26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr CLYDE CAMERON presented a petition from certain electors of the State of South Australia showing that John Zarb a 20-year-old Melbourne postman, is imprisoned in Pentridge Gaol for failure to comply with the National Service Act, an Act which offends the conscience of many electors who are not directly touched by its provisions; that his failure to comply with the Act was done as a matter of conscience, and that his imprisonment must therefore cause concern to all electors who oppose the National Service Act, and the decision to send conscripted troops to Vietnam.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives will repeal the National Service Act, and cause John Zarb. and all others imprisoned under it, to be released.
Petition received and read.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Is it a fact, as reliably reported, that the Budget incorporates proposals directly opposed to his own and Treasury advice? If so, is it a -fact that sound economics have been sacrificed because of the Prime Minister’s state of fright and panic on the eve of the Federal election? Is it not a fact that the Government plans, following this blatant auction for votes in the cause of political survival, provide for the introduction of another horror Budget at a later date? Furthermore, would it be correct to gay that the presentation of the Budget could be described in the following words . . .
– Order! The last part of the question is out of order.
– The Budget was very effectively described by myself as a combination of humanitarian principles and sound budgetary policies. If the honourable gentleman cared to read it, I think he would come to an exactly similar conclusion to the one I have come to.
– Tell us what Bob Askin said.
– I said before that it is up to you to read what Bob Askin said. May I draw attention to two other matters. Already the honourable member for Grayndler has introduced a political note. When I was introducing that part of the Budget relating to the tapering of the means test I said that this would ruin any prospect that the Leader of the Opposition had of now putting forward proposals relating to either a superannuation scheme or the abolition of the means test. He will be in enormous difficulties when he is presenting his proposals tonight to take an attitude contrary to that taken by the Government.
The second point I would like the honourable gentleman to try to explain to the House is this: Of the humanitarian measures introduced by the Government, which one would he in fact recommend that we delete? If he can then give us some guidance as to where he feels we are lacking in a high sense of responsibility and decency, perhaps a great deal more notice will be taken of what he has to say. When I went on to the other parts of the Budget, particularly that relating to independent schools and the general assistance which has been given to the schools as a whole, not only in the Budget but at Loan Council discussions, I also interposed to say that I believed this would ruin whatever sensible prospects the Labor Party had of satisfactorily conducting an election programme. Again, I would like the honourable member for Grayndler, who asked this question in his usual pleasant and garrulous way, if he can, to tell me whether he believes that this provision or any other provisions should in fact be taken out of the Budget.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Social Services. When should people who will become eligible for a pension under the tapered means test provisions announced in the Budget make application? When will these new provisions come into operation? Will they apply to war disability pensions, and if so, how much additional pension will a single and married totally and permanently incapacitated war pensioner receive if he has no other means? Further, how much would an aged war widow receive if she had no other means?
– I hope the House will forgive me for not being in good voice today.
– The best news this year.
– Thank you; a nice testimonial. In answer to the two questions asked by the honourable member, can I say firstly that the pensions at the new rates, including those made possible by the taper, will become payable as from the first pay day after the Bill is passed by this Parliament. At present my Department is working hard reassessing all existing pensions. We believe that it will be possible to pay all pensioners in cash immediately the Parliament passes the necessary enabling Act. There will, however, be some pensioners who will come in for the first time by reason of the taper. It will not be possible to pay all these in cash immediately because of the working assessment involved. However, their payments will be assessed as soon as possible. The payments will be dated back to the same day so that the people concerned will lose nothing.
Can I say also that we are extending up to 31st December the date at which we will receive applications from new pensioners coming in for the first time by reason of the taper and still leave them eligible for backdating to the day when the Bill becomes operative.
I hope the House is clear about this. Firstly, we will pay cash as soon as possible to everyone; I hope payment will be quite prompt for existing pensioners. Secondly, for those to whom payment is not prompt, we will allow their rights to be backdated to the same base date - the first pay day after the House passes the Bill. Thirdly, we are making special arrangements to date eligibility in these circumstances not from the date of application but from the date, up to 31st December, when they lodge their applications.
The second part of the question related to war pensions. I think that the House may not yet have sufficiently realised the impact that this tapered proposal will have upon war pensions. On looking through the statistics available to my Department we found that a lot of people, both recipients of war pensions and war widows, were made ineligible for social service benefits by a very small margin because of the war pen sions they received. Many of these will now receive substantial additions to their pensions because of the tapered means test. It will, of course, not apply uniformly to the whole range because those who have the greatest entitlement in terms of means will get most in consequence of the taper. But honourable members will see that this represents not so much a new inequity as rather a compensation for a past inequity. For that reason T think the House will welcome this new change.
May 1 say, by way of illustration, that in the case of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners who have no other income or means, a single pensioner will receive, as a result of this Budget and the taper combined, $4.50 extra a week and a married pensioner couple will each receive $6.27 a week. In the case of a war widow, again without means, the total increase by reason of this Budget will be no less than $7.25 a week. These increases are selectively directed towards those in most need, and I think that the Returned Services League and the returned men who have naturally a tradition of looking after their comrades most in need will welcome them on these grounds.
– Does the Minister for National Development agree with the view expressed by Mr Gourlay, an officer of his Department, in the journal ‘Australian Mineral Industry’ issued under the authority of the Minister, in these words:
On purely economic grounds nuclear installations cannot however be justified at present in Australia. The major New South Wales and Victorian systems could-
-Order! The honourable gentleman may not quote directly from any publication or document. He may paraphrase it or quote sufficient of it to make it intelligible, but he may not quote the whole of it.
– I thank you, Mr Speaker. I ask the Minister whether bis attention has been drawn to an article by Mr Gourlay, an officer of his Department, in the journal ‘Australian Mineral Industry’, which the Minister himself authorises to be issued, to the effect that on economic grounds nuclear installations cannot be justified at present in Australia and that while 500 megawatt stations could be absorbed technically in New South Wales and Victoria those States have much cheaper fuel sources available to them. Does the Minister agree with the opinion expressed by his officer in his Department’s journal? If not, on what grounds does he disagree with it?
– Naturally, since I issued the journal, I have read the article that the Leader of the Opposition refers to - not that I read everything that is issued by me in respect of some of these technical matters. On a question which is highly technical, such as this, one naturally gets some slight disagreement. It is not easy to determine these matters. In comparing coal power plants with nuclear power plants, we compare two completely different types. With the coal power plant there is a low initial capital cost and high fuel costs; with the atomic energy nuclear power station there is a high initial capital cost and a very low fuel cost. It depends, therefore, on a number of matters - how much one allows for interest on the capital; how the station is used; and, since the stations produce plutonium which can be stored and used later in fast breeder reactors, the value placed on the cost of plutonium. The answer to the question of which is the cheaper source of power is not as clear as black and white because so many things must be taken into account. As the honourable gentleman knows, we are at present undertaking a feasibility study and some of the answers to his question will come out of that study.
– The Minister for the
Army will recall that during the last session I asked whether consideration could be given to the issue of some emblem or medal to servicemen in recognition of their combat service. My service friends at Lavarack Barracks are most interested in this matter. Has the Minister considered it? If so, what has been decided?
– I recall the honourable gentleman’s interest in this matter, as expressed in a question asked during the last session of Parliament. I can tell the honourable gentleman that the Military Board has agreed in principle that it is desirable that there should be some form of recognition of combat service by means of a badge or emblem to identify those members of the Royal Australian Infantry Corps who have served against enemy units. Consideration is being given to matters of eligibility, design and designation. When I am in a position to advise the honourable gentleman further I will be more than happy to do so.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport elaborate on his statement that the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission is likely to increase freight charges? What is the reason for the suggested increases? When will they be made known? Is there any justification for the special reference to the need to increase freight rates for ships of the Australian National Line trading between Tasmania and the mainland?
– The honourable member for Denison has already raised this matter with me. Like all those who have anything to do with Tasmania, he is concerned with the level of freight rates.
– I am not concerned with the honourable member for Denison: I am asking you a question.
– Does the honourable member want a reply?
– I want you to answer the question.
– The level of freight rates between Tasmania and the mainland is of as much concern to us all as the level of freight rates between other ports around the Australian coast. At the weekend I pointed to some of the difficulties under which coastal shipping operates at present. As far as the Australian National Line is concerned, a series of industrial disturbances has caused substantial delays in the sailings of the ‘Empress of Australia’ and the ‘Australian Trader’. The ‘Empress of Australia’ has been in operation for some considerable time but the ‘Australian Trader’ has been only recently introduced to the service. To the extent to which Australian National Line ships have been able to minimise labour costs it has been possible to provide some stability in freight rates since 1964. In addition to the delays caused by the industrial disturbances to which I have referred there have been delays in rebuilding and some considerable delay in introducing a sufficient tonnage of new vessels to permit the withdrawal from service of conventional ships which presently ply across Bass Strait and in some of the other trades around the Australian coast.
The profitability of the Australian National Line is seriously affected by the extent to which conventional vessels remain in operation. These vessels are still in service not only in other parts of Australia but also across Bass Strait. My remarks were intended to highlight the difficulties which the Australian National Line is now facing. With its declining profitability and the delay experienced in introducing new ships, the only way to return to full commercial operation may well be to increase freight rates. At the same time I can assure honourable members that this Government believes very strongly that freight rates are one of those components of costs which necessarily affect the whole viability of operations in the producing section of the community. Accordingly I and my colleagues are anxious to ensure that there should be no greater burden of freight rates than is necessary and this, of course, applies equally to the Australian National Line as it does in any other transport medium.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Can the Minister provide an indication of the likely impact of the recent devaluation of the French franc on Australian wool prices?
– The recent devaluation of the French franc has been expressed sometimes as 121% and sometimes as 11.11%. I think the percentage varies according to whether one calculates downwards from the original value or upwards from the new value. If one calculates upwards from the new value the devaluation is I2i%. It is my view and the view of those with whom I discussed the matter that the devaluation of the franc is unlikely to have important repercussions on the value of Australian wool. France is a significant but not a dominant buyer of Australian wool at auction. Last year I think she bought S58m worth of wool which represented 8% of the total Australian greasy wool export sales. The bidder who is inhibited by some devaluation of his currency but is buying only 8% of the wool is, in my view, unlikely to have any significant effect upon the value of wool at auction.
But the position in respect of sheep and lamb skins is not similar. In this case France is the dominant buyer, about 25% of the purchases being at auction, I am advised, and the balance by private negotiation. I think last year France bought sheep skins of the value of $34m representing 60% at our total externa] sales. It is quite clear that if France seeks to continue to buy sheep skins at the same price expressed in French francs the resultant value in Australian currency will be lower and it remains to be seen whether the strength of the sellers or the competition of other buyers makes France unable to buy at the same price. So I would say that while one cannot make a precise calculation there is a reasonable commercial assumption that the devaluation of the French franc, in the light of France buying 60% of our offerings for export, will result in some lower price for sheep skins.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Can the right honourable gentleman inform the House as to the latest developments in respect of the controversial Fill aircraft? To what extent is the Budget cut of S60m in the defence estimate in expectation of the cancellation of this order? Finally, will the Government’s intention to purchase or not to purchase this aircraft be announced before the forthcoming Federal elections?
– I am a little surprised that the question should be asked by the honourable member since I notice from the notice paper that it is to be the subject for discussion in a short time. However, since the question has been asked I can inform the honourable member to this extent, that there have been examinations of technical and other matters connected with this aircraft and the Minister for Defence has been and is in close touch with those who carried out these examinations and that it would be my hope, as was previously expressed, that a decision on this matter could be made and announced before it is necessary to have the Commonwealth elections. This has already been stated previously. If the honourable member wishes me to merely restate it then I have done that and that is the answer to his question.
– I address my question to the Attorney-General. In the light of the views expressed in the case of Bonser v. La Macchia by two of the judges of the High Court on the question of jurisdiction over Australia’s off-shore areas, will the Attorney-General inform this House whether the Government will either introduce legislation covering all matters pertaining to these areas or seek the agreement of the States for the introduction of uniform Commonwealth and State legislation so that uncertainties as to the effectiveness of existing laws are removed?
– In the case of Bonser v. La Macchia, a fisherman who was operating 6i miles off the. New South Wales coast was convicted of using a mesh which was too large in breach of the Commonwealth Fisheries Act, which applies in what is called Australian waters. A constitutional point was raised and it went to the High Court. All justices held that he was rightly convicted and that the Act was valid. But it is true that two justices - the Chief Justice and Mr Justice Windeyer - expressed the view that the Territory of New South Wales ceased at low water mark. The other justices did not find it necessary tq decide that particular point. Therefore, at the moment one could say that there is no binding decision of the High Court on the point.
As to State and Commonwealth legislation, this operates mainly in the fisheries and mining areas. So far as fisheries are concerned, the existing position is that the State fisheries legislation operates out to 3 miles, and the Commonwealth Fisheries Act operates beyond that point. If one accepts the judgments of the two justices, the State would have power to enact its fisheries legislation as extra-territorial legislation. But the consequence would follow that if the Commonwealth chose to legislate over fisheries within the 3-mile limit, its legislation would become paramount and would operate so as to set aside the State legislation. The present system which has been operating for very many years has been working satisfactorily.
So far as mining of off-shore oil is concerned, there already is joint legislation in similar terms passed by the Commonwealth and the States, which honourable members are aware was negotiated. The Commonwealth negotiators were aware of the possibility of asserting a claim to territory certainly outside of the 3-mile limit and possibly within the 3-mile limit below low water mark. On the other hand, there was State awareness of the possibility of disrupting such claims and, in any event, this State power to legislate extra-territorially, and the possibility also of the State threatening to deny ports or land mass in the State to anyone operating under a Commonwealth lease, if the Commonwealth went it alone. The course which was taken was to resolve the difficulties and doubts and to give security to people who were taking leases by co-operation and combination between the Commonwealth and the States. That was done in the off-shore legislation. There are other minerals to be dealt with, and it will be a question of deciding how this should be done, bearing in mind what has been said by the judges. This matter is currently under discussion.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. Has any estimate been made of the number of letters and telegrams received by him and the Minister for External Affairs congratulating them on the changed policy of the Government towards Russia, as expressed by the Minister for External Affairs in his notable speech in this House last week? Did the Minister for Social Services threaten to resign because of the belief which he and a number of Government supporters still hold that the Government should not follow a policy of peaceful co-existence with Russia in place of the hawkish policies to which the Government previously gave so much support? Will the shocked surprise and indignation of the Democratic Labor Party cause the Prime Minister to weaken in his Government’s new and welcome decision to promote the cause of world peace and not world war?
- Mr Speaker, I think that, in some respects perhaps, the right honourable member for Melbourne is suffering under misapprehensions which have led him to frame his question in the particular way that he did. However, I will endeavour to answer it in the way he put it. Firstly, I have not had brought to my attention any count of the number of telegrams or letters that may have been received in my Department, nor have I questioned the Minister for External Affairs, and I suggest that if the right honourable member wishes to know how many telegrams the Minister for External Affairs received he might ask him outside the House after question time because I cannot answer for him.
Secondly, I believe that the right honourable member has greatly extended in his mind the remarks made by the Minister for External Affairs in this House. I do not myself see the great change in policy which the right honourable member purports to see. I would like to remind the House that all those who read the speech made by the Minister for Externa] Affairs, as distinct from reading some commentaries upon it, will note that he points out the fact that we must in these matters be sure that we are not gullible, that we must bear in our minds - and I am sure that the right honourable member would agree with me as would alp other members on that side of the House agree with me - the fact that there was an invasion of Czechoslovakia a short time ago and the crushing of liberal thought in that country by the USSR. The Minister for External Affairs not only pointed that out but also pointed out that there was a pernicious doctrine of limited sovereignty - a colonial approach - applied by the Government of the USSR to other Communist states surrounding it.
However, having said all that, the Minister - 1 think quite properly and surely as a matter of common sense - indicated that we ourselves m our national interests had requirements that we would like to see fulfilled in the area to our north. We would like to see the peaceful development of those countries. We would like to see them able to retain their independence. We would like to see them able to be given economic assistance. We would like to see the avenues of trade opened more freely to them. This has long been our policy. This was referred to by the Minister in his speech.
What he then said was this: There had been proposals by Mr Brezhnev of the USSR which had not been spelt out in any detail but that if they were to be spelt out in detail and if they were to be found to coincide with those objectives of our foreign policy which had been previously announced then we should not reject them merely because they emanated from the USSR. This appears to me to be a commonsense approach and not to be transformed into some great change of policy as the right honourable member sought to do.
Mi KEVIN CAIRNS- I address to the Minister for Defence a question supplementary to the question asked by the right honourable member for Melbourne. 1 refer to the increased interest of the Russian Government in maritime activities in the Indian Ocean and to the increased concern by that Government in the security arrangements involving South East Asia. Could the Minister indicate which regions or nations that have come under substantial Russian domination or influence have been able to throw off the yoke of that influence or domination without violence since 1917?
– I am not quite sure what the honourable gentleman has in mind in coupling these two obvious questions together in this way. Readily, I cannot recall any nation which has fallen under the domination of the Soviet Union ever completely extricating itself from a considerable measure of continued Russian influence.
As far as activities in the Indian Ocean are concerned, the honourable gentleman has heard the Prime Minister’s comments and no doubt the speech given to the House last week by my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs. It would be odd not to have noticed of course the tremendous increase in Russian naval and diplomatic initiatives in the Indian Ocean and in the countries bordering the Indian Ocean in the last year or two. But, as the Minister for External Affairs pointed out, the mere fact that the Russians are operative in the Indian Ocean and South East Asia is not a matter which immediately concerns Australia because we see no security consideration of ours threatened at this time. I am sure that the honourable member will be reassured in the knowledge that the Australian Government will keep a very close watch on the development of future activities on the part of the Soviet Union.
– Does the Minister for External Territories recall the speech by the honourable member for Evans during the Bougainville debate last week? Is it true that the honourable member-
-: - Order! The honourable member may not refer at question time to a previous debate, nor may he canvass decisions of the Chair. The honourable member should rephrase his question.
- Mr Speaker, I am not canvassing decisions of the Chair.
-Order! The honourable member is referring to a debate held in this House during this session. That is distinctly out of order. .
– I ask: Is it true that the honourable member for Evans accused the Four Corners’ team of the Australian Broadcasting Commission of highlighting divisions and differences between races, of deliberate and calculated distortion and the suppression of facts supplied by news sources of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea? Can the Minister say whether any film of the incidents on Bougainville Island was taken by the Australian News and Information Bureau, the Administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea or representatives of Bougainville Copper Pty Ltd? If so, will he arrange to release the films to the mass media throughout Australia so that an impartial judgment of the ‘Four Corners’ programme may be made by the Australian public? Will the Minister inform the House whether any requests have already been made for the release of any such film and of any decision taken by him or his Department on such application?
– I am not aware of any films taken on Bougainville other than those taken on the three occasions when the Four Corners’ team featured the Bougainville operation.
– >I refer the Minister for Education and Science to a statement which he made in Darwin during the winter season regarding the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s research programme into the life, location and habits of the prawn. Will the Minister inform the House what progress has been made in this matter, which is of great importance to the people in the north?
– This is a significantly new research programme which the CSIRO wishes to undertake and which the Government wishes to support because of its significance not only to the Northern Territory but also to the industries based in the northern waters of Queensland and the fishing grounds of Western Australia. As I said in my statement at the time, the programme will involve the spending of about $100,000 on a laboratory at Darwin with recurrent costs amounting to about $300,000 a year. There will be a new laboratory facility at Cronulla where the main laboratory of the Division of Fisheries and Oceanography of the CSIRO is established. The programme will require the recruitment of an additional staff of about 17, 11 of whom will be scientists. These arrangements were made to work in with scientists previously stationed in the Sydney and Cronulla areas so as to get the best use of existing resources, in particular scientific manpower, and to make the quickest impact by research on the prawning industry.
As the honourable member will know, this industry fluctuates very greatly. The promise that this industry showed last year has not been fulfilled this year and research is needed so that this resource can be preserved on a long term basis. Unfortunately a major part of the whole research programme has been thrown in jeopardy by the issue of a notice to quit the central laboratory of the CSIRO at Cronulla. It was intended to build the additional laboratory for prawn research next door to the Cronulla laboratory. The existing facilities would have been used and the existing scientific personnel in that area would have been involved in the research. Capital facilities at Cronulla are worth about $2m. There are 113 CSIRO personnel employed and 37 of them would be scientists. Some have been stationed in the Sydney area for a very long time.
The Minister for Lands has said that in 3 years he wants the area back for residential and for recreation purposes. I could have understood his suggestion that the land be handed back - it is not a suggestion; it is a demand - more clearly if the land was to be made available for open park land. But if it is to be built over and further areas of possible park’ land that could be available to the general community are to be alienated, I find it more difficult to understand. I know that CSIRO would want ‘ to co-operate very much with the local community in making available for park land as much of the area now held as possible, so long as the laboratory facilities and the necessary work of the Organisation could be preserved and continued. But because of these events and the decision that has been announced by correspondence by the Minister for Lands in New South Wales, the work that CSIRO would wish to undertake will clearly be delayed. In fact the whole work of the Division may well be disrupted. My colleague, the Minister for the Interior, is at the moment negotiating with New South Wales on this matter, but I cannot say what the outcome will be. I can only hope that a speedy solution can be found, not only in the interests of the prawning industry but also in the interests of the general work of the Division, which is so important in various spheres of activities.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. He will recall that recently I drew to his attention the fact that notification from the Taxation Branch that they would have to pay income tax on their meagre allowances caused two officers of cadets at Narrabundah High School to resign their positions with the likely result that the school cadet corps will have to be disbanded. I ask the Minister: Does he know that the two officers of cadets were required to make lump sum payments at the top of the scale on their taxable income, cutting the value of their allowance from 8250 to $170 for a year’s work? Have similar complaints been made in respect of school cadet corps at other high schools with similar results? Recognising the importance of maintaining school cadet corps, will the Minister for the Army consult with his colleague, the Treasurer, with a view to seeking payment of these allowances free of tax in line with the concessions granted to members of the Citizen Military Forces?
– The Australian cadet corps, of course, over a period of very many years has made an important contribution at schools throughout the country in familiarising students with the general operations of the Australian Army and in developing in students qualities crf leadership and good citizenship. It is fair to say that Officers of Cadets have made a very fine contribution to the work of the corps and their work has been responsible for the corps providing a major source of recruiting for the Royal Military College at Duntroon. However, Officers of Cadets are not legally members of the defence forces. They are not subject to overseas service or to military law. In general terms they do not incur the same obligations as members crf the Citizen Military Forces do. I am not unsympathetic to the points raised by the honourable member, because I know of the work carried out by these officers, lt is certainly true that in recent weeks attention has been focused on their legal liability as the result of a circular issued at the request of the Department of my colleague, the Treasurer, to those commands which have not been issuing statements of earnings. This has come about because Officers of Cadets have always been liable to pay tax on the basis that they have not enjoyed the same concessions which, quite rightly, have applied to members of the CMF. I have taken up and discussed this matter with the Treasurer who, I understand, will be making a statement on it at a time convenient to him.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade and Industry and is supplementary to the question asked by the honourable member for Gwydir. If losses to the Australian wool industry can be proved following devaluation of the French franc, will the Government consider paying compensation on the same basis as compensation to other industries, both primary and secondary, following devaluation of sterling?
– Obviously I cannot answer a question of policy, but the definite nature of the Government’s decision involved the need for losses consequent on the British devaluation being calculable with precision. In an auction system you could never calculate with precision.
– I have received a letter from the President of the Senate informing me that Senator Devitt has resigned his place on the Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House.
– I present the following paper:
Audit Act - Finance - Report of the AuditorGeneral for year 1968-69, accompanied by the Treasurer’s Statement of the Receipts and Expenditure.
Ordered to be printed.
Report of the Public Works Committee
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following proposed works:
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to inform the House on the future of the F111.
