, as there have been some incorrect comments which have overlooked the points I have just mentioned.
The equipment needs of the expanded Army are very wide and varied. The development of new and effective types of weapons and equipment proceeds steadily both in Australia and overseas. The Government’s firm objective is that Australia should have the most effective arms and equipment that are available. The machinery for evaluation, selection and procurement of equipment, including the important question of development and production by Australian industry, is working constantly towards the realisation of this objective. It may be noted that the Army’s equipment estimate has risen by a greater percentage than has the total Army vote. The reason for this is that last year was the peak year in expenditure on the programme of building accommodation for the Army which was launched several years ago. Whilst the Army’s accommodation problems are not yet completely solved, the accelerated programme of work over the last 2 years has provided permanent accommodation for field force units at Holsworthy, Enoggera, Puckapunyal, Swanbourne and Townsville. Projects in Papua and New Guinea have also been largely completed. With the peak year passed, the amount provided for work and buildings this year will be $22m below that in 1967-68.
In summary, over the last few years the Government has virtually achieved its aim of providing permanent modern accommodation for field force units both in Australia and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The era of war time huts with which the Army had to contend for so long has come to an end. The other objectives of permanent accommodation for Army schools and other elements is being, and will continue to be, dealt with on a progressive basis.
As far as manpower is concerned, there has been a steady growth both in the Regular Army and the Citizen Military Forces. The continued success of the national service scheme and the effective integration of national servicemen and members of the Regular Army is evident. There is still a shortage of officers and noncommissioned officers, and this problem continues to be given the closest study. Although the Government has kept increases in defence expenditure to a minimum consistent with the need to meet, adequately, the assessed requirement, the estimates provide for a properly graduated development of a flexible defence structure.
One other subject I want to mention is the Citizen Military Forces. Much has been said in recent months to the effect that the CMF is an anachronism or, at the opposite end of the scale, that it is far too small and should be increased from its present two division structure to 5 or 6 divisions. It is suggested on the one hand that the concept of the Citizen Army is outmoded in these days of rapid technological advances; that this is the day of the compact, mobile, highly skilled professional force. This theory has been lent some superficial support by the operations in which the Army has been engaged since World War II. Since 1946, Australian national defence policy has been based on a system of collective security under the United Nations Charter, with the United States and New Zealand under ANZUS, with Great Britain, and with our allies in the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation. In order to fulfil our national obligations under these various arrangements it has been necessary to have available a force at instant readiness. This of necessity has had to be a regular force, but the events of the past 18 years should not be allowed to obscure the fact that, if the safety of the nation were gravely threatened, it would be necessary to raise very quickly a great national army. The Government, in a very short time, in a matter of some hours, could enact legislation calling the youth of Australia to the colours; but, however well intentioned and however highly motivated our young men might be, they would be of little value if we lacked the resources to provide them with rapid and effective training and the skilled commanders to lead them in battle. This is the traditional role of the CMF, and we would be most unwise to forget it.
More specific criticisms are aimed at the equipment available to the CMF. There are, unquestionably, areas in which shortages exist and there are very good reasons why this should be so. National resources are not without limit. There are many conflicting claims, and priorities must be established according to the relative importance at a given time of national development, education, social services, defence, and other competing departments. Within the Defence Department the needs of all Services have to be met, and within the Army there are operational priorities. This, then, is a problem of finance and priorities and of national as well as Service needs. In addition, the sources of supply of much of our equipment are being subjected to heavy demands, and here too we have to take our turn. But the matter must be kept in perspective. The CMF is short of a few items but it is still better equipped than ever before. If the maximum utilisation is made of the equipment it now has, very good results will be obtained. There is also criticism - justifiable criticism - concerning the shortage of regular staff in CMF units and formations. The shortage is indeed acute but the pressures on the Regular Army as a whole are very heavy. The rapid expansion of the past 3 years and the demands of Vietnam have left a large deficiency throughout the Army in that very group of officers and NCOs from which the bulk of the regular staff of CMF units would normally be drawn.
But there is a credit side to this. The shortage of regular staff has thrown on CMF units responsibilities which they have never before been required to carry. The CMF has produced from within its ranks officers and NCOs who have coped remarkably well with a variety of unfamiliar tasks. Some have been on full time duty, but much of this work has been carried out by CMF officers as part of the administrative and training functions appropriate to their ranks and appointments. I do not believe we will ever return completely to the old system. There is too much to be gained from CMF officers learning to carry out in peace all the tasks they will be required to perform in war. Regular officers will teach, advise and assist, but I would hope that CMF officers will in future continue to run their own units as they are largely doing at present. An area in which there is little room for criticism is in the professional military competence of the present-day CMF officer. He has never been more competent. This is due, in part, to the type of young men seeking commissions in the CMF and also to the facilities which now exist to assist officers in improving their military knowledge. This begins with the command officer training courses and develops through officer training groups.
Tangible evidence of the importance the Government attaches to the CMF must be seen in the unique tax free pay provision and in the national service option which not only has increased the strength of the CMF but has provided a far greater number of effective members. The effect has been to reduce the rate of turnover which previously had been a serious handicap to efficiency. Again, there is the scheme under which selected CMF officers may undertake a short period of service in Vietnam, so that they may disseminate to their units the operational knowledge they obtain.
I have said the CMF is certainly not an anachronism and I have indicated the importance the Government attaches to it. Let me discuss for a moment the proposition that I have seen advanced in the Press that the CMF should be at a strength of 5 or 6 divisions. Six divisions in the CMF literally would entail hundreds of thousands of men. I have no doubt Australians would volunteer as required if our country were being invaded, but there is little evidence to indicate that numbers of the order envisaged in 6 divisions would volunteer for CMF service short of such a situation. The cost of 6 divisions in the CMF would be high. It would be considerable in pay alone, but it would be extremely so in terms of equipment, camp accommodation and other essential facilities. I have not attempted in detail to determine the precise cost that would be involved; but on the basis of maintaining our present Regular Army, together with 5 CMF divisions on the existing part time basis, the annual maintenance cost would exceed $400m while the initial cost of the additional equipment and works would be over $ 1,000m. This compares with the present figures of $3 15m for maintenance and S86m for capital equipment and works.
I had hoped to deal in some detail with the background of our commitment to Vietnam - not to sustain an argument on the pros or cons of the proposition, which have been well substantiated to this House, but to talk about the tremendous contribution which our troops have made in the province of Phuoc Tuy. Unfortunately, because of the exigency of time, this must await another occasion. But I want to say this on the subject of Vietnam: At a time when the example of Soviet interference in Czech affairs is fresh in our minds, the importance of our assistance to the people of a country which is trying to maintain its independence and freedom stands out with a new clarity. The reputation of Australians amongst the people of Phuoc Tuy stands high and is being built on meaningful and enduring foundations. Although there may be, and indeed there are, divergent views on our involvement in Vietnam, I believe it behoves us constantly to remember our servicemen and the job they are doing. Their achievement is a matter of record, their morale is high, and the whole nation should be extremely proud of them. For the job they have done, for the risks they bear and continue to bear I am sure they are worth the nation’s thanks. I commend the Budget to honourable members.
Sitting suspended from 5.50 to 8 p.m.
– This House has been asked, in the form of an amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), to express the opinion that the Budget is inadequate. I am sure the House will do nothing of the kind and, indeed, I believe that the only thing inadequate connected with the Budget is the speech upon it made by the Leader of the Opposition. The presentation of a Budget gives to an opposition the opportunity to analyse a government’s assessment of the state of the economy. It gives the opportunity to criticise the objectives of the Government, to criticise its economic policy and to question the methods by which a government seeks to attain those objectives.It is perhaps significant that virtually no attempt was made by the Leader of the Opposition to use those opportunities.Instead we listenedto a speech which began with shallow and baseless generalities, which proceeded to quote misleading statistics to buttress an unsustainable argument and which complained of a lack of statistical information, although that information was publicly available, and publicly available to him. lt was indeed - this has not gone unnoticed - scarcely a speech on the Budget at all.
To support what I have said about shallow and baseless generalities let me draw your attention to the Opposition Leader’s claim that yearly budgeting ‘has denied Australians opportunities for education, employment and enterprise’.
As to education, the great Commonwealth contributions through grants to universities, grants to colleges of advanced education, teacher training colleges, technical schools, science blocks and now libraries, have not been the subject of yearly budgeting at all. They have been triennial grants. The measure of the opportunity ‘denied’ is that these grants have risen from $55m in 1961-62 to $2 10m this year.
As to opportunities for employment denied’, registered unemployment is below the total of a year ago or for that matter 10 years ago. During the financial year just passed employment increased by 131,000. Vacancies have been rising faster than usual and placements of persons in employment in July were an all time record for the month of July. As to the denial of opportunity for enterprise, the economic advances of our nation since 1949 have proceeded at a rate unparalleled in our history.
– Say that again, sir.
– The economic advances of our nation since 1949 have proceeded at a rate unparalleled in our history.
Gross national product at constant prices has increased from about $8, 600m to Si 9,500m last year. Moreover, on the basis of our recent advances we can look forward to a further doubling of the size of our economy within the next 13 years. The accelerating growth and development throughout Australia, which is there for all who have eyes to see, provides visual refutation of this generality expressed by the Leader of the Opposition, and the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures on private capital spending provide the statistical refutation.
Those sweeping statements of the Opposition Leader, made at the beginning of his Budget speech, are just not true, or perhaps J should say are just not correct. Nor is it correct for him to claim that he did not have available to him adequate statistical information. To give an example, in discussing the growth of the construction industry he stated that building approvals both in total and for new houses and flats were lower in May this year than they were last December, and then went on to state that there was no more recent information available to him and went on to take the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) to task for withholding more recent information from the House. In fact there was more recent information available. It is contained in the statement ‘Building Approvals Australia, June 1968’ and it was issued by the Commonwealth Statistician on 23rd July 1968 before the Budget Speech was delivered and long before the Leader of the Opposition made his speech. But the significant fact is that total building approvals during the last financial year - this is what we are concerned wilh - moved up from S546m in the December quarter to $555m in the March quarter this year to $575m in the June quarter this year, which is a record. It serves no purpose for an honourable member or a Leader of the Opposition to come into this House and seek to support an argument by selecting one month’s statistics when that argument is refuted by the year’s statistics and by each quarter’s statistics, all of which were known, ought to have been known and could have been known to a Leader of the Opposition.
There are other instances of attempted sleight of hand arguments dotted throughout the speech, but they merely support the general glib approach I have illustrated and I will not weary the House with them. Rather will 1 discuss some of the main Budget features - the economic objectives of the Budget and the methods chosen to attain them.
One of the Budget features is the vote for defence. The Leader of the Opposition claims that this is not a defence Budget. If he means that all else is not sacrificed to defence, then he is right: although the very great sums appropriated for defence do prevent us from doing many things that we would wish to do. But if, on the other hand, he means that the defence capacity of Australia will not increase during this year as a result of the defence vote in this Budget - his glancing references to defence seemed designed to give this impression - then he is demonstrably and, I think, deliberately wrong. The vote for defence shows the importance we place on defence, and, subject to what 1 say later, the importance we will continue to place on it. From the money appropriated this year the strength of our regular forces will increase during the year by some 3,800 and the strength of the Citizen Military Forces by some 2,200-odd.
During the year, the Navy will take delivery of 12 coastal patrol boats, the third guided missile destroyer will join the fleet in Australia, the third Oberon submarine will arrive in Australia, while work will be continuing on the fourth submarine due to be commissioned next August.
– You have not mentioned the FI I I.
– Oh, I will. There is a great deal of defence equipment that is going to arrive and this is why I am refuting the impression that the Leader of the
Opposition sought to give that there would be no increase in Australia’s defence capacity this year. The aircraft carrier ‘Melbourne’, having completed its extensive and expensive refit, will rejoin the fleet with its complement of Tracker and Skyhawk aircraft. Work will be further advanced on two type 12 frigates at present under construction, the first of which is due to be commissioned in something like one year’s time.
The Army will take delivery of 27 light aircraft and helicopters and equipment and arms worth some $33im. Examples of such equipment - and they are merely examples of such equipment - are 47 armoured personnel carriers, 700 Land Rovers, 550 2i-ton trucks, and ammunitions, arms and so on which it would take too long to detail.
The Air Force - and this, I think, interested somebody on the other side a moment ago - will take delivery this year of 24 Fill strike reconnaissance aircraft. It will take delivery of 12 Mirage fighters, of 36 Macchi jet trainers which have an operational capacity, 8 HS748 navigational and aero-electronic trainers; and during this financial year the last of the Orion long range anti-submarine aircraft have, in fact, already arrived. So any suggestion that we will not be better defended because of money appropriated in this Budget is an untrue suggestion.
As to the future we are now engaged in a fundamental strategic reassessment. I will not anticipate its outcome, but I will say two things.
Firstly, in the years ahead the amount spent on defence will grow in volume, and must grow as the nation grows and as the situation, in which the nation finds itself develops. Australia’s capacity to fight will increase and the industrial capacity to back our fighting forces will also expand. Defence will not in any way be neglected.
– Who wrote this?
– I did. Secondly, there are many competing needs in the years ahead - the need to build our population, the need to strengthen our industrial muscles and improve our technology, the need to develop our resources, the need to improve education, the need to eradicate poverty, and many other needs. Meeting these needs, Mr
Deputy Speaker, will, in itself, increase and improve our ability to defend this nation, and under present international circumstances we do not intend to sacrifice these other needs. We do not intend to seek guns instead of growth at the cost of stunting our growth. We will not ignore our other requirements in order to mobilise for war; but our forces will grow, their fighting power will grow, the cost of defence will grow, and this will be regarded as one important need among many for the nation, though not as a need which overrides all else.
I move on to consider the question of welfare. We were told that this is not a welfare Budget, but it is. It neither solves nor pretends to solve in a final way the complex problems involved in selecting all those who are in most need and catering to those needs, but it does take significant steps towards that solution. In the first speech I made asking the electorate of Higgins to select me for the House - which I am glad to say they did - I said:
No nation can be great unless it seeks not only materially to progress but also te take care of the weaker within it, the aged within it and the ill within it.
This, I believe, to be true, and my Government will make a continuing effort to achieve those ends.
In health we have taken a great step forward in this Budget by providing that insured persons will receive the full hospital benefits for which they are insured whether in a public ward, an intermediate ward or a private ward, no matter how long their illness may continue and no matter how long they may be required to stay in hospital. We have begun a three-tiered attack on the problem of bed care for those who are ill. We seek to keep those who need only light nursing at home by co-operating and offering financial inducements to the States in financing and running home nursing. We are providing more daily allowances, greater daily allowances, for those who need heavy nursing care - for those who cannot stay at home and need heavy nursing care in approved nursing homes. We are offering $lm a year to help build State nursing homes so that the increased benefits we offer patients will be the less likely to be absorbed in increased fees. As
I have said, we have solved the problems of those who are insured and who suffer long continued illnesses.
We know there still remains the problem of enabling all our citizens to insure themselves without hardship. We know there still remains the problem of a possible rise in hospital fees causing a possible rise in insurance rates, but the Welfare Committee of Cabinet and the Nimmo inquiry into hospital funds is working on these matters now and we are determined to solve them. In the field of social services we sought to identify those most in need and selected, as a first step, families without bread winners - families of widows and invalid pensioners, for example - as those to whom in this first Budget we should give most. In repatriation we have quite deliberately devoted the money available to those who have suffered most from defending this country and who are, therefore, likely to be most in need - the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-soldier, the intermediate pensioner, the ex-soldier in receipt of a 100% war pension because of war caused injuries. There is the area in which we think it most likely that need exists and to which we think we should pay special attention. We believe that most ex-soldiers would wish to see available resources devoted to those who have suffered most in the defence of their country.
We had perforce - because it is not possible in 6 months thoroughly to overhaul a social services structure which has not been overhauled for some decades - to raise social service pensions generally across the board. This will mean that some single and married pensioners who may need more will not get more, but this problem, too, we are determined to work towards solving. Our aim is a society where the fear of the crippling cost of illness is removed from those who are able and willing to contribute towards removing it through insurance. Our aim is a social welfare structure which identifies the most needy and sees that those who have no other means are provided with enough to live on in a modest, self respecting way without requiring any other assistance from outside the pension. Our aim is to encourage all to work and to save so that they can live at a standard above that minimum. What we want to see is that the aged needy, the ill needy, those really suffering from some unfortunate circumstances through no fault of their own, are adequately provided for by the nation, but that this should be done without destroying the incentive to save and without destroying the incentive to self reliance. These goals are not easy to achieve, but we have set our hand to the plough and we will not turn back. Step by step we will achieve them.
Mr Deputy Speaker, a Budget is designed so to manage the economy that certain economic objectives are attained. If we arc to achieve the goals we have set ourselves in defence, in development and in social welfare, we must ensure as an essential a healthy and balanced growth of the economy. On the economic side this is the primary aim of this Budget. We must prevent demand from running to an inflationary excess, but, equally importantly, we must ensure that all we can supply and all we can acquire are demanded and are used for growth. The general objectives of this Budget are to achieve this. Firstly, the Budget seeks to ensure that there will be in the year ahead a continuation and an acceleration of that growth and development which have characterised the year just past. The Budget seeks to ensure that there will be full employment opportunities for the present work force, for the migrant intake - we have made provision for a record migrant intake - and for the natural addition to the work force from within this country.
The Budget seeks also to ensure that these things will happen without the development of conditions in which demand for manpower, materials and goods outstrips production and supply. For the development of those conditions does not add to growth; it adds merely to the cost of growth and to the difficulty of selling exports and earning foreign exchange. Those conditions, once allowed to develop, require for their correction far more stringent measures than are required to prevent their development.
In seeking growth, national development, accretion to our strength, we do not accept the view that this can be best achieved mainly through government spending. So we have in this Budget cut the rate of growth in government spending rather than place more limitations on the growth in private spending. We believe that true growth depends on the economic climate created by a government and on a government assisting the development by private enterprise of the resources of the country. We believe that true growth depends on the amount of private investment and private saving within Australia from Australian resources. If we are to grow quickly, as I believe it is imperative that we should, this depends also on the attraction of overseas development capital, without which we could not grow as quickly as the times demand. We have maintained and improved the climate for growth. We are attaining significant private savings. We are attracting development capital. But the full benefit of this, indeed the continuation of it at its present level, depends on maintaining relatively stable costs and prices. This does not mean any preoccupation with stability as such, for stability as such is not enough. One can have stability in conditions of stagnation. But it is an affirmation of the need to see that while all our resources for growth are used to the utmost demands are not created which cannot be met from our production and from what we are able to import. We should earn more this year from our exports.
– You will need to.
– We will, of course.
– You will not, you know.
– The honourable member is underlining what I am saying - that we should earn more from our exports. But in the year ahead we cannot rely on a capital inflow as large, or nearly as large, as we had last year.So, believing this and noting the trend of rising demand in Australia, we have thought it necessary to budget for a lower deficit in order to restrain our expenditure. Two or three interjections from the Opposition a moment ago indicated, Mr Deputy Speaker, that honourable members opposite may be thinking along the same lines. This is the first indication we have had from them as to the economic objectives of this Budget. The measures we have taken will mean that the amount of bank credit pumped into the economic bloodstream could be reduced by about one-third in the coming financial year.
Against the background I have sketched, are these objectives wrong? Are the measures taken to achieve the objectives wrong? On these points the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) was virtually silent in his speech. There were no answers to the questions I have just asked. It appears that by default the members of the Opposition agree that we are right.
This is, Sir, as the Leader of the Opposition said, the nineteenth successive Budget introduced by the Liberal-Country Party Government. In those 19 years Australia has been transformed. Our steel production has increased from 1.2 million tons to 6.3 million tons. Our output of cement increased from 1 million tons to 3.8 million tons. Electricity generated increased from 9,000 million kilowatt hours to 44,000 million kilowatt hours. Our population has risen from less than 8 million to 12 million.
– Are you responsible for that too?
– Not all of it. Real personal consumption expenditure per head has increased from $760 to $1,020. Motor vehicle registrations have risen from 1 million to over 4 million. More than 70% of occupied dwellings in Australia are either owned by or are being bought by the occupants - a higher proportion than in any other advanced country. The number of students receiving university education has risen from about 33,000 to about 100,000. Manufacturing and heavy industries have gone from strength to strength. [Extension of time granted.] I thank the House and again will not trespass upon its generosity.
Greatly increased production is coming from the land and new vistas are opening for Australia from its mineral discoveries. If we keep the economy on the growth path which, as a result of these years of Liberal-Country Party Government have led to the improvements and increases I have enumerated, if it follows that path which it has followed for the last 5 or 6 years, a child born today will, on reaching the age at which it could graduate from high school, enter a work force in Australia with an economy two and a half times its present size. That record of what has been done, and that promise of what can be done, provided the administrations which brought about what happened before continue, is why I say that though Australia is not yet great in the councils of the world it is destined so to be. This is no record of opportunities denied, as we were told; this is a record of achievement and of management carried on in a very real sense for the true welfare of the people of Australia. This is a record we propose to continue and improve.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). It was significant that despite an extension of time and criticism of the Opposition amendment, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) did not see fit tonight to refer to family benefits in the course of his address. He did not deal with the problems of the capital and provincial cities. Not once did he mention development of Australian mineral, fuel, land and marine resources. He did not deal with them for the very simple reason that he has no answer for the Government’s failure to cater for those four things.
The Budget debate presents an opportunity for a full and frank discussion of all aspects of Government policy. It presents an opportunity for those honourable members skilled in finance to discuss the implications of the Budget, national and international. Some honourable members, such as the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), have already done this very skilfully. Unfortunately I cannot include the Prime Minister.
For my part, I intend to take this opportunity to bring under the notice of the people matters of importance - not only the failures of the Government in national affairs but also the hatreds, the animosities and the dissension in the ranks of members of the Government parties. The people are entitled to know about these things. 1 intend to refer also to the failure of the Government to provide adequate benefits for those most deserving, namely, the age and invalid pensioners and others in receipt of and dependent upon social service benefits. Criticism of these measures may be made in more detail when complementary legislation is under discussion in the Parliament. At this stage I intend to confine my observations - some of them in reply to the Prime Minister - to particular statements about what has been done, or rather what has not been done for the people by this Government in the important sphere of social services.
Did honourable members ever before hear anything like the Prime Minister tonight when he was boasting of his great programme for social services? Let us note his grand phraseology. He referred to the need to eradicate poverty. Then he said: The Government takes significant steps towards a solution of this problem’. He continued: ‘The Government will make a continued effort to achieve this end - a social welfare State’. Then he added: ‘We have attempted to cast our Budget to identify those most in need’. He was following up on what the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) said a little time ago. The Treasurer even kissed pensioners when they arrived at Canberra as a gesture of good faith and support of the Prime Minister’s policy. I will show later what effect his actions had. This Government has brought forward a miserable increase of $1. a week for the single pensioners of Australia and it has brought it forth 2 years late. The newly announced social welfare programme of this Government will mean a miserable increase of 75c in the pension of married pensioners. This is the full extent of the Prime Minister’s social welfare programme as related to the need to eradicate poverty. Throughout the speeches of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer efforts were made to convey the impression that this was a welfare Budget. In fact, some newspapers described it as a Budget for the needy. I want to quote one or two extracts from the Treasurer’s speech to show - as the Prime Minister demonstrated tonight - the hollowness of the Government’s approach and the complete falsity of the remark that this is a welfare Budget. The Treasurer said:
It will be remembered that, when opening the Parliament on 12th March 1968, the GovernorGeneral said:
My Government will review the field of social welfare with the object of assisting those in most need while at the same time not discouraging thrift, self help and self reliance.’
An increase of$1 a week will help in encouraging thrift. The Treasurer finished his speech with this fine statement:
We owe another debt - a debt to those who have done their day’s work and are now aged and infirm, to the sick and the handicapped and to those who have sustained disabilities in war. A Budget has largely to be a process of analysis and calculation; but it ought never to exclude humane and social values. We have sought to give them an honoured place in this Budget.
This honoured place in the Budget is an increase of $1 a week for single age and invalid pensioners and widows with children. This pension has not been increased for the last 2 years. Wages and incomes rose in that time but this Government’s approach to solving poverty is to grant an increase of $1 a week for those pensioners I have just mentioned and to increase the pension of married pensioners by 75c. 1 repeat that this increase is 2 years behind the times and price rises.
Every Government member, including the Prime Minister, lauds the prosperity of Australia today. Every week in this Parliament we hear that the nation’s economy has never been better. We hear that there are spiralling prices for every kind of basic wealth that we have. Yet the Government says that it is relieving poverty by a miserable increase in this Budget of Si a week for single, age and invalid pensioners and widows with children. Despite what the Prime Minister said in his speech tonight about this increase in prosperity, we are told at this time of national prosperity that we can only afford, under this Government’s great social welfare programme, an increase of $1 a week for single age and invalid pensioners and widows with children and nothing at all for thousands of deserving families. This is at a time when profits have never been greater, at a time when subsidies are being paid to wealthy oil companies by this Government, at a time when fortunes are being made in shares.
Aged, invalid and sick people have been forgotten by this Government. As the Prime Minister piously said tonight, this is a great humane problem; but to meet it the Government is granting an increase of $1 a week. This is a disgraceful approach to this great humane problem. Honourable members on the Government side prefer to cater for the affluent rather than the needy. They readily deserve condemnation by the people of Australia for failing to meet their obligations in respect of this section of society.
– We have never lowered pensions.
– The honourable member for Griffith would not know. The Government’s social service benefits are niggardly, mean and contemptible. The Government provides little for those who are most deserving but it maintains protection for those who need it least. Not one new idea has been introduced in this Budget. It is as free of new ideas, I suppose, as a fish is of feathers.
This Budget merely gives a pittance to pensioners, lt makes a mockery of the claim by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer that this is a welfare Budget, lt gives the minimum of benefit to the minimum number of pensioners and leaves other benefits unchanged for years, as the figures I shall cite will show. Let us have a look at what this Government has done in the field of social welfare. This is the Government that says social welfare is the basis of its programme. Age and invalid pensions have not been increased since 1966. The standard rate is to be increased, after 2 years, by $ 1 a week for single pensioners and married pensioners are to receive an increase of 75c a week each. The child’s allowance has not been increased for the last 7 years, lt remained at $1.50 a week until this Budget. We find that the additional pension in respect of children has remained unchanged since 1963. The guardian’s allowance his not been changed since 1965.
We find also that the widow’s pension has remained unchanged since 1966; the mother’s allowance has remained unchanged since 1963; supplementary assistance has remained unchanged since 1965; and unemployment and sickness benefits, which 10,000 people regularly receive as was pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), have remained unchanged since 1962, when this Government, with a majority of only one, had to do something in order to maintain its very slender margin. We find that the rates of unemployment benefit for young people in the 16 to 17 and 18 to 20 age groups have not been changed since 1957. It is 11 years since this Government has done anything about this benefit. Unemployment and sickness benefit allowances paid for a wife or child have not been changed since 1962. This Government boasts of a rising birth rate and an immigration programme. Why does it not encourage Australians to have families? The Government has not changed the rates of maternity allowance since 1943. They have been static for a quarter of a century. Why, the Government is so old that very few of its Ministers can remember children, so far as I can see. It is 25 yearn since the rates of maternity allowance were changed. What a shocking commentary on a Prime Minister who is seeking the support of the people of this country in what he calls a social welfare programme.
We find that the rate of child endowment for the eldest child has not been raised for 18 years; that the rate for the second child has nol been increased for 20 years; that endowment for the third child has not been increased for 4 years; and that the rate for the fourth child has not been increased since 1967. Further, we find that the rate of student endowment has not changed since 1964. If we go to the grim side of things, we find that the rate of funeral benefit for some has not been changed for 25 years. This is the record of achievement of a government that says, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) interjected when the Prime Minister was speaking, that social services have stood still for the best part of 20 years while this Government has been in office.
Despite all this, the Government comes along and claims that by increasing pensions by SI a week it has solved the problem of poverty and taken a step forward. This increase is the first that has been given for 2 years. Is it any wonder that pensioner organisations throughout Australia have said that this Government’s attitude is something that they cannot tolerate? To make matters worse, it discriminates against married pensioners. We condemned this when the discrimination was introduced. This is the worst possible kind of discrimination against pensioners who are married. The miserable increase does not take into consideration the needs of pensioners and in every way causes them to be reduced to poverty level. It is time that this Government faced up to its responsibilities.
At a time when the average weekly income is $65 a week, a single pensioner is expected to live on $14 a week and married pensioners on $12.50 a week each. Could the young honourable member who interjected earlier - I am told he is young and intelligent, but from looking at him one would never get the impression that he was intelligent - live on $12.50 a week? He smiles now, of course, and he will get up and support the Government’s policy. He considers an income of $14 a week for a pensioner is just and reasonable at a time when the average income is $65 a week. This, mind you, is at a time when the Government boasts of our prosperity. What would be the position if this country was not prosperous? I refuse to believe that in this day and age Australia cannot afford a reasonable standard of living for pensioners and others who are dependent on social services. 1 join with those who have condemned this Budget. In this regard it is interesting to note the comments of Mrs Ellis, the Honorary Secretary of the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners Federation. Representatives of that organisation, are the people whom the Treasurer kissed. What a terrible ordeal for them to go through, particularly when they thought they would get something and then found that they had received nothing. What a shocking state of affairs. In a Press statement reported on 19th August, Mrs Ellis said:
Where is the promised ‘rethinking’ of Government policy on social services? The provisions of the present Budget show the policy of your Government remains as before - to give as little as it can, and to stave off as long as it can any cash or other social service benefits, thereby saving millions of dollars at the expense of ‘those in most need’. The Government only yielding when the public pressures, and the demands of the electorate, can no longer be denied.
What a scandalous state of affairs. Where is the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), who would have us believe that he would reform the world in this respect? Evidently he has given the speeches he wrote years ago to the present Prime Minister. There is no hope of fulfilment of his promises. All we get is a pious statement, as Mrs Ellis has stated.
I wish to bring to the attention of the House other matters relating to social services. I have mentioned the benefits that have not been increased in a generation or more. This Government is now seeking endorsement of its policy on social services, and a study of its very damning record in this respect is interesting. I shall spend on this subject a little more time than I intended to devote to it, because from the
Prime Ministers speech, one would think that the Government had increased benefits over the full range of social services, when, as honourable members have been able to see from what I have said tonight, such is not the case. I say there is a need in this country for an immediate inquiry into poverty and the conditions of age and invalid pensioners, the sick, the needy and the underprivileged. I believe that they are entitled to a reasonable standard of living and that this country can afford it. I also believe that this Government has forgotten them and prefers to spread its benefits over those who need help least of all. Do not tell me that General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd. the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and other huge companies in this country cannot afford a little more taxation in order that needy people might benefit - in order that pensioners and others might enjoy a reasonable standard of living.
I believe that the Government has an obligation to provide for these people, and, for its failure to do so, it deserves the condemnation of the people of this country. Ultimately, this condemnation will be forthcoming, as honourable members opposite will see shortly. I bring these matters to the attention of the Parliament because no government has promised pensioners so much and no government has given them less. Honourable members should recall what happened in 1949 - almost 20 years ago. The present Government Parties went to the Australian people and said that within 3 years they would bring down a scheme to abolish the means test.It is now at least 16 years since that scheme should have been implemented. Honourable members on the other side of the House decry and criticise honourable members on this side when we suggest that the means test should be abolished in accordance with the announced policy of the Government Parties. They have failed to abolish the means test as they promised. The Government has failed to put value back into our currency. Indeed, I think that it changed the currency to avoid honouring this promise, amongst other things. Not only has it failed to put value back into the pound; it has also reduced the purchasing power of wages and other incomes, and particularly of social services. The honourable member for Barton (Mr Arthur) smiles, if one can call it a smile. But let him defend, if he can, the Government’s failure to implement its policy of abolishing the means test as it planned to do more than 16 years ago. Let him do this if the Government has not thrown that scheme into the discard. If the Government has not discarded the plan, why has it not been put into effect? Surely the Australian Labor Party cannot be blamed for the failure to abolish the means test, for it has been in opposition for almost 20 years. It is also to our credit that we promised to abolish the means test within the life of two parliaments after we were returned to office. Where does the present Minister for Social Services stand not only on social services generally, but particularly on the question of the abolition of the means test? We all remember his fiery orations when he was a rebel. He is now a retired rebel. When he was a rebel on the back bench he showed us how the means test could be abolished without any cost to the economy of this country. Why does he not stand in this Parliament now as the responsible Minister and give effect to the promise that he knows was in the Liberal Party’s platform? Why does he not bring into this Parliament, amongst other things, a scheme that will benefit those who are dependent on social welfare, that will improve their standard of living and reduce their poverty? I suggest to honourable members opposite that, in respect of social welfare, they are guilty men. All over the world today the evidence is that other countries are proceeding rapidly along the road to the welfare state while this Government is allowing our social services to become the laughing stock of the world. At the same time it is reducing countless thousands of Australians, including pensioners, to a level that is below the poverty line.
I want to say a few words tonight about the Prime Minister. I think he is entitled to a mention, because his appearances in this House are so rare that he has been quite aptly named by the Leader of the Opposition as ‘The Phantom’. I listened tonight with interest to the speech of the Prime Minister. After all, he does not speak here very often. Perhaps he does not trust himself to speak or his colleagues do not agree with him or he is simply uncertain. I thought these were the reasons for his reluctance until I saw an article in the
Sydney Morning Herald’ of 1st August 1968 which reported that Mr Tony Eggleton, his Press Secretary, had said:
Ever since John Gorton became Prime Minister, he has had the thought in his head ot having someone to do the research and prepare the notes for his speeches. . . .
It went on to say:
For 6 months the appointment of a research officer to assist in the writing of speeches for the Prime Minister has been considered along Canberra’s corridors of power.
Having heard his rare speech here tonight, it is quite obvious that he has been writing his own speeches for the past 6 months. He not only needs a speech writer; he also needs a policy. I wonder whether that is the reason why he has not spoken in the Parliament very often? ls it because he cannot get a speech writer? He should see some of the American politicians; they do not seem to be short of words.
We appreciate the action of the Prime Minister speaking tonight on the Budget. It is a great honour for this Parliament when the Prime Minister addresses it. He did not speak during the debate on the AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s Speech and he did not join in the debate on foreign affairs. He left his debut in this House to one or two other issues of minor importance, and quite frankly he was not impressive even then.
At a time when the unity of the Government is, we are told, the predominant feature, it is rather startling to see a full page advertisement in a newspaper in which people were advertising for another Prime Minister. The ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 10th July published the following advertisement:
Support the Nomination of Hon. Allen Fairhall M.P. for Prime Minister.
We need a capable and intelligent man in this position.
Write your Liberal M.P. now.
Inserted by: Businessmen for Democratic Government.
What would honourable members opposite say if that happened in the Labor Party? But here, I understand, $14,000 was subscribed by these people in an effort to replace the present Prime Minister.
Some people may doubt that there is disunity in the Government ranks, but I have here a copy of a letter that was sent to every Liberal Branch in New South Wales and possibly Australia by the Businessmen for Democratic Government. Listen to what it says. It is in these terms:
Very few members of the parliamentary Party say a good word for the Prime Minister as Prime Minister, whatever their personal feelings towards him.
These differences within the Party are already obvious to people outside - the Press and the general public. If they continue, let alone increase, then we face certain electoral defeat.
These Businessmen for Democratic Government have advertised for the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) to be Prime Minister. And, as far as 1 know, he has not declined; he is waiting to be drafted. Let us go a step further. This document, at a time when the Government is seeking a mandate on the basis of unified administration, states:
One thing disturbs the Cabinet most, lt disturbs us most. It is Mr Gorton’s ‘off-the-cuff’ way of speaking-
I think he gave such a speech tonight - without careful reflection. This rashness has already landed the Party in difficulty after difficulty. Nothing could be more damaging. He has to take his word back too often.
This refers to statements such as: ‘No more troops for Vietnam’ - just passing remarks. The document continues:
He fails to consult his colleagues before making statements on matters that concern them closely.
Having had a good look at them, I can say that he is showing a bit of intelligence there. Then the document states:
He has failed to play the part expected of any Prime Minister in the most important debates in Parliament. His failure to ‘do his homework’ was shown in his rash statement in America and Asia, and made our Government look silly.
And that is saying plenty. This document was written by the Businessmen for Democratic Government sent throughout the length and breadth of Australia. They collected $14,000 to defeat this Prime Minister. Yet the Prime Minister says he has a united party. This is the man who speaks of social justice for the pensioners. But he is so busy keeping the knives out of his back that he cannot think of anything else.
I believe that it is appropriate to bring to public notice some facts about the sponsors of this Budget and some of the rather unsavoury and sordid intrigues that brought them to power. I do not want my remarks to be taken as a personal reflection on the Prime Minister. I rather like him. I am a little different from the members of the Liberal Party. I have a certain respect for him. But these facts only show the steps to which some people will go to destroy the Prime Minister. This is the first Budget introduced since he has held this office, and I think we should highlight some of the rather unusual features associated with his leadership. The Prime Minister endeavoured to convey the impression that he spoke with the full authority and support of the united - I use the word with reservation but advisedly - Government Parties. Nothing, of course, is further from the truth. This should be stressed, as I feel an obligation to the House and the people to inform them on this matter because of its importance. The circumstances of the Prime Minister’s election are worth recording at Budget time when significant questions are being debated. He is by no means the majority choice of the Liberal Party. He is the choice of the Australian Country Party. lt is now history that he was elected in an atmosphere of sordid political intrigue in which bitterness, hatred and animosity predominated. In the first place, he was a senator and in this way his election in preference to other members of the Liberal Party in this House was not only unacceptable to the majority of Liberal members but was a downright insult and reflection on the capacity and ability of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme), who is now at the table, and other members of the Ministry. It was a direct affront to the Treasurer and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck). The former Prime Minister, SiT Robert Menzies, must have turned in his bed when he heard that a senator had replaced him in this high office. Of course, the former Prime Minister would believe that it was difficult for anyone to replace him. Nevertheless, what an affront it was to honourable members on the Government side when the present Prime Minister was brought in and elected instead of one of their number.
But worse was to come. We had the amazing spectacle of the Deputy Prime Minister, who is also the Leader of the Australian Country Party, stating that if the Treasurer were elected to be Prime Minister he would lead every member of the Country Party out of the coalition and wreck the Government. He gave no reasons, but indicated that the Treasurer was unfit to lead the nation. He made it quite clear that the Country Party could not determine who would be Prime Minister but would certainly determine who would not be Prime Minister. It is also worth noting that not one of his ministerial colleagues defended the Treasurer. In fact, some of them said that the Deputy Prime Minister had done the right thing. This broadside from the Deputy Prime Minister wrecked the ambitions of the Treasurer and he withdrew from the contest, lt is now beyond doubt that he might well have won the ballot but for the interference of honourable members who sit in the corner.
Therefore, the Prime Minister, who tells the people what he will do to improve social services and what is wrong with the Australian Labor Party, is not the unanimous choice of the Government Parties and today is fighting tooth and nail to hold his position as Prime Minister against those who seek to destroy him and who never wanted him at any stage. But what of the Treasurer? We have the spectacle today of the Treasurer and the Leader of the Australian Country Party bickering in public. We have the spectacle of the Deputy Prime Minister coming back to Australia from an important conference overseas because he was too jealous to let the Treasurer sit in the chair as Acting Prime Minister for a week or so. The Treasurer does not have the confidence of the Australian Country Party. So the present Prime Minister was invited to lead the country and the people are expected to put up with his budgeting and accept that he is acting in the interests of all the people, especially those dependent on social welfare.
Tonight I pose this question: Just how long can the Prime Minister mislead the country into believing that he has the support of the Party behind him? Just how long must the Australian people tolerate a Treasurer who is not acceptable to the major or, at least, the more intelligent section of the Government Parties, that is, the Country Party? For how long will the people on this side of the Parliament have to put up with the innuendoes that are thrown against the Australian Labor Party when the Government is riddled with dissension and discontent and unable to govern capably? I know that these conditions hurt honourable members opposite, but they do not come into the light of day because the Government’s friends who sit in the Press gallery keep them hidden. That is why tonight, in this Budget debate, I am elaborating on them for the benefit of others.
I wish to mention also that this Government, I understand, is seeking an election. The real reason for this election, if it is to be held, is not some great national issue or anything of that nature. The real reason is that the Prime Minister seeks to discard a number of Ministers whom he does not trust and who do not trust him. He seeks to escape bis responsibilities in Asia and other places where his off the cuff statements have involved the Government in conflict with people who should be its friends. He seeks to justify the conscription of boys to fight in Vietnam against enemies who, he knows, probably are using products traded to them from this country. The pious statements that he has made about the invasion of Czechoslovakia fade into insignificance when we consider that he will not break off contracts for wool that Australia is selling to Russia to clothe the Russian soldiers who are marching into Czechoslovakia today.
I mention these things tonight in order to show up the shortcomings of this Government. This is far from being a social welfare Budget. Not once did the Prime Minister answer in detail the submissions made by the Leader of the Opposition. I condemn the Government on the social service aspects of its Budget. 1 condemn it also because of its failure to govern in the interest of the Australian people.I condemn the disunity in the ranks of the Government. I believe that it lacks the confidence of the people of Australia.
– My first objective in speaking to the present Budget is to look at two related items. The first is an item of revenue. It is described in the Estimates as ‘Customs’ and the amount is $330m.
The second item is more explicitly labelled, it reads ‘Wheat Industry Stabilisation’. The amount is $43m. The two items are connected by an idea, philosophy or policy. Protection All Around’ is the term describing that philosophy - a term originated, I believe, by Professor Reitsma of Queensland. I would like to say something about what ‘Protection All Around’ has meant, and what it means to propose to cut a part of it out.
The expression ‘Protection All Around’ has been coined to describe the patchwork of tariffs, subsidies and bounties as well as tax concessions that has been built up by various governments, over the years, in Australia. There is logic in the patchwork as a whole even though, in detail, its application may be capricious and even at times irrational. ‘Protection All Around’ stems from an understanding that there are two producer groups in the Australian economy with clashing interests.
One group produces largely for the Australian market and faces competition from imports. These are the manufacturers.
The other group looks to exports for a significant proportion of its income. This is the primary producer: Farmers, mining companies and fishermen, especially in the latter case cray fishermen.
The exporting group has been, by definition, the more efficient producer. This is simply because exporters have to be able to undersell competing producers in world markets, often in the competitor’s own country. It stands to reason that anyone who produces in Australia, has to meet shipping costs, say, to Germany, and then beats his German rivals at their own game and in their own backyard, must be pretty efficient. He is certainly a good deal more efficient than the other producer, the one who sells his wares at home, in Australia and seldom, if ever, ventures abroad to compete. Of course, there is a pretty deep seated reason why some industries have the efficiency and potential to compete abroad while others have not. The reason is that Australia is especially endowed - has special God given advantages - in some types of production, whereas for other lines of production the Australian environment is discouraging.
We have vast tracts of land ideally suited for grazing and agricultural pursuits. Our waters have crayfish and prawns in abundance. And underneath this land and underneath these waters lie huge, largely untapped, mineral resources of the highest quality. These are the mainsprings for our most efficient export industries. These were the industries that started Australia going. 1 refer to wool, wheat, gold, copper and coal. There was no protection. The other things that we needed we imported from other countries which were good and efficient at making them.
Protection began in Victoria almost exactly a century ago. The first Commonwealth tariff was imposed in 1908. From this point on more and more industries - inefficient by world standards and unable to compete against imports - sprang up. Protecting the inefficient was justified on three grounds: 1. We needed population, and primary industries could not provide employment for the size of population we wanted. 2. An expansion in our primary production may have meant a fall in the prices for wool, wheat, etc. on the world markets. 3. Industries were like babies. Just as we would shelter an infant so we have to shelter an infant industry. Once they got over the vulnerable teething period with the help of protection, these industries would stand on their own two feet and need the help no more. This was the three part justification. If honourable members take the trouble to look around, they will see an awful lot of 40, 50 and even 60 year old infants still sucking up this protection in Australia today. This then is the first half of ‘Protection All Around’.
Now I will turn to the second half. The second half became necessary because of the first half. Once we had wide areas of manufacturing receiving tariffs, the costs of living and of producing other commodities soon went up. This is an inevitable result of tariffs, which are taxes on imports, making imports dearer, the objective being, of course, to allow Australian manufacturers who are inefficient by world standards, to raise their prices to meet their costs of production and make profits. The extension of tariff protection to wider and wider areas meant higher costs and prices for everyone. Everyone had fresh problems, even if most people did not realise where these problems originated. The important feature of these problems was that most people could eventually do something about them, while one group could not counter them at all.
Employees as a whole can and do resort to arbitration to maintain living standards in face of rising prices and costs. Their efforts have been described by Lewis
Carroll in ‘Alice in Wonderland’. ‘A slow sort of country,’ said the Queen, ‘now here you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get some place else you must run at least twice as fast as that.’ Some employees - the white collar workers and public servants in particular - have their salaries adjusted after long intervals. As they run only infrequently they fall back for long intervals in this slow sort of country. Also, in the service industries - retailing, etc. - there is intense internal competition and these people tend to fall behind as well. Worse still is the position of those who live off social services - the pensioners, the widows, the totally and permanently incapacitated. But by far the worst of all are the exporting industries - they are unable to pass on the higher costs resulting from tariffs. This is where the second half of the ‘Protection All Around’ comes in.
Tariff protection for the inefficient has pulled down and crippled the efficient, because it is they who finish paying the greater part of the bill. The net result has been to subsidise the efficient exporters as partial compensation for carrying the inefficient - the manufacturers. Dr J. O. N. Perkins summarised the position in these words - and I quote from a publication by the University of Melbourne entitled ‘The Primary Industry Cost-Price Squeeze’:
One sometimes hears the argument that one group of industries (perhaps primary production in general) should be protected or assisted because another group (perhaps the whole range of manufacturing) has received protection. Now, if the protection granted to manufacturing has been applied for sound reasons there is no case for reducing its effectiveness by applying similar protection to the rest of the economy. If, however, we believe that some (or all) of Ihe protection applied to manufacturing is misplaced, we should devote our energy to revising and reversing the policy. But what should we do if we believe the protection to be wrong, but feel it impracticable to reverse it? Is there not a case then for reversing it by more subtle means, namely by giving just as much protection to other industries?
The second half of ‘Protection All Around’ has consisted of, firstly, a series of taxation concessions to exporting industries. Secondly, it has involved the granting of bounties on some of the materials they use such as superphosphate and nitrogenous fertilisers. Thirdly, there are the direct subsidy payments which take the form of either price support measures or contributions to research, or both. Thus, on balance, every single exporting industry except one has received some net compensation to offset part of its cost burden stemming from tariff protection.
Paradoxically, the one industry which has received no net compensation at all is the wheat industry. The wheat industry has a stabilisation scheme. It came into being in 1948-49. To date, its significant feature has been the periodic calculation by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics of what it costs to produce wheat. All wheat sales in Australia were priced at this cost, and the growers were further guaranteed this cost over a quantity of wheat for export. If world prices were above the cost of production, growers paid money into a fund and received less than world prices for their sales at home. When world prices were below the cost the Government paid money into the fund and Australian consumers paid above world export price for their wheat. With fluctuating world prices above and below the cost, growers made a profit out of the stabilisation fund. This is in the nature of the fund, because the money that growers put in is still theirs, whereas if the Government puts in money it goes to the growers as well. It is impossible, therefore, in normal circumstances for growers to make a long term loss on the fund itself.
However, with domestic wheat sales the situation was and is different. There is no funding here. Growers sold wheal to the consuming public of Australia for several years for a price which, at times, was a mere third of what they could have got for it if they had sold it overseas. Later, they continued selling wheat in Australia al less than the price at which it could be landed here from the United States of America, Canada or anywhere else. Even today, at 165.5c per bushel, the Australian public gets its wheat cheaper than an importer could import and sell it for. So wheat grower? made profits on the fund while they made losses on their sales at home, ft just so happens that the net balance has been a net loss of S3 16m on these arrangements. I might add that the figure is capable of quite precise calculation.
Mr D. H. McKay, now Deputy Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, provided factual data allowing such calculations to be made. The data appeared in an article entitled ‘Stabilisation in Australian Agriculture’ published in the ‘Australian Journal of Agricultural Economies’. Dr S. F. Harris, in the same journal, in an article entitled ‘Some Measures of Levels of Protection in Australia’s Rural Industries’ gives further data, a highly detailed and commendable discussion of calculation methods and, far more than this, gives us a comprehensive account of the ways in which levels of protection in agriculture may be compared with those obtaining in manufacturing. Dr Harris is at present the Director of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. I really wonder, if he were to speak, what he, with all his detailed knowledge of the issues at stake, would say about the Government’s present wheat stabilisation proposals. But this is sidetracking from my objective.
The fact is that the wheat stabilisation arrangements have, so far, resulted in losses to the wheat industry of $3 16m. However, the indirect help to the industry by way of taxation concessions, government contributions to wheat research, and help on fertilisers, etc., have just about squared this off. So what is the position of this industry in the ‘Protection All Around’ concept? The position of the wheat industry is simple, unambiguous and clear. ‘Protection All Around’ has been a myth for the wheat industry, ft has paid dearly through one side of it. receiving on a net basis not a single penny through the other side. Now - just as ‘Protection All Around’ is about to become a reality for wheat growers - it would seem that there are determined attempts to ensure that it does not.
I would now like to read something that was said under oath. The speaker is Professor Fred Gruen of Monash University. His is possibly Australia’s most eminent agricultural economist. He is, by the way, to my knowledge the only man in Australia who has ever been especially commissioned by the United States Department of Agriculture to undertake a major study on its behalf. Il was said in Melbourne, at a tariff inquiry on 19th June of this year - and I stress again that it was said under oath. Professor Gruen said:
Some calculations have been made on this in 1965-66. The level of specific protection to the wheat industry in term* of home consumption price and subsidies, was of the order of 1%. If you compare this with the sort of estimates that were made by the Vernon report and by various other authorities such as Dr Cordon on the general level of protection this is of the order of 30 to 40%. . . . This low level of protection indicates that this industry is being penalised; it is an industry in which, in terms of the way we ought to organise our resources, we ought to be producing more. . . . Until the effective level of protection to the wheat industry reaches round about 20%,I would say that my argument holds.
It is important to understand what this eminent economist is advocating. He would be in favour of gross protection - the other side of ‘Protection All Around’ to the wheat industry on a level three times as high as it was in 1965-66. This man is speaking objectively, he does not grow wheat; he has no special love for the wheat industry; he merely maintains that Australia would be better off - our national income would be higher - if we allocated more resources to wheat, which is efficiently produced, and less resources elsewhere.
I would now like to look briefly at the 1965-66 level of protection given to the wheat industry which was round about the 7%. First you must realise that the 7% applies to that 1 year. If you take the period from the beginning of wheat stabilisation to the present day the level of protection to the wheat industry has been zero per cent. Nevertheless, let us take this 7% subsidy as a basis for comparison. The Vernon Committee of. Economic Inquiry has recalculated tariff protection in terms of what it is worth as a subsidy. I will now read the Committee’s table published on page 1076 of its report and we must keep in mind that the wheat industry subsidy in1 year was at 7% . The table is as follows:
Now looking at some clothing items:
It is a shame that the Vernon Committee did not make any calculations on chemicals. These would have been a real eye-opener. 1 have just given a selection of what tariffs amount to in terms of subsidies for various products. Wheat just does not rank. Despite the fact that the wheat grower is a big loser on ‘Protection All Around’ precisely because he is a big exporter, indications are that there is an attempt afoot to make him even a bigger loser. There have been numerous unconfirmed but also undenied Press reports about the figures at stake.
A striking feature of the Press reports is that they say much the same thing. They say that the as yet unpublished Bureau of Agricultural Economics survey of the wheat industry coupled with the yield expectation of 20.25 bushels per acre for the next five years gives us a cost of producing wheat equal to $1.70 per bushel free on rail at ports. They say that the Government is proposing to the wheat growers an export price guarantee of $1.45 free on board, which equals $1.41 free on rail at ports. This would mean that growers are asked to accept on exported wheat which is almost 29c a bushel less than the average cost of producing the wheat.
Much, very much, more disturbing are the Press reports that the Government has in mind to heap on top of this reduction a system of cost adjustments which will not allow this initial price to be changed for the next 4 years according to the actual changes in cost. Let us suppose that the Government wants to peg the wheat grower to half of the increases in costs - increases which are not the fault of the grower but are the direct result of inflation and of the tariff policy of the Government. What will be the result? 1 dread to think how the wheat grower would fare in 1972 with this sort of plan. To begin badly will be tragedy enough, especially for the small growers - the Queensland growers in particular. For the position to get worse and worse during the 5 years is certainly a dim prospect. I earnestly hope that the Press reportson cost movements are false, for the sake rot only of the farmers but also of the country towns, the business men and workers who depend on the farmer for their income.
There is one final aspect of protection all round that must be mentioned. Tariffs are largely an invisible form of protection. People pay higher prices as a result of their existence but few will have the knowledge necessary to pin point the reason for the high prices. Subsidies on the other hand are quite visible, The amount is well known; one can read it in the Estimates that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) provided. But most important of all, subsidies are easily criticised. It is unfortunate that protection all round, and its significance, are not widely understood. It is not widely understood that exporting industries, unlike other groups in the economy are unable to pass on the higher prices resulting from tariff protection, lt is not widely understood how much their costs are increased as a result of tariff protection. It is not widely understood how puny are the measures, such as subsidies, which are introduced slightly to redress the balance. lt is unfortunate that the Press in general does not have sufficient background information to see these issues in perspective. Journalists in this country are often overworked. They are switched from one topic to another and it is only rarely that they have the luxury of being fully possessed of the background information. For this reason economic stories such as wheat stabilisation are only too often presented on their face value. For example, the Press says: ‘Here is what amounts to a large subsidy. The Government should not subsidise the wheat industry’. It is perhaps even more unfortunate that I am unable to complete this section of the effects of tariff protection and this policy of protection all round so far as the wheat industry is concerned. Let me say briefly that it is far more difficult to understand that there is no net subsidy but that there is only protection all round which features really big and hidden amounts on one side of the coin and comparatively small yet visible amounts on the other side. I hope that on some future occasion during the debate on the Estimates I will have an opportunity of further discussing and dissecting this really interesting exercise.
– This Budget, presented to the Parliament by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) on 13th August, has been described in some quarters and by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) as a social welfare Budget. Conversely, the document displays a callous disregard to the real and immediate needs of the pensioner, as evidenced by the niggardly increase of $1 in the single pension and SI. 50 in the combined pension rate. The increase is not an improvement in the pension; it only represents a catching up with the increased cost of living that has occurred since the last adjustment, which became operative 2 years ago prior to the 1966 election.
Let us examine the position in detail. In 1966 the single pension stood at $13 and the combined pension for a married couple at $23.50. The Commonwealth Statistician has indicated a spiral of 7% in living costs over the past 2 years, which has been totally absorbed in the pension. A little simple arithmetic would show that 7% of the single pension rate of $13 is 91c and that 7% of the combined married pensioner rate is $1.64. This means, in effect, that the single pensioner is 9c a week better off than in 1966 and the married pensioner couple are 14c worse. It must be borne in mind that the increase contained in this Budget will, by compulsion, have to meet increased living costs which will most certainly occur before the pensions are again adjusted, probably in 2 years time. This situation prompted the Secretary of the Commonwealth Pensioners Association, Mrs Irene Ellis, to say: lt was a testing time for both the Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, and the Minister for Social Services, Mr Wentworth. They failed miserably and did not live up to their promises.
That statement reflects a condemnation of the Government and gives the direct lie to the assertion that this is a welfare Budget. It is interesting to note the words of the Prime Minister a few days prior to the Liberal Party ballot for the prime ministership. He said:
If I was able to frame the nation’s future policies, I would aim at a society which would remove burdens and fear from those in dire need.
In the Governor-General’s Speech of March this year, which enunciated Government policy, similar words were used:
My Government will review the field of social welfare with the object of assisting those in most need while at the same time not discouraging thrift, self help and sell reliance.
Those eloquent words have proven to be empty and meaningless, as illustrated in the Budget.
With the prevailing inflated prices for essential commodities such as meat, groceries, butter, milk, vegetables, fruit, clothing, footwear and rentals, it is beyond my comprehension how the pensioner lives. The pensioners existence is certainly not in keeping with the average Australian standard of living, particularly when we are mindful of the fact that over 80% of pensioners have no income other than the pension. By force of circumstances many of these people are patronising pet food shops and are purchasing horse meat for consumption, because the high prices in butcher shops are beyond their means, ls any member on the Government side prepared to rise in his place and say that the pension rate is adequate? I doubt whether any would accept this challenge, although some seem to take comfort from comparing the present pension with the amount that was paid 19 years ago. If they want to make comparisons, why not compare the pensions paid by the Bruce-Page, the Lyons or the Scullin governments? This argument is quite irrelevant. The main point at issue is to be found in the answer to two questions. Firstly, are the pensioners entitled to a better deal? Secondly, can the economy afford a larger increase in pensions? I submit that the answer to both questions is yes.
Now I shall deal with the permissible income section of the means test, which is applicable mainly to superannuitants. It is important to note that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) and his predecessor, the present Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair), prior to their elevation to the Ministry were both ardent advocates of the abolition of the means test; yet an analysis will show that the position has not improved. Rather has it deteriorated, as 1 shall demonstrate. In 1954 the single pension was $7 and permissible income for the single rate pensioner was $7. The combined married pensioner rate was $14 and the permissible income was $14. The permissible income for both pensions was equal to 100% of the pension. In 1967, after 13 long years, the amount of permissible income was adjusted. The position then was that the single pensioner received $13 a week. The permissible income was $10 a week or 77% of the pension. The combined married pensioner rate was $23.50 a week. Permissible income in this case was $17 a week, or 72.3% of the combined pension. I should point out that if the base rate had been maintained without discrimination against the married pensioner couple, the permissible income of such a couple would have represented 65.4% of the combined pension.
Under this Budget the single pensioner will receive $14 a week. Permissible income will be $10 a week, representing 71.4% of the pension. The pension payable to a married pensioner couple will be S25 a week. Permissible income will amount to $17 a week, representing 68% of the combined pension. I point out again that if there had been no discrimination against the married pensioner couple, permissible income in this case would now represent 60.7% of the combined pension. So it will be seen that far from liberalising the means test, this Government has allowed it to deteriorate in terms of real value. This situation is most unjust to wage and salary earners paying into superannuation funds, particularly Commonwealth and State public servants. We all recall the glittering utterances of Sir Robert Menzies in 1949 when he said: ‘I will establish a committee to inquire into the abolition of the means test’. No such inquiry was ever instituted, despite the fact that Liberal-Country Party governments have had ample opportunity to institute one over the past 19 years. These governments have never increased the maternity allowance, notwithstanding that in the last 20 years the cost of hospitalisation has increased by more than 300%. For 18 years the rate of endowment paid in respect of the first child has not changed and there has been no increase for 20 years in the rate payable for the second child. Yet the Government is supposed to be concerned at the declining birth rate. When the Government does little or nothing adequately to assist families in the lower income group is it any wonder that Australia has one of the lowest birth rates? Thousands of parents are eager and willing to increase the size of their families, but because of economic circumstances they find it impossible to do so.
I turn now to unemployment and sickness benefits. Here we have one of the most scandalous and inhuman situations ever permitted by a government. These benefits have not been adjusted since 1961, despite skyrocketing prices during the last 7 years. The rates are $8.25 for a single person, $14.25 for a husband and wife and $1.50 for each child. The Department of Labour and National Service is aware that several thousand people receiving the unemployment benefit are virtually permanently in receipt of the benefit because they are not 85% permanently incapacitated and thus Hn not qualify for the invalid pension. These people are able to do only light work, and very little work of that kind is available. lt is most difficult for any person over the age of 50 years to find unskilled work. Nevertheless the Government pays only the niggardly benefits I have mentioned.
To illustrate the paltry nature of unemployment and sickness benefits 1 will refer to two cases with which I have dealt recently. The first concerns a man who sought my assistance to obtain an unemployment benefit cheque which had not arrived in the post on the day it was expected. I contacted the Department and was advised that the matter would be looked into immediately and that 1 would be contacted again in 5 minutes time. While waiting for the Department to contact me the man told me that he was unskilled. He is 63 years of age. He is about 5 feet tall and weighs less than 7i stone. He has no chance in the world of getting an unskilled job, yet he is asked to exist on the paltry sum of $8.25 a week, out of which he must pay $6 a week for a room in Redfern Street, Redfern. And the Government calls this a social welfare Budget!
A married woman aged between 40 and 45 years, with six children ranging in age from 4) years to 15 years, and whose husband had suffered a stroke, sought my assistance in expediting a claim which her husband had lodged for an invalid pension. Medical advice is that her husband will never be able to work again. In the meantime the family receives a sickness benefit amounting to S23.25 a week, which is $1.75 a week less than the amount of $25 which will be paid under this Budget to a married pensioner couple without children. Would any person in his right senses expect a man, wife and six children to exist on $23.25 a week? And the Government calls this a social welfare Budget. What utter rubbish! Nobody in the community, least of all the
Prime Minister and the Treasurer, can rightfully claim to be pursuing christian principles when he allows such poverty to exist in this inaptly named affluent society.
Today about 40,000 women receive class B widow pensions. One of the Government’s many inconsistencies in the field of social services is its retention in this Budget of a rate of $12.50 a week payable to a class B widow. The Government claims that single age and invalid pensioners are in more needy circumstances than are married pensioner couples. Single age or invalid pensioners will receive $14 a week compared with the amount of $12.50 paid to each party of a married pensioner couple - a difference of SI. 50. Yet the Government will pay to a class B widow only the amount payable to each party of a married pensioner couple. In my view this situation is nonsensical. The living expenses of class B widows are similar to those of single pensioners. It is interesting to note that Labor’s social services policy is designed to correct these anomalies and inequities by creating a standard base rate for all recipients of social service benefits, thus eliminating discrimination against married pensioner couples and class B widows. Labor would provide a reasonable rate for those in receipt of unemployment and sickness benefits. Labor would give effect to a promise made by S>r Robert Menzies but never implemented: lt wouk establish a committee of inquiry with a view to abolishing the means test over a period of 6 years.
The Commonwealth Aid Roads Act expires on 30th June 1969. The Act provides that the Commonwealth must provide the sum of $660m for the six sovereign States during the 5-year period from 1st July 1964 to 30th June 1969. In addition the Commonwealth will be prepared to make available to the States a further sum of $90m on the basis of $1 for every $1 allocated by the States from their own resources for expenditure on roads over and above the base grants. In addition to these grants the Commonwealth will spend $90m during the current 5-year period on roads in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory and on such projects as beef roads. Every cent of the money granted by the Commonwealth to the States is derived from the fuel tax collected by the Commonwealth from the users of motor vehicles. In addition to paying this tax the users of motor vehicles have been a godsend to the Commonwealth Treasury by contributing in sales tax on motor vehicles, spare parts, etc. Over the past 5 years the Commonwealth has collected more than $850m from this source. The formula used in determining the amount of money to be allocated to each State is the same as that contained in the legislation which operated from 1959 to 1964. lt provides that of the amount payable to the States in any one year, 5% shall be paid to Tasmania, and of the remainder one third shall he divided amongst the other States according to population, one third according to motor vehicle registrations and one third according to respective areas. It is provided also that each State shall spend not less than 40% of its grant on rural roads which are not highways, trunk roads or main roads. That part of the formula which provides that one third shall he divided amongst the States, other than Tasmania, according to their respective areas is, in my opinion, unfair to the road needs of New South Wales and Victoria. The inclusion of an area factor in the formula assists the more sparsely populated Slates but it is not satisfactory to have regard to an underdeveloped area unless that area is capable of development. This is not so in Western Australia. The Atlas of Australian Resources’ prepared in 1957 by the Department of National Development shows that there is no significant land use in 53% of the area and that 26% of that area is sandhill, desert or stony desert, lt is interesting to note that the total area of the five States subject to the formula is 2,420.307 square miles. Of this total Western Australia has 975,020 square miles, or 40.3%; Queensland has 667.000 square miles, or 27.5%; South Australia has 380.070 square miles, or 15.7%; New South Wales has 309.403 square miles or 12.7; and Victoria has 87,844 square miles, or 3.6%. The break-up for each Slate, excluding Tasmania, under this section of the formula is, for Western Australia $84,226,000; Queensland $57,474,000; South Australia $32,812,000; New South Wales $26,542,000 and Victoria $7,524,000.
Let us have a look at Victoria, which has 87,844 square miles, of which only a fraction near the South Australian border has no significant land use. If this State had attached to it a completely worthless desert of 100,000 square miles for which there was no use at all, with no roads, no agriculture and no industries, then under the formula the State would receive a further sum of $15m by way of road grants. In my opinion that proves this formula to be antiquated and stupid. The use of gross area as a factor in the formula for the distribution of funds between the States produces a result much to the disadvantage of New South Wales and Victoria. The United States of America found it necessary to adjust the State areas to be used in the American formula for the distribution of Federal aid for the fifty States. For example, only one-third of the gross area of Alaska is taken into account and in Michigan 29,268 square miles of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, which are within the State boundaries and which represent 33% of the total area of the State, are excluded. Those areas formerly had been included but suddenly the United States of America woke up to the fact that roads cannot be built on lakes. So those areas were excluded and the formula for the distribution of funds was changed.
I shall now illustrate the ratio of the return received by each State to the States’ contributions to the funds that are distributed by the Commonwealth. For every $1 contributed in fuel tax New South Wales receives back 83c, Victoria 70c. Queensland $1.27, South Australia S 1 .06, Tasmania $1.52 and - this is a beauty - Western Australia $2.03. Of the amount collected the motor vehicle users in New South Wales and Victoria will contribute no less than $529,400,000 and receive back $357,400,000. This means, in effect, that the motor car users in New South Wales and Victoria will be subsidising the other States to the extent of about $172m over the current 5 years. Another factor that has not been taken into account is the cost of maintaining highways and main roads in New South Wales and Victoria as compared with the cost in the other States. The volume of traffic, particularly heavy trailer vehicles, is several times greater in New South Wales and Victoria than elsewhere. The traffic position in the capital cities, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, is now a major problem for road authorities and with the rapidly increasing number of vehicles coming on to the roads finance must be made available immediately to provide additional outlets for traffic. Unless this is done there will be complete traffic chaos in 5 years time.
The conference of Lord Mayors held some years ago stressed this important point. The urgency of this problem of city traffic has been recognised in the United States of America. This is evidenced by the Ninth Pan-American Highway Congress held at Washington D.C. in May 1963. I shall quote an extract from the proceedings of this conference as compiled by a gentleman named Mr E. M. Cope. The extract reads:
Since the need of the cities for highway development and modernisation was not until recently as obvious as the needs for road improvement in rural areas, the rural areas in the past have been given preferred attention. The accumulating highway needs of the cities have now become urgent They are receiving more attention and a greater share of State and Federal highway tax revenue.
This statement highlights the fact that Australia’s traffic problems are rapidly approaching those experienced in the United States. I repeat that unless special finance is made available by the Commonwealth Government we will have complete traffic chaos on our roads within the next 5 years.
This evening the Prime Minister criticised the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) who claimed that the Government was not making any effort to explain clearly the estimates contained in the Budget. I should like to quote an article in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 16th August - a publication printed by the Sydney Morning Herald’, which supports the Liberal Party. The article is headed Companies tell more, Government tells less’. I shall quote extracts from it. Referring to the Treasurer, the article states:
In a special ‘explanatory memorandum on the estimates of receipts and summary of estimated expenditure,’ he says: ‘Additional information included this year in the Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure is as follows’- Then going on to tell where tables showing departmental salaries and allowances and expenditures overseas may be found.
Anyone with a normal working knowledge of English would assume that the phrase ‘additional information included this year’ means that fuller details have been provided than in the past.
In fact, precisely the opposite is true.
In the break-down of appropriations for departments and services provided in the 1967-68 Budget, spending by the External Affairs Department was given in a 3i-page summary followed by 28 pages of details setting out expenditure in every overseas post maintained by the Department. . . .
In this year’s Appropriation Bill, however, the break-down has shrunk - incredibly - to the point where the External Affairs can be dealt with in a two-line summary and three pages of inextricably consolidated figures. . . .
This year’s Table of Salaries and Allowances is similarly truncated. In place of twenty-seven pages of detail about the staffing and pay of every overseas post, there are three and a quarter pages of pseudo-statistical flummery.
The numbers of staff in different divisions of the Public Service are presented in consolidated form as are salaries and allowances. There is no hint as to the make-up of staff in various overseas posts - no way of telling whether an Ambassador to Japan is more highly paid than an Ambassador to France.
He is, as a matter of fact. The article continues:
The Department of Trade has also become coyly uninformative - at least as seen through the Treasurer’s eyes. Its Commercial Intelligence Service has been euphemistically transformed into the Trade Commissioner Service - and last year’s summary serves as this year’s details.
For a government which already suffers from a reputation for being less than frank, such budgetary obfuscation is singularly ill timed.
I conclude by criticising the Prime Minister’s description of this Budget as a social welfare Budget, lt is anything but a social welfare Budget. I repeat that no government could have faced the people of Australia this year with a Budget that did not provide for some pension increases, lt would never have been game to do so. In 1966 the Government increased some pension rates just prior to the election that was held in that year. In 1967, however, despite the fact that the cost of living had increased by 5%, no pension increases were granted. By that time the election had been held, and the Government did not have to worry so much about the position. If pensions had been increased in 1967 in accordance with the increase in the cost of living since the presentation of the previous Budget, the increase would have been 65c a week for a single pensioner and $1.15 a week for a married couple.
As to unemployment and sickness benefits, it is scandalous that the Government should allow the present position to continue. The Minister who controls these benefits knows that there are many people who are almost permanently in receipt of unemployment and sickness benefits and who are asked to exist on an amount which is much less than the single age pensioner gets, and much less than a class B widow gets. Yet the Prime Minister calls this a social welfare Budget. What utter rubbish! The performance of the Prime Minister tonight would have won a Hollywood Academy award. It was a wonderful speech, full of eloquent words and phrases! Yet the increase in the pension means that its real value is only 9c a week more than it was 2 years ago, in the case of single pensioners, and that extra 9c will have to cover all cost of living increases for the next year or two. Married pensioner couples are worse off in real terms than they were in 1966, according to the consumer price index compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician. Yet this is called a social welfare Budget.
I repeat that there is only one way out of the present difficulty. That is to return a Labor government which will fix a base rate for all social service benefits, including unemployment and sickness benefits, and which will end the discrimination against married pensioner couples and class B widows.
– Listening to Opposition speakers tonight one would get the idea that they fear an election is in the offing. I think it can be said that members of the Opposition either concentrate on social1 services or adopt a parochial attitude to any other matters they discuss. The speeches we heard from the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) and the honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) would have been better reserved for the debate on a social services Bill which will come before the Parliament in due time.
I remind the House that the Budget is not merely a set of figures, lt is an expression of the Government’s philosophy on the management of the economy. And its whole content is of great importance. It is difficult for people listening to this debate to comprehend the meaning of figures used merely as figures. The total amount covered by the Budget this year is $6,59 1m, and I would like to discuss the various items of expenditure as percentages of that total, i think this will give people a better understanding than they would have if I simply cited the total amount to be spent in particular fields.
The first item is defence. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) indicated quite clearly tonight what is included in the defence programme for the current financial year. He referred to the additional Army hardware, additional aircraft and additional naval vessels that will be required. He referred also to the additional manpower that will be recruited. The total amount to be spent on defence represents 19% of the total available for expenditure by the Commonwealth in this financial year.
Then if we look at payments to the States we find that these represent the highest percentage of the total of all1 items in the Budget. Honourable members opposite will be interested in this, because never have I heard them suggest that the amount paid to the States is too much. There is always a suggestion that the amount the States get from the Commonwealth is too little, and that we should be doing more and more for the States, either by making direct payments to them or by taking over some of the responsibilities which constitutionally are those of the States. No less than 33% of the total amount spent from the Commonwealth Budget this year will go to the State governments.
Then we come to the item which was almost the only one referred to this evening by the honourable member for Grayndler and the honourable member for Watson - although the honourable member for Grayndler in addition hurled some abuse at the Prime Minister. This is the item covering social services and repatriation benefits, and it represents 20% of the total amount to be paid out by the Commonwealth this financial year.
If we take these three items alone - defence, payments to the States and social services and repatriation - we find that they represent 72%, or more than two-thirds, of our total expenditure. Then I come to capital works. I do not think anybody would deny that it is essential for the Commonwealth to spend money on capital works. Not many would deny the necessity for the Post Office to provide additional telephone facilities and so to build additional telephone exchanges. Honourable members would agree that we must build additional post offices in various parts of the country. Most honourable members would also agree that the Commonwealth should in many cases own its own premises rather than pay rent. This item for capital works represents 8% or 9% of the total. So we find that the first four items I have mentioned represent at least 80% of the total expenditure in the Commonwealth Budget.
Then we come to a few other items. Departmental expenditure amounts to 6%, and payments to industry, external aid and education to another 7%. This takes us up to about 93% or 94% of total expenditure. Again I ask honourable members opposite: Which one of these items would they reduce? There is not one of the items that J have mentioned in respect of which, either in this debate or in recent months, the Opposition has not advocated increased expenditure. When, with a total Budget of $6,59 lm, a deficit has to be provided for, then it is clearly indicated that if more is to be spent by the Australian Labor Party, more has to be collected. But not one member of the Labor Party will rise in his place and indicate the source from which this additional revenue is to come before it is spent. I would hope - I think most people in the community would - that the Labor Party would not increase deficit spending, because an increase in deficit spending could mean only a return to inflation. The Australian community does not want to return to inflation. Perhaps there was an indication tonight from the honourable member for Grayndler as to how the money would be raised. Did he not say that surely the companies in Australia could stand to have a little more deducted from them by way of taxation?
It is well to remind the Australian public that the Labor Party wants to spend more, that it can get that finance only by way of additional revenue, and that the only place from which you can get additional revenue is the pocket of the Australian taxpayer. The public might ponder the effect that this would have on them individually. I believe they would prefer to follow the policy of the LiberalCountry Party Government for the past 19 years - that is, that the maximum possible amount of money should be left in the pockets of the Australian people and that they should make their own determination as to how it will be spent. That is the alternative to the proposals which the Labor Party has put before us.
We heard last Tuesday night from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), but we did not hear him do anything more than regard himself as an alderman of the Sydney City Council or of any other local council in Australia. I had not imagined that a Leader of the Opposition would be so parochial in presenting comments cn a national Budget. Not one element of Labor philosophy was included in his address to this House and to the Australian nation. Surely we are entitled to expect, in a debate in this House on a national Budget, the alternative government to indicate quite clearly and unequivocally to the Australian people, as well as tothe honourable members on this side of the House, its philosophy for the management of the economy.
What is the philosophy of the Australian Labor Party? Members of the Labor Party ought to be a little more specific than they have been in relation to this Budget. Most people would say that over the 19 years that the Government parlies have been in office there has been orderly control and management of the affairs of the nation. Admittedly, we could spend more. Of course we could. We would like a greater population. We have 12 million people in a country of 3 million square miles. Of our total population, 54% lives in the six capital cities. I believe that some members of the Opposition - certainly some members of the public do - think Australia should be going ahead in the same way as the United States of America. That country has the same area as Australia but it has a population of 200 million people. It is impossible for us in
Australia to have the same resources as almost any other country in the Western world. If one goes to Germany, France, England, or almost any other country in the Western world, one finds that they are the size of a pocket handkerchief but that they have a population considerably in excess of ours. We should think in terms of what has to be done in Australia, the potential and the opportunity for development. The two things which we want are, of course, people and capital.
This Government is criticised because it seeks some capital from overseas. I would like to know how the Labor Party would develop our natural resources without obtaining capital from overseas. Would the Labor Party indulge in deficit finance for this purpose, merely to be able to say that this development is in the hands of the Australian Government and that no overseas interest is involved? I do not know whether honourable members opposite have ever visited the north west of Western Australia. Have they stood on top of that mountain of iron ore which is Hamersley and realised that for li miles in every direction there is nothing but an ore body which will produce millions of tons of iron ore for Australia and which represents export income that will compare, with the export income, at many periods of time, of many of our primary products? How would the Labor Party develop these resources? Hamersley is only one of these development projects. There are the projects at Mount Newman and at Mount Goldsworthy. How does the Labor Party propose to develop the bauxite deposits at Groote Eylandt and at Weipa unless some capital is introduced from overseas?
Of course, Australia wants more people. Of course, we need capital. Let honourable members think of the intake of migrants in the 19 years that this Government has been in office. At least in recent years our annual intake of migrants has been in the vicinity of from 120,000 to 140,000 people. This intake of migrants, added to the natural increase in population, has given us about a 2i% increase in our population. We would prefer that it had been greater but, in this area, I believe we have to be prepared to grow slowly. lt is fair to say that there are things which are needed, which the Australian people constantly want. Those things can be concisely stated under 5, 6 or 7 headings. Firstly, we need a balanced defence policy. Having regard to our total resources, I defy members of the Opposition to prove that in recent years this country has not had a balanced defence policy. We have a coastline which it would be almost impossible for any country, other than the United States, to safeguard. We do not have the resources to provide completely for Australia’s defence and we have to depend on other people. That is why we spend on defence the maximum amount which we believe we can afford out of our total resources. Approximately 20% of our total expenditure from the national Budget goes on defence. There is a reliance on our friends. It can be said that Government supporters, and the Government itself, do more to encourage friendship with countries who will come to our help than members of the Labor Party are ever likely (o do.
Secondly, we want a fully employed population. Not one member of the public or one member of the Opposition can say that, with only 1.2% of Australia’s population registered for unemployment, we have not got full employment or, as some would say. over-full employment. Let us not imagine for a moment that all the people included in that 1.2% arc out of work at this moment. That figure represents the people who are registered, lt includes people who have a job but who want a better job. I say ‘Hear, hear’ to any man who, having a job, says he would like one that is better. I do not blame such a man for being registered. But the number of men included in that category would reduce the 1.2% to a small percentage of actual unemployment. While I speak in terms of employment it is interesting to note just what has been the trend of employment in the work force over recent years. Ten years ago there were just under four million people in the Australian work force. Today the number is just over five million. There has been an increase of 26% in the total work force in JO years. This is about the same percentage as the increase in our population. But if we look at one of the best indicators in the employment area - the building industry - we find that there has been over the same 10-year period an increase of no less than 41% in the number of people employed. Today there are 157,000 people employed in that industry. The increase in the throughput of work by these people in the building industry is indicated by the total expenditure on building. In 1957 it was S800m; in 1967 it was $1,800m.
As one of the other things that are necessary, we desire personal incomes to be at reasonable minimum levels. Surely no honourable member in the House will suggest that the level of wages and the prosperity of the Australian people are not as high as wages and prosperity in almost any other country in the Western world or elsewhere. There are very few countries which can provide luxury items. I speak of them as luxury items having regard to the situation 30 or 40 years ago when I was much younger. In those days the community did not have refrigerators, washing machines or other such articles. I can remember the day when my father bought his first motor car. My own children, however, are not used to travelling in public transport and when they sometimes have a ride in a tram or a train they find it refreshing. When I was young we seldom travelled in anything else. The community today is able to afford motor cars because of the prosperity which this Government has brought to it.
I would like to say something about the consideration given to the needy. These are the age and invalid pensioners. Consideration has been given also to the health needs of the community, to repatriation benefits and to homes for aged people. I know that people could say that we ought to spend more. But if we are to spend more it is necessary that we obtain more funds from somewhere or that we spend more in one area and less in another area. I believe that most people would realise from what I have already said that it is not practicable to reduce the expenditures which we are making.
I now turn to the provision of government services. Of course, these are a mixture of Commonwealth, State and local government services. But it is essential that certain services within the Australian community be provided by governments themselves, and the public knows what these services are without my enumerating them. I believe there is not much in the way of government services that really can be criticised at the point where governments at least have tried to provide them. Of course, there are problems, particularly in relation to employees within some of these services. As Postmaster-General, perhaps I have some idea of the difficulties that one comes up against in the industrial area. We want to see industry in a buoyant condition, and we want to see national development and expansion of the resources of this country.
I think that perhaps I have said sufficient to indicate that first of all in the Budget our thinking has been in terms of the development of the Australian economy. We have thought in terms of the amount of money we might reasonably expect to take out of the public purse for the purposes of providing services. We have thought in terms of that sum spread over the various categories of expenditure that I have mentioned tonight. I believe that most people who are honest will come to the conclusion that the Government, over the years it has been in office, has done a pretty good and pretty substantial job for the Australian people. I hope that in the years ahead, as greater prosperity comes to the Australian community, we will be able to do more and more. I say that when we come to discuss the Budget we should discuss it in terms of its total complex, and having in mind its total effect on the Australian community and ourselves. We have a responsibility to inform the people of Australia of what is involved in national finance.
– I am quite excited at having heard from the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) how well off we are. But I was reminded, by his opening remarks about the fear of an election, that of all the honourable members in the House at the moment - it is not a large number, admittedly, and those who are not present will be able to read my remarks in Hansard, because they sleep with it under their pillows - the Postmaster-General is the one who has most cause to fear an election. In 1961 the citizens of his electorate turned him out to grass, and this is the kind of thing that might happen again. Indeed, it is particularly likely if they happen to have listened to what he has said tonight. Where the
Postmaster-General and I part company is in our approach to this matter. He speaks in a statistical sense. He does not talk about human beings. He talks about aggregates and their relation to other quantities. These are things not related to human beings. He presents us with graphs and abstractions. I believe this demonstrates the fundamental difference between thinking on this side of the House and on the Government side. Honourable members opposite have a tendency to concentrate on a generalised approach rather than on the specific needs of human beings.
There are two or three things in the Postmaster-General’s speech that I wish to comment on. He made the point that the defence Services are now taking 19% of our Budget. He said that we would have to rely upon our friends and so on. It seems to me that in this area we are just as cliche struck as we have ever been. For instance, it is said that our long coastline is necessarily a weakness, ls it a weakness or is it really a strength? This claim is usually made as an assertion. I will not make an assertion one way or the other. But it is hardly adequate for a senior Minister to claim that this is a weakness. I personally do not think it is. I do not think that space and distance are a weakness in the defence context. In fact, I am pretty confident from a study of history that people who have space about them and distance to operate in are the ones who are in the best defence position.
Government supporters have said today that we have so many ships coming off the slips, we have aircraft here and there and we have so much more than we have ever had before. Indeed, they almost make one feel that it is a pity we do not have any enemies. This is the pattern of the thinking on the other side of the House. The Government is not facing up to the situation in this part of the world. So much of its defence thinking and foreign policy thinking, like its economic thinking is archaic and has very little to do with the real situation in this part of the world.
One thing that intrigued me was the Postmaster-General’s reference to deficit financing and so on. Obviously he does not approve of deficit financing. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon), if one judges by the tone of his remarks in his Budget
Speech, does not exactly laud it to the skies. But the general terminology that he used showed that he approves of the results of deficit spending. As reported at page 37 of Hansard, in his Budget Speech he stated:
As Government securities are included with the liquid assets of the banking system, bank financing of a Budget deficit adds also to the liquidity of the banking system and hence to its capacity to increase lending.
In other words, there is a tone of appreciation of what is done in deficit spending and so on. The Postmaster-General seems to regard this as poison and he refers, of course, to the Government’s orderly control and the like. This does not mean much. We have orderly control in prisons and cemeteries. We in Australia have to do a little better than that. The PostmasterGeneral spoke of Australia going ahead like America. What on earth does he mean by that? In what part of America or in what section of American society?
He also used western Europe as an analogy. I am not too sure that we are worse off than the people of western Europe. They have had centuries of development. Many people there are living in homes that were built a century or more ago, many of which are still quite substantial. The transport and communication systems, whether canals, roads or otherwise, have been the product of centuries of effort. We are inclined to speak of ourselves as an underdeveloped nation when in fact we are not. It is true that the area of Australia is about 3 million square miles. I suppose a real estate operator would like to see it covered with high rise flats or home units and a miner would like to see it full of holes. But the fact is that this is not really relevant. What we have to learn is how to make the country tick for the benefit of the 12 million people who live in it and for the others who will come here.
I am often inclined to ask what foreign capital does supply. 1 do not claim to be an economist. The Treasurer shows that something can be done with deficit spending. The Minister referred to some of the areas where capital has been introduced. He referred, for instance, to the development of the bauxite deposits in the north. I think manganese is being obtained from Groote Eylandt, and I suppose his reference to bauxite was a slip of the tongue. But how much capital was required to develop Weipa or the bauxite deposits at Gove? 1 understood at the time of an inquiry by a parliamentary committee that something of the order of $40m or $50m was required to start developing the deposits in Arnhem Land. I did not approve of this venture. This happens to be a spot that some Aboriginal people regard as their own. But what really is S40m or $50m in this context? It is four or five FI 1 1 aircraft and it is perhaps two thirds of the cost of the Tullamarine Airport.
– That is a stupid argument.
– Sometimes the honourable member does make coherent comments. If they are intelligible, I can answer them.
– I said that is a silly argument.
– The honourable member says that this is a silly argument. The Government without any difficulty can find the money from the public sector to develop Tullamarine or to purchase FI 1 1 aircraft. This is an easy and reasonable activity for it. But when it comes to the development of a profitable undertaking which could be operated by public enterprise, honourable members opposite regard the argument that public enterprise could do it or public money could be made available as being silly. I am not too sure that that is the way in which a society should evaluate priorities. I am not sure that that is really the position.
There are tremendous areas of capital in the community. In many instances capital is lying dormant and in other instances it is invested in projects of very little profit now. If I had to decide between Tullamarine and the development of the bauxite deposits, I would develop the bauxite deposits. Let me go on record now as a person from south of the Murray who can think of no adequate reason for the extraordinary development of Tullamarine Airport. On the few occasions that I have come back to Australia from overseas I have been happy to land at Sydney. It is possible to get out of Sydney quickly, and Sydney is not such a bad place. But if there is one area of mystique of which I disapprove, it is air travel. We can look at this in relation to the question of public transport that I will mention later. I personally think that we are making serious errors in the development of some of our mineral deposits. I would like to see the development of our bauxite deposits regularised. We should develop one fully and leave the other two dormant. Bauxite can lie in the ground for 1,000 years without any deterioration.
– There is a new football ground to be built in the south.
– My friend points out that a new football ground is being built somewhere in Melbourne. Of course some honourable members opposite will appreciate that it is a valuable brand of football that is being developed there. There is no limit to our resources. I suppose the objection I am raising is to the hit and miss way that we allow private capital from overseas to come in and to be used in a disorganised way and in what may well be a disastrous pattern for the future. This is one of my most serious objections to the policies of honourable members opposite. They allow these activities to become articles of faith rather than matters of logic and reason.
The Postmaster-General took us to task in the way that people ordinarily do. It is said that we claim we will build more schools, roads, railways and more of this, that and the other. That is true enough. That is the constant theme of all Australian politics. But where will the money be found? I am not too sure again that this is, as honourable members opposite seem to think it is, a matter of a cake of a certain size that can be sliced in a certain way and, once the slices have gone, nothing is left. Some taxation levels are a good deal lower in Australia than they are in other parts of the world. Certain types of taxation that are acceptable in America, in western Europe and in Great Britain are not used in Australia. One of these is a capital gains tax. In recent times we have seen people make substantial capital gains, not out of the development of profitable enterprises but by dealing in such things as shares. I would think that that is an area of taxation that could be tapped. It depends, of course, on whether a person is doing this as a business or is merely doing it occasionally. But this is an area of taxation that has been left completely alone. As far as I can sec from the schedules, the level of our taxation on the higher incomes is much lower than it is in many other countries and it is also higher on the lower incomes than it is in other countries. Of course, it is from the high incomes that the greatest returns come, if we apply ourselves properly to this aspect.
But we should also apply ourselves to some other matters. Some of the costs of the community are directly inspired by Government activity. One instance of this is interest rates. The Government, through its control of the banking system, has pretty much of an absolute control over interest rates. As the years have gone by we have seen interest rates climb higher and higher. Only recently the interest rate was increased by 4% on most mortgages and on bank lending. What is the advantage of this? Were the banks short of loose change? The increase certainly had nothing to do with that. It is a piece of financial doctrine to which I object. This seeps back through the community in every area. It seeps back info the purchase of a house, into hire purchase and into all sorts of costs. A good deal of interest is payable by the States to the Commonwealth and also to the Commonwealth by its own instrumentalities. So, to a large degree, this position was created by the Commonwealth’s own financial policies.
The most nonsensical cost of all is that imposed by the Post Office charges. This is created by the capitalisation some years ago of the Post Office, the levying of an interest rate on this capital as a basic charge and then the effort to relate the costs to that figure. I remember that my good friend the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) described this operation as the triumph of doctrine over common sense. I wonder what this has inflicted on the community?
– It has inflicted $94m for this year.
– That is right.
– And the Post Office schedule shows a loss of $10m.
– By a fine piece of sleight of hand and financial legerdemain the Post Office arrives at a loss. This is not the situation in New Zealand, for instance. When I was looking at this subject recently I found that the cost of telephone calls is less in New Zealand than in Australia. Trunk calls are cheaper there than they are in Australia. How is it that New Zealand is able to do this? I think a good deal of financial nonsense is preached by honourable members opposite.
– New Zealand is broke. It is almost bankrupt.
-I have often wondered about a country that is said to be broke. 1 visited Great Britain recently. It is always said to be on the rocks. But if a person who walks down the Strand and does not take care is not knocked over by a Jaguar he is knocked over by a Rolls-Royce or a super sports car. I do not know when a country is broke. If people are living a comfortable existence, if their standard of living is high, if many of the goods they purchase are cheap and if everybody is in employment, although the Government may have a certain amount of difficulty in dickering with tariffs, overseas exchange and so on, the country is a long way from being broke. This is another point at which I part company from honourable members opposite. They consider that a country is in a bad state when the graphs do notlook too good; we think a country is in a bad state when its people are not doing too well.
This brings me to the general question of this document - the Budget, I think it is called. Each year since 1 have been here we have gone through this ritual of the Budget speech. Everybody hangs round for the Budget speech. It would not be so bad if we happened to light on a Treasurer sometime who put a little dynamics and drive into the way he pronounced these expressions. In my term here we have had as Treasurer the Right Honourable Sir Arthur Fadden who was a very kind hearted gentleman privately and a very cold hearted gentleman when it came to budgets. His successor was our sadly deceased Right Honourable Harold Holt who had an equally kind heart and manner but a similar kind of cold hearted approach to budgets. Now we have the most famous prophet of all times. If honourable members read some of his statements in the past they will find he is always prophesying how much better it is going to be next year.
A substantial change has occurred in the spirit of the document. In other words, instead of being depressingly pessimistic about the past, the present Treasurer is so depressingly prophetic about the future.
We read in this Budget the same cliches, we read of the same problems and we are given the same answers as we have had before. It seems that the Budget becomes little more than an excuse for a debate. In fact, it becomes very little of a debate because of the way in which we conduct the debate. I have here some of the Budgets of past years. In the budget that 1 heard when I first came here in 1956, I read this:
These figures show thai except in the case of farm income all the main aggregates of income and expenditure rose considerably during last financial year. Indeed, some of them rose more than they did in 1954-55.
This year we read such statements as:
Although 12 months ago the economy was in the main growing strong there were some depressing factors at work.
A little later in the speech we find almost the same terminology used again. It is the same mixture as before. So, I never feel very excited about a budget. I never think that the pensioners will get much anyhow. I never think that much will happen concerning some of the great problems in the community which I consider ought to be tackled by a realistic government. For instance, I wonder what this sentence means: lt will be realised, therefore, that we have achieved a significant slowing down in the rate at which our expenditures have been increasing.
That is a very, very fine piece of English. Can somebody interpret it for me? I know what it means, lt means that in fact we are not spending as much in proportion to what we spent in the year before, or something such as that. Would it be much more difficult if we said so in those terms? I would like to know what the great advantage is in slowing down the increase in government expenditure. Ministers, supporters of the Government and we on this side of the House recognise that government expenditure is the key to the welfare of the community. In fact, this sentence is reminiscent of the famous statement made by Sir Arthur Fadden some 12 years or 14 years ago. The expression struck me and has remained in my memory like something
Shakespearean or Miltonic. Sir Arthur Fadden referred to ‘soaking up the surplus spending power’. I do not know about the position of honourable members opposite, but I do know that in our family there has never been any surplus spending power. There is this semantic nonsense which has been introduced into the finances of the country and which clouds the fact that the Budget ought to be a visionary document telling us what we are going to do about some of the problems of the nation.
What are the problems of the nation? There are plenty of them. The Prime Minister made one of his rare appearances in this House tonight. 1 must admit that we dragged him in here a week or so back and he was here again tonight. He told us that our steel production has risen from H million tons to 6 million tons: the number of cars in Australia has risen from 1 million to 4 million; student numbers have risen from 33,000 to 100,000, and so on. What does all this mean? Steel is still a monopoly controlled enterprise. We have 4 million motor cars and we have a woeful public-
– It is the cheapest steel in the world.
– It may well be the cheapest steel in the world but it is still a monopoly enterprise. Absolute control is still exercised over it. I am not too sure what we mean when we say that it is the cheapest steel in the world. We are full of absolutes, particularly if we are members of the Country Party and do not know what we are talking about. One hears around Australia that we have the best schools in the world and the cheapest steel in the world. Melbourne had the purest water supply in the world until some public inquiry held by the Victorian Parliament looked into the matter and found that the quality of the water did not even measure up to the standards of the World Health Organisation.
What does it mean when the Prime Minister says that we have four million motor cars in Australia? lt means the neglect of public transport. The PostmasterGeneral said that, when he was a boy, everybody used public transport. Now all his children travel in cars. I am not surprised. Indeed, he is the sort of person who can afford to buy more cars for bis children. What about doing something about public transport, the problems of our students, and soon?
We talk about home ownership, and the problems of home ownership. What are these problems in fact? They are largely government created problems. The biggest problem in home ownership is created, I believe, by interest rates. It takes a man 2 more years to pay back a loan on his home over a period of 20 years if the interest rate is raised by1/2%. I think that a substantial contribution to the health of the community, the welfare of the people and the happiness of our families would be made if the Government reduced interest rates to the level at which they stood in 1949. I happen to have war service home finance available to me. The misfortune is that I cannot have the amount expanded as the loan grows. The fact is that, operating at an interest rate of 33/8 to33/4%, the War Service Homes Division is a substantial, successful1 and profitable money lender.
An important matter to be considered concerning home ownership is the price of land. In fact, the price of land for home ownership in Australia is a disgrace. Recently, while overseas, I took alook at some of the advertisements for the sale of land around London, Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal. The truth is that land around Melbourne and Sydney costs more than it does around London, Montreal, Ottawa or Toronto. This is a most serious infliction upon the citizenry of this country. It is a disgrace in a country with the most space. I was staggered when I saw the difference between the cost of land in Britain and in Australia after comparing the relative sizes of both countries. Britain is a tiny island with fifty million people. It is about the size of Victoria. Yet land can be purchased there more cheaply than it can be purchased on the outskirts of Sydney or Melbourne. It is this materialistic concept of things in which governments have no responsibility for what is involved but believe that private profit is all that matters that has caused so much poverty and misery in the community in a country which generally is exceptionally wealthy.
When 1 look at the Budget now before the House, I ask: What does it do about the poverty suffered by many aged people? The honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) has given a pretty clear and good definition this evening of what the problems with respect to poverty are. No need exists for me to reiterate the points that he made. In an electorate such as mine which takes in an industrial area of Melbourne there are many thousands of people whose lives are ones of continuing difficulty and hardship. Those peoplelive in a state of great deprivation. Every time a gas bill comes in, it is a crisis in the house. Every time an electricity bill has to be paid, it is a crisis in the house. When rates have to be met, it is a crisis in the house. These are matters on which the Government has failed to show compassion and about which my friend the Treasurer has said that it would do something.
I come back to the question of priorities. I refer for example to the question of Tullamarine airport versus the schools. Many of our Australian schools, particularly those in our metropolitan areas, are a downright disgrace. A large number of the schools in our metropolitan areas, particularly in the industrial suburbs of Melbourne, and presumably in Sydney, simply are slum buildings in which nobody can carry on the process of education properly. In those buildings it is a hardship for the teachers to teach and it is an impossible educational task for the children to study. What have we done about this problem? The Government has also started out to deal with the question of Aboriginals. An amount of $10m has been allotted for the purpose.
I wish to raise the question of public transport. This, I think, is a matter of most necessary activity in the community. In The Canberra Times’ today, a description appears of how the motor car is overwhelming whole communities. By the time freeways, asphalt works and parking space have been constructed, not much space is left for the people. The solution of this problem is the provision of a decent public transport system. I am still hopeful that the Department of the Interior will do something quite experimental and adventurous in the way of a public transport system in Canberra. Here we have a community - admittedly it is highly motorized - but despite the difficulties created by the expansively planned nature of the city, it ought to allow a properly developed public transport system.
– What would you suggest?
– ] do not know what the answers are. What I am saying is that 1 have not seen any evidence to indicate that anybody is trying to find effective answers.
– I will give you plenty of evidence.
– The Department of the Interior buys large buses to travel around the streets, but hardly anybody rides in them. What is wrong with a system of smaller motor vehicles which would be available on a sort of call system? People could press a button and these vehicles could come and pick them up. I will write the Minister for the Interior a thesis on this matter if he wishes. There is no difficulty with private taxis, which have a system whereby people can ring up and a taxi comes at call. Why not use a little bit of imagination? The Minister has absolute authority in Canberra. He is the emperor. He can do what he likes. If he makes mistakes nobody will hold them against him. because we have got used to mistakes here.
I would like to have dealt with a number of other matters, but I see that my time is running out. The Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) referred to the Citizen Military Forces, which are the Cinderella of the Australian Service system. I would suggest that honourable members should take a close look at the American National Guard system. The National Guard gets into difficulties on occasions when it is called out to solve riots. Soldiers are not in the business of being riot solvers. The United States National Guard flies supersonic jet aircraft. It has armoured divisions. The Australian Citizen Military Forces are removed from these more advanced and technically desirable areas of activity.
What are the principles behind the Budget? I think that it is a question of largess. The principle behind the current Budget is to scatter money and to let somebody else take the responsibility. The money is spread from some golden shovel in the way Caligula, I believe it was, used to spread money from the balconies of Rome. He had characteristics similar to those of this Government. He used to enjoy listening to the screams of the populace when they went to pick up the money. He had heated some of it to a red hot heat. In the present Budget the application of various financial attitudes regarding interest rates, repayments and so on inflicts serious disabilities on State governments. I would like to have seen something done about the rebuilding of obsolete schools and a more definite attack made upon the Aboriginal question. 1 do not think that the proposal in the Budget will succeed in doing much for the Aboriginal people. I believe that no success will be achieved in the Aboriginal field until the Commonwealth itself takes the responsibility and does something about it. It is no good farming the responsibility off to the States. With all the best will in the world - and there are many good men in the States - the fact is that the States have been in the business for the best part of a century but have solved none of the problems concerning land proprietorship, education, housing, health or any other question. The people of Australia having placed the responsibility definitely on this Parliament I think we are entitled to demand that the responsibility for the action that flows from the provision of the money that is to be spent should rest with this Parliament. Although I am not necessarily a great centralist by belief, [ think that the public must know who has the responsibility in this matter and it should have accessibility to those administering that responsibility. This will happen only if the Commonwealth accepts the responsibility.
In looking at the Budget I wonder where are the visions. What is an Australian standard of living? It is time there was some generally acceptable Australian standard of living. I think that the minimum wage is a miserable wage. What amount of money should a person receive so that he can enjoy a decent homelife or a holiday when he receives his long service leave? Also, what space and opportunity should Australian society offer its people? I think it is time that we developed a new regimen of livability, serviceability and so on in order to make Australia accessible to people.
Before I close I would like to place before the House two areas of injustice in the taxation field. The first refers to united friendly society dispensaries. There are half a dozen of them in my electorate. Their tax is based upon turnover, not upon profit, and they are being slowly taxed out of existence. The other concerns the question of non-deductibility of roadmaking charges under Victoria’s iniquitous private street system. In the area in which I live people have had to pay thousands of dollars for private streets. They are not entitled to a tax deduction for the money they have spent. I am one of them. The bill that I received was for $3,600. I do not use the road myself. White lines have been painted along it so that you cannot even park in front of your own house. This work is for public purposes. I do not think it adds to the value of the property. The 137 property holders have spent $250,000 and none of that, although it is a clear-cut rates tax, is tax deductible. I speak on behalf of those poor, suffering citizens who have to live in the Stone Age State of Victoria.
Order! The honourable members time has expired.
– This country is on the verge of a very exciting new era of development in social welfare initiated by our Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). Naturally only a relatively short time has elapsed in which these new ideas could germinate. There are many straws in the wind. I shall refer to a few of them. It is quite obvious, especially from speeches made by honourable members opposite, that the people as a whole apparently are unaware of the importance of these changes, but they are of fundamental importance and are very exciting indeed. One straw in the wind concerns the correction of the problem faced by the chronically ill patient in hospital. Another concerns the increased subsidy to be paid for home nursing sisters throughout Australia and yet another the projected home care of patients - caring for people in the home rather than in hospital - which has been proposed to the States for their cooperation. Another straw in the wind is concerned with the provision without charge of measles vaccine to those States which want to embark upon a course of free vaccination against measles. Another was 1951 1/68 - /I - fM) indicated in the recent speech of the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) when he mentioned certain other changes which are about to take place. The Nimmo Committee is meeting and giving very serious consideration to some of the problems associated with the costs of medical services and methods of meeting these costs. When these ideas germinate we will see exciting new developments in social welfare. These developments are being undertaken gradually and with the utmost intelligence. I believe they will be an example to the rest of the world and far more effective and far better than the rather ham-fisted attempts of the doctrinaire Socialists who embark willy-nilly upon schemes with insufficient thought and who implement them with far too much haste.
– Who does that?
– I shall give the honourable member an example. Britain is in serious trouble over her health scheme. The main reason for this trouble is that the scheme was embarked upon in a very Socialistic manner and implemented too quickly. Now the country is in very serious difficulties indeed. If I had sufficient time I would deal with some of those difficulties. One of them relates to the staffing of hospitals. If all the overseas resident medical officers were to leave the national health service in Britain it would collapse overnight.
– People have gone there because they were attracted by the scheme.
– They were attracted there because they could not receive proper training in their own country and they are there to take the place of the very large number of doctors who have left Britain because they find it an intolerable country in which to practise their profession. The object of my address tonight is not the care of the sick as such but the problems and the costs of hospitalisation. I believe that this is another very important field for scrutiny and one which would merit the appointment of a committee of the type of the Nimmo Committee. A discussion of the cost of hospitalisation is rather difficult as the figures are very complex and total costs for this year are not yet available. However, we do know that the Commonwealth did spend over $156,500,000 under the Commonwealth hospitals benefit scheme in 1967-68. The problem is made more complex by the fact that each State organises its hospital system in a different manner. There is a considerable variation in the methods of organisation and there is a considerable variation in costs per patient bed day. There is also a considerable variation in the number of beds available to patients. In New South Wales 6.2 beds per 1000 people are available whereas in Queensland there are 8.8 per 1,000. The lowest figure is in Victoria, where there are 5.1 beds per 1,000 members of the population.
– Was there not a Labor Government for many years in Queensland?
– There is some rather empty headed blathering going on. This is a serious topic and I am endeavouring to consider it in a non-political manner. The debate is not being helped much by the vapourings of the honourable member for Wills. Honourable members will notice the high figure for Queensland. The reasons for it could be many, but this is one item that merits a good deal of consideration. Is it because no charge is made for hospital beds in Queensland, or is there some other cause? Investigations such as this are very important; this country needs to know the answers to such questions. The ideal number of beds per 1,000 population is not known. In Britain which, as I say, is hard pressed the estimated requirements are lower than those for any other country in the world. There the estimated requirement is about 5.6 beds per 1,000 of population. In America the estimates vary from about 6.8 to about 7.3 beds per 1,000 of population. Some survey should be made to see what the requirements of this country are.
Similarly, the number of days spent in public hospitals by people vary according to the States. In New South Wales there are 1,396 days of hospitalisation per 1,000 of population whereas in Queensland, which has the highest figure, there are 1,595 days. The lowest figure is in South Australia, where there are 984 days of hospitalisation per 1,000 members of the population. These figures indicate a wide variation in the ways hospitals are administered in each State of our Commonwealth. There is another variation, and that is from the financial point of view. Some States apply means tests before a patient is admitted to a public ward. Charges are made for patients in public wards in every State except Queensland, where no means test applies. The financing of hospitalisation is very complex also. The finance comes from Commonwealth grants, State grants, medical benefit organisations, patients themselves, charities, local authorities and divers other sources; but each of these sources does not provide a simple gross payment of moneys because payments are made under a variety of different headings. This makes for unwieldiness and considerable added expense in the administration of hospital systems. I believe that some States now are not pulling their weight sufficiently in overcoming this problem. Of course, the example par excellence is Victoria, where the increasing cost of administering hospitals is not being met by the State. The Commonwealth payments are increasing and State payments are static, but the payments made by patients are increasing. This is leading to a very serious strain on the system. It is another indication that it is time another very serious look was taken at this problem. For example, public hospitals in Victoria have run into a deficit of more than $8m. The problem will probably increase because costs are increasing. Let me give an example taken from Victorian hospitals. The cost per occupied bed day in the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne in 1956-57 was SI 2.5. This had risen in 1965-66 to $21.7. This sort of increase is occurring in every hospital and in every type of hospital throughout Australia.
Of course, there are many reasons for this. One is the increased complexity of some forms of treatment and advanced techniques. For example, to take a most expensive and very topical one, organ transplants require very expensive equipment and the costs of administering such a unit as an organ transplant unit are very high indeed. Salaries are also increasing and there is also a tendency for staffs of hospitals to increase. Thus in Australia in 1950 there was an average of 660 staff members per 1,000 in-patients, but in 1966 this had risen to 737. It is a fact - and this is not generally known or comprehended - that salaries and wages account for 67% of the total operational costs of hospitals not only in Australia but also in many comparable countries.
There is no doubt that the Commonwealth Government is paying an increasing amount of this cost. In 1963-64 it paid Si 07.85m for institutional care and the States paid S162.14m. In other words, the Commonwealth is paying almost the same amount as the States for taking care of patients in hospitals and other institutions. In total health care the Commonwealth paid S252.79m, whereas the States paid only Si 83.68m, of a total health expenditure throughout the nation of S858m. The figure is rising. This year, according to the Budget, the Commonwealth will pay a little more than S296m for total health care.
-Order! The level of conversation in the chamber is far too high.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. Now the Commonwealth has embarked upon an exciting new endeavour and this adds increasing complexities. Some of these new ideas have been prefigured by the Minister for Health in his recent speech. But how are such matters as domiciliary care to be achieved if the States do not co-operate in them? There is evidence that the States arc not co-operating as readily as they might be expected to co-operate.
So we can see that there is a considerable disadvantage in having this very diverse system of hospital management throughout Australia, varying as between State and State. Some of these disadvantages are complexity, increasing cost of administration, diversity of the schemes, the failure of some of them, as in Victoria - the incipient failure, in any case - the fact that the Commonwealth Government which provides the vast preponderance of the funds has little or no say in the organisation and administration of these schemes, and the fact that the Commonwealth cannot implement its welfare schemes properly without co-operation from the various States. So I believe that the Commonwealth should look to a completely different method of organising health care, especially hospital care, in Australia. I suggest the establishment by the Commonwealth of a small and highly expert national health committee to oversee and administer the whole system. There should be an advisory council comprising Commonwealth and State representatives, as well as representatives of church or charitable organisations which have a significant interest in these matters. The administration should be regionalised, firstly by States and then by areas within States, down to the lowest level of a local hospitals board. All of these things are most essential, but the primary requirement is adequate planning. Earlier I indicated that we in this country have a lot to learn about running hospitals and coping with their problems. It is time we knew what those problems are. That is why I say that we need an adequate expert survey of hospital needs.
The present situation should be investigated. Any areas of weakness should be highlighted and future needs projected, not only in the cities but also in the country, because Australia, as we know, is unique in that we have a number of small areas of highly concentrated population and large areas of scanty population. This situation makes the administration of any scheme difficult and expensive.
Then we should look into the types of hospitals needed. I believe that a great deal of money is being spent unnecessarily on hospitals in this country for the simple reason that efficient and economic hospitals are not being built. Someone decides that a hospital is needed at point A. An architect is employed and ultimately a hospital is built, often to a design that is not the most economic. This practice should cease. Hospitals are so extremely expensive that careful thought and planning on a nation wide basis should be given to them before they are built. Modern advances in hospital design have not been taken into consideration. Technological advancement is occurring at a very rapid rate. What might be an adequate hospital today will be out of date tomorrow. This means that special attention must be given to hospital design. Hospitals must be designed so that they may be rearranged. In other words, they must be given flexibility so that they may be rearranged in accordance with technological advancement.
One development that might be considered in hospital design is the advantage of modular construction. This may be one of two kinds - either a complete building unit which may be joined to other building units in various permutations and combinations to make a hospital which meets the requirements of a local area, or the construction of empty shells of hospitals of suitable design with the interiors made up of modules. This system exists today and, properly considered would, I am sure, result in great savings. As a matter of fact I have investigated this matter. I have discussed it with certain international engineering firms which believe that by setting up production lines for the manufacture of a very limited number of modules, perhaps even two different types, enormous savings could be made in this country. Also, costs of future construction would be reduced because existing hospitals would not need te be demolished and rebuilt. Of course, this is only an impression. One cannot tell for sure what is best until the problem is properly investigated.
Another advantage of modern hospital design is that some hospitals are semiautomated and will result in enormous savings of staff. As I indicated earlier, staff costs represent the major item of operating cost in any hospital. I do not think that we should have too many monuments around this country. We should not have the same expensive type of building for all requirements.
Hospitals are not sufficiently versatile and people should realise that although the intensive care patients should have the benefit of a great deal of sophisticated equipment, on the other extreme the convalescent patient can look after himself to a very large extent. These matters also should be taken into consideration. Of course the most important thing is that domiciliary care, where possible, should be undertaken because if a patient is being looked after adequately in his own home he is not only happier but also much better cared for. In addition, the State is saved an enormous expenditure.
I see that my time has almost elapsed but I should like to make one other point, namely, that the co-operation of churches and other charitable organisations should be sought. I am sure they would be willing to co-operate. This would lead to a more efficient, better integrated and less expensive health service in this country.
Debate (on motion by Mr James) adjourned.
-I have received the following message from the Senate:
The Senate transmits to the House of Representatives the following resolution which was agreed to by the Senate on Thursday, :2nd August 1968, namely, “That the Senate is of the opinion that the new and permanent parliament house should be situated on Capital Hill’.
House adjourned at 11.7 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for Ship ping and Transport, upon notice:
On what dates and in what respects has each State and Territory taken (a) legislative, and
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1. (a) and (b) - Since its establishment the Australian Transport Advisory Council has been seeking to achieve uniform laws throughout Australia relating to road traffic and motor vehicles, and has endorsed numerous recommendations submitted to it by the Australian Motor Vehicle Standards Committee and the Australian Road Traffic Code Committee.
These recommendations are embodied in comprehensive model codes, the Draft Regulations of the Australian Motor Vehicle Standards Committee published in 1954 (completely revised in 1963) and the National Road Traffic Code published in 1962. However, both these codes are subject to annual review and amendment. Adoption of provisions of both codes by the States and Territories and subsequent amendments has been a continuing process involving in most cases progressive amendment of existing statutes and regulations rather than the enactment of entire new codes. 2. (a) No. (b) This code is at present in course of preparation and is expected to be completed in late 1969. lt will be submitted then to the Australian Transport Advisory Council for consideration.
Crimes on Aircraft Acts: Surface Damage by Aircraft Acts (Question No. 400)
asked the Acting Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Acting Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information:
Trans-Australia Airlines - Services within States (Question No. 491)
asked the Acting Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Acting Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information:
Information of the type requested by the honourable member is regarded by the Commonwealth as confidential between itself and the State Government concerned unless it is mutually agreed to make the information public.
No such agreement has been made in this case and the information therefore cannot be made available.
I might add that the Government’s long standing policy has been that it will take steps to obtain intrastate rights for TAA only if and when the need arises and to date it has considered that there has been no such need.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
How many (a) men and (b) women were registered as unemployed in (i) each State and (ii) Australia at the latest date for which this information is available?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The numbers registered for employment wilh the Commonwealth Employment Service as at 2nd August 1968 (the latest date for which the information is available) are shown in the following table. The numbers relate to persons who when registering with the Commonwealth Employment Service had claimed that they were not employed and were recorded as unplaced. They include those referred to employers with a view to engagement but whose placement waa not confirmed at the date shown and those who may have obtained employment without notifying the Commonwealth Employment Service. They include also recipients of Unemployment Benefits.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– There are some problems of definition involved in providing an answer to the honourable member’s question. However, because of the references to the Commonwealth Police Force, it has been assumed that the question seeks information in relation to positions with duties somewhat similar to those of the Commonwealth Police Force rather than those with professional (e.g. accounting) duties. The Ministers of the Departments concerned have provided the following information in relation to such positions:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 August 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19680827_reps_26_hor60/>.