26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.55 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the House of the death, on 26th October, of the Honourable James Aitchison Johnston Hunter, who was a member of this House for the Division of Maranoa from 1921 to 1940. Between 1934 and 1937 Mr Hunter was a Minister without portfolio. On behalf of the House I have forwarded a message of sympathy to the relatives of the deceased. As a mark of respect to the memory of the late honourable gentleman, I invite honourable members to rise in their places. (Honourable members having stood in their places)
– I thank the House.
– I inform the House that the Minister for Education and Science, Mr Malcolm Fraser, is indisposed and will be absent from duty for a period of time. During his absence the Minister for Works, Senator Wright, will act as Minister for Education and Science, and the Minister for Health, Dr Forbes, will handle matters relating to education and science in this House.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question concerning the fate of Jose Manuel da Costa, whose application to the Privy Council - probably the last from a Federal Court in Australia - has just been rejected and whose sixth stay of execution expires in a week’s time. Will the Minister arrange forthwith for the resumption of the debate and seek a vote on the Death Penalty Abolition Bill which was passed by the Senate on 4th June and which he himself asked to be adjourned in this House on 5th June - 5 months ago? Jf he is unwilling or unable to have the Bill debated and determined this week, will he at least agree that it would be monstrous to permit a man to be hanged while such a Bill has been passed by one House and is still before the other, and accordingly at least grant a reprieve in these protracted proceedings?
– It is a fact that a petition by Mr da Costa for leave to appeal was refused by the Privy Council, and that I was aware of that this morning. The matter will be dealt with as one of extreme urgency by the Cabinet. I do not think it would be wise to delay dealing with the matter, which is one for the Executive, by tying it in some fashion to the bringing on of the debate on the Death Penalty Abolition Bill. I will give no such undertaking as the Leader of the Opposition seeks.
– In other words, you will recommend a reprieve?
– As I said in answer to a previous question, all relevant and proper factors will be taken into account. I propose to say no more than that. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the protracted nature of the proceedings. I remind him that each of these stays was required by action taken by Mr da Costa himself, and it was thought that we should not interfere with his freedom to take such action in pursuance of his legal rights. It would be quite wrong to suggest that any of the delay should be laid at the door of the Government. He has been exercising his own rights. He has chosen to do so. That has wholly accounted for the delay.
– I ask the Attorney-General a question which is on much the same subject as the question just asked by the Leader of the Opposition. I ask my question on the assumption that the Attorney-General is conscious of a very strong view held by a considerable number of honourable members on both sides of the House that the national Parliament should take the lead in this important area of social reform in abolishing this barbaric penalty once and for all. Will he, when putting a submission to Cabinet concerning da Costa, broaden it to the extent that Cabinet can decide on the basic proposition of abolishing capital punishment generally in the Territories of the Commonwealth?
– I am aware of the strong views held on this subject by the honourable member for Higinbotham. I am also aware, as far as one can be. of the various views held in the community on this subject. On the other hand 1 would take the same view as I did in answering the Leader of the Opposition’s question seeking to link the case to a debate in this House. I say that to delay consideration of the case in order to bring forward some submission dealing with the abolition of capital punishment or in order to deal with that subject in Cabinet would not be acceptable. I do not believe that the delay which would be involved ought to be introduced into the case.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer, is he aware that the amount of money raised by companies by debentures has increased by $150m or 75% during the last financial year? Does he recognise that this was the trend in the economy during 1 960 which was then dealt with by the only means the Government would choose - a severe credit squeeze - which caused a harmful loss to employment and income for several years? Does the Treasurer agree that he will soon be faced with a similar situation? If so. how does he propose to deal with it on this occasion?
– The answer to the honourable gentleman’s question is a clear and categorical one - the economy is in a very healthy state. We welcomed at the time of the Budget the prospect that private capital investment in plant and equipment would rise, and would rise substantially. It was critically important in the interests of productivity that investment took place in this kind of asset. As to the substance of the honourable gentleman’s question that there might be a credit squeeze, I believe this to be totally out of the question. Therefore, I believe that whoever prompted him on this matter is suffering from hallucinations.
– I address my question to the Minister for Immigration. Has the Minister seen reports that people burnt an Australian flag outside Australia House during an anti-Vietnam war demonstration in London? As one who is very proud of both my country and its flag, I ask: Will he assure the House that persons who act in this way will not be admitted to Australia if they should apply to come here as migrants? I am assuming that no Australian worthy of the name Australian would commit such a dastardly act.
– I did see a news photograph of the burning of the Australian flag. I felt a sense of revulsion as I am sure the honourable gentleman did. I am quite certain that the overwhelming majority of the Australian people felt this way. I do not think that anyone would deny another person the right to protest, but when that protest takes the form of deliberately contriving a hurtful act of this kind, I believe it goes beyond the reasonable bounds of protesting.
So far as the admittance to Australia of any of the persons concerned who are not Australians, I do have as Minister for Immigration the authority to refuse entry to anyone. I only exercise this authority on knowledge of all the facts. If a person concerned in this matter applied to migrate to this country I would have to consider all of the facts. I would hope that no Australian was involved in this incident, but if an Australian was involved I am afraid that as the law stands I would not be able to prevent his return to Australia in any event.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy a question. In view of the dissatisfaction that now exists amongst Royal Australian Navy sailors regarding the new pay rates will the Minister make a statement to the House giving details of the rates now applicable and of any proposals that he has in mind to correct anomalies that have arisen?
– It is true that some uncertainty and dissatisfaction have been expressed regarding the rates of pay applicable when the Royal Australian Navy adopted the group pay system. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will know, since 1947 the Navy has been operating under a common pay system whereby rates of pay, except for indentured tradesmen, have been varied only according to rank.
The Navy has now felt that it is necessary to move to the group pay system, which the Army and the Air Force have used successfully for some time. This was a considerable step for the Navy to take, as it had a tradition of common pay. Having regard to the fact that sailors live in closely confined conditions in ships it was obvious that some concern would be expressed when we moved to a different pay system. However, 1 must point out to the honourable gentleman that as a result of moving to the group pay system the Navy’s payroll will increase by S3. 5m.
When calculations were made in May this year it was estimated that the increase would amount to $2. 5m. The fact that the increase is so much greater than was originally estimated is evidence of the flexibility of the system. Since under the group pay system rates are aligned with civilian awards we are able to increase rates as civilian awards are increased. This affinity with civilian awards will mean that the cost to the Navy of adopting the new system will increase from $2. 5m to $3. 5m. So the new system gives us flexibility, lt also enables us to move with civilian rates.
A signal went out today to correct an anomaly tha! became apparent when the scheme was introduced. I assure the House that this matter is being looked al very carefully. 1 have no doubt that when the Navy gets accustomed to the system it will welcome it. I repeat thai it was inevitable that some uncertainly would arise during the breaking in period. 1 have no doubt that the system will work. Nobody has suffered a reduction in pay and there has been an increase in the total pay for the Navy of about $3.5.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question. J refer to the International Sugar Agreement recently negotiated in Geneva. Is the Minister satisfied thai the Agreement will be the means of restoring economic stability to the Australian sugar industry? Will the Agreement affect in any way our contractual arrangements to sell sugar to the United Kingdom under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement or to the United States under our special arrangement with that country? What will be the effect on the Agreement of the absence of the United States from the recent negotiations and of the European Economic Community’s stated inability to join in the Agreement at this stage?
– lt is my strong opinion that the agreement which was recently negotiated at Geneva and which, if I might remind honourable members, is still subject to ratification by the governments of the countries which were negotiating, will be of great benefit to the Australian sugar industry and to the industries of the other exporting countries, almost all of which are developing and depend to an important extent on the export of sugar to earn exchange, and to provide employment and maintain living standards al home.
Perhaps my own opinion might be coloured by the fact that I led the Australian delegation: so I would call to witness the fact that the Premier of Queensland, th; Hon. Johannes Bjelke- Petersen, was present at all times and was the deputy leader of the Australian delegation. He had with him the Queensland Agent-General in London, who had been the Director-General of Agriculture in Queensland. By the invitation of the Commonwealth Government, there were present also as advisers the Chairman of the Queensland Sugar Board, the nominated representative of the Australian Sugar Producers Association Ltd, which represents both growers and co-operative mills, a representative of the Queensland Cane Growers Council, and. for technical reasons, representatives of the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd. lt was the unanimous opinion of all of these specialists in sugar matters that this was a very good agreement and one which Australia should be glad to accept and to ratify.
The agreement itself is written to endure for 5 years and to have its major provisions reviewed in 3 years time. It fills a gap rather than supplants the other contractual sugar agreements that we have. The standing agreement with Great Britain, which is known as the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, stands firm for 7 years. Under this Agreement Great Britain takes 335,000 tons of sugar a year at a satisfactorily negotiated price. That is untouched. The quota of 182.000 tons a year which we have with the United States of America stands untouched. It has been our experience that every year, due to the shortfall in deliveries by other countries, we have sold the United States more than our quota entitlement. We also have preferential tariff arrangements with Great Britain in respect of the sugar that we sell to her in excess of 335,000 tons a year, and preferential tariff arrangements with Canada and New Zealand. All of these arrangement’s remain. The new agreement covers the remaining bulk of the sugar.
I do not want to tak; up the time of the House unduly, but I would like to spend another minute on this subject because it is a matter of very great public interest. The agreement sets out to have the countries which export to the so-called free world market engage not to export in total more sugar than the world market, can accept at a reasonable price. It leaves the other special arrangements untouched, as I have mentioned. The new agreement further provides that the total amount with which it deals is divided between the countries concerned. Australia gets a basic export tonnage of 1,100,000 tons. Home markets and ail export markets will take in total well in excess of 2 million long tons.
The agreement provides that every exporting country shall hold stocks of sugar which, if prices go high, shall be furnished to the market for the purpose of damping down high prices. It further provides that every country shall be subject to a reduction in ils quota when prices are low so that the sugar market is held, if I might not wrongly use the term, slightly short of its demand, in order to firm prices. This is the negotiated intention to which all the important importing countries subscribe. The price that can be expected to result is to be found in the fact that the agreement provides that all countries shall sell less than their allotted quota until the world price reaches 4c American per lb. Above that countries may sell rather more than their quota so that the price shall not rise exorbitantly. This is the character of the agreement. Therefore it can be expected not to have an important significant price result on the day it comes into effect. It is not the kind of agreement that will produce an immediate rise in the price. When 1 tell honourable members that, in expectation of an agreement, the sugar market rose in London by £3 a ton 2 days before the agreement was finally negotiated, it will become pretty clear to them that as the market gets rid of the excess sugar that exists at present and there is a withholding of some sugar we can expect more than a doubling of what has been the average price for free world sugar that we have been obtaining over the last 4 years or so.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation recently approved substantial increases in air freights and air fares to be charged by MacRobertson Miller Airlines Lid? ls it correct that the charges were increased following a request or recommendation from the Minister or his Department? is it correct also that in dropping uneconomic services recently MacRobertson Miller Airlines was acting on requests from the Minister? Were such recommendations or requests made of MMA purely for the purpose of reducing subsidy payouts? Finally, are me people who will suffer most from these charges those who live in distant or remote areas? If so, is this the Government’s idea of encouraging decentralisation?
– The Government’s policy of encouraging decentralisation has been borne out substantially in Western Australia, perhaps more than in most other States, in the very heavy subsidy that is paid by the Government to MacRobertson Miller Airlines Ltd to continue to provide services in the developmental areas. That policy continues to operate. There is still in existence an agreement with the company, and the present rate of subsidy, which is very high indeed, will continue throughout the present financial year. Fares and freight rales are reviewed from time to time by the operators, and when they contemplate any adjustments in rates they have to submit proposals to my Department and ultimately formal approval has to be given by me as the Minister for Civil Aviation.
I cannot recall any recent changes that have been made by MMA, but I will check on the position. I can assure the House that every week there are adjustments up or down. Literally hundreds of changes in fares and freight rates occur throughout Australia. Lists of adjustments come to me regularly - indeed, virtually every week. I will check on the recent lists to see whether any changes have been made by MMA. Today I will be making an announcement, in conjunction with the Minister for Transport in Western Australia, regarding some commuter services which will be taking over certain Western Australian routes from MMA and about which there have been some indications in recent weeks. The fares and freight rates have shown some change. Alterations were approved recently before the commuter services could be introduced. Perhaps the honourable member may have had this in mind. However I will check on the MMA position and advise the honourable member accordingly.
– 1 address to the Minister for Trade and Industry a question which is complementary to the previous question regarding a world sugar agreement. Are there primary industries - other than the metals industries within which world commodity agreements did and probably do apply - in regard to which producers and consumer nations can be brought to agreement on the matter of prices? Is it the Government’s intention to explore such alternative fields, to the benefit of Australia and to other exporting nations?
– During the terms of office of this Government and its predecessors from this side of the House it has been the policy to endeavour to have negotiated satisfactory international commodity agreements for the purpose of stabilising the security of those people engaged in various industries, and it has never been out of our minds that within these agreements there should be provisions designed to protect importers and consumers against excessive prices. Present commodity agreements include the recently negotiated grains agreement which, of course, covers wheat, and the recently negotiated sugar agreement. There also exists an international coffee agreement as well as an agreement on tin.
Agreements which we wish to have but which are much more difficult to negotiate - and I should not be too encouraging - are an international agreement on dairy products and an international agreement on meat products. Australia sponsored discussion on both of these agreements in the Kennedy Round negotiations. We had little success with meat, but since the conclusion of the Kennedy Round negotiations we have had resuscitated, in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the problems concerning the marketing of dairy products, and for the first time there exists a standing committee of GATT to deal with this matter.
As yet we have achieved nothing in the positive sense, but I allow myself to believe that the negotiations, discussions and explanations that have proceeded in GATT, where the lead has been taken by New Zealand, with the strong support of Australia, have led the Common Market countries, which are in possession of some 300,000 tons of butter in excess of their own requirements and which some time last year were selling it, at a price as low as ls 6d a lb in competition in our markets, to refrain from flooding the traditional markets with this great accumulation of excess butter.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether work on the Chowilla Dam is to be resumed and, if it is not, what progress has been made in the selection of an alternative site for a major project in the Murray River basin. If the Minister is unable to give a definite reply to my question now, when does he expect to be in a position to do so?
– Work is proceeding rapidly on the estimation of the cost of storage at the alternative site, which is at Dartmouth on the Mitta Mitta River. I believe that the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority will have an assessment of the cost of this alternative site ready for the River Murray Commission to discuss at about the end of December. I also believe that the interim report of the salinity consultants will be available at about the end of December. These reports will enable the River Murray Commission to make a decision on which is the better of the two alternative sites.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Labour and National Service. By way of brief introduction I refer the
Minister to the serious and tragic bush fires that have caused so much personal anguish, hardship and loss within my electorate in the Sutherland and Wollongong districts during the past 2 weeks. Is he aware that most of the voluntary fire fighters are members of New South Wales volunteer bush fire brigades, are unpaid, and constitute the major trained fire righting group in most of the area recently destroyed? Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to reports that some of the volunteers engaged in fighting fires in the Sutherland district and the Royal National Park at great personal risk and sacrifice have been threatened with loss of wages or dismissal because of their absence from work on fire fighting duties? Can the Minister say whether his Department has any information of losses of pay or employment arising out of this most praiseworthy and continuing voluntary work about which the whole community should be constantly reminded?
– I think that all those who are aware of the terrific efforts that have been made by fire fighters in the various groups have great admiration for them. The hours worked by members of the voluntary fire brigades, who have been working assiduously for very long periods to try to contain these fires, appear to have been different from those worked by officers of the official New South Wales fire brigades. Arrangements are made by the States to cope with this sort of situation. There have been a number of reports ot voluntary fire fighters being threatened with dismissal from their jobs, but no specific case of dismissal or loss of wages has come to the knowledge of my Department. We have, of course, been particularly interested in this aspect of the matter. But I believe that the situation has caused hardship to some small employers who have staffs of only a few persons, and whose employees have not been able to present themselves at their places of employment. In these circumstances difficulties could have arisen, but, as I have said, no case of loss of pay or employment has come io our attention.
The members of these voluntary fire fighting services were on duty continuously for quite long periods. In the southern part of the honourable member’s electorate the problem was rather different because the fire swept through rapidly and the number of hours involved was much smaller. I am pleased to tell the honourable member that Commonwealth Hostels Ltd was able to play a major part in the fire fighting operations. At the Unanderra hostel forty-five troops engaged in fire fighting were accommodated, while the Fairy Meadow hostel took in about thirty people who had been displaced from their homes and accommodated them until more permanent accommodation could be found. The hostels also made available a good deal of fire fighting equipment. If there are any unfortunate cases of people actually losing their jobs - as distinct from rumours and reports - we shall certainly do our best to see that other employment is found for them.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. What action does he intend to take against the officer who was responsible for the’ employment of scab labour in the Post Office, thus provoking the present postal strike in New South Wales?
– 1 am sure the honourable member and other honourable members will recall that a postal dispute occurred in January last and extended over a period of some 10 days. The Minister for Labour and National Service and I met representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia and we reached an agreement which was published at that time, lt included a clause that there should be no victimisation whatsoever by the Department or by the union. This meant, in effect, that anybody who was employed by the Department and was on strike would not be victimised and would bc able to return to work without the loss of any benefits. It meant also that the people who had volunteered to help the community in a very difficult situation would not be penalised by the union if at any subsequent time they happened to be re-employed in the Post Office. This applied’ to all those persons who have approached the Department and who in fact have been reemployed over recent weeks. Most of them have been employed in the casual labour force which the Department usually employs at this time of the year to deal with the community’s Christmas mail.
– Has the Prime Minister seen reports of several developments in New South Wales which indicate that a programme exists for the subversion of school children and the incitement of them to disobedience, disloyalty and even violence? In particular, has he seen a photograph and a report of a training school for young guerillas, on Vietcong lines, in the Blue Mountains area, and also reports of a plan for an anti-war news sheet for circulation amongst high school students, which in fact would encourage disregard of parental authority, and the formation of a so-called school children’s trade union? Have these developments followed along lines laid down at a conference of the Vietnam Action Committee in Sydney on Australia Day weekend of last year? Will the Prime Minister have investigations made urgently to ascertain the origin and direction of these movements and take appropriate action to inform the nation of the results?
– I will seek to ascertain the facts of the matters to which the honourable member refers. I have seen some newspaper reports alleging that these activities are occurring. I find it very difficult to understand why, when the honourable member refers to people being incited to violence, this should cause derisory cries of ‘Dear, dear1 from Opposition members or why, when the honourable member refers to subversive activities being inculcated, this should cause derisory laughter from Opposition members. I will be glad to seek to ascertain the facts of these matters.
– My question, which is addressed to the Treasurer, is supplementary to the question asked by the honourable member for Reid, to which the right honourable gentleman replied that the economy of Australia was in a particularly sound state and as a result of its soundness this country was receiving from overseas all the capital that was necessary. If that be the case, will the right honourable gentleman assure the House that the Government will not implement further double taxation agreements with Japan or any other country giving to Japanese and other investors immense taxation concessions that apparently are not needed to attract capital to Australia? Further, will he take the advice of the Vernon Committee of Inquiry and renegotiate all the existing double taxation agreements with the object of ensuring that overseas investors pay the same rates of taxation as Australian investors do?
– The honourable member purports to quote from remarks I am said to have made, but I did not state that we were getting all the capital that is necessary. As to the substance of the honourable gentleman’s question, I will not stop negotiating double taxation agreements that we believe are for the benefit of Australia, not only in fostering trade but also in encouraging the inflow of private capital investment. The honourable gentleman was mistaken when he said in his question that we lose revenue through the operation of all the double taxation agreements. On the contrary, the net result of the agreements that have been negotiated, at least since I have been Treasurer, has been a benefit to us. The return to us is greater than our loss to the other countries involved.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister, who will be well aware that many people are very concerned at the present policy of upgrading telephone services in country areas. In answer to questions asked by a number of honourable members who represent country electorates the Postmaster-General said that he would raise the matter on a Government level. Is the Prime Minister aware that because of the delay in making a decision many subscribers are reluctant to agree to the Postmaster-General’s proposals, which have been presented to them, to convert to automatic telephone operation? Has this matter been investigated and when can those honourable members who are interested expect to receive a decision on this all important subject?
– This matter has been the subject of quite intensive study by the Postmaster-General and will shortly be the subject of study and decision by the Government. On such a matter of policy I would not attempt to indicate what the decision might be.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer, ls the right honourable gentleman aware of the loss of thirty-one homes and the devastation estimated at over $lm which resulted from bush fires within my constituency? Have I made representations to him that contributions to the mayoral fund for the relief of the victims of these fires should be tax deductible? Is the right honourable gentleman in a position to inform me whether he can assist by granting my representations?
– I was aware of the most unfortunate fires that occurred in the electorate of the. honourable gentleman. On behalf of the Government, 1 have expressed my sympathy. The Prime Minister already has advised the New South Wales Government that we will help, as we always have, on a $1 for SI basis for the relief of personal hardship and distress. I have not had any application made to me about the Mayor’s fund but nonetheless-
– You received a telegram from me and acknowledged it.
– If I have, I regret that I do not remember. 1 have so much correspondence lately that I cannot keep track of all that happens.
– A trivial matter.
– No. it is not trivial; it is a most serious matter. Nonetheless, I will have another look at it today and if 1 can get the honourable gentleman a reply quickly I will do so.
– I ask the Minister for Defence a question. As the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission recently awarded an increase of S 1 .35 a week to the basic wage of all workers in Australia, will the Minister say how the three defence Services are affected by this increase?
- Mr Speaker, the $1.35 per week which was added to all male and female rates of pay in Australia as a result of the national wage case will flow through to the permanent, citizen and reserve forces and will be effective as from 25th October.
– I preface my question which is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation by reminding the Minister that continuous exposure to the screeching, razor sharp, ear splitting noise of jet aircraft contributes in the long term to destruction of the ear drums of persons and, in particular, young children, resulting ultimately in total loss of hearing. I ask the Minister - and I think the Prime Minister should take the grin off his face; it is a very important matter-
Order! The honourable member will ask his question.
– 1 ask the Minister: will he arrange for a highly qualified ear specialist to carry out intensive research into this important question for the purpose of ascertaining the degree of injury and damage to the hearing of persons and young children in particular who live in the vicinity of the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport and will such report be brought down in this Parliament?
– Mr Speaker, there is within my Department a division of aviation medicine that has carried out quite a number of investigations into the effect of noise on individuals. 1 will let the honourable member have any information that I can obtain in relation to this matter. There is on the notice paper a matter raised by the honourable member for St George in relation to a proposal for the establishment of a joint select committee to inquire into matters relating to noise. This matter will be considered by the Government in the near future and the result of the consideration will be made known to the House.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to the item in the Victorian Taxpayers Association report relating to public information bulletins? As the claim is made that these bulletins provide basic guidelines on many complex points of taxation and should result in fewer disallowed claims, fewer objections and better informed taxpayers and agents, will the right honourable gentleman request the Commissioner of Taxation to resume their regular use?
- Mr Speaker, I have not read the article in the journal to which the honourable gentleman refers. I agree with him that the taxation bulletins have served a useful purpose particularly for those who help others in compiling their taxation returns. I will take the matter up with the Treasury and also with the Commissioner of Taxation to see whether I can get him to commence re-issuing the bulletins.
– On Thursday, 24th October the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) asked about the use of VIP aircraft. The honourable member also asked that details of flights from the end of February to this date to be tabled. I undertook to do this, and I now table a document which contains the details of VIP flights from 1st January this year to 24th October.I have included the additional period merely for convenience because earlier this year similar details for the period from 1st January to 8th May were sought and tabled in the Senate.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 3) 1968 Papua and New Guinea Loan (International Bank) Bill 1968 Income Tax Bill 1968 Income Tax (Partnerships and Trusts) Bill 1968. Excise Tariff Bill 1968 Excise Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1968 Coal Excise Bill (No. 2) 1968 States Grants (Coal Mining Industry Long Service Leave) Bill 1968
(No. 4) 1968
Debate resumed from 17 October (vide page 2078), on motion by Mr Freeth:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– 1 think that the proposed amendments to the Income Tax Assessment Act should be described as technical amendments. As the explanatory memorandum states, the three main features of the Bill embrace variations in taxation relating to petroleum activities on the continental shelf, the position which arises from the granting of independence to Nauru as from 1st July 1968, and the calculation of rebates that are available for export market development expenditure. I shall set aside for the moment the position which arises from the granting of independence to Nauru, which I think is purely technical in nature. The other two broad sets of amendments arc indications of how the income tax provisions can be used for securing what are thought to be desirable economic objectives not directly connected with taxation.
I was interested to see, among the documents circulated with this year’s Budget speech. Statement No. 7 which is set out on page 44. As far as i am aware this was the first occasion on which a statement of this kind had been included. The statement is headed: ‘Assistance to Industry Through the Taxation System.” The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has indicated that there are three broad types of concessions and groups them in categories (a), (b) and (c). The categories are as follows:
On page 45 of the documents the Treasurer sets out a table that estimates the value of concessions under categories (a) and (b). As I have just indicated, the exemptions are on tax value or tax foregone: that is, the revenue that would otherwise have been collected by the Government. The estimate of revenue foregone in category (a) is $95m and in category (b) $9m. One of the principal items in category (a) is a sum of $25m of tax remission under the heading Capital expenditure of certain mining enterprises (excluding deductions in respect of plant otherwise depreciable)’. A sum of$9m is estimated in category (b) under the heading ‘Exemption of certain mining profits’.
The Treasurer indicated further that it was not possible really to place a money value upon concessions in category (c) because in essence this amounted to foregoing taxation earlier rather than later. A person was entitled to a deduction after allowing for certain plant but by reason of this concession he received it in a shorter space of years than he otherwise might have.
On page 46 of the documents the Treasurer stated:
The expansion of activity which is occurring and is in prospect in the mining and petroleum exploration and production industries seems certain to result in an increase in the cost of the various concessions which these industries enjoy. In particular, as the income from production of Australian petroleum increases, there will bc an increasing cost to revenue of the special allowances permitted for petroleum-producing enterprises. These allowances effectively free from tax income from the sale of Australian petroleum and its products until the capital expenditure incurred in finding and recovering the petroleum has been recouped out of (he mining profits. Dividends paid out of that tax-free income are exempt in the hands of shareholders of the mining companies.
The Treasurer went on to note:
Apart from the concessions in the income tax law, there have been numerous concessions in the sales lax field in the form of special exemptions to assist particular industries. In the case of payroll tax. there is the export rebate scheme, which involved a cost to revenue of $25m in 1967-68 and is estimated to cost $30m in 1968-69.
I have read that extract mainly to point to the significance of the concessions that are provided in this Bill. They amount to more than $100m in the case of concessions that can be calculated; an unknown amount in respect of accelerated depreciation of special plant; and about $30m in rebate of payroll tax to encourage exports. Having regard to the magnitude of the revenue loss involved I think we should be critical occasionally of some of the concessions that are granted. We should ask whether they are being given in the right place, whether sometimes they are needed to the extent to which they are given and whether they should be given in more desirable fields. We might also ask whether in some fields the concessions should properly be withdrawn. lt is about the petroleum industry that I want to say something today. The explanatory memorandum which was circulated to honourable members by the Treasurer states:
The provisions of the new section 6aa are designed to make it clear:
that Australia has the right to tax income derived from, or in connection with, petroleum exploration or mining activities on the continental shelf when the income is derived by a person who is not a resident of Australia for income tax purposes; and
that taxpayers, both resident and nonresident, are entitled to the same income tax deductions, including the special deductions available for capital expenditure incurred in petroleum exploration and mining, as they would be if their operations were carried out on the Australian mainland.
This provision has to do with the mining that is taking pl’ace on what is called the continental shelf. I understand that Australia’s continental shelf covers an area of about 1,000,000 square miles.
– One-third of the territorial area of Australia.
– Yes, one-third of the land area of Australia. So the continental shelf comprises a piece of real estate of no mean significance. The second aspect of proposed section 6aa is that many of the people who are operating on the continental shelf are not Australians. They are foreign investors.
Quite recently Professor Alex Hunter of the Australian National University published a pamphlet entitled ‘Oil Suppl’y in Australia’s Defence Strategy.’ I came across the publication only a day or two ago. It is No. 1 in a series of pamphlets entitled Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence’, published by the ANU. Professor Hunter makes some significant comments about petroleum exploration and tax concessions. He states:
Assuming, as seems most likely, that further substantial discoveries of Australian crudes are made, adjustments in refinery techniques must take place. Their extent and direction depend uniquely on Government policy.
This is the observation which I would ask the Government to look at. Professor Hunter continues:
If the Government continues to compel refining companies to process all the indigenous crudes which are produced in Australia - the effect of the present tariff arrangements - then conversions of refinery equipment as expensive as any required for adapting Middle East crudes to Australian conditions will be necessary. Even so, some imports of foreign crudes for blending, to provide lubricating oil stock and for fuel oil and bitumens, would be most desirable. If. on the other hand, refiners are permitted to purchase crudes freely, taking in the proportion of indigenous crude which can be processed economically on existing equipment, then little conversion of equipment would be necessary.
Stock ought to be taken of the concessions that are being granted. Co-ordination sometimes means direct government intrusion or command that certain things ought or ought not to be done. Some hundreds of millions of dollars of capital are involved. It might even amount to thousands of millions of dollars. Many of the enterprises using this capital are foreign to Australia but describe themselves rather freely as private enterprises. Their impact is similar to that of those companies described in the United States as being charged with public interest. I submit that oil exploration and development and the subsequent refining of what is found in our domain and what is imported from outside are matters that are certainly charged with a great deal of public interest. Professor Hunter went on to say that there is a case for blending locally produced crude with imported crude, but that if we put too many eggs into one basket at this stage of developing the production of local crude, we will most likely face a tremendous capital cost for altering the refineries. For the most part, they have been designed to refine imported crude. Apparently a different kind of construction or a different kind of retorting or cracking process is necessary for the refining of indigenous crude - that is, crude discovered in Australia or on the continental shelf, which is within Australia’s territorial jurisdiction. Dr Hunter stated:
To secure (some of) the advantages of each of these alternative policies, refiners could be required to process a proportion of indigenous crude - say up to 30% of refinery capacity - to enable them to refine an economical blend, meanwhile permitting them to make a gradual adjustment to a fuller utilisation of indigenous crudes.
I commend that suggestion to the Government. It could be very well linked to tax concessions. Perhaps the tax concessions ought to be given only in conjunction with a certain usage of local crude. Decisions about refining adjustments quite often are made by different people. One of the difficulties arises in knowing who is responsible for the particular factors that are involved. Later in his pamphlet he described quite well some of the reasons why the large oil companies, most of which are foreign, operate in Australia or on the territorial continental shelf of Australia. He slated this:
The large oil companies, because they are international, have their own special outlook. They come lo Australia to explore because: (i) there are many miles of unexplored basins and continental shelf which offer the possibility of discovering a large commercial field (they are not interested in discovering small marginal reservoirs which require subsidy); (ii) Australia, although a small market, is growing steadily; (iii) any large field discovered on, or reasonably near, the coast is well placed to supply Japan, an already large market growing at more than 20% per annum; (iv) it is oil company policy to divert cash flows to those parts of the world where they will yield the highest return (i.e. will find the largest reservoirs of oil) consistent with security; (v) Australia is a stable and secure country; and (vi) investment in Australia, although less likely to be as rewarding in yields of oil, is an insurance against political instability in areas such as the Middle East, Africa, and Venezuela, where their main reserves are placed. In short, the exploration incentive is an unnecessary inducement.
What he calls the exploration incentive is the margin over and above the cost of production based on the fixed price of crude which will operate, as I understand it, until 1970. Professor Hunter gave some figures on the cost of oil to the refining companies. I know that some people have disputed these figures, and I have no doubt that the Government will reply about this. He said:
In the industry it is generally agreed that, after making due allowance for the superior quality of Australian crude oils but also for the discounts given on foreign crudes, which more than cancel out that advantage, the protection element in indigenous oil now (19(i8) is around SUSI.15 per barrel over the average landed- price of foreign crudes. The idea is that this SUS1.15 is an exploration incentive* - to encourage more investigation and exploration of possible Australian oil bearing sands.
Professor Hunter’s argument is that basically most of these oil companies would explore without the incentive, because they are exploring not for Australia’s welfare but to further their own international interests. The ventures of these companies are costing the Australian taxpayer a considerable amount of money not only because of the loss of tax revenue due to the tax concessions but also because of the excessive price that is being paid for the product that is discovered. At page 41 of the pamphlet, Professor Hunter provided a table entitled Table 7 - Oil Exploration Funds: Australia 1966’. These figures are for 1 year alone. Of a total of $58,820,000, Australian private enterprise provided $15,934,000, or 27% of the total. Australian private enterprise reinvestment provided $3,618,000, or 6% of the total. Overseas funds from North America came to $31,836,000, or 54% of the total, and other overseas funds amounted to $7,432,000, or 13% of the total. As Professor Hunter pointed out, two-thirds of all the exploration funds are in the hands of foreign, not local, endeavour. In addition, the Australian Government paid a subsidy of $10,154,000, which presumably was allocated approximately according to these percentages. I am relying on the figures given by Professor Hunter to give some idea of the magnitude of the stakes involved. He said:
If we assume the Esso-BHP Gippsland fields, recently discovered and of comparable size, do not need a support price to make them competitive with foreign produced crudes then every barrel produced under the support price will earn St or more-
I presume that is $AI: for Esso-BHP. After J970-7I this promises to give a bonus income of $240,000 per day or $87. 6m per annum.
Surely we should be arguing here whether some of these concessions ought to be extended at all. Ought they not perhaps to be withdrawn because of the feather-bedding that has already gone on by reason of the price advantage - what he calls the exploration incentive - that will operate at least until 1970, which is still a fair way off? It seems to me that here we have an interesting case study as to what can bc done by a tax incentive. I am not suggesting that the effects of these concessions are adverse, because for the most part they are favourable; but the concessions are considerable to those who get them. Last year, according to the Treasurer’s estimate, they were of the magnitude of well over $130m. There has been a failure to co-ordinate the pricing policy with the costs of production. This could have been examined more closely than has been the case.
Recently I came across an interesting observation in the ‘Australian Financial Review’. It was said to have been written by a member of the Liberal Party, a Mr Sykes, who was delivering an address to a group in Carlton, which is in the electorate of my friend, the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters). The article in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 25th October was headed ‘Government is Selling
Ofl Australia, Liberals Say’, and referred to the remarks of Mr Sykes who is a member of the Hawthorn branch of the Liberal’ Party which, I presume, is close to the area represented by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). Mr Sykes said:
In oil, proper buying and/or taxation arrangements to put overseas enterprise on an equal footing to local companies, could have financed twice the programme to find all the oil and gas reserves discovered to date for ourselves.
I think this is a point that my colleague, the honourable member for Scullin, will advance later. Mr Sykes is described as an oil economist. He apparently knows the mathematics and mechanics of this industry and the devious paths into which this interesting game can take us. He added:
The system gave rise to enormous taxation savings in countries such as Australia to overseas members of the cartel.
He was referring to the price arrangements that exist in determining what is supposed to be a free price for the crude oil that comes into Australia. Apparently that price is determined in such a way that it yields the least possible revenue to the Australian Government and saves the foreign company the maximum possible in its own taxing arrangement.
It seems that in all these processes the Australian people are the bunny every time. Not only do we pay more for our imported crude than we should, which means a dearer price to everybody, but there is less theoretical profit than there ought to be, which means a loss of revenue through taxation to Australia but bigger dividends to overseas organisations, which are taxed in the case of foreign owners at a lower rate than if the dividends were received at home. Equally it seems that the majority of those to whom go these tax concessions to encourage oil exploration are not Australian entities for the most part but are the same foreign people that Professor Hunter, the authority whom I have quoted, said that he thought would operate in Australia independent of the tax concession because they were looking after their own future interests anyway.
If I read the American taxing law rightly, possibly they are entitled to what are called depletion allowances in their own country for expenditure incurred outside their own country. They would get taxation concessions in America if they were not given any taxation concessions in Australia. Goodness knows what the cost may be, but if these companies are paying taxation at the rate of 42ic in the SI, or 45c as it will be from this year, about half of that is really being subsidised by the Australian Government. That is why I think that we ought to look again at the concessions as they operate in respect of companies that are not Australian owned. There is no reason why we should not tax these concerns in a different way from the way in which we tax our own internal operators. it seems to me to be the height of absurdity to welcome with open arms the benevolent investor who would come here anyway and to give him all sorts of taxation concessions. This aspect should be reexamined seriously by the Government, lt is fair enough to put it beyond doubt that the operators on the continental shelf shall be treated as though they were on the mainland of Australia; I am quite happy about that proposition. But we make a big mistake in approaching foreign investment as though it were a matter of two equals dealing with each other. After all, there is far more foreign investment in Australia by people outside Australia than there is investment by Australians in other countries. Investment by Australians in economic endeavour in some other parts of the world is almost insignificant, whereas investment in Australia by foreign capital last year was of the magnitude of over S 1,000m. If we examine the aggregate amount of investment by the United Kingdom and the United States of America in Australia we find it reaches a figure of between $6,000m and $7,000m, which is a not inconsiderable part of the total capital structure of Australia.
It is absurd to approach taxation arrangements as though it were a case of equals dealing with equals, yet it seems to be the approach implicit in the answer given today by the Treasurer to the honourable member for Scullin. If there were as much investment by Australia in Japan as there will be investment by Japan in Australia perhaps we could talk about a double taxation agreement as though we were dealing with equals, but when the disproportion is as it will be it simply shows that the Government is not acting as the custodian of the economic welfare of the Australian people, lt seemes to me that oil, as Mr Sykes pointed out, should have been one of the greatest potential investments and import reducers for Australia, but because of the way it has been allowed to develop and to fall into the hands of foreign ownership whatever we save on petrol imports will be matched by an item in the capital account, that is, repatriation of profits and dividends. Mr Sykes said it was - difficult to understand the statement of one Minister-
He does not name the Minister- that by 1970 Australia should bc supplying 60% of ils own crude oil, saving about $200m in the import bill. Such a saving could have eventuated only if Australia owned the oil itself, but that seems quite hypothetical now.
He goes on:
Perhaps the Liberal Party has, itself, swallowed the meaningless invoiced landed cost figures for crude oil, which appear in the Government statistics.
Australia now docs get a tiny, but irrelevant, discount on posted prices.
Since the Gippsland oil loomed on the scene four petrol price rises have occurred and clearly more must come.
The proposed Government forced crude sales al a high price will turn our mightiest resource into a national disaster.
These arc not th; words of an honourable member on this side of the chamber. They are the words of a man who is described as being prominent in the Liberal Party in Victoria, and they were seriously uttered, apparently, at a branch meeting of the Liberal Party. 1 pass on to the second form of economic incentive that is involved in this legislation, that is, the one to encourage increased Australian export trade. Again no-one would cavil at the desirability of this kind of arrangement. If this country is to be viable economically it has to increase its exports or reduce its imports - which, of course, affects other people - or it has to continue to remain as dependent on foreign capital as it has been for a good number of years. We on this side of the chamber believe that the best way to improve our balance of payments situation is to. increase our exports.
At least, the objectives in this legislation primarily have little to do with income tax as such. An endeavour is being made to use the tax provisions for attaining economic objectives, which are worthy in themselves. Of course, this is done already with the payroll tax. The Treasurer said in the Budget Speech that the scheme is expected to cost S30m this year, but it is expected that it will more than pay for itself by the increase in export trade. As I see it, the provision in the Bm before us makes the existing formula a little more flexible than it was. Also, it adjusts the rate of the concession to accord with the recent increase in company tax rates, although I find myself a little mystified as to how the sum of 87 j c was arrived at, other than that it is the existing rate of 42ic plus the proposed increase of 45c. But it seems a rather peculiar way in which to do it.
In essence, for every SI deemed to be deductible within the confines of the legislation, not only did a person get a deduction, but he got a further deduction of $1, meaning that for every SI expended the taxable income reduced by $2. If it happened io be a company that was concerned it would save 85c out of every $1 expended. Now i he rate has been partly tied nol to a double deduction but to a deduction plus a rebate on the tax that will be payable. This seems to be a portent of what might be done in other directions. Perhaps the allowance of a rebate on tax actually payable rather than deductions from taxable income would be a worthy way of achieving certain social goals. However, I do not want to go into that matter at the present time. I merely note that the Government has chosen to do this partly by rebate rather than directly by deduction.
The other matter that 1 note is the amendment which the Treasurer says is similar to the amendment made to the payroll tax legislation. In order to police or to ascertain details necessary to calculate the deduction information can be obtained by the Commissioner of Taxation from any other department. The Treasurer said:
In this connection I recall to honourable members that earlier this year a similar amendment was made to the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Act in connection wilh the export incentive provided under that Aci.
This refers to officials in one department who receive information from the Taxation Branch. Earlier on the Treasurer had stated:
The final point 1 would mention in connection with the export market development allowance is that the Bill will empower the Commissioner of
Taxation to communicate certain information to Ministers and to the Secretaries of the Treasury and of the Department of Trade and Industry.
I raised this matter when I was dealing with the payroll tax legislation because in some respects this practice has to be watched very carefully. Up to date, information contained on an income tax file has been the property only of the Commissioner of Taxation. The Commissioner is able to arm himself with certain powers in order to obtain outside information, and I think that is a necessary provision. But I think that this new provision possibly lends itself to further examination, and this is one of the matters that occasionally ought to be considered by a joint committee on taxation. I do not mean that the committee should consider the rates of taxation, which tend to be political, but it should consider what ought to be assessed and what ought not to be assessed.
Because of the complicated nature of much of the legislation these days I think that occasionally a Bill such as the one we have before us ought to lie on the table of the House for a period of months so that a joint committee on taxation could examine it, could ask for information from departments or could take opinions from outside people who would be affected by the provisions of the Bill1. Earlier today an honourable member referred to the estimable publication titled the Taxpayer’s Bulletin’. I. find it a very useful document. I think that taxpayers, for their part, would welcome a joint committee on taxation so that they could come along, perhaps with their witnesses, and say: ‘It is true that you think this is a simple measure, but in fact it contains certain complicated aspects.’ 1 note again this new departure which provides for the communication of information by the Commissioner of Taxation to other departments. It is not a usual procedure and I think it ought to be watched. I. arn not suggesting that in this instance rebate could not be calculated in any other way. Primarily the Taxation Branch is not responsible for inserting this kind of provision in the taxation legislation. It is the Department of Trade and Industry and other departments. They need to know whether the scheme is reasonably effective or not. I. think it is intended that this is the sort of information that should be communicated, not anything private about the affairs of individual taxpayers. 1 again urge the Government to look quite closely at this question of tax concessions for minerals, particularly as they apply to foreign owners of capital structures. ] believe we are often in many respects feather-bedding, if J may use that expression, people who do not need such favoured treatment. And we do it at the cost of a good deal of lost revenue. There are many purposes within our federal structure for which that revenue coul’d be used.
– -1 wish to confine my remarks to two parts of the Income Tax Assessment Bill. The first is that which enables the Australian Government to tax profits that accrue from works carried out on the continental shelf. This, of course, is desirable. The second sets out the way in which taxation concessions will continue to be used to promote the flow of exports from this country. This, too, is desirable. But do the two propositions, as set out in the Bill, result in the effective achievement of the objects that the Government had in mind? The first proposition involves the introduction of measures to clarify Australia’s taxing rights in respect of petroleum exploitation or mining and associated activities on the continental shelf. The explanatory memorandum issued in conjunction with the Bill states:
In general, enterprises engaged in these activities will be treated in the same way for income tax purposes as if the activities had taken place on the Australian mainland.
In his second reading speech the Minister for Air (Mr Freeth) said:
A major objective of these amendments is to make it clear that Australia may tax income derived from, or in connection with, the exploration for, or the exploitation of, petroleum or natural gas deposits on its continental shelf when the income is derived by persons who are nol residents of Australia for income tax purposes. These persons arc subject to Australian tax on income derived from a source in Australia and the Bill proposes, in effect, that for the purpose of determining the source of the relevant income the continental shelf is to be treated as if it were part of Australia.
The only difficulty with that proposition is in determining whether the tax payable by companies operating on the continental shelf is as great as it should be when compared with the tax payable by Australian residents. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) has pointed out that company tax at the rate of 42£% is payable by Esso Standard Oil (Aust.) Ltd and at the same rate by the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. To this extent the Australian and American members of the joint enterprise are treated in exactly the same way. But what happens in respect of the money that is paid out as company tax al this rate of 42±%? What happens with all money paid out as company tax? All such money becomes a working expense. It becomes a part of the final cost of the product of the company, whether that product be petroleum or clothing or food or anything that is manufactured.
But over and above the money that is payable as company tax there is tax payable on dividends received by people who have invested their money in either Esso Standard Oil (Aust.) Ltd or the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. Are the investors in the two companies treated in exactly the same way? They certainly are not. The American investor pays 15% of his dividend income to the Australian Government in the form of a withholding tax, while the Australian investor pays to the Australian Government anything up to 66% of his dividend income as income tax.
I have been waiting, Mr Deputy Speaker, for an interjection that I usually hear about this stage when I am making a speech on this subject. It is along these lines: ‘Ah, but the. American “ investor has to pay American taxes as well as the Australian tax that he pays. Therefore he is no better off than the Australian investor.’ In this way the interjector seeks to point to some justification for this method.
– No one has interjected yet.
– Of course not. This is because honourable members opposite are becoming wiser as they grow older. Fortunately they are becoming educated. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), and 1 to a lesser degree, are doing something towards educating them on this question of taxation concessions granted to overseas investors. If the overseas investor pays ultimately, on the dividends that he receives from the exploitation of oil reserves on the continental shelf, exactly the same amount as the Australian investor pays on a similar amount of dividend income, what has happened? The American Government has received the advantage of the difference between the income tax paid to the Australian Government by the Australian investor and that paid to the Australian Government by the American investor.
– And we have got the oil.
– And we have got the oil, as the right honourable member for Fisher says. But who gave us the oil? We have been told that the oil came to us as a result of risks taken by certain investors somewhere in New York. If that be the case why does the American Government get the advantages and not the investors in New York? Of course the whole proposition is simply another absurdity. It is the result of pressure politics applied to the governments of this and other countries in order that the big international and predatory financial combines may milk the people of the world of as much as they can possibly get.
– Why does the honourable member not write a book about it?
– My friend asks me why I do not write a book about it. If I thought he could understand what was written in books on this subject I would give him one. The point 1 want to make in discussing this question of taxation on dividends from operations on the continental shelf is that not only should the level of taxation be the same as it is for operations on the continent of Australia itself, but also the level of taxation should be the same for investors resident in Australia and for those resident overseas. I asked the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) a question on this subject this afternoon. I put to him the proposition that because conditions in Australia for investors were more attractive than those in any other country there should not be any special concessions to induce overseas investors to invest here. I suggested that they would still invest here even if special concessions were not given to them. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports referred to the comments of a gentleman who belonged to the Liberal Party. He also pointed out that Professor Hunter had said that, because of the stability of government in this country and the conditions that are generally found here, Australia is attractive to foreign investors. If it is attractive and if it has attracted foreign capital, why is it necessary to give special advantages to the capital that would flow here, even without those concessions, because of the attractive conditions for investors who operate on the continental shelf or on the mainland of Australia?
– It is part of a racket.
– I would not describe it as part of a racket, .1 would say that it is big business, operating as usual. However, I will pass on now to the second proposition that 1 wish to put. It is essential that we increase the volume of goods that we export. We find that pur goods will not flow naturally to other countries for sale on overseas markets and that it is necessary for us to stimulate the flow in some way. So we say to the Australian exporters: ‘You will get a special taxation rebate to encourage you to export goods.’ Why does any country want to export its goods? After all, if we consume all our goods by eating them or using them for clothing or shelter, that is better than allowing somebody else to use them for food, clothing or shelter. But we send our good away so that we can get in return the goods we need here.
Australia is not self-sufficient. It needs raw materials of various kinds, lt needs manufactured goods that cannot be produced here. So we send our goods away and we get other goods in return. But not enough goods are going out of this country to pay for the goods that are coming in. Therefore we have what is called an unfavourable trade balance or an unfavourable balance of payments. This has been our position down through the years. For about 15 years the accumulated deficits totalled $7,000m.
So our objective is to increase our exports in order to reduce the gap between our exports and imports. This is the same as the objective that was stated clearly and emphatically to this country by Mr Sato of Japan who said to Australia’s leading representatives: ‘We must increase our exports to Australia because we have an unfavourable trade balance with Australia. We are buying much more from Australia than Australia is buying from us. Therefore we must reduce our unfavourable trade balance’. That is a reasonable proposition, lt is desirable to have our exports pay for our imports. But what are we doing? The Treasurer, in answer to a question about double taxation agreements that I put to him today, said: ‘We certainly will increase double taxation agreements to get as much capital as we can from Japan or any other country’.
What is capital? lt is another import. We will increase our imports by entering into double taxation agreements. We will do what Mr Sato asked us to do and that is to increase the flow of imports to Australia by giving exceptional concessions to Japanese traders. Even members of the Australian Country Party should see the absurdity of the position. We give taxation concessions to increase exports and at the same time give taxation concessions to people overseas and so increase our imports. As a trading nation, we are getting into an even worse position than we were in before. That should be obvious even to the honourable member for Mallee.
– Yes, but it is a bit exaggerated.
– My friend says it is a bit exaggerated. 1 am not the person who will exaggerate it. That person is the Treasurer, who said that he will enter into as many double taxation agreements as he can in order to encourage what he calls the flow of foreign capital to this country. It is the same as the flow of foreign imports. On the one hand he will increase our adverse trade balances with other countries and on the other hand, because the definite actions of his Government have increased our adverse trade balances, he will give concessions to exporters to encourage them to export more goods and so reduce the deficits. This is utterly preposterous. I do not wish to speak at any great length. I am sure that even the members of the Australian Country Party are convinced of the logic of my arguments on this occasion.
– I rise to support the remarks of the honourable members for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) and Scullin (Mr Peters). This measure should never have been brought before the Parliament without first having been investigated by a joint parliamentary committee and also without the report of the inter-departmental committee having been tabled for the information of honourable members. As has been said, oil is big business. Oil is the biggest of big business. If honourable members choose to take the trouble to examine the statistics, they will find that the Shell group, Esso, the Vacuum Oil group and other oil companies are collectively the biggest earners of profit in the world today. It is significant that a measure of this nature should be brought on for debate today when people are getting over the euphoria of a certain important sporting fixture in another State and are counting their gains or bewailing their losses. Legislation which will deal with probably a hundred times as much money a year as was wagered on a certain fixture is being pushed through the Australian Parliament.
Legislation such as this deals with more money and can gain or lose more for the Australian Treasury than can any other measure that could possibly be brought before the House. In its present form it is most unsatisfactory. It is based on rickety legislation, the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act. I think it was Dr Johnston who once said that when a man knows that he is to be hanged in a fortnight’s time it is amazing how much it sharpens his thinking. The Government, now that it needs money, is prepared to take a wholly different approach to the question of its constitutional and legal rights concerning off-shore oil exploration from that which it took in an earlier debate.
I regret that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), who was in charge of this debate for the Government at an earlier stage, is not present now. I well recall that he said - and 1 give him credit for it - when the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Bill1 was being discussed, that in Bass Strait every square mile of oil bearing sands was worth $300m. The legislation now before the House is based on the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act. That Act has been attacked and will continue to be attacked when it suits certain oil refining companies who will find themselves deprived of their profits because of the operation of the present pol’icy of this Government.
I need not remind honourable members that associated with the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act was an agreement which has been stigmatised by no less an authority than Professor Sawer as being legally unenforceable. Professor Sawer went so far as to state that the letters that passed between the Premier of Victoria, Sir Henry Bolte, and the former Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, were illiterate and unintelligible. He said not only was the off-shore oil agreement unenforceable but also that by not insisting on the power of veto over the States the Commonwealth in fact had abandoned its responsibility to the nation. He said that he was sufficiently confident of the outcome of any legal decision on the relative rights of the Commonwealth and of the States in the areas beyond the 3 mile limit to advise the Commonwealth to risk all rather than submit to the thoroughly unsatisfactory arrangement that had been entered into. He said there was no clear principle of ministerial responsibility and that:
Criticism such as that, with the certain knowledge among competent constitutional lawyers that it is sound, means that the off-shore oil legislation can be knocked over by a company whenever it chooses to do so. Yet, it is on this legislation that the Government is basing its taxation structure.
What does the Government intend to enforce? What is to be the pricing policy of the Government? As a matter of fact, there have always been constitutional problems associated with the off-shore legislation. Certainly, by virtue of the fact that Australia is a signatory to the Convention on the Continental Shelf, we have the undoubted sovereign right to exploit this oil. But further interesting problems arise from that right. Would it, perhaps, have been advisable for the Government to consider imposing an excise duty on the oil as it came onshore into Australia by pipeline? Where does the matter stand at the present time? 1 quote no less an authority than Professor Richardson who, in giving evidence before the Senate Select Committee on Off-Shore Petroleum Resources, said that the designated authorities who have been appointed under the terms of the legislation were acting unconstitutionally. Professor Richardson is no mean authority. He is Professor of Law at the Australian National University. This Government has chosen to delegate the responsibility for the off-shore oil legislation to the various State Ministers for
Mines or Lands, or their equivalents. Of course, in the case of the Northern Territory and Commonwealth minor territories this power will correctly be exercised by the Minister who has been named under the Act.
Where does the Government start in relation to pricing this oil? What is to be the cost of the oil? To date, the Esso-BHP group has been remarkably close-mouthed as to what its costs of production are. I remind honourable members that section 118(1.) of the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act provides:
The Designated Authority may,- or may not: it is at his discretion -
. at any time, make available . . . (a) any information - as to the nature of the discoveries that are made from time to time by the holder of an exploration permit. Has the Minister asked Esso-BHP to state the nature and extent of its oil discoveries? If he has, will that information be passed on to the Commissioner of Taxation? The Commissioner is entitled to know. Will the Government make an honest, sincere attempt to assess the production cost of the oil?
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports referred to an address by a certain Mr Ian Sykes who is an economist in these matters and who is a member of a branch of the Liberal Party. Mr Sykes’s suggestion was that the production cost of crude oil at the refinery gate with all factors involved being considered - he listed them at some length and included royalty and a121/2% interest on money invested - was 50c per barrel. Professor Hunter took it a stage further and estimated, at an earlier period, that production costs were a matter of 80c per barrel at the wellhead with a possible 25c or 30c extra for transmission costs.
No less an authority than Ian Potter and Co. in a recent letter of advice suggested that possibly production costs would be a matter of about 90c per barrel. That would be ‘all in’. The Government, in the terms of the original Prime Ministerial policy announcement, says that the Esso-BHP group will be entitled until September 1970 to receive $2.42 per barrel. This is quite a fantastic profit. On what is the tax to be calculated? Even after 1970, whilst much political mileage has been extracted from the alleged concession that has been made, for a period of 5 years the Esso-BHP group will be getting on the import parity formula some $2.27 per barrel. These are fantastic profits. Yet, this Government chooses to continue to provide assistance in the way of further drilling and concessions in respect of investment in shares. I say that this is nothing short of a major scandal.
One of the first steps that will be taken by a Labor administration will be the establishment of a royal commission to probe every facet of this shabby, sordid, rotten transaction.
– Those are strong words.
– They are strong words for a strong situation. There seems to be some confusion about how the import parity price is to be established. It would appear that today imported crude oil can be landed in Australia for SI. 50 per barrel. When we start to balance out the pluses and minuses in the recent pricing statement by the Prime Minister, we find that although ostensibly the Esso-BHP group incurs a reduction of some 67c per barrel in its proposed subsidy, in point of fact it will get a pretty substantial bonus because what is defined as import parity is said to be the posted price of overseas oil as of today, less the discounts allowed on those posted prices as of today, plus overseas freights in their most efficient and economic form to which is added a sum for quality differential worked out in the modified Nelson method and from which will be deducted the average freight cost of delivering Australian oil to the refineries. I make the point - it is a very important one - that there is a glut of oil in the world. Dr Hunter made this point clear in the publication referred to by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. It is very nice to have reserves of oil within Australia, buried in the same way as a dog buries his bone to dig it up later for consumption. The amount of oil available still has not been disclosed. Recently 1 was a guest at a dinner given by local journalists at the Hotel Canberra and at which the managing director of BHP said that Australia needed to find ten times as much oil as it now has. He also claimed the right to a continuance of the existing fantastic subsidy. The BHP company is the only one that could have attempted to make such a claim.
When will the Government table the recommendations of the inter-departmental committee for the information of the House and the people of Australia? That committee, which consists of senior officials from the Treasury, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Customs and Excise and the Department of National Development, was established in January last to devise a policy to cope with the situation. It had to deal with such complicating factors as the stout assertions by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) and the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) that the subsidy ought to continue. The upshot of these assertions was that the committee pointed out the Bass Strait fields were extraordinarily low cost fields and there was no question of requiring any protection whatever against imports of oil. Because of overproduction, in certain parts of the world oil production is limited to less than 1 week in a month. More discoveries of oil still far exceed the existing rate of consumption. The strong probabilities are that in the period from September 1970 to September 1975, when the real hidden bonus comes to the Esso-BHP group, that group will have for its output a guaranteed price which will offset the fall which might have occurred if the import parity had been correctly pegged to what the current world prices would have been at that time.
There has been no way in which more tax has been evaded in Australia than in the activities of oil importing companies over many years. There have been pitched battles, notably those between the Shell company and the Commissioner of Taxation. The fiddle has been an obvious one which we have not been able to get over. The landed price at which crude oil has been sold by an overseas company to its Australian subsidiary has been so carefully graduated that there has been no net profit after refining and distribution costs. Of course, these fiddles will continue. Nevertheless there is competition throughout the world today, and groups such as the XL group have proved just what can be done in cutting the price of petrol. We have heard the Prime Minister trumpet that the cost of petrol will be considerably less. But the sting was in the tail of his statement. He said:
But this in itself will not prevent any increase in the price of petrol between March 1969 and September 1970. Undoubtedly it will materially reduce the size of the rise that may occur. What is the rise likely to be? In a publication dated June 1968, one K. Stacey of the Kansas State University, who at the present time is associated with the Australian National University, said in regard to encouragement of oil production in Australia on politicaleconomic terms:
These include very large exploration area permits at nominal cost, royalty payments ranging between 10% and 12 5% (among the lowest in the. world), the absence of a capital gains lax (thus permitting large accumulation of profits), and complete freedom to remit pro/its abroad. The Australian Government has gone further in these respects than any other government in the world.
Professor Hunter has pointed out very clearly that Esso-BHP drilling plans were formed before the incentive subsidy was ever announced. In other words, the three large discoveries of oil in Australia - at Moonie, Barrow Island and on the Gippsland-Bass Strait field - would have been made without the price incentive. Professor Hunter said also that Esso-BHP could not stop producing their oil if the incentive were removed, nor would it stop off-shore drilling campaigns until all primary targets had been tested. The conclusions are obvious.
The recommendations of the interdepartmental committee on oil policy are worth recalling. One of its startling conclusions was that the existing price structure prior to the reduction of the subsidy would probably cause Australia to lose all that potential gain in foreign exchange from the discovery of Australian oil fields. At that price the profits to the Esso-BHP group would have been so great that the profit remittances to the Standard Oil company by its local subsidiary would actually exceed the savings on imported oil permitted by the Bass Strait field. This is a matter about which the people of Australia will want to hear from the Government. It should come clean on this. The Government has been advised that the Esso-BHP group has grossly understated its oil reserves.
These companies have had the benefit of some of the best possible advice and they have enjoyed remarkable success. They are entitled to a profit on their outlay, but they are not entitled to hold Australia to ransom. These companies have been given 14,000 square miles to exploit what is an oil principality in itself. I want to ensure that the utmost in taxation is extracted from these companies. They should pay for the relief of the Australian taxpayer. When Labor assumes office we can be certain that it will have a good hard look at the whole situation, that the plundering of the birthright of the Australian people will be slopped, and that justice will be done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Kelly) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 26 September (vide page 1532), on motion by Mr Swartz:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The House is resuming the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Air Navigation (Charges) Bill which provides for the imposition of an increase of 10% in air navigation charges on all airline operators. This will result in an increase of revenue of $460,000 for the remainder of 1968-69 and S1,0I0,000 in a full year. The Opposition proposes to support the measure because it believes that it is high time the airline operators in Australia met a more reasonable percentage of the cost of operating airports and navigational aids which are provided by the Department of Civil Aviation. The Airlines Agreement 1961 permits a maximum increase of 10% only in any one year. But whatever the increase may be. so long as it is the maximum, we propose to continue to support it.
The airlines industry today is without doubt the most heavily subsidised industry in Australia. Contrast the airlines industry, for example, with the various State railway systems. Those systems have to be financed by the States and in the main are contained within their own respective financial structures. The State governments try to ensure that there is not too great a deficit. As a result charges for various forms of State government transport are continually increased. Charges for travel on buses, trams and ferries also are continually being increased. Indeed, this month there has been a substantia] increase in the charges for travel on ferries in Sydney. Recently there have been increases in the charges for travel on suburban railways in Sydney. Interstate railway systems have increased their charges to enable them almost to balance their budgets. The position is that the railways have to provide their tracks, rolling-stock and traffic equipment as well as stations etc. whereas the airlines system has all its facilities provided by the Department of Civil Aviation and a minute charge is levied on the operators.
The position of road transport is the direct opposite. As I have said, the airlines industry is the most heavily subsidised of the transport industries, as I shall show by figures in a moment. There are two major forms of surface transport - rail and road. The rail systems are self-dependent. But a fuel tax is levied on road users; a sales tax is imposed on the purchasers of the vehicles that use the roads. Also, revenue is collected from the registration of vehicles. I want to deal with this matter from the Commonwealth aspect. We should realise that over the past 10 years this Government has been responsible for withholding more than $600m of the receipts from the fuel tax. That amount of money should have been spent on roads. We have the situation where the road user has contributed to Commonwealth revenue to the tune of S600m in the past 10 years. On the other hand, the more luxurious form of travel - air travel - has been heavily subsidised by the Government.
In 1967 the domestic airlines carried 4,639,379 passengers and the international airlines 685,716 passengers, a total of 5,325,095 people who actually undertook air travel in Australia. In the same year air navigation services cost $59, 716,000 and revenue derived from the airlines was a paltry §13,119,000. This left a deficit of $46,597,000 which was in effect the amount of subsidy that was paid in respect of air travel in 1967. It represented a subsidy of $8.70 per passenger. Is there a better form of subsidy than this? I think the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz), who is at the table, should be able to tell us whether any other industry is more heavily subsidised. Is every rail or bus service in Australia today subsidised to the extent of $8.70 per passenger? 1 know that the Minister will come back with the argument that we have to take into consideration the amount of revenue that is derived from the tax on aviation fuel. I have taken out some figures on this matter. By subtracting the amount of $11,188,795 which was derived last year by way of tax on aviation fuel from the deficit of $46,597,000, we arrive at a figure of $35,408,205. Taking into consideration the receipts from the fuel tax and regarding them as revenue, we have a subsidy of $6.60 per passenger. I feel1 that in this type of industry means will have to be devised whereby the air traveller will pay something closer to the actual cost of civil aviation in this country today.
The Government boasts of the excellent standards of civil aviation today. I do not contest that for one second. I think that the Department of Civil’ Aviation does a reasonable job. I have criticised various aspects of this Department from time to time; but human beings run the Department and they make mistakes. Members of the Opposition have accepted the opportunity to criticise officers when they make mistakes. At the same time, taken all round, I think they do a fairly good job.
In regard to the Bill before the House, I think one should take into consideration just what is involved in the charges that are to be levied. 1 have a table that indicates the unit rates for the following aircraft: Boeing 727, $23.87 per unit; DC9, $13.29 per unit; Electra, $17.51 per unit; DC4, $9.70 per unit; Super Viscount 800, $9.70 per unit; Viscount 700, $8.70 per unit; F27, which is the Friendship aircraft, $4.15 per unit; DC3, $2.78 per unit; and Twin Otter, 73c per unit. Here is the position: On a DC9 flight between Sydney and
Melbourne the charge at present is $53.16 and when the new charges come into operation it will be $58.44. In other words, on a flight from Melbourne to Sydney, or vice versa, the new charges will represent an increase of $5.28. 1 think that honourable members will agree that the charges I have just quoted for the DC9 aircraft of $53.16 at present and $58.44 in the new year are not substantial amounts for the airline operator to contribute towards the cost of airport facilities such as runways and, most important of al’l, to the navigational aids that are provided. Airline operators are being let off pretty lightly by the Government in the matter of air navigation charges. The air navigation charge is not a flat rate form of taxation. Regard is paid to the distance travelled by the aircraft. For example, on a flight from Sydney to Melbourne a charge is made on the basis of four units. So an operator flying a DC9 from Sydney to Melbourne would pay four times $13.29. The charge on a flight from Sydney to Adelaide is calculated on the basis of five units; from Sydney to Canberra on the basis of one unit; from Sydney to Brisbane on the basis of four units: and from Sydney to Perth on the basis of thirteen units.
Later I will refer to the amounts contributed towards the maintenance of airports operated under the local ownership scheme 1 will show that the amounts contributed to the authorities responsible for the maintenance of these airports are paltry. Take, for example, an aircraft such as the Twin Otter, operating between Sydney and Newcastle. The air navigation charge is levied on the basis of one unit. The amount contributed for a flight between Sydney and Newcastle by a Twin Otter would be the magnificent sum of 73c. If a Friendship were used the amount would be $4.15. You would certainly get fat on a contribution of that order! Such a contribution would certainly enable you to expand airport facilities!
When we consider the amounts contributed by airline operators in Australia in air navigation charges we have to pay regard to the amounts charged overseas and ask whether we are overcharging or whether other countries are levying charges that are lower than should be levied. We might also ask whether operators overseas make hidden contributions towards airport maintenance that are not apparent to us in Australia. Take, for example, the case of a Boeing 707-338, which has an all-up weight of 300,000 lb. The charge for landing and take-off of such an aircraft at Nandi airport is $447.83. At London the charge is $680.25; at Hong Kong $360.10; at Tokyo $286.01. What the the charges at the high density airports in America? At Honolulu the charge is $78.29; at San Francisco $50.72; at New York $96.90. How do these charges cocmpare with the minimum unit charge of $46.50 when operating out of Sydney? An aircraft flying from Sydney to Nandi would incure a minimum charge of 8 units at the rate of $46.50 a unit. This amounts to $372 going out and $372 coming in. When you compare that charge with the charge of $447.83 for landing and takeoff at Nandi I think we must agree that air navigation charges in Australia, particularly for overseas airlines, are fairly substantial. These are matters which the Minister for Civil Aviation and his Department must examine to ensure that airline operators and passengers are given a fair go and that the industry in this country is not too heavily subsidised. I think some explanation can be advanced for the ‘ow charges levied at airports like Honolulu, San Francisco and New York. At these airports like Honolulu, San Francisco and New York, aircraft line up ten and twelve deep waiting to leave the airport. Obviously the facilities provided at those airports are put to much greater use than are facilities in Australia.
The airline industry in Australia must examine its operations to see whether improvements can be made in services, whether fares can be reduced and whether better facilities can be provided. The two domestic operators in Australia - AnsettANA and Trans-Australia Airlines - are too complacent. They take things for granted. If air navigation charges or other charges are to be increased the domestic, airlines make a case to the Minister and increase fares. Between 15th October 1959 and 14th August 1967 first class, passenger fares in Australia increased by 39.94% and tourist class fares by 69.83%. The high cost of fares in this country is something which calls for explanation by the airlines. AnsettANA is a private operator which presents no audited balance sheets to the Parliament.
We have nothing before us to show how much profit the company is making or whether it is making an exorbitant profit from its operations. AH that we get are public statements to the effect that last year, for example, Ansett Transport Industries Ltd made a profit of $3,789,786. No breakup of the profit is given. We do not know whether the organisation made $lm or $2m from its airline operations. Under the heading ‘Civil Aviation Legislation and Longterm Industry Stability’ the report of Mr R. M. Ansett, Chariman and Managing Director of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd, contained in the annual report of the organisation for 1961-62, reads:
Last year’s Directors’ report referred to the 1961 Civil Aviation Agreement Act which extended the existing two airline system until 1977. The year has shown how little understood by the public is the significance of this legislation to the civil aviation industry and to this Company in particular. It gives the Company an Australia-wide aviation franchise of about 50% of the industry revenue, which totals approximately £36,000,000 per annum.
This franchise is for another fifteen years, and its value cannot be calculated. Nowhere else in the world is there such an arrangement which ensures civil aviation economic stability for such a period. Operating within this situation, and with efficient management controlling costs, reasonable profits are assured for this same period.
This is a matter which we must examine. If we are to continue to give favourable treatment to Ansett-ANA or Ansett Transport Industries Ltd, the Government should lay down certain minimum requirements for the company to observe. Ansett Transport industries Ltd either owns or has a substantial holding in a number of television companies. It operates a road freight hauling service and a passenger omnibus service. It has investments in other fields. Having regard to the favourable treatment accorded to the company’s airline operations, it should be compelled to present to the Parliament each year, just as TAA does, an audited balance sheet snowing clearly the results of its airline operations. If this were done we would be in a position to say whether Ansett-ANA should pay the air navigation charges levied by this Government. We would know whether the company was making exorbitant profits. This is information which should be available to honourable members. Details of the other operations of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd are matters for the company or its shoreholders., but where a company’s operations are subsidised by the Government or receive favourable treatment at the hands of the Government, the people are entitled to know the full details of those operations. Honourable members do not have to take my word that this company is receiving favourable treatment. I refer to the statement I have just quoted from the Chairman’s annual report for the 1961-62 year of operations. If it is receiving favourable treatment it should be required to present some facts and figures to this Parliament. If this company is able to operate at a level of profit that enables it to pay good dividends such as Mr Ansett has indicated, we are entitled to know what that favourable treatment is.
It is a farce and humbug to suggest that a two-airline system operates in Australia today. TAA is galloping along in hobbles. As we have seen over the years, when it starts to move too far ahead, Ansett complains to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Various rationalisation schemes have been introduced whereby TAA has had to restrict its operations. Under an arrangement made recently, the two airlines share all Commonwealth Government freight. Is there a sharing of private enterprise freight? If we have a rationalisation scheme whereby each airline is entitled to carry approximately equal numbers of passengers, why can we not likewise have a rationalisation of freight so that each airline will carry approximately equal amounts of freight? The Government does not say: ‘We will give Ansett half our business and we will give TAA half our business’. We find Ansett campaigning on the basis that it is a free enterprise airline. Therefore, all free enterprise operators should give Ansett their patronage not only for passengers but also for freight.
I would like the Minister to explain some of these things later on. Why is TAA not permitted to operate intrastate in New South Wales on a similar basis to Airlines of New South Wales Pty Ltd which, as honourable members are quite aware, is a subsidiary of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd? Why is the same concession not available to TAA in Victoria? Why can TAA not operate in South Australia in competition with Airlines of South Australia? Some years ago the Premier of South Australia at the time, Sir Thomas Playford, approached the Federal Government and asked that TAA be permitted to extend its activities to compete with Airlines of South Australia. That request was rejected. Why is TAA not permitted to operate in direct competition with the Ansett-ANA subsidiary in Western Australia? Why is TAA not permitted to operate between Perth and Darwin? This is an interstate run. In this respect, there is no difference between the Perth to Darwin run and the Sydney to Melbourne route. The approval of the State Government is not required. 1 have brought these questions to the attention of honourable members to point out that there is not a genuine two-airline system operating in Australia today. The system operating in Australia today gives a very decided and distinct advantage to the private operator, Ansett-ANA. I want to make it quite clear that I do not advocate the elimination of the Ansett organisation completely. Ansett-ANA and TAA should operate in direct competition and on equal terms. As to the financing of these two airlines, honourable members will later deal with a Bill under the terms of which the Government will guarantee certain loans to Ansett-ANA to buy aircraft on equal terms with TAA. There is not a great deal of difference in the financing of the two airlines.
If we are to have two airlines, they should operate on equal terms and in competition with one another so that at least some initiative can be displayed by one of the airlines in particular. Some years ago both airlines mutually agreed to have their aircraft on parallel services depart and arrive at the same times. For a short time there was a break from this procedure. Ansett ignored completely for a long time suggestions by the Minister that there might be some rotation of the operations of these airlines. Finally something was done.
I understand that at the present time TAA is most anxious to introduce off peak concession rates so as to encourage people to travel not during the peak load periods but at those times of the day when most people do not want to travel. I am certain that if people going on holidays could travel at midday for a fare reduction of 15%, they would be happy to travel at that time of day. If it cost the same amount to travel at 8 a.m. as it did to travel at midday, and if 8 a.m. were the more convenient time, they would travel at that hour. This is the time at which most business people want to use the airlines; so businessmen and holidaymakers would want to travel at the same time. TAA’s idea of encouraging travellers away from peak loading hours and getting them to travel at off-peak times is an excellent one. Why is Ansett objecting to this? I suggest that his attitude is: ‘lt does not matter how much we charge. The Government will subsidise services. If the system of operating is uneconomical, we can go to the Minister and he can grant an increase.’ We are getting away from what the Government set out to do in the first place - to introduce competition.
We should have a look at some of the ways in which competition has been introduced into airline operations overseas. Some overseas airline operators offer offpeak concession fares and standby concessions fares under an arrangement by which intending travellers go out to the airport and, if there are any vacant seats on an aircraft, they take them at a price less than that charged when a booking has been made. Then there is the system introduced by Eastern Airlines in the United Stales on some of the high density routes between places such as Washington, New York and Boston. Planes leave every half hour. Passengers go out to the airport, put their own bags on the aircraft and board it without a ticket. A hostess does not come round serving them with cups of tea or coffee. Half the time people do not want it and take it only because it is free. A girl comes round and sells the passenger a ticket on board. He either pays cash for it or produces his credit card.
These are some of the things we should be having a look at in Australia to see whether we cannot reduce fares or place the airlines in a position in which they can cover the costs of their operations. In Australia most people travel first class. I suppose Australia would have a higher percentage of air passengers who travel first class than any other country has. Roughly 90% of aircraft passengers in Australia travel first class and about 10% travel economy class. In the United States the situation is much different.
– The honourable member has the bull by the horns there.
– I said that approximately 10% of the passengers travelling by air in Australia today travel economy class and 90% travel first class. In America it is the other way round. There 80% of air travellers go economy class and 20% first class. About 10% to 15% of international air travellers travel first class and somewhere between 85% and 90% travel economy class. These are the sorts of thing the airlines should be pushing for. Whilst Australia can claim to have the lowest air fares in the world - I will deal with this matter presently - the difference between first class and economy class fares should be examined. For instance, the first class fare from Sydney to Melbourne is $28.40 and the economy class fare is $23.50. This means that the first class traveller is paying $4.90 for a meal, or the economy class traveller is paying thai much less to occupy a seat nearer to his fellow passengers. There should be greater encouragement for people to use the cheaper form of transport. lt is interesting to note that the first class fare from Sydney to Canberra is $10.90 and the economy class fare is $7.20. If a Friendship is the aircraft involved, the seating arrangements are the same in both sections. If a person is travelling from Sydney to Canberra or vice versa and has any sense he travels economy class. All he misses out on is a meal, but he saves $3.70. I know that the Minister will tell us-
– How do you know?
– Because the Minister has said it before. He will tell us that Australia has the cheapest air fares in the world, and this is perfectly true. But lel me refer to one aspect and make a comparison with the situation in America. It is 439 air miles from Sydney to Melbourne and 416 air miles from New York to Cleveland. The American journey costs 5.S6c a mile and the Australia journey 5.35c a mile.
– Is that first class or tourist class?
– Economy class. 1 am comparing the cheaper form of transport. Tn 1.959 the Australian journey cost 3.41c a mile. The present cost of 5.35c represents an increase of 36.6% since 1959. In I960 it cost 4.68c a mile to travel from New York to Cleveland compared with 5.86c a mile now - an increase of 23.12%. This indicates that the cost of air travel in Australia is increasing faster than the cost in the United States of America. In quoting such figures we must take into consideration that the American cost structure is approximately double that of Australia. American labour costs are almost double ours. The Government should be having regard to these factors.
I believe that there should be some relaxation of the conditions relating to competition between Australia’s two national airlines. The two airlines should be encouraged to go after passengers - to chase business. They should not operate on the basis that if they have an excess of passengers those passengers can travel on the other line. Honourable members receive numerous complaints about the inefficiency of our airlines, and i want to quote a couple of incidents that have concerned me personally. Before the commencement of this sessional period every honourable member received a notification from the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) concerning the proposed sittings of the Parliament and the time when the Parliament was to reassemble. When I received my notification I got in touch with TAA and asked them to make regular bookings for me from Newcastle to Sydney on flight 499 and from Sydney to Canberra on flight 421. But what has been the result? On the first day I was booked on a plane leaving Sydney for Canberra at 11.50 a.m. I had had my ticket for 5 days. When I arrived in Sydney I was advised that the Canberra plane was not due to leave until 12.40 p.m. and that the timetable had been changed the week before. Nobody had bothered to tell me this when I bought my ticket. Nobody at the Newcastle office told me that the plane’s departure had been put back 50 minutes.
– You ought to fly Ansett.
– I can quote similar examples concerning Ansett-ANA. I am not anti-Ansett; I am pointing out what has happened.
– Order! I point out to the honourable member for Newcastle that the Bill deals with air navigation charges rather than with the operations of airline companies. 1 ask him to come back to the subject matter of the Bill.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I am trying to indicate that the airline companies could pay increased air navigation charges if they improved their efficiency. By improving their efficiency they would attract custom and would be able to pay increased air navigation charges. With your approval I will complete the point I am trying to make. The first incident occurred on 11th August. On 20th August, when I arrived in Sydney I found that 1 was not booked on flight 421 to Canberra. On 10th September on my arrival in Sydney I found that I was on standby on flight 421 and had not been allocated a seat. On 22nd October I had no reservation at all. When I presented my ticket for seat allocation I was told that I was not booked on the aircraft. This indicates the inefficiency of the airline. These reservations had been made back in July, yet 3 months later the airline still had not allocated me seats on aircraft. If the airlines improved their efficiency they could encourage people to use them. This would result in a greater density of passenger traffic and would enable the airlines to pay increased air navigation charges.
Earlier 1 referred to the cost of operating airports. At present we have 107 aerodromes that are completely financed and operated by the Department of Civil Aviation and 161 aerodromes which operate under the local ownership plan. How can a local government authority, or any authority operating under the local ownership plan, possibly finance an airport, when, for example, it receives the magnificent sum of 73c when a Twin Otter aircraft uses that airport? This charge, of course, will be increased by 10% when the proposed charges become operative and so the airport will receive 80.3c for each flight a Twin Otter makes from it. This is a farcical situation. The Government should consider reviewing completely the local ownership scheme. If a city requires an airport, that airport should be financed by the Department of Civil Aviation. Why should some cities be supplied with airports financed, constructed and operated by the Department of Civil Aviation when airports in other cities have to be financed under the local ownership scheme and the local authorities receive such paltry sums as that which I have mentioned. I point out, as another example, that an airport receives $4.15 for each flight of an F27 or Friendship aircraft. This subsidy which is paid to airline operators should be extended so that everyone derives some benefit from it.
In conclusion I refer to the great amount of subsidy which is paid by this Government to the two major airline companies which presently operate in Australia. In the period 1963-64 to 1966-67 air navigation charges totalled $33,123,506. In the same period air navigation costs totalled $237,184,000. This is in effect a further subsidy of $204,060,494. One can see the favourable treatment which is being handed out to the airline companies - an extra subsidy of $204m. But in respect of the money that is collected from road users by way of fuel tax, in the last 10 years the Government has finished with a surplus of $600m. I bring these facts to the attention of honourable members. 1 believe that the Government should be doing something more positive in order to put the airline system on a greater competitive basis. It should give the industry some incentive to chase business and so produce a better system for air travellers, and at the same time to be in a position to meet the charges which the airlines are and should be required to pay in order to provide airport facilities and navigational aids. These are provided by the Department of Civil Aviation and they are heavily subsidised, as demonstrated by the figures which 1 have cited.
– We are debating a Bill which provides for an increase of 10% in air navigation charges in 1968-69. For very specific reasons I listened with great interest to the submissions put forward by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). I well remember, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the preceding officer in the chair had occasion to remind the honourable member for Newcastle that he was dealing with matters not contained in the Bill. For the first 10 minutes of his speech the honourable member for Newcastle was dealing clearly with the subject of air navigation charges. By virtue of the arguments that he advanced at that stage I perceived that he was supporting the Bill that is before us. 1 assumed that that is what he was saying to the House. It is significant that he did this, because in some sectors of the aviation industry there is disagreement with the Government’s policy of imposing an annual increase of 10% in air navigation charges.
However, in the second part of his speech the honourable gentleman chose to take certain attitudes regarding certain shortcomings, as he saw them, in the aviation industry. He particularly took umbrage at the position in which Ansett Transport Industries Ltd finds itself at the present time. I feel bound to say to him in reply that it is impossible for him to present the arguments in the way he did on this occasion and expect them to be accepted by the House. In the first instance, he tried to compare the Australian aviation industry with an aviation industry as vast, and with access to such great traffic numbers, as that in the United States of America or in the United Kingdom. He consistently compared the Australian situation with that which prevails in those countries.
– The United States of America has something like twenty times our population.
– That is right. Indeed, the available traffic in America might be even greater than twenty times the traffic here. Dealing very briefly and specifically with the attack which the honourable member for Newcastle made upon the general aviation system, firstly, one is reminded that prior to 1949 his Party proposed an aviation policy which would have rubbed out completely the possibility of the sort of competition which he is now suggesting. He asked why there cannot be greater competition on the traffic routes and why Ansett is getting an unfair advantage. Let me make two observations in this regard. The aviation policies which this and other Liberal-Country Party Governments have followed over almost two decades are proving now to be mighty successful. Today, with a population of only 12 million people spread over 3 million square miles, the maintenance of a viable aviation industry is a significant challenge to the Government.
It was only the rationalisation policies which this Government pursued in the early 1950s which have given this country a viable aviation industry not only in the domestic field but also in the international field. The introduction of the Airlines Agreements Act and other supplementary acts and the adoption of the Government’s general aviation policies have given this country a really viable aviation industry. Indeed, I invite the honourable member for Newcastle to study some of the experience of other nations and the services which they render in the domestic field. lt has been suggested that we should make it an open go, to use the vernacular, and allow competition on more routes than at present. That would, perhaps not certainly but almost certainly, result in financial suicide. We are dealing with an industry in which hundreds of millions of dollars are invested. In the next 12 months this Government and the airline companies have to face expenditure which can only be described as colossal. A government would not be responsible if it did not rationalise its approach to expenditure in this field and try to bring about an economic use of equipment. It is significant to note the compliments that have been extended to this country for the manner in which it has been able to rationalise its aviation services, particularly as regards its equipment programme in the domestic field.
I want to deal briefly with the real substance of the Bill, and that is air navigation charges, but I wanted first to reply to the honourable member for Newcastle in these terms, because he endeavoured to deal in a completely isolated context with the aviation industry in Australia and then tried to compare it with the aviation industry in other countries, such as the United States. Lest anybody should think that the situation in this country is deficient I point out that by virtue of the policies that have been. pursued we find ourselves in quite a remarkable position. I think the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) will confirm that we are ranked sixth in the world’s viable aviation industries. This is not pro rata to population. It is pro rata to work load. One cannot let this fact be forgotten when we consider the tremendous competition and disadvantages which we experience in this country.
I had a lengthy speech to submit to the House on this Bill. But I note that the Opposition is supporting the legislation, so there is no point in my repeating many of the good statistics regarding air navigation charges, which the honourable member for
Newcastle put forward in his submissions, how these charges are calculated in this country and what is their impact on a variety of types of aircraft operating in and out of domestic airport terminals in Australia and also in the international field. One point of significance which I do not recall the honourable member for Newcastle emphasising is the fact that a new category is being created in this Bill. As the Minister pointed out in his second reading speech, it refers to aircraft which now have in excess of 200,000 lb in gross all-up weight. The endsville of this is that when the super transports come into this country - that is, the Boeing jumbo jets - if they take off from an Australian airport fully loaded with their all-up weight the air navigation charge will be approximately $1,098. This is a significant amount. But, as the honourable member for Newcastle has pointed out, these aircraft will be able to carry very large numbers of passengers. A great deal of money has had to be spent in preparation for these large aircraft. In Sydney, for instance, it has been necessary to spend more than $21m on a runway extension, mainly for the benefit of the Boeing 747s. As the Minister for Civil Aviation has said, total expenditure in the field of civil aviation this year will be something like$100m. It is true that about $35m of this will be for capital works and it might be argued that this is a reasonable level of service expenditure. But the income will be significantly less than expenditure. It has been suggested that we should include receipts from the tax on aviation fuel under the heading of civil aviation income. However, 1 have made a calculation showing that over a period of 3 years we would obtain only $53. 5m from this source.
The important point is that the Government is now accepting the responsibility for trying to service the tremendous amounts of money invested in civil aviation on behalf of the taxpayers. This is one means of doing so. Other means were outlined in the Budget and I hope that it will not be long before legislation is introduced to put those proposals into effect. I support this legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Swartz) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I wish to direct attention to what has become a very important adjunct to our normal air services. 1 refer to the feeder services which have been introduced with the encouragement of this Government. I believe that these services urgently need some sort of bridging assistance, mostly financial assistance. This is a question which very seriously affects decentralisation in its purest sense. It has become quite apparent that these feeder services are unable to get on their feet unaided. Where they have had support and financial assistance of some kind they have won through and become an important adjunct to normal air services. I ask the Government to examine closely the whole fabric of these services. 1 believe that if it gave them support in the period when they are feeling their way and assessing the potential of the areas in which they operate, undoubtedly they should be able to remain in business and prosper.
There is one other point I want to mention. Time and again over the years people in the remote areas of Australia have stressed the need for providing for economy class fares to many of the intermediate ports of call on the longer routes such as those between Charleville, Longreach and Mount Isa. It is most discouraging to live in a place like Longreach and be denied the advantage of economy class fares which are available to people living in, say, Mount Isa. With all the venom I can command - and I use that word advisedly because we are absolutely appalled at the existing situation - I urge the Government to examine this matter. The airline companies say quite airily that the proposition does not suit them. There are lots of things that do not suit them, and rationalisation, of course, is a wonderful word to cover a multitude of sins.
– I support the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter). In isolated areas such as the honourable member’s electorate the matters that he has raised are of tremendous importance. They are important also in an electorate like Mallee, which I represent. The commuter air services are filling a requirement but are having considerable financial difficulties. They need subsidy assistance, and we will be bringing before the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) a very strong case for such assistance in the near future.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - In September 1967 the President of the United States in a speech at San Antonio, Texas, publicly offered to halt all bombing of North Vietnam as soon as the North Vietnamese indicated that such a halt would lead promptly to serious and productive discussions on the substance of a peaceful settlement in South Vietnam. That offer was not accepted by Hanoi.
Subsequently, on 3 1st March of this year, the President ordered a cessation of the bombing over the major portion of North Vietnam - that part where 90% of the population lives and works - in the hope that that gesture and that renunciation of military advantage would lead the North Vietnamese Government to enter into those substantive negotiations designed to secure a just and enduring peace - a peace which his Government and the Government of Australia had for some time been advocating. Bombardment was continued in the area of North Vietnam to the north of the demilitarised zone where troops and supplies for the invasion of South Vietnam were concentrated before flowing south. The President said then:
I cannot in conscience stop all bombing as long as to do so would immediately and directly endanger the lives of our men and our allies.
In the result, the North Vietnamese made no reciprocal gesture towards lessening the intensity of the fighting in South Vietnam; nor were they prepared to enter into substantive peace talks designed to discuss the terms on which peace could be attained. They refused to enter into peace talks proper. They did however agree to have discussions on the question of whether there was any basis on which proper peace talks could begin. The talks were held in Paris and have been continuing since 10th May 1968.
As a result of developments during those talks, the President recently formed the judgment that he
Those issues were 1. That he should have reason to believe that the other side intended seriously to join in de-escalating the war; 2. That he should have grounds for believing that further reduction in bombing would not lead to an increase in American casualties; 3. That the right of the legitimate elected government of South Vietnam to take its place in serious peace negotiations should be secured; and 4. That serious negotiations on the substance of a peaceful settlement should begin. In return for these requirements being met, the President was prepared to cease bombing altogether and to agree to representatives of the National Liberation Front being present on the North Vietnamese side of the negotiating table.
I should however emphasise that this is no formal agreement by the North Vietnamese on de-escalation of the war but only a judgment on evidence available to the United States that this response will in fact take place. For his part, the President has made it clear, and I quote: that such talks cannot continue if they take military advantage of them. We cannot have productive talks in an atmosphere where the cities are being shelled and where the demilitarised zone is being abused.
After President Johnson had announced the cessation of bombing and the results he expected to flow from it, I made the following statement on behalf of the Australian Government:
As you have heard, President Johnson has announced that all air, naval and artillery activity on or within the territory of North Vietnam will be stopped at 8 a.m. Friday morning, Washington time - 1 1 p.m. tonight our time.
We have been consulted by the Government of the United Stales and kept fully informed of developments leading up to this announcement.
It has been the attitude of the Australian Government that a suspension of bombing in North Vietnam would be justified only if in response some corresponding reduction in North Vietnamese military activity was occurring or could be expected to occur.
The Americans have shared with us the information which has Isd them to conclude that they can be confident there will be such a response. We believe there are good grounds for their judgment and sincerely hope it will be proved right by future events.
A further expected result is that representatives of the Government of North Vietnam intend to enter into serious and direct talks with the Government of the United States and the Government of the Republic of Vietnam on the substance of a peaceful settlement.
As these results occur we believe that they hold out real hopes of future progress towards a just pence. We will not be seeking to participate in these talks at this stage.
That is the present position. Just as the Austraiian Government in the past has consistently favoured genuine negotiation, so have we consistently supported President Johnson in his refusal to accept the advice - offered from some quarters - that he should order the bombing stopped unconditionally; that is, without any grounds for belief that the safety of Allied troops would not be impaired and without any grounds for belief that such action would lead to substantive peace talks. In taking this stand, I believe events have proved us right.
Cessation of the bombing and the admission of National Liberation Front representation as components of the North Vietnamese negotiating team urged by some to be conceded without the reciprocal understandings which the President believes he now has would have been concessions made without any advance towards a peaceful settlement. Cessation of bombing and the participation of the National Liberation Front on the North Vietnamese side of the negotiating table on the understanding that de-escalation and serious peace talks will follow are concessions which do hold out the hope of an advance towards a peaceful solution and in those circumstances we welcome them with hope.
The first course suggested, if taken, would have lowered our shield while the enemy’s sword point was still levelled. The course now chosen lowers our shield, but only after the negotiations have led to good grounds for expecting that the enemy’s sword point will be blunted and only after agreement to hold substantive discussions on peace have been achieved.
I do not propose in any way to canvass the course which the negotiations may lake or the problems which may arise. In a situation of this delicacy, on which so much may depend, I believe it would be positively harmful for anyone in this House to do this.
But I should, I think, tell the House that my Government has advised the Government of South Vietnam that while we understand the reservations which it now has, we feel that its interests would best be served by its representatives attending the talks in Paris at the earliest possible date. They would attend as the representatives of the true and legitimate Government of South Vietnam. This is, in our view, a significant fact because until now the Government of North Vietnam has refused any contacts or dealings with the South Vietnamese Government.
In conclusion, Mr Speaker, I would say this. No-one can foretell how long these negotiations will continue and it is possible that there will continue to be hard fighting while the negotiations progress. We hope not, but it is possible that this may occur. The seeds of peace have now sprouted but the plant has still to grow before we can be sure that the people of South Vietnam will be able to decide their destiny in pence and by peaceful means. What is now occurring is in accord with the pledge of the Allied countries at the Manila Summit Conference that:
We ure now prepared to pursue any avenue which could lead to a secure and just peace whether through discussion and negotiation or through reciprocal actions by both sides to reduce the violence.
Mr Speaker, neither the United States nor ourselves went to Vietnam to conquer - but only to prevent conquest of that country by North Vietnam. We sought to show that such military conquest was not possible. lt may be - 1 say no more than that it may be - that the North Vietnamese have come to realise this, and that the negotiations to be held may produce the cessation of fighting and may produce the durable and lasting peace and the right of choice of the majority of people of South Vietnam, which we have sought from the beginning and for so long. If so, this is a consummation devoutly to be hoped for and I know that all Australians will join with the Government in seeking to do all possible to ensure that the talks attain the results so sought. In the meantime, we should not have too sanguine expectations of too early a settlement - and we shall need to keep our resolution unimpaired.
Mr Speaker, I present the following paper:
Vietnam, Ministerial Statement, 5th November 1968.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition speaking without limitation of time.
– I thank the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) for moving, and the House for passing, the motion allowing me to speak without limitation of time. I sought this indulgence because this is a momentous occasion and, in fact, this will be the only debate on foreign affairs during the Budget session this year. In the 10 months he has been Prime Minister, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has made three statements in the Parliament on international affairs. Two have been made as a consequence of dramatic and momentous decisions by the President of the United States of America on the war in Vietnam. There is a sad, significant similarity about the reaction of the Australian Government on both occasions.
In October, as in March, there was the same denouncement of the peace moves about to be made by the President, right up until the eve of that announcement. In November, as in April, there is the same begrudging, belated, sulky acceptance of the inevitable by the Prime Minister and his colleagues. It is all part of a pattern of nearly 4 years. This Government always has been the first to applaud escalation of the war. It always has been the last to approve moves to end it.
One has only to contrast the behaviour of Government members - the baying and braying on the night Sir Robert Menzies first announced the commitment of an Australian battalion to this disastrous war, their unabashed delight on each subsequent occasion when that open-ended commitment was increased - with their subdued and sullen demeanour as the Prime Minister spoke tonight to record, if hardly to applaud, the American decisions designed to enable us to bring the war to an early if long overdue conclusion.
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)Order! I remind members on the Government side that the Prime Minister was heard in almost absolute silence. I suggest to honourable members, including the honourable member for Herbert, that they restrain themselves. They are fully aware that interjections are out of order.
– One understands the embarrassment of Ministers and the confusion of Government members. The whole structure of Liberal polemics and Liberal propaganda, not just about this war but about Australia’s role in this region and beyond, has crashed. All the appalling superficialities and all the crude simplifications of three successive Prime Ministers lie exposed, discredited. All the ‘toughminded realists’, the ‘hard-headed hawks’, have been shown to be mere dreamers living in a world of self-constructed fantasy. This is one of the basic facts about the whole history of this war. The so-called ‘realists’ were in fact living in a world of fantasy which ignored basic truths about the nature of the war itself, the limitations of military power and the real nature of the Communist challenge. So ill-conceived a war has inevitably gone hopelessly awry; all that burning and bombing and killing and crippling has been the consequence.
Once again, the Prime Minister shows the narrowness of his approach by his reaction to President Johnson’s statement. One questions whether in November he has yet grasped the full significance of the President’s statement, just as one questioned it in April. In his statement to the House on 2nd April, the Prime Minister concentrated on the military decisions and military aspects, ignoring altogether the crucial part of the President’s statement - his abdication. Similarly, in his Press statement on Friday last, the Prime Minister limited his remarks to the President’s announcement that all bombing of North Vietnam was to be stopped. He ignored the equally significant announcement that the National Liberation Front would participate in the Paris talks. He brushed it aside again tonight. The Prime Minister was quite perfunctory about it tonight.
– So is Hanoi.
– I thought that the Deputy Leader told you that you were no longer to interject. The Leader of the House told you so too.
– You are lying.
– Well, I will be able to quote where you have been before 1 sit down. Cessation of the bombing was, and always has been, the essential preliminary to negotiations. The decision to include the NLF in those talks does, to a very considerable extent, determine the nature and possible outcome of the negotiations. The bombing determines whether there will be any peace; the nature of the participants, in particular the NLF, determines the kind of peace likely to emerge. The Prime Minister has been very anxious to assert that on this occasion the Australian Government was kept informed by the United States Administration. His chief concern was that there should not have been a repetition of the events of March when he was told one day in advance what the President intended to announce, lt is proper that the Prime Minister should have been concerned about this, just as it was proper that we should have been consulted. But it is depressing indeed to see the emphasis which the Prime Minister places on this aspect, lt is depressing because it illustrates the limitations his Government places on Australia’s role and responsibility, lt is one thing that we should have been consulted. It is another, far more important, thing that we should have tried to use our influence. Consultation of the sort that has occurred over the last 3 weeks is a very passive affair indeed. The fact is that the Australian Government has never used its influence to affect or alter the course or conduct of this war towards peace. When challenged, it has denied it had any influence; but in fact it has used its influence to escalate and prolong the war.
If we review some of the events since early last year, a very definite and discreditable pattern of Australian behaviour emerges. In May 1967 the American Administration at the highest level was engaged in a thorough-going review of its bombing policy. In the light of subsequent events it is thoroughly possible to believe that as early as May 1967 timely advice and timely pressure might have tipped the scales in favour of a bombing pause or cessation then. The allied military situation in South Vietnam was as favourable in May 1967 as it has ever been since. The Australian Prime Minister at that time declared against a bombing pause on his arrival in San Francisco from Honolulu - after he had consulted with the American military authorities at Pearl Harbour, but before he had consulted with the President or senior members of the American Administration in Washington.
In- August 1’967 Mr Arthur Goldberg, the then United States Ambassador to the United Nations, sought support for an American initiative to accept the NLF as a party to any negotiations. This American initiative in the United Nations was subverted and concealed by the Australian Government.
On 26th March the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) said in this House:
What impression of resolution and determination would the allies give to the embattled, wartorn, suffering people of South Vietnam if the controlled and selective bombing of North Vietnam were to be terminated?
On 28th March the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) said:
Bombing is the only thing that prevents the whole of North Vietnam from being added to the demilitarised zone . . . .The aims of bombing are to bolster the morale of South Vietnam, to slow and impede infiltration from North Vietnam and to emphasise to North Vietnam the big and continuing price to be paid for continued aggression. These were the aims when bombing was initiated. These are the aims now.
Three days later the President of the United States stopped bombing 90% of North Vietnam. Soon after that announcement Hanoi agreed to participate in discussions in Paris. The present Prime Minister’s contribution to the success of these talks was to refer to them disparagingly as ‘these things wrongly called peace talks’ during a speech to our troops in Vietnam.
On 4th October, only a month ago, the Minister for External Affairs in a speech to the American-Australian Association in New York said: lt seems to us that so much of what we combatants are being asked to do in the way of stopping the bombing or doing this or that is a request that we should throw away our shield without seeing any lowering of the point of the sword of the opponent . . lt would be a very saintly act, an act of self sacrifice, to de-escalate. to reduce your effort, to expose yourself and your troops to the severity of a greater attack, a very saintly act. That sort of saintlines belongs to martyrdom. The consequence of saintliness of that kind would be death, destruction and the overwhelming of people who are struggling for their freedom of choice.
Yet. 3 days before the Minister’s speech which I quoted, the Vice-President of the United States, the ruling party s candidate for the presidency of that country, had said that cessation of the bombing would be ‘an acceptable risk’. Even as late as Monday of last week, at the very time when the world was awaiting President Johnson’s announcement, the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) told the RSL Congress in Canberra:
There has been a dramatic change in the military situation which has not yet been adequately reflected in the orientation of the Press reports. The enemy has been forced to withdraw his forces towards sanctuary areas and to seek other means of conducting the long term military and political struggle.
Later it was represented to me that I may have been unfair to the Minister for the Army in coupling him with the Minister for External Affairs as having denounced cessation of bombing. The Minister for the Army was clearly in favour of a continuation of all existing methods of prosecuting the war which he said, in effect, we were winning.
One wonders why on earth the Minister for the Army chose that particular time and that, particular forum to promote the idea of military victory. Is this the beginning of a new Vietnam myth - that military victory was in our grasp, only to be snatched from the generals by the politicians, and the diplomats; the myth of the stab in the back’; the myth that destroyed the Weimar Republic; the myth that helped bring down the Fourth Republic; the myth that was used to discredit President Truman over Korea and which helped to create the nightmare of McCarthyism in the United States? What really was the motive and inspiration of the Minister for the Army at this very time when he must have known, or should have known, that the President of the United States was about to announce new moves for peace?
In August 1967 the Australian Labour Party’s Federal Conference set down three conditions without which the Australian commitment of regular troops should not continue. I make the distinction about regular troops because there are no circumstances in which we would accept that the presence of conscripts should be continued. This statement of policy largely reiterated the statement by the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party in May 1966, although it modified the 1966 declaration by the Caucus to the extent of seeking participation of the NLF rather than seeking recognition of the NLF. It would be tedious indeed to go through the various denunciations of that policy - the policy of the Australian Labor Party as it is, not what those who wish to destroy the Australian Labor Party want to believe it to be - by various members of the Government parties. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) on 2nd November last year said about the declaration which I quoted:
This is a policy of desertion of our allies and ratting on our friends. Could anyone in conscience and decency give up the bombing … To recognise the NLF would give the impression that we did not care whether Communism succeeded in the whole of South East Asia.
By the next sitting day the news had come out about Ambassador Goldberg’s initiatives in the United Nations which Australia had sabotaged and which the Treasurer and his colleagues had, up to that time, succeeded in concealing. Was the Treasurer speaking the truth then or did he not know the facts? He did not know the facts or he did not care about the facts.
In November last the Government went to the Senate poll with a policy speech that described cessation of the bombing, participation of the NLF and the conversion of the war into holding operations as totally unacceptable’ to the United States. Yet, bit by bit, these ‘totally unacceptable’ propositions, this ‘treason’, this ‘scuttle’, this sell-out’, this ‘saintliness’, have become the policy, the aims, the objectives of the President of the United States of America. One assumes, therefore, that they have even become the policy and the aims of the Australian Government.
The Prime Minister has made two references outside Parliament to the policy of my party. His first was in his first public speech on becoming Prime Minister. It was made at a Liberal Party rally in Sydney Town Hall on 5th February held under the auspices of the Premier of New South Wales, in those far-off halcyon days when
Federal Liberals and State Premiers were, in the words of the Prime Minister, ‘a family who could solve their differences within the family’.
– Can the Labor Party solve its differences within the family?
-Order! The honourable member for Mitchell will cease interjecting.
– He is entitled to his last fling, Mr Speaker. He will not be here much longer. On that occasion, 5lh February, which is 9 months ago. the Prime Minister-
– Would you say-
-Order! 1 warn the honourable member for Hughes to cease interjecting.
– The same remark applies, 1 think. Sir. On that occasion the Prime Minister surreptitiously inserted in what purported to be a direct quotation from my party’s policy the words ‘we must immediately abandon the United States alliance’.
Then, on 13th February, opening his campaign for the electorate of Higgins, he said:
The Federal Labor Conference by resolution adopted a policy which requires that the United States should cease bombing North Vietnam unconditionally. They adopted a policy that the United States should recognise the National Liberation Front - the Viet Cong - as a principal party to negotiations. They adopted a policy that the United States should transform operations in South Vietnam into holding operations.
He correctly stated my party’s policy - with all the contempt he could command. Then, there was an interjection from the hall: Where is your policy?’ The Prime Minister continued:
Where’s my policy? I state it in explicit terms - we are continuing to do what we have decided to do because we think it right. Now that is clear, explicit and cannot be misunderstood. I think it fair to say that if the Leader of the Opposition is bound by the official policy, as I believe he is, then carrying out that policy would severely damage our relations with the United States and would weaken, if not destroy, that Australian-United States alliance on which our future security could so much depend.
The question between the right honourable gentleman and me now is whether that American alliance would have been better served by a Labor Government insisting upon the very policies which the American Government has now been obliged to adopt, or by a government whose one aim has been to keep the United States bogged down in an interminable conflict at immense cost to the United States in blood, treasure, national unity and national purpose. Heaven save the United States from such allies.
We have the situation where the four senior Liberal Ministers, the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, the Minister for External Affairs and the Minister for Defence, have all, within the last year, denounced and derided the very moves which the United Stales has now made. The Prime Minister has not really been able to show tonight - he did not even attempt to do so - that new and unforeseen events have happened in Hanoi or Paris or Saigon which invalidate his earlier denunciations or validate the new pOliCy within the framework of the claims made so recently by the Prime Minister, the Minister for External Affairs and the Minister for Defence. If the decisions made last Friday were correct, they were correct a year ago. If they were wrong a year ago, they are incorrect today. The simple fact is that the Government has been overtaken in the drift of events.
So profound is the Prime Ministers understanding of the meaning of the American alliance and Australia’s rights and responsibilities within and towards that alliance that even his personal vanity took a higher priority than the world’s hope for peace in Vietnam. In his obsession with proving that he had been consulted this time, in contrast to last time, he held a midnight press conference at the most delicate stage of the negotiations that have been going on for the last 3 weeks or more. The fact is that if the present Prime Minister had been of more consequence in the world, his actions and indiscretions might well have sabotaged these negotiations and dealings.
At this moment the American people are beginning to go to the polls to choose their next President. The most majestic and momentous exercise in democracy that the world can offer now begins. Irrespective of the choice which the American people may make, there will be fundamental changes in America’s actions and activity in our region. Both the Vice-President and the Republican nominee have made plain in words what has long been plain in truth - that America will never again involve herself in another Vietnam.
The Australian Government, obsessed as it is with America’s military role in South East Asia, appalled as it is by the reality of the limitations which circumstances impose on America’s military might in this region, finds this a cause for foreboding and fear. I find no cause for foreboding or fear. I suggest, on the contrary, that if the United Slates has learnt from the terrible lessons of Vietnam, if she has learnt her true role in our region cannot be fulfilled merely by the application of her undoubted military strength and military prowess, if she has learnt at the com of so much blood and horror that she must seek another way, a more fruitful’ and constructive way to influence the course of events in our region, then wc can look forward to a far greater and better period of American participation in our region than we have ever known. But the extent to which the United Slates will learn the real lessons of Vietnam depends very largely on the extent to which Australia is willing to learn the lessons of Vietnam. If we have learnt them, we can be America’s guide.
The first, the chief, the overriding lesson of Vietnam is the futility of reliance on military means alone to resolve or even to approach the problems of our region, lt was this reliance, the easy acceptance of the idea that the mightiest military nation in the world must automatically prevail against so backward and weak a power as North Vietnam, which led America into her subsequent mistakes in the war. lt was this mistake which led Australia, clinging pathetically to the coal tails of a military machine, into the consequences of all those mistakes. It suited the Australian Government to ignore the civil war component of the conflict, lt suited the Australian Government to portray China as the real instigator and sponsor of the effort both of the Vietcong and of North Vietnam, while ignoring the non-Communist and nationalist element of the Vietcong and the far deeper invol’vement of the Soviet Union than of China in the effort being conducted by North Vietnam. This suited the Government because it provided better electioneering propaganda, ft has always suited this Government to buy votes at home at the expense of the maimed and the dead in Vietnam. I do not believe that a government so steeped in error and the infliction of human suffering can conceivably take us towards a better era in our international affairs. But it may yet be worth while laying down some general guide lines as to our future foreign policy when the war has ended, just as my Party has laid them down in the past as a means of ending the war.
There is much superficial talk now about an American withdrawal from Asia, lt is as misleading to talk about a withdrawal of American influence and power from Asia after Vietnam as it was shallow and futile to think that an American presence would be guaranteed in Asia by bogging her down in the civil war in Vietnam. America will not go isolationist in the sense that she went isolationist after the First World War. There is no such simple and easy solution open to her in these days of her world-wide power and world-wide commitments. But there will certainly be a withdrawal of her military strength from the mainland of Asia. As the two leading presidential candidates have said, America will never bc involved in another Vietnam. Our real task, and America’s real task, is, therefore, to see, not just that she will never be involved in another Vietnam, but that there will not again be a Vietnam anywhere in Asia.
Some of the more specific lessons of the Vietnam war should be useful to us in this respect. The war in Vietnam was lost on the day that it was decided to destroy by sustained military force the Vietcong control over the countryside and ignore the needs of the leading cities of South Vietnam. The most advanced scientific and technological skills of the most advanced and technological nation were used to defoliate jungles as a means of controlling the villages and the countryside around the villages. The allies did nothing to improve the conditions or strengthen the will of the people living in the cities. Successive Saigon regimes did nothing, as the present regime in Saigon has done little, if anything, to achieve the one thing in the countryside that would have meant anything - land reform. America and her allies did nothing. America and her allies with all their wealth and skills did nothing, in the very places where they might have been effective, to make the people in Saigon and Da Nang and Hue believe that economic and social and political advances could be achieved in their own lifetime in their own place of residence. So, after four years of what was supposed to be military achievement. Hue could not be held, the people of Da Nang were indifferent and Saigon itself barely survived against the offensives of the Vietcong.
Beyond Vietnam we can apply the lessons of Vietnam. We must never allow ourselves just to be overwhelmed by the immensity of the problems of the countries of South East Asia. We must seize on specific points where advances can be made, where progress can be achieved and where our own means, such as they are, can fulfil worthwhile and tangible ends. Where land reform is fundamental, as in so much of South East Asia it is, this can very properly and only be made a matter of the decisions by the national governments concerned. Where aid from outside is required, it can be made increasingly effective in the cities. In the final analysis, the political fate of the Philippines will he determined in Manila; of Thailand in Bangkok; of Singapore in the city of Singapore; of Indonesia in Djakarta, Djogjakarta and Surabaya; of India in Calcutta, Bombay Delhi and Madras. If we see the problems in these terms, there is no need for us to become overwhelmed by the immensity of the problems or to become despondent about their possible outcome.
Government backbenchers may sulk. I see no reason at all why the Australian people should despair. The concept that we had an exclusively military role to play was never credible. We now have the opportunity to find a new role and a belter role, lt is there, lt is available. Our role is not necessarily limited by our size or relative lack of wealth or power. On the contrary, it is our very size that gives us a special responsibility and a special influence in our region. We are wealthy and skilled enough to act. We are not powerful enough to dominate. This is seen and accepted by Asian countries. The opportunity., the necessity and the means are all there. All we need is a government and the policies, the men anc! the will to act.
f 8.45]- The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has told the House tonight of the situation which has led to the cessation of the bombing of North Vietnam by the allies of the Government of South Vietnam. We have heard of the extremely complex and delicate negotiations which this change in the war has made possible. It must be emphasised again that this is the first stage and only the first stage in a long process of difficult negotiations. Many separate issues, though related to the general one, will take a long time to solve, looking at the problem from the best possible angle. If this stage of the negotiations fails - it is by no means certain at the moment that it will succeed - there will be more hard fighting ahead.
While the negotiations which President Johnson has referred to in some detail in his speech are at this delicate embryonic stage the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has delivered a most remarkable speech in the House in which he treated this subject with as much sensitivity and delicacy as a bull on the rampage in a china shop. Indeed, it has become quite apparent from the first words he uttered that for him the suffering of the people of South Vietnam is a means of making political points. He concentrated tonight on trying to persuade the House and the people of Australia that what has resulted is a vindication of Labor’s policy. Nothing could be further from the truth. He accused the Government of being opposed to the present trend of events. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. He accused the Ministers of this Government of having denounced and derided a cessation of bombing - those were his words - but he omitted entirely a most important point: Of course President Johnson and Ministers and supporters of this Government have said from the beginning that Labor’s policy - a cessation of bombing without essential understandings and some reciprocal gestures - is in vain. This was the first attempt to mislead the House on which the Leader of the Opposition embarked. He departed so far from the truth - I will refer to this later - as to make accusations of Government action which had no foundation whatever in fact. To say the least, it is regrettable that he chose to take the Australian political issue as the main feature of his speech in a situation where I am sure the minds of the entire civilised world are concentrated on achieving a just peace for Vietnam and on guaranteeing the right of the South Vietnamese ro decide their affairs and to form their own government without external interference. The issues surrounding the cessation of bombing, which will be debated and negotiated in Paris or elsewhere, are the ones which should really concern the Opposition.
However, since the honourable gentleman chose this ground in debate, I cannot allow to go unchallenged some of the points which emerged from his speech. I repeat that to argue that what has happened is in fact the kind of policy which Labor would have adopted if it had succeeded in any election in the past and had been the government of this country Could not be further from the truth. Let me illustrate my point. At its 1967 conference - in July or August of that year I think - the Labor policy was announced as follows: the A.L.P., on achieving office, will submit to our allies that they should immediately-
I stress the word ‘immediately’ -
Undoubtedly that statement implies that had the Labor Party been in power at any time after that policy was formulated, that would have been the Party’s policy - immediately cease bombing North Vietnam without any conditions or safeguards and without any essential understandings. Contrast this with the statement by President Johnson at San Antonio on 9th September, just a few weeks after the ALP conference here, that the United States would stop the bombing as soon as this would lead promptly to productive discussion and on the assumption that North Vietnam would not take military advantage of the cessation. That statement at San Antonio by the President was really the first step in this present phase of the cessation of the bombing.
There are two conditions with which the Australian Government has always agreed as being a preliminary requisite to a cessation of the bombing. Never has the ALP referred to anything but the unconditional cessation of bombing. Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition is naive enough to really believe that if there had at any time been a complete cessation of bombing after August 1967, prior to the present announcement, there would have been genuine moves towards peace by Hanoi. The facts are all against him. There have been complete halts to bombing for one reason or another no fewer than five times. In May 1965, cessation of the bombing was described by Hanoi as a trick. At Christmas 1965 bombing was suspended for 37 days, with an offer of an extension if Hanoi showed any willingness to respond. Further pauses occurred in December 1966, January 1967, and from 8th to 12th February 1967, when bombing was resumed after evidence showed that Hanoi was using the suspension to gain a military advantage. It was quite clear that Hanoi at no time had any intention of opening discussions for peace or of failing to make the best use of the opportunity for military advantage offered by the cessation of bombing.
But let us look at the course of events after the San Antonio speech, which, as I have said, was the first phase in this change in the war. That speech was made in September 1967. What followed when the President indicated that he only wanted some sign of an intention to seek peace on the part of North Vietnam? We saw the most massive military effort ever undertaken by the other side at the time of the religious festival of Tet. What would have happened if the Labor Party’s policy had been put into effect? What happened after 31st March this year when the President again took the initiative for peace by reducing the area of North Vietnam which was subject to attack, in the hope that this would bring some favourable response from Hanoi? It simply led to renewed offensives, the shelling of cities and massive infiltration. The President referred to this in his speech on 19th August this year, when he said in America:
We not only made an offer but we immediately acted - we took a first dramatic step to deescalate the conflict. I immediately ordered our aircraft and our naval vessels to make no attacks on North Vietnam north of the 20th parallel. This excluded from bombing almost 90% of the North Vietnamese population and almost 80% of the North Vietnamese territory.
That night, in a television speech to the nation, he had this to say:
I cannot in all conscience stop all bombing so long as to do so would immediately and directly endanger the lives of our men and our allies. Whether a complete bombing halt becomes possible in the future will be determined by events. Thus far-
And remember that he was speaking on 19th August -
Hanoi’s response has been to reject every single suggestion made by ourselves or others to deescalate the conflict - to proceed, since 31st
March, with the highest level of infiltration that ?e have observed during the war in Vietnam, the highest level of southward movement of military supplies and the highest level of preparation for a major wave of attacks in 1968.
He went on to say:
I hope you will ask yourselves: Where would the position of this nation and its allies he if, having taken a major step toward de-escalation and peace already, we responded now to their hostility wilh still another major unilateral step? If you were in Hanoi, would you then de-escalate and negotiate? Or would you not demand another unilateral step, until finally the whole foundation of freedom for the nations of South East Asia was beyond repair? 1 ask that question of this House. What would be the position had Labor’s policy been pui: info effect at any time prior to 1st November this year? There is not one shred of truth in the Leader of the Opposition’s claim that Labors policy was the correct policy and has been vindicated. Indeed, all the evidence is that Labor’s policy would have been taken by North Vietnam as an act of surrender and would have led to increasing aggression and increasing destruction of the allied forces operating in Vietnam. 1 want to refer briefly to the second point of Labor’s policy - recognition of the National Liberation Front as a principal party to the negotiations. It is this very issue which the Government of South Vietnam sees as an obstacle to its attendance in Paris. In fact. President Johnson said in his speech on 31st October:
We are informed by the representatives of the Hanoi Government that representatives of the National Liberation Front will also be present. 1 emphasise that their attendance in no way involves recognition of the NLF in any form, yet it conforms with the statement we have made many times over the years that the NLF would have no difficulty in making its views known.
In other words, there is no recognition by the United States of the National Liberation Front as a party principal; its representatives were merely to be part of the delegation which Hanoi would send to the negotiations. Can this be said with any truth to represent a vindication of Labor’s policy? The Leader of the Opposition further argued that this Government has consistently taken a harder line on the bombing of North Vietnam than the United States has taken. He made certain accusations in an attempt to support that proposition. 1 refer, for example, to a statement that he made in this House last April. In highly dramatic terms, he then declared that the Government’s policy lay in ruins. He said tonight that the whole structure of the Go-‘ vernment’s policy has crashed. Again, nothing can be further from the truth. His reason for saying this was that in April the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) had said that the bombing of North Vietnam
Mfr Uren - What is the Minister’s policy?
Mr SPEAKER -Order!The honourable member will cease interjecting.
– I want to know what his policy is.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Reid.
– The Leader of the Opposition made his charge because the Minister for External Affairs had said that the bombing of North Vietnam - the controlled and selective bombing supported by the Australian Government - should nol be terminated: and because the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) had said that the whole of North Vietnam should not bc a complete sanctuary. The Leader of the Opposition repeated those words tonight. The de-escalation announced by President Johnson on 3 1st March was completely in accord with the views expressed by my two colleagues. The bombing was continued intensively on military targets, although in a reduced area. The bombing was not terminated. North Vietnam was noi a complete sanctuary. There was no disparity between Australian and American policy. 1 now turn to another claim that the Leader of the Opposition repealed tonight. 1 was rather surprised that he had the gall to do so. He has mentioned several times in this House an American proposal which, he said, involved recognition of the National Liberation Front as a party principal to negotiations. On 26th March, he said that this proposal had been concealed from the Australian people by the Government. On 2nd April he went further and said that the proposal had been sabotaged in the United Nations by the Australian Government. He repeated that accusation tonight. What are the real circumstances? They are so far removed from this flight of fancy that the House can form its own
Judgment of how fit the Leader of the Opposition is to occupy any position of responsibility in this country.
Some time last year Ambassador Goldberg, of the United States, had a draft proposal about Vietnam, which never got further than being a draft, to put to the Security Council. It concerned calling an international conference about the problem in Vietnam. It did not concern the recognition of the National Liberation Front as a principal party. Ambassador Goldberg disclosed this before the Senate Foreign Relation Committee in November. He told the Committee that in discussing the draft - I again emphasise that it was nothing more than a draft - with members of the Security Council there was a general unwillingness to have it brought up. The only reference to the National Liberation Front was a statement by Goldberg that under rule 39 of the Security Council the United Nations would not stand in the way of the NLF being invited to the Security Council. Rule 39 refers to the power of the Council to invite people to give evidence before it where the Council thinks it is desirable.
On 8th November last the Minister for Exernal Affairs told this House that there was nothing in the text of the draft resolution which caused concern or difficulty to the Australian Government. So here are four matters in respect of which the Leader of the Opposition has not told the House the truth. There was no concealment by Australia of the existence of the draft, lt was referred to in this House as far back as November, just after it was referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Secondly, the proposal was not sabotaged in the United Nations by Australia, nor could it have been, because it never went to the United Nations and Australia is not a member of the Security Council. Thirdly, there was no proposal at all before the United Nations. Fourthly, the draft, such as it was, did not contain anything which required recognition of the NLF as a party to negotiations. In spite of this having been explained before, the Leader of the Opposition persists and continues, when he should know the truth, to try to convince this House of something that is demonstrably false. Why does he have to resort to such methods to advance the policy of his Party? It can only be that he knows that in the real interests of Australia his policy is indefensible.
As I said earlier, our thoughts and our hopes are centred on the talks in Paris. The United States carries a great burden and we all realise that there are many complex points that will arise for decision. As the Prime Minister has pointed out, it is not for us to try to see too far into the future. It is not for us to make positive statements about this or that when the negotiations are at a delicate stage, but I just comment that the United States does carry a tremendous burden in which it has to satisfy the people of South Vietnam that the steps it has taken are in their best interests. It has to satisfy not only the present Government of South Vietnam but the elected assembly, the Parliament of South Vietnam, and the whole of the people. It has to do this in an atmosphere which is tied up with the politics of an American election, I am quite sure that the timing of this was not sought by the American Government at this stage. This was the first opportunity which occurred to make any forward progress in a move towards peace which began with the San Antonio declarations of September 1967. I am sure that the hopes and the wishes of the whole world are that these negotiations will succeed and that South Vietnam will enjoy peace at last.
– It is ironic that the Minister for Air (Mr Freeth) should complain that the Opposition has introduced politics into the Vietnam question, particularly in view of the fact that for 4 years this Government has used the Vietnam issue as an internal party political weapon. I think I interpreted the Minister’s remarks correctly. This was the attitude of the Minister and it was the tenor of his speech. Nothing that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) or the Minister for Air has said can obscure the plain simple fact that the Government’s policy on Vietnam has been reduced to ruins. From what the Prime Minister has said, it emerges quite plainly that the Government has now no real policy on Vietnam. The Government has been overtaken by the course of events and now it is prepared just to drift along with them. The Government still has no plans for taking any initiatives to end the war. It is not prepared to work actively for the success of the talks in Paris.
We know that the Government has never tried to use any influence with the United Slates or America to bring about an end to the bombing or the participation of the National Liberation Front in peace talks. We know, on the contrary, that right up to the very last moment, the Australian Government was supporting the bombing and was opposed to National Liberation Front participation. Senior Ministers have said repeatedly that these terms would not be acceptable to the United States Government and that they would not bc acceptable to the Australian Government. We do not know what influence the Government is now prepared to use with the Saigon Government. The Prime Minister, in his brief statement tonight, said that a message had been sent to the Government in Saigon. To what extent is the Australian Government backing up the United States in trying to persuade President Thieu to attend the talks? Is the Government prepared to allow the Saigon regime to sabotage the talks by irs non-participation? The Government should make it absolutely clear that it fully supports the United States President in urging Saigon to attend. it is fairly plain from the Government’s attitude that it is not very concerned about the Saigon Government’s attitude on this question and whether the Saigon Government attends the talks in Paris. If that is true, then it means that the Government is not very concerned about whether these talks succeed or not. lt is also plain that this Government was all the way with LBJ only when it meant escalating the war and extending the bombing, lt. has never been any part of the way with LBJ when it came to moves for peace.
The first indication that the President of the United States of America favoured a scaling down of the war was made in April of this year. This followed the President’s dramatic announcement that he would not seek re-election and that he had ordered an immediate halt to the bombing of most of North Vietnam. The President went on to say that efforts to end the war would be highest on the list of priorities during his remaining 9 months in office, ft was perfectly clear that President Johnson was moving towards a maximum effort to end the war and. in his own words, had adopted the policy of scaling down the war in Vietnam.
He did not intend the curtailment of the bombing as a gesture which would require an equivalent response from North Vietnam if it were to be continued. He had specified a unilateral scaling down of the war in the hope that negotiations with North Vietnam could be achieved. This was markedly different from the attitude of the Prime Minister who has said frequently there could be no scaling down of the war without reciprocal de-escalation from North Vietnam.
Quite clearly, the Prime Minister regarded the President’s action as a mere gesture - as a bombing pause - similar to the brief bombing pauses which had failed in the past, lt was notable that when Parliament resumed, the Prime Minister made a statement on President Johnson’s speech in which he listed the decisions taken in a peculiar order. Firstly, he mentioned the increase of the South Vietnam armed forces. Then he mentioned the United Slates decision to maintain its forces at the present level with some minor reinforcements. He went on to stale the President’s resolve to continue the military struggle in South Vietnam until such time as a just and lasting peace could be obtained. Finally, he mentioned the decision to halt aerial and naval bombardment over a major part of North Vietnam. This was a deliberate attempt to play down the significance of the President’s decision to halt a substantial part of the bombing without conditions.
The whole tenor of the Prime Minister’s statement at that time was that this was a mere bombing pause and unless Hanoi reacted favourably, pretty quickly, the bombing would be resumed and even intensified. This view, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) pointed out, certainly had the support of his senior Ministers, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) and the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall), who praised the effectiveness and the necessity of the bombing in the Federal Parliament only days before the President’s significant policy about-face. There is no doubt that right up to the very last minute the Australian Government based all its policy and ils hopes on the concept of a genuine military victory in Vietnam.
Since 1965 the Australian Labor Party has repeatedly and consistently pointed out that a war of this nature, a guerilla war and. to a very large extent, a civil war, could not be won in the conventional military sense. We gave this warning in the first year of the war and we have repeated it every year since. By contrast, Government spokesmen have maintained that the war could be won, and indeed, have usually maintained it was just about to be won. In this they have echoed the views of American generals and Cabinet members who were responsible for framing the United States war policy.
As long ago as 13th February 1963 the United States Secretary of State, Mr Dean Rusk, said:
The momentum of the Communist drive has been stopped.
On 7th October 1963, a White House statement was issued which said:
Secretary McNamara and General Taylor report their judgment (hat the major part of the United Stales military task could be completed by the end of 1965, although there may be a continuing requirement for a limited number of United States training personnel.
In L964, the United States Secretary of Defence, Mr McNamara, said that the United States personnel would be returning from Vietnam by the end of the year. After visiting South Vietnam in 1965, on 30th November he said:
The most vital impression I am bringing back is that we have stopped losing the war.
On 1.3th July 1967, General Westmoreland, then American Commander in Vietnam, said:
During the past year, tremendous progress has been made. We have pushed the enemy farther and farther back into the jungles.
This statement was followed on 21st July by one by Mr McNamara, who said:
Since last October, substantial progress has been made in the political, economic and military area.
Australian Ministers in this Parliament and outside of it echoed these views.
Exactly a year ago in the debate on Vietnam in this House the Minister for External Affairs said:
A careful assessment of the facts leads to the clear conclusion that the military situation in South Vietnam is moving steadily in our favour.
During the Senate election campaign it was the Government’s constant assertion that the war was about to be won and that the adoption of the Australian Labor Party’s policy would deprive America and her allies of the fruits of a military victory. Even las week, at the very time when the President of the United States and his representatives were working desperately behind the scenes for negotiations with Hanoi, the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) was claiming that the war was about to be won. He said that there had been a dramatic change in the military situation which was nol adequately reflected in the orientation of Press reports. He claimed that the heavy losses of the Tet offensive had forced the North Vietnamese and Vietcong units to withdraw to sanctuary areas and to seek other means of continuing the struggle. This is an incredibly naive interpretation of recent events in Vietnam. The Tet offensive may not have defeated the American and Republic of South Vietnam forces or induced the withdrawal of foreign forces from Vietnam. However, it had the very great psychological effect of producing the partial bombing halt and President Johnson’s renunciation of the Presidency, lt was also directly responsible for initiating the Paris peace talks.
The Minister for the Army plainly believes the present lull in military activity in Vietnam is due to the heavy casualties the Vietcong and North Vietnamese forces sustained. The Minister did not even consider the possibility that this could be a reciprocal gesture in response to America’s partial bombing halt. Alternatively, it could be due to the need for regrouping and reinforcement by the Vietcong and North Vietnamese. There is no indication thai the effort of the Communist forces has been weakened. The truth is that only a very small proportion of the North Vietnamese regular army has been committed to the war in South Vietnam. In addition. North Vietnam retains immense military depth in its volunteer forces, which number more than one and a half million soldiers. North Vietnam has committed only the minimum number of troops required to hold down more than one million American and South Vietnamese soldiers.
Quite plainly, North Vietnam could continue infiltrating troops into South Vietnam at this level for many years to come. And. equally plainly, the American Government has relinquished all hope of winning a military victory in Vietnam. This, I submit, is the real reason why it is now directing all its efforts to securing a political settlement on the most favourable terms. This was emphasised when Mr Arthur Goldberg, the former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, said 2 weeks ago that he was profoundly convinced that the United States and its allies were now on the last stages of the Vietnam war.
Quite plainly, too, neither side can win a military victory under present conditions of warfare in Vietnam. The only solution is a political settlement on the lines which have been repeatedly advocated by the Australian Labor Party. When the Minister for the Army spoke to the Returned Services League Congress last week, he was well aware that the Americans were about to make dramatic moves to secure a political settlement along these lines. It was extraordinary that in these circumstances the Australian Government should state publicly that there had been a dramatic change in favour of the allies in Vietnam. There is no evidence to support this claim. In fact, the whole trend of the war this year has been towards a negotiated political settlement. The Labor Party has ceaselessly urged three conditions for the achievement of such a settlement. The Minister for Air earlier referred to two of them. They are important. They are as follows: The cessation of the bombing of North Vietnam; the recognition of the National Liberation Front as a major party to negotiations; and the scaling-down of the war so that meaningful negotiations could begin.
Events in Vietnam in the past 8 months have completely vindicated the stand the Labor Party adopted at its Federal Conference in Adelaide in July last year. These proposals were the basis of the Labor Party’s policy for assuring meaningful negotiations to end the war in Vietnam. If action was not taken to assure the basis for a negotiated political settlement, then a Labor government would consider it had no alternative but to withdraw Australian troops from Vietnam.
The Government, of course, has grossly distorted the Labor Party’s policies on Vietnam. Our policy was not an ultimatum to the United States of America. It was an attempt to use the initiative of Australia’s commitment to Vietnam as a way of diverting the course of the war into channels of rationality and humanity. It is worth examining this declaration some eighteen months later to see how it now holds. At the time, it was claimed that a Labor government would impose completely unacceptable terms on the American Government. Now we find that the Americans have made great advances towards fulfilling our conditions as a basis for negotiation.
The events of the past 10 months in South Vietnam have vindicated the Labor Party’s stand. In particular, events of the last 4 days completely and entirely vindicate our stand. Yet, this policy has been misrepresented and derided again and again by the Government. This policy is now the final policy of the United States Administration. The Government is forced, reluctantly and halfheartedly, to accept it.
Unfortunately, however, the American Government’s actions, though welcome, are belated. It is unfortunate that the President’s decisions were presented in the atmosphere of the election campaign. America would have been in a much stronger position if the step she has now taken had been taken long ago. If the Australian Government had used its influence with the United States earlier, these things would have been done long ago. Scores of thousands of lives in both North and South Vietnam would have been saved and we would have far better prospects for a more satisfactory outcome of the peace negotiations. Of course, we now know that the present Government would never have used its influence with the United States to help bring about negotiations. Right up to last month, the Minister for External Affairs was urging continuation of the bombing.
All along the line, the Government has been proved disastrously wrong on Vietnam. Even at this stage there is no indication that it is prepared to do anything, or take any initiatives, to make amends for its costly errors and blunders and misjudgments. All Australians will echo the Prime Ministers’ expressed hope that the Paris peace talks will lead to a just and lasting peace. We would have far greater confidence if we could believe that the Australian Government was prepared, as far as lies in its power, to make those talks succeed. All Australians, I believe, will be deeply disappointed and disturbed that we have had no such indication from Government speakers tonight.
(9.24] - This debate arose from a statement in which the Prime
Minister (Mr Gorton) traversed events surrounding the momentous decision of the President of the United States of America, which r need not repeat, lt was a calm and lucid statement, one calculated to inform the Parliament and the people of Australia of the present circumstances and the prospects of peace. [ am quite sure that, having regard to the extreme seriousness of the existing situation, the debate in this House ought to have proceeded along the lines established by the Prime Minister himself, lt will contribute nothing to the understanding by the Parliament and by the Australian people of what is at issue for us to convert a simple, rational account of a stale of affairs into an acrimonious political debate, and while 1 intend to make some general comments upon the nature of the speeches delivered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). I do not intend to join issue in an acrimonious debate. After having commented upon the attitudes of those two honourable gentlemen 1 will turn to my own statement.
The Leader of the Opposition, who was accorded the privilege of speaking without limitation of time, attacked the Government. Well, I suppose that is a privilege and a prerogative of the Leader of the Opposition at any time. But he attacked Australia’s involvement in South Vietnam. He attacked the policies and attitudes of the United States of America. He described in great detail what he deemed to be the failures of the United States and of the President of the United States, and for good measure, while on this course, he launched an attack on the Government of South Vietnam, which he said had not, in the midst of its torment, engaged in land reforms and other social reforms that he would like to see. Not only has this Government been attacked; Australia’s involvement also has been attacked, our friends and allies in America have been attacked from President Johnson down, and the Government and President of South Vietnam also have been scathingly attacked.
We have an enemy today. What did the Leader of the Opposition say about our enemy? Not a single word. This nation is at war. We have an identifiable, dangerous enemy, and the alternative Prime Minister of this country has nothing to say of that enemy at all. This is nol good enough, lt is true that, having made it quite clear that in his opinion this Government has no capacity lo give a lead, the Leader of the Opposition said that Australia could give the United States a lead. What he really meant wa« that the Leader of the Opposition could give the United States a lead. What presumption! I really want to say no more than that this really does not measure up to a proper attitude of responsibility towards the things that are at issue.
The honourable gentleman turned to the bombing, which is, of course, a central issue of dispute and discussion and worry, and he said this: ‘If the decisions made last Friday’ - he was referring to the decision to stop all warlike attacks in North Vietnam - ‘were right, they were right a year ago’.
– How true.
– Well, how untrue. Let me withdraw the word ‘untrue’ and say how incorrect this is. lt is true that there are two circumstances in which one could cease bombing or warlike attacks. One is to cease them without prior condition or arrangement and hope that such cessation will lead the enemy to abate bis activities also. That is one method. Has the Leader of the Opposition forgotten that President Johnson tried that? Has he forgotten thai it was only in, I think, last March that the President of the United States ordered cessation of all bombing of areas which contained 90% of the population of North Vietnam? What did that result in? Simply a faster escalation of the activities of the North Vietnamese. Here is one approach which the President tried and with which he failed. The other approach, and the only other tenable approach to the cessation of bombing activities, is to arrive at a situation in which one can entertain, in this tormenting atmosphere, a belief that there are some grounds for confidence, from what someone has said, although not formally or publicly, that if we cease our activities in this zone there will be a reciprocal abatement of activity by the enemy. Now for the first time in these dreadful years the President of the United States has grounds to believe - I do not think he has any guarantee, but being a man who desires peace he thinks he has sufficient reasonable grounds to hold this view - that if he abates his warlike activities against North Vietnam there will be a reciprocal abatement by the North Vietnamese. So he has done this. But the point is that this is the first time in the history of this war that the man principally responsible for conducting it, the President of the United States, has reason to believe that if he withdraws the other side will withdraw too.
I want to pass from a reference to what has been said. But before I do so I want to deal with two quite outrageous statements that have been made by the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. They are shameful statements. The Leader of the Opposition said: This Government buys votes at the expense of the dead and the maimed.’ That is really a quite disgraceful statement to make. And it contributes nothing to the well-being of the people of Australia or the understanding by the people of Australia of the issues. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that he believes that the Government is not very concerned about whether these talks succeed or fail. I refuse to believe that these gentlemen are expressing in the national Parliament of Australia the thoughts that they really hold. They are trying to turn a serious incident to political advantage; but I do not think there is any political advantage in the course they have taken.
The attitude of this Government to the invasion of South Vietnam by the forces of North Vietnam and by the insurgents supported by the Government of North Vietnam has always been clear. It has been stated and restated many times in the Parliament and elsewhere. We and our allies have involved ourselves to aid the internationally recognised Government of South Vietnam to resist aggression from without. Such aggression, if successful, would provide evidence to the world that no small country was safe from an aggressive neighbour, particularly if supported, as North Vietnam has been supported, by great Communist powers.
The Government regards as tremendously important that when the most powerful non-Communist nation, the United States, pledges support against aggression to a small country that pledge can be relied upon. The consequences around the world of the United States abandoning the peacekeeping role which she has shouldered would be tremendous. All these issues are of enormous importance to Australia as a nation, and to all our people. We are a small nation. We are a non-Communist nation. We are a nation possessing many things that others more powerful must envy. There is no small country in the world to whom the protection against external aggression is more important, is more utterly vital, than Australia.
This has led us to align ourselves in this with our natural and powerful ally, the United States of America. This has led us to send aid to South Vietnam, to send trained soldiers to help to train their troops. When the Government forces of South Vietnam appeared in danger of being overrun and the tragically circumstanced citizens of South Vietnam were suffering the torments of death and destruction, then, and only then, on the request of the Government of South Vietnam we joined with our ally, the United States, in putting troops in the field to beat back the aggression. We, by this act, have welded a further bond of close affinity with our powerful friend, the United States.
We have the respect of the people and the President of the United States of America. What we joined the United States, South Vietnam and our other allies to do, has to this point of time, been achieved. South Vietnam is still a free country. Aggression has been held back, and the act of aggression has proved to be a heavy loser. Now, with the cessation of the bombing, comes a new phase. One can only assess the decision of President Johnson to cease acts of war in the North by referring to the basic objective of the allies in this war.
I have stated many times what is the end objective of the Allies in this fighting, and my colleagues have stated it too. Let me read from a speech of mine in the House of Representatives on 22nd March 1966 - 2i years ago. I said:
Only when the Communists realise that they cannot win will they talk as they talked in Korea, and come to a settlement as they did there, and as they have done on other occasions.
We do not want victory; we want them to talk and we want a settlement. And again in this House, almost exactly a year ago to the day, on 2nd November, I said:
When he is brought to that realisation he will talk. That was our policy. It has always been our policy and it remains our policy today - not to conquer but to prove that the aggressor himself cannot conquer. We have never had any other objective than that.
Experience in other arenas has shown us that in such circumstances peace does not come with a new day. The transition from fighting to an established peaceful relationship is generally a long, tortuous, frustrating process. The first public glimmer of a prospect of peace came when, many months ago, North Vietnam agreed to commence talks in Paris. Events there have served to prove how difficult it is to achieve peace by negotiation with these people. There certainly were talks below the surface before these public talks in Paris commenced.
One might expect that there were other talks below the surface before m: President announced the cessation of warlike acts north of the demilitarised zone I am sure that the agreement to talk more deeply since that cessation is to be viewed as a tremendous forward achievement. How ever, it may involve many disappointments for those who expect early success and peace. We should not buoy ourselves up too much to expect early smooth results. All the record of Communist diplomacy is a record of irrational, unreasonable attitudes, frustrations and delays which nevertheless very often terminate in an acceptable measure of agreement. My counsel is to be hopeful, but also to be prepared to be patient.
I suppose it will be in the minds of millions that if President Johnson found it possible to cease warlike acts north of the demilitarised zone now he might have done it long since. There is no fruitful purpose in engaging in a speculative discussion on this, but one thing must be said. While Governments may quite readily take the terrible decision to go to war, it is never so easy to terminate the war.
Before war commences governments are moved only by their prior obligations and their sense of responsibility to their own people and to others. But once battle has been joined governments cannot take decisions which interrupt tuc course of events, without taking most fully into their thinking what new dangers they may create for their troops in the field by a political decision. As one who has been a Cabinet Minister in wartime, 1 know myself how properly and powerfully governments weigh the consequences for the troops in the field of any political decisions they may make during the course qf hostilities.
The very decision which President Johnson has now made and which is so applauded mav1, if Hanoi does not respond to it in like terms, establish u new level of danger for the allied forces and a new build up of strength which otherwise would not have occurred. In assessing this, I am sure that the President and the Government of South Vietnam its the representatives of the principal combatants among the allies, would have been tormented by a fear that this act of faith, this great step to provide a climate for peaceful settlement, might, in fact prove no more than an opportunity for the enemy to build his strength again.
This is the situation in which those who are not al the heart of things, and wilh the benefit of advice of the military leaders, can never be sure that their assessment of lbc political act is a correct assessment. As I said earlier, it can be hoped that at some level below the public surface a measure of understanding existed before the President took his historic step.
Let us hope that peace will follow in due course. Let us nol be dismayed if it is delayed, but let us keep this whole situation in perspective by reminding ourselves once again that we and our allies have been at war. not to conquer, lo smash the enemy, or to capture the other person’s territory. We have acceded to the pica*, of South Vietnam for help and we have joined our great friend, the United Slates, and our other allies to prove our willingness (o help ensure a safe world for free people. What higher motive than that can there be for any country? As we give aid against aggression, and stick with our friends in their difficult times, so we earn, let us not forgot, by our attitudes and by our actions, our own entitlement to help should we ever find ourselves in a similar position.
Or J. F. CAIRNS (Yarra) [9.43]- The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) is always, 1 find, a capable exponent of self-interest. The whole of his contribution to this debate tonight has been directed at what he sees to be the selfinterest of the Australian people. He may be right; he may be wrong. But in his willingness to pursue what he considers to be the self-interest of the Australian people he has been prepared io tolerate and support the deaths of 120,000 Vietnamese in the last 3 years. 28.000 Americans and 240 Australians. The Minister for Trade and Industry may be right, but he is prepared to lake awful risks with other people’s lives to sec whether he is right, lt is a risk that I am not prepared to take.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I welcome the cessation of the bombing and of other warlike acts against North Vietnam. I regret that it did not happen 3 years ago. I regret that the bombing of North Vietnam started at ail. What we have today are the possibilities of political settlement, lt may well have been that we had the possibilities of political settlement 3 years ago. 1 am not sure and the Minister for Trade and Industry, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the rest of the Government are not sure even now that they have the possibilities of a political settlement. But this is all that they have, at the cost of approximately 138.000 dead human beings. lt is a big risk to take to back their opinion. It is a big risk to lake, that they are prepared to punish the enemy to that extent, to back their opinion as to whether they have a real possibility of a political settlement or not. The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) cannot be any more sure that he has the possibilities of a satisfactory political settlement today than at any time over the last 3 years. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) cannot be any more sure. The Minister for Air - or whatever Mr Freeth is at the moment - cannot bc any more sure. No member of the Government can he more sure today that he has more chance of a satisfactory political settlement than he had 3 years ago.
It may well be that the Vietnamese after they have suffered all these casualties may be even tougher now than they were 3 years ago. It may well be that in other cases where substantial numbers of people - not every one of them - are convinced that they are fighting for their independence and for their own rights, they are even tougher after they have suffered 120,000 casualities than they were before. The Minister for Trade and Industry. I am sure, is one of those people who would be tougher had he suffered like that and had his people suffered like that.
The right honourable gentleman said that he does not want an acrimonious debate - None of us wants an acrimonious debate of this matter. Having said that, the Minister for Trade and Industry then began to make a few fine points. He said that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard), had attacked Australian involvement, had attacked the policies of the United Suites Government and had attacked even the Government of South Vietnam, as though all three were together. This is a very simple position for the right honourable gentleman to take. But, of course, he could not have been reading the morning newspapers. One of the leaders of the Government of South Vietnam. Nguyen Cao Ky, has branded the United States as a true and dirty colonial power and has said that the South Vietnamese Government trusts Americans no longer: ‘They are just a band of crooks’.
– How does the honourable member know that he said that?
– It is in his character. He has been saying it for about 2 years. We have had many verifications of his attitude. If the honourable member for Barton is not satisfied about this, he has not been keeping up with his homework - which I suspect. The Minister for Trade and Industry wants us to consider that these 3 governments are perfectly in accord. He says that there is no difference between them. We should never criticise them. We should never try to find out whether anything better can be done. We have an enemy. He asked: What had the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said about the enemy? I think that the Minister for Trade and Industry has missed the point altogether. What these gentlemen have been saying, and what we have been saying for 3 or 4 years is that there is a far better and more effective way of dealing with an enemy than the way chosen by the right honourable gentleman and his colleagues, which has caused terrible devastation to the people of Vietnam, has imposed terrific cost upon the American people, has divided them and has caused an American President to abdicate his office. This is a pretty shocking record, I should think, by any standards. It is time that we were prepared fairly, objectively and constructively to criticise this record. The Minister for Trade and Industry is not prepared to do that.
The right honourable gentleman, of all people in House, says that Australia cannot give a lead to the United States of America. Apparently this is so concerning foreign policy only. Australia can give a lead to the United States about sugar, about meat, about private investment and about tariffs on wool. On all these things, the right honourable gentleman is characterised as a strong, vigorous Australian who can give a lead to the United States. But on the question of foreign policy, no, he is as meek and as mild as the rest of his colleagues. He loses his strong character that he has derived from his bush background from which he comes.
I turn to the next telling point made by the right honourable gentleman. He felt truly confident about this in the early part of his speech but he was in a different state of mind in the latter part of his speech. He said that the Leader of the Opposition had said that if the decision to stop the bombing was right last Friday it was right for a year ago. What a terrible statement the Leader of the Opposition had made. The Minister for Trade and Industry set out to disprove it. He said that there were two ways of looking at this. Firstly, we could stop the bombing without prior conditions or agreement in the hope that the other side would respond, but the President had rightly dismissed this out of hand on many occasions.
– I said he had done it in March last.
– He had not only dismissed it on many occasions, but once he had done it and he had been proved wrong because there was no response. There was no response at all to this magnanimous action by the President. The only other way to do it, according to the right honourable gentleman, who is much more expert on trade than he is on foreign affairs, was to take action without such a guarantee. He presumed this was out of court. But he thinks even now that they do not have a guarantee; and his leader, the Prime Minister, and none of the other Ministers who have spoken, nor the President of the United States have even hinted that they have such a thing as a guarantee. They have hopes. They have what the right honourable gentleman referred to towards the end of his speech, when he was reaching his dramatic peroration, in these words: ‘This was a great act of faith by the President of the United States’. There was no proof. There was no guarantee. It was just hope - a great act of faith. The Minister for Trade and Industry, who attacked the Leader of the Opposition by saying we would be wrong to support the cessation of bombing unless we had tight guarantees, has ended up by supporting the cessation of bombing as a great act of faith by the President of the United States.
The right honourable member concluded his speech by reaching a higher point than I thought he was capable of on foreign policy. He attacked the suggestion that he himself or any of his colleagues might not want peace talks to succeed by saying it was a shameful and outrageous statement. Frankly, I am not sure whether significant members of the Government want the peace talks to succeed. I am not sure, because 1 have followed through the record of the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall), the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) and other Ministers in which they attack every move made for negotiations, every move made for a cessation of bombing, every move made to admit the National Liberation Front to the talks. Do they support these things now? Have they changed? Is it outrageous to ask whether they have changed? If they have, they may speak for themselves. No one tonight has chosen to say they have changed. No one tonight has chosen to say that they favour the seating of the NLF at the conference. Do they? Perhaps the Minister for Trade and Industry knows, but he has not told us. In the circumstances it is not an unreasonable question to ask. It is not outrageous or shameful to ask whether they, a flight of hawks, have changed into doves.
This debate concerns the nature and effect of a cessation of bombing on North Vietnam and of other attacks upon North Vietnam. 1 think that the Prime Minister has reasserted a position of resistance and doubt in regard to this situation which has been described all along by his Ministers as being a desertion of our allies, treason, a scuttle and a sell-out. What is the difference now? Where is the great change? Where is the guarantee by North Vietnam or the NLF? There is no evidence of any of these changes. If there is any overt, clear undertaking by North Vietnam, where is the evidence of it? No Minister who has spoken tonight has suggested that there is any evidence of it. The Ministers have said that we could nol support a cessation of bombing because it would endanger the lives of our men. Has any evidence been produced by Government speakers that it will not endanger their lives? The matter has never been mentioned. The Government has always supported the position that the bombing would not be stopped unless this evidence had been obtained.
What is the position of the NLF and of Hanoi today? lt has not changed. The NLF has been admitted to the peace talks. This was opposed by the Saigon Government and the Australian Government, but there has been no reference to any of these matters. We know from recent public statements that the position of the NLF has not changed. In the Press this morning it was reported that the NLF has taken a position which it has always taken and which is summed up in five points:
South Vietnam is resolved to struggle for its sacred rights - independence, democracy, peace, neutrality, prosperity, and ultimate peaceful reunification with the North.
The internal affairs of the South Vietnamese people must be settled by the people themselves in accordance with the political programme of the NLF without foreign interference, formation of a broad national and democratic coalition Government and holding of free general elections in South Vietnam.
The reunification of Vietnam will be decided by the people in die two zones of Vietnam, step by step, by peaceful means and on the basis of consultations and agreements between the two zones, without foreign interference.
South Vietnam will pursue a foreign policy of peace and neutrality: No military alliance in any form with foreign countries, and establishment of friendly relations with all countries on the five principles of peaceful existence. Good neighbourhood relations will be sei up with Cambodia and with Laos. 1 ,
This position has not changed. This has always been the position of the NLF just as it has always been the position of Hanoi - that they would not talk of peace until all bombing had ceased and all other warlike acts against North Vietnam had been stopped. At last this action has been taken. Where is the evidence that there has been any change? Why has the Government suddenly changed? Why does it support today a cessation of bombing? Why does it not now support the seating of the NLF at the conference?
But the war has changed. It has changed from a predominantly military war to a political one. The question the Minister for Trade and Industry and others should be asked is this: Why has it changed? The answer is that it has changed because the President of the United States and his advisers have decided that the war cannot be won militarily. Has the Australian Government decided this? It has had the benefit of recent advice from the present Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) to the contrary. Has it decided this or is it merely following America? America has changed position because of the cost of the war, which amounts to $25,000m a year, $2, 500m a month, or S50m a day. That is enough money to provide every American family with a home, a car. food, medical and dental requirements. The cost is equal to about half the deficiency of the American balance of payments. The cost of the war can be measured also in the feelings of the American people about the killing of Vietnamese people, many of whom have been civilians. This is substantially a people’s war in the sense that the women and children cannot be separated from the fighters. When napalm and bombs are dropped on fighters the women and children also are hit.
– And churches.
– A substantial number of American people as distinct from the honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs), who is cold and incisive as one might imagine a surgeon to be sometimes, are not prepared even so to see this war go on even as the Minister for Defence and others in this Government are prepared to see it go on.
But this change was inevitable. The cessation of bombing as a first step was inevitable. It may well have been achieved, as 1 said a few minutes ago, in 1965, 1966, 1967 or 1968. At least there have been 125,000 or 130,000 dead people in the meantime.
The admission of the National Liberation Front to the talks was inevitable. The Prime Minister again tried to make it look all right by saying that what has recently been done was in accord with the declaration at Manila. We know that the Manila position was a tougher and a harder one than anything that had come before it and anything that had come after. In respect of the National Liberation Front the Manila declaration was specific. There was only one role for the National Liberation Front as is well revealed in Keesing’s ‘Contemporary Archives’ at page 2171.9 and thereafter on 19th to 26th November 1966. The role of the National Liberation Front was to surrender.
– Lay down your arms.
– Lay down your arms and surrender. This was their only role. This is the position that the Saigon Government has taken from the beginning. I had a long talk with Mr Tran Van Do, the Foreign Minister, in 1966 and he made it quite clear that this was the position. Manil’a did likewise. How can the Prime Minister say this agreement is consistent with Manila? Docs not he know what Manila means or is he again trying to mislead the Australian people?
Manila required the surrender of the National Liberation Front. The President’s statement the other day seeks the National Liberation Front at the peace talks in Paris. What a contradiction. The position I think that has come about as a result of the decision by the President of the United States of America is a recognition of the limitations of military power; a position that was well put by the Leader of the Opposition; a recognition that if security is to be given to South East Asia we must give up the belief that we can give security by a predominantly military policy. There will be no more Vietnams. The Australian Government sooner or later will have to reconcile itself to that. The position that the Opposition has taken all the way through is that a predominantly military policy was strategically wrong, tactically incorrect and morally unacceptable. The decision made by the President of the United Stales vindicates this stand. All it does is to open the door for a new policy. If we do not hear any more from the leaders of the Government than we have heard tonight, we can conclude that they are bankrupt of ideas about a new policy, lt is not much good the Minister for Trade and Industry saying that we cannot make some suggestions about this. If we can lead the world in getting sugar and meat agreements and so forth we can make some constructive suggestions about foreign policy.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Kevin Cairns) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 10 October (vide page 1 870), on motion by Dr Forbes:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill is perhaps one of the most important aspects of Budget policy as announced by the Government. Whilst the Opposition finds that the Bill has many deficiences, these deficiencies are a product of the system that it is trying to amend. Any amendment of this system is bound to reflect the deficiences that are present in the health system as a whole. The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) told us in his second reading speech that the Bill had three main purposes. I will translate them into my own words instead of using the Minister’s words because not everyone would accept his precise statement of the purposes. Firstly, the Bill benefits those who have had their hospital benefits reduced, under the rules of the hospital benefit organisations relating to pre-existing or chronic ailments or long-term illnesses. Secondly, the Bill provides for a supplementary benefit of $3 a day to be paid in respect of patients in nursing homes who require and receive intensive nursing home care. The Minister, in his second reading speech, said that the supplementary benefit will be in addition to the existing nursing home benefit of $2 a day. Thirdly, the Bill provides for a benefit of $1.50 a day to be paid in respect of handicapped children residing in handicapped persons homes conducted by religious or charitable bodies.
I intend in the course of the next few minutes to make a number of criticisms about this Bill that I think are significant. Given the structure of the health scheme as it is. and according to the Government’s standards, this is an important development of the existing health scheme and perhaps the most valuable provision in the Budget, given those limitations. There are a number of minor matters contained in the Bill such as provision for the supply of measles vaccine to State governments and provision for persons who have lost their pensioner medical service benefit and who may now join a medical benefit organisation without the initial waiting period of 2 months.
The Minister made the point in his second reading speech that this was a result of the Government’s plan and intention to meet the greatest needs of those who needed better medical and hospital services in Australia. The Opposition does not accept this because what the Government has done is conditioned and limited by the structure of the present health service scheme and is characterised completely by the system and the priorities of that system. The Minister also mentioned domiciliary services. In his speech, he said: . . the Government is currently exploring, with State governments, ways of strengthening and extending domiciliary welfare services within the community. These are the services which are aimed at helping the sick, the frail and needy, especially older people, in their own domestic environment which, in many cases, is to be preferred to the institutional environment of hospitals and nursing homes. The Government will assist the States financiallly to achieve a balanced and extended domiciliary care programme. 1 think it is to be regretted that the intention of the Government to move into this field is not associated with any intention of the Government to inform the House by a statement from the Minister for Health at some time or other with some suggestions of detail as to what it proposes to do.
Why cannot the Parliament, have some say in what is done? Why must we always be greeted with a fait accompli in which we have no say and which substantially - almost completely - we either have to accept or reject.
The Minister for Health is in no different a situation from any other Minister in this respect. But it seems to me that in the health field it is more necessary probably than in any other to give the House an opportunity to express its own views about developments in such an area as domiciliary welfare services within the community. Generally the health and hospital system in Australia is based on the hospital benefit and medical benefit organisations. These organisations provide a cover to the extent that the schemes are actuarily sound. It is basically a financial approach. What is actuarially sound counts costs as they are. Sooner or later in Australia an attempt have to be made to rationalise the situation with regard to organisations. By any standards there are far too many organisations. By any standards there is too great a multiplication of individual services. By any standards there is a lack of economies of scale. Sooner or later, unless the cost of the health and hospital services in Australia is to rise fantastically, some government will have to take action to rationalise the system.
What is actuarially possible depends also upon ever rising reserves, which must now amount to more than $100m. I ask the question in 1968: Are these reserves necessary? It would seem that the justification given for the reserves by the organisations is that some day they may face some situation of epidemic proportions. Is this realistic? If this happened would the Government not have to act, and could it not act on its own initiative to meet the situation? Is it necessary that those who are insuring for the future should contribute enormous and growing reserves for a purpose such as this?
I would like now to look in a little more detail at the provisions of the Bill. In his second reading speech the Minister for Health said:
The Bill now provides that where necessary the Commonwealth will underwrite, through the special account system, the full insured benefit entitlements of a patient for the whole period of hospitalisation. The level of payment in these cases will, however, be limited so that benefits payable do no! exceed the total hospital bill including the normal additional charges such as for theatre fees and drugs. lt is pretty clear from that statement that the supplementary provision will not cover the costs of hospitalisation, whatever they are. Some limitation - some standard - will be applied by the Department of Health. It will not be possible now, any more than in the past, for a patient to go into hospital confident that all his hospital expenses will be paid by the organisation with which he is insured. One can feel that more people will get more as a result of this change, but one cannot be sure that the charges made in the hospitals will not rise so that in perhaps a few months or a year the patient may not be any better off than he was before. Can the Minister be sure that this will not happen, because most of the hospitals about which I know anything are in financial difficulties and are awaiting the opportunity for some more prosperous patients, even as a result of government assistance, to be able to pay more than they are paying now?
Does this situation extend beyond the private hospital? Where does a hospital cease to be a hospital? We know that about 50% of patients are now treated in public hospitals, where beds are too few and where, as a result the means test is too low and loo crippling. We know that outside the public hospitals there are private hospitals. Presumably this supplementary benefit will bc payable to patients in registered private hospitals. But we know that the number of registered private hospitals has diminished significantly.
I have been told that in New South Wales a few years ago there were 350 private hospitals, and today there are only 30. How much better will it be to have this wonderful addition to the supplementary benefit paid lo patients who now have the opportunity to choose beds in 30 private hospitals compared with 350 a few years ago? The rub of this system is not whether the Government is devoting many more millions of dollars - more than $20m - to improving the position of the patient: the rub is how much opportunity will patients have to benfit from this. Their opportunity is not limited by the amount of money payable by the Government: it is limited by the number of beds available - a severe and continuing restriction in public hospitals and a very severe and continued diminution in the number of private hospitals to which the payments are payable. This, of course, is the weakness in the position taken by the Government.
Recently I read a letter, which I think has been made available to all members of Parliament, from Matron Ray of St Anne’s Private Hospital in Sydney. She said that the statement made by the Government that patients can rely on having complete financial coverage against hospital costs by contributing to the health insurance funds is misleading. Matron Ray stated: . . when the citizen exercises his right to choose from whom and where he will receive his medical care, he often discovers too late that - despite his status as a financial member of a hospital benefit fund - he is denied complete financial coverage. This is because fund benefit entitlement is restricted to patients in ‘approved’ hospitals only, and in practice the Commonwealth Health Department is pursuing a policy of confining this definition to public hospitals and to a declining number of private hospitals.
It is all right to offer increased benefits to patients, but if you are to diminish the number of hospitals in which those benefits can be paid-
– The honourable member would like to reduce their standard.
– No, I would like to improve the standard very much.
– The other is what the honourable member is implying.
– I am not. Surely the honourable member did not become a leading surgeon by adopting that kind of logic. This is not my argument at all and in a few minutes I wilt say what I mean about improving standards not only of private hospitals but also of public hospitals.
– We are concerned with the patients.
– That is so; at the moment I am concerned with the patient - an idea which seems to escape the honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs), who seems to reason mainly from the viewpoint of the doctor or the hospital. It is all very well1 to have in this House a spokesman for the doctors and the hospitals - a role which the honourable member seems to be adequately playing - but it is time somebody in the House spoke up for the patient, and that is what I am trying to do now.
So far 1 have been talking about benefits payable to patients in hospitals. I turn now to an extremely significant passage in the Minister’s second reading speech. The Minister said:
The second measure concerns nursing homes and recognises that some nursing home patients need considerably more nursing and other paramedical treatment than others and that this more intensive care adds greatly to the cost of treatment. Patients in nursing homes who are classified as in need of intensive’ nursing home care and who receive such care will attract a supplementary benefit of $3 a day in addition to the existing benefit of $2 u day payable in respect of all patients in approved nursing homes.
This does not mean that all patients in nursing homes will receive $5 a day. Many will continue to receive $2 a day. But the additional S3 will be paid to those who pass the test of intensive nursing home care, which is defined in sub-clause (7.) of clause 15 of the Bill. In his speech the Minister said:
Patients who will receive the supplementary benefit will include those whose disabilities make them virtually bed-fast, who are wholly or substantially dependent upon nursing care or who are undergoing comprehensive nursing aimed at improving their health or their independence and are thereby dependent on nursing care. 1 must make it clear that patients who receive such treatment away from their beds will not be debarred from receiving the supplementary benefit.
This is a question of fact and presumably, according to what the Minister has said, the fact will be decided by (he doctor concerned. This seems to be a significant change. We have had complaints from many sources in the past, as Matron Ray states in her letter, which I. have already quoted. This letter is significant not because it is unique but because it expresses the common attitude of most matrons of private hospitals. She says in her letter:
Furthermore, it is highly desirable that payment of Commonwealth benefit for long term patients in nursing homes shall he made on the basis of medical need, not clerical decision.
Am I right in presuming there has now been a change in the attitude of the Government? fs this decision now to be based upon medical requirements as prescribed in one certificate by the docotor or will the Commonwealth Department of Health still have some kind of influence and power of veto?
– Medical officers will decide.
– Will medical officers be the sole judges of the situation, and will their certificates be accepted without question?
– Medical officers in my Department will decide.
– That is an important discovery because, as I read the Minister’s second reading speech, the doctor who was to decide was to be the doctor giving the service in the nursing home. We now learn, however, that doctors in the Commonwealth Department of Health will say whether or not a patient is receiving intensive nursing care. That will be news for a great many people. The Minister did not make that clear in his speech. There was no indication whatsoever in his speech that this was the case. I am indebted to him for having made it clear now. There will be disputed decisions in this matter, as there are in quite a lot of other matters. Presumably, as before, the Commonwealth Department of Health will be the final and only judge.
A matter which has recently been mentioned by the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) is worth mentioning .again. For some time some consideration has been given to the right of appeal from decisions of government officials and tribunals. On many occasions decisions are made about whether people may or may not migrate to Australia or about whether people shall or shall not receive invalid or age pensions or special benefits. Of course, under the National Health Act, decisions are made by Commonwealth officials about many things, including the question of whether a patient is having intensive nursing care. 1 suppose the idea that sooner or later some kind of appeal from official or tribunal decisions must be available to the person concerned. When will the right of appeal be introduced? Has the Minister for Health thought about this as it affects his Department? Has he had any discussions with the AttorneyGeneral, who has said that he has the matter under consideration? These are things that the House and the people are entitled to know.
I want to move on now to look at some general principles in regard to the health provisions in this country, because I have said that whilst the detailed proposals made by the Minister and the Government in this case are substantial by their standards, and perhaps are the best provisions in the Budget, these provisions are subject to pretty serious criticism when one looks at the nature of (he health scheme. Every one of these provisions flows out of the existing health scheme and thereby possesses the deficiencies and defects of that scheme. It seems to mc that at this stage there are a few principles that are agreed on across the House as well as among a substantial proportion of the people. The first one is that at least some of the cost of medical treatment will not be paid by the patient at the time of illness: thai there will apply some kind of insurance principle under which he can pay when not ill, and when normally earning, for an illness that may occur to him later. This is a principle that is now thoroughly accepted on both sides of the House and by the great majority of the Australian people, although it was not a principle that was accepted in this way 30 years ago.
But the Opposition is convinced that, despite the acceptance of this principle to the extent to which it has been accepted by the Government, far too much still has to be paid by people who have little or no income. We feel that the only solution to this situation lies in provision for public funds to operate in the same field as the large number of private funds and to give some kind of competition to those private funds - not to outlaw them, but to set a standard. We believe that a public fund could set a higher standard and function at a more comprehensive level than a profit making fund. I know that the Minister will point out that these are not ordinary private profit making organisations and will define them in a different way. But their accounts are run according to the same principle and with the same objectives as a profit making organisation. We feel also that there has to be an extension of public provision through hospitals and a lifting of the means test so that a larger number of people can gain admission for treatment at and hospitalisation in public hospitals. It is agreed that patients as far as possible should not pay at the time of illness, and the insurance principle should be used to achieve a better situation for the low income earners and to develop what one would call the public sector, both in the funds and in the hospitals.
The present system is too costly because there are too many insurers, a multiplication of services, and additional cost in the unnecessary provision of reserves, which I have already mentioned. One would think that the interests of the insurers are being put ahead of the interests of the patients. Sometimes, as I have mentioned already, the interests of the doctors are being put ahead of the interests of the patients. We do not agree that technical changes in the health system should not occur. One of the most important costs in the health system is the cost of pharmaceutical drugs. I shall not try to express the excess costs in monetary terms or in percentages, because there can be endless arguments about this. This can happen because we do not know the facts. Whatever anyone proposes as a measure of these costs and excess costs can be argued about because we do not know the facts.
Any government with a sense of responsibility would have to take some action, first of all, to discover the facts. I would be very difficult to convince that some real competition in the manufacture and supply of pharmaceutical drugs would not be of great benefit. I do not think we can expect that kind of competition from the addition of another firm or company to the oligopolistic situation that exists already, because both economic theorists and practical experience show that oligopolies do not compete through price. They compete through the differentiation of their product and through identification of special and sometimes imaginary characteristics of their product. One cannot expect much price competition from the oligopolistic situation that exists in the production of pharmaceutical drugs in Australia. Therefore it seems to me that if we are to get competition it will come only from some public enterprise.
The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories have already had extensive experience in the production of organic substances and they are equipped to enter the other fields. They are short of funds, even for their present level of operation and for future advances. Until the Government is prepared to provide more for the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories they certainly cannot enter the field that I am mentioning. One of the first acts that a Labor government would undertake would be to equip the CSL with necessary funds for research to enable the
Laboratories to enter into competition in the production of ordinary pharmaceutical drugs. If we found that a satisfactory situation was established for them to enter into this field we would soon provide them with the necessary funds to begin effective production.
– If they had that money they would be on a competitive basis.
– Yes, but not taking into account oligopolistic situations. The last point I want to make is one that comes from an examination of the existing hospital system. I want to state a criticism of that system that was made in a report by the Australian Association of Social Workers, Victorian Branch. The report is titled The Chronically 111 - A Survey’, lt was published in December 1967. The survey gives a lol of space to a description of the kind of questionnaire and the kind of statistical techniques that were used, and it produces certain recommendations. Among those recommendations is a conclusion that it had been cl’early demonstrated that the care of the chronically ill constitutes a major problem in the community. One gets the impression from this survey that, the care of the chronically ill is no less a major problem for the community today than it was some years ago. One gets the impression from this report that there has been no appreciable gain in the way in which the community has been deal’ing with the chronically ill. The report states:
Almost 74% of these patients were over 60 years of age, and they suffered mainly from strokes, cancer, fractures, heart disease, bronchial troubles, vascular and rheumatic diseases. Inadequate facilities delayed the discharge of this age group. Our life expectation is increasing and will continue to do so. lt can therefore be anticipated that this group will become an increasing problem accentuating the shortage of beds and exerting great pressure on the staffs whose responsibility it is to select for admission.
Virtually no facilities exist for patients on reduced income in the under 60 age group, the borderline certifiable patients, and very heavy nursing cases.
Patients between the ages of 16 and 59 years present a more serious problem than their actual numbers indicate. Only those whose names are on the waiting list for a geriatric hospital are eligible for a Hospitals and Charities Commission subsidy for payment of fees elsewhere.
The report refers to Victoria. It continues:
But as patients in this age group are, generally speaking, not eligible for geriatric hospitals, they are consequently not eligible for a subsidy for payment of private nursing home fees.
Perhaps in some circumstances the Bill will cover some of their needs. The report continues:
The difference between pension and cost of such fees can seldom be borne by the patients themselves or their relatives.
What is proposed now will not make a radical difference in the situation. The report further states:
After a limited period chronic patients are eligible for hospital benefits and receive only $2 per day Commonwealth subsidy.
To some extent the Bill improves that situation. The report continues:
Thus the financing of private nursing home care is a cause of great worry and frequently gives rise to family tensions.
I do not think that the present Bill will make a radical difference to that situation. The report continues:
The very small number of patients who are admitted to a benevolent home arc charged an amount within their income - in other words the State assumes responsibility for their future care. lt seems inequitable that those who, under various pressures, are finally transferred to private nursing homes, receive no such support or security.
Now they will receive a little more. But it seems to me that the tendency underlying the Commonwealth’s provisions is for public hospital services not to keep pace with needs. The proportion of all patients that are in hospitals who are in public hospitals is reducing. Then there is a tendency for the Government to reduce the number of private hospitals that are registered and to increase the number of nursing homes. So in effect patients are pushed out into nursing homes where,- no matter what be the intentions and the. goodwill of those in charge, it seems that facilities will be inadequate; and, as this report: from Victoria indicates, inadequate facilities delay the discharge of patients in this age group. It is all right to put them in nursing homes and give them an extra $3 a day in certain circumstances, leaving the rate at $2 in other circumstances. If this has the effect of prolonging the stay in hospital and delaying the discharge of people in this age group, it will not be in the interests of the patients, nor will it reduce the cost of the scheme to the Government.
It seems to me that it is not an unfair criticism of this scheme in many of its aspects to suggest that the Government has been subsidising an increasingly inefficient system. Owing to a proliferation of individual insurance funds costs - including reserve costs - are increasing. Owing to the fact that public hospitals have not kept pace with the needs and private hospitals that are registered have diminished, patients have been pushed out into nursing homes which are less able to render a service efficienctly from a medical point of view. This is the trend of the Australian health scheme as far as hospitals are concerned. The trend of the scheme is to put patients into nursing homes. Is that not so? If that is so, it is not in the interests of the patient and it is not in the interests of the Government.
Finally. 1 want to make a number of points which occur to me as a result of my own quite amateur research in this field. I have a responsibility on the part of the Opposition to look after health matters. I frankly admit that it is a full time job and I cannot do it as fully or as adequately as I think it ought to be done. I should like to conclude with a number of points which seem to me to indicate some directions in which we ought to try to go in Australia. I do not think that when we get to this stage in the development of a scheme we can suddenly demolish the whole thing and put something else in its place. I think that Sir Earle Page was out to create this very situation - to safeguard the status quo by the scheme that he established, and I think that he has succeeded fully. He was acting in the interests of the doctors and of private organisations more than he was acting in the interests of the patients. He succeeded in creating an edifice that no government can easily consider demolishing to put something else in its place. But there are a few points that have come from my limited research that I would like to make in conclusion. Firstly, I think medical care should be taken into the community closer to where people live, where in fact I think it belongs, because it is there that it can be most effective. I have stressed the question of hospitals, but although the hospital is an important link or foundation or base in the medical care chain, as it has been put, it must always be considered not to be the last word but the last resort. Also, whereas the concept of health was formerly limited to the absence of disease, the World Health Organisation today looks upon health as the complete physical, mental and social well being of the individual. I do not think that we have reached the state in Australia yet where we can approach the question of health in this way. I think that this expanded concept of health demands a co-ordination of the entire complex of services - the preventive, diagnostic, therapeutic, rehabilitative and home care services. The responsibility for administration on the regional or local level opens up new vistas in which public health officers, working in co-operation with local and regional groups, can play a tremendous part.
I do not want to see the health system controlled from Canberra or from the Department of Health. I think that the more it is locally controlled the better. The more local initiative there is and the more new health structures can be designed within the States and within local areas, the better it will be. It has been said that increasing evidence lends support to the conviction that when feasible the patient with a long term illness - and the aged - is able to lead a much more satisfying life at home, in wholesome familiar surroundings. This has not been the trend in Australia, lt has been possible in some hospitals. The Newcastle Hospital is one in particular which comes to my mind as an example. What I have said in criticism of what the Minister proposes in the new scheme to cover this field is that the House ought to be given some opportunity to make some contribution in helping these people. This matter should not merely be treated, as often is the case, as a fait accompli.
I think that the day has gone when any single physician can hope to provide the best there is in all the fields of medicine to any one patient. The increasing complexity of medical care has given rise to the need for the integration of medicine. This has not happened sufficiently in Australia. Finally, it seems to me that there are many people standing in the way of these developments. I do not think that the situation in Australia is nearly as bad as that in the United States of America. But in order to emphasise the problem a little more 1 should like to quote a view of what the position is seen to be in the United States. This is what one doctor says:
Current surveys tend to show that a great change has taken place in the doctor status. Although people continue to think of their personal physicians with affection and respect, they are becoming more and more disrespectful of the profession as a whole, and the American Medical Association in particular. The image of the doctor has changed from that of the selfless servant. We are thought of more and more as merchants, with the long-tailed Cadillac as our symbol . . .
The American Medical Association is today pitted against the Government. As recently mentioned by one of its spokesmen, its greatest responsibility today is to prevent any further intrusion of Government in medicine no matter how worthy the cause.
Whilst I do not think that that is true of Australia, it seems to me that the extent to which the hospital and health services can be improved in Australia depends a good deal upon the hospital and medical insurance organisations and upon the doctors’ organisation. The question which I ask and which 1 think ought to be answered objectively by the House is: How much are these organisations holding up progress in the hospital field, and in the health field generally in Australia? On the evidence available to me, I consider that they are holding up progress considerably, and 1 think a great deal more imaginative initiative than we have had recently is required from the Government.
– In his second reading speech, the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) said that the main purpose of this Bill is to provide extra financial assistance in three areas of special need. This statement is in line with the Government’s policy as set out in the Governor-General’s Speech for the opening of Parliament earlier this year. On that occasion, Lord Casey said:
My Government will introduce proposals to remove from the minds of Australians the fear of economic consequences of long continued illness.
The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has stated that the Government’s aim is to provide increased assistance to those whose need is greatest. I believe that this legislation sets out to do just that. It has certainly been welcomed by the various voluntary hospital benefit funds. But up to the present time, our health scheme has not operated to provide the greatest measure of assistance to those whose needs are greatest, because persons suffering from a chronic illness or an illness existing at the time of joining a fund have not been able to insure for the full amount of their hospital bills even though the Government has been subsidising the cost of their hospitalisation through its special account legislation.
At the present time, contributors to hospital funds, after receiving for 91 days the full rate of benefit for which they have insured, recover only $5 a day, which is made up of $3 from the fund and $2 Commonwealth benefit, for the remainder of the calendar year. If a person’s illness extends from one calendar year to another, he may receive benefit for 6 months, instead of 3, at the full rale. He receives the full benefit for the final 3 months of the first year and the first 3 months of the next year. But payment of full benefit for only 91 days in a year is not a great deal of help when hospital charges amount to $80 or $90 a week.
After the expiration of 91 days, the amount recovered is $35 a week. This is not due to any fault on the part of the funds, which are required to be actuarially sound. The honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) referred to increasing reserves, but, contrary to general opinion, the majority of funds do not have large surpluses. What most people lend to forget is that contributions to these funds are always paid in advance. They are paid anything from 3 months to 6 months in advance. I should say that, on the average, they are paid about 6 months in advance. On the other hand, payments from the funds tend to lag. They are in arrears for anything from 1 to 3 months. This happens for a variety of reasons. For example, some doctors are a little slow in putting in their accounts. Again, some patients are slow in paying their accounts and then submitting them to the fund for reimbursement. Merely to look at the level of the reserve funds of these organisations and to say that they have large surpluses is not really to analyse the position very well.
When a contributor becomes chronically ill he often finds it difficult to gain admittance to a hospital which is registered for fund benefit. This is because this kind of hospital usually requires its beds for acute cases and a chronically ill person is often placed in an institution which rejoices in the name of such and such a private hospital but which in many cases is not registered for the payment of fund benefit, lt comes as a great shock to people - and unfortunately they are usually elderly people - who have contributed to a fund, sometimes for years and in some cases to the maximum table, to find that after having been hospitalised for 2 or 3 months and having paid the hospital accounts in full from their rather meagre savings, they can get no fund benefit at all, their only reimbursement being the §2 a day Commonwealth benefit. lt is only then that the unfortunate person finds that the hospital in which he has been receiving treatment is not registered for the payment of fund benefit. lt is my personal belief that three differen people or organisations have a particular obligation to contributors. This obligation is to advise them at the earliest possible moment whether the hospitals in which they are patients, or in which their dependants are patients, have been registered for the payment of hospital fund benefits. The contributor ought to be notified at the earliest possible moment, and he should be notified, firstly, by his doctor. The doctor ought to know whether the hospital to which he is recommending a patient for admission is one which is registered for the payment of fund benefit. Secondly, there is an obligation on the hospital itself. If the hospital finds out that a patient is insured for hospital benefits with a fund, surely that hospital should be required to tell the patient whether or not he will obtain a refund of his hospital1 expenses.
Thirdly, I believe there is a duty on the fund itself to tell the contributor that the hospital to which he seeks admission is or is not registered for benefit, f realise that the fund has not the early opportunity of advising the patient that is available to the doctor and the hospital, but the fund should not wait until the patient incurs further expense before saying: ‘Sorry, but you do not receive a refund of the amounts you pay to this hospital.’ The present arrangements are just not good enough because in many cases the people who are hurt are those who can least afford to be hurt.
I want to refer to the provisions of this Bill which will enable contributors to increase the amount of their insurance cover to a level which will enable them to recover from the benefit organisation an amount which, together with the Commonwealth contribution, will pay their hospital accounts in full for 365 days of the year, if this is necessary, in all but the most expensive hospitals. The honourable member for Yarra did not believe that the Bill made this provision. As I understand it - and I am speaking from memory - I believe the maximum table to which a person may contribute provides a benefit of $.1 8.60 a day, which is about SI 30 a week, and the cost of contributing to this table is SI. 87 a week.
I believe this will cover patients in most private hospitals, lt may not cover those in the very expensive hospitals but it will look after the great majority of people. I believe that most funds will be prepared to waive the 3 months qualifying period if any of their contributors wish to contribute to a higher table from the beginning of next year. This provision should remove a fear, which many people have, of a long term illness, lt will enable them to bridge the gap between the amount of the hospital account and the benefits they receive tit present. As this legislation is designed to benefit patients, 1 hope that hospitals will not seek to offset the benefit by increasing charges. Hospitals will benefit considerably from this legislation but will do so indirectly. They will benefit because they should incur fewer bad debts.
Under the terms of these new provisions, patients no longer will be permitted to make a profit on hospitalisation by belonging to iwo or more funds. Some people do this at the present time. In future, benefits received will be limited to the amount of the hospital charge and I believe that this is a good thing. Although the primary objective of the legislation is to benefit those people who at present are denied adequate coverage, the Act also will provide an incentive lor all contributors to increase their cover to a more appropriate level to meet their needs, lt will be in their interests to do this.
The second area in which additional Commonwealth assistance is being provided under the terms of this Bill is in respect of persons in approved nursing homes who require and receive intensive care. For these people the Commonwealth subsidy is to be increased from $2 a day to $5 a day. 1 agree with the honourable member for Yarra that all persons in nursing homes will not receive this benefit but I believe the more seriously ill will be helped and this is a step in the right direction. T hope that in the not too distant future the Government will give consideration to increasing the present rate of $2 a day which is paid to all patients in approved nursing homes because this figure has remained stationary for a considerable time.
One very important aspect of this legislation relates to the fact that patients who receive intensive nursing care still will qualify for the special grant of $3 a day even when they receive treatment away from their beds. As the Minister for Health said in his second reading speech, in many cases it is in the best interest of a patient to receive treatment away from the bed. The Minister referred also to the fact that the Government, in association with State governments, currently is exploring ways of strenthening and extending domiciliary welfare services within the community. The Minister is to be commended for this action.
The third major benefit in this Bill relates to the payment of SI. 50 a day in respect of handicapped children who are accommodated in handicapped persons homes conducted by religious or charitable bodies and non-profit organisations. These organisations provide accommodation for physically or mentally handicapped children up to the age of 16 years. Upon reaching 16 years of age such children qualify for an invalid pension. This benefit should be of great assistance to many of these organisations which are doing a very good job for handicapped children. The terms of the Bill decree that the benefit will be paid only to charitable, religious or non-profit organisations. However, just as benefits under the legislation providing homes for the aged were extended recently to cover such homes built by local government bodies, I hope that in the near future the Government will extend the payment of this Si. 50 a day to those State institutions which provide accommodation for handicapped children up to the age of 16 years. 1 believe that in my own State of Victoria there are about 5,000 mentally retarded children who need additional help with regard to their education. I would like to see the Government pay this grant of $1.50 a day for children who are accommodated in State institutions in the same way that it proposes to pay this amount to the religious and non-profit organisations. I visited one such State government institution at Sunbury in Victoria not so many weeks ago. Organisations such as the Sunbury Mental Hospital and Training Centre are doing a wonderful job to make conditions as pleasant as possible for mentally handicapped children. Like most similar organisations, Sunbury could put any additional money it received to very good use. If we can extend the terms of the Bill to benefit such institutions, we will surely be carrying out our stated intention to give the greatest measure of help to the least fortunate members of our society. I commend the Minister for introducing the Bill. It will go a long way towards removing the financial fear associated with long term illness. I have a good deal of pleasure in supporting the Bill.
– The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) in his second reading speech described the arrangements for the supply of measles vaccine. There are five interesting points about it. Firstly, there is no means test; anyone can get it. Secondly, there is no prescription fee of 50c. Thirdly, the authorities and the doctors handling the vaccine are trusted to use it only on humans resident in Australia. Fourthly, any doctor is entitled to use the vaccine at his discretion without applying to a State Director of the Commonwealth Department of Health to decide an individual case. Fifthly, the vaccine is to be available without even the issue of a personal prescription by any doctor.
Many honourable members have had cause to question the terms on which drugs are issued under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. I believe the principles on which the conditions are imposed are wrong. An anonymous panel decides in camera the quantity of a drug a patient shall have on each prescription for a fee of 50c and under what conditions it will be available. The reasons given in this House are not the true reasons for the restrictions. The main reason is the cheese-paring of the short-sighted Ministry which decries bureaucracy when it impinges on the freedom to make a lucrative investment of capital, especially foreign capital, but bolsters up bureaucracy when it fussily prohibits and restricts expenditure on social welfare. The Opposition does not oppose the free supply of measles vaccine. lt does, however, deplore the anonymous authoritative system of intervening between doctor and patient in the matter of the free supply of all drugs. This restriction has been virtually removed for repatriation pensioners and patients in public hospitals. Why should it not be removed altogether? The only answer can be that the Government thinks it is saving money by making medicine dearer. The pernicious aspect is that the harshest conditions and the smallest maximum quantities of drugs are applied to the dearest drugs, to those which in general are most needed for the most serious and general’ly the most disabling illnesses.
The honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) suggested that it was high time that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission was given more power to compete in the production and sale of drugs and in undertaking research. This is one possible means of controlling the escalating cost of drugs. I assure the House that this is a field in which the cost can be substantially reduced. Much abuse has been hurled at the retail chemist because he has a very large mark-up on prescription lines, lt is generally about 60%.
– Most of it by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Yes, and the retail chemist is not guiltless. This has been shown by the documents put forward by Washington H. Soul Pattinson & Co. Ltd. It has been restricted by a government of a political colour different from that of the Leader of the Opposition and it has been restricted by the powerful influence of the lobby of the Guild chemists. However there are some arguments on behalf of small retail chemists to the effect that they have to carry a wide range of perishable drugs. This applies particularly in distant country areas where the drugs must be readily accessible in an emergency. A wastage factor must be allowed. Nevertheless this is something, as the honourable member for Yarra said, that should be investigated by the Government so that we will know what is a fair thing and whether some more efficient method can be found to provide emergency drugs without the enormous wastage that is involved irrespective of whether the chemists are in business in a small way or not and whether they operate in distant areas or nol.
The wholesaler’s costs make up a very large portion of the cost of drugs and the bulk of the wholesaler’s costs rest, with the manufacturer. A survey was done several years ago in the United States of America of the twenty-two top drug producing firms, ft was found that drugs were selling at a cheaper rale in the United Kingdom, under the National health scheme, than they were selling in America. The same drugs are selling here at a higher rate whereas they are selling in South America at rates far helow those in the United Kingdom. Yet in all these countries the drug firms are making a profit. Overall the twenty-two drug producing firms spent half of the manufacturer’s costs on the cost of production of the drugs, including the cost of research which was only 6% of manufacturer’s costs, yet we are told by these big firms that the cost of research and the great risks they take are the reason for the high cost of modern drugs. They are getting back the cost of that research which is covered by only 67c of the manufacturers costs.
Of the remaining 50%, 25% of manufacturers coSts went on the promotion of sales, lt is well known to doctors that promotion is a big item in the cost of drugs because doctors generally are the targets of this promotion. Their mail is filled wilh beautifully printed glossy material every day. I would say that it is an exceptional doctor who cannot fill a wastepaper basket with them at least once a week. He receives free samples in the mail irrespective of whether he asks for them. He receives a visit from a drug traveller - a representative of a drug firm - probably more than once a week. These travellers are paid on a full time basis to promote the drugs and to deposit as many free samples on the doctor’s desk as the doctor will tolerate, ‘Would you like a few more, doctor?’ They also hand out little souvenirs such as pens, ink wells and blotters with drug names on them.
This is only the beginning. The drug firms subsidise medical conferences, lectureships, scholarships and fellowships - very commendable things. Those are fields in which governments instead of drug firms should be active. The firms also assist in the printing of journals by various organisations which are too impecunious to do it themselves. One such organisation is the College of General Practitioners. While all of these things may be very worthy and productive to a point, they are indulged in lavishly for the main purpose of influencing prescribing habits, which they do very successfully. Even a person who is by nature, shall we say, inoculated against this type of brain washing finds himself prescribing something which has just been introduced to him by a drug traveller rather than something be has just read about in a medical journal, lt is very difficult to resist this kind of lobbying. This matter bears looking into. The Department of Health and the Minister for Health should encourage the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to enter this field in a new manner, in a way that will promote responsible prescribing in the interests of patients and not in the interests of drug company profits. Legislation by this Parliament is warranted to enable CSL to compete on an equal basis with all drug firms instead of being restricted, as it is now, to biological products only.
Another point in the Bill concerns the removal of the 2 months waiting period for former pensioners when they join a medical benefits organisation after loss of their pension. This is a step towards what the Government claims to be its aim - the identifying of those with the greatest need. However, it ignores a whole host of people who are in a similar position, perhaps an even more difficult position. I refer for example to the person who becomes a recipient of social service benefits for one reason or another, who has a family to think of, who has educational and clothing expenses to provide for and who takes a calculated risk by stopping his membership of a medical fund. When he rejoins the fund he is subjected to the 2 months waiting period and loses his cover for any chronic illness that he may have had before his membership lapsed.
The mere principle of leaving medical benefit insurance on a fully voluntary basis does throw the greatest handicap on those less able psychologically and financially to meet it. The Government has set up a special committee to investigate this system of voluntary insurance but has specifically excluded any recommendation to change this voluntary basis. Some 15% of the community is not covered by any insurance or social service scheme. In this 15% there is a high proportion of the poor, that section of the community which the Minister claims to be seeking, but which his ministry refuses to survey and assess.
The question of the large financial resources held by the big benefit organisations has been touched on by the honourable member for Yarra. He quotes the excuse of these funds that they must provide for an unprecedented epidemic. The honourable member for Yarra answered this excuse by suggesting that the Government would step in and help a fund in distress as a result of such a disaster. This is borne out by the fact that many of the smaller funds do not have such great resources. The Government surely could not stand by and see them go bankrupt when they are approved funds.
Another pernicious product of the setup is that the Government has decided that it will force the large funds to restrict their benefits to the same scale as those offered by the smaller, less efficient funds. The result is that the big funds have embarrassingly large reserves which they put into expensive real estate ventures to make more money and so increase their funds even more. This is a sort of vicious circle, because these organisations are not allowed to increase benefits. They must hold them at the rate of the smallest funds. So, we have the spectacle of a free enterprise government enforcing uniformity, restricting free competition and not allowing the smaller funds to be squeezed out. This is not being done by increasing the subsidy to the smaller funds but by refusing increased benefits to (he patients from the larger funds. The expert committee which the Government set up to inquire into the insurance aspect of the national health scheme cannot find a way to provide for the area of greatest need while the actuarial rule is an overriding factor. Moreover, the Minister for Health said earlier in this debate that benefit organisations may provide only a cover that is actuarially sound.
At this point. I wish to direct the Minister’s attention to a question which I have placed on the notice paper and which relates to a matter on which I have had correspondence with him over several months, lt concerns the case of a man who had an extremely major operation lasting many hours and involving two or three separate major surgical procedures that attract the maximum or ceiling Commonwealth benefit of $60 each if performed individually. If a patient’s desperate condition necessitates more than one surgical procedure at the one time the National Health Act imposes, a ceiling benefit of $60 for all surgical procedures. There is no moral reason for such a ceiling. It imposes a penally on the person who undergoes a most extensive operation requiring prolonged, difficult and delicate after-care, In the case I have cited, after-care has been necessary for many months. A surgeon is entitled to be rewarded for the large number of hours he puts into the treatment and after-care of a patient and in this case the surgeon concerned has charged accordingly. He has charged the full fee for one procedure, one-half of the appropriate fee for another procedure and one-quarter of the fee for a third procedure. These charges are in accordance with the medical benefits schedule for procedures performed al the same time and the usual principle and formula adopted by the profession.
In this instance the patient, who has been put to the enormous financial loss of being out of work for months - and he is not a particularly highly paid member of the community - has to meet all costs above the ceiling benefit. I know that this system is adopted to keep the scheme actuarially sound, but it would be of great assistance to the patient if he were given a little actuarial help. The giving of the help would nol break the Commonwealth as much as the lack of it breaks the patient. Fortunately hospitals and doctors are not limited by this hard cash consideration and can give attention before the cash is forthcoming - in many cases knowing that the cash is not likely to reach them. Surely the average patient who pays his bills would accept it as a fairer arrangement if everyone’s tax were loaded with a 1.25% surcharge described as a national insurance premium. Everyone would then pay his way according to his means and there would be no bad debts. As a result, fees would come down. It is strange that the Government finds no difficulty in saddling every taxpayer with the responsibility for contributing to what it calls collective security by military action against a distant ideology in Vietnam but balks, at providing for the Australian people individually security against what the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) is fond of calling the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’.
The major proposal in this Bill concerns nursing homes. The Government, as a sop, is to take action in an area of urgent need after great anguish and outcry. This is. in character with the ad hoc approach of the coalition Government to all areas of need in the economy which do not appeal to the political philosophy of the parties concern:d As the Opposition has stressed for many years, an assessment or audit of the health needs of this nation is needed. Nol only an audit from the point of view of human values and suffering, but an audit from the economic viewpoint of the cost of illness. Fortunately the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs will go into this question. There should be some sort of integrated approach to the problem of financing care in nursing homes and hospitals. There should be an assessment of at least three types of cases requiring nursing care: The ambulatory patients who, in general, can take themselves to a toilet or to a dining table; the general nursing cases; and the intensive care patients who are an increasing financial problem with the more detailed and complicated intensive care units being set up. It is from this total viewpoint that the financing of nursing homes and hospitals should be approached, not from the ad hoc approach that this area is in need, so we will give it a little bit this year or in this Budget. When it comes to the provision of ancillary services, whether they be nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, recreational therapy, dentistry, optometry, hearing aids, surgical aids, splints and so forth - and 1 will include in this the attention of medical specialists, in short, any service which is normally rendered on the direction of the patient’s family doctor - these services should be given, if the patient wishes it, free of charge. The patient does not seek the services. He does not ask for them, lt is not his initiative. The patient does not go to the doctor and say: ‘1 want you to prescribe for me some Chloromycetin palmitate. I want you to refer me for an X-ray of the chest. I want you to get an electro-cardiogram and put me into hospital for 10 days observation’. If a person did that the doctor would be perfectly within his rights in saying: ‘1 am running things and I will decide which of these things is. necessary and when the service will be provided’. lt is wrong to say that placing a charge on these referred services, these specialist services or ancillary services, is a deterrent against an over-demanding patient. The only person it deters is the doctor because he is the one who makes the decision whether the patient is to be given this specialist service, whether it be nursing or drugs, a specialist or ancillary care. The question of a deterrent charge has been raised from time to time by the profession, in particular the Australian Medical Association. If it is necessary, as many doctors seem to think, to impose a deterrent charge on misuse, over-use or wrongful use of a medical service then the only point at which this deterrent can act is the point al which the patient makes the decision to take himself to a doctor or clinic where he may receive the medical care. The only person who can assess whether this is abuse, overuse, misuse, or trivial or vexacious use is the attending doctor; otherwise it is necessary to have a second doctor examine the patient. The object of saving the charge is being defeated.
If the attending doctor is the only one who can decide whether a deterrent charge is warranted he must bear the responsibility of imposing that charge, lt should noi bc imposed when the doctor himself says to the patient: M want to see von next week. 1 want to sec you once a month. I want to see you whenever you get this pain’. That is not the patient seeking medical care. It is a doctor’s decision of what is necessary to deal with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune as a properly insurable risk. Deterrent charges have no place in such a situation.
On the question of health costs in general - this has a bearing on nursing home costs which are dealt wilh in the Bill - there is need for the profession to be encouraged, helped and stimulated to set up increasing audit and accreditation of its own work. Some hospitals have what they call a surgical audit in which every organ removed is subject to pathological examination; where every death is examined at a clinical meeting once a week of the experts. The pathologists, the post mortem people or whoever might have been involved come together to see what should have been done. This is the best corrective for deteriorating standards and for blind spots. It is one of the best encouragements to improvements and expertise among specialists. There is need to extend this throughout the profession and, in this computer age. it should not be difficult to do this.
Time will not permit me to go further into this, but it should not bc limited to a surgical audit. If it is fair enough for a school teacher to be supervised by responsible experienced senior officers who inspect his work, assess it and give him guidance, it is fair enough also for the man who is in a rapidly developing profession like medicine to have his work assessed and supervised. He should take this with a good grace and be grateful. His profession should organise itself so that it will not be run by a lay bureaucracy. Similarly, it is necessary to set up accreditation of medical procedures. There is increasing chaos in this field. People are thrown into outlying country areas and asked to operate on intestinal obstructions when they have never wielded a scapel in an operating theatre. This is an extreme case, but it does happen. Doctors have been asked to take out an appendix when they have never been closer to an appendix than when holding a second retractor. This is obviously and clearly wrong. But people have said this before.
Clearly there is a need for people entering this field to have the proper accreditation for the procedures that they will be asked to undertake, and accreditation should not be limited to surgical operations only.
There should be accreditation for any specialised procedure, whether it is stabilising a case of diabetes or even dealing with simpler things. Every person should serve some kind of apprenticeship, whether as a student or as a resident, to ensure that he is competent in those things where his competence will be called upon in the field in which he will practice, whether it is in specialised or general medicine. Fortunately there is hope that this situation will come about in the academic field in Australia with the appointment of a new professor of health economics in New South Wales. I hope that the Minister will follow the progress of this new department of health economics which is concerned not only with economic audit but also with cost benefit analysis; in other words, it is concerned with the long range benefit to health of medical procedures. This is becoming increasingly important in this age of complex procedures.
I refer finally to the provision of aid in homes for the handicapped. Again, in this field, the Government has made an ad hoc approach to a wide national problem. All sorts of worthy, struggling little organisations are competing for funds, sometimes jealously keeping themselves aloof from other organisations of the same tenor with which they could co-operate with advantage. I know of a case in which a spastic centre has refused to co-operate with a sub-normal children’s centre in the provision of a speech therapist because it was frightened that its source of donations might be taken away. That is wrong. The Government should step in and take the bulk of the expense away from those who have to undertake this degrading begging for fees, funds and facilities for handicapped people. This should be a major Government responsibility and not a major responsibility for charities.
There is one field in which no voluntary organisation that I know of has yet been formed in this country. People in this field are crying out for help. I refer to children who suffer from dyslexia. The Australian Medical Association Gazette of 19th September 1968 which states:
About 15% of American children suffer from dyslexia.
I interpolate here to say that the situation is not very different in this country. The article continues:
They transpose words and letters and have trouble with spelling and the association of words with their meaning.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That tile House do now adjourn.
Mr JEFF BATE (Macarthur) [11.321- [ crave the indulgence of the House for a few minutes to speak about the drought on the south coast and the southern tablelands of New South Wales. The picture that we have in this arid country of ours is one of people who suffer because of long periods without rain and a shortage of feed which makes it necessary to move cattle, to feed them by hand or to let them die. The bush fit situation in the areas I have mentioned has created a battlefield scene.
I understand that the forestry authorities have said that the recent bush fires on the south coast have been the largest ever seen in Australia. An area of 700,000 acres of State forests has been burnt out in the Eurobodalla Shire, with a loss of $2m in royalties alone through the loss of timber. The pine forests have disappeared in a face and every house and telephone line in the area has been destroyed.
The drought has just been discovered by the Press as a result of the fires that circled Wollongong and Sydney. The indebtedness of fanners who are borrowing from the Government and the Rural Bank is rising to such a degree that those farmers feel it will be impossible to pull out. We are heartened by the fact that the people of Young have donated 500 tons of fodder which will be brought free of charge from Young to the south coast. Any people who, in this bountiful season, have hay lying in their paddocks - I understand there are millions of bales throughout New South Wales alone - can be assured that if it were made available to the people on the south coast it would mean a tremendous difference to them. It would also be of tremendous help if the Cabinet drought relief committee arrange to have this hay brought free of charge to the south coast.
In this kind of struggle the human spirit is challenged; men and women have to stand up to a situation which is almost beyond human endurance. When other people help them and when hay is donated and is carried free of charge, it makes a tremendous difference. The shortage of water in this area is disastrous. We have hydrologists and scientists with their expertise looking for water where previously it was not thought to exist. This action has been taken because the creeks and the rivers in this area are completely dry. Some water is to be found beneath the sands of these dry creeks. At a time when there is almost a complete absence of water the people who conduct the tourist businesses in the district must cancel the bookings of tourists because no water will be available to carry out the ordinary services. Any method of producing water will be of great assistance.
I heard today that the New South Wales Government is subsidising the cartage of water so that it will cost the people only SI. 50 for 1,000 gallons. The true costs vary from $5 to $14 for 1,000 gallons. The hydrologists - the scientific counterparts of water diviners who are so dear to the hearts of many of us - are active in the area. Mr Beale, the New South Wales Minister for Conservation and the honourable member for the South Coast in the New South Wales Parliament is in charge of investigations. The permanent head of the conservation authority, the chief hydrologist and other officers are attempting to find water. If they are successful their work will be of tremendous value to the people who are suffering in the district. Water found now will ensure a permanent supply for the future.
Australia is an arid country. Therefore water is vital, lt enables us to exist. For all members of the community water is essential. Water must be provided for cattle to live. I repeat that the New South Wales Government is subsidising the cartage of water. The oil companies have been asked whether they can spare tankers for the cartage of water. Experts are looking for water under dry river sands, in the areas of springs and mountain streams. Soaks are more likely to appear on cloudy days when water will come trickling from springs. At a time of dry westerly winds the water seems to dry up.
This is a time of culmination of nearly 4 years of drought in four States. The Commonwealth Government has spent about $70m on drought relief. The New South Wales Government, with Commonwealth assistance, has advanced over $20m, about S8m of which has been provided in this year for drought relief or as loans at an interest rate of 3%. However, even at this low rate of interest the amounts involved are so large that farmers are staggered, paralysed and stunned by their commitments. Some of them will not borrow because they believe it is time for them to sell out and finish up. They are deterred by the repayments for which they would be liable if they borrowed. The farmers who have borrowed probably must meet their commitments over a period of 5 years in this case. Probably they will be in debt for the rest of their lives.
Australia is a very wealthy country which is enjoying a bountiful season. Only one corner of the land has suffered. The nation has ample food and water resources, sufficient finance and the advice of experts to give to the people who are suffering enough heart to carry on. Men find the courage and endurance to carry on, even when near their last extremity. They still fight on. That is the situation in the area to which I refer. Any help that can be given will be greatly appreciated. T refer to gifts of hay or assistance with water supplies including the provision of tankers. Men who months ago were becoming demoralised today are struggling on because so much help is coming to them. It has been greatly appreciated. If more help is given, the mora likely will these people be to pull through. I appeal for any help at all in the way of feed or water. There is plenty of feed in the Riverina and other parts of New South Wales and help is needed to save priceless herds which are acclimatised to their districts. They have been bred in some cases for over 100 years. Whatever we can get we will appreciate in this struggle.
– That is a good question.I do not believe that the Opposition in New South Wales would be so miserable as to use the present situation for base political advantage. I do not believe that Allan Fraser went to Bega last weekend merely to take advantage of the situation. Perhaps he forgot that the election was not on. 1 think there are decent people in the Labor Party. I do not think they would exploit the present situation simply to gain some miserable advantage from the bitter struggle that is proceeding. Surely they would not do this. Surely the Leader of the Opposition in New South Wales would not seek to exploit the present position for miserable political’ advantage. After all, he is a former
Lord Mayor of Sydney. I remember that he tried to break down the provision whereby 40% of funds provided under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act is spent on rural roads. He is also the man who would not agree to the State Government providing a subsidy of 75% of the cost of rail freight associated with drought relief. I thank the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) for his interjection. Surely the Labor Party has not stooped so low as to wallow in the anguish and sorrow of others.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.42 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable gentleman’s questions are as follows:
The possibility of a uniform scheme of retirement benefits for permanent members of the defence forces was considerably assisted by the introduction of revised pay code for the
Forces, in July 1947, bringing members of the Navy, Army and Air Force on to a uniform basis of pay and allowances. Associated with the revised pay code, was the introduction of lower retiring ages for Army officers more in line with those for officers of Navy and Air and the reduction of the compulsory retiring age for other ranks of the Army and Air Force from 60 to 55. Members who had been contributing under the Commonwealth Superannuation Act were, therefore, unable to serve until age 60 and receive a pension under that Act. Experience showed that a lump sum payment of deferred pay for naval personnel and Air Force officers did not make adequate provision for the dependants of a member in the event of his death or invalidity in the early stages of his career and did not provide an adequate income after his retirement either to himself or his dependants.’
This paragraph provides historical background to the development of the DFRB scheme and neither supports nor advocates post-retirement increases in deferred pay benefits. These lump sum benefits are in the same category as Provident Account benefits under the Superannuation Act for which no post-retirement increases have been given. Permanent force members with deferred pay rights, who were serving at the time the DFRB scheme came into being, had the opportuning of joining the scheme. In the case of a member of the Permanent Naval Forces, the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948 gave him the right to elect:
It was made clear to serving members at the time that those who elected to follow course (c) would continue to be credited with deferred pay at the rates existing as at the date of commencement of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act. In 1953 and 1959 further opportunities were given to members then serving, who had previously elected to retain entitlement to deferred pay, to contribute for benefits under the Act, subject to certain conditions including payment of arrears of contributions. Somewhat similar provisions applied to officers of the Permanent Air Force.
Finance (Question No. 242)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
Will he provide the following information for each of the past 10 years:
Defence spending overseas in money terms.
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are contained in the following table:
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
I should emphasise that these figures are not confined to school teachers. They include university lecturing and tutorial staff among others. No separate figures foi school teachers are available. Permanent arrivals’ are those immigrants who declare their intention of residing permanently in this country. ‘Long term arrivals’ consist of arrival! of visitors intending to stay in Australia for “ months or more and the return of Australia residents who have been abroad for 12 months or more. 2 and 3. No statistical record is kept of the employment accepted by migrants. The figures tabulated in part 1 of the answer cannot be brought into any relationship with the recorded figures of teachers newly employed in schools in the various States and Territories, as these figures do not differentiate between newly arrived teachers and others.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Casualties, by Services, 1966 to 18th October 1968, are:
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
In each of the above years, some 80% of applicants for Commonwealth advanced education scholarships were also applicants for Commonwealth university scholarships.
9 and 10. The number and percentage of Commonwealth advanced education scholars who failed in their courses in 1967 were:
New South Wales
The New South Wales Institute of Technology and Business Studies:
Diplomas in Architecture, Building, Engineering (all branches), Information Processing, Quantity Surveying, Science, Commerce, Management, Public Administration.
The New South Wales College of Occupational Therapy:
Diploma of Occupational Therapy.
School of Physiotherapy, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital:
Diploma in Physiotherapy.
The Speech Therapy Training School, Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children:
Diploma of Speech Therapy.
There is little specific information available on the operation of quotas at Victorian colleges. The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology has restricted entry in the Diplomas of Business Studies and Architecture and the Swinburne College of Technology has restrictions in the Diplomas of Art and Business Studies. The Caulfield Institute of Technology also has some restrictions on entry and the therapy and agricultural colleges also have more applicants than places available.
Quotas have not been applied in this State.
Diplomas in Technology in Accountancy, Applied Chemistry, Applied Physics, Architecture, Business Studies, Chemistry, Data Processing, Engineering (all branches), Medical Laboratory Technology. Metallurgy, Pharmacy, Primary Metallurgy, Secondary Metallurgy, Social Work, Surveying.
The Western Australian Institute of Technology: Associateship Courses in Pharmacy, Medical Laboratory Technology, Architecture, Social Work.
The Royal Perth Hospital School of Occupational Therapy:
Diploma in Occupational Therapy.
The School of Physiotherapy:
Diploma in Physiotherapy.
Quotas have not been applied in this State. 16 and 17. Information on tuition fees at each college is readily available from college handbooks. As there are 44 colleges, some charging fees on a course basis others on a subject basis with sometimes different rates for each year of the course, I do not propose to set out this information in detail. However, I have listed below details of full time tuition fees for diploma courses of the major colleges of advanced education and for colleges which have increased their fees this year.
New South Wales
Tuition fees at the New South Wales Institute of Technology for full time diploma courses are $120 per year. This is the first year that the Institute has conducted full time courses. No New South Wales colleges have increased their tuition fees this year.
Tuition fees for full time diploma courses at the colleges listed below are $80 per year with the exception of the first year which is free. In 1967 tuition was free to students who were bona fide residents of Victoria, had attended a State or registered secondary school in the previous year and had maintained satisfactory progress. For other students the tuition fee was $44 per year. For the latter students 1968 fees have increased by $36 per year, or 82%.
Bendigo Institute of Technology
Caulfield Institute of Technology
Footscray Institute of Technology
Preston Institute of Technology
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology
Gordon Institute of Technology
School of Mines and Industries, Ballarat
Swinburne College of Technology
Yallourn Technical College
Emily Mcpherson School of Domestic Economy.
The Victorian agricultural and therapy schools have not increased their tuition fees.
Tuition fees for full time diploma courses at the Queensland Institutes of Technology are S96 per year. There have been no increases in tuition fees this year at Queensland colleges of advanced education.
Tuition fees for full time diploma courses at the South Australian Institute of Technology vary from about $230 a year to $300 a year. This represents an increase of approximately 27% over 1967 tuition fees.
Tuition fees for full time diploma students at the Western Australian Institute of Technology are $60 per year. Tuition fees in 1967 were $42 per year for adult students, $8 per year for students aged from 18 to 20 years and $4 per year for students under 18 years.
Tuition fees for full time diploma students at the Tasmanian technical colleges are $120 per year. There has been no increase in tuition fees this year.
The only year for which information would be available is 1967, as the Commonwealth grants for recurrent expenditure commenced in that year. The requirements of the States Grants (Advanced Education) Acts 1967 (No. 33 of 1967) are met with certified statements from the States relating to the amount of fees and State contributions applied to approved courses at a college. It is from this figure that the level of Commonwealth grant attracted is calculated. It is not necessary for the State to separate for any college the income from fees from the income contributed by the State. In addition, the Commonwealth has not yet received the certification of the details of tertiary expenditure for all colleges. From the information available the following is a summary of the position:
Bendigo Institute of Technology.
Caulfield Institute of Technology.
College of Nursing, Australia.
Dookie Agricultural College.
Footscray Institute of Technology.
Longerenong Agricultural College.
Preston Institute of Technology.
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
School of Forestry, Creswick
The Emily McPherson College of Domestic Economy
The Gordon Institute of Technology
The Occupational Therapy School of Victoria
The Physiotherapy School of Victoria
The School of Mines and Industries,
The Swinburne College of Technology
The Victorian School of Speech Therapy
Victorian Institute of Colleges
Victorian College of Pharmacy
Yallourn Technical College
South Australian Institute of Technology
Burnie Technical College
Hobart Technical College
Launceston Technical College
for the remaining collegesfinal details of expenditure in 1967 have not yet been received but the likely position with the Commonwealth grant for 1967 should be:
New South Wales
Places of education conducted by the
Department of Technical education that are approved by the Minister for the purposes of this Act:
The New South Wales College of Nursing
The School of Physiotherapy
The Western Australian Institute of Technology
New South Wales
Hawkesbury Agricultural College
New South Wales College of Occupa tional Therapy
New South Wales State Conservatoriu m of Music
School of Physiotherapy at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Speech Therapy Training School at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children
School of Mines of Western Australia
The Royal Perth Hospital School of Occupational Therapy
asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
The following axe the principal international conferences attended by Australian Government representatives at which there was substantial discussion on women’s rights: 20th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, 1965. 21st Session of the United Nations General
Assembly, 1966. 22nd Session of the United Nations General
Assembly, 1967. 48th Session of the International Labor
Organisation Conference, 1964. 49th Session of the ILO Conference, 1965. 52nd Session of the ILO Conference, 1968.
UNESCO General Conference, 1964.
Special Intergovernmental Conference on the Status of Teachers, 1966.
UNESCO General Conference, 1966. 20th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, 1967. 2 1st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, 1968.
United Nations International Conference on
Human Rights, Teheran, 1968.
Seminar on Measures required for the Advancement of Women with special reference to the establishment of a long term programme, Manila, 1966.
Seminar on Human Rights in Developing Countries, Kabul, 1964. .
Conference on the Application of Science and Technology to the Development of
Asia, New Delhi, 1968.
Information on decisions taken and on Australian Government attitudes expressed are included in the reports of the Australian Delegations to the 20th, 21st and 22nd sessions of the United Nations General Assembly which have been tabled in Parliament.
UNESCO General Conference, October-November, 1964:
This conference decided that UNESCO should undertake in 1965-66 a small programme of studies and assistance to Member States and non-governmental organisations to stimulate action for expansion of educational opportunities for women. This decision and the programmes in accordance with it were supported by Australia.
Special Intergovernmental Conference on the Status of Teachers, October, . 1966:
This conference unanimously adopted a recommendation concerning the status of teachers, certain sections of which concerned rights of woman (for example, Section 111, para. 7 (page 6) which affirms the principle of nondiscrimination, Section VII, paras 54-58 concerning women teachers with family responsibilities, and Section IX, paras 102-103 relating to maternity leave). The UNESCO General Conference in October-November, 1966, invited UNESCO member States to apply the provisions of the Recommendation. These matters had Australian support.
UNESCO General Conference, October-November, 1966:
This conference adopted for 1967-68 an extended programme as the beginning of a 10-year project to promote access of women to education with particular attention to access to scientific and technical studies and careers. This was supported by Australia. 48th and 49th Sessions of the ILO Conferences.
Information on decisions taken and on Austraiian Government attitudes expressed are included in reports of Australian Government, Employers’ and Workers’ Delegates to the Conference tabled in Parliament, September 1965 (48th Session) and October 1966 (49th Session). 52nd Session of the ILO Conference.
The Conference adopted a resolution concerning the vocational training of girls and women. Australia supported its adoption.
United Nations International Conference on Human Rights, Teheran.
The Conference unanimously adopted a resolution on measures to promote women’s rights in the modern world including a Unified long-term “United Nations programme for the advancement of women. 20th and 21st Sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women.
At the 20th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, Australia participated actively in the preparation of the draft declaration on the elimination of discrimination against women. The draft declaration was adopted unanimously by the Commission.
In explanation of vote, Australia pointed out:
Information on decisions taken may be found in the reports on the 20th and 21st sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women (documents E/4316 and E/4472) and in the summary records of these meetings. These documents are available in the Parliamentary Library.
At the 20th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, Australia supported resolutions relating to periodic reports on human rights, (resolution 2 (XX) ) political rights of women (resolutions 3 (XX) and 4 (XX)), study of discrimination against persons born out of wedlock resolution 6 (XX) ), access of women to education (resolution 7 (XX) and 8 (XX) ), economic rights and opportunities for women (resolution 9 (XX)), advisory services in the field of human rights (resolutions 10 (XX) and 11 (XX)), United Nations assistance for the advancement of women (resolutions . 12 (XX), 13 (XX) and 14(XX>) and the International Year for Human Rights (resolution IS (XX) ). A resolution recommending the adoption of a number of principles with respect to parental rights and duties was adopted by 23 in favour - 0 against - 7 abstentions (Australia) (Resolution 5 (XX) ). Australia abstained on the grounds that the principles had been inadequately thought out and that they required careful consideration by governments before the Commission could decide.
At the 21st Session of the - Commission on the Status of Women, Australia supported the adoption of resolutions concerning political rights of women (resolution 1 (XXI) and 2 (XXI)), implementation of the declaration on the elimination of discrimination against women (resolution 3 (XXI) ), unified long-term programme for the advancement of women and United Nations assistance in this field (resolution 5 (XXI) ), development and utilisation of human resources (resolution 6 (XXI) ), access of women to education (resolution 8 (XXI) ), programme of advisory services in the field of human rights (resolution 9 (XXI) ) and repercussions of scientific and technological progress on the status of women workers (resolution 10 (XXI)). Australia abstained on a resolution on measures which the United Nations could adopt to eradicate all forms and practices of slavery and the slave trade affecting the status of women. Details of Australia’s voting position on this resolution were included in an answer to the honourable member’s question No. 199.
Seminar on Human Rights in Developing Countries Kabul, 1964.
Information on the discussions and conclusions of the Seminar on Human Rights in Developing Countries may be found in document ST/TAO/HR/21 which would be available to the honourable member in the Parliamentary Library.
Seminar on the Advancement of Women, Manila, 1966.
Information on the conclusions and recommendations of the Seminar on Measures required for the advancement of women with special reference to the establishment of a long term programme agreed to by the .participants may be found in document ST/TAO/HR/28 which would be available to the honourable member in the Parliamentary Library.
Conference on the Application of Science and Technology to Development, New Delhi, 1968.
This Conference unanimously adopted a resolution urging .inter alia member states to give highest consideration to improving access of women to careers in science and technology (including engineering and agriculture), at all levels.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Clerk of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives have provided the following information calculated to 30th September 1968: 1. (a) 291; (b) 580. 2. (a) 9 years 10 months; (b) 10 years 3 months. 3. (a) 37 years 3 months (Sir George Foster Pearce, 29.3.01 to 30.6.38); (b) 51 years 7 months (Rt Hon. W. M. Hughes, C.H., K..C, 29.3.01 to 28.10.52). 4. (a) (i) 18; (ii) 8; (b) (i) 36; (ii) 25. In addition 3 persons have had periods of more than 25 years combined service in the Senate and the House of Representatives. 5. (a) 3; (b) 9.
D.B.E., 21 years 3 months.
Rt Hon. C. F. Adermann, MP, 25 years 1 month.
Rt Hon. A. A. Calwell, MP, 28 years.
Rt Hon. J. McEwen, MP, 34 years.
G. Turnbull, C.B.E., MP, 22 years 7 months.
The three persons referred to in (4) above whose combined service in the Senate and the House of Representatives exceeds 25 years, were Ministers.
asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
As a result of the unexpected increase in imports the United States Administration advised all supplying countries that on the basis of actual arrivals and estimates of arrivals for the balance of 1968 there was a likelihood of import quotas being imposed unless specific action was taken by each supplying country to restrict shipments. On receipt of this advice the Government immediately consulted the Australian Meat Board which, following discussions with the New Zealand Meat Producers Board and representatives of Australian exporters, advised the Government that it considered that steps should be taken to avoid the imposition of quotas by the United States. The Government acted promptly on the Board’s advice and restrictions were announced on 20th September to operate from 27th September. It would, of course, have been quite counter-productive for Australia to have taken action to restrict exports in advance of action by the United States to seek restraints by supplying countries.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The following answers are supplied:
I might add, for the. honourable member’s information, that my Department of Social Services is not responsible for the administration of Aboriginal affairs. My Office of Aboriginal Affairs is within the Prime Minister’s Department but the responsibility for administration of Aboriginal affairs in Western Australia remains with the Government of that State.
asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
Has the Government any plans to participate directly in the development of mineral discoveries in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Under an agreement between Bougainville Copper Pty Ltd and the Administration of Papua and New Guinea, the Administration has the right to acquire up to 20% of the total equity capital in the project. Once the company decides to go ahead with the project, and provided the Government is satisfied that the venture is sound and offers reasonable prospects of profitable operation, the Government will ensure that an option over 20% of the operating company’s equity capital is taken up either on behalf of or by the people of the Territory. It is proposed that the Territory equity will be held by the Administration or an approved agency and will eventually become available for purchase on appropriate terms by eligible Territory residents. This arrangement is in accordance with the principle that there should be an opportunity for Territory people to participate now or in the future in overseas investments in the Territory.
asked the Minister for Air, upon notice:
On what dates and at what aerodromes have B47 aircraft landed in Australia?
– The following answer is now supplied:
B47 aircraft have landed, on the dates shown, at the following aerodromes in Australia:
Amberley- 15th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 25th, 26th and 27th November 1963.
Fairbairn- -17th November 1963.
Townsville- I9th November 1963.
Pearce- -20th November 1963.
Edinburgh- 22nd November 1963.
Avalon- 25th November 1963.
Sydney (Mascot)- 27th November 1963.
Darwin- 27th and 28th November 1963.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
To what extent will servicemen and servicewomen receive equal remuneration for work of equal value under thenew pay structure announced on 29th August?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The new Services pay structure will not vary the existing basis of relativity between male and female rates of pay.
asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
What steps have been taken after the Acting Minister’s answer to me on 27th September 1966 (Hansard, page 1329) to amend the. terms of reference of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East to include the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and thus to seek assistance for the Territory from the Asian Development Bank?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The steps that would be necessary to secure the Territory’s eligibility for loans from the Asian Development Bank would include obtaining the approval of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, acting on a recommendation of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East that the Territory should be granted associate membership of the Commission. It would then be necessary for Australia to apply to the Asian Development Bank for membership for the Territory. The terms of the Territory’s membership of the Bank, including the level of its capital subscription, would be a matter for negotiation with the Bank. No action was taken to seek associate membership in ECAFE for the Territory at the 24th Session of the Commission. The matter remains under consideration.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The reply to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. It was introduced in Queensland in 1953.
asked the Minister for Works, upon notice:
What amounts have been spent to date upon the construction of, and the provision of facilities for, Parliament House in Canberra, and on what dates were these expenditures incurred?
– The Minister for Works has provided the following answer: -
Amounts expended on capital works at Parliament House, Canberra, up to 30th September 1968 are as follows:
It might be noted that the figures for 1964-65, 1965-66 and 1966-67 include the cost of the major extensions to the building carried out in those years. The above are. actual expenditure figures converted to dollars. No allowance has been made for change in money values.
asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice: 1.. What were the texts of the resolutions moved in the General Assembly of. the United Nations in 1966 and 1967 for a committee to study the question of Chinese representation?
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
The General Assembly
Having considered the question of the representation of China:
Believing that a solution of the question of Chinese representation which accords with the principles of the Charter and the aim of universality would further the purposes of the United Nations and strengthen ‘ its ability to maintain international peace and security;
Believing that the complexities of this question require the most searching consideration in order to pave the way to an. appropriate solution, taking into account the existing situation and the political realities of the . area;
asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
Is it still the Government’s view, as he expressed it to me on 25th August 1956 (Hansard, page 525), that if Malaysia and the Philippines agreed to have recourse to the International Court of Justice to determine the Philippines claim to Sabah, then this would be an appropriate and fitting course?
– The following answer is now supplied:
The Australian Government’s view remains that the Sabah question is primarily a matter for the Governments of Malaysia and the Philippines. Discussions were held between the Philippines and Malaysia from 17th June to 16th July for the purpose of clarifying the Philippines claim and discussing modes of settlement. No agreement was reached at these talks that the question should go to the International Court of Justice.
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
What workers compensation Acts or Ordinances apply in each external Territory?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930-1967
Seamen’s Compensation Act 1911-1967
Papua and New Guinea -
Workers’ Compensation Ordinance 1958-1967
Workers’ Compensation (Special Provisions)
Norfolk Island- Nil .
Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Christmas Island -
Workmen’s Compensation Ordinance (Chapter 157, Singapore)
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are:
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: (Information in respect of schools other than Aboriginal special schools has been provided by the Minister for Education and Science.)
Natureandestimated cost of assistance are based on 1968 rates as follows:
Board and travelling allowances - primary $11,336; secondary $67,674.
Allowance for fares - university $4,125.
There are also some Northern Territory students who are holders of Commonwealth University and Advanced Education Scholarships. Thelatest estimates are:
University Scholarships 23
Advanced Education Scholarship . . 1
The three Aboriginal children receiving secondary education outside the Territory, referred to in (3) (ii) above, are sponsored by a mission and receive some government assistance for fares and clothing.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
Under what statutes, ordinances, regulations and/or departmental instructions must (a) citizens or Cb) aliens secure permission to visit Aboriginal reservations in the Northern- Territory?
– -The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Section 17 of the Social, Welfare Ordinance 1964-1967 provides that a. person shall not enter or remain on a reserve unless - .
he is an Aboriginal native of Australia;
he is a member of. the police’ force;
he is acting in the course of his duty as an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service;
he enters and remains on the reserve in accordance with an authorisation granted under the Ordinance;
it is necessary for the protection of life or property that he enter or remain on the reserve;
he is the member, or a candidate for election as the member,’ of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory elected for the electorate in which the reserve or a part of the reserve is situated;
he is a member, or a candidate for election as a member, of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia elected for tha Northern Territory; or
he is authorised by a law of the Territory to enter and remain on the reserve.
These provisions apply equally to Australian citizens and aliens.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice;
What legislative and administrative steps have taken place since the Minister’s answer to me on 9th May 1967 (Hansard, page 1908) in the attempt to secure uniform building regulations, including home building regulations?
– The Minister for Housing has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
I direct the honourable member’s attention to the reply of the Minister for Works to a question without notice in the Senate on 18th September 1968. So far as the Department of Housing is concerned, good progress has been made by the Committee mentioned in my reply of 9th May 1967. But the work is laborious and detailed, and no finality can yet bc reported.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has supplied the following answer to the honourable member’s questions:
The answers to the honourable member’s questions have been supplied to him. A copy of the answers which include a comprehensive schedule is available to honourable members in the Library.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following advice in regard to the honourable member’s question:
From 14 February 1966 rates were decimalised and retained the same value
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
Which of the following aerodromes participate in the aerodrome local ownership plan: Charleville, Mildura, Mount Gambier, Perth, Tennant Creek, Albany, Adelaide, Alice Springs, Brisbane, Broken Hill, Broome, Camooweal, Canberra, Cloncurry, Coffs Harbour, Corowa, Cunderdin, Darwin, Essendon, Forrest, Jandakot, Kalgoorlie, Leigh Creek, Mangalore, Meekatharra, Narromine, Oakey, Parkes, Port Moresby, Rockhampton, Sydney, Townsville, Wollongong, Woomera, Albury, Bankstown, Barcaldine, Bathurst, Blackall, Boulia, Bourke, Bundaberg, Cairns, Clermont, Cobar, Coolangatta, Cooma, Coonabarabran, Coonamble, Cowra, Cunnamulla, Daly Waters, Dampier, Derby, Devonport, Dubbo, Emerald, Gayndah, Geraldton, Gladstone, Glen Innes, Griffith, Gunnedah, Hobart, Horsham, Hughenden, Julia Creek, Katherine, Lae, Launceston, Learmonth, Longreach, Mackay, Maryborough, Momote, Moree, Mount Isa, Mudgee, Narrabri, Narrandera, Port Hedland, Portland, Port Macquarie, Proserpine, Richmond, Tamworth, Taree, Thursday Island, Wagga, Walgett, Warracknabeal, Weipa, Windorah, Winton, Whyalla, Wynyard, King Island, Kingscote, Moorabbin, Bowen, Flinders Island, Hamilton, Mallacoota, Normanton, Oodnadatta, Wyndham, Armidale, Brunette Downs, Carnarvon, Cooktown, Daugo Island, Finschhafen, Goondiwindi, Grafton, Groote Eylandt, Inverell, Kavieng,
Nadang, Merimbula, Orange, Port Lincoln, Quirindi, Roma, St George, Sale, Scone, Strahan, Swan Hill, Warrnambool, Wewak, Wittenoom Gorge, Archerfield, Birdsville, Buka Passage, Casino, Ceduna, Cootamundra, Curtin Springs, Esperance, Halls Creek, Jervois Station, Kerema, Macarthur River, Mount Magnet, Nhill, Norseman, Onslow, Parafield, Rabaul, St Helens, Wave Hill, Willowra?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Mildura, Corowa, Wollongong, Albury, Barcaldine, Bathurst, Blackall, Boulia, Clermont, Cobar, Cooma, Coonabarabran, Coonamble, Cowra, Cunnamulla, Dampier, Emerald, Gayndah, Gladstone, Glen Innes, Griffith, Gunnedah, Horsham, Hughenden, Julia Creek, Moree, Mudgee, Narrabri, Barrandera Portland, Port Macquarie, Proserpine, Richmond, Taree, Walgett, Warracknabeal, Weipa, Windorah, Winton, Bowen, Hamilton, Armidale, Brunette Downs, Grafton, Groote Eylandt, Inverell, Orange, Quirindi, St George, Scone, Strahan, Swan Hill, Warrnambool, Birdsville, Cootamundra, Curtin Springs, Esperance, Jervois Station, Macarthur River, Nhill, Norseman, St Helens, Wave Hill, Willowra. Of these aerodromes eight are eligible for maintenance grants only as they are not owned by Local Authorities. The Aerodrome Local Ownership Plan does not apply outside Australia and therefore the following places you listed in PapuaNew Guinea and other Territories are outside the provisions of the Plan: Lae, Momote, Daugo Island, Finschhafen, Kavieng, Madang, Wewak, Buka Passage, Kerema.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
Who was or is responsible for the cost of sealing runways of the following aerodromes: Charleville, Mildura, Mount Gambier, Perth, Tennant Creek, Albany, Adelaide, Alice Springs, Brisbane, Broken Hill, Broome, Camooweal, Canberra, Cloncurry, Coffs Harbour, Corowa, Cunderdin, Darwin, Essendon, Correct, Jandakot, Kalgoorlie, Leigh Creek, Mangalore, Meekatharra, Narromine, Oakey, Parkes, Port Moresby, Rockhampton, Sydney, Townsville, Wollongong, Woomera, Albury, Bankstown, Barcaldine, Bathurst, Blackall, Boulia, Bourke, Bundaberg, Cairns, Clermont, Cobar, Coolangatta, Cooma, Coonabarabran, Coonamble, Cowra, Cunnamulla, Daly Waters, Glen Innes, Griffith, Gunnedah, Hobart, Horsham, Hughenden, Julia Creek, Katherine, Lae, Launceston, Learmonth, Longreach, Momote, Mackay, Maryborough, Moree, Mount Isa, Mudgee, Narrabri, Narrandera, Port Hedland, Port Macquarie, Proserpine, Richmond, Tamworth, Taree, Thursday Island, Wagga, Walgett, Warracknabeal, Weipa, Windorah, Winton, Whyalla, Wynyard?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: l am assuming that his question relates to the initial sealing of the runway/s where applicable: Charleville (RAAF), Mildura (RAAF), Mount
Gambier (RAAF), Perth (RAAF and DCA), Tennant Creek (RAAF), Albany (unsealed at present and no proposal by DCA to seal), Adelaide (DCA). Alice Springs (RAAF), Brisbane (USAF and DCA), Broken Hill (RAAF), Broome (DCA), Camooweal (RAAF), Canberra (RAAF), Cloncurry (RAAF), Coffs Harbour (RAAF), Corowa (RAAF), Cunderdin (RAAF), Darwin (RAAF), Essendon (DCA), Forrest (RAAF), Jandakot (DCA), Kalgoorlie (RAAF), Leigh Creek (DCA), Mangalore (RAAF and DCA), Meekatharra (RAAF), Narromine (RAAF), Oakey (RAAF), Parkes (RAAF), Port Moresby (RAAF), Rockhampton (RAAF), Sydney (DCA), Townsville (RAAF). Wollongong (RAAF), Woomera (Department of Supply), Albury (50/50 Council/DCA), Bankstown (DCA), Barcaldine (50/50 Council/ DCA). Bathurst (50/50 Council/DCA), Blackall 50/50 Council/DCA), Boulia (50/50 Council/ DCA). Bourke (RAAF), Bundaberg (DCA), Cairns (RAAF), Clermont (50/50 Council/DCA), Cobar (DCA), Coolangatta (DCA), Cooma (DCA), Coonabarabran (50/50 Council/DCA), Conamble (50/50 Council/DCA), Cowra (50/50 Council/DCA), Cunnamulla (50/50 Council/DCA), Daly Waters (RAAF), Dampier (Hammersley Iron). Derby (DCA), Devonport (DCA), Dubbo (RAAF). Emerald (50/50 Council/DCA), Gayndah (50/50 Council/DCA), Geraldton (RAAF), Gladstone (50/50 Council/DCA), Glen Innes (Council/DCA), Griffith (50/50 Council/DCA), Gunnedah (50/50 Council/DCA), Hobart (DCA), Horsham (50/50 Council/DCA) Hughenden (50/50 Council/DCA), Julia Creek (50/50 Council/DCA), Katherine (RAAF), Lae (RAAF), Launceston (DCA), Learmonth (RAAF), Longreach (DCA), Momote (RAAF), Mackay (DCA), Maryborough (RAAF), Moree (50/50 Council/DCA), Mt Isa (DCA), Mudgee (50/50 Council/DCA), Narrabri (50/50 Council/DCA), Narrandera (50/50 Council/DCA), Port Hedland (DCA), Port Macquarie (50/50 Council/DCA), Proserpine (DCA), Richmond (50/50 Council/DCA), Tamworth (DCA), Taree (50/50 Council/DCA), Thursday Island (RAAF), Wagga (DCA), Walgett (50/50 Council/DCA), Warracknabeal (50/50 Council/DCA), Weipa (50/50 Council/DCA), Windorah (50/50 Council/DCA). Winton (50/50 Council/DCA), Whyalla (DCA), Wynyard (DCA).
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
Which of the following aerodromes now have sealed runways, and who was or is responsible for the cost of searing: King Island, Kingscote, Moorabbin, Bowen, Flinders Island, Hamilton, Mallacoota, Normanton, Oodnadatta, Wyndham, Armidale, Brunette Downs, Carnarvon, Cooktown, Daugo Island, Finschhafen, Goondiwindi, Grafton, Groote Eylandt, Inverell, Kavieng, Madang, Merimbula, Orange, Port Lincoln, Quirindi, Roma, St George, Sale, Scone, Strahan, Swan Hill, Warnambool, Wewak, Wittenoom Gorge?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am assuming that you mean a fully sealed runway and not just portion, such as ends, sealed: Moorabbin (DCA), Carnarvon (DCA). If a sealed runway were to be provided at the present time at the other places listed, the responsibility for the cost would theoretically rest with the present owners as indicated in the brackets: King Island (DCA), Kingscote (DCA), Bowen (50/50 Council/ DCA), Flinders Island (DCA), Hamilton (50/50 Council/DCA), Mallacoota (DCA), Normanton (DCA), Oodnadatta (DCA), Wyndham (DCA), Armidale (50/50 Council/DCA), Brunette Downs (Owners), Cooktown (DCA), Daugo Island (DCA), Finschhafen (DCA), Goondiwindi (DCA), Grafton (50/50 Council/DCA), Groote Eylandt (Owners), Inverell (50/50 Council/DCA), Kavieng (DCA), Madang (DCA), Merimbula (DCA), Orange (50/50 Council/DCA), Port Lincoln (DCA), Quirindi (50/50 Council/DCA), Roma (DCA), St George (50/50 Council/DCA), Sale (DCA), Scone (50/50 Council/DCA), Strahan (50/50 Council/DCA), Swan Hill (50/50 Council/DCA). Warrnambool (50/50 Council/DCA), Wewak (DCA), Wittenoom Gorge (DCA).
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
Which of the following aerodromes now have sealed or gravel runways, and who was or is responsible for the cost of sealing or gravelling: Archerfield, Birdsville, Buka Passage, Casino, Ceduna, Cootamundra, Curtin Springs, Esperance, Halls Creek, Jervois Station, Kerema, Macarthur River, Mount Magnet, Nhill, Norseman, Onslow. Parafield, Rabaul, St Helens, Wave Hill, Willowra?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Casino (DCA), Cootamundra (50/50 Council/ DCA). If a runway were to be provided at the present time the responsibility for the cost would theoretically rest with the present owners as indicated in brackets: Archerfield (DCA), Birdsville (50/50 Council/DCA), Buka Passage (DCA), Ceduna (DCA), Curtin Springs (Owners), Esperance (50/50 Council/DCA), Halls Creek (DCA), Jervois Station (Owners), Kerema (N.G. Administration), Macarthur River (Owners), Mt Magnet (DCA), Nhill (50/50 Council/DCA), Norseman (50/50 Council/DCA), Onslow (DCA), Parafield (DCA), Rabaul (DCA), St Helens (50/50 Council/DCA), Wave Hill (Owners) Willowra (Owners).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following information:
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
In addition, throughout the Commonwealth, 137,728 applications were received for services utilising lines and equipment already in place as follows:
Since provision of services utilising lines and equipment already in place involves little or no work effort, each of these applications was satis fied with virtually no delay.
Each State will distribute its installation effort between metropolitan and country areas according to the relative incidence of demand and physical capacity to meet that demand.
The division of this expenditure between metropolitan and country areas will be dependent to some extent on the incidence of demand, but it is expected to follow the pattern of 1967-68. The figures quoted in 7. and this question refer to expenditures involved in providing local cabling (including junctions), exchange equipment, private switchboards and subscribers’ instruments.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Under the medical benefits scheme what is the average benefit expressed us a percentage of actual cost for (a) confinement cases, (b) a doctor’s visit to a patient’s home and (c) a consultation at a doctor’s surgery.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: lt is not possible to provide a precise answer to the honourable member’s specific question, as charges for individual medical services vary considerably within Slates and as between States. Moreover, although the Commonwealth benefit for a particular service is uniform throughout Australia, the return to the contributor varies according to the table of Fund benefits to which he subscribes. However, on the basis of the most common fees charged by doctors for the services mentioned, the Commonwealth benefits for these services, and Fund benefits under the ceiling medical table in each State, the percentage return to contributors is as follows:
Shipping: Subsidies (Question No. 883)
asked the Minister for
Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable members question is as follows:
The Government during 1967-68 granted financial assistance to two shipping companies operating services from Australia. They were:
Burns, Philp & Co. Ltd
Services - Australia to Papua and New Guinea.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 November 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19681105_reps_26_hor61/>.