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)
– For the tenth time in this House the Opposition raises the future of the F111 aircraft. It does this because the Government has so far failed to confirm or deny persistent and contradictory reports that Australia’s order for this aircraft is to be cancelled. The public record concerning the F111 is in a state of inextricable confusion. The Government, by selective briefing of favoured journalists and contradictory leaks from various Ministers has produced and perpetuated this situation. There is no longer any credibilityin the minds of members of this Parliament or the Australian public about the F111 project. This may well be the last chance for the Government to set the record straight before the Federal election. It would be utterly intolerable for the Government to go to the voters with this issue unresolved. Such an act would be electoral irresponsibility. It would also be a flagrant breach of a public undertaking given by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) to announce a firm decision on the F111 before the election.
There is also the impact of the present dithering on the pilots and ground crew who have been waiting for the F111 for more than a year now. This has been revealed in reports of requests for transfer from Amberley to other units. A year after the initial delivery date these highly trained servicemen are still confined to the expensive simulator at Amberley. The great maintenance hangar at Amberley is empty and skilled technicians have been sent to other bases. It has also been pointed up in a request from the Western Australian division of the Air Force Association for a gag on public discussion of the F111. This was reported in the ‘Western Australian’ of June 30th. Such a request, of course, is absurd, but it emphasises the malaise and loss of morale in the Air Force flowing from the protracted delay in deciding the plane’s future. The suggestion that only members of the Air Force be allowed to comment on the F111 indicates the aura of sheer fantasy which surrounds the plane.
The delay in deciding on the fate of the F111 cannot be justified by doubts over technical difficulties. An expert advisory team has been in the United Stales of America during the testing of the aircraft. The presence of this team has not prevented wrangling between Australia and the United States over the length of fatigue testing. Its surveillance of the project has been supplemented in the past month by the despatch to the United States of a top level team headed by the Secretary of the D:part.ment of Defence, Sir Henry Bland. The other members of the mission were the Secretary of the Department of Air, the chief defence scientist, and two senior members of the Royal Australian Air Force. This mission returned to Australia .last week when Sir Henry in rather guarded comment to the Press said only that the Americans had given full co-operation to the mission. The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) said before the mission left far the United States that its purpose was to look into the whole Fill programme. It was also charged with looking at the fatigue testing programme and the application of the Unites States tests to Australia’s Fill.
Honourable members will recall that the vexed question of fatigue testing arose again after minor cracks were found in the swingwing carry-through box, ostensibly on 23rd June. The discovery of these faults was announced by the Minister for Defence on 1st July after a welter of conflicting reports in the United States and Australia about the progress of the testing programme. The Minister’s statement was made after it was repotted widely in the Australian Press that Major-General Glasser of the United States Air Force had reported that modifications to the centre wing structure had made the Fill a safe aircraft. Apparently General Glasser’s statement was made after the discovery of the new fault on 23rd June - just short of the 8,000-hour test limit set by the United States Air Force. This new fault was discovered just short of half the 1 6,000- hour test limit insisted on by the Australian Government and described as absurd by the United State authorities because it represented an air life of 40 years.
It was against this pantomime back drop of conflicting statements that the decision was taken to send the Bland mission to the United States. If then seemed that the main objection of the Government to the Fill was the failures revealed by fatigue testing. However, while the mission was in the
United States there was a steady flow of newspaper reports questioning the plane’s relevance to Australia on another ground - its range, lt was reported that members of the mission were apprehensive that the Fill might not have sufficient range for Australia’s defence requirements. There were also contradictory reports- that the Fill was in doubt because it had too much range for Australia’s needs, that a long range strategic bomber was no longer needed because of the changed international situation since the plane was ordered. This line of thought doubtless would be reinforced by the change of emphasis in the Government’s foreign stance revealed last week by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth). The position now is that there is a maze of conflicting predictions about the future of the Fill, ranging from complete cancellation through various shades of compromise to unqualified acceptance^ the plane. The blame for this mass of verbiage and speculation must be sheeted home to a Government whose indecisiveness has allowed rumours to sprout and spread. In this confused and chaotic picture the only concrete change has been in the steady outflow of Australian funds for the Fill purchase. This represents a sombre counterpoint to Government policy.
According to an answer supplied by the Minister for Defence to my colleague Senator Cohen, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in another place, the Government has paid out just over SI 83m for the Fill. Another payment of about $15m has to be made before September of this year. A further payment of about $9m is scheduled before the end of December. This means that at the time of the Federal election the total payout on the purchase will be approximately S200m, or two-thirds of the estimated total cost of the plane. This discounts the investment in Amberley and the as yet intangible investment in the training of pilots and ground crew. Can the Government seriously consider entering an election campaign without deciding one way or another on the future of such a massive item of public spending? This outlay of funds is much greater than the total welfare, health and education provisions of the Federal Budget. It will certainly dwarf the pledges the Government will make to the people in its electoral programme. Yet it appears that the Government is prepared to enter an election campaign uncommitted on this sum of $200m, which has contributed not a whit to Australia’s defence.
The further this situation is projected into the future the more depressing it becomes. At the end of the year total outgoings on the Fill will represent approx.mately 70% of the total cost of the plane. Another substantial payment will fall due at the end of March and another at the end of June next year. Even if the plane is accepted on the earliest possible deliver)’ date Australia will have paid out at least three-quarters of the estimated cost of the plane. This must represent the most remarkable exercise in the history of public investment in this country. Against this context it is impossible to see why the Government cannot give a simple decision. It has had the benefit of the expert advice of its team in the United States of America, advice which has led it to insist on substantially extended testing times for the plane. There have been repeated consultations between senior members of the Government and successive members of the United States Cabinet. Now the Government has the recommendation of Sir Henry Bland, who has established a reputation, which I acknowledge, for cost effectiveness in his tenure as Permanent Head of the Department of Defence. With all this information available to the Government - information sought by it - it is important that the Government makes a quick assessment of potential benefits as opposed to potential losses. It would be a major act of political irresponsibility to fight an election with a commitment which has absorbed $200m without a tangible result.
The whole issue has been argued at considerable length in this House over the past 3 years. The Opposition has always conceded the merits of the Fill but we have questioned its excessive cost. What we have dealt with in the past and what we now stress is this lack of relevance to Australia’s strategic needs. The Opposition has also questioned the indifferent combat performance of the aircraft, the sequence of crashes during test flights and the structural faults revealed by fatigue testing. The Opposition has not sought to conduct a witch hunt in relation to the Fill. It has sought at all times to put its challenge in a balanced and responsible way. It is the considered conclusion of the Opposition that the purchase of the FI 1 1 was a mistake. We consider that the order should have been cancelled at least 2 years ago and that an alternative aircraft should have been found. These conclusions have been put consistently and fairly by the Opposition. This may be the last chance that the House has to debate this issue. lt should be acknowledged that in this House the Government’s case has always been put in the same way by the Minister for Defence. But outside the House in the past 2 months there has developed a turmoil of conflicting statement and counter statement about the future of the Fill, the Minister for Defence giving one interpretation and the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in some other part of the Commonwealth giving an entirely different opinion. The Government has done nothing to stifle this flow of speculation. Indeed, it must be concluded that this speculation has been actively encouraged by some members of the Government. It is no longer the primary task of the Government to justify the Fill; rather it is the Government’s plain duty to clarify the position and to make a firm decision. I remind the House of a clear undertaking given by the Prime Minister during the Bendigo by-election campaign. He said then, as reported in the ‘Australian’ of 5th June: 1 have no /ears of making an announcement before the election.
He will have to hurry. As T understand the position the election is scheduled for the end of October. There has been no announcement by the Prime Minister. One would surely expect that the responsible Minister - the Minister for Defence - who now sits at the table, would take the opportunity to make the announcement this afternoon and to inform the Opposition of the Government’s intentions. One would expect that equally importantly he would take the opportunity to let the Australian public know the Government’s plans for the FI 1 1. The Minister has been most evasive in this House. As I pointed out earlier in the debate, he has always dealt with the subject in the same way. I do not want to recapitulate what he has said on other occasions about this aircraft. The last thing any government would want to do would be to go into an election without having announced a decision one way or the other. The
Opposition asks the Prime Minister to honour his undertaking and to state directly to the House whether the Government will accept or scrap the Fill. The Minister for Defence must appreciate, as honourable members on this side and the public at large appreciate, that if the Government intends to make a decision about the future of the Fill it will wait until after the election which is scheduled for the end of this year.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– This is a tired old horse to be brought out for the tenth time.
– It ls also a tired old aircraft.
– I am referring not to the aircraft but to the everlasting complaint of the Opposition that the Government has not kept it informed. As I have pointed out, this is the tenth debate on this subject initiated by the Opposition. On every occasion such as this honourable members opposite have demanded information and on every occasion they have received a full statement of the facts. If there is confusion about this subject it is the deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) who is confused. If one looks at the record one would be justified in coming to the conclusion that a good deal of the confusion surrounding this project has been created by the Opposition and even by the Deputy Leader himself. I categorically give the lie to his statement that there has been selective briefing of newspapers. There has not. Indeed, it occurs to me that over the long period of admitted difficulties that we have experienced technically and otherwise with this aircraft there has been no need to brief the newspapers about anything. If they do not have information they are quite capable of inventing it.
For 4 years, or is it 5, confusion has been created by the conjecture of the Press and other media about this aircraft - about its performance, its viability, its cost and the rest of it. While we have that kind of situation existing, any government worth its salt would want to be sure that it has the facts before it makes up its mind. So we are not to rush in every time the Opposition demands something and give it a half-baked answer. On every occasion the Opposition has been told precisely the nature of the difficulties. The Opposition has argued about the rise in price of the aircraft, despite the fact that all these things were to be expected or were budgeted for when the aircraft was first undertaken as a contract. The Opposition has never been left without the same kind of information which the Government possesses.
Until recent months every effort had been made to destroy this project in the United States of America for reasons which are largely domestic. You have had regional politics, industrial politics and plain old fashioned political politics in connection with this aircraft. All this has kept the pot boiling. Every crash is headlined. Every crash of the aircraft is questioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the people who sit with him. There have been fourteen crashes. It is particularly interesting to note the treatment given to this kind of situation. Until very recent times every headline said: Fourteen crashes. Why don’t you cancel the aircraft?’ But there has been a remarkable change over the last month or two. One Roy McCartney has been writing a syndicated column reproduced throughout Australia and no doubt elsewhere saying: You have had only fourteen crashes. What is wrong with the aircraft? Why do you not buy it?’ Is this writer in the grip of some public relations organisation? Here on the one hand we are invited to cancel the contract because there have been fourteen crashes and on the other hand we are invited to make up our minds immediately and to take the aircraft because there have been only fourteen crashes and this is a fine record. It is a fine record, as we have pointed out on a number of occasions to the Opposition, which always wants to forget that the record of the FI 1 1 in respect of crashes per hours flown is the best of any of the F series of aircraft ranging back over the last 15 years, with one exception. So this is not an extraordinarily bad record. In fact, for an aircraft such as this it is a first class record.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has talked about fatigue as though it should not have been invented. I have pointed out in the House time after time that the study of metal fatigue is not a precise science about which everything is known. Let me read from a letter received only a couple of days ago, dated 9th August, from Surrey, England. It is from a Group Captain engineer, now retired, who has had extraordinary experience with all modern aircraft in the Royal Air Force. He sought my opinions and comments and I favoured him with them. He wrote:
Regarding the Fill, I agree your summing up that the difficulties this aircraft has run into are part of the price of progress in aeronautical engineering. In my experience it was ever thus: With retractable undercarriages, variable pitch propellers, ailerons superseded, ‘wash-in and washout*, flaps for improving L/D ratios, and so on. Each advance was hard won, but the tactical operational advantages, particularly in war, were enormous.
He drew attention to fatigue difficulties and pointed out:
I regard the immediate fatigue cracks that have appeared on overload tests to be no worse than those revealed in most development tests; for example, those on the wings of the first production V-bombers, the Vulcan and Victor, which you no doubt know about. Those that appeared in the Valiants were revealed too late to save them from being phased out of service.
– Why could you not get it from a serving officer?
– The honourable member will have his turn if he wishes. Here are the comments of an experienced aeronautical engineer and 1 would much sooner listen to a man of his experience and knowledge than to the bleatings of the Opposition which is terribly worried at the moment that somehow the Government might get to the election without having made up its mind. I should have thought the Opposition would be delighted if the Government could not get to the election without having made up its mind because if public appreciation of this aircraft is as low and as poor as the Opposition would have us believe then surely the Government would be slaughtered on this one issue alone. It will not be because the public understands very well the strategic necessity of an aircraft of this kind in Australia’s air force inventory. The honourable gentleman has been making a great play for the last quarter of an hour or so about how much money we have paid. For goodness’ sake, we are going to get to the election and we will have paid out $200m. We went into a contract about this aircraft, a contract which provided for its production and for us to make progressive payments on it. That we have been doing.
– What about the delivery’?
– Everybody knows about the delivery. We have made no secret about that. Of course, we should have had the aeroplane a year ago if we had not fallen into these difficulties in this particularly sensitive area. But as we said then, if this aircraft runs into technological difficulties which are insoluble to this point in time by the best aeronautical brains in the world do we have to apologise for that? What we would have to apologise for would be the irresponsibility of the Government if we had taken delivery of the aircraft knowing that it was probably faulty, knowing that its life would be shortened and knowing that it would offer risk and danger to those we called upon to fly it. Of course, we are upset about being a year late in taking delivery of the aircraft, but we have said to the United States Government - and we have repealed to the House - that if and when the Government took delivery of this aircraft it would be knowing that we would have a satisfactory fatigue life out of it and knowing that it would be a safe aircraft to fly.
I see the Deputy Leader of the Opposition talking to the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) who is to follow me in this debate. May I just anticipate what I think the honourable gentleman might be led to say because there has been no debate in this House in which he has not taken the greatest delight in citing me as the author of those two great statements: ‘The Fill is the Cadillac of the air’ and ‘It is the best thing with wings since angels’. So I want to anticipate and ask him would he please go back and read what I have said in past debates because if he does me that honour he will not only be better informed on the facts and therefore better able to put up a coherent argument but he will find out to his sorrow, no doubt, and to his discomfort that really I did not author those statements at all and on both occasions I was merely quoting what some other and well-informed Press correspondents themselves had said about the aircraft. But, nevertheless, it is a pretty good aircraft. As I pointed out, there has been an enormous spate of conjecture over the years about this aircraft. It is quite true, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said, that in the last few months there has been conjecture; we are going to cancel, we are not going to cancel; it is going to be this and it is going to be that. We do owe something to the Australian public, and that is to be certain that when the decision of the Government is made it will be on the facts and all the more we have to be certain about that because this state of conjecture has been created and fostered by the Opposition.
So, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, we sent off a high level and experienced team to the United States, lt consisted of two secretaries of departments, the Secretary of my own Department, Sir Henry Bland, the Secretary of the Department of Air, Mr Green, the Air Member for Technical Services of the Air Board, and Mr Wills, Chief Scientist in the Department of Defence. Let it not be overlooked that Mr Wills did some of the preliminary work in the world on aircraft structure fatigue. This gentleman is an acknowledged authority on this subject, lt is true that we have had a couple of technical people over there for some little time - Dr Payne of the Aeronautical Research Laboratory of the Department of Supply and Air Commodore D. R. Cuming. We have had good advice from them, but on an occasion of this kind when the Government is, the honourable gentleman will be pleased to know, going to make a decision on the future of this aircraft project it is not a bad thing to call in a second opinion. So we have sent this full team not only to talk about the problem of fatigue in the air frame, because it is a difficult one which I believe is now coming to solution; there are also other matters to be considered because under the influence of the same kind of everlasting criticism in the United States, the Air Force of the United States is to consider what it would do about reconnaissance and whether it would use the Mark I or Mark II avionics system. This is a technical problem which may not mean a lot to the man in the street but it means a tremendous amount to the operational success of the aircraft. If that kind of question is before the United States Air Force, where do we stand to make a decision on our proposals until we know precisely what the United
States wants to do. Until recent times there were stories floating around that the United States was to reduce the number of aircraft on order and that they were to be phased out. This would immediately indicate that the operational life of the aircraft would be shortened. We wanted to be satisfied about that, and yet when we got there strangely enough we landed right in the middle of an effort to persuade the United States Congress to provide more money to buy more of these aircraft for the United States Air Force. This is- the kind of conjectural background against which we wanted the expert opinion of this group. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said: Now the information is available the Minister for Defence must surely tell us what the decision is.’ I wonder whether the honourable gentlemen knows anything about the range of investigations which were carried out by this committee in the United States. It was a big committee which spent a fortnight in the United States. It was in Washington in conference with the United States Air Force and with the Secretary of the Department of Defense. It was at Nellis Air Force Base watching the aircraft operate and looking into the question of the maintainability of the aircraft. It was at the General Dynamics factory at Fort Worth and down in San Diego where a wide series of fatigue tests have been carried out. The committee members were not always together, but they put in a pretty hard fortnight including weekends. One does not sum up in 5 minutes the kind of information which comes out of a voyage of this kind, and really we must allow a little time for the scientists, engineers and administrators to put down in one consolidated report the precise status of the aircraft project at this time. This will be done in the course of the next week or 10 days. We will not rush it; we will be sure of it before it goes to the Government. When it goes to the Government it will be a complete factual report shorn of all of the kind of background which has surrounded the project in years gone by. On that information the Government will reach its decision and that decision will be announced to the House in due course.
– If the whole sorry affair of the purchase of the Fill planes, their indefinite future and the distortions, evasions and contradictions of various Ministers and Government supporters had been reported by some of our earliest writers and was the subject of a speech now I think that speech would go something like this: My text for today is taken from an oration by Allen to the unbelievers, House of Representatives, Vol. 56, page 276. The Fill is a super battle bird, the greatest thing with wings since angels. It is the Cadillac of the air. It flys high and low, fast and slow, throws a power punch tougher than five World War II bombers and sniffs out targets like a thirsty vampire. For many years a great white master named Robert ruled over Australia. In the year 1963AD his sins of omission of defence caused bis people to become troubled and distressed. Robert had been telling his people of the dangers from a heathen nation to the north which, for some time, had been following a policy called confrontation. ‘It was likely’, said leader Robert, ‘that these people might cause the country to go to war.’ Robert’s people, remembering his record of the 1940s, checked on the defence of the country and found that the potential enemy was far better equipped with fighting planes than they were. Leader Robert was in trouble. His chances of victory at the next election were swiftly diminishing. He needed a near miracle to save himself and his followers.
Leader Robert called together his most trusted disciples, told them of his troubles and said to one of them, a man called Athol: ‘Athol, go to a faraway country and see what they can offer in a complete deal on aircraft. It does not matter whether the plane can fly, the real date of delivery or the ultimate cost. As long as you can reach agreement, we will all be satisfied. But remember, we must be able to say that it is the greatest thing with wings since angels.’ Disciple Athol travelled across the seas, and a few weeks before the pending election advised leader Robert that he had seen a model of a plane, made from wood, that he had been told it was not an aeroplane but a weapons system and that it would be the Cadillac of the air. He said that the cost would be $125m for twenty-four aircraft and that they would be delivered by September 1967. A firm order was placed for the planes and the news was told to all the people. Leader Robert was able to deceive his people, and he and his followers remained in power.
A few years passed while the cost of the aircraft mounted and grave difficulties were encountered with their construction. Leader Robert grew old and tired. He handed over his leadership to a loyal and faithful disciple who had no greater success in obtaining delivery of the planes. As a result of a sudden death, a new leader was shortly required. A frantic search period elapsed before a new leader was found. He had to be brought from another place. His name was John. He was to have been the answer to all the problems of Liberalism. Leader John concentrated on solving the dilemma of the Fill aircraft. He even went ‘Waltzing Matilda’ with the head of the faraway country from which the planes were to come. But he, too, met with little success. The cost of the planes rose from Si 25m to $184m to $213m to $300m. The delivery date was extended from September 1967 to October 1968 to August 1969, after which further predictions were not given. John sent a loyal disciple-
-Order! I would suggest that the honourable member for Lang has been a member of this place long enough to know the Standing Orders of this House, and I would suggest that he follow them.
– I would suggest that you are super-sensitive.
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley also knows them.
– The Prime Minister sent a loyal disciple, the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) who had risen swiftly in the ranks, to the faraway country to press for a decision on delivery. As a public relations gesture, the Minister for Defence took delivery of one plane when it was known that the wings of the angels were not safe. Whatever was done proved to no avail. The angels crashed into mountains, failed to sniff out targets and no-one could be certain whether they would be a super battle bird. The range, flying speed, payload and weapon system were all suspect. The wooden plane of 1963 was still not flying in Australian skies towards the end of 1969.
Great troubles confronted the Government. The people became confused, disill’usioned and impatient. They wanted more money spent on social and health services, education, housing and development. The custodian of collections, who was known to be a friend of the poor, was forced to find more and more money to pay to the Government of the faraway country. He was unable to help his poor friends. His hair fell out and he became an old wrinkly. The Prime Minister continued to send disciples and high stewards across the seas. Between them they travelled more miles than the astronauts on the first flight to the moon. An earlier Minister for Air returned from his trip overseas and announced that the planes were being purchased at a ‘damn fair price’. The present Minister for Air (Mr Erwin) said that the planes would not be accepted until they were ‘airworthy*. All the time the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) was paying $184m out of his collections, with much more to come. No-one knew the future of the Fills.
The people became more and more discontented and began to clamour for a new leader. A few crumbs from the rich man’s table, offered in the middle of each year, were not sufficient to salve their discontent. They were going to have a new leader, and they selected a man who came from the ranks of the unbelievers. He was refreshing in his approach. He knew the people’s wants. He spoke out against, not only the purchase of the Fill planes, but many of the social evils which had been allowed to grow and foster during the reign of the two previous leaders of the Liberal Party. The prospective leader reminded the people that the planes which were supposed to be the greatest things with wings since angels had not proved satisfactory under battle conditions, and that they had been withdrawn from battle service after a very short period. The leader of the unbelievers gained the confidence of the people by showing them how they had been deceived on defence, development and social needs. He and his disciples prophesied that a great millstone would be tied around the neck of the Prime Minister and his disciples and that they would be drowned in the depths of the sea of discontented voters. And so it came to pass on 25th October 1969A.D.
– As I stand here this afternoon I wonder what kind of response one can make to the sort of nonsense that we have just heard. After hearing this kind of nonsense, I ask the Opposition: Is this a serious debate? How serious is the Opposition? To put it mildly, I am astounded by this move of the Opposition on the Fill. As my colleague the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) has mentioned, this is the tenth occasion on which we have debated this project. This, the tenth occasion, would appear the most notable in that it lacks timing, balance or motive in any way. But then I suppose we must expect this from an Opposition which is desperately attempting to divert attention from its own sterility of ideas and internal dissension.
On previous occasions the Opposition has led off with assertions based on misleading and incorrect information and allegations that the Government is providing evasive, misleading answers. On every occasion the Government has fully answered these allegations with facts - hard, cold facts - but it seems inevitable that the Opposition is just not prepared to accept those facts. We have provided extensive summaries on the nature of the wing carry-through box failures, accident rates and the nature of the testing programmes and other aspects of the total programme. The House will recall that in my last speech on this particular subject I emphasised the very complexity of fatigue testing and our need to be completely sure that the aircraft we will be getting met our requirements in every way. It seems that the Opposition has not learned anything from these previous debates, or rather that it does not wish to learn.
What then possibly could be the motive on the part of the Opposition in this debate? Surely the Opposition is desperate when it attempts to make some publicity at this time in the light of the known facts about the project. It seems that we go through the same mash which has been produced before, with no real suggestions put forward by the Opposition. The tactic seems to be to ‘stir the pot’ and to hope that the stirring will produce a good brew for a story. Maybe it considers that by this method it will achieve some political yardage for the forthcoming elections. My view is that the public will see this move as the puerile thing it is shown to be.
Now let me reiterate what is the present position. It has been published in the Press and in fact was announced in this House in the last session that a composite team of Royal Australian Air Force and Department of Supply scientists would proceed to the United States of America to examine all technical aspects of the project. This they did in June and they have been in the States since that date and only returned recently. They have had full discussions at the contractor’s works and with various United States officials. In addition, the Opposition is well aware that the Prime Minister recently conferred with my colleague the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) and myself together with senior departmental and service officers about the project and as a result dispatched a mission comprising the most senior officials of the Departments of Defence and Air and the RAAF. My colleague, the Minister for Defence, has already mentioned the names of the people who went on this mission. All this has been fully reported in the Press and is well known to members of the Opposition. Surely this was a most competent mission to examine all aspects of the Fill project.
It is also well known to the Press and has also been mentioned by my colleague, the Minister for Defence, that the Bland mission conferred fully with senior Defence and Air Force officials in the United States and also visited the General Dynamics Corporation at Fort Worth and Nellis Air Force Base where there is currently operating a wing of FI 11 As. Here again the Opposition is fully aware of the timing of this mission and the fact that it returned to Australia only last Wednesday and that it is in the process of completing its report to the Government. The mission went into all aspects of the Fill project fully, as one would expect from the very composition of the mission, and honourable members can be assured that the report, when it is given to the Government, will be in the most complete terms and will in turn be given the most careful consideration by the Government.
Surely honourable members sitting opposite are sufficiently intelligent to know the actual facts surrounding this project and also that it would be most inappropriate for the Government to make any statement until it has fully read and considered the report of the recently returned mission. Whatever decision is made about buying the Fill, it should be made rationally and in the best interests of Australia’s defence strategies. That prime requirement is in danger of being overlooked while this political debate takes place. It says little for the quality of the Opposition to raise this matter again after the Prime Minister has made it clear that he hopes to make an announcement before the election campaign commences. Mr Deputy Speaker, as I have already stated the whole move on the part of the Opposition lacks timing and a sense of responsibility.
-Order! The discussion is now concluded.
– by leave - Mr Deputy Speaker, I make a short statement concerning immigration. In 1967-68 we received 137,000 settlers. In 1968-69 we set a programme of 160,000 settlers. The outcome was a record year for immigration. The results far exceeded expectations at the beginning of the period. In fact 175,000 settlers arrived, amongst whom were over 80,000 workers. These figures demonstrate the drawing power which the Australian economy and way of life exercise to attract large numbers of settlers in spite of prosperous conditions in migrant source countries. The Government has decided to maintain the momentum and the Budget brought down last week makes provision for an assisted migration programme in 1969-70 of at least 119,000 assisted settlers. It is expected that unassisted settlers will bring the total programme to over 175,000. The Budget estimates are based upon firm plans and well supported by prudent forecasts and the Government will be striving to exceed the programme is at did last year. The target in 1968-69 was 160,000 settlers, including 105,000 assisted migrants. The actual arrival figure of 175,657 exceeded the target by nearly 10%, and the assisted component of it, 118,469, was almost 13% above the target established in the Budget.
The numerically most important elements in the assisted migration programme included in the Budget are:
The Government is looking to immigration this year for at least as important a contribution to development as it made last year. Immigration is now seen as a major economic vehicle; it is a major dynamic of national growth. Migrants will not be attracted by passive policies. The Government has constantly revised procedures and policies, and made new arrangements and agreements. It has continued to review human problems necessarily associated with migration, with a view to making the transition of migrants from their home countries to Australia less disruptive personally and more productive economically.
Honourable members will recall that three new social service provisions are included in the Budget for this purpose. Free health insurance benefits will be provided equal to the standard fund and Commonwealth benefits for a period of 2 months after arrival in Australia subject to their joining a health and medical benefit fund at the time of making application for benefit. In the case of unemployment or sickness, full adult rate benefit will be available to minors who do not have a parent living in Australia. The provision whereby age pensioners making temporary visits overseas may now receive their pension on return to Australia for 30 weeks instead of 12 weeks will assist settlers to make a visit to their former homeland after long residence in Australia. From my visits to almost all countries from which we receive migrants and discussions with governments and senior officials I am confident that 1969-70 will be a year of continuing success.
Mr CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh)by leave - Mr Deputy Speaker, I welcome, as I have always done, statements by the
Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) on immigration. It has been my pleasure always to be able to deliver a short speech in support of everything that the Minister has said. On this occasion, I have to depart from what it has been my pleasure to do in the past because there is at least one matter of major consequence which the Minister has not touched upon for the reason, J suspect, that his department has not given it the attention which it deserves. 1 refer to the assessment by the Department of Immigration of housing needs for these new arrivals. It is of no use for Australia to step up its migrant intake if it is to continue to pay insufficient attention - I use the word ‘insufficient’ advisedly because I do not suggest that no attention at all is being paid to these housing needs - to the housing needs of migrants on their arrival in Australia. If this policy is to continue it will create intolerable conditions for migrants and at the same time exacerbate the enormous housing problems of the people who are already here.
This morning I had occasion to seek information from the Department of Immigration concerning its forecast of housing needs for the expected intake of migrants. To my astonishment I discovered that the Department did not have this type of information readily available. I was informed that this was information which only the Department of Housing could supply. It seemed odd to me that the Department of Housing, which has no first hand knowledge of the problems to be overcome such as the Department of Immigration has, should be the one to have the task of finding out the expected housing requirements for migrants. Surely the Department of Immigration knows more about such needs than the Department of Housing. Surely the Department of Immigration is in a better position to know how many of the migrants coming into the country are married and how many will need a home than is the Department of Housing.
When I made my inquiry of the Department of Housing, as suggested by the Department of Immigration, not surprisingly I was told that this was a matter upon which it did not have available the sort of information which would enable it to make anything like an accurate forecast of the housing needs of the expected intake of migrants. I accepted this as a fair reply to the question I asked. I am still waiting for the Department of Immigration to give me the information which I sought this morning or to inform me that it is not available. It seems to me that this information is not available in the form that it ought to be. If this is so, then I think it is more to the disgrace of those responsible than one would normally say was the case, because in a report of the Commonwealth Immigration Planning Council on Australia’s immigration programme for the period 1968 to 1973, a copy of which was supplied to me by the Department of Immigration this morning. I note that the Council foresaw the problems that would be associated with housing if immigration is to continue at its present level. The following is set out at page 39 of the Council’s report:
That is, the Committee on Long Term Planning - considered that the ability to provide adequate housing accommodation for the annual inflow of migrants was basic to consideration of the number that could be accepted.
This conclusion is so axiomatic that one should not expect a committee to have to draw attention to it and, having drawn attention to it, surely the Council was entitled to expect that by now the Department of Immigration would have done some homework on this problem and would have been in a position to supply to the honourable member who was leading for Her Majesty’s Opposition on this subject the information which was sought. In that report the Council went on to say this:
It agreed that in general terms what was needed was a housing policy which, while benefiting the whole community, would at the same time meet the special needs of migrants. This was essential because on arrival migrants faced a very difficult real estate market, and were at a disadvantage compared with Australian residents.
The Committee felt that there were, in general, three phases in migrants’ accommodation requirements. There was a need for:
Initial reception accommodation which should be available during the initial adjustment period;
This refers to hostel type accommodation -
Those were very proper observations for the Council to make, and they should not have been ignored by the Department. Judging from the reply I received this morning I can only assume that these observations have been ignored. The Minister for Immigration did not indicate today that he was giving any special attention to this matter. If this is the case, then I regret to say that for once I have to draw attention to what I regard as one aspect of his administration which falls short of what I would like to have seen. The Council went on to make this observation which I think is crucial:
On the general question of financing short-term rental housing, two problems were seen by the Committee. First, the rising trend in housing costs, and second, the relative unattractiveness of housing as a field for private investment. It was thought that low interest bearing finance was required to provide housing at an economic rental, either from Government sources or from the building industry itself.
This is not the responsibility of the Department of Immigration, and it is proper that the Council, through its Committee, should have drawn attention to it.
– What are you talking about? The statement is not on that.
– The statement by the Minister for Immigration is not on this, but what I am saying is about the statement; that is the difference. It is not the responsibility of the Department of Immigration to provide housing, but the Council, having very properly drawn attention to the need, should have expected the Minister for Immigration to bring the matter to the notice of the Cabinet so that the problem could be given the attention that it so properly deserves. I do not know whether the Minister has drawn the attention of the Cabinet to this problem. Perhaps he has. Knowing him it would surprise me if he has not. I can only assume that it has been brought to the notice of the Cabinet and that it has since been rejected. If the Cabinet has rejected the proposals which have been put forward by the Council, I make it quite clear that what I am about to say on this aspect of my complaint is a criticism not of the Department of Immigration but of the Government. I do not know why this Government continues to ignore the housing needs of Australians generally, and of migrants in particular.
I do not know why the Government allows interest rates on money borrowed for homes and home building purposes to rise continually. Honourable members generally may not realise that the total interest payable on an $8,000 loan spread over a 35-year period at 7% is no less than $13,000. It is this inordinately high rate of interest which makes it so difficult for migrants who enter Australia to have their housing needs met. The reason why migrants must rely on rental homes and must pay high rates for them was also touched on by the Council. It stated that the predominant rent level for all income groups of migrants was in the $15 to $19.99 a week range. It pinpointed the reason for this when it went on to say that such high rents were charged in Australia because no private enterprise undertaking will go in for home building unless it can show a return of 10% interest on its money. That is why the rents paid by migrants are so high.
But a worse situation emerges when one looks at the average incomes of migrants. The earnings of almost 50% of the migrant families with three, four or five children and sometimes more than five children average less than $50 a week. How can a migrant family with an income of less than $50 a week, with two, three, four or five children to maintain and with a rental of $15 to $19.99 a week to pay, ever own a home? Surely every person is entitled to expect to become the owner of his home.
The Council went on to say that it had discussed this problem with the Department of Housing. I will quote the remarks of the Council about the discussions that took place with the Department of Housing. Tt reported:
The outcome of the discussions resolved itself Into the basic proposition that while Australian housing policy was generally satisfactory for the community at large, it did not fully cater for the special needs of migrants. State Authority housing, for example, although geared to the economic level of most migrants, failed them at the time when they most needed assistance - that is, in the period immediately following arrival. 1 do not know whether honourable members who have travelled abroad with plenty of money in their pockets, and often with their expenses paid by the Government, can understand the problems of a person who travels to a strange land, who does not understand the language and who wants to buy even a good meal at a reasonable price. They would know that a tourist in Europe has to pay much more for a good meal than is charged in places further back from the main tourist thoroughfares. Imagine then the same problem being extended from buying a good meal for a reasonable price to a stranger in our land who cannot speak our language trying to buy a good house at a reasonable price. The greatest form of thievery anywhere in this country, and that is saying something, exists amongst real estate agents and people who, through sharp practices, wax fat on the ignorance of poor unfortunate migrant families who want to have a home of their own, as is surely their right.
– It is not right to say that about real estate agents. That is rubbish.
– I could not hear what the honourable member just said, but he apparently objects to the case I am putting for migrants in this country, lt astounds me to think that the people of the electorate he represents have sent him to this Parliament on so many occasions and I will be surprised if, now that they have discovered he has not the slightest sympathy for the housing problems of migrants, the migrants in his area who are naturalised and who are entitled to vote do not take the opportunity that will be open to them on 25th October to throw him out of this House neck and crop and replace him wilh a person who understands and who is willing to give some attention to the great needs of the migrants.
I now turn, if I may. to the final paragraph that I intend to quote from the Council’s report. It stated:
The Committee considered, that for Australia to attract and hold the migrants she required in the years ahead it was essential to take positive action to ensure an adequate supply of housing-
That is the point that I have been making so well so far: particularly for rental, within the financial capacity of the new settlers.
Those were very sage and apt remarks, remarks that have not been given the attention that they deserve. For this reason it is with regret that I criticise the Department on this score, for the first time in my parliamentary life.
I want to turn now to the Minister’s reference to assisted passages. Having put an unanswerable case for more housing, I now say that more attention ought to be given by the Department to the need to bring out more building operatives than we now have. I was in Europe a couple of years ago and, through the courtesy of the Minister, I was able to see aspects of migration that would not otherwise have been available to me. I was staggered to find that in a fairly large and modern city in Italy called Taranto, which has a population of 500,000 or 600,000, there were literally hundreds of 12 and 15 storey home units running along the sea front and that in the hinterland there was a large army of unemployed, highly skilled building operatives. I learned that this was also true of Salerno. The Italian building operative is probably amongst the best building operatives in the world.
– Are there many in your electorate?
– Yes, I have some in my electorate and that is how I am able to say they are amongst the best builders in the world. As cement workers, they are without a peer. No race in the world can compare with the Italians as cement workers. They do excellent terrazzo work and the like. We should see that these highly skilled men are induced to come to our country. These are the sort of people who ought to be given assisted passages. When they arrive here they can work to solve the housing problem that their very arrival helps to create. I am sure that, with assisted passages and with a proper recruitment programme in the parts where these pockets of unemployed building workers exist, we could get large numbers of highly skilled building workers to come to Australia.
I pass now to the reference by the Minister to the kind of migrants who have been assisted and who will be assisted in the future. I am pleased to notice that the Netherlands has been again included. In my opinion, and I know that the Minister agrees with me, the Dutch are amongst the best migrants we can get. Unfortunately there are hardly any of them in my district, but I know they are magnificent people and we should do whatever we can to encourage them to come here. I would like to see more Scandinavian people come here. But we will not get people from Sweden, Norway and Denmark to come here while we have such shocking social service standards. I will come to that in a moment, because the Minister dealt with the social service question to some extent. I am pleased to know that the Spanish have been included and that Spain has at last agreed to allow migrants to come to this country. The Spanish are a delightful race of people. They are hard-working people. They are good people and the sort of people who will intermarry and become integrated or, to use the Minister’s very fine phrase, melt so easily into our community life that we ought to welcome every new Spanish migrant who comes to this country.
I now pass on to the last page of the Minister’s statement. I could not agree more with the Minister when he said this:
Migrants will not be attracted by passive policies.
It would be wrong to suggest that the Department of Immigration has been engaged in passive policies. The Department has adopted very aggressive policies for the attraction of migrants to this country. Unfortunately, it is handicapped by conditions which are not of its own making but which have come about because of the Government’s failure to attend to certain matters. It is handicapped by the low standard of social services in this country and the matter that I previously dealt with at length, the shortage of housing. No matter how aggressive the Minister may be - and the present Minister is an aggressive man in more ways than one - how is it possible for him to get more migrants when his officers abroad have to admit that the standard of social services in this country is very much lower than in the countries from which we seek to attract migrants?
I can recall an occasion when a former Minister for Social Services was interviewed by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones). The Minister at that time was the present Minister for
Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair). The honourable member for Adelaide said to the then Minister for Social Services: ‘Mr Minister, I take it that social services in Australia under the Liberal Government would now be the best of any country in the world?’ The Minister hesitated in his reply. The honourable member for Adelaide, seeing his difficulties, quickly retrieved the position by saying: ‘Could I put it another way? Would our social services be better than, for example, in India?’ With very great relief the Minister smiled and said: ‘Oh, yes, that is most certainly true*. Although I believe that we are above the Indian standard, I certainly must repeat that we are very much below the European standard, and until we can increase the level of our social services to bring them into line with those in some of the more advanced countries in Europe we cannot expect to get the sort of inflow of migrants to which we are entitled.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I have observed the expression on your face. I will now conclude as quickly as possible by making one or two very brief references to the improvements in social services to which the Minister referred in his statement. Free health insurance benefits are to be provided for migrants from the day they arrive until the end of the first 2 months of their residence here, provided that they join a medical benefits fund in that time. Not many of them will think that that is much of a concession when they come from countries where they get free medicine and medical benefits. Nevertheless, it is important, and to the extent that the Minister had to squeeze it out of the Government I congratulate him on his success. I would not have thought it possible to have squeezed or to have levered out of the Government this small concession, but he has succeeded and is deserving of some praise for it. It is an excellent idea.
The second social service provision will make available to minors who are migrants to this country and who do not have their parents here the full adult rate of unemployment and sickness benefits. This is a very proper provision and I congratulate the Minister on it. I turn, however, to the third concession in social services, under which age pensioners making temporary visits overseas, who now receive the social service entitlement for 12 weeks, will receive it for 30 weeks instead. I am only assuming that I am correct - and the Minister may correct me by way of interjection - but I take it that this applies only to migrants from the United Kingdom. Does it apply to Italian migrants as well?
– That is very good, except that it is not quite good enough. The Labor Party has laid it down clearly in its policy - and it is there for everybody to see, with the next Prime Minister’s photo on the. front page - that it will never be possible to do justice to people who have qualified for the age pension in this country and who wish to go overseas either temporarily or permanently until we become socially advanced to the point where we do what the Americans do and give them their social service entitlements for the rest of their days irrespective of where they are living.
– How long did the Labor Party pay them?
– This has been in our platform since the 1965 or the 1967 Federal Conference. It had been the policy of the party before that, but it was not put into the platform in printed form as a positive binding provision upon a future Labor government until 1967. But it is there now, and a future Labor government will be bound to extend to all migrants who come to this country and who qualify for the age pension the right to draw the pension as long as they live, irrespective of where they live. This is a very proper provision. Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank you for your forbearance, and I thank the Minister also for the courtesy that he extended to me in giving me leave to make this short statement.
– In the course of his statement the honourable member for Hindmarsh asked me a question. I ask for leave to make a statement to answer that question.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hallett)There being no objection, leave is granted.
Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce- Minister for Immigration) - The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) traversed a very wide area. He knew very well, when he said that I had not mentioned anything about housing, that the reason I did not mention it was because the statement was confined to the programme for this year. The honourable member said some interesting things. He said that we should make provision for housing for migrants. He quoted extensively from a document which was drawn up by the Immigration Planning Council at my request about a year ago. At the time that document was drawn up the building rate in Australia was not quite 130,000 houses a year. At the present time the commencement rate is 143,000 a year and the approval rate is over 150,000 a year. The honourable member seems to forget these things. It is essential for a Government to take intoaccount housing for migrants - and it is taken into account by the appropriate departments. I am surprised that the honourable member should seek to make some political capital out of this matter. I know that he knows better. I forgive him on this occasion for I really feel that he was only out for a bit of a jest.
I believe that I must make one point. In his electioneering speech the honourable member asked: How can we expect to get Scandinavian migrants to come to Australia while our social services are in such a bad condition? I remind the honourable member of the increased immigration from Denmark, for example. Three years ago 300 Danes came to Australia. Two years ago we got 700 and last year we got 1,200. So the Danes apparently do not think that our social service provisions are too bad. The number of Finns has climbed and is now approaching 3,000 a year. Indeed, the total Scandinavian intake for the last year was between 4,000 and 5,000. It has climbed up over a period of 2 or 3 years from a few hundred.
When talking about Europe, the honourable member spread his net wide. He said that social services in Europe are much better than in Australia. He knows, because he said it in this place, that the number of migrants coming in from Europe has doubled in the last couple of years. The number of applications has more than doubled. He knows that very well, yet he has taken this opportunity to make an electioneering speech about housing and social services when he should have been saying that, notwithstanding the prosperity and social service provisions of European countries, the attractions of this country are so great and the attractions of our way of life and our dynamic economy are such that they could not be matched by any other country in the world. Australia leads the world as a country receiving migrants. Each migrant makes his own judgment as to what is the best country for him to come to. Last year 175,000 migrants decided that Australia was the country for them.
Debate resumed from 12 August (vide page 114), on motion by Mr Bury:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is a Bill to authorise a loan of $132m to the States under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement of 1966. Prior to this there were two other agreements, the first of which was made in 1945 under a Labor government. Later in my speech I shall draw attention to the vast difference between the conditions stipulated in the housing agreement made by the Labor Government and the two housing agreements made by the present Government. I hope that when the housing agreement comes up for review in 1971 it will take in some of the magnificent features contained in the 1945 agreement. I have no doubt that when the people of this country realise the differences and the sharp distinction between Labor’s policy on housing and urban development and the policy pursued during the last 20 years by the present Government on urban development - this has been nil, of course - and housing, which has been quantitative instead of qualitative, they will want to see in office a government that will do something about housing, and in particular the cost of housing and interest rates.
The people of Australia are very fortunate in that never before in the history of the Commonwealth have they had the opportunity to select as an alternative Prime Minister a man who has given so much attention to housing, to urban development and to the good life of the people of this country. This man is the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). I know of no man - and I have searched the records from the days of Federation - who is better equipped than he to serve the people of this country in their need for cheap, good and sufficient housing. 1 know of no government led by any Prime Minister since Federation that has given such little attention to the needs of the people in housing and urban development than the present Government led by the present Prime Minister. On housing alone, if for no other reason, the Leader of the Opposition deserves to become Prime Minister of Australia.
Housing is the most important factor in the life, happiness and security of the families of our great nation. If we do not pay proper regard to the housing needs of this nation we will never have the sort of nation that we Australians believe, and the pioneers who went before us believed, that this country deserves. The amount proposed in the Bill is only $6m more than what was granted last year.. It represents only 10.5% of the total amount spent on home building last year. Just imagine: In the field of home building, the area of human endeavour which is so important to people’s happiness, the Commonwealth Government has made available this year only a little more than 10% of the total amount which was spent on home building last year. Last year $ 1,256m was spent in Australia on the building of houses and the provision of homes. Yet, of this enormous amount, the best the Commonwealth Government is able to do is to advance no more than 10.’5% of the total amount spent last year. Of alt governments, it alone has the power to direct the flow and direction of money. This is achieved generally through the banking systems. It alone, of all governments, is in a position to finance a large amount of the housing needs of the country out of directly derived revenue. This is because the Commonwealth Government takes a predominant share of all revenue collected.
The Commonwealth collects all of the direct taxation on the incomes of companies and individuals. It collects in direct taxation far more than all the States put together. The Commonwealth Government has an avenue of revenue collection which is not open to any State or local governing body. Yet, what does it do to meet this great need of the people - the need for cheap, good, high quality housing in good, healthy and happy surroundings? It does nothing at all. The amount of the increase this year is almost identical with - or practically no more than - the increased repayments of capital’ and interest which the Commonwealth Government received this year from the moneys already lent under previous Commonwealth-State Housing Agreements. So, really, this Bill is not adding any more at all to the total amount that is provided for housing. All the Bill does is to give the amount of the increased repayments under the old scheme back again to the States in the form of new loans. Under this arrangement we will never catch up the backlog; we will never bring about the urban redevelopment that is necessary to make this country great. We will never stop the ugly sprawl of our suburbs or be able to cater for the people living in the provincial cities. We will never be able to provide for people living in country areas and in the more remote parts of our country. We will never be able to achieve these objectives unless we give proper attention to an organised urbanised development and see, whenever money is spent on housing, that we have some regard to the cost-benefit factor.
It is no use officers of the Department of Housing sitting down under ministerial direction and being forced to content themselves with adding up figures of the number of houses built without giving any regard to the quality of houses, the siting of houses and all of the environmental circumstances in which the new home owners will live. What officers of the Department have to do is to plan for the future; to do something by way of planning that will ensure that when the members of the generation now at school grow up, marry and need homes, firstly, they will be able to get them; secondly, they will be able to purchase their homes at a price that will be within their pocket; and thirdly they will be able to repay the cost of their homes long before they reach the age of retirement.
The ratio of Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement homes built over the past 6 years to the total of all completions has decreased to 11%. The figure in 1963-64 was 14.7%. I would now like to add to what I have said about repayments to the Commonwealth from previous CommonwealthState Housing Agreement loans some comments about the amounts that the
Commonwealth receives from exservicemen by way of repayments on war service homes. We are not dealing with the War Service Homes Act here. However, I make a passing reference to the fact that altogether the total amount of the principal and interest that had been received by the Commonwealth by way of war service homes repayments in 1967-68 was no less than $69m. Surely the House can see what I am doing? I am making a case for the establishment of a revolving fund for the purpose of financing home building and urban development. If we had a revolving fund to which we could add each year the amount we felt the country could afford, in subsequent years the amount of repayment of principal and interest would be so high that we would only have to add to the amount of repayment and interest a sum of money sufficient to meet the increased demand.
If this were done we could finance our urban redevelopment without any additional costs or without any great additional cost to the community. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the Commonwealth ought to be able to provide house finance at no more than the 31% interest rate now charged for war service homes. If we can provide the enormous sums of money which have been provided over the past 20 or 30 years for war service homes at 3f % , why can we not extend that benefit to ex-servicemen who have not served overseas? Why can we not extend it to men who have served their stint as national service trainees? Why can we not extend it to people who are entitled to benefits as employees of the Commonwealth? For the balance, why can we not say to the States: Look, we will supply you with the money to see that those who cannot qualify directly as borrowers from the Commonwealth can become borrowers from the State governments, providing you do not charge them more than 3t% interest’?
Presently I will explain to the House what interest charges amount to over a 35-year period. Honourable members will be absolutely shocked and staggered to the point of disbelief when I explain how much each 1% of interest charged amounts to on an $8,000 loan over a 35-year period. Why have T chosen this period and this amount? I have chosen the period because it represents the average period of long term credits under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, and I have chosen the figure of $8,000 because it represents the highest loan available from the ordinary lending authorities.
When the Loan (Housing) Bill of 1966, which sought to renew the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, was before the House the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) moved an amendment, which I want to place on record, because every member of the Government voted against it. Government members said that they did not want it, so I want the people to know what Government members said that they did not want. The Leader of the Opposition moved the following amendment:
That whilst not in any way opposing the passage of this Bill, the House is of opinion that the existing Housing Agreement has not fully met the housing requirements of the Australian people and that before a new Agreement (to which part of the money to be provided by this Bill may be applied) is entered into, an all-Party Committee should be appointed to investigate all its aspects with particular regard to -
These were surely laudable objectives. Surely a Parliament consisting of Australians hoping to serve the interests of the Australian people would have voted for it. But what happened? Every member of the Liberal Party and every member of the Country Party in the House that night voted against (hat very desirable objective which was stated by the Leader of the Opposition.
Let us examine these objectives one by one. The first referred to rental rebates. When the 1945 Agreement was established by the late Mr Curtin, as Prime Minister, the Commonwealth said to the States: ‘We will make money available to you for the purpose of building homes for the people in your States provided a certain percentage of those houses are built for rental purposes and provided that houses built for rental purposes are not let to people who are required to pay a rental greater than that which is reasonable having regard to their earnings’. The Commonwealth also said that if the houses were let to people in the low income group whose income would not permit them to pay an economic rental, the Commonwealth would subsidise the difference between what they could afford and an amount that an economic rent would demand, on a 60% -40% basis. But the present Government, when it came to office, promptly cancelled that provision. It was not interested in helping the man in the low income group who needed some relief from high rents. So the Government scrubbed the provision altogether and we. have not had it since. In 1971 when a Labor Government introduces a Bill for a new agreement it will re-insert in the legislation the provision which existed in 1945 to provide that low income group tenants of nouses built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement will have the difference between what they can afford to pay and the economic rent made up to them by way of government subsidy. It is only proper that this provision should exist.
I turn now to the second objective, namely, slum clearance. Surely everybody will agree that there is an urgent need for slum clearance. There is no city in Australia, not even the fair city of Adelaide, which can truthfully boast that it has no slum area. In the larger cities like Sydney and Melbourne, but particularly Sydney, there are thousands of acres of slum areas which ought to be cleared. The areas should be acquired by the State Government and should give way to high rise flats or home units. In some cases there is need for twostorey and three-storey home units. I do not want to see- no-one wants to see - all of our existing slum areas cleared and replaced by thirty-storey buildings of flats. We are not advocating this. What we are advocating is that wherever a slum clearance programme is put into effect proper regard should be had to the environmental needs of the people who will live in the area involved. Proper recreational provisions must be made. Recreation halls should be supplied at government expense. It should not be left to private enterprise to meet the cost of skating rinks, squash courts and heated swimming pools. The provision of these facilities should be the responsibility of the housing authority and they should be available for the people in the areas concerned. There should be a central meeting place where people can get to know each other and where little kiddies can play to gether. There should be decent surround.dings where people can meet and talk as civilised human beings instead of having to live, as they now do, in circumstances which in some cases are almost unbelievable. As one great commentator said: ‘We are living in padded cells, prisoners to our television sets, to the cocktail bar and to the nearest club’. Unfortunately, this is all too true.
Some of us blame the parents, and some of us blame the poor, juvenile delinquents. It is not the fault of the parents or of the children. The present circumstances arise from the failure of this Government to plan adequately and to see that when money is made available attached to the grant shall be conditions which will insist upon the proper provision of recreational facilities that are so needed. In today’s ‘Australian* this statement by one of the greatest Australians, His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, appeared:
When civilised man looks out from the padded cell of urban life - what a destruction of the human environment he would see if only his eyes had not become too narrowly focused on his house, motor car, golf course, his cocktail bar and his television set.
Well spoken, I say to the Governor-General of this country - very well spoken indeed. What a tragedy it is that his one-time colleagues sit with such complacent expressions on their faces. Only two Ministers are present to hear this speech. One is the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) who is now busily engaged in throwing the natives out of Bougainville to give way to Rio Tinto of Australia; the other is, of course, my very good friend for whom I have a great affection, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury). Seeing that he lives in a blue ribbon seat which we cannot win it is safe to say this. He has seen the light. On one occasion he went on record as attacking his own Government for using the credit squeeze method to dampen down on housing. It was the housing and motor car industries, which are the two big employers of labour, that the Government thought it was easy to attack. The Minister rightly criticised the Government for always attacking the housing industry whenever it wanted to give effect to its economic policies. You cannot turn housing on and off like a tap. If you introduce a credit squeeze on housing, bringing it to a halt, and throw thousands of people out of work you cannot expect those thousands of people to begin work the day after the credit is again made available. This is one of our great problems.
The Leader of the Opposition dealt with another point in his amendment, namely the provision of housing for pensioners. We are doing virtually nothing about providing housing for pensioners. A great writer once said that a country’s standard of civilisation may be gauged by the respect and attention which it gives to its old people. This is true. Look at the oldest civilisations in the world - the Chinese and Italian - and you will see that the one thing that distinguishes them from primitive people is their great reverence for their old people and the extent to which they will go and the sacrifices they are prepared to make to see that in the evening of their lives their old people do not suffer a shortage of food, clothing or proper accommodation. But in Australia we do virtually nothing for our old people. True, we provide a subsidy of $2 for $1 for the erection of homes for the aged. But having done that the Government wipes its hands of the problem. It applies the old policy of quantitative tests rather than qualitative tests, not caring who gets the money or whether the people who should benefit from the public funds expended in this way will be fleeced.
We must spend a lot more money on the provision of homes for the aged. To the housing authorities in the various States we should say. ‘We do not care whether you are spending loan money to build homes for the aged. If you are prepared to spend on homes for the aged a certain percentage of the amount allocated to you each year we will subsidise your expenditure on a $2 for $1 basis just the same.’ But what does this Government do? The very people who could do most in the field of providing homes for the aged - the housing commissions; in South Australia the Housing Trust - are told that they cannot benefit from the subsidy because in the main they are spending loan money. What a shocking technical point to be taken by a Government which pretends to be concerned with the welfare of the poor and the old. If this Government is genuine and sincere, which it is not, or even if it wants to pretend that it is sincere, it must say to the housing authorities and local government authorities: ‘We do not care whether you are spending loan money. Whatever amount you spend to provide homes for the aged will be subsidised on the basis of $2 for $1.’ I could say more on that subject but time will not permit me to do so.
I turn now to the matter of land development. The Leader of the Opposition included this point because he is deeply conscious of the tremendous burden now placed on young married couples by the price of land. How on earth do you expect a young married couple ever to be able to build a home if they have to pay $8,000 for a block of land? I might have thought that it was an exaggeration to say that a block of land would cost $8,000, but as everybody knows the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) is a man of great truth and honesty. He is not one glibly to make the statement that in Perth you have to pay $8,000 for a reasonable block of land unless it is true. I might have been surprised at this claim were it not for the fact that I have spent several weeks looking for a block of land. I have discovered that in the suburb of Underdale no less - not Toorak or Vaucluse - the price asked for a block of land was no less than $8,000. That was not a corner block or a big block. Imagine how much a person has to find if he has to borrow the money to buy the land and borrow further to build a home on it.
Supposing a person wishes to build a modest home costing $9,000 on a block of land costing $8,000. If he borrows the money for the land and borrows the maximum of $8,000 permitted under the legislation for the erection of a home he will pay over a period of 35 years at an interest rate of 7% no less than $26,000 in interest alone. But if the interest rate was reduced to 3)% the amount to be repaid would be almost halved. I mention 3i% because it is quite relevant to what I propose to say. Thanks again to the tremendous interest which the Leader of the Opposition has always shown in housing problems, the Labor Party has now written into its platform, which is binding on all future Labor governments, a housing programme for all to see if they wish. Under that programme the Labor Party undertakes that upon attaining office it will direct the Commonwealth Bank to set up a housing finance section which will make money available to home builders at an interest rate of 3i%. You may ask what is magical about the figure of 3%. The Leader of the Opposition has set that figure because he and all honourable members know that for the past 20 years or more the Commonwealth has financed war service loans at *3i% interest. If it is possible to finance several hundred thousand war service homes at an interest rate of 3J% the Leader of the Opposition cannot understand why it is not possible to finance other homes at 33-%. With the concurrence of honourable members I I incorporate in Hansard a table supplied by the Department of Housing, showing the number of houses built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement since 1963 compared with the total number of houses built. The table is in these terms:
It will be seen that of the total of 129,968 houses built in 1968-69 only 14,265 were built under the Agreement. This was about 11%. Standing alone that figure of 11% may not tell much of a story, but if we turn to 1963-64 we see that the number of houses built in that year from funds provided under the Agreement amounted to 14.7% of the total number built. These figures show a steady downward drift in the part played by Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement finance compared with the total picture. Instead of going down we ought to be increasing the ratio until we reach the point where the amount that we are providing represents the total, and only until this is done will we be able to introduce a total housing finance scheme at the rate of interest of 3$% or even less. This figure has been fixed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) as fair and reasonable. While housing needs are rising the rate of house building under the housing agreement has, as I have just said, fallen and is continuing to fall. But during this period of 6 years the number of marriages per year has risen from 80,916 to 106,345. If one adds to those people the migrants who are coming to this country - some 138,000 for the year just ended - one ends up with a fairly large figure. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard the following table:
As the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) pointed out a moment ago, that number will be greatly increased. So we begin to realise how great is the demand for housing and how great it will continue to be in the future. I do not want to dwell at any great length on the position of migrants because I had a very good opportunity a moment ago to make a few well chosen remarks about that problem. But this leads me at once to the question of interest charges on loans for home purchase and the effect that high interest charges has upon the capacity of the average Australian citizen to own his own home. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard the following table:
This table shows that interest charges in Australia now range from 2% by a building society in Broken Hill - imagine it, 2% - to no less than 13% charged by some finance companies. The effect of these charges can be better understood by reference to a table which relates to the borrowing of $8,000 over a period of 35 years with interest calculated at monthly rests. With the concurrence of honourable members f incorporate the table in Hansard:
The period is important because it is the normal1 period over which young married couples buy their homes and 3i% is the rate which .will apply to loans made available to anybody by the Commonwealth Bank House Finance Department once the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) becomes Prime Minister. I select 3i% as the rate of interest because of its relevance to Labor Party policy. A person could borrow $8,000 under the Labor Party’s scheme, repayable over 35 years at weekly payments amounting to $7.88 compared with the average rentals paid by migrants of from $15 to $19.99 per week. The table shows that the same loan at 5i% would cost a home purchaser $9.89 per week but at the more common rate of 7i% - and one is kicky to get it at 7i% because it is nearly impossible now to get a loan guaranteed by the Commonwealth Housing Loan Guarantee’ Corporation as very few lending authorities will lend at the 7i% maximum fixed by it - the average repayment per week would be $12.41 compared with $7.88 per week under the interest rate which a Labor government would establish through its Commonwealth Bank house finance scheme. Does the House realise that this means that nearly $5 a week every week for 35 years of a man’s life would be put into his pocket if he bought a home under Labor’s proposed home building scheme as compared with the prevailing rate outside the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement at the present time? The total1 interest charged on an $8,000 loan at even 7% - forget about 7i% - is $13,464 and if the land has to be bought as well one can well imagine the proportionate extra interest charges that would have to be paid by the borrower.
– Who are the people who will benefit from this?
– Every person in the community who has to buy a house will benefit from Labor’s programme on housing. When this programme is understood it alone will be sufficient to swing the whole mass of public opinion in favour of the Labor Party because in no other field is the public being fleeced to such an extent as it is now in the field of housing. Therefore any party that will grapple with this great problem is the party that will get, and is the party that deserves to get, the support of the Australian people. This programme is set out in the platform of the Labor Party. It states that the aim of the Labor Party is to:
Make conditional grants to the States for the reclamation and rehabilitation of depressed areas in accordance with modern town planning.
I do not think we have fully understood what is meant by that and I am indebted to the Leader of the Opposition for two quotations which I think state the position as succinctly as possible. Rousseau wrote:
Houses make a town but citizens make a city.
Men come together in the city to live; they remain there in order to live the good life.
But how can anybody say that a person living in the cities of Australia today is really living the good life? ‘Who is thy neighbour?’ says the Bible, or perhaps it is Know thy neighbour’, if I remember my mother’s quotation more correctly. But how does anybody today get to know his neighbour living in a 30-storey block of home units? How many of us living in flats anywhere, whether they are 1, 2 or 3 storey blocks, really know our neighbour? We do not know our neighbour and our children do not know our neighbour’s children for the simple reason that we are living in the padded cells of improperly planned urban development. There is no attempt by the Commonwealth to insist that States plan their home building programmes to ensure proper recreational facilities so that neighbours can meet and enjoy each other’s company. Sports centres, heated swimming pools, squash courts, table tennis rooms and youth clubs must not be left to private investors or voluntary helpers as is now the case. It is the lack of communal facilities and recreational centres which is driving parents into the clubs and pubs thus separating them from their children. The children, because they are being forcibly separated from their parents for so much of their waking lives, are losing parental control and with it, of course, respect and this is causing the generation gap between the teenagers of today and even the younger parents, to say nothing of the older parents. There is a generation gap in Australia today which is peculiar to this day and age. Never before has it been so difficult as it is today for a student to sit down with his parent and discuss freely and openly the problems of his youth. Students cannot do this because of the generation gap which has been forced upon them by this Government’s failure properly to plan the housing of this country. lt is not the fault of parents that this has happened. There is no other escape from the boredom of television and the padded cell of urban life than to go into flab. People in flats are strangers to the people next door. If they want to meet anybody whom they know, or their neighbours, the only way they can do so is to meet them in the nearest club or pub. They cannot meet them in the nearest heated swimming pool or squash club or hall because there are not any such facilities, and the communities are so poor that they cannot afford to construct them. Whenever heated swimming pools or squash courts are established by private enterprise, the only way in which people can use them is by parting with so much of their hard earned money that sometimes people have to go without certain necessities even to play a game of squash. We will not get communal understanding this way. We will get this only by making it possible for members of the community to meet together easily and cheaply, as is possible in Canberra itself.
Do not let anyone say that these things cannot be done. I invite any person listening to me this afternoon who believes that what I am saying is a Utopian dream beyond the capacity of man to achieve to come to this city and see what can be done by proper urban development. I invite people in this city who have not done so to go to Aranda, Cook and Macquarie and see the even better efforts that have been achieved by the National Capital Development Commission, with proper planning. The authorities in Canberra have made Canberra the most beautiful city in the southern hemisphere and perhaps even in the world, and that is not an overstatement of the true position. It is the most magnificent city in Australia, and it is fast becoming the most magnificent city in the world. If we Australians are capable of producing a city like Canberra with all that it has, we Australians, given a government with the will to do so, can produce other Canberras throughout our country. There is need for another Canberra between Newcastle and Brisbane, another between Melbourne and Albury and another between Melbourne and Adelaide. There is need for other Canberras in other parts of Queensland to which I know the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) has paid so much attention ever since he has been in Parliament.
There has never been a proper review of Australia’s housing needs and likely trends since 1945, when a review was carried out by a Labor government. The Ministery for Housing has been content to pass the buck to the States. It takes no responsibility for the quality or siting of houses in relation to hospitals, schools, recreation facilities, public transport, roads and sewerage. It does not give a damn whether houses are sewered or not. This is the reason why so many people in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney are still living in unsewered areas. Surely this is testimony to the failure of the Commonwealth Government to concern itself with the ancillary needs of home building. Everybody dreams of having a home of his own, but between the dream and the key, many problems have to be faced. Although this is a fact, this Government has done absolutely nothing at all to meet the great problems.
I am sorry that I have to conclude before I have made some of my best points, but before doing so I want to quote from a speech which was made by the Leader of the Opposition some time ago, in which he said: 1 believe that it is possible that, given the unique opportunities we now possess in Australia, that their lives can be, indeed, the ‘good life - a life which is civilised, rational, human and humane.
Few individuals can single-handed finance or plan their own houses. No individual, however wealthy or powerful, single-handed can secure the services and environment he wishes for his house.
I do not believe that private developers however disinterested, can, acting alone, handle, begin to handle, problems so complex and complicated as those Australia is now going to face in its expanding cities; local government alone cannot solve them; the States acting separately admit they cannot solve them.
Each of these has an important role to play. Only (he Commonwealth can bring all these partners in progress together. Only it can effectuate the desires of families, specialists and communities. The beginning of acceptance of its responsibilities by the Commonwealth is the beginning of a combined solution.
And, after all, when we look, as Australians, to our national government for leadership and initiative, we are really looking to the individual and collective interests of ourselves as Australians.
I conclude on that note. I regret that all these other valuable things I had to say will have to be put to one side. If the people of Australia want the good life, if they want urban development and if they want their houses to be the sort of houses that lead to the humane, the human, the good and the civilised way of life, they can get it only by voting for a Whitlam Labor government on 25th October this year. This man deserves to be elected as Prime Minister, and I am sure that he will be elected.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
, the original Housing Agreement was the creation of the Chifley Labor Government. When that first agreement ended in 1956, the Menzies administration increased interest charges in one fell swoop from 3% to 4J%. It eliminated the economic concession rents for pensioners and other substandard income groups and diverted a proportion of the moneys used for housing for lower income groups to co-operative building societies and defence personnel.
In New South Wales today there are 28,000 approved applications for Housing Commission accommodation, despite the most rigid culling that a Liberal Government can devise. There are over 7,000 pensioners and pensioner couples in New South Wales patiently awaiting the allocation of separate housing units which have been constructed at the rate of less than 600 per annum - an average waiting period of 11 years if death does not intervene. New aged housing accommodation in New South Wales, following the pattern established by the former State Labor administration, is financed by proceeds of poker machine taxation and other limited State financial resources. The belated Budget allocation as announced last Tuesday night of $25m for aged person housing over the next 5 years can only be classified in the light of these facts as political conscience money. It would scarcely meet the current New South Wales backlog, without considering the next 5 years of cumulative applications. In addition to that, it would not meet the backlog in the other five Australian States.
We have at the present time 71,000 approved general housing applications held by the various Australian statutory housing authorities, but only 10,000 homes are being constructed annually with current allocations of finance. To compound the evil, there has been an increase of 0.6% in the long term bond rate, which will add approximately 80c to the weekly rental payable in respect of new homes constructed. The Housing Commission of New South Wales has announced that to offset increases in rates and similar statutory charges, rental increases will be imposed of up to 50c per week in respect of existing tenancies. The increase in turn is due to the impact of inflation on local government finances in the failure of this Government to allocate to local government a just proportion of the national revenues. The increase of 0.6% in the normal period of repayment of a housing loan of $9,000 will represent a total to be paid in additional interest of $1,500. This of course is without taking into account the fact that, in the present economic climate, we can expect only further and even sharper increases in the long term bond rate.
Within my own constituency, there are over 5,400 homes and flats constructed by the New South Wales Housing Commission out of a total of 25,000 dwellings, being 22% of the total dwellings there. There are still 1,767 approved applicants awaiting allocation of a home. In an electorate with 2i% of the State’s total population, there are 6i% of the State’s approved applicants, a certain index of the problems of the low income workers in heavy industry, and the migrant influx.
Australians must now pay on an average $21,700 to become home owners, even on the conservative period of repayment of 26 years. They pay on an average $3,500 for the allotment of land, $10,000 for the home itself and $7,700 as interest on a loan of $8,000 repayable over 26 years. All these costs have risen disproportionately under successive Liberal governments. The price of every house which is built in Australia today is artificially inflated by extra costs which a succession of Liberal governments has imposed or has failed to eliminate.
Under the original Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, finance was available through 53-year loans bearing interest at 3%. At the same time, general credit foncier finance for housing was 31%. Housing Commission finance following the recent general long term loan interest increase will now be 5%, an increase of two-thirds on the original interest rate. In respect of general housing finance, interest rates jumped successively to 4i% in 1952, 5i% in 1961 and 51% in 1966. The interest policies of this Government have lifted the cost of home ownership by $2,000 even for those Australians who have access to the cheapest source of finance. The cheapest form of housing finance today costs as much in interest as the loan itself does. In the case of the savings banks, interest rates have risen from 3-3% to 64%. In the trading banks, the interest rate rise has been from 35% to 74% and, in the life assurance offices, from 4% to 84%. There is a strong case for the reduction of the cost of housing finance by allowing tax deductions on deposits with permanent or terminating building societies. It would be possible to relieve the burden of housing loan interest on taxpayers by making their interest payments tax deductible. Housing loan interest is deductible already from taxable incomes in the United Kingdom in respect of young married couples for the first 10 years of the term of the loan.
Land prices are artificially high in Australia. It was a remarkable coincidence, or worse, that in the first year following the introduction of the homes savings grant of $500, the report of the War Service Homes
Division showed an increase of exactly $500 in the price of land. Conveniently, this factor has been omitted as an ingredient in the subsequent statistics. The reason is an obvious one. This is a matter of acute embarrassment to the Government. As I said, land prices in this country are artificially high because governments do not participate on an adequate scale in the subdivision of land on the urban perimeter or in the development of inner suburban land which at present is occupied by slums or substandard housing. A Labor Federal government would provide additional funds to housing commissions and various State housing instrumentalities to enable them to acquire, sub-divide, service and sell at cost land on the urban perimeter. The horrible example of the lack of such a policy is illustrated currently by the proposed release of green belt land on the outskirts of Sydney.
An incoming Federal Labor government would make grants to the States to construct homes for rental or for sale at the lowest possible rate of interest and would observe the recommendations of the original Commonwealth Housing Commission that planning is of such importance that the Government should not make available financial assistance for housing unless the State concerned satisfies the Commonwealth that it has taken or is taking definite steps in regard to planning. It would make grants to the States for the provision of such community amenities in housing estates constructed with Commonwealth finance as the Commonwealth itself provides in housing estates in Canberra and other Federal Territories. A Labor administration also would provide subsidies for tenants and purchasers who, through bereavement or incapacity, become unable to meet a prescribed economic rental or repayment, or for bereaved or incapacitated persons who could not secure housing within their means.
The limitations of housing planning are best illustrated within my constituency in the new Housing Commission estate at Warrilla in the municipality of Shellharbour which I have inherited from the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) as a result of the redistribution of electoral divisions. It contains 1,362 homes with a total population of 9,000. The Warilla housing estate is a typical example of a dormitory suburb and indicates every deficiency associated with the niggardly allocation of Federal housing funds. The municipality of Shellharbour is receiving the full impact of the overflow of population associated with the heavy industrial development in the Port Kembla area. The total population of this municipality of over 28,000 gives it the unenviable distinction of being the largest unsewered local government area in Australia. It would be unfair to suggest that the New South Wales Housing Commission has done other than its best to spread financial scarcity evenly. The design and standard of construction of the homes are well up to general average and the construction of the streets and drainage by the Commission before dedication is quite adequate.
In an area where hundreds of acres of open land are required and developed as in this case, it is a major tragedy, both in terms of sanitation and in terms of expenditure that necessary services such as sewerage and telephone are not installed prior to the commencement of construction. The intervening inconvenience and ultimate cost are the penalty for Commonwealth shortsightedness. The Housing Commission in its desperation builds as many houses as possible with the limited funds available. To make the matter worse, adequate loan funds are not made available to the Sydney Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board to discharge its statutory obligations to provide sewerage in the area.
In desperation, the council of the city of Greater Wollongong, to secure an urgent extension of sewerage beyond its 35% current installation, has burdened itself by entering into a 50-50 financial sharing arrangement with the present statutory authority. The council of the municipality of Shellharbour is even prepared to shoulder the burden of a $5m loan, representing one-half of the cost of sewering its main residential area. In the whole of the activities of the State Housing Commission within my constituency and adjacent areas, with the exception of some 450 fiats built in the inner city area of Wollongong, there was no connection of sewerage to any of its houses or estates at the time of their development. In the case of Warilla there has been only the most limited development of locality shopping areas and there is a complete absence of community centres, or even an adequate community hall. The needs of youth, referred to by the honourable member for Hindmarsh, are utterly and completely neglected.
The typical Housing Commission family is one where young couples have made the choice of rearing a family and renting a home rather than of purchasing a home instead of rearing a family. The local daily newspaper within my constituency, in a recent campaign for sewerage, published a petition which was signed by over 13,000 persons in an astonishing response, and with accompanying expressions of acute public indignation and concern. The areas allocated by the Housing Commission for primary school sites are inadequate, and no complete recreational facilities exist in the whole of the Housing Commission estate at Warilla. The problems of the State Housing Commission will be further intensified by the programme of development associated with the construction of the No. 5 blast furnace at Port Kembla steelworks which will add between 3,000 and 4,000 men to the work force. The majority of these men, at current paltry wage rates for unskilled and semi-skilled workers, are automatically acceptable applicants for Housing Commission accommodation. To migrants from the United Kingdom and Europe accustomed to minimal standards of public amenities the situation m Warilla and also in the Berkeley housing estate is the worst possible advertisement for Australian housing, State planning and public amenities. The interest of the Commonwealth in these matters can best be illustrated by the absence last April of the Federal Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) or any representative of that Department from a conference of the six State Housing Ministers.
The fullest use must be made of every possible avenue of housing finance. I note with some apprehension that there has been a slowing down of the rate of increase in savings bank deposits, which are one of the biggest pools available for housing development. Another field which needs to be exploited by this Government for various forms of housing finance, particularly for repairs and additions, is that of the credit unions. The credit unions have done a magnificent job in New South Wales in their present fields. Since 1st January 196S the Federal Government has deliberately refused to recognise savings lodged with credit unions as qualifying for a home savings grant. It is clear that the Government quite deliberately is seeking to channel home savings away from credit unions into other sectors of the financial system. The credit union movement has had resounding success in New South Wales and its accumulated funds some 2 years ago were over S80m. This movement has gained in experience and sophistication to the point where what are virtually workers’ banks should be given the privilege of financing major aspects of workers’ housing costs. The whole conduct of the credit union movement has reflected the greatest credit on the various boards of management which have gained tremendous experience in the primary aspects of credit assessment and banking procedures.
In conclusion I turn to South Australia where the city of Whyalla has been founded and developed completely by Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd-Australian Iron and Steel. Whyalla now has a population of 24,600 people. The whole concept of this area and its administration has been most efficient. There is also a responsibility for this industrial giant to make a major contribution to the housing and general development problems in my constituency. Acceptance of this principle would greatly strengthen the representations of myself and other Federal parliamentarians for a grant-in-aid to meet the special problems of this city as an area of special national significance.
Mr WEBB (Stirling) [5.45J- In his second reading speech, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) pointed out that the sum of SI 32m was to be advanced to the States for housing and that this amount represented an increase of nearly 5% on the grant for the last financial year. The allocation was set out and it showed that the figure for Western Australia would be increased by almost $260,000 as compared with that of the previous year. The housing position throughout Australia is serious, as has been pointed out by other honourable members in this debate, but in Western Australia the position is more than serious - in fact it is desperate. The Western Australian Government has not the drive to grapple with this most serious problem, and it is not receiving sufficient help from this
Government. When the Australian Labor Party assumed office in Western Australia in 1953 it was faced with a serious housing situation. During 1954-55 it produced 4,062 houses. In contrast, during 1966-67, when the Brand Government was in office, only 1,776 houses were constructed by the State Housing Commission. In 1967-68 the number of houses built was 1,557 - a drop of 219 on the previous year but over 2,500 fewer than what were constructed under a Labor government.
According to the latest report of the Commonwealth Statistician the proportion of flats to houses in Western Australia has grown considerably. The figures released show that for the March quarter for every 2.2 houses built a flat was built. What sort of life do families have in flats? As the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) pointed out, this type of dwelling is responsible for some of the growth in child delinquency. I believe that they are the slums of tomorrow. They are terraces built on end without back yards. Flats do relieve the pressure on housing to some extent, but more houses are required for families. When calculating the extent to which the housing position is deteriorating each year it is necessary to take into account both the increase in population and the demolition of existing houses. It is estimated that in Western Australia 1,000 houses a year go out of circulation. Apart from the natural increase in population and those who come from other States, the migrant intake increased by 3,900 in the 12 months ended on 30th June last, making a total of 23,360 migrants in that State for the year ending 30th June 1969. Many of those migrants are misled about the housing position in Australia before they leave their homelands. They are given misleading information on rents, land prices and the prices of homes. In my view this is a tragedy.
It is easy to see why the housing position has deteriorated so much in Western Australia. In 1962 a sum of $2.7m was provided for housing out of a total of $43m of loan funds - or 6.3%. In 1963, it was 4.6% of the total; in 1964, 7%; in 1965, 3%; in 1966, 2%; and in 1967, 4.3%. The estimate for 1968-69 is $2.5m, or 3.9% of the total loan expenditure in that State. With the exception of the current year the amount spent on housing has increased year by year, but so has the cost of housing and consequently less can be built unless the amount allowed is substantially increased. In August last year this Government rejected the Western Australian Government’s request for a special $5m loan for housing. Because of the calls on the amount of general loan funds caused by development and the high migrant intake, for which this Government is responsible, the amount estimated to be spent on housing from the general loan fund will be less than it was in the last financial year. If the State Government decided to spend more from the general loan fund on housing during this year, it would mean that spending would have to be reduced in other essential fields. This Bill, of course, provides more money than was provided last year. The additional amount is $260,000, but this will not go very far. It will meet only some of the increased costs.
More than 15,000 applicants are outstanding with the State Housing Commission. There has been a big increase over the last financial year. This backlog has resulted in a considerable lengthening of the waiting time for applicants. In 3 years, it has extended from 14 months to 44 months for purchase homes. For a family home containing three sleeping units the waiting period has increased from 20 months to 44 months. Some applicants approved by the State Housing Commission as emergent must wait for 3 months before they can get a house. This may not seem very long, but these are people who are in really desperate circumstances and whose cases have been classified as emergent. A court eviction order may have been taken out against them or they may be living in condemned houses, caravans or on back verandahs.
The Western Australian Government has failed the people on housing and has refused to take adequate action to limit rapidly rising land prices. The State Minister for Housing has denied that there is a housing crisis, but for those people who cannot get a house it is a very serious crisis. The Minister claims that more finance is being spent on houses each year. That may be so. However, for the year ended 30th June 1968 the capital income of the State Housing Commission was only 9.6% higher than it was 5 years earlier, but the Government’s total loan raisings had increased by 22.9%. Government housing, therefore, is losing ground to other public works, and the fault to a large extent lies with this Government, which has failed to provide adequate funds. Insufficient Commonwealth finance is being provided. Rapid development is taking place in Western Australia and therefore more funds are needed to meet all forms of development. With the limited funds made available by the Government, someone must miss out and housing is missing out. It is losing ground to other public works.
This Government regards housing finance more as an economic weapon. If the economy is a bit slack, finance is provided for additional housing; if the economy needs tightening, the Government takes away funds. Finance for housing should be based on the needs of the community; it should not be used as an economic weapon in the Government’s stop-go policy. Land prices are rising rapidly in Western Australia. The land speculators are making huge profits at the expense of the home builders. There is ample vacant land within a few miles of Perth, but it is mostly held by land speculators. One cource claimed that since 1950 building costs have doubled many times. In some areas land doubles in price each 5 years and in other areas it is doubling in price each 33 years. The McCarrey report blamed speculators for the soaring price of land for housing. The report asked the Government to do two things to combat speculators. The first was to release land for home builders only and the second was to tax speculators’ profits so heavily that they would quit the market.
Premier Brand, as usual, dithered. He imposed small extra taxes on unimproved land and released some land. The action taken was too little and too late. He adopts a defeatist attitude to this problem. On his return from overseas only last week he said there was no key to the housing problem. Land prices are still soaring. A survey of urban land prices in Australia shows that land prices in the residential areas are higher in Perth than in any other city. Representatives of building companies in Western Australia recently said that the increased price for land had forced them to increase the minimum deposit on houses by up to $1,000 in the past 18 months. The cheapest blocks in the outer suburbs cost more than $5,000. A deposit of $1,000 to buy such a block means that the buyer must pay $17.50 a week for 5 years. The total cost of the block would be over $7,000. This is for the cheapest blocks. Eleven blocks were auctioned in Mount Yokine in my electorate on Saturday, 9th August, for an average price of$9,140.
The President of the Housing Industry Association, Mr Hannaford, was reported in the ‘West Australian’ of 5th August 1969 as having said that building blocks in the Perth metropolitan area were generally $3,000 over-priced. The State Housing Commission dabbles in this type of speculation to some extent. It sells some selected blocks at big profits. It is true that it sells the blocks much cheaper than other organisations do, but still it is selling them for big profits instead of forcing the price down. However, the profits are used to build other houses. But this does not help to keep land values down. It has now become difficult for anyone to acquire a block of land at a reasonable price for the purpose of building a home. Any savings go in the purchase of the land, leaving the purchaser with little or nothing with which to provide a home. If there was a sensible policy on land values and prices, there would not be so many thousands of people on the books of the State Housing Commission for homes.
The time available to me in this debate is limited, but I would like to give just a few figures. Only 1,750 houses had been completed by the State Housing Commission for the year 1965-66, compared with 2,500 and 2,100 in each of the two preceding years. This proves that there has been a recession in home building by the State Housing Commission. This is the general story. If the Government had kept on building homes at the same rate as the Labor Government had in the previous years, more than 7,000 additional houses would have been built and the position would have been eased considerably. As I have only a short time in which to speak, I conclude by saying that the housing situation is such that in the main the man with the smallest income has to pay the biggest deposit. Land price rises in Western Australia are such that the low income earner is prevented from buying a house because they directly increase his deposit. Building societies, banks and other lending agencies usually make housing loans available only up to the point where repayments are no more than 25% or the borrowers weekly wage. This means that the man who has a big enough income to repay a big loan would probably have to find only 10% of the land price increases before he could start building a home. The man who could finance only a small loan may find that his deposit would rise by the same amount as the rise in the price of land. All the recommendations of the McCarry Committee should be implemented to curb land price increases. It was appointed to report on the land and housing crisis in Western Australia. The great tragedy is that the highest profits are going to the land speculators. The housing situation for many people is hopeless. The State Housing Commission should be building many more homes. The limited finance provided by this Bill will not help the housing position very much. In fact, it will barely keep up with increased costs.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation reported.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Bury) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 12 August (vide page 1 1 3), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: this House is of opinion that the Budget is inadequate in that
The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has saved everybody’s time by making his Budget the election manifesto for his party. The people now know exactly what to expect from this Government. They know how little they can expect from it. They now know that after 20 years of Liberal rule the best they can expect is a little plugging here, a little patching there, a lot of propaganda to plaster the whole thing over everywhere; and they know they have to foot the bill for this last minute effort to prop up and patch up the inefficient, inadequate and unjust structure of Liberal economics and Liberal policies.
The Treasurer has at least given his answers to the two old questions: Where is the money coming from? and Where is the money going to? There can never again be any doubt about the Liberal answer to the question: Where is the money coming from? It is to come from the employees, from the small businessmen and from farmers - from the whole range of the lower and middle income earners. It is to come from them at a higher and faster rate than their counterparts in any comparable country. The Australian average wage earners now know they have the distinction of being the highest taxed in the world; the larger their families, the greater their burdens; the younger they are, the longer and the deeper will be their indebtedness.
The great triumph of the Treasurer is that he has managed to defraud the lower and middle income earners by using only the most orthodox Liberal methods. He has done it by the grand Conservative expedient of doing nothing. He has not only masked the burden; he has concealed the responsibility for imposing the burden. This, too, has been done in the spirit of high Liberal orthodoxy - by imposing hidden burdens through the States and upon local government authorities. The Treasurer has caught the lower and middle income earners in a three-way squeeze. By simply doing nothing for 15 years about the Commonwealth’s tax schedules, he has raised the taxes om these groups to unprecedented levels. By simply doing nothing about the CommonwealthState financial formula, and nothing about the framework of government functions, he has forced the States to increase all the taxes, charges and fees still left to them, all of them indirect and inherently unfair, all of them borne disproportionately by the lower and middle income earners and by families. By doing nothing about access to finance for local and semigovernment authorities, he has ensured their growing indebtedness and a lowering of the essential services they must provide. These burdens - high rates and poor facilities - fall on the 80% of our people who live in capital cities and regional centres; and the spread of our cities being such as it is, the burdens fall heaviest on the young, the modestly paid and the migrants, who live in the newest, poorest and ugliest parts of our cities and centres.
These are the people - the employees, the young, the families, the farmers - who are to find this year an extra 20% in individual tax. They are to pay an extra $300m in personal tax, and pay the bulk of an additional $73m in sales tax - the highest increases on record. When the State budgets come down in the next few weeks, exactly the same groups will be paying virtually all the increases in taxes and charges which the States, particularly New South Wales and Victoria, will be forced to impose. And by November the same groups again will have paid the world’s highest property and water rates for some of the world’s worst municipal services. This is the true profile of the revenue side of this Budget: This is the true meaning of 20 years of Liberalism.
Then there is the other big question: Where is the money going to? This too has been answered with classic Liberal negativism. By the same Liberal processes of delay and denial, this Budget builds up needs and builds in burdens. It contains a few clumsy heading-off operations, where the people’s sense of inadequacy and injustice had to be modified or mollified; but in not a single respect has any radical move been made towards grappling with the real problems inherent in the existing systems - not, certainly, in social welfare, not in health, not in education, not in development, not in cities and centres, not in wheat and wool, not in water, not in defence itself or on Australia’s defence industries, not in State or municipal finances or functions.
Pensions have never been lower in relation to average earnings. The Liberal response is to provide that same $1 increase given in every pre-election Budget this decade and that $1 increase is worth less than ever before. In value this is the smallest increase given to pensioners this decade. Public awareness that the means test represents a barrier to reconstruction of the whole ramshackle structure of Australian social services has never been so great and so effectively expressed: The Liberal response is a partial, complex compromise without real commitment to abolition and without any commitment at all to the complementary need for national superannuation.
University and private research, unaided by this Government, has discerned and defined wide and deep levels of real poverty in our community: The Liberal response is to stick rigidly to the concept of cash benefits only, denying those in real need the advice, guidance and facilities, the human aid and physical aid by which alone they could begin to lift themselves out of poverty.
The people have become acutely aware that they are saddled with one of the most expensive and inadequate health schemes in the world: The Liberal Government’s response has been to sidestep the recommendations of its own committee and to throw good money after bad in a costly and futile attempt to shore that scheme up.
After the most prolonged and powerful public debate on education since federation, all parents are aware that few Australian schools indeed are good enough by modern and comparable standards; there has never been so widespread a disposition by the people and the parties to take education out of politics: The Liberal response has been to institute a scheme which ignores need and priorities and which leaves both schools systems as far behind acceptable and international standards as ever.
The Government parties know that rural disillusion and discontent, reflected in the Gwydir by-election, is deeper than ever before: The Treasurer’s response to the appalling problems facing the wheat industry is to congratulate himself on not having to find a $45m subsidy this financial year because the wheat will not have been fully sold by the end of the year.
The Fill fiasco has exposed and exacerbated the financial burdens which arose from the run-down of our defences in the 1950s: The Liberal response now is to reduce the defence budget by 5% - the first reduction since the end of the Korean War - and to abandon long range planning; that is, they have returned to precisely that system which unbalanced the Budgets of the 1960s and which led to the decision to purchase the Fill.
This is the true perspective of this Budget -a Budget of $7,000m, yet a Budget without a single proposal which gets to the roots of a single pressing problem, which provides only wasteful yet inadequate stopgaps for the few problems it does acknowledge, and which ignores the needs while increasing the burdens of the overwhelming majority.
The Treasurer speaks of a growth rate of 6% in the coming year. He refuses to indicate how much of this will be real growth due to higher productivity and increases in the work force and how much due to inflation. Clearly, the estimates of revenue from individuals and from sales tax assume a very high rate of inflation indeed. So the whole structure of this Budget is designed to produce yet a fourth squeeze on lower and middle income earners and on those on fixed incomes including those dependent on social service benefits. This must be the first Commonwealth Budget ever which positively requires a high rate of inflation for the accuracy of its estimates.
One could hardly find a better illustration of the evil consequences of the rigid and inflexible structure of finances which Liberal inaction and the Liberal philosophy have created. The Treasurer finds himself with no room to manoeuvre. On Sunday evening on ‘Meet the Press’ in Melbourne he said he was in favour of some revision of the tax schedules. He admitted that the middle income earners were the world’s highest taxed. But, he said, however, ‘Now is not the time’. It never is the time for the Liberals. In the past 15 years, during which the taxation schedules have remained unchanged, the Australian economy has undergone every conceivable change - from boom to slump to boom to recession to recovery to boom. When, then, is the time? As the Queen said to Alice, ‘Never jam today; but always jam tomorrow’.
By simple inactivity, the Liberals have undoubtedly made revision and restructuring of finances more difficult It gets more difficult as each year goes by. It gets more difficult the longer the Liberals remain in power. It is not to be expected that after 20 years of Liberal governments there should be either adequacy in the provision of government services or equity in their financing. Nevertheless, very great opportunities are offered to a new government - a government with a will to change.
The Treasurer stated here on 5th May that he had made two submissions to Cabinet showing the unfairness of tax incidence on lower and middle incomes. The Prime Minister said in Bendigo on 4th June that the Treasurer had recommended against any alteration. The reason the Prime Minister gave was possible loss of revenue. Why should it be beyond the wit of government to devise modifications which redistribute burdens without loss of revenue? Why does the Treasurer tax the people instead of taxing his brain? Why should Australia have one of the most inequitable income tax systems in the world?
The Budget papers reveal that total receipts and total taxation have each increased by 11996 in 10 years. Company tax has remained almost constant as a percentage of tax - it has risen from 16.2% to 16.8% - a whole 0.6% rise in a time of record dividends. But collections through PAYE - that is, taxation on employees - rose from 19% to 28%; a 50% increase.
Further, within the groups paying income lax there are wide and growing anomalies. Fifteen years ago, the middle million and a half of taxpayers contributed only 33% of the income tax. In 1967, the middle million and a half paid 40% of the tax. The income tax paid by the top 5% has fallen in those years by more than 8%. Further, Liberal policy has built up a system of allowances, deductions and concessions specifically designed to be of greater assistance to the very highest income earners. Many of them can be of assistance only to the very highest income earner. Meanwhile, all family allowances and concessions have declined in real value. There is no need for Draconian measures to secure a scope for reasonable returns providing reasonable relief. It only requires that we return to the original concept of ‘progressive’ taxation. Liberal inaction has made ‘progressive’ taxation in Australia among the most regressive in the world.
This simple statement about the burdens of the lower and middle income earners still takes no account of indirect taxes - to rise, as with income tax, by a record amount this year. But the most onerous indirect taxes are those levied by the States and by local authorities. All their taxes and charges are indirect; that is all that remains to them. At the heart of the present crisis in Commonwealth/State financial relations is the refusal of the Federal Liberal Government to accept any direct responsibility for hospitals and government schools, the greatest burdens on State budgets, and its refusal to accept responsibility for the plight of local and semi-government authorities which bear the whole burden of the provision of services for capitals and regional centres. The national government of every comparable country, including federal systems, already accepts such responsibilities.
It is high time that the goals of urban development - for our existing cities, our growing country centres and for new cities and centres - were made explicit by a government concerned about the shape, size and site of those cities. It is high time that a national framework of urban planning was established, and specific and appropriate planning responsibilities assigned within that framework to the Commonwealth Government, to the State governments and to regional government, lt is high lime the Commonwealth accepted a proper share of the financial responsibility for urban development in all its forms.
Australian federalism should not be less vigorous in these matters than the federalism of the United States and every other federal system with which we compare ourselves. A Labor government would cease to emasculate federalism as it has been emasculated under successive Liberal governments. It would give federalism a genuine regional underpinning. A Labor government would not deny State governments and local authorities finance adequate for the functions which they are incomparably best able to perform or by default impose upon them functions better performed at a national level.
In the last 20 years the indebtedness of the Commonwealth has diminished. In that time the debts of State governments have become four times what they were; the debts of local government have become nine times what they were; and in those 20 years the debts of semi-government authorities have become ten and a half times what they were. I repeat that in those 20 years the Commonwealth’s debts have diminished. Within 5 years, the combined debts of Australia’s municipal authorities will cost more to service than the combined debts of the States. The present crisis in financial relationships is as much a matter of the pressures on local and semi-government authorities as of the squeeze on the States. While State governments complain that the Commonwealth is indifferent to their problems, the States themselves are no less indifferent to the problems of local authorities. The Premiers who upbraid the Commonwealth for its parsimony are themselves most parsimonious in their dealings with local authorities.
Now we have six State governments run by parties of the same colour as this Federal Government. We have the spectacle of running abuse between the various State Premiers and Treasurers and their Federal counterparts. The Federal Treasurer was unable to forbear picking up an interjection about the Premier and Treasurer of New South Wales when he was reading his solemn Budget Speech a week ago. He was unable to resist indulging a similar slighting comment about the New South Wales Premier and Treasurer at question time today. This chamber - the House of Representatives chamber - is the only room in the whole of Australia where State Premiers, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer will even sit down together, and then, fortunately, they are separated by a good broad oak table. The attitude of the present Commonwealth Government to the States plainly does not depend on the political’ colour of the State government. There can be no break through, no restructuring of the finances and functions in our federal system without a change in the Federal Government.
State and municipal finances are not just some academic question for the economists. They are basic to the quality of life. They determine where people shall live, the services to their homes, the transport to and from their homes, the environment around their homes. And what about the homes themselves, in a society that obliges people to own their own homes if they are to be adequately housed? On no item of personal expenditure have Australians been forced to increase their outlays more over the last year than on housing. The increase of outlays - mainly by young couples - has been nearly 10% in 12 months. Decisions by this Government, but even more indecision by this Government, impose additional financial penalties upon ordinary Australians by needlessly and heedlessly inflating the cost of their homes through interest rates and land costs.
– They are still buying them.
– And the honourable member lives on the commissions. An average home already costs 521,000. Buyers must pay at least $3,500 for land, $10,000 for the house itself and 57,000 as interest on a loan of $8,000 repayable over 26 years. ‘Liberal’ interest policies have already lifted the cost of the cheapest form of housing finance from 3i% under the Chifley Government to 54%. In most cases interest on a housing loan now equals the capital actually borrowed. ‘Liberal’ policies have lifted the interest rate for savings bank loans to 64%, for trading bank loans to 74% and for loans from life assurance offices to 84%. Housing interest rates will soon follow bank interest rates upwards, as they always do. Land prices in Australia are artificially high because this Liberal Government has refused to provide the States with funds to acquire substantial areas of Suitable residential land on just terms and to subdivide, service and sell it at cost. Such areas can be on the urban perimeter or in the inner suburbs or in regional centres. It is happening in the comparable federal systems of Canada and the United States of America. It would permit other capitals and centres to be as well planned and serviced as the Commonwealth’s own capitals of Canberra and Darwin.
A resolute endeavour in these fields would reduce the pressure of demand upon land supplies and minimise the speculative element in land development. A Labor government would make grants to the States for land development through a Commonwealth Department of Housing and Urban Affairs. It would actively oppose that drift in the affairs of our cities which is making them increasingly a source not of pleasure or of profit but of discomfort and dismay. The present Government is so apathetic towards the problems of all our cities and regional centres that it has so far ignored the request of all the State Ministers for Housing at their 1968 conference for the sum of a mere Sim to be spent on plans for urban renewal. Proper Commonwealth initiatives here would save our people millions of dollars. It would ensure lower outlay and better return for governments - Commonwealth, State and municipal. Yet $lm to plan for our cities into the 21st century is withheld - Sim that could be crucial in determining the quality of life for millions of living and future Australians.
Social welfare: The quality of life! For nearly 2 years we have had a Prime Minister who has professed his great concern to relieve real need. The great mass of pensioners now know exactly what his compassion is worth - a dollar whenever he finds or fears himself on the eve of an election. He chose to say to a group of pensioners outside the House last Wednesday: ‘You just want more dough’. The slip would hardly be worth mentioning except that it does exemplify with startling clarity the true- Liberal approach to social welfare - that is, that the Commonwealth absolves itself from all further responsibility when it provides cash benefits, and if the cash is not there that is just back luck.
– There would not be any cash if you were in government.
– The honourable member is the only septuagenarian in the House. He will be interested in the matter I am about to broach. His Party’s approach prevents any significant attack on the problems of poverty in our nation. This Liberal approach deprives those below the poverty line of the guidance and advice by which they might begin to lift themselves out of poverty. That can never be done by a dollar here and there, a dollar absorbed as fast as inflation can take it away. This Liberal approach is a further reason why State and local governments, which do try to provide personal and physical services, are so grossly overburdened. This Liberal approach is why inflation is doubly, trebly fearsome a thing to those dependent on social services payments - because the system provides them with nothing but initially inadequate and rapidly eroding cash payments. And this is why Australia is the only advanced country in the world where proposals to reduce poverty, meet need and remove injustices are forestalled and forbidden by the cry: Where is the money coming from?’ The inadequacies are not in our resources: They are in the system, built into it, inherent in it.
As long as we cling to this outmoded ramshackle 60-year-old system of social welfare through cash payments alone, we may be able to relieve individual poverty - ever so slightly, ever so temporarily and at ever so great cost - but we shall never remove the essential poverty of the system. Therefore the Budget should have provided but, like every Liberal budget, has failed to provide for the Commonwealth to develop jointly with the States, local government and voluntary agencies a new, regionally based pattern of social welfare arrangements. In every comparable country it is recognised increasingly that cash benefits alone cannot provide an adequate response to welfare problems. Increasingly all these countries are establishing on a regional basis arrangements through which support, advice and assistance in kind can be deployed to meet family breakdown and the challenge of poverty. The activities of the Commonwealth in this area, like those of other authorities and agencies, are inadequate, unco ordinated and uneconomic. A Labor government would enact legislation modelled upon the Canadian Assistance Act. It would encourage more young Australians to make social work their profession, and support the introduction of improved salaries to attract and retain the extra social workers who are as necessary for the expansion of welfare services as extra doctors are necessary for the expansion of medical services.
Even where cash benefits are the most appropriate response to the problem, we find that this Budget, like all its predecessors, shows the same refusal - the inevitable
Liberal refusal - to tackle a problem at its roots: to enter into firm commitments. Both these failings are illustrated in the case of the latest means test - the tapered means test. In this proposal there is no commitment to abolish the means test. It merely substitutes a new type of test. There are no plans for the introduction of national insurance which is the inevitable corollary and complement of abolition of the means test. And for all that we have heard in recent months about the ruinous cost of abolition, let it now be noted that the Treasurer concedes that to abolish the means test entirely over the next 5 years would cost less in each of those years than the present proposal will cost this year.
Half-heartedly, belatedly, incompletely, the Government has now accepted part of its obligation to restore part of the purchasing power of part of a group on fixed retirement incomes. Even now, the Government baulks at any firm commitment. Even now, by denying to those newly allowed a pension the associated fringe benefits, it relegates them to the status of second-class citizens. For a further $7.5m the Government could have provided all Australians of pensionable age with fringe benefits, excepting the pensioner medical service, which Labor’s health proposals will replace with much more fairness to both patients and doctors. When he was a mere back bench member the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) was a frequent, indeed ferocious, critic of the means test. He said on 20th August 1965: the means test is an extravagance which the Australian economy can no longer afford.
I agree. On 13th October 1965 he said:
The means test is an economic anachronism and is one of the things which are eroding the root of the Australian economy.
I agree. But does the Minister now agree with his own statements? The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) rejects not merely the practicability of abolishing the means test but the principle as well.
– Hear, hear!
– The right honourable gentleman says ‘Hear, hear!’ to that. He said categorically in Brisbane on 30th July that the means test should not be abolished. He seemed to echo the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney), who speaks elegantly and most feelingly of the greedy versus the needy. So, setting aside those greedy abolitionists, how have the needy fared under this Budget?
The age or invalid pension is temporarily restored to the level in terms of average weekly earnings at which it stood 4 years ago. The pension for the widow with a dependent child still lags in value behind its 1965 level. Twenty-two percent of Australia’s larger families live in poverty; for them the Budget proposes absolutely nothing. Far from making a ‘new approach’ to the problem of social services as the Prime Minister promised, he has merely perpetuated the casual inconsistencies of earlier and equally uncaring Liberal administrations. Families of two whose living costs are clearly much the same will continue to be paid grossly disparate benefits under the various categories of social services entitlement. A married couple on the age pension will receive $26.50; an invalid pensioner and his wife $22; an unemployed or sickness beneficiary and his wife $17. Families of three find themselves in a similar situation. A class A widow with two children under 6 years gets $27; an invalid pensioner with wife and one child gets $24.50; and a sickness beneficiary with wife and child gets $19.50. In New Zealand benefits for the aged, the widowed, the sick and the unemployed are standardised at a uniformly high percentage of average weekly earnings. Upon what conceivable criteria of compassion are the present Budget’s gross disparities based?
A class A civilian widow with two children may now receive $25 a week, or $27 if one or more of the children are invalid or under 6 years of age. She is required, that is, to support her family on 36% of an average weekly income. Class B and class C widows who live alone have had their pensions raised by 75c to the staggering sum of $13.25, or 19% of average weekly earnings. A survey conducted by the Minister for Social Services’ own department - hushed up at the instigation of his predecessor - reveals that 76% of all class A widows have incomes of not more than $52 a year, 81% have property valued at not more than $400 and only 35% own or are acquiring a home. Similarly, 72% of class B widows have annual incomes of not more than $52, 73% have not more than $400 in property and only 42% have homes of their own. There is nothing in the Budget to invalidate the conclusion of the N.S.W. Council of Social Service that if a widow puts the care of her children first:
She is condemning the family to a life of financial stringency … of pinching and scraping, accepting charity, wrangling and in some cases cheating - a life of perpetual worry about money with no relief until the children start to work.
Some compassion! Some relief
– When was that said?
– Last year. The Budget leaves their situation unchanged.
It is no longer satisfactory for governments to divorce the incomes which Australians receive in retirement, incapacity or widowhood from considerations of social justice and human dignity. My Party is convinced that employed Australians are ready to acknowledge an obligation to those who laid the foundations for their own prosperity and those who are prevented by misfortune from sharing in that prosperity. They recognise the gross privations which are endured by pensioners of all kinds and the sense of injustice felt by those who, failing to qualify under the means test for a pension, feel that they are being denied benefits for which they have paid throughout their working lives and to which they are morally entitled. The Commonwealth should long since have taken the initiative in transforming this sentiment at once so generous and so practical into arrangements which would preclude today’s employees becoming in their turn the victims of needless hardship and humiliation. Such arrangements cannot be contained within the present framework of means testing and the adjustment of pension rates in election years only for electoral advantage alone. It is now time for pensions to be placed outside the sphere of political manoeuvre and political patronage. It is time for all Australians to have the advantages of superannuation entitlements which currently are available only to a minority of Australians through private superannuation funds. It is time we had the national superannuation scheme.
We are told that some time this week the Prime Minister will announce the superannuation portability plan which he has been sitting on ever since Sir Leslie Melville presented his report on 14th February last year. It will remove one anomaly, but the really important thing is that all Australians should now be given the opportunity to enjoy through a national superannuation fund retirement and incapacity benefits as generous as those which are provided through private superannuation schemes. Contributors to a national superannuation fund would be able to draw upon retirement or in the event of permanent incapacity incomes related to their normal earnings. Incomes paid from the fund would be protected against inflation by periodic up-dating in accord with the index of current earnings. They would be transferred upon the death of a contributor to his widow. No member of a private superannuation fund would be obliged by the introduction of national superannuation to quit his fund, nor would any existing fund be terminated. A Labor government will appoint an expert committee to assess plo.posals for national superannuation and social security put forward recently by Professors Downing and Gates and arrangements under which contributory, incomerelated benefits are already provided in Britain, Canada, Scandinavia and every member of the European Common Market.
Let us keep this fact in mind when evaluating this Budget - the ‘best ever’ Liberal Budget: One in every four of Australia’s larger families lives in poverty. The Budget keeps the system which keeps them poor. The Liberal approach is to organise poverty, to finance poverty, but never to remove the system which creates and perpetuates poverty. And the ultimate illustration of this is the way in which this Budget’s health proposals increase the cost of a costly, inadequate system for the sole purpose of perpetuating that system.
The Budget proposes that families with cash incomes not exceeding $39 a week should receive free health insurance. The Nimmo Committee on Health recommended free health insurances for families with three children and incomes not exceeding $42.80 a week, contributions subsidised by two-thirds for those with incomes from $42.80 to $44.80, and contributions subsidised by one-third for those with incomes from $44.80 to $46.80. It recommended that the allowable income should be increased for each additional child by $4. The Nimmo intention quite clearly was that any family with an income below the poverty line established by Melbourne University’s Institute of Applied Economic Research should receive its health insurance free. The Government, however, has granted free insurance to childless couples with incomes up to $9 above the poverty line while denying it to larger families whose incomes are $3 below that line. I can imagine no more striking example of the fact that parenthood and the struggle to raise a family merit no recognition whatsoever in the eyes of this Government.
Families whose incomes exceed $39 by a single cent are now required to pay more for health insurance than any other group in the community, since the value of insurance contributions as a tax deduction is less for them than for any other group. The net annual cost of health insurance for a standard family at standard rates is now nil for weekly incomes up to $39. It will be $60 for those on an income of $39.01 and it will be only $40 for those on an income of $130. It must surely seem anomalous even to the Minister for Health that a difference of a single cent in income should precipitate so heavy a penalty in insurance costs. It is surely anomalous that the cost of health insurance should be greater by half for families which miss out so marginally on free insurance than for families whose measure of affluence is three times as great.
These blatant inequities highlight the fundamentally unjust and regressive basis of the whole voluntary health insurance scheme. They should highlight to Australian taxpayers the price they have to pay to prop up the system instead of replacing it. The Budget estimate of the cost of free health insurance for tow-income families is $8.1 m. A significant percentage of this allocation will be absorbed by the formidable task of means testing not merely 105,000 families whom the Minister expects to benefit from the scheme but up to three times that number with incomes which fluctuate above and below the $39 cut-off point.
One dollar in every $4 of the remainder will be squandered or retained by the health insurance industry as that industry already squanders or retains $1 in every $4 paid to it by ordinary contributors. It will go to finance the costly publishing activities through which the Hospital! Contribution Fund consoles its director for the loss of his $40,000 executive aircraft and foists his voluntary insurance tracts upon contributors, members of Parliament and the public. It will find its way into the $100,000 political slush fund established by the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia, the Hospital Benefits Association, and the Mutual Hospital Association to discredit alternatives to the present system. It will be used for electioneering against the Labor Party in the coming campaign - but, indeed, the real victims are not members of the Labor Party but the public who have to suffer this wasteful and unfair system.
Australians can obtain the improved health services which they so desperately need and which most doctors are anxious to provide only through the establishment of a universal system of health insurance based on a Commonwealth Health Insurance Fund administered by the Commonwealth Health Insurance Commission. Representatives of the Commission, the government and the Australian Medical Association would negotiate - and I stress the word ‘negotiate’ because the relationship which a Labor Government seeks with the medical profession is one not of confrontation but of co-operation - a system of fee stabilisation of the sort that the Nimmo Committee recognised was ‘vital to any system of health insurance’. The Commission would refund to patients 85% of stabilised fees paid to doctors. Alternatively, doctors would be able to forward accounts directly to the Commission and accept 85% of the scheduled fee as settlement in full, thus obviating bad debts, slow payment and the greater part of their administrative expenses. The Commission would finance public bed care in public hospitals and make a pro rata contribution towards the cost of intermediate or private bed care in both public and private hospitals. It would make special grants to public hospitals to enable them to expand and improve their general medical, outpatients, ancillary and home-care services and to undertake more effective and extensive medical teaching and research.
These arrangements would enable every member of the community to receive proper medical attention and hospital care without the financial anxiety which so often accompanies and exacerbates ill-health. Contributions would be graduated according to income, requiring nobody to pay more for health insurance than he could afford.
The right to choose where and from whom to buy health services would be expanded in a way just not possible under the present system. Australians have a clear choice between a comprehensive system costing less to the great majority for a complete cover and freer choice for doctors and patients, or on the other hand the present decrepit and discredited system which becomes the more expensive the more it is propped up. They are unlikely to be impressed by the deathbed repentance on the part of the Minister and his pious promises of ‘swift government action to repair defects’ in the present system such as those he made at the Royal Melbourne Hospital last Friday. Moreover, by asserting as he did last Friday that there is ‘basic agreement between the Government, the AMA and the health funds that the general concept of the common fee can be made to work’, the Minister merely diminishes still further the remnants of his personal credibility. Let me remind the Minister what the Nimmo Committee had to say on this matter. The Committee - which he appointed - agreed that:
The Commonwealth should seek the agreement of the medical profession to a number of procedures designed to bring about a close relationship between medical fees ordinarily charged and benefit entitlements.
It therefore proposed in recommendation 13:
That there be established what are the most common fees currently being charged in each State for all the medical services and procedures provided by the medical profession. in recommendation 15:
That doctors who wish their fees to be eligible for medical benefits . . . follow a practice of informing their insured patients at the time of a first consultation of the amount of their own fees for any further medical treatment recommended and the amount of the established common fees. and in recommendation 18:
That an arrangement be developed whereby the established common fees for medical services may be adjusted at appropriate times on the basis of relevant economic indicators.
Let me remind the Minister, too, of statements made recently by senior officials of the AMA and decisions reached by its
Federal Council. In New South Wales where local Associations of the AMA have recently adopted schedules of recommended fees which vary between different areas by up to 150%, the State President of the AMA assured all doctors by letter on 1st August that:
It must also be stressed that a list of common fees would not be a schedule of fees - there would be no obligation upon any doctor to adhere to it
At its July meeting, the Federal Council of the AMA rejected out of hand recommendations 15 and 18. The Tasmanian Branch described recommendation 15 as an attempt to fix fees by moral blackmail’. The Federal Council asserted that if common fees were adjusted by economic indicators as proposed in recommendation 18, they would cease to be most common fees in the sense now accepted. In the light of these statements and decisions, can the Minister deny that all that remains of the Nimmo Committee’s concept of the most common fee is a name and a handful of figures? Can he deny that the Government is as far as ever away from achieving ‘the element of certainty as to costs to be met by insurance’ which the Nimmo Committee concluded was ‘vital to any system of health insurance’? In these circumstances, any agreement which the Minister reaches or holds out the hope of reaching with the AMA will be a total sell-out of the Nimmo Committee, disguised for election purposes with a Nimmo label.
– Absolute rubbish.
– The honourable member for Bowman is the only doctor who is prepared to stand in the Liberal interest in Federal elections. We have six candidates who are practising doctors standing for the Australian Labor Party.
Our health proposals have not only a human significance; they have a financial significance, even in the limited context of an annual budget - relieving the burdens of the families, relieving the burdens on the Budget, and, by accepting some Commonwealth responsibility for hospitals, relieving burdens on the States. In other words, it is part of Labor’s philosophy, not merely to try occasionally, inadequately, inefficiently and ineffectually to relieve the needs of individuals by cash grants, but to relieve the poverty of the system. la no aspect of this Budget is the difference of the Liberal approach and the Labor approach clearer than in the Budget’s proposals on education. This is a classic ^Liberal proposal; it recognises areas of real need, proposes a solution which hardly begins to deal with need, ignores great areas of need, manages to put $2m or $3m in the way of privilege, and is deliberately divisive - a microcosm of 20 years of Liberal legislation! The fact is that 1969 presented the Australian Government and the Australian Parliament with a magnificent opportunity to end the barren and backward-looking debate on State aid.
Australians had overwhelmingly come to recognise that there could be no Commonwealth aid to schools which ignored the needs of the Catholic schools. Catholics had come to recognise that exclusion of government schools from Commonwealth aid would inhibit general acceptance ot their claims, proper and just and needlessly delayed as they have been. This Parliament had an unprecedented opportunity to unite all the people behind a programme of Commonwealth aid to all schools. We could have destroyed this year, for all time, the twin shibboleths of State Aid and State rights which have hindered educational advances for too long. The Australian Labor Party has proclaimed for 3 years now that non-government schools required Commonwealth assistance on the scale this Budget proposes. My Party has urged that such assistance should be made available as part of a comprehensive, considered, continuing Commonwealth commitment to all schools on a basis of needs and priorities.
The Liberals have chosen instead to make grants to non-government schools alone and on the basis of enrolments alone. There is not lc in the Budget for government schools which cater for the needs of 3 out of every 4 Australian school children. The Government has allocated its entire Budget appropriation for schools to non-government schools. It has done so in a manner which will give more to the splendidly housed, staffed, and equipped private schools to which most Government members and supporters send their children than to declining Catholic primary schools in inner suburban areas and struggling Catholic primary schools of the outer suburbs. It will give $54,000 to Kings this year; it will give $48,000 to Geelong Grammar. Yet it will give nothing to Sydney High. There’s logic; there’s justice! The Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has justified his proposal by saying that some nongovernment schools would have closed without it. Would Geelong Grammar close next year? Will Geelong Grammar be a better or worse school for Australia with or without $50,000 extra from the Government?
The proposal gives no incentive to reduce the size of classes or up-grade the qualifications of staff. Clearly schools in which the average class size is 30 require assistance less than those in which the average is 50. Clearly schools in which the whole staff has proper qualifications need it less than those in which only half is qualified. The Budget and the apologia delivered last Wednesday by the Minister for Education and Science reveal that the Government believes in Commonwealth assistance for non-government schools but not for government schools, that it is interested in schools before but not between elections, and that it seeks advice on the needs of universities but not the needs of schools. Liberal Ministers should realise that there is great resentment among teachers at government schools that their schools are slipping by world standards and resentment by parents that education at government schools is not free and is becoming less free.
The Commonwealth cannot plead, as each State can, that its financial resources are already fully committed for government schools. It cannot pursue with conviction or credibility the Minister’s argument last Wednesday that ‘the Commonwealth provides almost one half of the recurrent revenues of the States, excluding revenue from business undertakings, and on this basis the Commonwealth has been finding almost one half of the annual running costs of government schools in the States’. This is no more a Commonwealth commitment to schools than it is a Commonwealth commitment to police forces or to any other area of State activity. A commitment does not come just through the Commonwealth fulfilling its inescapable obligations to State government finances. The States can no longer provide adequate schools without Commonwealth assistance.
We propose, therefore, as the first administrative action of an incoming Labor government, to establish a national schools commission, to do for all Australian schools what the Universities Commission is doing for Australian universities. The Commonwealth’s constitutional and budgetary procedures for assisting schools through .1 commission have already been proved and accepted in regard to univerities. No significant advance has been made since the War in any field requiring significant increases in public expenditure without Commonwealth initiatives. The Commonwealth should now take such initiatives not as the Budget proposes in one system of schools alone but in both. There is no prospect of Australian schools catching up to schools in comparable countries unless and until the Commonwealth assists both school systems.
I have dealt with the Liberal attitude to our financial resources and our human resources. What of our physical and natural resources? For the first time in memory this Budget contains not a single development proposal. It could certainly be not for lack of projects. There are three railways projects, for instance, in South Australia alone for which the Commonwealth has made varying commitments - one of them 20 years old - and about which no action has been taken at all.
The Budget is silent on assistance, for instance, for Queensland power. In May last year the Prime Minister hinted at Commonwealth assistance for a $200m power house in Queensland. Last November he assured the House that the matter was under consideration by the Treasurer and himself. In fact, although Queensland formally asked the Commonwealth for financial assistance towards the construction of a major power house in central Queensland last September, it was not till March that Commonwealth and State officials conferred on the subject and not till May that the Commonwealth asked the Snowy Mountains Authority to investigate the power technicalities of the project. The Budget makes no provision to assist in the production of power in Queensland despite the fact that Queensland has the most restricted and expensive electricity in Australia and the Commonwealth has assisted every other State to secure more and cheaper power.
Queensland has also been the State least assisted in water conservation. This Budget continues the silence on Queensland water projects, one, the Burdekin, also being 20 years old. The grants for flood mitigation in New South Wales coastal rivers have terminated and the Budget makes no provision to resume them. Above all, construction on the Snowy Mountains scheme will terminate in 4 years time. Thereafter for the next 50 years the Commonwealth will receive net annual payments of $42m from that scheme. No arrangements have been made for a national water conservation and construction authority, embracing the Snowy Mountains Authority, to harness northern rivers as well as the whole Murray-Darling system not only for agricultural and pastoral purposes but also for industrial and urban purposes.
Yet a Liberal Minister continues to wind down the Snowy Mountains Authority in the year of Queensland’s worst drought this century. The Country Party in this Parliament allows a Liberal Treasurer to direct more of the fertiliser bounty to manufacturers than to farmers. The fertiliser bounty was lifted from Labor policy by the Government in 1963. But our intention was to assist the farmer. Now, by paying the bounties and subsidies direct to the manufacturer, this Government has converted them into part of the protective tariff system, while keeping them outside the scrutiny of the Tariff Board. Out of the total bounty of $12 the farmer gets only $3.25, until the next price rise cuts even that figure back. The manufacturers will get $36.5m of this year’s $50m superphosphate subsidy.
The most extraordinary evasion in the Budget is wheat. Inevitably there will be need for emergency wheat storage after this year’s harvest, but the Budget makes no significant provision for such storage. The problem will be beyond the resources of the farmer, particularly with the higher bank overdraft rate now current. The easing of the depreciation allowances is a trifling contribution to a crisis situation. The Government is following the same course of action, or rather inaction, that it has followed over the past few years of ignoring the pending crisis in the hope that it will go away. Even worse, the Treasurer congratulates himself that he need make no provision for the payment under the wheat stabilisation plan this year.
So much for the Liberal approach to distributing and developing our resources.
But perhaps it might be said, at least they want to protect the resources. And perhaps they do - as we all do. But how do they go about it? I’d like to know what would have been said about me, had I been asked during the next campaign ‘Where’s the money coming from?’ and I replied Oh, I’ll cut 5% off the defence vote’. The Treasurer might even have cried ‘Treason’, as he did 2 years ago about Labor’s proposal to bring the National Liberation Front into peace negotiations. He has never spoken on foreign affairs since. And it might just possibly be that had I added ‘But this does not mean any reduction in our defence preparedness’, even the ‘Daily Telegraph’ which endorsed those words coming from the Treasurer might not have believed me.
But the real significance of this cut - the first since Korea - is three-fold: Firstly, defence preparedness is not only a matter, of amounts of money, but of planning. Australia is not better defended because we have spent $300m on a plane we do not yet have. Failure to plan means poorer defences and ultimately greater expenditures. The Government has now abandoned forward planning in any real sense. It has returned to the ways of the ’50s which so grossly burdened our Budgets in the ’60s, without comparable return in defence capacity.
Secondly, there is still no provision in the Budget and therefore presumably still no plan in the mind of the Government for the negotiation of effective regional arrangements for the procurement or shared production of standardised defence equipment. Australia could and should participate in such arrangements with New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore and perhaps Japan. We would be able, through regional procurement arrangements, to negotiate on a more favourable basis for the supply, manufacture under licence or co-production of those items which only great powers can afford to research and develop. We would be able to retain in this country or direct to other countries in our region most of the orders arising from a Labor government’s reorganisation of Australia’s defences around highly-trained, highly-mobile professional forces. We would enhance the practicability of regional co-operation in defence and of reciprocal training arrangements by increasingly standardising our arms and equipment with those of our neighbours.
Thirdly, the Budget makes it plain that the Government continues to disregard the advice of the Flag Officer Commanding the Australian Fleet that the Navy needs at least another 20 patrol boats if it is to protect northern fishing grounds, not to say Austraiian shores. The Budget makes no provision to develop naval and marine facilities in Cockburn Sound although the late Prime Minister announced 3 years ago that a feasibility study would be made and the experts who were engaged tendered their report in January last year.
The Treasurer concluded his speech last Tuesday with what he called an interpolation. Some commentators comparing his preBudget warnings about the future of the economy with the contents suggested that his interpolation was the only part of the speech for which he is willing to accept responsibility. He compared his Budget favourably with Liberal Budgets of the past. In one sense, and one sense only, he was right. This Budget is a fitting document to come from the Liberal Party. Indeed, it typifies all that the Liberal Party in Australia stands for in 1969. To delay, to deny, to defer: To spend vast amounts of public money to prop up vested interests and vested systems: To divide the country with the country’s own money: To put burden after burden on the lower and middle groups: To shuffle off responsibilities on to other authorities: To ignore real need where real need has no transferable votes: To postpone development: To distort the constitutional framework of the nation in the name of conserving an outmoded concept of finances and functions, yet at the same time effectively destroying the true meaning of constitutional responsibility. This is the meaning of the Liberal Party in 1969. This is what it stands for. Of all the Press comments made about this Budget, the most ill-informed is the suggestion that it blurs the distinction between the parties. On the contrary, it illustrates all that distinguishes the Liberal and the Labor parties. The simple fact - and it is also a simple test - is this: This Budget leaves the overwhelming majority worse off; it builds in economic burdens which will leave everybody worse off, and it begins to solve not one essential problem facing Australia in the ’70s; it produces not a single concept, thought out and thought through.
On the other hand, if every proposal 1 have outlined tonight had been implemented in this Budget, none of them costing more even in the immediate framework of this Budget, many of them saving money for better results, all designed to meet real needs of the overwhelming majority of our people, then this nation would be on the verge of a new era. I accept the Treasurer’s statistical framework of a Budget of $7,000m this year. I accept that a country as rich as ours can support this year’s expenditure of $7,000m. I deplore the increasingly unjust way that money is raised; I deplore many aspects of the way that money is being spent. But the Budget does at least give the nation a broad view of the scope of the finances now available to the Commonwealth. Regrettably, possession of resources is not the same as fulfilment of responsibilities. This Budget does not fulfil them. The starting-point for a fresh government should be that no nation as rich as ours should, in welfare, education and growth, be lagging behind countries no richer than ours. The aim of a fresh government should be and shall be that this rich nation shall do better for all its people than any comparable nation, and shall provide, as once it did, a lead and an example to all nations.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Is the amendment seconded?
– t second the amendment and reserve my right to speak later.
– I claim to have been misrepresented again by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). During his speech the Leader of the Opposition said that I used the words: ‘The abolition of the means test was to look after the greedy before the needy’. I did not use that expression which he attributed to me. The statement that appeared in the Press when all available Western Australian honourable members and honourable senators were asked for their views on the abolition of the means test was, as closely as I can recall it: ‘The honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) and the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) and Senator Wheeldon all expressed the same view, namely, that before the abolition of the means test they were of the opinion that assistance should be given to those in greatest need’. I will accept the honourable gentleman’s written apology.
– Honourable members have just listened to a speech by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) at a time when what we are doing basically is reviewing the condition of the economy of Australia, the expenditure of resources in the year ahead and all those other factors which bear on the production and distribution of the wealth of this nation. Towards the end of his speech the Leader of the Opposition referred to Australia’s financial resources. I detected one role only - that of a potential Father Christmas. Throughout his long speech the Leader of the Opposition portrayed no interest in the state of the economy, the forces which now move it, where Australia was heading from an economic standpoint, or to anything which is concerned with the constructive forces of enlarging our national income and providing those resources out of which everything the Government does must flow.
The Leader of the Opposition covered an extraordinary range of material. His treatment of some of our basic issues was cavalier, to put it mildly. For instance, late in his speech he dealt with defence and noted that the reduction of 5% in the vote for defence purposes this year betokened quite a change of policy. He spoke about the yo-yos of past expenditure and so on. If he had given any serious study to Australia’s defence policy and position, it would have been quickly revealed to him that this 5% reduction is in fact a quirk of accounting. It is due entirely to the fact that the bills for our overseas purchases of equipment have lagged behind expectations. We have no control over this flow of bills for our purchases overseas, and the consequence is that the accounts are coming in much more slowly and the financial provision for the coming year has been that much lower. However, this has no real relation to our effective domestic burden of defence which is borne by the men and resources of Australia and will have to be met in the coming 12 months.
Other subjects with which the Leader of the Opposition dabbled in his speech included health. Experience has shown that in due course the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) will deal extremely effectively with the points which the honourable gentleman raised. The Leader of the Opposition made really only one effective point in regard to education. He felt that it was an omission on the part of the Government not to have made specific provision for the needs of State schools. State schools historically have always been the responsibility of State governments. This does not mean that their needs have been ignored; far from it. This year the largest single increase in budget items relates to payments to or for the States. These payments have increased by $186m or 12.8% in 1 year. For every S7 that the States received last year they will receive about $8 in this coming year. As honourable members are aware, a very large part of all State budgets goes to education. This is certainly covered in a considerable part by payments to the States. A very considerable proportion of this obvious aggregate increase of $186m will be spent by the States on education. Without knowing the precise facts I would hazard the guess that this sum of money is a great deal larger than direct payments made by the Commonwealth to other schools.
The Leader of the Opposition did not refer in his speech to Commonwealth expenditure on education as a whole which this year will rise by $165m, an increase of 38% on last year’s payment. Direct payments by the Commonwealth to the States of a specific nature for education will rise by 53%. Although he made this particular point I have mentioned it was virtually the only one which he could find in an area where previously he had gone all around the mulberry bush to find little points to pick. This he did with almost every other subject he touched upon. In listening to the Leader of the Opposition one listened to a series of very light touches followed by abuse of various kinds of the Government. He even said that State debts were increasing relatively much faster than those of the Commonwealth. Again that is very much an accounting matter, because the provision of payments under formula to the States takes into account very directly the payments which the States have to make to bear interest and service on their debts.
One very serious omission made by the Leader of the Opposition was his failure to state what he proposed to do about the economy of this nation. He failed to take recognition of our economic problems and to indicate how he would improve them in the future. I shall turn to one or two of these issues. Undoubtedly the most serious policy issue confronting the Government at present is how to increase even further our very high growth rate at a time when we already have a high level of employment with no further labour resources apparently and immediately available. Last year we achieved an extraordinarily high growth rate. As the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) pointed out during his Budget speech, our growth was about 6.5% even after discounting the effects of the drought and the later increased production from the country as a result of the passing of the drought. This is 6.5% in real terms, discounting price changes, lt is a very high rate of growth and it is in itself an enormous achievement. But in order to maintain it at a time when we have reached such high levels of employment of all our manpower and resources and to increase still further the rate of growth are difficult without running into inflation. On this key and important point the Leader of the Opposition contributed absolutely nothing. However, if he is not interested in the economy at large, which is the basis of all government expenditure, I might be excused for treating some of these issues myself.
We must record that economically Australia has been a lucky country. In the last decade our known resources and potential have grown out of all proportion to previous experience and this has brought to the Australian economy a confident, hopeful outlook in which our economic prospects for the future appear almost limitless. Recent events and trends have been dominated by the combination on the one side of the extraordinary growth rate of the economy of Japan, which is the fastest growing in the world and indeed is the largest single economy outside the two giants of Soviet Russia and the United States, and on the other side the extraordinary run of large scale mineral discoveries in Australia of a kind that dovetail into Japanese growth. This vast progress has been essentially underpinned by stable government and a continuity of policy which has been aimed at promoting business enterprise and economic success. This governmental contribution in itself has been a vital factor and it is important to emphasise it, because any marked change in this state of affairs will be fraught with grave risk. It will threaten the very basis of our current prosperity. The very omission of true economic discussion from the speech of the Leader of the Opposition tonight denotes the danger that we would in fact face. Any change of government of this kind would bc fraught with very considerable danger to our economy.
In conjunction with the development and exploitation of these resources, there has been stimulated very great interest on the part of capital sources overseas. Consequently we have had very rapid development, the effects of which have percolated through and stimulated the whole of the Australian economy. The larger inflow of capital and the growth of exports have been the main dynamic forces that in the last decade have combined to transform our prospects. We are still in the throes of this expansion. In 1968 the ex-mine value of mineral output in Australia reached a record $820m and the value of mineral exports reached a record S633m. The increase in ex-mine value in 1968 was 17.8% over the figure of the previous year and included iron ore, bauxite, black coa], manganese, copper, lead, zinc and some others. The value of mineral exports during 1968 rose by 42% in one year over the figure for 1967. Black coal exports rose by 30% and alumina exports by more than 100%. Figures recently produced by an officer of our Bureau of Mineral Resources show that our exports of these minerals in 1955 were $107m. In 1967-68 they were S542m. In 1968-69 they were $745m. On present estimates, using the most conservative basis, they are expected to be $9 1 5m in this financial year, rising to at least $l,285m in 1973-74.
In 1947-48 our total exports amounted to $527m. In 1967-68, 20 years later, our mineral exports alone were S542m and our total exports $2,944m. This represents an average annual1 increase of receipts of 1 1 % and in real terms of 5% per annum. Japan is now importing minerals and metals from Australia to the extent of about $250m a year compared with only Sim or $2m in the mid-1950s. By 1975 we should be exporting $500m worth of minerals to Japan. Our exports of iron ore alone are expected to increase from 2 million tons in 1966 to 25 million tons by 1975. By the early 1970s we should be supplying about one-third of Japan’s total iron ore needs. The steel industry in Japan is the third largest in the world and quite the fastest growing.
In the middle of the 1950s our export picture gave some cause for apprehension. There seemed to be some very close limits to what we could export profitably and this limited our buying capacity for articles required for investment and ordinary imports. We were then in the position that expansionist economic policies in Australia were likely to run us quickly into balance of payment difficulties. For years this prospect of balance of payment difficulties has haunted us almost like a financial nightmare. Then came our mineral discoveries and the growth of the Japanese economy. Between 1960 and 1967 the Japanese gross national product more than doubled, and it could double again by the early 1970s. On the import side, the discovery and exploitation of oil resources gives us an opportunity to reduce the heavy burden of payments that has been growing year by year.
All these great changes are at the very roots of our economic prospects. They have transformed our outlook and at last with good management we have some opportunity of breaking out of the balance of payments prison that has dogged us for generations. Though the need for prudence remains, our capacity for independent movement of our own has improved in a way that we could hardly have dreamed of a few years ago. Given sound management our prospects for creating new wealth in the years ahead are enormous. One would think that this economic picture of the future is the feature that would most excite the interest of someone who seeks to become Australia’s Prime Minister. Parallel with this development in international trade, our domestic economic performance in the broad range of activity, which in the aggregate is very much greater than our export activity, has made enormous strides, encouraged and fostered by the policies of this Government.
We have now in our economic life an air of confidence and optimism, which was completely absent 5 years ago. Five years ago we thought in terms of a growth rate of between 4% and 44%, with stop-go interruptions as unavoidable. In 1961 we had what in modern terms would be regarded as almost a major recession. The growth rate in the years from 1959-60 to 1963-64 averaged about 44% per annum. During that time we were still preoccupied with our limited export capacity, our shortage of capital and our capacity to sustain a high rate of immigration. Over the next 5 years from 1964 to 1968, which are the years immediately behind us, registered unemployment never exceeded 1.6% of our work force and never fell below 0.9%. The average annual growth rate in the 1950s was 4%; between 1958 and 1963 it was about 44%; in the last 5 years it has been 5%, and last year the growth rate was 6.5%. This in itself is a tremendous achievement for the Australian economy. The increase in our real national income per head, which in the late 1950s was in the vicinity of 1%, has risen in the last 5 years to about 2.8% per annum. But at the same time our rate of productivity growth has improved from about 2% per annum to a current figure of 2.4% per annum. This rate of growth and expansion has, of course, brought many problems, particularly pressure on resources and prices. Currently our rate of employment is so high and our expansion so fast that the threat of inflation is one which we have to take very seriously. However, recent available figures have shown that our increases in prices have not been out of line with those in other countries. If we take 1962 as a base of 100, retail prices in Australia in September 1968 had risen to 116, compared wim 115 in the United States, 123 in the United Kingdom, 123 in France and 137 in Japan.
Because the size of our work force sets an ultimate limitation upon our economic growth, the Government has done all in its power to increase the new supplies of labour becoming available. It has pressed on with its immigration programme as hard as possible, with very great results. The Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) this afternoon recorded that in the last financial year we had a programme for 160,000 settlers and that in fact 175,000 arrived in Australia, amongst whom were over 80,000 workers. This year the Budget makes provision for an assisted immigration programme for at least 119,000 assisted settlers. Unassisted settlers will bring the total programme to over 175,000.
The other main sources for increasing the labour supply are school leavers and the increasing movement of married women into the work force. The number of married women entering the work force has risen quite quickly. Married women now provide an additional 38,000 workers per annum. In this field, apart from normal measures to facilitate this absorption, we are currently taking two surveys. One is a survey of the factual character of existing child minding and pre-school facilities in Australia that might care for infants of women at work. And from a statistical point of view the Commonwealth Statistician is making another survey. The results of these surveys will be made available towards the end of this year or early next year, so this is another problem that is being tackled, in large part, to make sure that we facilitate whatever increases the work force can obtain, which in turn will increase our prosperity and raise the national income. We have calculated that further sources for increasing the work force have been brought about by bringing handicapped persons into effective employment and by the training of older women, which is a process particularly prompted by my colleague, the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). The new tapered means test is also designed in part to remove further disabilities from employment.
But despite all these efforts, the demand for labour has almost outstripped supply. It is therefore evident that to solve this current limitation we have to spring clean our previous thinking on the subject if we are not in some way to accept limitations on possible increases in our rate of growth. For many years public attention has been focused on full employment and upon the numbers employed rather than on the quality and the deployment of the work force itself. To provide new capacity to promote our growth has become an urgent practical task. Apart from the fact that we are continually increasing the labour supply, we feel that we have exhausted the new sources and that we must now turn to quality. Further increases in output now involve upgrading as fast as we can the quality of our existing labour force. It involves making the fullest use of our greatest national resource, which is our body of working people.
We must look beyond full employment, which has existed for so long, to the next stage. There is nothing fanciful about this. This task is already being undertaken in Sweden where there is a policy of what is termed by the Swedes an active labour market policy. The most important part of this consists of training and retraining those unemployed, those displaced or threatened by technological change and those desirous and able to be upgraded in skill by further training. According to calculations which have been made distinguished outside people show that the cost of providing the training is exceeded in no great length of time by the higher incomes which are engendered by the extra skill and earning power of those who receive training. I spent a week during the recent recess discussing the details of these measures with ministerial and other main authorities in Sweden concerned with the task. We are also expecting in the near future the report of a mission on training which was recently sent to Europe for over 3 months on a tour which included a visit to Sweden and other countries in its itinerary. The report of this mission will be highly significant in our domestic arrangements and will assist us in administering an immigration programme to bring skilled tradesmen from the countries concerned. This report I await with considerable interest.
The problems, however, facing us are wider than just training the work force to a higher degree of capacity. They involve the general raising of Australian standards of productivity, which includes fairly directly management, more effective application of science and knowledge, and the better use of existing knowledge. The Government has been long conscious of this need. The productivity movements, which we have fostered now number over 190. New individual member undertakings number over 3,300, both large and small, both rural and urban, all of which essentially run their own affairs. They have been responsible for improvements in many directions which have resulted in considerable economies, financial savings and better use of resources. Next month a most signi ficant development will take place in this field. An interim national committee of businessmen and industrialists will be establishing a productivity promotion council of Australia. This council will be completely autonomous. However, it will be supported as necessary by a small secretariat within my Department. A large number of firms have undertaken to provide financial support under the leadership of Mr Dunshea of the Dunlop organisation who has just issued a Press statement about these plans which, I trust, honourable members have seen. So, what is in a real sense a policy impasse which is inhibiting still higher rates of growth due to the outstanding success of policies already being pursued, can be removed only by measures to raise our productivity. These measures alone can break through the full employment barrier. They therefore require the practical support of every Australian who is ambitious to raise our standard of living and our capacity to play a more important part in the world.
These are what may be considered as some of our most important and urgent problems of economic policy because without a successful economic policy, carefully thought out and pursued over a long period, all the promises which the Leader of the Opposition hold out, or anyone else holds out, will not in practice be realised.
– Before I embark upon an analysis of the Budget I would like to say one or two things about some of the remarks that were made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury). I was pleased to note that he went to Sweden to learn something about how to improve the economy. In a recent issue of the ‘Svenska Handelsbanken: Economic Review’ from Sweden I was interested to find that at the end of June 1969, in Sweden 73,500 vacant jobs were listed and 25,000 people were available to fill those jobs. Tn other words, in Sweden there is a rough patterning of three jobs for every available person to fill them. It seems - and I have spoken about this in the House before - that we are evolving in Australia a curious sort of doctrine, which is regularly referred to in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of all places, of something that is called the labour gap. The labour gap is determined by simply taking from the monthly pub! cation the seasonally corrected figures of the number of unemployed away from the number of unfilled vacancies. According to the learned writer it is a serious situation when the point is reached where there are more jobs available than people to fill them. I point out that in Sweden the situation is entirely different from that which applies in Australia. In Sweden the situation is three jobs for every person. Whether it is better for the economy to have more jobs than men - and I have said this before - or men than jobs is a matter of opinion rather than a matter of fact.
I prefer, and I think my Party prefers, the situation where there are more jobs available than there are people to fill them. But what has not been done in Australia is to analyse the figures that are published now in considerable detail each month by the Minister for Labour and National Service. This curious statistic - the labour gap - is arrived at by adding together males and females, juniors and seniors, skilled and unskilled, and people living in the cities and people living in the country. How anyone can seriously posit that as an unerring index as does the writer in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ is beyond my comprehension. The figures published yesterday show that, taking the non-metropolitan areas of Australia as distinct from the metropolitan areas, there were 13,782 males seeking 5,393 jobs. In other words, outside the capital cities there were nearly three males for every job. There were 10,908 females seeking 2,306 jobs, or five females for every job. In Queensland in particular, there are 3,316 males and 529 jobs available. This means that there arc six men for every job. In the case of females, 2,135 are shown as unemployed and 295 jobs are available. This is a ratio of about eight to one. In fact, in Australia - and surely (his is what should bc recognised - the real shortage is one of skilled manpower In most economies there ought to be a shortage of skilled manpower.
In my view the fact that there are more jobs at the moment than there are people in some of the skilled categories is a failure properly to plan our economic progress. It is about this subject that I primarily want to talk this evening. I think that the t-Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and those who prepared the Budget derived great gratification from the fact that during the last 12 months what is described as the gross national product of Australia increased from $24,000m in round terms to $27,000m. This represented an improvement of S3, 000m or, to put this in a kind of individual perspective, where there were previously $8 going round we now have $9. If we think from that that we have a vast real improvement per head we have to do some re-examination.
As the Minister referred to certain things as being accounting exercises, I believe that an appraisal of the Budget ought to be an accounting exercise also. The Budget ought to indicate what kind of role the Budget is performing from the point of view of a regulatory function on the one hand and a redistributory function on the other. In my view the Budget this year is very short of either side - it is short cm the side of redistribution and it is short on the side of effective regulation of the economy.
Last year prices increased by 3%. To begin with this means that out of every $8 or $9 I have just mentioned we lose nearly 25c by reason of the prices increase during the year. Where a person needed $8 before he needed something like $8.25 at the end of the year to buy the same goods and services as he could previously purchase.
The second factor, of course, in the Australian economy concerns full employment. If we are to have full employment - and of course the delightful term ‘over-full employment’ is now coming into use - the workforce should increase every year as it did last year by over 3%. Therefore, 3% more people are contributing to the making of the gross national product. This is another reason why the gross national product ought to increase. There is nothing mysterous about the fact that the gross national product must rise in an economy where it is believed that the per capita standard should increase, where one cannot get absolute price stability and where one is getting an increased labour force. There is no great virtue in the thing itself. It would be surprising if it did not rise, but what ought to be of concern is the per capita improvement - what is called economic growth. I was rather intrigued by a remark in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech. He said:
After rising by only 3% in 1967-68, expenditure on plant and equipment last year increased by 10% to $2,375m. Private investment can therefore be clearly identified as the driving force behind the expansion of the economy that became apparent in the latter half of 1968-69.
Surely, with a government that claims to espouse the virtues of private enterprise as distinct from public enterprise, the amount devoted to plant and equipment ought to continue to rise. I and others in this House have pointed out that the laggard in economic performance in Australia in recent years had been this rather stagnant level of what is called ‘all other private investment’. In 1964-65 that item amounted to $ 1,860m; in 1965-66 it was $l,985m; in 1966-67 it was $2,100m; in 1967-68 it was $2, 160m and in 1968-69 it had increased to $2,375m, or by 10% over previous years, as the Treasurer indicated.
But if we are to have growth in this economy I submit that it has to come basically by increased expenditure on plant and equipment - capital expenditure as distinct from consumption expenditure. On the other hand there must always be an increase in the right direction in the provision of public capital expenditure. In my view where the Budget is wrong at this instant is that it still does not devote enough to expenditure on what we might call the infrastructure of Australia, which primarily still has to be built by the States and of which education is still the most significant single item.
Among the various documents that were presented with the Budget is one entitled National Accounting Estimates of Public Authority Receipts and Expenditure, August 1969’. Chapter 3 of that document relates to trends in public authority expenditure in the 1960s. It shows, quite startingly, that the single item that has increased most so far as the Commonwealth is concerned is expenditure on defence. I say quite starkly to the House that if a Labor government in 1963, which is two elections ago, had said as a matter of urgency: ‘We are going to buy a particular aeroplane that might cost $120m’ we would have been met immediately with the question: ‘Where is the money to come from?’
But if by 1969 we came along to the public and said that the cost of the aeroplane had now been increased to $240m and would be $300m by the time all the ancillary parts were added up, we would have been laughed off the public hustings, particularly if we had spent the money. But what is the position of the Government? During a foreign affairs debate last week I said that in my view the FI 1 1 was like the keystone in an arch. Since the Fill was first announced in 1963, apart from this year - and $1,1 00m is involved this year - Australia has spent $5,000m on defence. I submit that nobody would say that that defence expenditure had not been based around the FI 1 1 as an essential1 part, but even now when we do not know whether we are to get the FI 1 1 - there has been a curious suggestion that if we do not get that we might get something else - the residual item of defence expenditure is $l,100m.
I submit that there has been waste in defence. There has been ineptitude, there has been no social audit of the process at all, and what the documents do show - I hope that honourable members read them - is that because so much of our resources has been devoted to defence we have limited our capacity to do other things. We accept, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said, that at the moment this Budget can spend $7,000m. I believe that if it needed to do so it could spend more. It could certainly provide a minimum of $100m more this year to the States primarily for that other part of the education system which three-quarters of the Australian public receive. There can be arguments about whether we should have one or two systems of education, but there should be no argument about having two second rate systems of education, which is what Australia has in 1969 as she races towards this glorious decade of the 1970s that we are told about. Australia cannot have the fulfilment in the years ahead that it is possible to have unless there is an increase in the relative amounts going into private investment, into plant and equipment - where would we have been in recent years without about $ 1,000m of it coming from outside 1 do not know - and into social welfare, basically in fields like health and education.
The other curious doctrine that is being intruded into economic argument at the moment is concerned with inflation. Inflation is no worse in Australia now than it was 12 months ago. It is no worse on the average this year than it has been for nearly the last 10 years. Honourable members should look at the statistics that are published by that admirable organisation known as the Institute of Applied Economic Research. The Institute shows, at page 32 of its statistics, that taking the period from March 1961 to December 1968 the overall increase in the consumer price index was 2.4%. This year apparently we arc getting alarmed because it is 2.9%. I can accept that if we bad inflation of an order similar to what I have seen in Indonesia, where it can be 60% in a month, we ought to get alarmed. But there is only a small difference between what it is now and what it was previously. In my view the reason for the alarm about inflation is that honourable members opposite are concerned that certain people will go to an arbitration tribunal in a few months time to get from that tribunal an increase in their wages. 1 ask honourable members on both sides, particularly the Country Party members who are farmers, to look at the figures in the White Paper on national income relating to the income of farmers and to read the statement on page 9 of that document. They will find that in this great year when we have a glut of wheat and an abundance of wool the net income in money terms going to farmers in 1968-69 was less than it was in 1964-65. And prices inflated by about 10% in the period.
Surely at Budget time the argument is about this question of social redistribution and how, in our economy as it is constituted at the moment where over 80% of the people are wage-earners those people make up for price increases. How can they do this unless wages are adjusted upwards? How can they get their share of the productivity if the wage does not rise? Again referring to the statistics which I have cited showing the trend from 1961 to 1968 it will be seen that the average wages, salaries and supplements rose by 8.6% every year over that period. You claim that the real national product rose by 8% in the last year. How is the wage earner to get his share of that 8% increase unless it is by an increase in his wage? 1 submit that the Government is concerned at the moment because in the case of other Budgets the wage was fixed before the Budget was finalised. Now the Government is issuing warnings of the terrible things that will happen if wage earners get their just deserts.
Another cynical aspect of this Budget, as is demonstrated in the statistics, is the Government’s bestowal this year of benefits of one kind or another. For the most part all that these benefits do is bring up to date for large numbers of the population what has already been bestowed. The additions are quite minor in total. Pension increases will cost $43m. This amount will increase the pension by $1. At least half of that $1 represents the percentage price increase and the other 50c is what pensioners should have got 12 or 18 months ago. The Government has given another concession in the form of a tapered means test. This will cost $36m. Various other benefits will cost $20m or $30m. But this year without increasing taxes - even allowing for slight reductions in some fields - the Treasury will garner something like an extra $900m. Again this Budget is being financed on the inbuilt injustices of the existing tax structure and the people who bear those injustices. lt is all very well to talk of the middle income groups and the effect of taxation on them. If people in the middle income groups are heavily taxed, so are people in the lower income groups. You cannot alter the tax structure of one group without altering the tax structure of the other. I suggest that if a proper appraisal were taken of the weight of taxation in Australia - this is difficult without making a careful sampling; it is difficult to assess the weight of indirect taxation - it would be found that people on incomes of $3,000 a year or less - about $58 a week - pay a higher proportion of their income in taxes, taking into account direct and indirect taxes, than do people in the higher income brackets. Every now and again the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) says that he will do something about the tax structure. At its recent conference the Labor Party considered this matter. I do not have time this evening to give the statistics in detail. 1 hope to be able to do so when we look at the legislation relating to tax rates. The fact is that in Australia the majority of married people - about 75% - receive incomes of less than $3,600 a year or $70 a week. A married man on 53,600 a year currently pays, after deductions for a wife and two children and after some other concessions, $8 a week in income tax. In my view this is excessive having regard to the income of that person. Even a man earning $2,600 a year or $50 a week with a wife and two children pays income tax at the rate of $188 a year or $3.50 a week. Does anybody believe that a man earning $50 a week, with a wife and two children, is able to afford $3.50 in direct tax and goodness knows how much in indirect taxes?
Speaking cynically, this Budget is financed in part by the fact that the Government is assuming that this man’s income will increase by 3% or 4% this year- by another $10,0 a year - and that about 25% of that increase will go to the Commonwealth. This is what you on the other side call abating inflation. I suggest that there is in Australia an undue obsession with inflation. I submit that inflation is no worse that it has been for a good number of years. Why this concern all at once about inflation? I suggest that the Government is failing to grapple with the fundamental problems with which an economy such as ours must grapple. It is difficult to restrain inflation. It is difficult to distribute equitably to all sections of the community what they should get. Perhaps if the wage system does not do this entirely you have to rely on the taxation system to do a bit of redistribution. There has been no change fundamentally in the structure of taxation in Australia in the past 15 years. Because of this the real burdens of this Budget - the benefits are slight - are borne by people in the lower income groups. They are borne by farmers with falling incomes. I suggest to members of the Country Party that they examine the table on farm incomes, particularly those of single farmers - the non-company farmers. They are not being treated equitably. It may be that some of you expect a windfall advantage from devaluation. This is not in the wind at the moment, certainly not in this Budget.
One of the curious things in the document on national income and expenditure is the idea that stocks of wheat valued at S3 06m are an asset. The statement reads:
It should be noted, however, that approximately two-thirds of the increase in farm product in 1968-69 was reflected in a large build-up of wheat stocks, valued for these purposes at $306 million.
Would anybody give $306m for the wheat stocks at the moment? Yet these are counted as income. I would like to hear some of my friends from the Country Party on this very serious problem. There is no mention of this problem in the bland pages of the Budget. The figure is there only as a curious statistical item. This figure accounts for 1% of the great bonanza which we experienced last year. I submit that some of the other things are based on grounds just as unstable as that.
What is required in Australia at the moment? If we are to do the things we are capable of doing there must be a fresh approach. The Government does not like the word ‘programming’ or the word ‘planning’ but what business which Government supporters conduct could get very far without planning? I heard a friend say last night that the greatest exponent of the private enterprise philosophy was the Sicilian bandit and that the best planner was the successful business man. How can a nation afford to do without forward programming? We on this side believe that we should be spending 5% of our gross national product on education. We are spending about 3i%; we are spending about $940m a year, and 1% of the gross national product is about $270m. This is not a situation that can be handled suddenly. The tragedy of education is that you cannot increase the quality and the quantity of education simply by assigning money. These things call for buildings, equipment and the training of people, each of which takes time to encompass. At least another $100m should be allotted in this Budget to the States for education. We should be beginning now to see that by 1972 or 1973 we have better quantity in education as well as better quality. We should be striving for equality throughout all levels of the system. We do not want chosen schools and horror schools but equal opportunity to everybody, no matter from which part of the Commonwealth or a State he or she may come.
Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa- Leader of the Opposition) - I wish to make a personal explanation. The honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) has complained that in my speech I attributed to him the phrase the greedy versus the needy’. I wrongly attributed the expression to him. I should have attributed it to the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver).
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) is still not accurate, notwithstanding his personal explanation. The honourable member for Swan, in one of his speeches in Perth, did not use words identical with those just stated by the honourable gentleman. Honourable members will notice as 1 continue my speech - I trust that the Leader of the Opposition will note it carefully - that I have very strong views that are opposite to his own and his Party’s regarding the abolition of the means lest. What I did say in Perth was that the policy advocated by the Opposition would be a policy that would pay pensions to everyone contrary to the policy of his own Parry and that there would be pensions paid to the affluent to the detriment of those w ho were really in need.
Now. we will proceed with a reminder to the House that my friend the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) has just enjoyed himself speaking at times very directly to the members of my Party on this side of the House and to my colleagues from the Country Party. I want to assure him that as my speech proceeds I will be talking very directly to him, to his Leader, and to the members of his Party, Her Majesty’s Opposition. With many other important features this is without doubt a social welfare Budget which has been brought down in 1969. With my colleagues of the Government parties r am personally grateful to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Cabinet for decisions which answer representations made by private members and also various Government members committees. We hail with delight a very practical Budget. Time will permit me to underline only some features of it in my speech tonight.
I say quite forthrightly that the Leader of the Opposition has disappointed many tonight in his attempt to reply to this Budget. I believe firstly that he has been guilty of error in his reference to national development and in his accusations that the Government has done little. I point out that he was in error in his reference to the Snowy Mountains Authority. Instead of being cut back in this Budget the vote for the Snowy Mountains Authority is being increased. Secondly, in his reference to national development evidently he took no notice that provision for water conservation works appears in the Budget for the first time with section 96 grants to the States as follows: $20m for the Copeton Dam on the Gwydir, $6m for the Keith-Tailem Bend pipeline, and $4m for the King River project in Victoria. The Cressy-Longford proposition, valued at some $750,000, is approved by this Government subject to plebiscite. The States have now also agreed to the Commonwealth terms for finance for the Dartmouth Dam at a total cost of $57m. 1 do trust that the Leader of the Opposition, who has now left the House, will take note that other people would recognise that he was in error either wilfully or by omission when he said that the Government had done little for national development.
The amendment which he has moved in the House with reference to the Budget, claiming deficiencies in the Budget as far as the Government is concerned, rather significantly to me makes no reference to social service benefits. Is the Opposition’s amendment to the Budget an indication that it is completely satisfied with all of these beneficial effects under the social services programme that the Government has provided in the Budget? I hope it is, and yet I can well imagine that spokesmen will be rising to criticise social welfare, although they do not find a place for it in the amendment. With all that has been said by way of criticism by the Leader of the Opposition and those who support him I say that the Government will face an election with deep rooted confidence that this Budget is a very good base and a splendid platform upon which to campaign for votes. We are confident and this will be amply demonstrated by my colleagues who will follow in the debate with their explanations and underlining of various features. I suggest that the Opposition interests have been pretty well cared for by the Press and certain public comment, but probably this is due to the desire to help the underdog. I believe this is basic to this sort of comment and Press reference. But tonight the stark reality of Labor’s proposals and claims must be dealt with in this debate and my proposal is to let the truth be told on a number of points. Let us put the record straight. This is what I hope to do on the points which attract my primary interest.
Firstly, Labour claims this to be a Budget policy emanating from some wrangle between the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). It is rather significant that the Treasurer, as he concluded his Budget speech, went on record as refering to it as the finest Budget and the most constructive document perhaps in the 68 years of federation, and I for one believe this to be true. Those around this country who are fair in their criticism endorse his statement. The Prime Minister has been stressing that the more needy in the community deserve our consideration and that it is our obligation to provide for them the practical assistance that they may need. His welfare programme has now, of course, been through the testing fires of the welfare sub-committee which he appointed for this purpose and this statement of policy in the Budget now before us proves that any initial ideas that he and his Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) may have had have been analysed and in the final result refinement and applied commonsense are clearly apparent. This is no hasty document. This is no foolish preparation of a policy to catch votes as some might suggest. Let the truth be told.
This Government is not dependent upon the leader alone. This is not a one-man band government as some of the spokesmen of the Opposition would have us understand. This Budget is a team effort, a full Cabinet agreement. I would suggest that Australia will benefit from the judgment, the confidence, the enterprise and the element of adventure which is written into it. Of course, there must be an element of adventure. Everything in a fiscal policy programme cannot be spelt out word for word. The economic conditions of Australia, buoyant as they are, cannot be prejudged so that every word written can be followed and put into practice. So well received has this Budget been as a team effort that even I received a telegram the other day from a constituent following the Budget announcement. It reads:
Congratulations on a splendid Budget. A fine team effort.
Here is an unsolicited comment which gives me confidence in replying to the Leader of the Opposition that this was a team effort and certainty did not emanate from any wrangle between our key leaders. Let us turn to the second charge, made by so many who have been speaking outside the House and who will speak again in this debate, I am sure, on behalf of the Opposition and say that this is an inflationary Budget. I notice that my friend the honourable member for Melbourne Ports had a few things to say about inflationary trends that a budget document might reflect. But let the truth be told on this point. This Government has led the nation to a buoyancy in economic conditions. Is it not quite puerile to suggest that such a successful Government will imperil the country and take unnecessary risks with the economy? May I draw attention to the White Paper issued in July before the Budget was announced. It was entitled ‘The Australian Economy 1969’. This is a document that is well received, incidentally, all round the world as one of the finest papers brought down with reference to a Government situation and the economy in general. At page 16 the year ahead is dealt with. The document reads:
The forces at present driving the economy along give no sign of slackening and, with monetary liquidity already at a high point, it is hard to see anything but continued buoyancy in economic conditions in the year ahead. . . . The Australian economy is not insulated from the world economy and much remains uncertain about the trend of things abroad.
Then towards the end of the section dealing with The Year Ahead’ are these words:
Rather, the question that might be asked at the present time is whether demand might not prove too strong for the stability of costs and prices and the external balance. Inflationary trends, to be seen in rising costs and prices and a tightening labour market, are the elements of danger in the present situation.
I propose to the House the question whether any government would foolishly take risks, with this knowledge in the Treasury document. From these references, it is but a statement surely of truth and fact that the Government has entered into a careful evaluation of the demand for labour. It is true that there are problems in some industries at the present time. But it has also been evaluated that relief will flow from the school leavers who will enter the labour force in not many months hence and from the increasing intake of migrants from overseas. These matters have been evaluated by the Government, and there is no risk from an inflationary point of view that has been foolishly taken. There may be a slight element of adventure which, as I said earlier, should be found in a document of this kind.
The Opposition’s welfare and education programme has been commented on by a number of people and in a number of areas. If the Government is to be attacked about any chance of inflationary trends following this Budget, then I suggest that the truth should be told about the Leader of the Opposition’s mammoth vote seeking proposals regarding an education programme and the welfare propositions of his Party. Who will pay for propositions such as those which the Opposition announced not so long ago? The Leader of the Opposition has never answered that question to the satisfaction of very many people. Will these propositions of the Opposition produce the full welfare state? The Leader of the Opposition avoids the question because, I suggest, he knows full well that his programme would mean nothing less than the introduction of the full welfare state in Australia. Would his plans affect the economy? 1 suggest that the Leader of the Opposition runs for cover because he well knows that the stability of the economy, to which I have just referred, would be lost.
I shall deal with, for example, what the Leader of the Opposition and his Party have had to say about the means test. I firmly believe that because a few thousand votes were lodged for a candidate who represented the Committee for the Abolition of the Means Test in the Curtin by-election, the Leader of the Opposition saw the possibility of vote catching if he advocated the full abolition of the means test. I want to spend a few moments on this subject because, to me, the Opposition has announced a crazy proposal. It is a negation of all the Labor Party stands for if it really means what it says about caring for the needy in the community. In previous months - perhaps running back for the last 12 months - spokesmen for the Opposition have constantly referred to poverty in this country. They have based their case largely upon a book entitled The Hidden People’ by John Stubbs. This is a book which I find propped up with references that are unsubstantiated - like a paper which is referred to and which was written by the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns). Who firmly would believe that a paper written by him on this subject, and finding a place in this book, can be accepted as a paper which is accurate and which uses figures and statistics that are up to date?
Helping the needy indeed! Is this truly the objective of the proposal from the Leader of the Opposition? His colleague the previous leader of the Labor Party, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), has talked a great deal in this House about poverty in Australia. We agree that there are categories which need assistance, and this Budget has moved along the road to providing help for some, if not for all of them in full. But this country is not plagued with poverty. This is an affluent community, and because of that this Budget must be sensibly used to help those who are in the categories at which I have hinted. But the Opposition, which seeks the leadership of government in this country, is a party which for political reasons says that it will abolish the means test.
What does this really mean? I suggest that it runs counter to all that the Labor Party has been saying about the poor and needy people in the community. Pensioners and people who have acute financial problems are asked to note this fact and to remember clearly to vote against this Party which proposes this programme, because the abolition of the means test would mean pensions for everyone - the rich and the poor. It would mean heavier income tax upon the worker - the worker for whom the Opposition is supposed to be the spokesman. Of course, it would mean less funds for any government - even a Labor government if the Opposition were successful at the next election - to help those really in need. Honourable members do not have to take my word for this, because there is an article entitled ‘At the Crossroads in Social Welfare’ which is one of the finest and most telling articles that I and many of my friends have read in recent weeks. It is to be found in the last issue of the ‘IPA Review’ which is published by the Institute of Public Affairs, a document which has been quoted again and again in past years on many subjects, and it puts the argument on this subject better than I could. It states:
The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, has pledged that a Labor Government would abolish the means test on pensions within six years.
In fact, the abolition of the means test would provide benefits mainly for people already comfortably off. It would make more difficult the alleviation of the position of pensioners and others in real need.
Nearly 700,000 Australians receive a Commonwealth age pension financed out of consolidated revenue.
That was the position. It will now be improved under the provisions in this Budget. Another 250,000 people will receive a part, if not a full, pension. The article, in excellent words, refers to the people to whom, the Prime Minister has said the Government is acutely aware, assistance must be extended. It refers to women and children living perhaps below the poverty line, the chronically ill, pensioners paying rent, deserted wives, large families dependent on the minimum wage of the breadwinner, and so on. Here are the telling words about the means test:
These people must surely have prior claim on welfare benefits to elderly couples considerably better off than existing age pensioners and many wage and salary earners.
The article deals very constructively with the means test, and it points out that previously it was so liberal both in regard to income and property that it was possible for a part pensioner to accumulate assets worth $50,000 or more. In that context, of course, the average value of exempt property is taken into account. That figure increases substantially, as I will indicate. The article concludes by referring to a British writer, Mr Arthur Seldon. It says that he is a respected economist and a specialist also in social welfare policies. The article continues, referring to what Mr Seldon recently stated: . . although Australia spends only 7i% of her national income on Government Welfare compared with 10 to 15% in most other Western Countries, she does more good with it. Seldon praises Australia as a country where ‘people who need social benefits get them: those who don’t, don’t. . . .’
Further on the article states:
In an increasingly affluent society, the Australian emphasis on selective rather than universal benefits has much to commend it. This concentrates the direct responsibility of the Government on the poorer sections.
It concludes by saying:
Experience with the British system of universal benefits for all, regardless of the circumstances of the recipient, must surely cause Australians to hesitate before they lightly abandon their present system in favour of an alternative which leads to the all-embracing Welfare State. Maximum ‘welfare’, it needs to be understood, is not by any means synonymous with the Welfare State.
I am glad to have had an opportunity of sharing these few lines by an excellent writer on a subject that is relative indeed to the amazing proposal of a political party which is supposed to be the spokesman for the worker and which would pay pensions to everyone.
The truth needs to be told about the tapering means test. I find already in the debate that the spokesmen for the Opposition have not been prepared to deal with this matter in depth because they know that, if they do, their arguments will fall to the ground. I have been one who has praised the recent issue by the Department of Social Services of its ready reckoner, something for which we have been asking for years. Now, this will need to be drastically altered because the tapering means test makes such an impact upon the story that it presents.
In a community anxious to extend the labour force, this tapering means test, which finds an honoured place in this Budget, means the introduction of an incentive that will attract a real stream of able bodied persons over the pension age who are prepared to contribute to the work force. By so doing, they will be helping themselves. This is the incentive which, really, many thousands of people have been seeking, have been asking for and have been making representation for over many years.
In my own State, the morning Press, on the day after the Budget was presented, indicated that pensions were up, as well they are, and ‘More will get them’, said the headline. The increase is that 250,000 people or that quarter of a million people of the Australian population to whom I have made reference. The ready reckoner which I have just displayed certainly will need to be altered because the tapering means test simply means that a single pensioner now will receive the equivalent of $40 per week and a married pensioner couple will receive the equivalent of $70 per week before the age benefit in each of their cases ceases. In other terms, the means as assessed has been substantially liberalised- (Mr Devine interjecting)-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! The honourable member is out of his seat. He will cease interjecting.
– The honourable member is misleading the Parliament.
– No. There is no deceit in this. The honourable member cannot understand the facts as I present them.
– You cannot understand them.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for East Sydney that if he defies the Chair I will deal with him.
– So, the single person, in respect of means as assessed, is now lifted to the figure of $21,200, apart from his exempt home, furniture and motor car, if he possesses one, before his pension ceases. The level for the married couple rises to $37,200 means as assessed before their pension disappears. These are remarkable increases. This is the effect of the tapered means test in conjunction with the increased basic rate.
Some anti-Government groups make a strong claim that Australia has robbed the pensioners because the rate of pension is not adjusted in accordance with the price index. I have something that I obtained from the Minister for Social Services who sought the information from bis own Department. Again, I say: Let the truth be told about this assertion. I point out that, if the rate of pension payable in September 1949 - the last quarter for which the consumer price index was issued before the Menzies Government took office - had been adjusted in accordance with subsequent movements in the consumer price index the rate of pension payable in March 1969 would have been $9.81 per week. Under the Gorton Government, the actual rate of pension was $14 per week.
– Plus fringe benefits.
– Yes, plus fringe benefits. That nails that accusation by some people. Before I leave the section of the Budget Speech devoted to social welfare, let me summarise the Budget decisions that can be found on pages 8 and 9 of the printed copy of that Speech. I have referred already to the basic increase in the pension rates. There is no need for me to refer to that again. Ample evidence is to be found here in what is being done for widows and the children of widows to substantiate what the Prime Minister himself said months ago was upon his mind. He gave to the nation a clear indication that he would want his Government to do something for the widow. The results here are quite remarkable. A widow pensioner with, say, three dependent children now may earn $22 per week, hold property of a value up to $4,500 and still receive the full pension and allowances for a widow and her children.
The pensioner medical service finds a place in this paragraph of the Budget Speech. We ought to note in the debate at this stage that persons who become pensioners because of the proposed increases in basic rates also will become members of the pensioner medical service. I like the provisions concerning the aged persons homes scheme as I am one who has always been proud to stand up and speak here in support of the Aged Persons Homes Act which is anathema to members of the Opposition. They have never liked it because they have seen in it the success that we claim. They have seen, as we have seen, thousands upon thousands of elderly people in Australia better housed. I see that, in this Budget, extra provision of $5 per week per person is made for those organisations which are housing in hostel type accommodation people who are 80 years of age or more.
I now wish to nail the accusation by the Opposition that everything is wrong with the Government’s health scheme. Sir, this is just not right. Again, in the local Press from Western Australia this morning, there was the headline: ