26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr WHITTORN presented a petition from certain residents of the State of Victoria showing that because of uncontrolled slaughter of kangaroos for commercial purposes Australia’s largest marsupial faces the danger of becoming extinct; as a tourist attraction the kangaroo is worth a limitless amount of revenue to this country; future generations have a right to see these unique animals live.
The petitioners pray that the Commonwealth Government place a complete ban on export and local sale of kangaroo meat and fur products; that a Commonwealth body to control kangaroos be formed immediately.
Mr TURNER presented from certain electors of the Commonwealth a petition showing that physiotherapy is not among the items included for benefits under the health insurance scheme.
The petitioners humbly pray that an adequate refund for physiotherapy treatment ordered by a registered medical practitioner may be included within the Commonwealth benefits scheme in like manner to other medical benefits.
Petition received and read.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Defence. Has his attention been drawn to Press reports that the Prime Minister intends to cancel Australia’s order for Fill aircraft? Has he any reason to suppose that these reports may be accurate? Has he had any reason to reconsider his past forceful affirmations that the Fill is ‘the greatest thing on wings since angels’ and ‘the Cadillac of the air’? Does he still believe that in the Fill ‘we have the most versatile weapons system in the world, and it is likely to be so for a long time to come’?
– I am delighted to find the Leader of the Opposition so ardent a reader of what I have to say about this aircraft. My attention in the past has been drawn to quite an amount of Press conjecture about the various aspects of this programme. I do recall that one pressman, thinking he had rather a juicy leak, made some comment about what questions the Prime Minister would ask in America. The fact of the matter was that it was a juicy leak, except that the information was all wrong.
The same gentleman, of course, has run another piece of conjecture about the possibility that the aircraft contract would be terminated. This, also, is conjecture. If the honourable gentleman will do me the honour of reading the Press article again - and this time accurately - I think he will see that it does not refer to what the Prime Minister said about the aircraft. He will refer to some information which apparently was given to certain members of the Pentagon, warning them that perhaps the programme would be cancelled. So I brand both of those matters as complete conjecture.
As regards what I have said about the Fill aircraft from time to time, I would in general refer the Leader of the Opposition to what the pilots of this aircraft have had to say about it over the whole course of its testing. I would also remind the honourable gentleman, when he ascribes to me these delicate phrases about the Fill being the finest thing with wings since angels, or words to that effect, that these were never my words. These were the words of an American journalist, which I quoted and attributed to him. So the honourable gentleman apparently is now prepared to join the queue and do a little supposition of his own. I want to assure the honourable gentleman, the House and the people of this country that all aspects of the programme are under review. The Government has made it perfectly plain to everybody concerned that when we take delivery of this aircraft it will be a completely safe aircraft. To that extent, tests are presently under way. When we are satisfied that those tests give us a safe and sound aircraft, performing up to expectations, we will, of course, take the aircraft. If it fails’ to meet them, then clearly we will reserve our position. I hope that this will settle the honourable gentleman down, at least for another 24 hours.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. Has any estimate been made of the cost - so far as it can be measured in monetary terms - per day, per week, per month or over a period of time, say until after the Federal elections, of delaying the making, or the announcement, of a decision to cancel the order for the FI 1 17 Is that cost in the vicinity of $9m per month, as has been claimed? If not, what is the figure, and what are the details of its assessment? If no such estimate has been made, will the Minister direct that it be made and explained to the House with the details of its component parts, as a matter of urgency?
– With regard to the last part of the honourable member’s question I will give him a reply at a later time. The Prime Minister and the Minister tor Defence have already stated that we have agreed to a fly-away cost of $5.95m for the aircraft. We will accept the aircraft when it becomes airworthy.
– Does the Prime Minister recall hearing the Minister for Defence refer to the Fill as ‘a super battle-bird’, the greatest thing with wings since angels’ and ‘the Cadillac of the air’? Does he recall that as recently as 18th September 1968 the Minister referred to the Fill as ‘a fine aircraft on which we will depend heavily for our defence’? Does the Prime Minister himself now accept as reliable the estimates of the Fill offered by the Minister for Defence, and does he agree with the Minister that the Fi 1 1 is a fine aircraft on which we will depend heavily for our defence?
– I have no recollection of having heard the Minister for Defence use the words attributed to him; and, indeed, it appears to me that the Minister for Defence has just told the House that he quoted words used by somebody else.
– Did he not approve of them?
– He did not say. He quoted the words used by somebody else. It therefore appears to me to be quite misleading and unjust to suggest that he used them as his own words. The situation remains as it was when I reported to the House on 15th
May. I told the House then that I had discussed with Secretary Laird a number of general questions concerning the Fill to which we required answers - that is to say, the length of time which it was intended to be in service with the United States Air Force, the length of time that testing was required on the wing carry-through box for our purposes, which was the initial requirement of testing for 16,000 hours, and other matters of that kind. These led, I believe, to satisfactory answers at that time from the Secretary for Defence. I point out to the House also that there were a number of technical matters and technical details which were the subject of study by the Department of Defence and the Department of Air, and that study is going on. All I can say is that in the course of my discussions with Secretary Laird and Air Force General Mcconnell their view, as expressed to me, was that the Fill was an extraordinarily good plane and would be in service with their Air Force until the 1980s. I can only report what, in that case, was given to me.
I reinforce the statement by the Minister for Defence that the statement that the United States Administration has been told of a decision for cancellation is quite untrue, and I would be happy to assure the House that if at any stage after full technical examination is completed it appears that the aircraft would not meet the full requirements as set out by the Minister for Defence and there was a suggestion for any cancellation at that stage and it was accepted after any negotiations that may be necessary, then I would immediately announce that to the House.
– The Treasurer will recall his answer to a question I asked him several weeks ago concerning the distribution of surplus funds under the defence forces retirement benefits scheme to the pre-1959 pensioners and contributors when he referred to the necessity of obtaining the individual records of each of these members. I now ask whether this detailed information, once obtained, will also be of assistance in assessing the possibilities of introducing the new scheme which he has already espoused to bring all pre-1959 members under the less complicated post-1959 scheme. Finally, does he agree with a recent statement by Senator Cohen that discontent is rife in the military forces because of the cost to pre- 1959 contributors of talcing up the additional units?
– As to the first part of the question asked by the honourable gentleman, I have been informed recently that the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board hopes that it will be able to make a provisional report on the distribution of the pre-1959 funds early in the Budget session. The matter is within the Board’s control rather than that of the Government, and I am persistently urging the authorities to let us have the report as soon as is practicable. As to the second part of the question, the first requirement is that the facts should be ascertained and that those facts should be fed into the computer and then the results made available. The honourable gentleman is correct in saying that once these facts are fed in and the results obtained it will be of enormous benefit in enabling us to bring the two schemes together - that is, to permit the 1959 contributors to be on the basis of the post-1959 contributors.
I find that part of the question which relates to a statement by Senator Cohen difficult to understand. I do not think the statement is accurate because when changes were made to the Act in 1965 - I think they were to relate back to 1964 - we provided that in those cases where contributors found that the contributions were beyond their capacity to pay or were more than they wanted to pay they would be permitted to take up non-contributory entitlements rather than contributory ones. In other words they would make no contribution and consequently would not get the benefit of their own personal contributions but the Commonwealth Government would make available the proportion that would normally be attributable if they were contributory entitlements. This goes back to 1965. The Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board did make this information available to all Army units. The journal ‘Army’ also has made it available and I am informed that officers of the Army have gone to the various camps and have made the facts known to the contributors themselves. I therefore find it very difficult for anyone to be able to take much notice of what Senator Cohen has said.
Fill AIRCRAFT: AMBERLEY BASE
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. It flows from the written answer he gave me a week ago that the expenditure on capital works at Amberley since the decison was made to station the F111C there is $9,109,000, and that the value of the ground support and training equipment for the FIIIC located at Amberley as at 1st April is estimated at SI 9,230,000. What is the value of the capital works which would no longer be required, and of the support and training equipment which would become redundant, if the order for the aircraft was cancelled?
– Over the weekend I made a statement that I was not in the business of answering ‘if questions. The honourable member has asked a completely hypothetical question. Obviously there cannot be any answer to it until we acquire the facts.
– I direct a question to the Minster for Exeternal Territories. I refer to the report alleging that armed Indonesian troops had crossed the West IrianNew Guinea border. Can the Minister say whether in fact this took place? If it did, what are the consequences of the occurrence?
– There has been considerable speculation on what has happened on the southern border of Papua and New Guinea and West Irian. This has apparently been built up on the uncorroborated reports of two West Irianese. I have a senior official of the Administration in that area trying to find out the facts of the situation, and until I have his report - which I will probably have within a day or two - I am not prepared to comment any further.
Fill AIRCRAFT: SPARE PARTS
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. How much has the Government paid or committed itself to paying for Fill spare parts? How much would be written off in surplus spare parts if the order for the Fill was cancelled?
– This is quite a hypothetical question. As to what has been paid up to this time, I will look into the matter and let the honourable member know later.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that entrenched officials of militant unions recently called strikes in support of breaches of the law on the ground that unions should not be subject to penalties under the arbitration system? Is it a fact that these same union officials believe in penalties to maintain their own discipline over their own members and use them as a sanction to ensure compliance with strike orders by union members who have had little or no say in the strike decisions?
– In broad terms the statement in the first part of the honourable member’s question is correct. As far as the second part of the question is concerned, unions which operate under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act register with the Industrial Registrar and submit their rules and other particulars about themselves for approval. It is difficult to answer the question just in general terms. Undoubtedly these union penalties do exist in some cases, as the honourable member has indicated, but one of the difficulties which union officials face, and which they have put to me, is that they are in fact very often quite unable to discipline their own members who get involved in disputes against their instructions and against their efforts to restrain them from striking. Yet in some cases it is the union itself which has to bear the consequences-
– No union would ever say that to the Minister. He is only making it up.
-Order! The honourable member for Hindmarsh will cease interjecting.
– The union itself has to pay the fines. The honourable member for Hindmarsh says that I am making it up.
– No union would be so low.
-Order! I have already told the honourable member for Hindmarsh to cease interjecting.
– I have ears to hear and I hear from a lot of people who are much more reliable and objective than the honour able member for Hindmarsh. But in general terms it is difficult to answer this question. If the honourable member presses me for particulars, I will look into the matter with interest.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. Can he explain how the Maxwell Newton organisation was able to get hold of a cable reported to contain a summary of an interview between the Australian Ambassador to France and the French Foreign Minister? Is this organisation able to penetrate Commonwealth departments and disclose confidential information with a view to building a publishing empire?
– It is a fact that in an issue of ‘Management Newsletter’ on 13th May, this being a publication issued by Maxwell Newton Pty Ltd, there was published amongst other things what purported to be a confidential cable sent from the Australian Embassy in Paris to the Department of External Affairs. This was substantially similar to a confidential cable which had in fact been received on the evening of 8th May, that is, a relatively short time before this newsletter was published. In the circumstances this showed a probable breach of the Crimes Act, and it was decided that an investigation should be made as to how that information was made available, and I instructed the Commonwealth police to make inquiries. I may say that I did so after the matter had been discussed by Cabinet, which had decided that police inquiries should be instituted. As a result of the inquiries the police in fact took out search warrants for premises at S3 and 55 Kent Street, Deakin. These premises were searched. Certain documents were taken and are at present under consideration by the police, who have not yet reported to me the detailed findings in respect of them.
However, I think I should add that, as is suggested in the question, Mr Maxwell Newton and his organisation are in the business of selling information for profit either directly in newletters or privately. This is their business. In obtaining the information, they must, of course have information to sell. Mr Maxwell Newton on television himself has said that he regards it as his objective, to use his phrase, to penetrate the bureaucracy. An employee in a private business concern who is passing out private matter belonging to his employer to a member of the public or a newspaper man is committing a breach of loyalty. In the case of the Public Service, which runs the nation’s affairs, to pass out information is a breach of the Crimes Act. This is so whether the information is classified or unclassified. It does not depend on classification. It is a breach of the Crimes Act to pass out the nation’s private information to people who wish to make a profit from it. This represents, in effect, the question. I notice that it has been presented rather differently, as an attack on the liberty of the subject in some way. I feel that the true issue is whether a person who wishes to make a personal gain should be regarded as entitled to corrupt the Public Service in order to do so.
Finally, I say that there has been some suggestion that other pressmen need fear this kind of action and that, in some way, this action was taken lo stifle criticism. I make just two points. First of all, this organisation has been involved in criticism of one kind or another over a long period of years. Although I have read some of it with interest and some with astonishment, no action has ever been taken against that organisation. I would not expect that it would be taken against that or any other Press organisation. But when these organisations use information which belongs to the Government and when that information could only get to them with some breach of the Crimes Act, it is a different matter and needs investigation. No pressman who follows only legitimate methods of obtaining information need fear any action.
– My question is supplementary to that asked of the Attorney-General by the honourable member for Lalor. I ask the Prime Minister: Were documents not related to the cable mentioned by the Attorney-General taken away from the journalist’s home that was searched in the weekend by Commonwealth police? Does the Prime Minister intend to authorise similar searches of houses and offices when anything is published in a newspaper, which some Minister, department or officer considers to be secret?
– I have neither seen nor had reported to me the contents of any document or documents which the Commonwealth police kept in the course of the investigation to which the honourable member refers. So, I cannot answer the first part of his question. But I think, Mr Speaker, that no government could permit confidential or secret information to be in effect stolen and supplied to a receiver for publication and sit back and do nothing at all about it. This would refer to any documents but it surely must be clear that it would particularly refer to such sensitive documents as cables from our ambassadors abroad detailing conversations with statesmen from abroad or foreign diplomats or whatever it may be, because if that were to become a practice then clearly it would greatly hamper the operations of our diplomats in obtaining information because those who might otherwise give information would believe that it would be - could be - stolen and published in Australia to their detriment.
I would say further, Mr Speaker, that it would perhaps be clear to many members of the House that an individual who had on one occasion stolen and supplied such a document would be afterwards subject to considerable pressure from those to whom he supplied that document to obtain further and perhaps more confidential and more secret documents. Indeed, I think that any government would properly be the subject of censure if it allowed confidential documents and stolen documents to be published and sat back and made no attempt to investigate by all means possible the sources from which that information came.
– My question is to the Minister for Social Services. I ask the honourable gentleman: What would be the cost of the abolition of the means test if the single rate pension were lifted to half of the minimum wage and the married rate pension were lifted to the minimum wage? What would be the cost of the added or extra fringe benefits, and what would be the impact or effect of these moves, if they were made, upon the Australian taxpayer and the Australian tax structure?
– I do not think that it is possible to answer this question absolutely exactly because, as the House will know, there is no such thing at the present moment as an accepted minimum wage. But, looking at this in the order of $38 to $40 per week, one would say in round terms that, if the present pension were raised to one-half of that amount, the direct cost to the Budget would be approximately $200m a year and, if the means test were removed entirely, at that higher rate of pension the cost would be a little less than $500m a year in addition. So the cost of these two items together would be about $700m a year, irrespective of the fringe benefits. My colleague the Minister for Health would perhaps be in a better position to cost those benefits than I would, but I would guess the cost would be in the neighbourhood of another $150m a year. One can only say that such costs are astronomical. I am asked what would be the effect on the taxpayer. This I think is a matter for the Treasurer rather than me, but I think he would agree with me that they would be somewhat severe.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service: Did he suggest that enlistment in the Citizen Military Forces was the honourable alternative for those young men who wished to avoid call-up and service in Vietnam? Does the Minister know that the volunteer who joins’ the Citizen Military Forces signs an undertaking that he will serve anywhere in the world as directed?
– Of course I am aware. What I did say as a practical matter was that the young man who now has some rooted objection, for whatever reason, conscientious or otherwise, to fighting in the war in Vietnam but who did not object to fighting elsewhere on other conditions - if he did so object he could apply to be recognised by the courts as a conscientious objector - had an honourable alternative open to him. He had an opportunity to serve in the CMF, which is vital over a long period to the defence of this country. The CMF is not presently required for overseas service but provides the reserves which could be needed in a state of emergency. These circumstances cannot be foreseen but we could not be prepared for them if no-one had military training until the circumstances arose. This gives a young man an option to play an honourable part in the defence of his country, apart from the present service of some of our troops in South Vietnam. Clearly this is a matter of common sense. I trust that the honourable member will have some common sense and will recognise the reality of the position rather than search for some far away hypothesis.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer, ls it true, as reported, that the public benefactor, Mr Dudley Macdougall, who paid more than $8,000 in fines on behalf of the Victorian section of the Australian Tramway and. Motor Omnibus Employees Association will now be liable for gift duty?
– I would be very surprised if that report were accurate. The two amounts of the gift were $8,000 and, I think, $800 in respect of the individual’s fine. As to the $8,000, no-one has ever asked the Taxation Branch whether it would be subject to gift duty. Consequently, to report that it would be, without asking the Branch, was guesswork of the worst kind. I have had a report from the Commissioner for Taxation about the $8,000, and he believes at the moment that it is highly doubtful and highly improbable that it would attract a duty. He said that this is a gift to a non-profit making organisation and - this surprised me a little - to the Commonwealth Industrial Court, which also is a non-profit making organisation. If those circumstances are true, no duty would be payable. There is a little doubt about the amount of $800 paid for Mr O’Shea’s fine and costs. But this doubt will bc quickly resolved if the person involved cares to make an inquiry from the Taxation Branch. I would be fairly certain he would get an instant response.
– I ask the MinisterinCharge of Aboriginal Affairs a question about the destruction of or damage to the rock structure at Yirrkala which was of great value to the Aboriginal peopl’e there. Was the area clearly defined and agreed upon as an area to be protected and preserved? Why was the rock destroyed or damaged? Does he consider that an apology is sufficient to put the matter right? Will he ensure that no such wanton and irresponsible action ever takes place again by recommending to the States or by taking appropriate action himself to see that such damage in the future will be treated as a very serious offence?
– I think it would be clear to the House that I have few feelings in common with the honourable member for Yarra, but in this case I assure him that our feelings appear, on the surface at any rate, to be the same. I regret entirely what happened in this particular instance. I have made inquiries and it seems that the events were as follows: The particular mountain concerned was defined as a sacred place. It was not apparent - although it should have been - that the sacredness attached particularly to the rim of rock around the crown of the mountain. The Aboriginals had given permission for a tank to be erected on the mountain, which was some distance from the settlement. The contractor, who was a sub-contractor to the company concerned, without fully inquiring about the facts went down and in order to place this tank upon the crown, as he was entitled to do in view of the agreement reached with the Aboriginals, breached this rock face which was of great and continuing significance to the Aboriginals.
I understand this was not known to the Aboriginals until some time afterwards, but when it was known it did arouse very great dismay amongst them, which I think honourable members of this House would understand and appreciate. Arrangements have been made to repair the damage insofar as it can be repaired. The scar in the rock will be covered up and the pipeline which goes down the rock face will be buried and concealed. I certainly agree with the honourable member in saying that this should not have happened. I know that my colleague the Minister for the Interior, who has ministerial responsibility for the Northern Territory, has already taken steps to make sure that this kind of thing, which was regrettable, blameworthy but inadvertant is not repeated.
– I address a question to the Minister for Defence. I ask: To what extent will Australia continue to allow Socialist members of the British Parliament to come to Australia and accuse the Government and the Minister for Defence of lying about the provision of a germ warfare centre at Innisfail? Will Mr Dalyell be allowed to get away with this sort of lying about our country’s activities, which incidentally was reported throughout the world, or will something be done to deter his kind of propaganda?
– Unfortunately it seems to be a fact that you cannot stop Socialist members of parliament from lying. It is quite clear that over a period of months Mr Dalyell who is a Labour member of the British House of Commons, in spite of very firm denials by my colleague the Minister for Supply and myself has persisted in making accusations that Australia has been conducting gas and biological warfare research at Innisfail. Unfortunately he was not able to accept the word of even members of the Labor Party in this House that nothing of the kind was happening because, as the honourable member will recall, we invited all comers to inspect the Innisfail station and no evidence of chemical or biological warfare was found. Apparently Mr Dalyell. not satisfied with this information, wanted to see for himself. Not only did Mr Dalyell come to Australia; he took with him to Innisfail a microbiologist. They examined the station there inside and out, according to my information. The only good point I can find in all this is that Mr Dalyell said that if he found no evidence of chemical or biological warfare experiments at Innisfail he would say so. He has now said precisely that, and I hope that this will finish the incident of Innisfail.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. Because of an inquiry submitted to me by an elector will the right honourable gentleman say whether the expense incurred in having a hair transplant operation is tax deductible? (Question not answered)
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question. 1 refer to the address made by the Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry at the chemicals symposium last week which was misreported - probably because of the extravagant language used - to imply that manufacturing industry will wither and die unless it orients itself to exporting a considerable proportion of its production. Recalling the Minister’s often repeated statement that a vital prerequisite to expansion in the export market is a firm place in the home market, I ask: Has the Government plans for ensuring that the Tariff Board gives industry the effective tariff protection necessary for these two objectives to be achieved?
– I do not know anything about the address referred to but, to answer the substantive part of the question, it is well known and has been repeatedly stated that the Government’s policy is to accord to Australian industries which are judged to be economic and efficient such protection as is necessary against imports. In order to reach a judgment in this respect the system of referring a matter to the Tariff Board for examination and report continues. There is no intention of altering that policy.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question in his capacity of Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Public Service. Is it not a fact that responsibility for security within a Commonwealth department lies with the Minister of that department? What has the Prime Minister done to ensure that the Minister for External Affairs has supervised properly the security of his Department in the case of the invasion of the home of Mr Maxwell Newton? Why has the Prime Minister not suspended the Minister for External Affairs or the official responsible until such time as this matter is cleared up? In other words, why has the Prime Minister allowed the Government to visit its power on a private citizen rather than place the blame where it properly lies? Does the right honourable gentleman not see that this in vasion of the homes of people is in fact a step on the road to an authoritarian position which should be prevented at all costs?
– The answer I would give to the honourable member flows in part from the answer I previously gave on this matter, and that is that it would be quite wrong for any government not to seek to discover who it was who broke the law of this country and breached his loyalty; but the major thing is the breaking of the law. If I may say so, this is a matter which previous governments have also held to be the subject of inquiry; indeed, the previous Labor Government did the same. 1 do not think I have heard any more ludicrous a suggestion, than that if someone steals some property from a department the Minister should be suspended
– I address my question to the Attorney-General. Is it true that last year one union representing twenty men caused the debacle of the lengthy Ford dispute in the United Kingdom and that other unions affected did not back this strike but were unable to continue work because of it? Is it also true that in West Germany one single union controls each industry, such as the shipbuilding industry? Does the Minister see wisdom in this latter course and does he see any way of introducing the latter system to Australia to avoid the risk of holding the community to ransom by factional left wing and Communist status contests?
-I am not able to confirm the precise facts relating to the strike at the Ford plant in England last year, although I have some general knowledge of it, but I have been making some inquiries into the position in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. I do not know the position in West Germany. All I would say in answer to the honourable member at present is that the position is different in England where a strike can take place in one plant although a strike is not called generally in the industry.
However, the position regarding strikes in England is such that the British Prime Minister has suggested that unless penal clauses can be introduced to control the situation, England will be brought to her knees. He is endeavouring to introduce some penal provisions there. There is also at present in the United States a negotiating system where the major and more powerful unions negotiate an agreement for a period of years and then maintain discipline during that period. Where they break the agreement they can be sued for damages and these damages may be enormous. However, whether Australia, which has generally been regarded as leading the field, should change from its own system to a system in operation in one or other of these countries, would be a matter of very serious debate.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) proposed:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.
- Mr Speaker, the Opposition does not oppose this motion. However, under the circumstances, 1 think there are some matters that ought to be raised. It is quite certain that the purpose of this motion is to allow the House to rise at the end of this week. While we do not oppose the motion as such, members of the Opposition want to take the opportunity to point out that there is no justification for the House rising at the end of this week in view of the length of the Notice Paper - the large number of Bills that have to be dealt with and the number of very important statements that have been made by Ministers and which are to be debated. Indeed, we have made it perfectly clear to the Government on a number of occasions that we believe that the sittings of the House should be extended. One would expect that when the Leader of the House (Mr Erwin) takes the opportunity to propose a motion which he believes is necessary to enable the business of the House to be dealt with this week, he should also take the opportunity to point out why he believes the Government considers it necessary for the House to adjourn at the end of this week. I pointed out only a moment ago that a large number of matters remain on the Notice Paper which ought to be dealt with. In point of fact, seventeen Bills have yet to be dealt with, and three additional Bills will be introduced this afternoon. There will then be twenty Bills on the Notice Paper.
While the Government may determine that it is necessary that some of the Bills remain over until the next sessional period, the Opposition will be expected to debate no less than seventeen Bills between now and Thursday night or Friday or whenever the Government decides that the House will rise. One of these Bills, the Meat Industry Bill 1968, has been on the Notice Paper since November 1968, and it has not yet been dealt with.
In addition to the large number of Bills there are on the listed Notice Paper approximately twenty-two ministerial statements which have been made in this House. These are extremely important statements. The Opposition ought to have an opportunity to debate them before the House rises at the end of this week.I do not want to refer to the statements in great detail. Honourable members have had an opportunity to consider them. Some of them should certainly be debated. Most of them will not be debated before the House rises at the end of this week. Therefore, unless the Leader of the House is prepared to give a much better and clearer explanation to the House of why the Government believes that the House should adjourn at the end of this week, the Opposition must take the opportunity to express its opposition, if not to the motion which is now before the House at least to the intention of the Government that the House should rise at the end of the week. We believe that the Parliament could extend its sittings. It could well continue the session into next week or longer, if necessary. Therefore, although the Opposition does not oppose the motion, we take the opportunity to express our regret and disappointment that the Government should adopt this kind of tactic in order to prevent debate on the large number of matters which remain on the Notice Paper.
- Mr Speaker, I would like to support the views which have been put forward by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition–
Motion (by Mr Erwin) proposed:
That the question be now put.
– A point of order–
– There is no point of order. The motion “That the question be now put’ has been moved, and is put without discussion or debate.
Question put -
That the question be now put. (Mr Speaker- Hon. W. J. Aston)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– I have received letters from both the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard) and the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. I have selected the matter proposed by the honourable member for La Trobe, namely:
The need for the Government to present a report on the continued violence and apparent disregard of law and order on the part of certain student organisations so that Parliament and the people may be aware of their objectives.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– I thank the House for the opportunity to debate this matter. After listening to some of the matters raised at question time, particularly as to whether secret information should be removed from confidential areas and purveyed I hope that the matter I intend to raise will be treated, as I think it should, in a bi-partisan manner. It should be treated in this manner because it concerns the continued violence and apparent disregard of law and order on the part of certain student organisations. The Government should advise the Parliament and the people so that they may be aware of these activities. In the ‘Canberra Times’ of 21st May there was an article by a Mr Don Aitkin. I do not know him. He may be 14 or 15 years of age, for all I know. He stated:
The politest thing I can say about Mr Jess’s call for an inquiry into student violence is that it seems to be based on a misconception.
That may be so, I do not know. I am asking the Government to give the country the fullest information in this matter. Mr Aitkin went on:
Were I to be less polite I would describe it as a lot of dreary old garbage.
Perhaps it is, but perhaps that also should be proved. Perhaps Mr Aitkin and the other members of the Press who regard my remarks as garbage should study their own newspaper files and the headlines that have appeared in the newspapers of this country almost daily for about 2 years. Perhaps Mr Aitkin should also consider what has happened in the United Kingdom, the United States, France, West Germany, Japan and other countries. There is one saying that we frequently hear and which we should always treat warily. It is: Tt cannot happen here’. We should listen to people who have come to this country from overseas, particularly from Europe. These people have expressed concern at what is happening to some sections of the youth of this country. They say that what is happening today is exactly what happened in their countries. They say: ‘This is what we saw taking place, but we were not aware of the implications until it was too late’. I am not making any accusations against the majority of university students and other students in our schools. They are the best possible students in the world. But there is a small section of people who have realised the importance of getting through to sections of our youth and subverting them and using them for their own means. I think the people of Australia are entitled to know about these people.
I now come to student demonstrations. The majority of students in our universities are there to study. They are intelligent. They are naturally concerned, as are most people, about certain happenings in our community and certain wrongs that must be righted. They are concerned, perhaps, about the administration of their universities. Perhaps they think that certain things should be altered. They are entitled to hold these views. I am not talking of demonstrations about representation on university councils, for instance. I am not talking about students who may protest about inadequate pensions. I am not talking about students who may disagree with our participation in the Vietnam war. I am talking about those students who appear to believe that they can go beyond their university and on to public and private property and maintain that the law does not apply to them.
In this country if a man enters a Commonwealth office, or a sweet shop, or any other premises and refuses to leave - if he breaks into such premises, he is accused of breaking and entering - he is accused of a crime and the law takes its course. But it appear: that there are some leaders in our community who believe that it is the right of certain sections to go out and break the law with impunity. If this becomes the common practice, and if the police are to be continually accused by a small section of the leading members of our community of being brutal when they take action which is necessary to uphold the law when that law is in jeopardy and being held in contempt, then the day may well come when no householder in this country can expect his home to be protected by the law, and his wife and children to receive such protection. If such a day comes each man may well buy his own rifle and stand up for the protection of his home. Then we will have a situation - which we hope will never eventuate - in which troops will appear in the streets and in the universities, carrying bayonets and wearing gas masks. Do not let us think that this cannot happen here.
Let me just read one small article From a book written about the student revolution last year in France. Even if the Parliament of this nation is not interested at least the people should be told of these things. What we are concerned with is not just the small section of Trotskyites, those of the far left and others who are endeavouring to infiltrate universities and ultimately to overthrow the Government - not this year and perhaps not next year but some time in the future - we are concerned at the broader question of the continued method of electing governments and the way of democracy in this country. If one reads some of the publications that are now being circulated by these small sections I have referred to and which are being distributed in secondary schools to influence the youth of this country one has reason for concern.
While there may be only a small number of these people in the universities, and while they may have had little effect on the decent, responsible students, if they manage to influence the young people in the secondary schools - and of course the sixth form student of today is the university student of next year, and the fifth form student is the university student of the year after that - then they will be achieving recruitment not only of future university students but even of future leaders of the nation. If we want to continue our present way of life, whether we be of the Labor Party, the Liberal Party or the Country Party, we must not bury our heads in the sand and say that it cannot happen here. All other countries which said that it could not happen have been finally overtaken by the situation and have had to institute some form of inquiry to find out what the hell went wrong.
Let me now read from this booklet which was published about the French student revolution in 1968. It was written by two reporters for the United Kingdom Daily Mirror’. I think every citizen of this country should read it. It reads:
Two hours before dawn on Monday, 18th March 1968, a left wing student commando crossed the Seine to the fashionable Right Bank and, with small explosive charges, blew in the plate-glass windows of the Paris offices of the Chase Manhattan Bank, the Bank of America and Trans World Airlines.
It could as well be rocks in the office of the Department of Labour and National Service. The article continues:
A couple of nights later it was the turn of the American Express. By Friday morning the police, acting swiftly to quell these anti-Vietnam gestures, had rounded up two young men and three school boys.
The article goes on in this vein giving the build-up. Everybody was at peace. Everything was quiet and there was no reason for concern. However, the article continues:
That same day, on the evening of 22 May ‘1968, a meeting was called at the Paris University annexe of Nanterre to protest against the arrests. Later that night, after the speeches, a body of demon.trators swarmed up the staircase of the tower block on the campus-
It could well be Monash -
This was the beginning of the militant group to become known as the Movement of 22 March. The detonator had worked. The student revolt was off the ground.
This incident, unfolding almost unnoticed in a single week of spring, illustrates the key features of the revolution it triggered off: The boldness and strategic sense of the student leaders; the speed with which they reacted to events;
The article goes on to state:
From the beginning of the Revolution, one question above all others interested the public: Was the conflagration which spread like bush fire across France spontaneous, or was it engineered by a band of conspirators?
A tiny revolutionary avant-garde detonated a large scale spontaneous movement of student protests, which generated its own dynamic: - this fired the workers to strike and occupy in turn.
This almost overthrew the Government of France. This put France into jeopardy for a period of a fortnight. Let us listen to this:
The quite extraordinary feature of the May Revolution in Paris was the extreme youth of the rebel troops. If most of the general staff were over 20, much of the infantry came from school.
These were people of the ages of 15 and 16. Let us not talk too much of youth and what youth cannot do. Let us remember that in a brawl or a riot a 16 or 17-year-old boy who is worked up and excited can be dangerous. I am asking for only one thing. It is that this Government should tell the people what is happening. We read articles with inch high headlines in the newspapers. We hear of the attack on the Governor of New South Wales. We question what would have happened if the members of the Sydney University Regiment had broken their ranks and used their rifle butts. Thank God they did not, that nobody was killed and that a situation did not arise such as that referred to yesterday, when the office of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) was occupied. An article in the ‘Age’ had this to say:
The conference split over whether SDS members should continue to resist passively during demonstrations or, instead, fight back.
They are talking of forming a rifle club. Some of the supporters claimed that they were considering training in judo and karate. Is this the situation we want in this country? If we are not prepared to look at it we are burying our heads in the sand. Honourable members, whether they are members of the Australian Labor Party or of the Liberal Party - this is not a political matter at the moment - should remember that the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) was the first man in this country against whom a shot was fired by an emotional young man. If a situation of this kind should occur, and should be allowed to occur, not this year but next year or the year after, because governments and oppositions have done nothing, we hold a great responsibility for what we are not doing now. I hope to God that I am proved wrong. I am not trying to be emotional or to get people stirred up. I have gone and spoken to anti-conscription groups at the universities. I have found most of them first rate blokes, but there is always a small section pressurising them to take more decisive and firmer action.
There are members in power in political parties, who shall be nameless, who also publicly state that students have the right to break into buildings. They are saying that there are things to complain about and, therefore, any action is legitimate action. I say that there are things to complain about. I agree that there are rights to protest for, but I think that the plumber’s son has exactly the same rights as the university students. I feel that it does not matter what opportunities a person is given in this country. The law is there for the protection of the civil liberties of the majority of the people. If one day some innocent child or someone else is killed in a demonstration encouraged by those who sit in positions of authority, much will have to be answered for. I hope that those who are supporting me will bring forward details of other publications. I have said, and I say again, that this Government is responsible to educate the people so that the people themselves can make up their minds which they want and whether they think things may happen here as have happened in other parts of the world.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition speaking for a period not exceeding IS minutes.
– This debate is the most notable success student power has so far achieved in Australia. The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) is the instrument of the demonstrators. Through him they are occupying the time of the national Parliament; through him they have humiliated the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen). It will have been noticed that the Deputy Prime Minister did not rise to support the debate on this matter, nor did the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen), nor did any Minister in the House, when it was called on.
If the Deputy Prime Minister had had his way, this debate would not have gone on. The ‘Daily Telegraph’ of Thursday week recounts how the vigilantes of the radical right rubbished the Deputy Prime Minister the previous day when he chaired the meeting of the Liberal and Country Parties in the absence of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). We read:
Mr McEwen: ‘There’ll be four speakers and no statement from Bowen. And that’s the end of it.’
As the meeting broke up, Mr Jess complained angrily to Mr McMahon, his acting leader, about the treatment he had received and stormed angrily out of the room.
As peacemaker, Mr McMahon, flanked by Mr Bowen, explained to an irate group of Jess supporters that there was much to be said for the McEwen viewpoint that responsibility for university discipline was basically a matter for the university authorities-
– I raise a point of order. Last week the Leader of the Opposition took a point of order on a question asked by the honourable member for Grey, and you, Mr Speaker, asked the honourable member for Grey whether he could vouch for the truth of a newspaper report. Does not that situation apply today?
– There is no substance in the point of order. The point of order taken by the Leader of the Opposition last week was in relation to questions. The matter raised today is in the course of debate.
– The article continues:
He could sympathise with Mr Jess’s feelings but there were two sides to the coin, and Mr Jess’s supporters had to try to see both sides.
What a tableau! It is the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) cast in the role of a moderate president of the students union, justifying to a bunch of campus rebels the actions of a harrassed vice-chancellor. The Treasurer is once again the hero of the story, as in the same author’s ‘The Power Struggle’, telling of the war of the Liberal succession. The honourable member for La Trobe does not want a Government report on student violence and lawlessness; he wants a witchhunt. The Attorney-General is involved only because he is responsible for security. Does the honourable member for La Trobe say that order and welfare on our campuses is to be a matter for the Australian Intelligence Security Organisation, that the universities are to be further infiltrated by agents and that a whole generation of students are to be subject to security reports following them through the rest of their careers? This would be the sole consequence of the honourable member’s approach. I believe it is his intention.
Why is this matter so suddenly urgent? As long ago as last July the Prime Minister announced that the Attorney-General was examining all courses open to the Commonwealth to impose severe penalties on persons convicted of mob lawlessness, violence and destruction, and that he was consulting with the States, and that when this was done he himself, the Prime Minister, would announce the results to the Australian people. On 19th March 1969, the Prime Minister told me:
The Attorney-General has been discussing this matter with the Attorneys-General of the various States, which has necessarily taken considerable time as discussions with six Attorneys-General always do. He has also, in the course of seeking to get some uniformity into this whole affair, closely examined and - I am not sure but I believe - has outlined the principles of a Bill which one would hope could be uniform but which if it were not uniform could be applicable to Australian territories. Just what stage this has reached 1 am not at the moment sure of but the AttorneyGeneral is still handling the matter.
That reply is the last we have heard of this Bill. Instead, we have a discussion which was resisted by the Deputy Prime Minister and the debate on which neither that right honourable gentleman nor the AttorneyGeneral rose to support.
It would help if everybody were to apply some sense of perspective to this question. It is true that student unrest is worldwide. It should not be assumed that the worst aspects of student unrest in one country will be automatically imitated or imported here or that the international character of the unrest is itself evidence of international conspiracy. The honourable member for La Trobe gets into a frightful tizzy on something which happens on the Left Bank. Imitation is not conspiracy. The unrest is international because the issues are international. If students at Harvard and Monash protest about conscription or the war in Vietnam it is not because they are being manipulated across two continents and the Pacific Ocean but because they equally oppose the draft and the war. We should differentiate-
– Order! I have warned the honourable member for Hunter already. If he offends again by way of interjection I will deal with him.
- Mr Speaker, we should differentiate between organisation and conspiracy. Members opposite object to the fact that many demonstrations are organised. Rather it is precisely when leadership loses control that we have a situation ‘tending towards violence’ which the AttorneyGeneral properly has deplored. On violence, let me say first that there has not been a single charge laid against a student or a demonstrator for wounding or indeed for bodily assault since this whole question began to assume public notoriety. Again, calls for the police to get tough are utterly misplaced for they are in fact an incitement to the police to break the law. It would be better if the honourable member for La Trobe tried to understand what has actually happened in Australian universities since the time he failed to attend one. Students stay longer at school and enter university in greater numbers than ever before. The university population is now 102,000 or 0.84% of the total population compared with some 14,236 or 0.2% in 1939. Obviously, such developments have created tremendous stresses in the system. Basically, the system of university administration has remained unchanged since the establishment of our oldest universities a century ago. Everything else has changed within the universities except the way that they are governed.
Only a fortnight ago, the AttorneyGeneral himself believed that the matter should be left to the university administrations for he told the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) that:
The disciplinary powers which are vested in Monash University would appear to be sound and adequate.
Have Government members lost confidence in a body like the Senate of the University of Sydney? It contains 7 professors, 5 knights, 3 judges, 1 general - that should appeal to the honourable member for La Trobe, both by ancestry and matrimony - 2 departmental heads, .and 1 headmistress. Even the Attorney-General’s great friend, Mr Fred Deer, is a member. Are we now to intervene to protect Mr Deer’s position on the Senate of the University as we protected his position on the MLC, whose disastrous investments in H. G. Palmer lost the University hundreds of thousands of dollars?
The response of the Premier of New South Wales to the demonstrations at the University of Sydney involving the Governor of New South Wales was to state:
He later withdrew his statement when he discovered that the University already had appointed its own inquiry. Yet, on Friday last, he again made threatening noises against the Vice-Chancellor who had commented quite properly:
I am confident that we-
That is, the University - . . will find a sensible solution. The instinctive reaction of the Premier of New South Wales shows the futility of the Liberal approach to what is a complex, worldwide problem with profound social, political, financial and psychological undertones^ - the approach of: ‘Let’s get tough; let’s knock a few heads together’. In Britain, even a professor has uttered the incomparable piece of ratbaggery: ‘Let’s try a whiff of grapeshot That is how the first French Revolution was ended.
In measuring Liberal attitudes, one can only draw the contrast between the dignified, rational and balanced comments of Sir Roden Cutler and the outburst of his cousin who is the Minister for Education in New South Wales. To adopt the repressive and irrational methods suggested by the Premier of New South Wales and the honourable member for La Trobe is a sure way of converting a problem - at present a manageable and measureable problem - at universities into an explosive and endless crisis.
The honourable member for La Trobe last Wednesday week called upon the Deputy Prime Minister to show leadership on this question. And, in a sense, he has pointed to the basic cause of the problem. It springs from a failure of leadership - not student leadership, not university leadership but national leadership and by this Government.
The Government complains about conscription demonstrations. Every male university student has been or is liable for conscription. There is one chance in seven of a 20-year olid man being conscripted. There is one chance in five of a male university student being conscripted. The only section of young people who are in daily communication with each other, who are not working beside other and older age groups, naturally protests not only against the inequality of the system but also against conscription itself. Yet, the Government has refused to make the effort and to spend the money to recruit a volunteer army. When did one ever hear Menzies, Holt or Gorton make any proposals for a voluntary army in Australia? The Government complains-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! I ask the Leader of the Opposition: Will he please refer to the Prime Minister by his correct title?
– Certainly, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Government has chosen deliberately to divide the nation on the Vietnamese issue. It has always treated it as a political issue. It has failed to use its influence to end the war. It has always resented and sometimes resisted American moves to end it. Now, members of the Government sit in sullen silence whenever new American initiatives to end the war are announced. Always having chosen to couch its commitment to the war in Vietnam in terms designed to divide the nation, the Government now complains about demonstrations against this war.
On these external issues which are the subject of demonstrations, the Government has shown a total lack of leadership. There would be no demonstration against Vietnam if the people believed that the Government was backing the United States initiatives to end the war. I am convinced that no demonstration helps to end conscription or to end the war. I am convinced that they are counter-productive. I am convinced that they are deliberately played up in such a way as to react against the Labor Party and its candidates. The violent demonstrations against the late Mr Holt during the 1966 election campaign quite clearly cost my Party thousands of votes, not because the Labor Party was involved in any way but because people very properly fear and resent rowdy attempts to disrupt political meetings and to prevent leaders being heard properly. By contrast, many organised and orderly student demonstrations have been highly effective. The Australian conscience would not have been so stirred over Aboriginal conditions and the discreditable White Australia policy if it had not been for our students.
The Liberal Party seeks deliberately to divide this community. The Liberal Party is the Party of social, economic, political and regional division. Only last Saturday, we heard the Prime Minister abuse the hospitality of the King’s School, Parramatta, by the fatuous statement:
It’s not the Liberals who pelt missiles at distinguished citizens of Australia because they don’t like what they’re doing; it is rather people supporting the other.
If one wished to argue on these lines one could point to the police charge sheets which show that demonstrators come just as much from Liberal Party strongholds as from Labor electorates. It would be just as relevant or, if one liked, just as childish.
If society is healthy it can certainly withstand the stress of student demonstrations and certainly the efforts of self-professed anarchists. It is precisely because I believe that parliamentary institutions are still fundamentally sound, and precisely because I believe that change can and must be reached through parliamentary processes, that I do not myself march. It is precisely because I believe that the universities are equipped to solve their internal problems and because I believe that existing laws to protect property and to prevent violence are sound and adequate that I will not have a bar of calls for new, unusual and repressive measures, reports and inquisitions or a bar of the proposition put by the honourable member for La Trobe.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) made a statement that I think was derogatory. He said that I did not qualify to go to a university. I left school to earn a living, as the majority of his supporters behind him did.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) seemed to bc devoid of the perspective he asked to be applied to the debate and regrettably he warped and twisted the truth about my Party’s approach to this problem in a manner to which we are accustomed. A diagnosis of the problems of his own Party would show that they are caused by lack of leadership. I would hate to imply any psychotic trouble in the Leader of the Opposition in suggesting that he should examine the leadership position in the Australian Labor Party, but if he were to make such an examination he would come to a most dismal conclusion. I speak today primarily because the honourable member for Fawkner (Mr Howson), who is away from Australia and who was listed to speak in the debate, requested that I put forward material that he has gathered. I am pleased to do so, because I believe that the debate should be conducted in the proper perspective. If one listened with attentiveness to the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) one would realise that he was not engaging in a witch hunt but was trying to place before the people of Australia information that he had obtained.
There are two other reasons why I want to participate in this debate. I believe that I am the only member of the Commonwealth Parliament who proceeded from matriculation to university and studied most of his university course during the 1960’s. I exclude from that comment such honourable members as the honourable members for Moreton (Mr Killen), Oxley (Mr Hayden) and Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), who have been engaged in undergraduate studies at a university at a later age than I was. I also believe that I am the only member of the Commonwealth Parliament who was in France during the uprisings of last year and who witnessed the events in Paris and throughout that country. On that basis alone I would like to put some matters before the House.
– How did the honourable member happen to be there?
– I was there then because I had been with the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) and the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) at an international conference on human rights, which is a matter that the three of us hold very dear to our hearts and a matter that we are interested in protecting and furthering throughout the world. There has been a tendency in Australia for people to say, in effect: ‘It can’t happen here.’ I would generally be inclined to agree with those sentiments. I have on previous occasions stated my views about youth in our community. I have written articles for journals. On the Bill introduced by the Leader of the Opposition I spoke and gave a general diagnosis of what I believe to be the attitude of youth today - and I believe that one can grossly overrate the problem. The honourable member for La Trobe has said this himself. What we are dealing with in a discussion of student problems is virtually a fistful of felons who wish to overthrow society, though they may have no clear view as to how this may be done. I would generally be inclined to agree with the sentiment that it cannot happen here, because I believe the threats to our society are not as great here as they have been in other countries that have been mentioned.
I believe that students should be allowed to criticise the society in which they find themselves and to voice dissent from it if they feel so inclined. This is often a sign of a healthy community. But in recent weeks there have been indications that a few students, probably not more than two or three dozen in three or four universities, have been deflecting the student body away from the normal avenues of dissent into more dangerous avenues. There are indications that this dissent has moved away from the normal bounds of academic freedom and that there is a movement which aims to change the whole pattern of Australian society. It should not be exaggerated, but its existence should be noted. I wish to quote some of the statements that have been made by a number of student bodies.
Let me read first from a document called Liberation’ dated 25th March 1969 and authorised by Mr M. D. Hyde on behalf of the Monash and La Trobe Labor Clubs. It states:
If you are under twenty and liable to conscription we ask you not to register. In this way you can show your opposition to the Vietnam war and . . . go to jail for 2 years.
It then goes on:
If you want to make an even greater contribution while retaining some measure of personal freedom we ask you to register and serve - serve the right side. The Army is being beaten and its morale is already low. It could be shattered by a few agitators organising their mates against the officers. Sabotage can also be very effective.
I move to a document entitled ‘Tabloid Underground’ which was published at the beginning of May at the same address as the previous document. Amongst other things, it states:
However, Comrades, in common with many other revolutionary movements, SID sees 1969 as a year of struggle. All over the world progressive forces are fighting and winning battles against oppression. You can see it here . . and in universities and schools all over the world. In Australia, the struggle against the oppression of our capitalist society is gaining strength. In universities, factories and now secondary schools, people are taking militant action to challenge the basis of the society in which we live . capitalism. People are beginning to realise that . . repressive education systems are symptoms of a rotten society.
It goes on further to say:
Beginning in primary school the state machine moulds the minds of its subjects. From his earliest year a child is conditioned to base all his thought processes upon one assumption . . . that he lives in a ‘great society’. His mind is warped by constant subtle brainwashing until it becomes extremely difficult for him even to conceive of objections to the capitalist system.
I refer to the advertisement at the conclusion of this paper. It states that at Alice’s Restaurant in Greville Street, Prahran, one can get all the material that is needed for organising demonstrations in schools. According to the advertisement, the material includes ‘National Liberation Front nags and stickers for plastering schools and frustrating principals at 20c each’.
Let me then move to extracts from ‘Print’, the daily bulletin of the Monash Labor Club. I take issue No. 40 of 16th May 1969, which is authorised by P. Butcher. Here we can see the plans set out for a series of demonstrations that will be held from now until 4th July. In addition there will be a special’ demonstration on 2nd June, when Albert Langer faces his trial for inciting a riot on 4th July last year. I will not have time, unfortunately, to read from all these documents. However, they highlight the movements that are taking place in some of the student bodies now.
But I Vi W read an extract from a document put out by the RSA. which is the Revolutionary Socialist Alliance. It states:
The RSA aims to introduce revolutionary socialist ideas into existing political organisations and trade unions and among workers and student militants as a whole.
The RSA believes that the key to a new policy for the Left is self-management - that the alienation of workers and students from any real power in this society can only be resolved by the workers and students themselves directly managing their work places and schools and universities, through democratically elected committees.
It also states:
The other way in which self-management and workers control can be shown to be valid and of immediate urgency is to illustrate this in the facts. The best place to do that is the university.
The reason for this is easy to find. Because of its relatively different administrative structure and the amorphous form of its staff and student bodies, the university is frankly one of the easiest organisations for a militant group to take some control of through this sort of planned action. These are only a few of the many extracts which I, like the honourable member for Fawkner, have and which I intended putting before the House today. It is a matter for regret that I will not be able to do so.
I will quickly summarise the inferences that can be drawn from reading these and many similar documents. Firstly there is a body of students not only at Monash University but at other Australian universities whose aim is to overthrow the whole of the present political framework of the Australian society. It should be recalled that the students in Paris particularly were operating outside the normal avenues of protest in endeavouring to bring France to a standstill, which of course they achieved. Secondly, this small body of students is now aiming to indoctrinate students in secondary schools in order to increase the volume of recruits that it will help to get at the university in the next 2 or 3 years, for the secondary school students of today are the university students of tomorrow. Thirdly, these students are joining with other outside movements that have similar revolutionary aims, as can be demonstrated by the printed documents of the Revolutionary Socialist Alliance. There are other bodies, such as the Australian Communist Party, that have demonstrated their intention to infiltrate the student dissent movement and to manipulate the movement in such a way that it will alter its aims to conform to the aims of the Australian Communist Party. It was reported and claimed in the ‘Tribune’ of 16th April that a conference of Left Action held in Sydney at Easter, 1969, was an important event for the future of radical student revolutionary and anti-establishment action of all kinds in Australia.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– This motion has been predicted for some time. The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) raised the matter in the adjournment debate on 16th April. The Government has now decided to permit some of its frustrated backbenchers to let off steam. More responsible critics have realised that an over-reaction by authority to student unrest will only irritate the situation. Threats to remove scholarships will unite students and help the extremists to use consequent feelings of solidarity to their own advantage. University authorities are well aware of this and have been doing all they can to prevent outside interference and to maintain their autonomy. The students of today not only question the purposes and functions of the university but also are deeply concerned about the world. They look beyond the campus to the wider community of which they. are a part. Some are trying to develop a style of life that combines high personal values and activism with scholarship. The university is where they express their social concern. Vietnam and conscription, Aboriginal rights, poverty in an outwardly affluent community such as Australia, and the individual’s lack of control over his life are all the concern of this generation of students.
In the year 1969 we have the first university students who saw television before they could read - the visual generation. Their questioning of authority and often outdated traditions is in the spirit of the age. One student leader has said that in his view the old forms of politics are no longer relevant. We need, he suggests, ‘a new politics … a politics of commitment in which people start responding again as human being rather than shadows in the long reaches of bureaucracy’. We may dismiss these young people as too idealistic, or even naive. But we will miss some of their insight if we ignore them, but we are offended because they refuse to approach those in authority with the deference that others might use. However, we must urge them not to be merely destructive.
Students are not the only people who think there should be changes in our society and its structure. If we find students impatient with the slow process of reform we must realise that Vietnam and conscription, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has pointed out, have had an enormous effect on this generation of students. The threat of conscription has resulted in many more young people being involved. A student leader interviewed recently in a series in the ‘Australian’ said that as with so many of the student radicals it was Vietnam that converted him from a reformist position to a revolutionary one. But let us not exaggerate the situation. There are very few student revolutionaries in Australia. A revolution in Australia is not needed and the majority of student activists realise this. The publicity given to some of their more outspoken members leads the extremists of the Government to believe that they express the views of all student radicals. Many of these spokesmen are regarded as eccentric by the students who belong to their own groups, but they regard them with a tolerance that honourable members on the Government back benches could well match.
When students of the New Left urge participatory democracy they not only want a great opportunity for students to participate in all levels of university government but they say that all workers should play some role in the decision making process. It should be borne in mind that they want participation, not control. University leaders recognise this and students are being invited to elect representatives to various committees, even to one concerned with the selection of a new Vice-Chancellor at the University of Queensland. It is not desirable for governments to lay down rigid guidelines for student discipline but rather to rely on the personal judgment of university administrators and thus allow for flexibility in individual situations. University students and staff are subject to the rule of law as we all are. By the same token they have the same rights. There is a spirit of anti-intellecualism in Australia which makes many people attack universities and students at the slightest provocation.
We must respect the belief in free, critical and rational inquiry for which a university stands. This cannot take place in an atmosphere of emotion and prejudice. Nor can it take place in an atmosphere of physical violence. Consequently we must preserve in the universities an environment in which discussions can be conducted calmly and in which opposing views, however vehemently argued, are listened to. We must protect the right to dissent. Repressive laws which impede this right are a denial of basic civil liberties. It is very difficult to urge young people to believe in our political and social systems and to work within these systems when they are denied freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. The controversial Melbourne city by-law on pamphlet distribution has now been repealed. But people in Queensland are prevented by a traffic regulation from distributing pamphlets freely. A student was arrested recently for handing out pamphlets on education. Another was arrested on a quiet Sunday morning outside the church of which she is a member for distributing pacifist pamphlets to her fellow parishioners. No-one from the church asked the Special Branch of the Police Department to be present. These two are moderate students and are members of the Australian Labor Party. The distribution of pamphlets is one of the few means of communication that those without power have.
The Queensland Premier has recently informed the President of the Students Union of the University of Queensland that their submissions for the reform of this law have been almost totally rejected. These submissions were made 13 months ago by a responsible committee which included several barristers and also representatives of the churches. The proposals were vetted by the Bar Association’s Law Reform Committee and a public statement approving them in principle was made by the president of the Bar Association, Mr Peter Connolly, Q.C., who also is currently president of the Law Council of Australia. An interesting sideline of this is that the Premier’s letter said that the Cabinet had considered the submissions in detail and that a sub-committee of the Cabinet had studied them. Yet the
Deputy Premier sent a letter dated the same day to a student in his electorate which denied any knowledge of these submissions. Understandably these students are becoming disillusioned. They attempted to reform a bad law by responsible methods, even though these were painfully slow. They have seen the successful challenge to such a law in Melbourne. It will be much harder next time for moderate student leaders to restrain the militants in their ranks. The debate initiated by the honourable member for La Trobe will not help to maintain this restraint. Rather it will make leading players of the few extremists and thus satisfy them in their search for starring roles.
The student organisations which the honourable member thinks are so conspiratorial make no secret of their objectives. They are concerned with the quality of life and thus want to improve the conditions under which people live. This has been the attitude generally of students, no matter which university they are associated with. While it may be possible for the honourable member for La Trobe successfully to argue that one or two universities in Australia have been responsible for the major protests that have been made on behalf of students, this is possibly because they concern themselves more deeply with these issues. But as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, while issues such as conscription and Vietnam, which affect the youth of this country, are matters for major public debate it is quite understandable that those who have the opportunity to consider these matters - to think more deeply about them - will want to express their opinion in the same way as other citizens of this country have an acknowledged right to do.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Speaker-
– This will be good.
– It will; I thank the honourable member for the compliment. I deplore the frivolous and lighthearted way in which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) have approached this debate. I must protest particularly against the approach of that academic snob, the Leader of the Opposi tion, to this debate. He has no corns on his hands; they are all on his behind and his elbows. He criticised the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) and in so doing implied criticism of those, who, like me, had no opportunity to enter a university.
An Opposition member - A bum. as Prince Philip styles himself.
– Yes. Like many others in the community, I would have welcomed the opportunity to attend a university. I matriculated straight into the AIF- that very unusual university - and I count myself fortunate to have survived that tertiary education. At least it taught me respect for others, no matter what their standard of education might be. It taught me humility - something which I am convinced the Leader of the Opposition has never studied. If he has studied humility he has learned nothing from his efforts. He is completely out of touch with the Australian tradition of mateship.
I commend the honourable member for La Trobe for initiating this debate. I believe that the most important and most obvious factor about the current series of student demonstrations is that they are not spontaneous. They are in fact part of a carefully planned Australia-wide operation. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) has said that these demonstrations are spontaneous; that he has even organised some of them. I think it is obvious that an overwhelming majority of students are not involved. They are frankly disinterested. Even among those who participate in demonstrations only a very small number are truly revolutionary activists. One of the big problems is the gap between the generations brought about by misunderstanding and lack of dialogue. Most young people talk about revolution to reform society not really meaning the sort of violent revolutionary activity that we in our generation associated with revolution. They are thinking more in terms of evolution but unfortunately they are being used by those who are working to destroy our society and whose meaning of revolution is the same as ours.
The plan to set up these revolutionary activities was conceived and approved in Sydney at a so-called anti-war activists conference early in 1967 and provides for revolutionary student activity not only in universities but also in secondary schools. This activity in secondary schools is conducted so that there will be a flow on of partially trained agitators constantly entering our universities. The movement has international links through organisations such as the Communist Party of Australia and the World Peace Council. Its origins go back to the early Committee for Peace in Vietnam and a conference held in Hanoi in 1964 in which an Australian delegation took part. One of the Committee members was Mr Alec McDonald, Secretary of the Queensland Trades and Labour Council and a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Australia. His reports of the conference in Hanoi, which included references to his Committee’s sponsorship of mass demonstrations in Australia - the distribution of leaflets and so on - so exposed its Communist base and incensed the New South Wales branch of the Labor Party that the Committee was outlawed to Labor Party members.
– This is true. The prompt recognition and firm action by the New South Wales branch of the Labor Party completely ruined the Committee’s usefulness to the Communists, who promptly regrouped and formed the organisation known as the New South Wales Peace Committee for International Co-operation and Disarmament. It was established in March 1965. This Committee has ultimately progressed to the well known peace front of today - the Australian Committee for International Co-Operation and Disarmament. It is from ACICD and its supporters who include ministers of religion and academics as well as a mixed bag of Communists, Trotskyists and potential anarchists, that the inspiration for violence and dissent has stemmed. The organising committee in Sydney was convened by the well known Robert Gould and J. Percy, who conduct the Third World Bookshop and who are fully engaged producing and distributing revolutionary and seditious literature.
In Melbourne the organisation was convened by the well known Reverend David Pope, that Melbourne parson, agnostic and, I understand, candidate for Labor Party pre-selection. It is run by a school teacher named Humphrey McQueen from a house in Caulfield.
– He used to be President of the Young Labor League in Brisbane.
– Yes, they live all over Australia. They are well organised. He runs this house in Caulfield, where male and female student activists from Monash University are living.
– Even his wife lives there.
– I am not saying that they are living in sin. I am saying that this is the base camp for this revolutionary material. He favours violent revolution to reform society. I imagine that although this group is fathered by the Communist Party in Australia its lack of discipline must present some sort of problem even to the Communists who, having created the movement, cannot now control it.
Like other honourable members on this side of the House I believe strongly in the rights of students or any other group to dissent from established policies such as conscription and the war in Vietnam. But I object to seeing them serve the cause of international Communism, no matter what name it is given. The philosophies of the Trotskyists are particularly obnoxious. They advocate a doctrine of permanent revolution. They regard students as young workers who should be taking industrial action, including strike action, to support their claims. I expect that we shall soon see efforts by such revolutionary groups physically to take over university buildings and facilities. Similar action will probably follow in some secondary schools. Academics and teachers of the extreme left are sure to be found on the periphery of violent dissent, stoutly proclaiming their non-belief in violence. The attitudes of the Queensland leader of the Student Democratic Association, Mr B. Laver, supported by Mr D. O’Neil, a lecturer at the University of Queensland, as reported only last week, are typical. They publicly urged university students to capture physically and to occupy a Brisbane high school as well as the Department of Education building if the Queensland Minister for Education did not agree to their demands.
Governments are in a difficult position. If they crack down on militants they will be accused of witch hunting. If nothing is done anarchy and violence will be the order of the day, as we have seen in other countries. I believe that the university councils, which are made up mostly of old scholars who have been through the universities, should show a bit of courage and take steps to discipline those responsible - supported, I would hope, by the Students Representative Councils, if they are truly representative. I have very grave doubts that all SRCs in Australia do represent the views of the majority of member students. As with so many organisations, large numbers of members do not attend meetings to elect office bearers or do not take part. I just cannot believe that the immoderate comments I have heard and read lately from SRC officials represent the attitudes of the majority of student members. Society’s front line in this student campaign begins with the university councils and the uncommitted students. If the councils continue their apparent policies of appeasement and the student body remains apathetic then Australian society through legislation will be compelled to defend itself or submit to liberation’. One might ask: ‘Liberation’ from what? The activists know what they are against but they do not know what they are for. Like so many of those moral Pharisees who urge them from the security of the staff common room, whatever America and her allies, which include Australia, is for, they are against. This, I think, is the most unfortunate result of increasing Australian NLF-type activities. Australians live in one of the great free societies of the world and all that can result from rebellion against a free society is restriction from this freedom.
The Commonwealth at the moment is powerless to control the situation. In any case, law enforcement is the responsibility of the States and discipline on the campus is the responsibility of the university councils. I believe that it is no exaggeration to say that war has been declared in this country - a war on Australian society - waged on the one hand by a small band of embryo-type guerillas who are financed and encouraged - but uncertainly controlled - by outside influences analogous with the NLF and Hanoi.
Dr J. F. CAIRNS (Yarra) [4.321- The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) began his speech by pointing out that he was aware of the gap between generations and the lack of dialogue between generations. I have not heard anyone speak for many a long day who illustrates that point so thoroughly, as did the honourable member for Boothby. The honourable member, and others who have spoken on the other side of the House already in this debate, have proved that they do not understand those who protest and dissent. They have proved beyond any shadow of doubt that they understand nothing of what is happening in Australia today in student protests and dissent. They do not appreciate the extent of frustration, of boredom and of unhappiness of many young people today, although some of the honourable members who have spoken are terribly frustrated and terribly bored themselves. They do not understand social change and they do not understand how supremely difficult it is in any society to bring about social change. They do not understand the assertions that are made, very often by groups who take a revolutionary attitude to these questions that - very often again - these statements are of no strength or significance whatever. They do not understand the ideas of students. Their ideas are natural. Students do not have to be induced by Communists or anyone else.
I want to quote a few of these views in the hope that honourable members opposite may be able to appreciate that there are real living human beings in Australia today among the students who feel this way. I want to quote a well known student - Albert Langer of Monash University.
– He is a great patriot.
– If the honourable member would just have a little bit of sympathy and understanding for someone else for a while and come down off his high stool he would make a better impression. Mr Albert Langer said this:
When I look around it was obvious that society was unjustly and badly run - it was based on inequality and lack of human concern.
There is a vast amount of evidence to show that there is a good deal of truth in what Langer says. There is also a vast amount of evidence to show that this is how a great many young people in Australia feel today. The honourable member for Boothby and others seem to be totally unaware of this.
I also want to quote Veronica Kissel, 17 years of age, of Dandenong High School, who recently won an essay competition conducted by the Family Week Council in Melbourne. She wrote:
An unknown frustration, bordering on despair, is in the hearts of today’s youth.
There is a great deal of evidence to support this. Apparently many authorities, including those who have spoken in this House today, have no conception whatever that this is the case. Much of what motivates students today is in this sense completely genuine. There are among students those who want the limelight, who want excitement and who want to excite and organise. But students have always been like this. These are quite legitimate things as well. But today - I know this far better than honourable members on the other side of the House because I have been in close touch with students for nearly 30 years - the influence of the Communist Parties and the Trotskyites is less than at any stage during the last 30 years. The reason for this is that a significant part of the genuine student feeling is a strong opposition to dogma, a strong opposition to authority and a strong opposition to every political party, and this extends to the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party and, of course, the Australian Democratic Labor Party.
Much of what motivates students today, _ as I have said, is genuine because there is much of what they call moral paralysis, humbug and double talk. There is much genuine objection to conscription to a war in Vietnam which they consider to be immoral. There is much neglect of Aboriginals and much inequality of opportunity in Australia today. There is a conflict between the ideal of critical and humanistic education and the way society actually works in Australia today. As long as this idea prevails there will be student dissent and student protest.
I suggest that the truth of the submission made by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) will be found not in asking what is wrong with students because they protest against these things, but in asking what is wrong with so many adults and other young people who are not concerned at all with these things. If they are aware they ignore them, and get in for their cut and become cynical and apathetic. I would have much more sympathy to a discussion of a matter of public importance in this House directed at those people who seem to be quite unaware of the things that the young people today have recognised in society and are concerned about because they want to put them right. If they say that a society is not a Christian society, this is not a criticism of Christianity. This is a criticism of a society that does not measure up to Christian principles.
– What would you put in its place?
– I do not know what to put in its place. But I know that these kids are concerned to put something in its place. They are not concerned to stop and to suppress, as the honourable member is, everything that is put forward with which he disagrees.
Students do feel that society is unjust, apathetic and unchristian. They feel isolated and alone in this, more so because they are continuously attacked by officials, judges, Governors-General, members of Parliament and most of the Establishment whose reaction to this is to always turn to suppression of dissent. This is the case whether it is dissent in Vietnam or whether it is dissent in Monash. But there is no need for suppression. The views of most students are reasonable and understandable, and will have effect only if they are. Those who talk about overthrowing society and are of significance in Australia today do not understand how social change comes about and how supremely difficult it is to bring about any kind of social change at all. Such sections that might happen to hold these views - views which I think from their point of view are thoroughly understandablepossess no strength in society today.
Violence has been mentioned in this matter for discussion. However, although thousands of university students have demonstrated in recent months no single charge involving violence has been made against any of them. There has been no evidence of violence. There has been much more violence in earlier generations.
– If the honourable member for Adelaide has not been hit by a tomato up to now it will not be long before he will be hit by one.
– That is incitement.
– I do not need to incite anything about the honourable member for Adelaide. He only has to open his mouth and it is an inviting target for a tomato. What has arisen has come about because students have published, satirised and sometimes lampooned in their dissent. They were restricted by the university administrations, by their governments and by their city councils. Then they began to act against those who stopped and restricted them. Students will go on doing this as long as they are stopped and restricted. They did not become concerned with university administration in the first place as an end in itself. They were concerned to put forward their point of view. When they were slopped or restricted from doing this they turned to those who stopped or restricted them and said: ‘We have a right to have a say in how this university is to be run.’ That is a perfectly sensible and reasonable reaction. The honourable member for La Trobe wants to take this matter completely out of proportion. He wants to suggest - as he did in his speech - that every house in Australia would be in danger; that the streets of Australia would be full of rifles and gas masks. This kind of thing is irresponsible. If anyone took any serious notice of it, which, of course, nobody will - the Government is not taking any notice of it; it does not want any responsibility in this matter - the honourable member for La Trobe and those behind him would cause and exaggerate the conditions about which they most complain.
– The honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) attempted to use an old dodge in this debate. He attempted to suggest that the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess), who launched this discussion, and other honourable members on this side of the House are interested in oppressing or restraining legitimate dissent. Quite the contrary is the case. In fact, as I understand it, honourable members on this side of the House seem to be almost alone in insisting that legitimate dissent should be protected, and that it should be protected against illegitimate dissent. I shall go a little further and define what I mean by legitimate and illegitimate in this context. There is a great deal of evidence - evidence which the honourable member for Yarra brushes aside with one hand while with his other hand he reaches for a bag of tomatoes - which suggests that there are organisations which are supporting their own aims rather than the aims of legitimate protesters; that they are parasitic on legitimate protest as well as acting as a catalyst for it.
One of the most revealing things which the honourable member for Yarra said - and I think I got it down verbatim - was that ‘there are student ideas which are natural and which do not have to be induced by Communists or by anyone else’. His choice of words is interesting in the sense that he is admitting there are legitimate issues and at the same time taking the point of view which many of the organisations supporting these protests for illegitimate reasons seem to take, that is: ‘There are some that are goers, when we can get on the bandwaggon, and there are others that need to be induced by us.’ Protests involve approximately 5% of the student body of Australia, and only about one-quarter of that 5%, or about 1% of the entire student body, is engaged in what could be called illegitimate protests. Both legitimate and illegitimate protests have been with us for a very long time. So why do we debate the question now? I believe it is a matter of timing. I do not need to remind the House of the kind of evidence that has already been produced in this debate, outstandingly from this side of the House up to date - evidence which suggests that the timing for this discussion is appropriate.
I remind the House that the discussion is centred on the need for the Government to present a report on the continued violence and apparent disregard of law and order on the part of certain student organisations so that the Parliament and the people may be aware of their objectives. This is not asking for a statement on the kind of issues which are the subject of legitimate debate. This is asking for the Government to make a statement on those organisations which support protests for their own ends - ends which are quite different from those of legitimate student protesters. This is asking for the Government to make a statement on those organisations which support these protests and try to add violence to them.
As the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) has pointed out, a whole calendar of events is proposed. I believe the honourable member referred to the antiwar activist conference, which was held in Sydney during January 1967 and which decided to set up a number of groups of students, not only among universities but also in high schools. One of those organisations was the Centre for Democratic Action, which was set up at 57 Palmerston Street. Melbourne, in June 1968 to serve as a general organising centre for the protest movement. Affiliated with this organisation centre were groups such as Students for a Democratic Society, the Draft Resistance Movement, the Vietnam Co-ordinating Committee, the Vietnam Study Group and the Radical Discussion Group. Comment has already been made about the kind of publications generated by these groups. These publications have carried titles such as: ‘Evade the Draft: Refuse to Register’, and comments such as ‘We will find you a place to hide’.
– That is for the young Socialists.
– And some of the Labor Clubs in some of the universities, although 1 believe that these clubs are not always affiliated with the Australian Labor Party. It is a question of degree and a question of knowing what we are talking about. We are not talking about the sort of legitimate dissent that the honourable member for Yarra tried to pretend we were talking about. We are in fact concerned with protecting those who-
– Are all these legitimate?
– No. I have just explained to the honourable member for Yarra that so far as it can be estimated only about 5% of the total student body in Australia are engaged in dissent generally, and that only one-quarter of that 5%, or less than 1% of the total student body are engaged in what I would call illegitimate dissent.
The distinction is simply this: Illegitimate dissent is sponsored by people who have aims totally different from-
– Quote one organisation that is legitimate.
– The Liberal Party.
– My own branches of the Young Liberals and the Australian Labor Party. There are many legitimate and illegitimate dissenting groups. We are not talking about the legitimate dissent groups which are in the majority; we are talking about the illegitimate dissent groups which are in the minority. There is already plenty of evidence to suggest that much of this activity can be sheeted home to the Communist Party of Australia - whether it is the Russian or the Chinese version of that Party. The Communist Party likes to see that it gets its money’s worth. There are fellow travellers of all descriptions in this. I believe that it has not simply one origin. 1 think that the Government should make a statement on this matter so that we can show both the universities and those who are engaged in legitimate as against illegitimate dissent exactly where the pressures are coming from. We know they are coming from outside the universities. We know that some bookshops are receiving specially subsidised literature which they can push out at a profit. Where does the subsidy come from? What are the hard money channels and the organisational channels which support this? The evidence suggests that the people providing the money want to get their dollars’ worth, and in some cases they believe that they are getting it. The kind of reaction and the kind of success for which these people look include the cost to industry. I have not any figures to give to the House on this question, but the evidence seems to indicate that these people look for a return of thousands of percent. The kind of return they get is measured by the industrial and economic loss to this country. Their further aim is to destroy the democratic processes of this country. This is certainly not the aim of the legitimate protesters. They do this by invoking the name of democracy just as warmongering countries invoke war while describing themselves as peaceful. We are perfectly familiar with this type of double talk and no amount of repetition of it by the honourable member for Yarra can possibly make unclear what we think about it.
Finally I should like to say one important thing: This kind of report by the Government would be useful to the whole of Australia. It would indicate whether or not an inquiry is needed on a wider scale and it would highlight the origins of illegitimate dissent. In any country, when we talk of basic freedoms it is the restrictions of the laws which support those freedoms. Without those restrictions we would return to a kind of anarchy. The law of the jungle would prevail and no-one would have any freedom. It is the restrictions that’ are not oppressive that produce and protect freedoms. It is a matter of degree; it is a matter of evaluation. We must understand and preserve the democratic processes.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Speaker-
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I respectfully put it to you that I was first on my feet and should therefore be called upon to speak.
-Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member for Reid already had the call.
– The discussion before the House concerns a matter of public importance raised by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess). The key words in the matter he proposed are, no doubt, ‘continued violence’ and ‘apparent disregard of the law by certain student organisations’. I have sat through the whole debate and no evidence has been given to the House of any real violence or any disregard of the law by any student organisation. The only disregard of the law that has been instanced has been that of certain students sitting down in the office of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen) or sitting down in some streets and hindering traffic. May I quote the words of a gentleman who holds a great place in the history of the world. I refer to the words uttered by John Fitzgerald Kennedy when he was cam paigning for the Presidency of the United States of America. In Detroit on 5th September 1960 he said:
I want every American free to stand up for his rights, even if sometimes he has to sit down for them.
It seems that John Fitzgerald Kennedy had the courage to express this view at a time when he was campaigning to become President of the United States. He was talking to the youth of that nation. He had faith in and understanding of the youth of that nation. Unless we really understand why the youth of the nation is sitting down, there is not much use in our entering into this debate. I have seen no evidence from the Government side of any real understanding of the feelings of the students and young people of Australia.
I should have thought that the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), in many respects a liberal, would have some understanding but he used the old Government jargon that certain groups and organisations are trying to undermine our society. He has so much faith in democracy, so much faith in his own Government’s overwhelming majority and so much faith in the great bureaucracy that reigns that he is fearful of a few high school students and a few university students. I make it clear that I am proud of the young university students who have shown some courage and some faith and who have demonstrated that they want to see something done to stop the war in Vietnam.
I shall quote from an article written by George Wald, professor of biology at Harvard University, which I read in the New Yorker’ of 22nd March 1969. He is a Nobel prize winner. His article was entitled ‘A Generation In Search Of A Future’ and in it he said:
All of you know that in the last couple of years there has been student unrest, breaking at times into violence, in many parts of the world: In England, Germany, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Japan, and, needless to say, many parts of this country. There has been a great deal of discussion as to what it all means. Perfectly clearly, it means something different in Mexico from what it does in France, and something different in France from what it does in Tokyo, and something different in Tokyo from what it does in this country. Yet, unless we are to assume that students have gone crazy all over the world, or that they have just decided that it’s the thing to do, it must have some common meaning.
He went on to say: 1 am a teacher, and at Harvard I have a class of about 350 students - men and women - most of them freshmen and sophomores. Over these past few years, I have felt increasingly that something is terribly wrong - and this year ever so much more than last. Something has gone sour, in teaching and in learning. It’s almost as though there were a widespread feeling that education has become irrelevant
He went on to refer to the problems of the war in Vietnam. He mentioned the Nuremberg trials, the crimes of the Second World War, the saturation bombing of Germany, and the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. He discussed the bombing of Khe Sanh. He pointed out that more bombs have been dropped on the perimeter of Khe Sanh than were dropped in Japan in the Second World War or dropped in the whole of Europe during 1942 and 1943.
Surely honourable members must give some thought to the youth, not only of Australia, America and Canada but wherever they may be. They must give some thought to what is happening in the world. People are concerned about the stockpiling of enough nuclear bombs to kill and overkill mankind. Our own defence expenditure has increased in the last few years from $400m to $ 1,200m a year. Surely members opposite must realise that we do not have sufficient money for education, for hospitals or for health services. Poverty is increasing in Australia. The young people we are discussing today are students of life. They are studying these problems and they have some concern for them. They are being conscripted to fight in Vietnam - a war that every thinking person has condemned as a crime. Yet Government members ask why students demonstrate. They are demonstrating because of their abhorrence of the crime we are committing through our involvement in the war in Vietnam. In his article, George Wald referred to Dean Rusk’s still insisting that the United States was in Vietnam to stop aggression. But everybody knows that America has lost the war, or if it has not lost it it has decided that it cannot afford to win it.
Wall Street has said, in effect, that America cannot afford to continue to fight the war. America is a divided nation over this question. It is not a Democrat President but a Republican President - the voice of Wall Street - who has decided that
America should get out of Vietnam and cut its losses. Why was it that when the bombing of North Vietnam was stopped the stock market, instead of falling, as it would have done 12 months before, started to rise? The fact was that at the time the bombing was stopped the American financial system was under stress: There was a run on gold and they stopped the bombing to try to give more security to it. It is for this reason that the young university students want to stop this violence. George Wall brought out the fact that in many cases students thought that the huge expenditure of $80,000m annually on armaments in the United States was the natural thing, and that they did not realise there had been another America. Perhaps this is a part of the reason why the students are rebelling in the United States, but I have no doubt that similar circumstances could apply in this country. Surely, however, the Government itself must face up to this problem and look deeply into the real causes of the demonstrations by the youth of this nation and the university students, because the real reason is the Australian Government’s involvement in the war in Vietnam. It committed itself to this war and now 300 of our men have been killed and more than 1,500 men have been wounded. Government speakers should show some consideration and some understanding. We on this side of the House have some understanding of the position of the university student.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Today we heard an incredible motion moved during a debate on a matter of public importance to allow the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) to speak for not less than 15 minutes. He virtually claimed that this discussion was a panic move and was designed to promote a rift within the Labor Party. He said that in the 1966 elections the Labor Party had lost thousands of votes because of the demonstration against Mr Harold Holt, the late Prime Minister. I believe it is very pertinent that he should speak in this debate because the fact is that the Australian Labor Party plays a very large part and is vitally involved in much of the dissent of present day students. I refer to the Brisbane ‘Telegraph’ of 7th May 1969. The headline reads:
ALP Shuts Out Student Group. Never Again’ in Union Marches.
The article refers to a recent happening in Brisbane when on 5th May, the day of the Labour Day procession, at the invitation of the Building Workers Union 60 to 70 members of the Foco Club, an organisation which has been developed for the purpose of bridging the gap between young students and young workers, marched in support of the unions. On that day chaos broke out. The so called students sat down six or seven times during the course of the parade and greatly embarrassed the Leader of the Opposition, who spoke earlier in this debate condemning the Government for this discussion. Let me also refer to the views expressed by the wife of the Labor Party member for Brisbane in the State Parliament, when discussing the so called students. In an article in the ‘Sunday Mail’ of 11th May 1969 she is reported to have said:
And then someone deliberately stuck a dirty grey hat under my nose and said they were collecting money to print more of those revolting pamphlets that they have been giving out to high school students.
This is the wife of a Labor politician. She continued:
I gave that hat the biggest hit I could and sent coins scattering everywhere, and there they all were grovelling on the ground trying to pick them up. What outraged me most was that these people were cheering on the North Vietnamese and calling for victory for the Viet Cong.
– Who said that?
– This is the wife of a Labor politician in Brisbane. She continued further:
I’m against war, as I suppose most people are, but our fellows are there fighting, we don’t want them murdered.
I believe that the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) hit the nail right on the head when he referred in the latter part of his speech to the Vietnam war, because since the Australian involvement in the Vietnam war we have seen the growth in this country of a great divergence of opinion, and we have seen people who are prepared to demonstrate for their points of view. As a young person I uphold their right to demonstrate. I uphold their right to pro test, but I believe that we must watch carefully that the freedoms which these people are given are not used to break down the freedom that we all cherish.
Senator Georges, the Labor Party senator from Queensland in the other place, employed as his secretary for quite some time a Mr Mitch Thompson who was an organiser of student dissent in my home State. For an understanding of honourable members opposite who at times speak out and stand by the right of these people to do anything they desire, I would like to ask whether or not they agree with the sentiments expressed by Mr Thompson during a radio interview in Brisbane some time ago with a Mr Greg O’Dwyer. When asked if he would take up arms on the side of the National Liberation Front he said in part:
I personally would never fight but if I had to fight, I would fight alongside the National Liberation Front.
Mr O’Dwyer asked;
And against the Australian troops?
Mr Thompson replied:
And against the Australian troops.
– Whose secretary was he?
– The secretary of Senator Georges who had the No. 2 position on the Labor Party ticket at the last election. I mentioned the Foco Club in Brisbane. The Leader of the Opposition referred to university students in Australia as being wholly and solely the cause of the trouble. Not for one moment do I concede that anything more than 1% - the proportion might be even less than 1% - of students are involved in unsavoury demonstrations. But the point is that in Queensland the Australian Labor Party and the Trades and Labour Council have promoted an organisation which is known as the Foco Club. This club was set up, as I mentioned earlier, for the purpose of bridging the gap between young workers and university students and it has grown into something which apparently has become uncontrollable. I heard on the Australian Broadcasting Commission news service only this morning that the Trades Hall and the Australian Labor Party had decided the end of the road had arrived for this club. I might ask: ‘Is it not before time?’ I ask leave of honourable members to incorporate in Hansard a publication which the Students for Democratic Action - an organisation headed by Mr Brian Laver who was employed as a research officer at the Trades Hall - distributed to promote this Foco Club. There is a photograph in it which shows a man and a woman lying in their nakedness on a bed.
– How could you get that in Hansard?
– 1 realise the difficulty.
– Leave is not granted.
– 1 cannot have it incorporated in Hansard, but 1 will read the caption next to it. It reads:
This woman went to Foco and look what happened to her.
This is the type of publicity that these people have indulged in to promote this club which for IS or 16 months has been centred right in the Trades Hall. I believe that the Opposition is trying to belittle the efforts and the concern of the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) today and is attempting to destroy him - although it has tried to hide this intention. We should consider the variance of opinion between honourable members opposite and the Queensland President of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Jack Egerton. When referring to these young people he said, in effect, ‘We have been sold a pup. It has happened before and it will happen again.’ I believe that honourable members opposite today have al] been sold a pup. The honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) are puppy dogs, lying on their tummies waiting to be tickled. We see the attitude which they adopt to a matter which, while not as serious as some might believe, is still of great concern.
I referred earlier to the unfair statement of the Leader of the Opposition that it is solely the students who are to blame all the time. It is very appropriate to mention that on 25th October last year a student march through Brisbane was held during which some 41 students were arrested and charged with using obscene language, using insulting language and disorderly behaviour. Some twenty persons out of the forty-one were in no way associated with the Queens land University. They included plumbers, waterside workers, teachers, brewery workers, bricklayers, boilermakers, garage attendants and the like. This indicates the success of the brain child of the Queensland Trades and Labor Council pin up boy, Mr Brian Laver. It is not only the students who have been involved. There has been a very clever promotion campaign to associate young people from all walks of life. It ;s unfair and unjust for the Leader of the Opposition to ridicule the honourable member for La Trobe. The Australian Labor Party as a party is in no position to give an unbiased judgment on this question because its involvement in the past has been one of manipulation of these young people.
- Mr Speaker-
– I raise a point of order. I was relying on Standing Order 61 in the hope that T might at some time get the call pursuant to that standing order.
– This will be at the discretion of the Chair. It is usual to call members alternatively from the left and the right of the Chair. This is what I have done. I have called the honourable member for Oxley.
– I must freely concede that some of what the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) has said was new and that some of what he said was true. The misfortune is that that which was true was not new and that which was new was not true. But in any event his speech was distinguished by ignorance, because he put forward one factor and that was wrong. So we can safely leave him. It is significant that none of the members on the Government side who have spoken so far are from the front bench. They are the helots of the back bench, some of them long time servers in that position, and by their performance they can feel secure in the knowledge that they will retain that position for a long time to come. Not one of the speakers on the Government side who has spoken has yet faced up to the real issue which is involved. The approach of the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) is that because a law exists it must be right; it is its own justification and must be appropriate and must be good for the community.
What he forgets is that times change and that we live in an evolving society. People change and their needs change. A young person of today of any given age is much more mature physically and intellectually than his counterpart of two or three generations ago.
Nothing which the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) has said in any way diminishes one’s fear that this rather frightening ignorance of members of the the back benches on the Government side is not shared by members of the Ministry. Clearly what is aimed at is a witch hunt, and the honourable member for La Trobe and his supporting speakers have been very busy piling up the brush wood about the stake. But they have not faced up to the real issues. The honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) asked them to face up to this issue; that is, not to stand there and say that demonstrators have disobeyed the law and therefore they are wrong and deserve to be persecuted and prosecuted. Why do they disobey the law? Why do they feel critical? Why are they expressing discontent and dissent in the community? This is something that is operating on a broad scale. The very best we could get in this sort of discussion was some vague reference to legitimate and illegitimate dissent. We discovered that the young Liberals are the endowees of legitimate dissent, and that was as far as this differentiation proceeded.
I mentioned the Attorney-General. He is a significant person in the discussion on this subject. There is a big difference between him and the students who are dissenting. It is an important difference. There is a gap of 40 years, three generations, between the outlook of the AttorneyGeneral and some of the speakers who will be speaking here today, and the students who are in dissent. The statements of the Attorney-General are ones which give me alarm. They show no appreciation of the rights of minority groups in the community. He is quoted as saying:
As long as we hold firm to the principle of majority rule through the ballot box they can hope to achieve very little.
By ‘they’ he referred to the students in dissent. He also added as a rider:
If we have to we will use our full range of measures to cope with the situation.
In the first statement he quite clearly denies that there are minority rights in the community and that a government has any duty to respond in some sort of sensitive fashion to the claims and requirements of minority groups. Secondly, he adds as a rider that those who in some way seek a minority right will feel the full oppression of the power of the state. This is most peculiar, because this Party which is in government claims to be the Liberal Party, a Party which has its philosophy based on the writings of John Stuart Mill. What John Stuart Mill says is completely different from the approach of members of the Government who have spoken here today. I refer to the rather authoritarian attitude of the honourable member for La Trobe and the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) and the rather illinformed attitude of the honourable member for Griffith, and certainly the rather rigid and disciplinarian attitude expressed by the Attorney-General in the passages I have just quoted. But let us refer to John Stuart Mill, who is allegedly the great inspiration for the Liberal Party. He states in his essay ‘On Liberty’:
Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough;
I dare say that the students know that by now. He continues: there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compels all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence: And to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.
No-one on the Government side has so far sought to find that limit. Indeed, no-one on the Government side has done anything but seek to reduce the boundaries of freedoms within the community. Everything that has been put forward by the Government speakers clearly conveys that their concepts and assertions are the values which they believe should prevail in life, and the assumption implicitly is that they want to do the thinking for the rest of the Australian community.
What is wrong with the students today? They see our society dominated by an enormous apparatus of supply and distribution, one which is compelling compliance from the community, which is creating tasks, which is creating needs, which is creating processes which in many cases are unnecessary for the community of human beings but which are necessary to sustain this complex apparatus. This is the sort of thing they are talking about. They are inspired by a man named Marcuse. But who is Marcuse? The honourable member for La Trobe thinks that he is a New Australian house painter. At no stage has he endeavoured to discuss the writings of Marcuse, and yet this man is central to any discussion on the subject of student dissent. Let me take this a step further. There is a lack of responsiveness from the machine of administration, and from the economic and social structure of our society, to the needs of the people. Let me quote from Kafka’s ‘The Trial’. He anticipated much of what Marcuse has said. He wrote:
One must lie low, no matter how much it went against the grain, and try to understand that this great organisation remained, so to speak, in a state of delicate balance, and that if someone took it upon himself to alter the disposition of things around him, he ran the risk of losing his footing and falling to destruction, while the organisation would simply right itself by some compensating reaction in another part of its machinery - since everything interlocked - and remained unchanged, unless, indeed, which was very probable, it became still more rigid, more vigilant, severer, and more ruthless.
These are the sorts of things which are worrying students, for this is how they see society, but they are not worrying only students. They are worrying people who are in fact liberals. They are worrying democrats in the Australian society who are worried about the rights of others and the way in which freedoms are being trampled upon and the way they are being constricted and restricted.
– Why does the honourable member not quote John Stuart Mill?
– I have just quoted him. I could quote another passage where he talks about the tyrannies of majorities and how this is a terrible loss in a community, but the honourable member for La Trobe would probably want to ban the work of John Stuart Mill as some sort of obscene work.
– I have never heard of him.
– He has never heard of him. 1 am very glad that he said that. It is very difficult to continue speaking after that statement, because one now feels that the case is successfully concluded against the motion of the honourable member for La Trobe. I talked about this massive oppressive machine, the revolting contradictions which exist in our community, the lack of democracy, the absence of participation by students either at universities or secondary schools, the lack of participation by workers in workshops, even the lack of democracy in this authoritarian organisation called Parliament, where today we were prevented from having a legitimate discussion about the procedures of the House, the poverty midst plenty in this community, and an economy built on waste and obsolescence. I mention also the suffering of people in underdeveloped countries. Surely all those things in themselves are violence. They are violence which is created through the indifference of a wealthy and affluent country such as ours which is being led, and for which decisions are being made, by men who apparently share the views of the honourable member for La Trobe. Surely there is something wrong with a society which finds as an offence of the students the fact that they want to close the gap between the ideals that they hold and the harshness and the violence of the real situation in which they live. Finally, why, may we ask, has altruistic endeavour become scourged as a pox and a plague in our society? There must be something wrong with the values of such a society.
- Mr Speaker, by consent, I have 5 minutes. 1 cannot afford to lose any of that time. For this reason, I do not propose to reply to the spiteful belittling of various honourable members on this side of the House, which appears to have been almost a campaign from the other side, except that I will make some reference to the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess). Two things 1 want to say. First of all, I believe that the House is greatly indebted to the honourable member for La Trobe for introducing this - a serious subject - into this House for debate this afternoon. This is an important matter and he has brought it to the attention of the Parliament for debate. We are indebted to him for this. The second thing is this: The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) chose to belittle the honourable member for La Trobe. He said that the honourable member had not been to a university. Well, the honourable member for La Trobe is known to all of us here. And we know him for much more than the petty thing of being a graduate of a university. We know him as a man. I say no more about that.
I have no qualifications to deal with this matter beyond the fact that I do notice what goes on under my nose. It is many dear dead days beyond recall since I was at a university and I do not have the patina of youth to excuse me. I do notice what happens under my nose and I have listened to this debate. The time has come, I think, to say something as to what this debate is all about. It is not, as has been indicated by various members who have spoken on the other side, about the right to dissent. This is not in question. What is in question is the manner of dissent - that is whether it should be violent or non-violent - and the process of reform, whether by parliamentary and democratic processes or by revolution. This is the thing with which we are concerned - the manner of dissent and the process of reform, not the right to dissent.
The Opposition has minimised the significance of this worldwide movement among students. It has sought to defend its purity at every point. In many respects, it is quite a pure movement - idealistic - but there are always those who are prepared to manipulate popular movements of this kind. There is a whole spectrum of discontent from the moans that students always have about particular courses that are not related to their lives. For example, I can remember being concerned that I was supposed to learn Anglo-Saxon when I would rather have learnt something about English Literature and considered Anglo-Saxon irrelevant. But it goes right through the whole spectrum from those moans that students always have to those who, as Communists, would manipulate students to their own ends. If anybody doubts what this means at the left hand end of the spectrum, if we like, I invite him to read two Penguin books, Jacobs and Landau The New Radicals’ and Cockburn and Blackburn ‘Student Power’. Let him have a look at what the students are saying in
Henry Mayer’s ‘Australian Politics: A Second Reader’. I do not have time to go into this. But nobody can say that the ‘New Left’ is nothing other than revolutionary. Its heroes are Castro and Guevara, Trotsky and Mao. It seeks to overturn the whole of society and put something in its place by violence and revolution. I speak only at the left hand end of the spectrum. About the middle and at the other end, I have no complaint at all. It is all legitimate dissent.
How do they seek to do this by revolution? What is the matter with our society and what are we trying to do about it? I will admit that there are many things the matter with it. Much reform is needed. I agree with many of the complaints that students like others in the community make. What is the processs of reform? After all, the whole trouble with Communism is that it has been utterly unnecessary to reform society by means of Communist revolution. If we look at the situation in the last century and compare it with what we see today with regard to coal miners, wharf labourers, seamen or any of the other oppressed classes then, we see that Liberal Democracy makes it possible for these reforms to take place without revolution. But if revolution occurs, all the affluence that the worker laboriously acquired must disappear and the orderly process of reform must come to an end. This is not to deny that society requires reform in various ways that I have no time to enter upon. Many of these things have been delineated by the students and I agree with them. But the process of reform is what matters. I believe that the students should be brought into the system which has been so successful in bringing about reform, at least over the past century.
– I thank the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) for the agreement between us to share these last 10 minutes of this debate. What is he in a panic about? During the 1920s when he was at university the Communist Party achieved its greatest hold in the Australian university system. But that system seems to have survived that. It has survived both the Communist Party and the honourable member for Bradfield. The Liberal Party has been here all day polishing its jackboots. We have noticed that the Country Party has not taken part in this debate at all. We have discovered a new crop of political poltergeists. Certain student organisations are going to take over the whole country! We are all under threat.
– It is the yellow peril again.
– It is terrible. It has overtaken the yellow peril, the downward thrust of Communism and everything else. Half a dozen university students here and there, a few duplicators, a few typewriters and a few red flags - and the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) is stricken with terror and is down in the corner somewhere getting out his machine gun to protect democracy of which apparently he has never heard because he admitted a while ago - I am sure that it is not true - that he did not know who John Stuart Mill was.
We are talking this afternoon about violence and disorder in certain student organisations. What have we heard? We have heard the McCarthyism of the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay). We have heard the superficial approach of the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), and it was not his best day. We have heard the alarmist and apocalyptic statements of the honourable member for La Trobe and the kindergarten political efforts of the honourable member for EdenMonaro (Mr Munro) and the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron). The situation is, of course, that this is an effort to create an air of hysteria about something which is a natural, historical and eternal. For proof of this, honourable members should go to the history books. I have not time to read them to the House this afternoon, but honourable members can get them from the Parliamentary Library too. It is down there, half way along Kings Hall, if honourable members do not know where it is. All through history, this has occurred. I have an instance here which reads:
Oxford history abounds in town and gown riots, the most famous of which is the battle of St. Scholastica’s Day (10th February) 1354.
It is a wonder that honourable members opposite do not know about that. It is contemporary with the political philosophy that they follow.
This afternoon, we heard the honourable members for Kooyong. He was reading from duplicated documents. It is not terrible?
Somebody has got hold of a duplicator and has produced some subversive, dangerous and revolutionary literature which will crumple the fabric of the Australian society! What nonsense are honourable members opposite talking? Is it not reasonable to presume that this is the way in which people such as these will continue? I say that unless the community wakes up to the manipulated hysteria which the Liberal Party is attempting to produce it will be sold down the river as far as its political rights are concerned.
What is it all about? First of all, there is the reasonable dissent from people over coercion, conscription and so on. Then there is dissent against the gaoling of John Zarb and there is dissent about Aboriginal rights. What do honourable members opposite do when students gather outside Parliament House to talk about these matters and to protest? Where are they when demonstrators who are peaceful demonstrators like the Aboriginal scholarship people and so on gather outside to demonstrate? Those people came here and stood outside Parliament House in their hundreds. How many honourable members opposite went out to talk to them. When hundreds marched down the street in protest against conscription or something like that how many honourable members from the Liberal Party went and spoke to them about what they were protesting? Somebody opposite mentioned the need for dialogue. Honourable members opposite will not get dialogue unless they are prepared to front up. How many are prepared to go down to Monash University and explain their position to the students? How many will take part in the dialogue? This afternoon we are simply expressing here some of the beliefs that we on this side of the House have. I for one believe that the protection of individual rights is more important than law enforcement and that ten guilty should escape before one innocent suffers. That is the proposition we are discussing this afternoon. All the rest is nonsense and is part of the manipulated hysteria with which for 20 years honourable members opposite have attempted to sully Australian political life.
Order! As the time allowed for the discussion of this matter has expired, the discussion is concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Wentworth, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. This Bill is another step in the Government’s programme of assistance to the aged and, in particular, to the frail aged and the needy aged. This programme, indeed, is wider in scope than assistance to the aged only. The House will recall the outline which was given by my colleague, the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), and the debate which followed during March. I thank the House for the views expressed then.
The Government’s present plan includes proposals both in the Department of Health and in my own Department of Social Services, and I should mention that my colleague will shortly be introducing two pieces of legislation relating to his own Department, namely one dealing with paramedical services in the home and one dealing with the provision of more State nursing home beds. I shall, therefore, not touch upon these aspects, except to mention that the present Bill and those two pieces of legislation are largely complementary to each other. Nor shall I traverse in detail the events leading up to the present legislation. I might, however, point out that the programme is substantially along the lines submitted to the Commonwealth by the States in a joint proposal following Commonwealth-State discussions. These discussions had taken place upon the invitation of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), and were part of the Government’s long term plans directed towards giving effective help to the aged and the needy.
It may not be out of place to remind the House of the concurrent responsibilities of Commonwealth and State governments in this sphere. Federal powers and duties derive from clauses of section 51 of the Constitution, and are all ‘concurrent’ - that is to say that the Commonwealth is not the sole occupant of the field; that there is a sharing with the States. It is true that in case of conflict the Federal law will prevail, but the actual wording tends to suggest that, in certain respects, the primary responsi bility for the welfare of the aged lies with the States. The wording gives the Commonwealth specific, but not exclusive, powers in relation to ‘invalid and age pensions’ and in relation to health benefits; but the wider matter of welfare for the aged and needy is not mentioned, even though it may well be implied.
It should never be forgotten that citizens of the Commonwealth, living outside Commonwealth Territories of course, are also citizens of their State, and their State also has a responsibility towards them. Indeed, it may go further than this, because a State may itself choose to devolve some of its responsibility upon a local community. Thus the needs of a man living in Geelong might be, in a sense, the proper concern of the residents of Geelong, of the Government of Victoria and of the Commonwealth Government - ‘neighbour’ as it were of all these in different aspects and in differing degrees.
There is no monopoly, indeed, of this proper concern in governmental hands - Federal, State, or local. Welfare is largely an individual matter; and we should acknowledge and encourage the efforts of the churches and of voluntary and charitable bodies, which can do so much, and which have acted in the past so effectively in this sphere.
Irrespective of legal technicalities, the Commonwealth is anxious to set the framework for a comprehensive plan of welfare for the aged and needy; to decentralise its administration; and to share with the States upon a proper basis the responsibility for the implementation of that plan. The present plan has been worked out in consultation with State officers, and represents an equitable sharing of costs between Commonwealth and States.
On 18th February last the Prime Minister wrote to all the States telling them of the Commonwealth proposals. Queensland has accepted them; New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania have intimated that they still have them under consideration; and Victoria has replied to the effect that it cannot see its way clear to implement them until the financial relations between itself and the Commonwealth have been fixed more to its satisfaction. Nevertheless, it has been decided that it would be desirable for this Bill to go through the House before we rise for the recess. We do not want the operations in any State to be in any way delayed by the fact that parliamentary approval to the main plan has not been obtained.
– It is very little, anyway.
– At all events, Queensland is already prepared to proceed, and perhaps other States will indicate their acceptance of the Commonwealth offer in the next few weeks. I hope they will.
I should like to make it clear that the present proposal offers Commonwealth funds to a State which is prepared itself to undertake certain matching expenditure. The basic reasoning behind this provision stems from the desire to ensure that the recipient State, which will be administering the funds provided by the Commonwealth, will have a due sense of responsibility because its own funds will also be involved. In some cases, I would add, the State is already incurring the matching expense, and the Commonwealth offer simply means a net addition to the funds which that State has already committed. Furthermore, the progress proposed by the Commonwealth would undoubtedly reduce the load on hospitals, and thus result in a net saving of running costs to the State Governments.
The Bill now before the House deals with three distinct but related measures of assistance for the aged and the needy, to be provided through the States, as I have said, on a matching basis. The first of these, in Part II of the Bill, is for the provision of housekeeper and home help services. The second, in Part III of the Bill, is for the establishment and development of senior citizens centres and the third, which is also in Part III of the Bill, is for the provision of trained welfare officers operating from these centres.
I think, Mr Speaker, we have outgrown the time when the aged were considered as a group, all the members of which were in need of identical treatment insofar as welfare services and accommodation are concerned. We now realise that the differences we carry with us do not suddenly cease on the attainment of a certain number of years. Indeed the tastes of a lifetime may well be accentuated as the years pass by.
The Aged Persons Homes Act recognised the need to provide accommodation in home settlements for many of our older folk. The success of that legislation is too well known to require me to elaborate upon it here. However, many of our older people do not desire such accommodation and surroundings. They would prefer to remain in their own homes, or in the surroundings in which they have passed their younger years. But time does take its toll. Many of them find that household chores and the various tasks of domestic living become too great a burden with advancing years. Part II of the Bill now before the House is aimed at fostering and expanding certain home services to meet the needs of these folk. It provides for Commonwealth grants to the States on a $1 for $1 basis to assist them in the establishment and development of housekeeper and home help services. These services, as is presently the case, may be provided by voluntary organisations, by local governing bodies or by the State itself, either individually or in varying degrees of co-operation one with another. The Commonwealth is anxious to see more of this co-operation and, in particular, to see the growth of community effort. Much is being done but there is much more to do. I believe that tremendous community resources are available and waiting to be channelled into this area of welfare activity, and I believe this to be an area in which a partnership between Government, at various levels, and community effort will give more effective results than would be the case if Government, at whatever level, endeavoured simply to ‘go it alone’.
The Commonwealth has offered to the States initial grants of up to $500,000 per year in the aggregate for housekeeper and home aid services, and this Bill will enable that offer to be put into effect. The $500,000 has been allocated between the States roughly on a population basis as shown in clause 6 of the Bill, and will match State expenditure up to the amount allocated to that State. Development as between States has been uneven and, while it is neither suggested nor desired that there should be uniformity throughout the Commonwealth, it is hoped that those States that have lagged behind will make rapid progress in the future. States that wish to enter into this partnership with the Commonwealth and share in the benefits offered may do so by notifying the Commonwealth that they wish to become participating States and either do, or intend to, expend money on the welfare services to which this Bill relates. At this stage I emphasise that this is meant only to be the start and that provision is made in clause 6 of the Bill, as the honourable member for Shortland will see, for an expansion of the services as the House votes more money for them in the future.
While Part II of the Bill relates to home care services, Part III relates to senior citizens centres including the employment of a welfare officer at each centre. Participating States will be expected to join in the programmes of financial assistance covered by each of these parts of the Bill. I have already referred to the uneven development of services and facilities as between the States. The purpose of the legislation is to encourage and foster the establishment and expension of these home care services and facilities. However, it is perhaps relevant to note that, provided they become participating States, both New South Wales and Victoria are already spending sufficient on the services and facilities covered in Parts II and III of the Bill to enable them to receive substantial annual grants.
It is proposed that the nature of the housekeeper and home help services that will be eligible for matching on a $1 for $1 basis should be approved by the Minister. In bis letter to the Premiers the Prime Minister said:
The Commonwealth contemplates that the services developed will be primarily, but not exclusively, for the aged.
This is the significance of my earlier statement that the Bill before the House was not designed to assist the aged only. It is expected that services provided for households, other than the aged, will be in general on an emergency basis only - for example, where a household is stricken by an unexpected illness or an accident. However, we propose to administer the scheme with considerable flexibility, and would not necessarily rule out the provision of housekeeper and home help services on a regular basis where the occupants of the household were, for example, permanent invalids. But it will be essential that the primary purpose of the service should be the provision of domestic help in the homes of aged persons or in premises occupied by them as their dwelling place. So far I have dealt only with the Commonwealth’s offer to subsidise State expenditure on certain domestic domiciliary services, I do not like the ‘domiciliary’ but it is the one which has been used previously. I think the term ‘home care services’ is better. 1 now turn from Part II to Part III of the Bill. This part makes provision for Commonwealth assistance towards the establishment and development of senior citizens centres and for a subsidy towards the salaries of welfare officers working at or from those centres. I can do no better than to quote two paragraphs from the letter the Prime Minister sent to the State Premierslast February:
Another element which the Commonwealth regards as an integral part of the programme is the development of senior citizens centres. It sees senior citizens centres as central points in the community to which an aged person could turn, not only for activities to relieve his loneliness and for services such as meals, laundry and chiropody, but also as a centre for die co-ordination and, in some cases, the provision of a variety of domiciliary and other supportive services. The Commonwealth considers it essential that a welfare officer be employed at such a centre to ensure the development, co-ordination and continuing provision of the most appropriate welfare services to meet the needs of the aged in the area. This does not imply that the centre would directly provide all services. On the contrary, these could be provided by a variety of organisations, the stimulation and co-ordination of which would be a major part of the welfare officer’s activities.
While the Commonwealth views the mealsonwheels service as important in the home care programme for the aged, it b not offering a separate subsidy. Senior citizens centres would, however, be expected to aid the development, operation and use of these services and, to that end, expenditure on such facilities as insulated meal containers and kitchen equipment would be regarded as eligible for the subsidy.
On one specific matter in connection with the running of senior citizens centres the Bill does make provision, and that is on the employment of welfare officers. Again I think it desirable to quote from the Prime Minister’s letter: . . for approved centres, the grant would be available to meet half the salary of the welfare officer, who would be a qualified social worker or person with equivalent qualifications or experience. The welfare officer would supervise each centre and its activities and would also be a key point in the overall organisation of the home care programme.
On the basis of information supplied by the States it has been estimated that the initial Commonwealth expenditure towards senior citizens centres and the salaries of welfare officers will be to the order of $500,000 per year. Actual expenditure, as I have said, will depend upon the rate of development as the result of efforts by States, local governing bodies and community welfare organisations. No fixed limit in this expenditure has been inserted in the Bill. If in co-operation with us, the States regulate their programme so that this figure of $500,000 a year for our subsidy is exceeded, that will be a manifestation of the success of the programme and will accord with the real! wishes of the Government.
This legislation will implement one segment of the Government’s plan to give greater assistance to the aged and in particular to the frail aged and the needy aged. This is, of course, only part of a long :ange and comprehensive programme of assistance that is currently engaging the attention of the Government. My colleague, the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), will introduce legislation relating to a further segment of the present programme, that is, as I have said, proposals dealing with paramedical services and the provision of State nursing home beds. I hope that it will not be long before this House will be considering further programmes of assistance in the field of social welfare. Estimates of initial Commonwealth expenditure under the present Bill are $lm a year - and we hope it will’ be exceeded. We do not regard this programme as an end, but rather as a beginning. In addition to estimated Commonwealth expenditure of Sim a year under the present Bill the estimated Commonwealth expenditure under the Bills to be introduced by my colleague is $ 1.25m a year. So the total will be $2.25m a year.
It is some years since the first Aged Persons Homes Act was piloted through this Parliament by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), who at that time administered the portfolio of Social Services. Honourable members will be interested to know that expenditure under that Act, which is a splendid example of Commonwealth cooperation with voluntary effort, was a mere $796,000 in the first complete year of its operation. It is expected to exceed $10m in the current year. That shows that when you start something on a smalt scale and provide, as this Government will provide, the growth will be appropriate. The legislation before us has, in common with the Aged Persons Homes Act, the feature that it is not limited to any one section of the aged, for example pensioners. It is of general application to all1 our senior citizens, and indeed may benefit some of the community outside the group that may be thus described. Although the Commonwealth expenditure authorised by this Bill may seem modest, nevertheless it is what President Nixon recently described as ‘seeding expenditure’, designed to involve the outlay of funds from other sources. More importantly, it is designed to tap non-financial resources - the latent goodwill towards the elderly and the needy which I believe exists throughout our whole community. This Bill can provide the opportunity for community service which is an integral part of the Government’s comprehensive social services plan I am sure the Bill will receive the enthusiastic support of all honourable members, and that the words of Mr Joseph Cook will be proved to be as true today as when, speaking on the original age pension legislation in 1908, he said:
This is one of those great humanitarian questions which, when under discussion in any House of legislature in any part of the world, always hushes to peace our warring party factions.
I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Stewart) adjourned.
That the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– I move:
Omit the words ‘next day of sitting’, insert the words ‘next Tuesday’.
I do this because it is anticipated that on Thursday the House will rise for the winter recess. If this Bill is to be brought on for debate later this week the Opposition will have only 48 hours in which to consider it.
– That is nonsense. You had knowledge of the legislation months ago.
– I repeat: We will have only 48 hours to consider the Bill. Nobody in this House has yet had time to examine the Bill. We received it only a few minutes ago. In August last year the Treasurer (Mr
McMahon) referred to these proposals in his Budget speech. On 26th February last the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) made a statement about this matter. Notification of this Bill was placed on the notice paper on 22nd May. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) has taken 23 minutes of the Parliament’s time in making his second reading speech. The Bill contains 17 clauses. The Minister took a long time to laud the Government on its record in the field of social services. The Opposition is expected now to take the Bill, hold a meeting of its health committee and decide its attitude to the Bill. This is not good enough. The Government is not giving the Opposition an opportunity fully to examine the Bill.
The Government has for months been holding conferences with State Ministers. On 18th February this year the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) wrote to the States outlining the Commonwealth’s proposals. I think I am correct in saying that even now not all States have agreed to the proposals that were put before them. There is no urgency about this matter. The Bill will not come into effect until 1st July 1969. Why not give us a reasonable opportunity to consider the Bill. We all know that it is election year. Like Government supporters, we of the Opposition expect to be able to put before the public our proposals in regard to matters such as are contained in the Bill. Always a lot is said in this House about democracy and freedom of speech, but the Government is taking these things away from us by not allowing us to examine the Bill and determine our attitude to it. I listened carefully to the Minister for Social Services. In my opinion this Bill is peanuts. It gives $500,000 to all of the States-
-Order! The honourable member may not canvass the contents of the Bill.
– If I may make a personal plea, I point out that I have had a seat on the Opposition front bench for only 3 weeks. This Bill is the first of three to be introduced dealing with the subject of health. These are Bills which I will be called upon to handle on behalf of the Opposition. The Government proposes to give me such scant consideration as to allow me only 48 hours in which to study this legislation. Irrespective of whether I can do it, I do not intend to do it. I have every right to ask for consideration in this Parliament. I have every right to expect it. The Opposition has every right to expect consideration from Ministers of the Crown.
– Apparently I was quite wrong when I predicted that the introduction of this Bill would, in the words of Mr Joseph Cook, hush to peace our warring party factions. I do not look on the Bill as a means of winning an election or anything like that. The Bill is designed to help our aged and our needy. It is untrue to say that the Opposition has not been prepared for this legislation. The House fully debated the statement about home care for the aged which the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) made on 26th February last. Indeed, we were interested to have the views of the House on this subject. There is nothing in the Bill that was not referred to in the statement. If this Bill is peanuts-
– Mr Speaker, is the Minister now dealing with the motion before the Chair or with the Bill?
– I think the Minister’s remarks are relevant to the motion, but I would warn him that any comments about the Bill or its contents will be out of order.
– The Opposition has had every opportunity to know about these proposals. All I would say is that if the Bill is peanuts we have some very inefficient Snoopies on the other side. There is no reason why the Opposition should take this attitude. I was hoping that the Opposition would approach this legislation on a constructive non-party basis instead of talking about its plan. Why did it not put forward its plan when the subject was being debated earlier this year? The Opposition had no plan-
-Order! The Minister is now getting away from the motion.
– When this subject was debated a few months ago the Opposition had the opportunity to put forward its plan. It advanced no constructive proposals, lt had no ideas. Of course, this is normal.
I am sorry that this kind of heat should be brought into the debate. I am sorry that the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) has raised issues of this kind. In this matter the Government has endeavoured to deal fairly with the House.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Just before the House adjourned for dinner we were debating an amendment moved by the honourable member for Lang who apparently was glorying in his new found elevation to the Labor Executive - for which I congratulate him - and to shadow Minister for Social Services in the never to be eventuated Cabinet of the Labor Party for which, again, I think he shows a new found zeal. I am very sorry that the honourable member saw fit to introduce politics into this matter by saying in point of fact that there had been no time allowed for the House to debate this issue. The truth is that on 6th March, 18th March and 19th March this very issue was debated at length in the House. I see that members of the Australian Labor Party who spoke in this debate were the honourable members for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns), Corio (Mr Scholes), Capricornia (Dr Everingham), East Sydney (Mr Devine), Grayndler (Mr Daly), Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor), Reid (Mr Uren), Watson (Mr Cope), Shortland (Mr Griffiths), Oxley (Mr Hayden) and Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin). Also, fourteen speakers from the Government side of the House took part in the debate.
– I would remind the Minister that in debating this motion he is not permitted to debate the subject matter of the Bill.
– Of course; I am only speaking relative to the matter which has been brought in by the honourable member for Lang as to whether the House has had ample opportunity to debate this subject. I pointed out that this–
Motion (by Mr Erwin) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Stewart’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Dr Forbes, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
My colleague the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) in introducing the States Grants (Home Care) Bill 1969 outlined to the House the background to the development of the home care programme for the aged. This programme in turn forms an important part of the Government’s programme of providing assistance in all areas of need in the community as outlined in the Budget Speech last August. I do not intend therefore to traverse the ground covered so fully by the Minister for Social Services.
The purpose of the Bill is to implement part of the home care programme for the aged which was forecast in the Budget Speech last year. The programme has been developed in consultation with the States as representing the best way in which a relatively unified home care programme could be developed throughout Australia. This concept of the programme stemmed from considerations by State Health Ministers in 1968. It was at the instigation of the States that the programme as originally envisaged was expanded to include the development of paramedical services for aged people and the provision of a special grant by the Commonwealth Government for this purpose. I gave full details of the home care programme in a statement to the House on 26th February 1969.
The Bill before the House provides for a subsidy by the Commonwealth on a dollar for dollar basis in respect of expenditure incurred by the States in the provision of paramedical services to aged persons in their homes. The grant to be provided by the Bill totals $250,000 a year and is to be made available to the States in proportions broadly equated to their populations. However, Parliament may appropriate in a year amounts greater than those appropriated by the Bill for each State should the need to do so arise. The grant is available to participating States, which are States that have indicated that they intend to seek assistance provided by the Bill. The paramedical services which it is expected will be covered by the scheme are physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, chiropody and such other similar services as are approved by the Minister.
The Bill contains the normal provisions relating to advance approval of expenditure and provides that the expenditure under the Bill is to be made from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The Bill breaks new ground so far as Commonwealth assistance is concerned by providing grants for these services; services that are a part of the overall programme designed to provide better facilities in the home for aged people. The programme will assist in caring for these people in their own homes thus reducing the need to admit them to nursing homes and hospitals. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Stewart) adjourned.
That the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– I move:
Omit the words ‘next day of sitting’, insert the words ‘next Tuesday*.
On the previous Bill I took the opportunity to adopt exactly the same procedure as 1 am adopting now. I take it now for the same reasons. I suggest that those honourable members opposite who are referring to me as a humbug look at what has happened. It took the Minister three and a half columns of Hansard in an 8 to 10 minute speech to cover three Bills that we are supposed to discuss tomorrow. It is expected that the debate on them will proceed after question time tomorrow. If there is any humbug in this House it is on the part of the Ministers in charge of these Bills and the members on the Government side who interject.
– The Opposition has proposed matters of public importance every day.
-Order! The honourable member for Barton will cease interjecting.
– There is no substance in what he is saying.
-Order! The honourable member for Barton will cease interjecting.
– Irrespective of what has happened in the House with discussions of matters of public importance, my point is that we are not here to consider legislation by statement; we are here to consider legislation in the form of Bills. The Government is completely ignoring the Opposition and parliamentary procedure. If the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) insists that in his statement on 26th February we had an opportunity to discus this proposition, I deny it. We had no idea then, and we have no idea now, of exactly what is in the Bill. The Minister did not mention in his statement of 26th February what the Bill would contain. It was a generalised statement. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon), in his Budget speech last August, used about 140 words to suggest that there would be new departures in our social services legislation. The Minister for Health took about 5 minutes to make his second reading speech this evening. This Bill contains; nine clauses. The Opposition has not examined the Bill. There has been no chance for any of us to determine just how much authority the Minister is taking unto himself in these Bills.
Later this week we will have legislation by exhaustion. At the moment the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) and the Minister for Health are trying to thrust down the Opposition’s throat legislation by statement. We should have the right to examine every Bill that comes before, the House, and we should have the right to examine it thoroughly. It is intended that this and other Bills will be debated tomorrow. The Minister for Health, officers of his Department, State Ministers for Health and even the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) himself have been negotiating over this legislation since last August, yet the Minister introduces the Bill at 8.15 tonight and wants us to debate it fully within about 16 hours of its introduction. The Minister is riding roughshod over the Parliament.
– You had a copy of the Bill this morning.
– We did not. We had three statements of six pages, and I have them in my hand. In the material that the Opposition has been given there is very little about the Bill. I, for one, do not think that the Minister for Social Services is a man to whom I want to give authority. He accused me of acting out of my new power on the front bench, but at least I have come down here to do a little bit of fighting. He fought on the back bench: Now that he is on the front bench he is acting as a rubber stamp.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I have the utmost respect for the honourable member for Lang but he does appear to be addressing individual members rather than the Chair.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– I have moved my amendment because I believe that no government should take unto itself the right to introduce legislation at 8.15 p.m. one day and expect it to be debated at about 2.30 p.m. on the next day. We have a responsibility in this Parliament to examine all Bills. The Minister for Health and the Minister for Social Services should not have the authority that is apparently vested in them in the Bills that are being introduced. I might say that originally the two Bills that the Minister for Health introduced tonight were put on the notice paper on 15th May. For some untold reason - I have not been given any explanation and I guarantee that none of the Government members who have interjected have been informed - the Minister did not introduce them until today. About 5 minutes ago the Leader of the House (Mr Erwin) had the audacity to move the postponement of order of the day No. 2. Is it because the Government is experiencing some difficulty with that Bill? Is it because it has found some error in it? If it has, surely we are entitled to enough time to examine this Bill and the Bill that was introduced earlier. We are entitled to examine these matters, and we expect sufficient time to do so.
It is all right for the Minister for Health. Perhaps he will reply to what I have said and will tell us that we have had 8i hours debate on this particular topic. We may have had 8i hours debate on a statement but not a precise, or supposedly precise, Bill. We discussed a statement that occupied 3i columns of Hansard and took 8 to 10 minutes of speaking time to deliver. Since August of last year, when the Treasurer first mentioned the subject, to 26th February when the Minister first mentioned it, until now the Minister has had his administrative officers conferring with State Ministers and officers from State departments. He cannot reach agreement with them. They are not prepared to accept these proposals but he wants to ram this legislation down our throats and expects us to accept it. He tells us that everything is all right. I do not think it is all right. I think a lot of clauses could be included in this Bill with the approval of the States, but the Minister is not prepared to put them into the Bill.
The Opposition has no department to advise it. We have nobody to write our speeches. We have nobody to go through the Bills and explain them clause by clause. We have to do all our own work and wa need time in which to do it. It is an insult to the Parliament and to the Opposition for the Minister to bring down Bills on one night and to expect them to be debated the following day. Accordingly I suggest that we should be given until at least next Tuesday in order to examine the Bill, to see whether we are prepared to accept it as it is or whether we will try to improve it by amendments, and to arrange our speakers.
– Is the amendment seconded?
-I second the amendment. The procedure that is being followed is a departure from the accepted practices of the House. The honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) quite properly has drawn attention to an important matter which affects every member of this House.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Stewart’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Dr Forbes, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill before the House is to provide financial assistance to the States towards additional State run nursing homes. The scheme whilst not forming part of the home care programme for the aged which is the subject of the two Bills just introduced in the House, is nevertheless closely associated with it. One of the aims of the home care programme is to provide services to elderly people so that they may continue to live in a reasonable degree of comfort and wellbeing in their own homes. Without these services, some at least would need to be admitted to a hospital or nursing home. Notwithstanding this, it is recognised by the Government that there will always be a need for nursing home accommodation for those people who, because of their condition, cannot be given appropriate nursing and medical treatment in their own homes.
The Government recognises too that there is a shortage of low cost nursing home accommodation of acceptable standard throughout Australia. The financial assistance that will be available under this Bill will assist the States in the alleviation of this shortage. It is intended that nursing home beds made available as a result of the Commonwealth assistance will be used mainly for the sick aged of little means. Such elderly people are unable to afford the charges made by more expensive privately run nursing homes. The scheme provides that subject to prior approval of the Commonwealth Minister for Health, expenditure by a State for new nursing home accommodation will attract subsidy from the Commonwealth on $1 for $1 basis.
The grant totalling $5m is to be made available to the States broadly on a population basis in respect of expenditure incurred by the States over the 5 years commencing 1st July 1969. The conditions necessary to attract the grant are prior approval of the expenditure by the Minister and the production of statements of expenditure audited by the State Auditor-General. It will be noted that the Bill does not provide an annual ceiling and thus States can plan construction of nursing homes as they wish within the 5 year period. The Bill has been drafted in such a way that there is a close relationship between its provisions and those of the National Health Act so far as the payment of nursing home benefit is concerned. Therefore, subject to the provisions of that Act nursing home benefits will be payable in the normal way. This will, of course, materially aid the States in being able to provide accommodation for these beds at a relatively low charge. If the States take full advantage of the measures provided by this Bill, more than 1,000 new public nursing home beds could become available over the next 5 years. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Barnard) adjourned.
The question now is:
That the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next sitting.
– I move:
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second it.
– Three Bills have been introduced tonight, one by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) and two by the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes). Quite obviously the effort of the Minister for Social Services must have affected him. He is now asleep on the front bench. The
Minister for Social Services introduced his Bill, expecting the Opposition to resume the debate tomorrow. He made a number of comments about the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart), who had made a vigorous protest on behalf of the Opposition against the Government’s attitude in introducing legislation of this nature on one day and expecting the legislation to be debated on the following day. It is traditional in this Parliament that when a Bill is introduced the Opposition should have the opportunity to consider its merits for a full week. It is no argument for the Government to adopt on this occasion that because the Minister for Social Services or the Minister for Health made statements concerning these Bills some time ago this course is justified. Indeed, the Minister for Health made his statement on the States Grants (Nursing Homes) Bill on 26th February last. It consisted of one and a half pages of print. He now has introduced the Bill, and because the statement was made as far back as February he believes that the Opposition should be prepared to debate the measure tomorrow. We are not prepared to accept that proposition.
I want to reiterate that it is traditional in this Parliament for the Opposition to be given every opportunity to consider the merits or otherwise of legislation. Quite clearly, the honourable member for Lang should have the opportunity not merely to consider one Bill but to consider three Bills which will have to be dealt with separately and which all deal with separate issues. Therefore, the honourable member should at least have extended to him by the Ministers concerned the courtesy of proper opportunity to consider the merits of the legislation which has been introduced tonight. So we make a protest. We believe that the Government has a clear responsibility in these matters. I know that there is always some difficulty towards the end of a session in getting the legislation through this House, but this is not the responsibility of the Opposition. It is quite clearly the fault of the Government. If it were possible for the Minister for Social Services in the first instance and the Minister for Health to be able to make statements as far back as February of this year dealing with the subject matter of these Bills then quite obviously the Ministers concerned should have been in a position to present the legislation before the last week of the sessional period.
So the Opposition asks the question: Who is at fault in this matter? It is not the Opposition. I do not believe that the Government can say that those who are responsible for the drafting of this legislation are at fault. Surely the Minister for Social Services and the Minister for Health are not prepared to put that proposition before the Parliament. The plain fact is that the Minister for Social Services and the Minister for Health have been dilatory in discharging their responsibilities in this matter. They have failed to present the legislation to the Parliament at a reasonable time. They have waited until the last week of the sittings. As I said earlier today, there is no reason why this Parliament should rise at the end of this week for the winter recess. It should continue to sit next week and the week after, if necessary.
– And the week after that.
– And the week after that, as the right honourable member for Melbourne has pointed out. There is no reason why the Government should seek to adjourn the House at the end of this week. The Opposition points out to the Government that it is not prepared to accept this kind of treatment. If the Leader of the House (Mr Erwin), and some of the more responsible Ministers complain about members of the Opposition who have risen to protest on these matters, they must understand that members on this side of the House are entitled to expect greater courtesy on these matters from the Government. Therefore, I join with the honourable member for Lang in making a protest at the way in which this kind of legislation - not unimportant legislation because it concerns three very important principles - has been introduced. In the circumstances, the Opposition quite clearly should have the opportunity to consider the legislation fully. Therefore, I take the opportunity to make this protest on behalf of the Opposition and to support what has been said by the honourable member for Lang.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I have seldom in the 14 years that I have been in this place listened to such utter dripping hypocrisy as has come from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard)-
-Order! I would suggest to the Minister for Health that he consider the remarks that he made concerning the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and withdraw the comment that he made.
– Sir, many times in this place-
– Mr Deputy Speaker-
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.
– You asked him to withdraw the statement.
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will leave this matter at the moment to the Chair. I suggested to the Minister for Health that he might withdraw the remarks that he made regarding the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– I am sorry, sir; I did not hear your remark. I do withdraw. Many times in this place, I have seen not only the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) but also the Deputy Leader of the Opposition stand up in an atmosphere of righteous indignation - may I use that expression, sir? - and question the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) about the conduct of his Ministers. You know, do not go to the person himself; do not ask him why he did or did not do something; but sort of go to the boss to try to have the person disciplined. This action was taken because Ministers had made statements outside the House and had not made those statements to the House. This was not in accordance with the traditions of this Parliament. You had to make the statements in the House. Hearing the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition doing that almost had overtones of the sort of thing that I can remember at school: Somebody going to the headmaster to have the cane applied to a person. Almost invariably, they have received the correct and proper response from the Prime Minister.
What happens when Ministers, appreciating the problems of the Opposition and paying true and proper regard to the House, do make their statements in the House? We, sir, had no need whatsoever to say anything to this House on the home care programme. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition knows so little about it that he said that my statement was of H pages. Indeed, it was far too long. It was at least 5 pages in length; it may have been 6 pages. I do not blame him. He has no regard for this sort of thing or for the subject matter of it. But what happens when Ministers go out of their way when they do not have to - I remind the House that this was not a question of making a public statement or a statement to the House - in courtesy to the Opposition and in courtesy to the House to make a long statement and then, in relation to a particular request by the Leader of the Opposition for the paper to be noted, that action is taken? The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) and I persuaded our colleagues that it would be in the interests of the House, of the country and of the old people of this country to have this matter debated fully.
This matter was debated fully, sir, to the extent that no fewer than thirty-three speakers and 9 hours and 37 minutes of parliamentary time were involved. What other matter has been debated in the House to this degree? We persuaded our colleagues that this was a good thing, that this was a matter important enough for this to happen and that this would indicate the concern that this Parliament had for the subject matter that is covered by these Bills and by the statement that I made. The Government agreed despite the difficulty that it had in relation to its legislative programme. As I say, thirty-three speakers were allowed to speak and 9 hours and 57 minutes of parliamentary time was spent on the matter in which every member of this House who wanted to express a view was able to have his or her say.
What happens now? We are treated to the sort of exhibition which has been put on tonight and the suggestion that this matter has been sprung on the Opposition as if it had never even heard of it. Of course, this exhibition has been put forward for one purpose and for one purpose only.
It is to hide their utter and complete bankruptcy of interest and ideas on this subject. Not only did the Opposition have notification of this matter and as to what we proposed doing in the Budget Speech last year, but also, as I said, it knew of the long statement that I made and the long debate that took place in this Parliament on that statement. Yet, on the admission of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the newly appointed shadow Minister for Health, the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart), the Opposition still is completely bankrupt of ideas on this subject which is of such concern to the aged and the infirm in this community. I suggest that the House should utterly reject this amendment.
– The object of the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) is to ensure that the resumption of the debate on this Bill shall take place in a week’stime instead of a day’s time. The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) would have much more strength in his argument if he were to explain why he gave notice a week ago that he was going to bring in these two Bills. On the 20th of this month there appeared in the name of the Minister for Health a notice that he was going to present this Bill. The ordinary thing would have been for him to present the Bill the following day. Had he presented the Bill the following day, no dispute could have arisen about the debate going on tomorrow.
Other Bills, of which notice was given on that day, were introduced the following day. The Opposition will go ahead with the debate on these Bills after the normal interval between introduction and debate. It has certainly not protested. But why is it that the Minister for Health did not introduce these two Bills until a full week after be gave notice on the notice paper that he would do so? Why is it that he has taken so much more time than have his colleagues who gave similar and contemporaneous notice? The only explanation for his having taken so long must surely be that some disagreements or difficulties emerged in drafting the Bills.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Barnard’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 15 May (vide page 1855), on motion by Mr Fairbairn:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The objectives of the Petroleum Search Subsidy Bill 1969, as the Opposition sees it, are five in number: Firstly, to consolidate petroleum drilling operations into one type; secondly, to reduce the maximum royalties payable to 30% - a frugal move on the part of the Government; thirdly, to confine off-shore drilling subsidies to companies with an Australian share content, announced by the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn), in his discretion, to be 51%; fourthly, to confirm Commonwealth jurisdiction over off-shore drilling to include territorial waters now claimed to be under State sovereignty; and fifthly, to renew the present scheme of drilling subsidy for a period of 5 years from September of this year. It would appear from the Appropriation Bill that the Minister will have at his disposal and discretion the allocation of about Slim for this purpose. As he indicated in his second reading speech, $90m has already been disbursed in this field. The Opposition joins issue with the Government on its suggestion that it will confine subsidies for off-shore drilling operations to companies or organisations with a 51% Australian content. The Opposition considers that that restriction should be applied also to on-shore drilling. Accordingly, I will move at the Committee stage the amendment which has now been circulated in my name.
The Opposition draws the attention of the House to and criticises the revision of the discretionary powers of the Secretary to the Department of National Development and the Minister. We note with interest and disapproval an additional power to postpone refunds payable in respect of successful operations until production starts to flow. This is typical of this Government and its method of government by guidelines. An examination of the regulations under which the Minister functions reveals them to be very sparse indeed, and the Government is equally shy in respect of the information which it gives to this House.
With this Government ‘planning’ is a dirty word and throughout the years, despite our strictures, it has deliberately refrained from attempting anything in the nature of a national fuel and power policy. It might be worth while to traverse briefly the history of this legislation, which was first introduced in 1957. In 1963 legislation was passed which provided that past and future subsidies paid under the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act were not to be taxable. The legislation provided also that portion of the expenditure by an exploring company which was not reimbursed by Government subsidy was to be deductible for taxation purposes. I will have a good deal to say on that issue in due course.
The current Act, which this Bill seeks to amend, specifically includes off-shore operations retrospective to 1959. Previously these had not in practice been included. The 1959-67 Act widened the scope of test drilling by amending the definition to remove the requirement that a structure must be established. It deletes off-structure drilling as a separate category but increases the rates for stratigraphic drilling from 30% to 40% . The Government pays up to 30% under the current legislation for the approved cost of geophysical surveys and test drilling operations apart from stratigraphic drilling for which subsidies shall not exceed 40%, which the Government now proposes to reduce to 30% by the omnibus definition that is contained in the amending legislation. A subsidy for drilling is repayable if the well encounters petroleum in quantities of commercial significance or in the case of test drilling if a subsequent test well drilled by the same operator on the same structure makes a commercial discovery within 5 years from the date of the original test drilling. The Minister, acting arbitrarily, can decide when a group of wells is defined as a field, and then of course the subsidy terminates.
The Minister in his second reading speech indicated that in addition to the $90m which has been paid to various companies by way of subsidy there was a very substantial measure of assistance by the Bureau of Mineral Resources. From time to time amazement has been expressed by overseas companies that this assistance was readily available in other countries. The
Government keeps up its sleeve quite an amount of this information, but apparently here it is open to all.
I draw the attention of the House to the criticism relating to taxation concessions made by no less a person than the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in 1967 in reply to a question asked by the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham). The honourable member for North Sydney had requested the Government to take a more sympathetic view of its levy on oil and gas production. The Treasurer, in very forthright words, accused the oil companies of using a very technical method to estimate the future returns and dividends in discounted cash flow. He accused them of going to great care to conceal the two essential factors on which a judgment could be made - first of all, the time limit in determining what is called present worth, and secondly the interest rate they had used. He also pointed out that the companies had made no allowance whatever for the special taxation concessions with regard to depreciation which - I stress these words - compare more than favourably with other countries and even with the best. He went on to have a sideswipe at the then extremely overgenerous subsidy which was to be paid to the Esso-BHP group and said that tha royalty payments in Australia happened to be, on any comparison, favourable to the oil operators here.
In all of its transactions in the search for oil the Government has completely abdicated its sovereignty. It is now reaping the consequences of its pusillanimity, vaccilation and absence of a coherent and constructive national fuel and power policy. In the course of his second reading speech the Minister for National Development referred to large natural gas fields supplying two capital cities and a third city to be supplied later this year. If there was ever any evidence of the manoeuvring of little Australians it is to be found in the arrangements that were entered into between this Government and the State of Victoria. Only yesterday the Premier of New South Wales went so far as to say that New South Wales could get on pretty well without natural gas. The Premier was opening a plant which will use gas from a naphtha derivative.
The Australian Gas Light Co. has said quite forthrightly that natural gas is too dear. It has been suggested that the agreed price for Victoria, which is equivalent to approximately 30c per 1,000 cubic feet, is five times the price which would have been achieved using the pricing principles of the United States Federal Power Commission. The Minister also indicated that we would probably have oil fields to supply Australia’s needs by the end of 1971. I would say that at the present time the Esso-BHP group alone has oil literally running out of its ears. It is plugging its holes as fast as it finds oil. To put it in good Australian, the group is foxing. It has been given an over-generous pricing structure - $2.06 a barrel. The probable production cost is less than SOc a barrel. If the group were to disclose the fact that it has all the oil it needs it could not stand up to the resulting public outcry about its Take-off.
It is very hard to justify the present pricing structure. To do so in the future will be found more difficult. Let us be brutally frank: In the back door deal that was made between the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Esso-BHP group the argument ran in this fashion: ‘Look, it is impossible for us to continue to give you chaps this fantastic subsidy - this additional 50c a barrel. You will get it in any event only until September 1970. We have an election coming up and we cannot face the people with it, but we have a pretty fair proposition to put to you boys. It is this: We will enter into an arrangement with you up to 1975. We will give you pretty generous treatment. Do not forget that in the world today there is overproduction, there are price wars and there is every probability that between now and 1975 the world listed price of petroleum and crude oil will fall very heavily. We will give you a guarantee. You are to get three-quarters of a loaf instead of the original loaf we offered you, and it is a pretty handsome deal.’
That is the background to the present arrangement, which has yet to be discussed in this House in detail. As for the amount of oil that is actually there, I say advisedly and deliberately that the Esso-BHP group has an oil principality. In the Arabian Gulf oil fields, which are considered to be the cheapest producers and the greatest reserves in the world, there is an average depth of oil-bearing sands of 300 feet. Let me give the figures in relation to the Gippsland and Bass Strait areas. An article by Mr Robert Murray, published in the Australian ‘Financial Review’ of 9th April 1969 stated:
Australia’s two most promising ofl fields so far, Kingfish and Halibut in Bass Strait, are in formation known as the Latrobe Valley sediments, thousands of feet thick and part of the Gippsland sedimentary basin.
There is estimated to be about 50% to 75% sand inside the reservoir formations, a high proportion by most standards.
The sand is also highly porous, at 25% to 30%.
Much of the reservoir sand is loose like ‘beach sand - ‘unconsolidated’ sand is the technical expression. . . .
Kingfish has been assessed as a flattish, wide structure 7 miles across, with predominantly oilbearing sands 235 feet deep, while Halibut is deeper and narrower - 3 miles by 500 feet.
Both fields are thought to be well equipped with water drives. . . .
Water drive helps by driving the oil to the surface. It was Dr Etherington who suggested that the Bass Strait, Gippsland and Otway off-shore basins might contain as much as 2,500 million to 10,000 million barrels of oil and enormous reserves of gas. The Esso-BHP group coyly admits to a matter of 1,400 million barrels.
Of course, there is another angle to all this and it explains some of the coyness of this group. The group is no slouch when it comes to playing its cards correctly. There is a little matter of the depletion allowance which has been brought forward. The argument is being used - the Minister has advanced it - that up to the present no more than 15 years and possibly as little as 10 years reserves have been discovered. Tell that to the Marines. The oil is there, and Esso-BHP knows it. It is up to the Government to get in and prove that the oil is ;there. It is deliberately refraining from probing too deeply. Paradoxically, the more oil that is found with the present pricing structure and this back door deal between the Prime Minister and the Esso-BHP group, the higher the price will be. In his second reading speech the Minister for National Development also said that having to repay subsidies on the discovery of oil prior to production really starting to flow could be a hardship for some companies. It is true that there may be such cases.
On the other hand, how much information are we getting? A mere bagatelle of$90m has been disbursed. Are we not entitled to some information about drilling operations on which subsidies have been paid, distinguishing between on-shore and off-shore? The annual report is a very flimsy and slender document. Are we not entitled to information as to what repayments are due and payable? Nothing is advanced to justify this legislation. What repayments, if any, have been made and by whom? What has been paid in particular is a subsidy for drilling in respect of the Gippsland-Bass Strait areas. How many drilling agreements have been cancelled or modified? How many exploration permits have been cancelled and/ or reissued? What areas of the continental shelf or the on-shore basins are not covered by exploration permits or production licences?
I repeat: What steps has the Government taken to check the Esso-BHP estimates of reserves? The Government gets the cores and other information under the off-shore Bill. Where there is a will there is a way. But the Government is notably tardy in pursuing this issue; and it is a vital issue. On this issue really depends the justification for this legislation. What consideration has been given by the Government to paying subsidy only to on-shore applicants with an Australian shareholding? Why do we have to grease the fat pig in the case of overseas companies operating on-shore? At what point, if any, will the Government ever establish a majority Australian equity interest in Australian oil search and production?
The Government, of course, is using Parliament as a rubber stamp. If we want to really get a fair criticism of the Government and its present policy, I quote from The Australian’ of 14th February last. The editorial under the heading ‘Divided and beaten on oil prices’, had this to say:
Yesterday’s agreement -
And it was referring to the finalisation of the notorious $2.06 deal - between the industry and the Commonwealth Government on the price of Bass Strait crude oil just about closes a very sorry chapter in Australia’s economic history. Despite the Government’s expressed hopes, there is a very strong chance that the agreed price of $2.06 a barrel will mean a significant lift in petroleum prices by 1970. . . .
Although the issues are extremely complex, the rise in the price of petrol (or a compensating fall in excise) must be seen against the fact that the cost of producing this oil is less than 50 cents per barrel.
Let the Government answer that if it can. What steps has it taken to really test what is the true production cost? It needs to do it for taxation purposes. It will need to do it when it is offsetting the expenditure of the Esso-BHP group against its profit. How does the Government intend to calculate the profit of this company unless it knows production costs? The article said that the Prime Minister: . . could do worse than look back on Esso on the way in which it had been able to outmanoeuvre the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments over gas price royalty payments, conditions for lease relinquishments and crude oil prices.
The Australian’ continued:
Both Governments had let down their electors - both as taxpayers and as consumers - badly because they have allowed themselves to be divided whilst the companies knew exactly what they wanted at each stage of the negotiation.
In conclusion, the leader continued: . . there is also no doubt that the costs of this development would have been far less and the benefits to the community at large could have been far higher if the State and Commonwealth Governments had negotiated with the intelligence that the situation demanded.
I come now to the question of the exercise of discretion, both by the Secretary of the Department and by the Minister. In his second reading speech on this Bill the Minister said:
To exercise this discretion–
That was the discretion in respect of the 51% shareholding on off-shore oil exploration -
I intend to define an Australian company as one incorporated in Australia–
Very good. The Minister continued: and in which the beneficial ownership is at least 51% Australian.
– Very good.
– Very good. If the company can satisfy me that certain shares are available to the Australian public, I may consider them as beneficially owned by Australians. What a delightful prospect. Does the Minister still believe in fairy tales? A company can issue 45% of its shares, hold all the rest in reserve, find oil and sell them to the Australian mugs at top prices.
If there is any concession to be given let it be given to full and legitimate risk capital. I hope that the Minister has seen the loophole that exists in this case.
I would like to refer to another matter. In his speech, the Minister referred to a submarine area. It is pleasing to note the alteration in the Minister’s outlook. As the Bible has it, there will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner who does penance than over 99 just who need not penance.
Need I remind the House of the strictures of myself, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and many others in relation to the debate on the off-shore petroleum Bill. Why this sudden change of heart? I would venture to say that it is associated with certain comment made by none less a person than Sir Percy Spender, to which I shall shortly refer. It is very good to see an alteration of the definition. It is very good to see the Government for the first time pull up its legal socks, get out of the legal kindergarten class and realise that the sovereign national Government of Australia has the sole and exclusive rights to the exploitation of all off-shore areas and the territorial waters under sovereign State control are a polite fiction.
I want the Minister’s answer on this; we are entitled to it. I do not know whether the Minister was present at the Symposium on the Great Barrier Reef in Sydney, but four Federal Ministers were there. The Chief Justice of Australia was also there. A Cabinet Minister from one of the States attended the symposium. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen) was there. What does the Government propose to do to correct the situation? At least it is nice to know that the Government is making some tentative moves in the direction of following what is the correct and what has been the only conceivable legal interpretation of its sovereign rights.
Of course, this is a low posture Government. In every possible field it seeks to curry favour. The Government adopts a low posture - and I use this term in its Japanese connotation. The Government even pussyfoots about the question of whether it might have actually offended some of the overseas companies in relation to some change in subsidies in this measure. Will the Government stand up and speak for Australia and speak as an Australian Government in stead of behaving in the way it is? It ls worth quoting the exact words of Sir Percy Spender. But before doing so could I just briefly refer to the farrago of legal nonsense that appears in the recital to the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act. I quote:
And whereas the Governments of the Commonwealth and of the States have decided, in the national interest, that, without raising questions concerning, and without derogating from, their respective constitutional powers, they should cooperate for the purpose of ensuring the legal effectiveness of authorities to explore for or to exploit the petroleum resources of those submerged lands:
Stuff and nonsense; absolute rubbish. All this was pointed out to the Government at the time when this legislation was introduced. The wording of the Act goes on solemnly:
And whereas the Governments of the Commonwealth and of the States have accordingly agreed to submit to their respective Parliaments legislation relating both to the continental shelf and to the sea-bed and subsoil beneath territorial waters and have also agreed to co-operate in the administration of that legislation:
Be it therefore enacted . . .
The minute some fisherman is prosecuted for catching undersized fish in territorial waters, up goes this legislation in a shower of sparks, and the Government knows it. I will quote at some length from what Sir Percy Spender had to say. He indicated that the very least the Government could do to save face and to do the decent thing was to institute a friendly suit against one of the sovereign States to see that this matter was adequately clarified. No Government was ever humiliated so absolutely, completely and utterly as this Government has been on this particular issue. I shall quote from the Australian Financial Review’ of 5th May last under the heading ‘States’ rights “end at coast” ‘. The ‘article states:
Boundaries of Australian States end at the coastline; consequently the States have no rights over either territorial seas or the minerals and other natural resources of the sea bed.
A recent ruling by the World Court indicated that the Commonwealth, as an international sovereign Slate, had sole rights over the sea bed of the continental shelf to a depth of 200 metres (about 600 ft).
It goes on to refer to the presence of four Federal and one State Cabinet Ministers, and then there is a most interesting comment by Professor O’Connell of the
Department of Law at the University of Adelaide, who led discussion on Sir Percy Spender’s paper. He told a questioner that the current oil legislation had been designed merely to ‘smother over’ the issues which Sir Percy had raised. He described the agreement in Bass Strait, where Victoria gets a percentage of royalties as ‘a working agreement only’. He said that the law of the continental shelf and the territorial sea was of compartively recent origin. He said that in the past few years technical developments have given it real significance. Sir Percy went on to quote from a recent World Court judgment of great significance to Australia, in which it was ruled that the coastal States - and he used States’ to mean sovereign international nations, not federated States - the right to explore and exploit sea bed resources off their coasts. Referring to the problem of the rights of federated States like Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, Sir Percy Spender said that he could find nothing in either imperial or colonial legislation which gave them rights to what were known as territorial seas. What a humiliating situation this Government finds itself in.
Taxation is another very interesting issue to which I will shortly refer. But before doing so, I shall refer to an incident which occurred, as reported in the Melbourne Age’ of 30th April, at the opening of the gas plant at Sale, when the Federal Government was conspicuous by its absence. Not one Federal Minister attended. Even the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) was blocked from attending. The very worthy Chairman of Broken Hill Proprietry Ltd expressed his sorrow that the Commonwealth Government was not represented at this moderately important occasion by Cabinet Ministers. The comment of Sir Arthur Rylah, Chief Secretary of Victoria, really shows the rift in the hitherto beautiful friendship, when he said:
The Federal Government appears to be extremely sensitive to criticism of its oil and gas exploration negotiations.
He further stated that if the Federal Government carried out its threat to go it alone with regard to off-shore mineral exploration it could well undo all that has been achieved. If it did this, it would not only wreck the valuable partnership between the
Federal and State governments, but it could cause considerable legal problems and at the same time put back off-shore exploration in Australia. It is very interesting to know what is going on behind the scenes at the present time. There is a rift in the lute between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of the sovereign State of Victoria. That is most interesting indeed.
In the limited time that is left to me I just want to summarise the legal position on the question of taxation. Investors are permitted for tax purposes to deduct from their assessable income all sums paid for shares issued by petroleum search companies in respect of applications, allotments and call moneys, provided that the search company elects to forego an equivalent amount when in the event of commercial production capital expenditure is claimed as a deduction for tax expenses. Most Australian petroleum search companies have made this election to pass on this benefit to their shareholders. In other words, as soon as a company derives net income from the sale of petroleum it is permitted to deduct capital costs of both prospecting and production from its income. The concessions are less in amounts allowed in taxation deductions to shareholders in respect of call moneys, and less in amounts received by exploration companies by way of Government subsidies.
The concessions were given in the 1963 amendments to the legislation. The sum total of the income tax law today in respect of concessional deductions to oil exploration and producing companies is this: They are exempted from payment of income tax on profits derived from the sale of petroleum and its products until such time as capital expended on prospecting and production has been recouped. When these capital costs have been recouped the company making a profit is liable to pay taxation at the same rate as any other company. For instance, in the case of the Esso-BHP group an amount of about $350m will be claimed after the outlay. That is quite a nice concession. I wonder how many other major companies in other fields of production would like to get the same concession.
Let us have a look at another remarkable racket that has developed out of the Government’s misplaced generosity. I want to refer honourable members to two articles which appeared hi the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ and which were written by its financial editor. The first of these articles appeared on 28th March 1969. The content of these articles is most relevant te the question of exploration for petrol, subsidies and the tax minimising rackets which some very acute financial brains have evolved, and unless and until the Government blocks the loopholes, these people will be going right through them. It would appear that in the last 12 months there has been no less than about $33m worth of companies floated, some of them quite reputable; others are what the financial editor of the Sydney Morning Herald’ refers to as production line companies. In his article on 28th March last he stated that in 1 month alone about sixteen new oil floats or proposed floats appeared on the stocks. He referred to an assembly line atmosphere in the oil floats, because so many of the products are now becoming standardised, because there are small initial payments per share and because there are very flexible arrangements about the time of calling up the remainder to suit the investors’ taxation convenience. He referred to the standardisation of these companies and the methods under which their shares are issued. He said that the pattern had become such that the offices of some of the veteran companies had visits from solicitors working on flotation documents of newer outfits who wanted to get a quick rundown on the tax minimising drill, that is, the advantage to be had from sections 77a and 77aa of the Income Tax Act. The financial editor also said:
The Federal authorities are offering these tax concessions with a deliberate view to stimulating Australian ownership of new mineral discoveries. Mr Fairbairn repeated that desire this week when he announced proposed changes in the subsidy system.
I should like to know how many of this type of company, which lack genuine risk capital, are to get the benefits of the Minister’s discretion. The strictures of the financial editor of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ were continued the following day when he said:
It seems that the rate of the flow of funds into these new oil exploration funds is not determined by the developmental requirements of the companies as by the various tax-avoiding conveniences of investors in the company.
When it is remembered that the Federal authorities further provide a 30% subsidy on the actual exploration expenditure, it is worth asking whether the present developments in ‘spun-off oil companies from earlier ones, each with small payments on no-liability shares is yielding the nation a sufficiently serious response to the financial encouragement that we rightly want to give mineral exploration.
A typical case of a hypothetical individual with an income of $100,000 who purchased shares in one of these companies is quoted. His normal tax rate would be 13s 4d in the £1 but, of course, by putting the whole of his taxable income into one of these companies he pays no tax. In other words, the 6s 8d in the £1 that would have belonged to him would be the cost price of the shares. He could quickly unload them to kindred spirits who wanted in turn to avail themselves of the purchase of shares for similar purposes. Then he is in the position of having his one-third residua] income cash in hand and quite a goodly parcel of shares at the reigning price. If he disposed of his one-third holding at cost in due course, with the guidance of his taxation experts to kindred spirits who would readily snap them up-
– When you said 6s 8d you meant 67c.
– Yes. I am a little bit old fashioned. I would recommend to honourable members a close perusal of the whole of the contents of these two editorials. I have my own grievance also. The Senate Select Committee on Offshore Petroleum Resources has been quite busy and has been doing an effective job. It is worth noting that early in December it had before it an American executive, Mr J. D. Langston, the Director and Exploration Manager, Esso Standard Oil (Australia) Ltd. This gentleman, of no mean ability, was able completely to thwart all attempts made by the Senate Select Committee to obtain some idea of the cost per barrel of Bass Strait crude oil production. In conclusion, as his final salvo, he said that his company was going to make a big profit from the oil discovered and that he was not going to apologise for it. He said: ‘We took the risk and we are entitled to the profit’. I have been denied the right even to peruse the minutes of that evidence.
– It was a public hearing.
– Yes, the evidence was given at a public hearing and the Press was admitted but when I applied to those in charge of the minutes I was denied access to them. Of course, it has been said that this Government is sick with secrecy. It can make a fool of itself with procedures of this type. I do not want further to delay the House but I want to say in conclusion that the Government has more to answer for in respect of the whole of its transactions in relation to oil search and drilling than any other matter that it will be faced with at the coming election. Public interest at the present time is focussed closely on the Fill and its cost. I would venture to say that every fortnight, as a result of this Government’s sins of commission and omission, Australia will be losing, in terms of its natural assets, the equivalent of the cost price of an Fill. I want to hear from the Minister some real answers to the legal position. The Government is in a jam. It put itself in that jam. It ignored the warnings of the Opposition. I am sure that its own legal advisers were frank enough to tell the Government the position but, in the words of Professor O’Connell, the Government wanted to smother it up. It can never smother these matters up and the Government has plenty to answer for, and we want to hear the Minister’s answers.
– [Quorum formed.] I should like to start by congratulating the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) on having struggled through 45 minutes of speech - he had 45 minutes - -but if he had not had the Australian Financial Review’ and the Sydney Morning Herald’ to quote from he would not have got that far. I do not accept either of them as being an authority on oil exploration.
– Neither are you.
– I know a lot more about it than they do. I should like to correct one of a large number of errors that the honourable member for Cunningham made when he was speaking about the hypothetical gentleman with an income of §100,000 a year. If a man put all that income into oil shares he would not have very much to live on, would he? He would want a meal occasionally. If he did sell those shares to one of his buddies, that buddy would not be able to claim that as a deduction. The honourable member for Cunningham should know better than this but obviously, as happens so often in these cases, the Opposition has not done its homework on a very important subject. There are very few fields in which the Government has done a better job than it has in encouraging the search for oil. Over the years since Australia took the view that oil was one of the commodities that we really needed the Government has done everything that it could to encourage people to look for oil in Australia. I do not need to go through all the reasons why this should be so. One of these has been the effect on our balance of payments of the terrific cost drain on our overseas earnings to pay for oil that is imported. There is also the great difficulty of ensuring adequate supplies and there is the defence angle.
I would not like to join the Opposition in putting my faith in being able to obtain crude oil from the Middle East in the event of difficulties between the Arab countries and the rest of the world. Why, only a couple of weeks ago one of those countries, knowing that it has a very large asset in its oil reservoirs, put the gun at the head of the company extracting the oil and said: ‘We want you to double up on the royalties you are paying’. These were already extravagant royalties compared with what we in this country are asking. So Australia has had to work out for itself a system by which we can ensure an essential commodity at a reasonable price and try to conserve for Australia an asset which nature has bestowed on us - although not abundantly - as it has on so many other countries. Oil is one of the mineral resources which this country enjoys and which have a very great value not just to the Government but to the people of Australia.
To hear the Opposition speak, one would think that the Government was milking the oil companies or was trying to get a fast buck out of them. I have heard the most appalling rubbish about the value of natural gas in Bass Strait, spoken by members of the Opposition in the State House in Victoria, notably the Legislative Council member for the south eastern province, who, like the rest of the Opposition, simply will not do his homework on this and will not recognise that we have here something which is going to do a terrific job in the development of Australia. We have a valuable asset which it is up to to us to exploit to the best of our ability and make the most of for the people of Australia. When I say this I would also like to ask the people of Australia to realise that there are many difficulties in the handling of something which has such great value as oil has. Once again the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) has said that we have the oil and we should make use of it. But every barrel taken from the ground leaves a little hole, and we must find some more oil to fill up that hole. The whole effort of the Government is aimed at ensuring that for every barrel of oil taken from the ground we discover another barrel.
I remember quite well the time when people were going around saying that there could not be any oil in Australia because it was too old a continent. They said: ‘You will not find oil here, you have to go to the Middle East or somewhere else where it has already been proven*. Then we did find a little bit of oil and people were encouraged. But the main impetus to oil exploration has always been given by the major oil companies - and that is quite appropriate. This is what one would expect because they have the problem of seeing that the world has the fuel that is needed to keep the wheels of industry turning. Primary industries would come to a stop today without petroleum. A lot of people forget this. The development of land and industry being carried out today could not be done unless we had a fuel policy which encouraged the discovery of fuel resources and the means of making energy available to the people in the cheapest possible form. That is the objective of the Government.
Opposition members say that we did not have a fuel policy. This makes me a little bit mad because we obviously do have a fuel policy. We have been doing all that we can to see to it that we have the fuel that is so essential for the development of power, whether it is derived from nuclear energy, oil or coal. All of these energy sources have played their parts. Naturally the Government is interested in all of them; it does not give absolute priority to any one, but it gives a priority to each in the order it deserves at the time it is available. It is unfortunate that the discovery of oil has been lopsided. Too many people are running away with the idea that because we have a series of huge oil fields off-shore in Bass Strait we have ample oil and we do not have to worry. I am a little disappointed that people look at this from the viewpoint that 60% or 70% of our oil requirements are available on our doorstep. This is not quite right because, as I said a little while ago, we have to allow for reserves to take the place of the oil that has been taken out of the ground, and unless more oil is found continually we will not have 60% or 70% of our oil requirements.
According to my way of looking at this matter we have perhaps 25% of our oil requirements because at this stage it is impossible to tell just how much oil will come out of any one of those fields in Bass Strait in, say, 1975. Oil has a habit of receding as development goes on. No-one knows, and there is just no method known to man of estimating to an accuracy of plus or minus so many degrees, exactly how much oil can be squeezed out of a certain area of sands, and when we have sands of different viscosity, as we have in Bass Strait and Barrow Island, a lot of guess work has to be done. Fortunately the people who have come to Australia to help us in the search for oil do have the know-how and the knowledge to be able to assess these things with a degree of accuracy which enables us to forecast when a field will run out, but it is not an exact science by any means.
The main purpose of this Bill is to amend the petroleum search subsidy scheme. The procedures adopted by the Government in regard to oil search subsidy over the years have been very satisfactory. As the Minister said in his second reading speech $90m has been paid out in subsidies by this Government. This, of course, is 30% of the total cost of oil exploration, lt has to be multiplied by three to find out how much has been spent altogether, and there are many other exploration processes that have been carried out and which have not been subsidised. The amount of money that has been spent on finding oil in Australia is very considerable indeed. The subsidy has been a very important inducement to people to put their money into oil exploration.
There are some people who believe that this should be done entirely by Australian companies. There are people who believe that all the iron ore, all the aluminium and everything else should be mined by Australian companies, but we have to be pretty realistic about this. We have to work out the best way to get the benefit of these natural resources that we have, and the best way has been to tie in with our overseas friends. The major oil companies that have interests all over the world are doing a lot of juggling between themselves about where and why they will get their supplies not only purely for their own financial benefit or so that they can squeeze out the last cent of profit but because the available supplies that exist in the world have to be used intelligently. They have to be made available to the various people who want them in different parts of the world; otherwise the oil companies would not be getting the cents or dollars out of it.
So we find ourselves in a position where major oil companies are extremely interested in the discovery of oil in Australia, but they are just as interested in discovering oil in Indonesia, the Middle East countries, Libya, or anywhere else. All these countries have their claims on the interests of these major oil companies which are so concerned to discover replacement supplies for the oil that is being used in quantities which are very hard to visualise when they are expressed in so many million barrels, gallons or tons. The supplies that are being used have to be replaced. Australia has a vital interest in this, and for that reason we have a system of offering a subsidy to the people who can find oil. The main feature of the Bill is to limit the subsidy to on-shore discoveries in Australia. I have very great sympathy with that viewpoint because obviously the off-shore oil discoveries are very vulnerable in the event of war conditions. The cost of production is also much greater. When the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) is crying about the cost of production at the well head, it is quite easy to inform him that the cost of production at an oil well head in Bass Strait will be at least ten times and probably a great deal more than that at an on-shore oil well head of a comparable size in the Middle East.
If we could find an on-shore well in Australia of a comparable size to the Bass Strait discoveries we would really have something. Unfortunately our discoveries on-shore have been most disappointing, but that has not deterred the Australian investor from putting his money into 01 exploration. Anyone who complains today about the run of oil floats we have had in the last 12 months does not understand the business. Money is being made available by Australians. Maybe a few people will get some tax deductions. What does that matter? We are talking about the discovery of oil. This money is being made available by Australians, and every dollar of it will go into drilling holes - and the only way to find oil is to drill holes. That is what the Opposition unfortunately forgets. This subsidy is to be limited to on-shore exploration. Overseas people who have come here to help us as well as themselves have given us a terrific amount of know-how. Never let us forget that the only real oil discovery we have in Australia has a 50% Australian interest and a 50% overseas interest. The exploration companies might claim $300m in tax deductions before they start to pay any tax, but do not let us forget that they will spend that $300m in finding the oil and getting it out of the ground before they start to earn any profit to pay tax on. Surely it is reasonable that they should get some allowance for the amount of money they have spent, particularly in view of the fact that when the oil is taken out of the ground there is an empty hole that has to be replaced with something.
So I am rather dubious about the policy which has been enunciated in this Bill of limiting the subsidy to on-shore exploration. Surely it does not matter to this Government whether the oil1 is found on-shore or off-shore. I know that we like to find it on-shore. This is important, but if we are supplying 60% or 70% of our own requirements by the middle of the 1970s and if we do not find another oilfield at least the size of the Barrow Island field each year to cover the increase in demand for petroleum products, we will not have any oil at alt in 1980. The Government has to encourage oil exploration. It is making available a subsidy at the rate of 30% of the costs of oil exploration. The rate of subsidy for stratigraphic drilling has now been changed and there is one rate of subsidy for drilling, which is 30%. That rate is very satisfactory. If we are to spend this money by making it available to somebody to find oil, I cannot see any difference in whether it is made available for off-shore exploration or on-shore exploration. It should be made available to everybody. This is the main point that I want to bring before the House tonight.
Under the arrangement there are one or two items that will have to be cleared up. Take the simple example of an Australian company in partnership with an overseas company. Often it is not as simple as that because there are all sorts of consortia and farm-in agreements. One company may have a 7£% interest and one may have a 2i% overriding interest. It is a terribly complicated business. But I will reduce it to a simple example of a company with 50% Australian interest and 50% overseas interest. For an on-shore well, 30% of the costs would normally be made available to the company in the form of a subsidy from the Commonwealth. But under this legislation, the company with a 50% overseas interest would be barred from receiving the 30% subsidy. Let us say that the cost of exploration amounted to $100m. The Australian interest would contribute $50m and the overseas interest would contribute $50m, but the Australian contribution would in effect be brought down to $35m because of the subsidy whereas the overseas contribution would remain at $50m. But a lot of the farm-out agreements and peculiar arrangements that have been made to cope with circumstances in the search for oil today are such that all the moneys that go into exploration are pooled and the subsidy would be then taken from the total moneys going into it.
If honourable members like to do the arithmetic which I did before - I am not going to take the time of the House to explain it again - it would mean the Australian company would have 42i% and that the overseas company would have 42i% also. This is not the intention of the legislation as it stands. I do not agree with it as it stands, but this is the intention of it as it stands. I would like the Minister to make clear just what will be the case and whether existing agreements which have been made on this basis will be treated in some way by the Government as being in the spirit of what is meant - that is a share 50/50 - and that the deduction all comes out of the 50% owned by the Australian company.
I do not agree with the amendment proposed by the Opposition which goes to the other extreme of excluding overseas companies from enjoying any benefit from the subsidy for any drilling that is done onshore. That will not do anybody any good at all. I think that this is a most retrograde move and something that has been proposed without giving any real thought to the motives behind the action of the Government or behind the need for Australia to find oil. I can see that a need exists to find oil on-shore more than off-shore. The thing that we desperately need is to find oil somewhere because the experience over the last few months has been disastrous. The holes that have been drilled without result have discouraged people who are putting up money to go on with exploration. If this goes on, we will find that next year we will not be able to find money to continue the exploration. If money is not able to be found to continue exploration, we will just grind to a position in which all work slows down. The overseas companies looking at the proposition will say: Well, Australia does not want us particularly. It thinks that because we have so much money we will be prepared to go on anyhow’.
In fairness to the Government let me say that the overseas companies have a very great advantage over local companies. Their projects overall from their world operations enable them to allot money for oil exploration here. That money is a taxation deduction wherever they are paying taxation in the rest of the world with regard to their profits. They have this advantage. But what is the situation of the Australian companies? The one or two of them that have a very small income may be able to allot some money for exploration. The great bulk of them which have not found anything, sold anything or received any profits do need the benefit of the subsidy more than the overseas people do. The point is that unless both Australian and overseas companies are treated alike the overseas companies will not be encouraged to come here. The overseas companies do not have the same need for the subsidy as do Australian companies’, is the cry that I hear and maybe they do not. Maybe the overseas companies could carry on with an oil drilling programme whether or not they receive the subsidy. If they do receive the subsidy they will be able to drill more holes. It is only by drilling more holes in the ground that oil is found.
I do want to say that, as far as I am able, 1 encourage this Government to give all the help that it can to any company, overseas or local, which is prepared to spend millions of dollars. We are not talking about chicken feed; we are talking about millions of dollars. Some of this money will be paid as wages to Australians. On balance, I think, the Government makes a pretty good profit out of the whole thing by the time taxation payments are taken out of earnings. But the main thing is that, whatever is done, we do carry on as forcefully as we can by making every effort that we can to find more oil.
The last point that I wish to make concerns one of the anomalies, as 1 find it, in the existing subsidies. It is something which has not been touched on in the amendment moved by the Opposition. I refer to the situation when a company does find some trace of oil; when as a result of drilling, there is either oil of gas found at the bottom of the well and it is not necessarily in commercial quantities or it is not necessarily in such quantities that the company is able to get to work immediately to exploit its find and to make some money out of it. Immediately such a discovery is made, the Government puts a circle around the hole in question and says that no subsidy will be paid on any drilling within that circle.
I find this very difficult to understand. A company makes a favourable discovery. The Government turns around and says: Look, we do not want you to go on with that. If you want to go on, you must use all your own resources. You can drill a hole outside the radius of the circle drawn around the hole in question.’ This practice has been called: ‘Spooner’s silly circles’. These always have been silly circles. This principle inhibits the search for oil in the places that are most favourable for the discovery of it. Maybe it is wrong to say that the company should go off into some other place. Maybe it should keep on drilling holes in the area in question. But the company has to find the money to do that. This is a big problem. Until this problem can be straightened out I am afraid that we will find a lot more wildcatting than is necessary going on and, unfortunately, some of the places that perhaps could have been exploited will not have been properly investigated. I commend the Government wholeheartedly on the support that it has given over the years to this petroleum search subsidy. I express just slight regret that at the present time it is withdrawing its support from the overseas companies which, I believe, have been our very best friends in this sphere.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the principal purpose of the Petroleum Search Subsidy Bill which amends the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act 1959-1967 is to encourage the search for petroleum by subsidising exploration, drilling operations and geophysical surveys. The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan), 1 think I would be right in saying, used as the central theme of his contribution the fact that a shortage of oil exists in Australia; that there is a need to find that oil; and that no inhibitions should be placed on those who want to spend money to find that oil irrespective of whether they be foreign companies or Australian companies. In fact, the honourable member for McMillan has objected to the Government actually discriminating against foreign companies. I think that that is the central theme of his argument.
I do not deny that there is plenty of economic logic in that argument. We have an urgent obligation to Australia, because of our balance of payments position at the present time and, in the future, to find commodities which will either increase our exports or be import saving. But it is a point of great argument whether in fact we should encourage or allow foreign interests to come into this country to explore, to develop and to exploit our natural resources. If perhaps there were some inbuilt safeguards with respect to foreign companies coming into Australia in that »f they did find oil or gas and, in the process of being encouraged, they were forced or compelled to put onto the market a percentage of their assets so that Australian equity could be evolved, these might meet the requirements of the honourable member for McMillan. But the Opposition, for once anyhow, believes that the Government has taken the correct step in seeking to get more Australian equity in these undertakings and more Australian ownership of our resources.
The amendments contained in this most important Bill will allow for the continuation of the subsidy for another 5 years, for the express purpose of expanding the exploration for and production of petroleum in Australia. There can be no doubt that there has been a tremendous upsurge in a very short time in the search for oil, with some success, and in production of our natural petroleum resources. The honourable member for McMillan has paid tribute to the Government for engendering this type of activity. I should like to pay a tribute to the men behind the scheme. I have in mind men like the late Sir Harold Raggatt and the chiefs of the Bureau of Mineral Resources. It was not easy for them to induce the Government to adopt a progressive programme with the object of finding oil in Australia. Some of these men were ridiculed and their critics even said that there was no oil in Australia. I think we should pay a great tribute to the late Sir Harold Raggatt and the officers of the Bureau of Mineral Resources for their tenacity and their success in influencing the Government at least to bring forward a programme that would encourage those engaged in exploring for oil in Australia. To what degree the petroleum search subsidy has assisted in encouraging the search for oil is difficult to define. It is always difficult to put a value on a monetary incentive, but it seems certain that those who do find oil in Australia will get some return on the capital invested, provided, of course, that risk capital has not been invested for too long.
The Government is, rightly, concerned that there may be a reduction in on-shore exploration. I suppose that this is simply a basic principle. If off-shore opportunities are more lucrative, obviously capital and labour will be directed towards those opportunities. If the off-shore geological formations are superior and hold better prospects of finding oil, it is obvious that the companies will direct their activities to those areas. What the Government has done is to attempt to encourage Australian participation and Australian investment particularly in off-shore exploration. However, I am concerned at the way in which this will be done. The relevant provisions are section 7 of the principal Act and clause 5 of the Bill now before us. The provision in the Bill is delightfully vague. Perhaps it is intended to be vague so that the Minister will have more latitude, and this may be good. I have never believed in rigorous or inflexible interpretations, but I can see that problems may arise from this provision. Problems will arise as to the definition of a 51% Australian equity. I see from the amendment that a company will have to include natural persons ordinarily resident in Australia who are beneficially interested directly or indirectly. It is reasonably clear that in the case of a direct beneficial interest the definition can be put to the test. What I am not certain about and what I hope the Minister will explain is the meaning of an indirect beneficial interest, because it seems to me that in this sphere the Minister will have problems and will have to make a judgment. An indirect beneficial interest could result from just a flow-on of people. To what degree are there any safeguards against dummying in this context? I am not particularly happy with the expression indirect beneficial interest’. It is not that I see anything wrong with it but I cannot understand for the moment just what it means. I can imagine plenty of meanings and difficulties associated with it. I should like the Minister to explain just what he has in mind. This position is quite different from that of a shareholder who merely invests in a company.
I also ask the Minister why this provision is confined, if it is confined, to natural persons as distinct from a bona fide subsidiary Australian company consisting of bona fide natural Australian persons. Perhaps this is what is contemplated by an indirect beneficial interest. This is a case not of a natural person being directly concerned with investment in a company but of a natural person indirectly beneficially interested in the company. I can see that the Minister might have a few vacancies in the Department of National Development for company lawyers, because there could be some very interesting cases as to the definition of an indirect beneficial interest. The honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) has dealt with some of the problems in relation to definition. He mentioned the problem of the territorial sea, the 3-mile limit and the continental shelf. This was debated at some length during the consideration of the parent legislation. It is, of course, of great concern to the Opposition that the Government has not taken the initiative in attempting to define more clearly the ownership of the resources that lie beyond the low water mark off the Australian coast. There is utter confusion as to who owns or has control of these waters. It is all right for the Government to have an implicit or explicit understanding with a State. When it comes to a law case the Government could find itself facing some problems as regards ownership, if in fact it can be shown that the whole legislation is unconstitutional with respect to State rights and Commonwealth rights as defined in the parent Act. There can be no question that there is some correlation between what happens in Australia and what happens in a country with legal and parliamentary responsibilities similar to our own. One of the countries most commonly cited is Canada.
On 7th November 1967 this whole question of ownership of the waters and the lands off the coast of Canada was decided by the Supreme Court of Canada. This decision has great reference to Australia. The question concerned the ownership of and jurisdiction over off-shore mineral rights and the following questions were asked and answered in the Supreme Court of Canada. I think that they have great relevance to Australia because if we were to substitute British Columbia for Queensland and Canada for Australia we could not differentiate between the wording. The first matter reads as follows:
In respect of the lands, including the mineral and other natural resources, of the sea bed and subsoil seaward from the ordinary low-water mark on the coast of the mainland and the several islands of British Columbia, outside the harbours, bays, estuaries and other similar inland waters, to the outer limit of the territorial sea of Canada, as defined in the Territorial Sea and Fishing Zones Act, 1964 as between Canada and British Columbia,
The question was:
Are the said lands the property of Canada or British Columbia?
The answer given by the Supreme Court was: ‘Canada.’ In other words, let us suppose that we were to ask: ‘Are the said lands in Queensland, for example off the Great Barrier Reef, or the waters below the low water mark, the property of Queensland or Australia?’ If this is any analogy and for what it is worth the answer would be: ‘Australia’. The next question asked in the Supreme Court of Canada was:
Has Canada or British Columbia the right to explore and exploit the said lands?
The answer was: ‘Canada.’ The next question was:
Has Canada or British Columbia legislative jurisdiction in relation to the said lands?
Again the answer was: ‘Canada’. The next question which is most applicable to Australia was:
In respect to minerals and other natural resources of the sea bed and sub-soil beyond that part of the territorial sea of .Canada referred to in Q.l to a depth of 200 metres or, beyond that limit, to where the depth of the superjacent waters admits of the exploitation of the mineral and other natural resources of the said areas, as between Canada and British Columbia, has Canada or British Columbia the right to explore and exploit the said mineral and other natural resources?
The answer was: ‘Canada’. The final question was:
Has Canada or British Columbia legislative jurisdiction in relation to the said mineral and other natural resources?
Again the answer was: ‘Canada*. This decision applies particularly to Australia and there is no doubt it is one that led Sir Percy Spender to suggest to the Commonwealth that perhaps it should engage in some friendly litigation with the States and with the State of Queensland in this particular case to determine the ownership of the waters of the Great Barrier Reef, including the so-called territorial waters. There is no doubt there is a bit of a hotch-potch at the present time in regard to ownership. As Australia is a relatively young country with more and more activity taking place in its waters, particularly in the territorial waters, perhaps the Government might take some notice of the suggestion of such an eminent lawyer as Sir Percy Spender and of Professor O’Connell, one of the top men in Australia and a world authority on maritime law that some concrete statement should be made as to who does own these waters.
Another point I would like to make is that these Bills with respect to exploration for petroleum and minerals are designed for the specific purpose of developing Australia. They are designed to promote development and contribute to the economic position in regard to Australia’s balance of payments, to either increase our exports or substitute for import saving activities. These are admirable objectives. If we have oil and other natural resources every encouragement and every incentive should be given to develop them, particularly if there is Australian participation in the development. One point that always concerns me with respect to the development of natural resources in Australia, and particularly in relation to minerals, oil and natural gas, is that a higher priority for Commonwealth finance is not given to the areas of Australia where the exploration for and development of resources have been successful.
When a State government is successful in its negotiations with respect to minerals, natural gas or petroleum, it receives royalties and in other ways gains financially, such as from the carriage of freight. In these ways a State government receives a direct cash benefit from the natural resources. But in addition the Federal Government also receives tremendous benefits in export income or in a saving in imports, as well as receiving income directly from income tax and indirect taxation. In many cases, particularly in the case of minerals, the development of natural resources has proceeded without very much expenditure by the Commonwealth.
I am concerned at the rather narrow attitude that the Commonwealth takes with respect to development which is successful. It treats mineral or petroleum finds as something of a giant milking cow. It is able to drain off income - either export income or income the equivalent of export savings - which can be used to finance other imports. In many cases the Commonwealth takes the same attitude to rural industries. I am suggesting that perhaps it should be mandatory that the equivalent of a percentage of the gross value of a successful development of minerals or petroleum should be used for the basic development of the area in which the raw material is being produced. As an example let me refer to areas of Queensland such as Mount Isa, Moura, Blackwater, Weipa and now Goonyella where minerals have been developed. The same principle applies to on-shore drilling for natural gas as at Roma and to mineral developments in Western Australia. The development of these areas will provide tremendous economic benefits to the Federal Government in the future.
Practically all finds of natural resources, particularly minerals, are located in the remoter areas of Australia, but this is not necessarily so with respect to petroleum. To illustrate the principle that I am enunciating I refer to Weipa where we have perhaps the second most important bauxite deposits in the world. Weipa is situated in the shire of Cook, the poorest local authority in the whole of Australia. How does that area benefit from this development? It can be argued that we are Australians and that if a find in Weipa benefits Sydney because exports finance our imports - mainly capital goods coming into the metropolitan areas for further development - this is good enough. But I would prefer to take a parochial attitude to development and decentralisation. If an area has resources of either petroleum or minerals it should have a greater priority for basic development through the provision of, for example, power, water and transport. If you take minerals, natural gas or petroleum out of the earth you deplete those resources. They are wasting assets. In time you leave a hole in the ground and it is useless. Land is a different matter. As long as you maintain its productivity it is not a wasting asset. The point I make is that in the interest of developing those areas of Australia where there are favourable deposits of minerals or petroleum higher priority should be given by the Government to basic development. For example, at Moura the coal is simply being taken out of the ground, trucked to Gladstone and put on a ship bound for Japan. But Moura has some of the best cattle country in Australia. It also has some of the worst roads in Australia. Surely that area is entitled to a greater share of the financial pie in terms of the national product.
Those are the main points I want to make. I should Uke to have a clearer explanation of beneficial interests and indirect beneficial interests. After all, this is the crux of the Bill we are now considering. How does the Minister define a 51% equity in a company? When we talk about indirect beneficial interests we are getting into some very grey zones as regards the identity of the people concerned.
– As I understand it the Bill relates particularly to the subsidy for petroleum search. However, the three honourable members who preceded me in the debate traversed other fields. No doubt with your tolerance, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will have the same opportunity if I need it. The honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor), who led for the Opposition, made some interesting points. I join issue with him in a friendly way in respect of one or two of them. He, like the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan), cannot understand why the Government has said that companies engaged in off-shore drilling must have at least 51% Australian ownership but that companies engaged in on-shore drilling need not comply with this provision. As I understand what the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) said in his second reading speech, it is obvious that the geophysical1 surveys off-shore give a good deal more encouragement for success than those on-shore. In other words, the Government is making certain that people, particularly Australian entrepreneurs, who invest in oil search and oil production will get an advantage because the geophysical surveys show that better and more permanent results can be obtained by drilling off-shore. If overseas operators want to drill holes on-shore the Government will not insist on a 51 % Australian participation in the companies concerned. This is the way I interpret the Minister’s speech and the Bill.
The honourable member for Cunningham spoke of the need for a national fuel and power authority. I wonder how the honourable member would seek to persuade the
Premiers to hand over their electricity commissions or, in the case of Victoria, its Gas and Fuel Corporation. I can imagine how Sir Henry Bolte would react if we as a Federal government decided to have a national fuel and power authority and took over the State electricity commissions and the State gas and fuel production units. The honourable member for Cunningham also referred to gas prices. He said, I think, that the cost of 1,000 cubic feet of gas under the present system is 30c, and that this price, according to his calculations, is about six times too high. I would like him to tell the people of Chelsea in Victoria his views. They are really pleased because their gas bills are now 25% lower than they have ever been before. Last week when gas restrictions were imposed for 36 hours in Victoria the people of Chelsea were able to use their gas at all times. In other words, the production of gas from naptha derivatives, coal and the like is a man made process. Usually when unionists go on strike, for good and proper reasons, the housewives suffer. Once the supply of gas from Bass Strait is turned on, it flows straight to the housewives for their use. (Quorum formed.]
The honourable member for Cunningham said that apparently the Government does not know the oil production costs of EssoBHP and therefore the Taxation Branch of the Treasury would not know the amount of tax to charge those companies. That viewpoint is indicative of a desire for nationalisation to the very limit The Government and departmental officers do not know the production costs of Broken Hill Proprietary Co Ltd, steel manufacturers, for every operation, but over the years the experts of the Taxation Branch have assessed the tax payable by that company. They know whether it has been doing the right thing in the preparation of its taxation returns. I. have no doubt that attempts are made to evade taxation in the oil production field just as they are in other fields of production.
I think one can fairly ask the question: Is it good policy for this Government to subsidise oil search and oil exploration? The results achieved since 1957 illustrate the value of the Government’s policy. There are very good reasons why a government should instil into he minds of the Australian people that it is necessary for them to pay tax to assist even large companies with tremendously high capital structures - some with international affiliations. The first reason, as I see it, why the country needs crude oil is for defence purposes. When one looks at the figures of crude oil held in Australia - and we import this commodity - one finds that we have approximately 9 weeks’ supply at any given time. It is obvious that this reason itself is a good enough one for us to encourage overseas companies and Australian companies to search for oil and, if possible, to find it.
The second point is that it is cheaper for Australia to produce its own crude oil. Such action would limit our expenditure overseas. Many of us know that it costs Australia, in terms of overseas balances, some $340m a year to import our crude oil requirements. Added to this, of course, is another $99m for transport costs. If we can save a small proportion of these very high amounts, which are increasing at the rate of 8% to 9% a year, then the Government is doing a good job for the people of Australia, and its policy is sound.
The third point I make is that the search for oil and gas has turned up many other valuable minerals in Australia. I refer on the one hand to sulphur, phosphates, potash and coal and on the other to water, which was found in drought periods and used by the agricultural interests of Australia. For these three reasons alone it is good policy for the Minister, for the Department and for honourable members on this side of the House to continue to aid those people who are exploring for oil.
Much has been said by the experts - the professors and the like - about this type of policy. But I must get behind the Minister and the Government because of the results that have been achieved since 1957. Much has been said by those who have a pecuniary interest in the finding of oil to the effect that the Government should subsidise them more and more. But I believe that the Department and the Minister have reached a middle course so far as subsidy is concerned, and the best results will be obtained in the years ahead. Very little is said by critics of the Government about the hazards that companies have to face in their search for oil, and about the tremendous capital expenditure that is involved. Very few of the people who criticise the Esso organisation, which was granted the opportunity of raising a $30m capital debenture in Australia, realise that at present this organisation has three rigs in operation and that these rigs cost $20,000 per 24 hours to operate. In other words, Esso is spending $60,000 on three rigs every day on behalf of the welfare of this country. Of course, this expenditure is also for the good of themselves. In all, Esso this year will spend some $22m on oil search, oil production and oil marketing. All of this money is spent in Australia, mainly by Australians, because the work force by and large is Australian.
Prior to 1953 - and this is history - most of the geological experts in Australia felt that there was no oil here. I agree with the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) that Sir Harold Raggatt was one of the first geologists in Australia who probed the need for the Government to do something about oil search in this country. Speeches by members of the Opposition on this and previous occasions would indicate that if their policy were followed it would be better for the oil to be left in the ground, because governments cannot possibly do all the work involved in the search for, and production of, oil. Mention has already been made that the Government has expended some $90m in subsidy to the oil companies. But what has not been mentioned is that in oil search and ancillary operations over the years some $450m has been spent on the search for oil in Australia.
The first find of oil was at Rough Range in 1953. Because, after drilling about thirty holes in that area, West Australian Petroleum Pty Ltd decided to close up operations, many geologists said that it was impossible for Australia to have oil under the surface. But the Government felt that assistance should be given to those who were interested in this type of production. So the Bureau of Mineral Resources was built up to a state in which it could carry out mapping surveys of Australia and give the information to potential searchers for oil. It carried out interpretation of geophysical and geological surveys. That information, too, was given to industry. In the intervening years the Bureau has been built up to such an extent that experts throughout the world recognise the significance of this section of the Department of National Development. I believe that we all should give credit where it is due, and credit certainly is due to the Bureau of Mineral Resources.
As I have said, the stimulus for oil search was raised by the finding of oil at Rough Range; but by 1956 that stimulus had died because of the high costs, the hazards and the fact that overseas companies wanted to see results. So, in 1957 the Government decided to give stimulation through the Bureau of Mineral Resources. It subsidised petroleum exploration to a much greater extent than previously. As I have said, the operations of the Bureau were stepped up. In addition, in 1957 subsidy was introduced for stratigraphic drilling, and when the drilling was subsidised the information was made available to all who were interested.
Many minor changes in the legislation have been made since 1957. But, as a result of that and succeeding legislation we have found oil at the Moonie field in Queensland and at Barrow Island in Western Australia. When I say ‘we’ I mean the people operating in this field in Australia. But those finds were small compared with the more recent finds in Bass Strait in Victoria. That field is of international standard. I asked the question: Was the policy of the Government in 1957 a good one? I think it has been proved that we now have underneath the ground some 70% of Australia’s requirements of oil and these resources will last the country for 15 years. In fact, as a result of oil search and subsidy, today we see pipelines that bring gas from the Roma field in Queensland to Brisbane. There are pipelines bringing gas from the Bass Strait field in Victoria to parts of Melbourne. Ultimately gas will be brought to the whole of Melbourne. Shortly the Gidgealpa field in South Australia will be supplying gas to Adelaide. Of course, we all know that oil will be supplied in large quantities from the Bass Strait fields at least to Victoria. I am not sure whether Mr Askin of New South Wales wants the oil from Victoria. He has said that he is not very interested in the gas from that State.
I have already mentioned that the Esso company has spent $200m in oil search, production and marketing in Australia. By 1962 it had spent only $50m. In other words, in the intervening 7 years the $50m has been increased to S200m. So, the critics of the Esso company need to look at all the facets of its operations rather than at one or two that they seem to take pleasure in raising in this chamber. All of the oil and all of the gas found in Australia since 1957 has come from subsidised holes. In other words, drilling took place before 1957 and some holes have been drilled without subsidy since 1957, but each hole that has produced positive results has been subsidised by this Government. I believe that the Government can take some pleasure in that knowledge.
Mention has been made - not in this debate - of the prices which Australian motorists will pay for petrol. I should like to place this matter on record in the 3 minutes which I have left. The prices I am about to state are in United States cents per United States standard gallon. I should like the people of Australia to realise how much they are paying for petrol in comparison with what people are paying in eleven other countries. The price for a gallon of petrol is 34.2c in Australia, 33.9c in Canada, 72.1c in France, 54.4c in Germany, 66.5c in Italy, 50.5c in Japan, 52c in Holland, 57.7c in Sweden, 56.8c in the United Kingdom and 31.9c in the United States of America. Motorists in all of these eleven countries with the exception of the United States and Canada, are paying more for their petrol than are Australian motorists. So whatever we charge the motorist, whatever subsidy we give for exploration, whatever we charge companies in tax or in customs and excise, it seems that the Australian motorists in this affluent country is doing really well. I cannot help but support the Bill and commend the Minister and his Department for the work which they have already done.
– in reply - As I mentioned when I introduced the Bill, the aim of this legislation is to continue to encourage the search for oil and gas in Australia. The first thing that we have to realise is that we need to continue to encourage the search for oil in Australia. It is true that we have had some very good successes. From the point of view of gas, we have adequate quantities although not always in the areas in which we desire to see it. From the point of view of oil, in certain areas we are very close to the stage at which we will be able to attain self sufficiency in the finer crudes which are used to produce petroleum, not the heavy products. Of course, this will give us self sufficiency only for about 70% of our total oil requirements.
What has been the reason for this quite staggering success in a short time? I think one speaker tonight said that it is very difficult to put a finger on one particular thing and say: That is the reason’. I would say there are many reasons why Australia has attracted interest which has led to the very considerable discoveries of oil and gas. We have had a stable economy, which is one of the great things. People will not come into a country in which there is inflation or in which they feel there is an unstable government. Government organisations have assisted enormously. I was very pleased tonight to hear tributes paid to my colleagues in the Bureau of Mineral Resources, and particularly to the late Sir Harold Raggatt for the work which the Bureau has done, and also to the Division of National Mapping which has undertaken so much work which has assisted in this general search. The Government has provided an oil search subsidy, and I do not doubt that that of itself has made an enormous contribution towards the discoveries of oil and gas. We have had a reputation of having virtually no discrimination. There are people who are saying: ‘You are discriminating in offshore oil’. I want to repeat what I said in my second reading speech. I stated:
Although, as I have just indicated, we intend, in respect of off-shore operations, to extend certain benefits to Australian and not to foreign companies, we do not regard this as a discrimination against the foreign companies. The foreign company will carry on its business and operations on the same footing as any Australian company. What we are doing is to extend to the Australian company some special financial assistance at the expense of the Australian taxpayer. To do this helps the Australian companies but does not hinder any foreign company. Therefore I think it fair to say that our policy remains one of not discriminating against foreign companies engaged in the search of petroleum. In fact we will continue to encourage them both by the on-shore subsidy provisions and by the other features of our petroleum exploration encouragement policy to which I have already referred.
Of course we have provided great tax incentives and tax concessions to encourage companies to come here. The honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor), who is leading for the Opposition in this debate, quoted a figure - I have no means of checking it but it could be true - for the funds required by Esso-BHP to bring fifty or more wells into production. He said that to drill the wells, to operate the off-shore oil rigs and everything else that goes with them, such as the pipelines, could mean writing off an amount of $350m. 1 do not know whether that is true but let us suppose it is. This amount could eat up quite easily H years’ production. Of course during that period there would be expenses that would have to be paid.
The Government has provided these tax incentives and concessions with the knowledge that they would encourage companies to come here and they have led to success. We have provided a guarantee for companies producing oil in Australia that they will have the local market for 10 years. We have a guarantee that the price will be an incentive for the first 5 years of the original programme up to September 1970. There is now a guarantee that there will be import parity set at a certain date for the 5 years after September 1970. The combination of all these things has led to this considerable success in the oil search programme. The best measure of the acceptance of this Bill tonight is that there are some people who want the Government to give more assistance to the off-shore drilling companies and there are some who want to see it give less. You always know that you are not far wrong when you are in this position. As the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn) said, we are steering a middle course.
So much for this legislation. We have had to look al the position and have had to determine how much assistance is warranted and how much we should give, realising that there is this considerable drain on the taxpayers purse in order to provide the subsidy. We would have paid out about $19m next year had we continued at the same rate as in this year. By these alterations we will now pay out only $llm. Therefore we had to make some decision as to what we believed was just and fair. I pointed out that we are in a very much better position now than we were when we introduced the oil search subsidy. When we introduced it there were very few people drilling in Australia. There was no oil and there was no gas. There was the belief that if we did not strike something fairly soon there was a distinct possibility that all the overseas companies would pack their tents and return to their own countries, leaving us with nothing. Today we are in a different position and therefore can afford to make some differentiation.
We have chosen to give assistance to all companies that drill on-shore because there has been a drift into off-shore drilling. We believe that this drift is due to the better prospects off-shore. We believe that whether or not we subsidise the great overseas companies drilling will continue in off-shore areas because they have a smell of oil in a number of places and they will continue until they discover where it is. We know that as well as the Gippsland off-shore area there are two or three others which have very good prospects: This decision may mean that off-shore drilling will proceed at a slightly slower rate but we believe that it will still proceed. On the other hand we want to subsidise on-shore drilling. In particular we want to assist smaller Australian companies and we want them to retain their interest. In fact it is of interest to note that recent returns show an increase in the Australian share of drilling for oil throughout all areas - that is, the combination of onshore and off-shore areas in Australia. This is a good thing.
Let me now refer to some of the remarks made by the honourable member.’ for Cunningham who led for the Opposition. While he got perhaps a little wide of the Bill he made these points and I should like to answer them, although they have been answered by both the honourable member for Balaclava and the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan). The first point that he made - and it is a point that he has made on a number of occasions - is that the Government lacks a fuel and power policy. This statement comes well from the Australian Labor Party! We know that it had 8 years in office, the last 4 of which were during peacetime. What sort of a policy did it have? Australia had petrol rationing. Petrol was not rationed because there was a shortage of it but because the
Socialists thought it good for Australians that they should not get all the petrol they wanted. We were importing coal from South Africa. Australia is a great country with I do not know how man/” tons of high grade coal - say 2,000 million tons - yet under a Socialist organisation which had a so-called fuel policy we were importing coal from South Africa. About the only indigenous fuel we had was firewood. This was the great policy of the Opposition.
Look at what has happened in the last 20 years. Of course the Government has a policy. Our policy is to locate these vast resources. We have enormous coal exports, yet we still have enough to produce very low cost power. We have ample gas supplies in Australia for 20 years although, as I said, these supplies are not always where we would want them, and we would like to find more. Undoubtedly as we find more we will not only supply all the locals but we will have a liquefied natural gas plant which will start to export gas. We are virtually self-sufficient in the higher grades of oil, or we will be when the wells in Gippsland come into full production.
We have in the Atomic Energy Commission a body of trained people who are skilled in the use and operation of atomic energy and as soon as we can see that atomic energy is cheaper in producing power, or more satisfactory in certain areas, we will be in a position to go into that field. Of course, we have the fine hydro developments throughout both the Snowy and the Tasmanian areas.
– You would not have had the Snowy scheme or the Tasmanian hydro-electric scheme if it were not for Labor.
– The Australian Labor Party does not want a policy in which resources are discovered and developed. Its’ so-called policy is one of direction. It believes that a user of fuel should not have the right to select which is the best fuel for him. The Opposition wants to say to him: ‘We are sorry, you cannot use this fuel; you have to use low grade coal because we cannot sell it anywhere else’. As the honourable member for Balaclava pointed out, this is completely against the Constitution. Each State is responsible for the development of the power resources within that State. Each State has its fuel and power policy. The Federal Government has no right to direct that Victoria, for example, should use New South Wales coal instead of using the lower grade brown coal which is produced at Yallourn. Of course we have no power to direct. Our policy is a policy which succeeds. The Opposition never tells us what it would do. It simply says: “The Government wants a fuel and power policy’. One complaint of the Labor Party is that the Government is too generous.
A short time ago the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser) interjected and suggested that the Snowy scheme was started by the Labor Government. We all know what happened under the day labour system. It took the New South Wales Labor Government, which was assisting in the development of this scheme, about 3 years to finish the camp at the Blowering Dam site. It made a late start on the dam after it had wasted so much time and had got so far behind. Thank goodness a Liberal government was in power. It had the Snowy Mountains Authority assume control of the project. It let contracts and exercised close supervision. Now this great Snowy Mountains scheme is going to be completed well ahead of the time that was estimated by the Labor Government and well under the cost estimated by that Government. The same thing will happen with the development of the Gordon River Road.
What do members of the Australian Labor Party really want? What is their complaint about this Bill? Their complaint - this is extraordinary - is that we are being too generous. I could well understand if they said: ‘You are taking this subsidy from the off-shore oil drillers,’ but they do not say that. They say: ‘You are giving too much. You are being too generous.’ First of all, they say that the price that is being paid for the gas from the Gippsland shelf, which is about 3c, is too much. I say about 3c because the price is not 3c definitely. The price depends on the quantity used, and in fact it takes two or three foolscap pages of typing to say what the price is, but it is certainly not higher than 3c and probably is less.
The honourable member for Cunningham said that this is five times what the United States Federal Power Commission would have approved. That staggers me because the information I have is that the United States Federal Power Commission set ceilings for initial field rate prices ranging from 1.15c Australian to 2.44c Australian. This applies to very large markets and to onshore areas where it is very much cheaper to bring wells into production than are off-shore areas. What has happened in the United Kingdom where there is very handy an enormous market of 50 million people or more whereas we would not have 5 million people, or one-tenth the number in the United Kingdom, who could benefit even if the gas from the Gippsland shelf went to Sydney? The United Kingdom contract price between the Minister for Power and the Phillips, Petrofina AGIP group is 3.15c Australian, a much higher price than ours despite the enormous market that is available and the fact that drilling is carried on under very much better conditions in the North Sea area than in the very rough Bass Strait area.
The honourable member for Cunningham complained about royalties. He seems to adopt the incredible attitude that everything we do is greasing the fat pig. I think that was the term he used. He claimed that Australian off-shore oil royalties are too low. Let us look at royalties. It is of interest to note that no government in Australia has royalties as high as the off-shore oil royalties set by the Federal Government. In fact in Western Australia a number of royalties are only 5% whereas in the Commonwealth we have a basic 10% and an override royalty which, if it is taken up - and it usually is - brings it up to 121.% How does that compare with royalties in other countries of the world? In West Germany the royalty is 5%. In Denmark on the continental shelf it is 51% rising to 81% after 5 years. In Norway it is 10% while in the United States of America federal off-shore area it is 121% to 161%. In the United Kingdom, Iraq and Kuwait it is 121%. In the case of France it goes down to 5% for gas and in the Netherlands it is 16%. Basically one can say that Australia certainly is in the higher bracket in relation to royalties.
Then the honourable member said that the price is over-generous. The great problem you meet in relation to prices is that you have to determine a price which will act as an incentive to the discovery of more oil or gas and at the same time will not be too high so that it reacts against industries, the motorists and the people who use it. We selected import parity, that is, the cost at which it could be landed from overseas. If you had no stop against the Middle East, the enormous fields which have been amortised there could always undercut any other country in the world. The fact is that the United States of America has a very much higher price than we have here, as do most other countries. But, of course, the Australian Labor Party does not want any price at all. What it wants is something related to cost. It says that it is all right if a company strikes the jackpot and finds oil, then it will allow it to make 5% or whatever it is over the cost. But what about all the others who put their money in and do not find oil? What about Wapet, who spent $100m after its first Rough Range strike which later proved unsuccessful before it found oil again? What about British Petroleum? I am told it has spent $35m in Australia and has not discovered a commercial field yet. Only recently one well worth $14m was drilled on the Ashmore Reef and it was just plugged and abandoned. We do not hear about this. It is all very well, the moment a company gets one success, to clamp down on it.
The thing that the Labor Party loathes is to see anyone making a profit. It quotes this fellow Lansdowne who said rather joyously: ‘We are going to make a profit on the Gippsland shelf. It feels that this is an absolute sin. The greatest sin that one can commit under the Labor Party is to make good profits. Well, we believe that there should be an opportunity to make profits if somebody is going to take these enormous risks. Then, of course, the Labor Party has said that we have altered our rules on relinquishment. Again, it is of interest to note that a lot of the State governments, and particularly the State governments which were Labor controlled, did not have any relinquishment provision at all. Here in the Federal sphere we have said that after 6 years half of a licensed area must be surrendered, and again after the next 5 years another half must be surrendered, and so it goes on.
The Labor Party has also complained about this legislation because, it says, it wants the subsidy repaid the moment a commercial well is struck. In every case where there is a commercial field in Australia of course the subsidy has been returned. But we have come across cases where it has been a very distinct disadvantage and disincentive to a small company, particularly with small Australian shareholders, to have to refund this money just at a time when it has a great requirement for finance in order to develop a field - to put in pipelines or whatever it is - and to increase drilling and develop the field. We believe that allowing it time, allowing it to wait until it comes into production and is earning income before it has to repay the subsidy, is something well worth while.
I just want to mention a couple of quick points. I do not have time to go into every point that was raised tonight. I noted the point that was made by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) concerning beneficial interest, and I think it would be better if I get him a written reply on this because these are not easy questions which one can answer off the cuff. I will undertake to prepare a letter and answer him more fully on that particular matter. The honourable member for Dawson also said there is utter confusion so far as the offshore oil areas in Australia are concerned. I contest that completely. He said: ‘What would happen if the Commonwealth Act was proved to be unconstitutional?’ Well, of course, we have succeeded in doing something in Australia which no other federation in the world has ever done or looked like doing. That is, we have got joint legislation passed through thirteen houses of parliament under which we have not contested the legal right of cither the Federal or the State governments. We have said that by passing joint legislation no-one would ever be bothered to go to the courts, because if he did and got our legislation thrown out he would have identical State legislation to face, or if he went to the court and the State legislation was thrown out he would be faced with identical Federal legislation under which exactly the same conditions would apply.
It is all very well to cite the case of Canada, where the Province of British Columbia went to the courts to seek a ruling on whether the Federal Government or the Province owned the off-shore areas. It is true that the court ruled in favour of the Federal authority there, but this has not settled the matter by any manner of means, because the eastern Provinces are saying: ‘Well, we have different conditions from those that apply in British Columbia’. In fact, we had the head of Canada’s dept concerned with fuel and natural resources, Mr Isbister, out here last year looking at our legislation. As he left Australia he said that it was a remarkable and very effective piece of legislation. What happened in Canada was that the Federal Government and the Government of British Columbia referred the matter to the Supreme Court for opinion. The opinion given was that jurisdiction over submerged lands from low water mark seawards rested with the Federal Government. The Federal Government offered to the provinces an arrangement under which they could administer within a limited area of less than territorial limits and could retain the revenues from that area. The revenues from the rest of the off-shore area were to be shared with the States on an agreed formula. This, however, is still under study. These matters are not settled by having one court case. This has been found to be so in the United States of America where, according to the last figures I have heard, the sum of $800m is being held in escrow in Louisiana because no one can determine how much is owing to the Federal Government and how much is owing to the State Government. This uncertainty is likely to go on for the whole of our lifetime. It is unlikely that it will ever be settled. In Louisiana the stage has now been reached where the drillers for oil take out one licence with the State authorities and one with the Federal authority in order to be sure that they have the right one.
I end by saying that I have the impression - I do not think I am wrong - that some honourable members who spoke for the Opposition would prefer the importing of oil to seeing Australians make a profit from producing their own oil. This is a tragic state of affairs, because the development of oil in Australia will mean so much for this country. We are just beginning to reap the benefits now. The honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn) has told us that some of his constituents have just been connected to a natural gas supply. We also enjoy the benefits of a reduced price for gas and of royalties paid into the consolidated revenues of the States and the Commonwealth. We enjoy the benefit of employment in the construction of pipelines, in the construction of refineries, in the production of petro-chemicals and from employment in ship building. As a result of the production of oil in this country, we shall be exporting certain products. The first of these will probably be liquefied petroleum gas. Perhaps later we shall be exporting crude oil and liquefied natural gas. All these are tremendous benefits that can accrue from the development of this industry. I repeat that I cannot help feeling that the Opposition would prefer the importing of oil to seeing Australians make a profit from its production here. That would be tragic. I have great pleasure in commending the Bill to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 - by leave - taken together.
– I addressed a number of questions to the Minister and I expect replies to all of them. We are being asked to vote further sums of money without being given adequate information as to the $90m which has already been disbursed. I am not suggesting any malpractice on the part of the Minister or his Department, but certain specific questions were asked and the Opposition is entitled to definite answers.
Our first complaint was that no information is available to the House distinguishing what has been done in connection with drilling operations on-shore and drilling offshore. If there is anything that is relevant to the Bill, this surely is it. We are entitled to know how much money has been spent on subsidies for off-shore drilling and how much has been spent by way of subsidy for on-shore drilling. We are entitled to know. Equally, the Minister has made great play on the hardships that will be imposed on certain companies in repaying the subsidy when they have discovered oil. Granted there may be such cases, and a number of them, but we want to know what repayments have in fact been made. Have there been any? If so, by whom?
– Every producing company.
– Has it been repaid in full?
– I thank the Minister. Next we want to know just what areas are still available for off-shore drilling. The eyes have been picked out of it. The same situation does not prevail in respect of onshore drilling. We are also entitled to know how many of these agreements have had to be cancelled. How many companies have fallen down on the job? What has happened in these cases by way of refund? We are entitled to know these matters. We definitely want to know exactly what the Government has done. It is a matter of sound business practice. This Government parades itself as a businessman’s government, and it is giving absolutely no information to the House on vital matters. A sum of $90m is no bagatelle. How much has in fact been repaid? The Minister should be ready with the sums. Neither he nor his Department has made the information available to me. We do not want to embarrass the Minister, but we are entitled to know.
111.42] - I provide monthly newsletters showing the return of subsidy that is paid by every company. I know that honourable members on this side of the House have acknowledged that they have received these newsletters. In addition maps which are produced are not only made available but are regularly circulated. They are published in the Press. If the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) has not bothered to get hold of this information it is his fault and not mine. We have made all this Information available. Of course, I do not have in the top of my head particular figures. So far as areas available for drilling are concerned, again this is a matter of asking me for a map. The honourable member can put a question on the notice paper. Anyone can receive these maps, and I regularly put out statements saying that they are available. They change from day to day.
But the point I made is that there will be after 6 years large areas available in the off-shore areas of Australia because of relinquishments. There will also be areas available on-shore. But it is because of the fact that drilling on-shore has run down - of about 29 rigs fewer than 10 are active on-shore - we are determined to pay the subsidy to the on-shore drillers in full but in off-shore operations only to the Australian equity. I cannot immediately give the figures that the honourable member has asked for. He has information that has been given out. I introduced the Bill some time ago. I have constantly made Press statements, and he should be able to get the figures if he wants them.
– Clause 4 of the Bill proposes to omit the definition of stratigraphic drilling and insert the following definition: submarine area’ means a submarine area in the vicinity of Australia and beyond the mean low water mark (other than a submarine area beneath internal waters of Australia), and includes the waters and air space above such an area;
The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) has been particularly evasive on this matter, and he sets himself up as an authority against no less a personage than the former President of the International Court of Justice. If anything was said by an authority to rebut the whole of the assumptions on which this Government has reacted, it was said by Sir Percy Spender. It was said in the presence of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia; it was said in the presence of the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen), and it was said in the presence of four members of Cabinet. Now the Minister wants to tell us they could not possibly take the risk. The institution of a friendly suit was suggested because the alternative was this: Everything relating to an exploration or a production permit under the terms of the off-shore legislation can be subject to challenge the minute a fisherman is prosecuted for catching undersized fish in territorial waters.
What is the Government up to? There are limits to bluff and to what the Government can get away with. The Government was warned in the greatest possible detail. The Government cannot bluff its way through this one. It has to face up to facts. Let it puts its house in order. It was said very positively that the concept of territorial waters no longer operated and never did operate; that the various sovereign Australian States at the time of Federation had no rights whatever in respect of the long prevalent theory of territorial seas. The Government deliberately chose to validate, when it put that legislation through, agreements that were not worth the paper on which they were written. By weight of numbers and by sheer bluff the Government thought it could convince the people of Australia that it had a legal right to do certain things and that in other respects rights were vested in the States. It had no such right.
Even members of the Minister’s own party criticised the move. They knew what was right and what was wrong. But this Government believes it can get away with anything. It is in a most dangerous situation. No asset in Australia is worth more than the subterranean resources of crude oil yet the Government thinks it can bluff, it thinks it can bluster, it thinks it can push its way and it thinks it can browbeat the courts of the land. It is not above the Constitution. Sir Percy Spender made it as crystal clear as any jurist could ever make it; it could not have been made more specific. Worse still, Professor O’Connell from the Adelaide University said that the legislation was nothing but a smother up. It was nothing but a smother up; it still is nothing but a smother up. Neither the Minister nor the Government can smother up this matter indefinitely. There was back door manoeuvring. I regret that I have to say this, but in the first place this was done by the late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, and the Premier of Victoria. It has been done again damnably by the present Prime Minister and the Esso-BHP group. Shandy gaff arrangements, loose and slovenly, based on nothing else but personal arrangements amongst cronies are not good enough.
Clauses agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 - by leave - taken together.
– I seek leave to move two amendments together.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Clause 5 reads in part:
Section 7 of the Principal Act is amended - (a)……
by inserting after sub-section (4.) the following sub-section - (4a.) A proposed operation that is to be carried out in connexion with the search (or petroleum in a submarine area is not eligible for approval under the last preceding sub-section unless the Minister is satisfied that natural persons ordinarily resident in Australia -
are to pay, in whole or in part, the costs incurred in or in connexion with the operation; or
are beneficially interested, directly or indirectly, in the capital of a corporation that is to pay, in whole or in part, those costs.’.
Clause 6 reads in part:
Section 9 of the Principal Act is amended - (a) by inserting after sub-section (1.) the following sub-section - “(1a.) An agreement in respect of an approved operation that is to be carried out in connexion with the search for petroleum in a submarine area may provide that the subsidy shall be an amount equal to such specified part (not exceeding the part that would, but for this subjection, be applicable) of the costs referred to in the last preceding sub-section as the Minister thinks fit having regard to -
if natural persons not ordinarily resident in Australia arcto pay those costs in whole or in part - the extent to which it appears to the Minister that such persons arc to pay those costs; and
if natural persons not ordinarily resident in Australia are beneficially interested, directly or indirectly, in the capital of a corporation that is to pay those costs in whole or in part - the extent to which it appears to the Minister that such persons are or may be so interested, and the extent to which the corporation is to pay those costs.’; and
The purpose of these amendments is quite simple and quite clear. The Opposition wishes to establish one paramount principle in relation to Australia’s national assets - the birthright of Australians - and it is that if there is to be further exploitation it shall be done by partnerships or companies in which there will be at least a clear 51% shareholding in the names of genuine Australian shareholders. Today no comparable country in the Western world has an open door such as we have. Even India, which is desperately in need of overseas capital, insists on a 5 1 % internal shareholding. This Government is quite prepared to continue with the present arrangements. Even Esso, the biggest petrol company in the world, if it wants to come into an on-shore oil search, can wheel in its barrow and claim its subsidy. I have no doubt that the Government would be prepared to pay it. As far as we are concerned, in terms of off-shore subsidy there is very little left and the principle does not matter a great deal. But in terms of on-shore subsidy we believe that Australia should have a definite interest in any on-shore exploration. I know that the Minister will suggest that on-shore oil exploration has been lagging. It will still go on. Oil is where you find it. If any of the larger companies know where it is, they will be after it. They are quite capable of financing their own drilling operations without depending further on the misplaced generosity of this Government.
– For the reasons that I have advanced during my speech in reply to the second reading of this Bill the Government is not prepared to accept these amendments.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Connor’s amendments) stand part of the clauses.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. E. N. Drury)
Majority . . ..31
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Fairbairn) - by leave - read a third time.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Income Tax Assessment Bill 1969.
Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill 1969.
Audit Bill 1969.
House adjourned at 11.58 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Presentations to guests of the Government visiting Australia from overseas, and to governments and their representatives and distinguished persons of other countries to mark occasions of special significance .. .. $51,759
Entertainment such as luncheons, dinners and receptions provided for guests including delegations to international conferences . . $86,738
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– I have been advised by the. Treasurer as follows: 1 and 2. Following consideration of an earlier report by Sir Leslie Melville in which he outlined some possible ways of facilitating the transfer of superannuation benefits in the event of transfer of employees between various superannuation schemes in the public sector, the Treasurer announced on 8 January 1967 that Sir Leslie, with the assistance of officers of the Treasury, would discuss with those responsible for the administration of the various schemes the involved technical problems which arise in attempting to achieve a greater degree of transferability with the view of finding a formula acceptable to all.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The answers given refer to the position as at 1st April 1969. The answers to (3) and (4) include all civilian employees of the Department of Air located both on R.A.A.F. bases and in Departmental offices.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Navy - 6 Aboriginals employed as Gardeners Labourer/Labourer at rate of pay $43.00 per week.
Air - 23 Aboriginals employed in following categories at weekly rates of pay shown: 2 Gangers- $44.65 2 Labourers (Garbage)- $41.30 2 Labourers (Grass Cutters)- $40.00 2 Labourers (Hygiene)- $39.35 5 Labourers (General)- $39.35 6 Junior Labourers (General) at various rates of pay 3 Tradesmen’s Assistants- $39.30 1 Junior Tradesman’s Assistant - $37.75
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Offsets should be allowed against the age pension costs in respect of people of pensionable age who are already in receipt of service pensions from the Repatriation Department, widows’ pensions from the Department of Social Services or who are mental hospital patients. The total amount of the offsets would probably be in the vicinity of $25 million.
No information is available concerning the number of invalids in the community not currently in receipt of an invalid pension. It is not possible, therefore, to estimate the cost of abolishing the means test on this pension. For existing invalid pensioners the cost would be less than $100,000 per annum.
Armed Services: Deserters (Question No. 1320)
asked the Minister for
Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The figure of 53,357 is the total of US Service personnel classified as deserters in all theatres, including continental USA, where US forces are deployed. No break-up for individual theatres, such as Vietnam, is available.
The total represents an average over the 1967-68 year of more than 1,000 per week out of the total US forces of approximately 3,450,000.
No information is available as to those convicted of desertion.
Two thousand two hundred and fifty-seven Australian servicemen have been absent without authority since 1965, the year the first battalion was committed for service in Vietnam. None has been charged with desertion in relation to service in Vietnam or whilst under orders to move to Vietnam.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
On what dates and with what results have Commonwealth and Queensland officers held discussions with a view to developing a uniform policy on fisheries in the Gulf of Carpentaria since his answer to me on 20th November 1968?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There has been general agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland on the policy to be adopted in respect of the fisheries in the
Gulf of Carpentaria. However, the implementation of that policy posed a number of legal problems in the field of both constitutional and international law. At a meeting of Commonwealth and Queensland officers held in Brisbane on 15th May last proposals for resolving these problems were worked out. These proposals are now being examined by the respective State and Commonwealth Ministers concerned.
Casualties in Vietnam (Question No. 1376)
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The available information in answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Immi gration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In addition, 1,077 Asians who were British subjects have acquired Australian citizenship by registration since 1st July 1964. Earlier statisticsin this regard were not kept nor is there any breakdown of the total of 1,077 by citizenship.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Act for the income years 1965-66, 1966-67 and 1967-68 was as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
How many pensioners are in receipt of (a) age, (b) invalid and (c) widow pensions, and how many in each category have no other income except their pensions?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The approximate number of pensions current as at the end of March 1969 was:
Not all income is taken into account or required to be disclosed for purposes of the means test on pensions. For example, income from property, allowances from a child, brother, sister or parent, payments other than annuities from a Friendly Society, etc., are exempt.
The estimated number of pensioners with means as assessed of less than $26 a year in March 1969 was:
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
What is the estimated cost for the fiscal year 1969-70 to (a) abolish the means test and (b) increase age, invalid and widow pensions by $2 a week?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:,
No information is available concerning im number of invalids in the community not currently in receipt of an invalid pension. Similarly, it is not possible to estimate the number of widows (within the meaning of the Social Services Act) who would become eligible for a pension if the means test were abolished. No estimates of the cost of abolishing the means test on these pensions is, therefore, possible. However, for existing invalid pensioners, the estimated cost would approximate $1.6 million a year; for existing widow pensioners it would be about $2 million a year.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
What would be the cost in each case of abolishing the means test from pensioners in receipt of part or full (a) age, (b) invalid and (c) widows’ pensions in the age groups of (i) 60-65, (ii) 65-70 and (iii) over 70?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
To abolish the means test on pensions would benefit existing pensioners in receipt of a pension at less than the maximum rate and, in addition, all other persons qualified by age and residence but currently ineligible because of means. Persons currently in receipt of a maximum rate pension would not receive an increase in pension.
The age groupings shown below have been adjusted slightly from those in the question to avoid overlapping years. It is assumed that group (0 in the question, those 60-64 years, refers only to females.
For existing reduced rate agc pensioners, as well as new pensioners, the estimated cost of abolishing the means test is as follows:
Offsets should be allowed against the agc pension costs in respect of people of pensionable age who are already in receipt of service pensions from the Repatriation Department, widows’ pensions from the Department of Social Services or who are mental hospital patients. The total amount of the offsets would probably be in the vicinity of $30m.
An invalid pension is payable to permanently incapacitated males 65 years and over and females 60 years and over only where they are not qualified to receive an age pension (e.g. because of an insufficient period of residence). There are currently some 6,500 such pensioners. A small proportion of these may be reduced rate pensioners who would benefit if the means test were abolished and it is possible that a few additional persons would become eligible. However, the overall cost is likely to be less than $100,000 a year if such a measure were to be introduced simultaneously with the abolition of the means test for age pension.
There arc currently some 9,000 widows 60 years and over in receipt of widows’ pension primarily because they have not resided in Australia long enough to qualify for an age pension. A small proportion of these widows would receive pension al a reduced rate and would benefit if the means test were abolished and it is possible that a few additional persons would become eligible. Hie cost is likely to approximate $250,000 a year if such a measure were to be introduced simultaneously with the abolition of the means test for age pension.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
How many applications for telephones were outstanding in the New South Wales areas of 82. 56 and 68 al 30th April, in each of the years 1967, 1968 and 1969?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It has been assumed that by outstanding applications for telephones the honourable member is referring to deferred applications, that is, those on which service cannot be offered pending major extensions of plant. Deferred applications on. the exchanges concerned at the end of April in each of the years 1967, 1968 and 1969 are as follow:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Repatriation has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 May 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1969/19690527_reps_26_hor63/>.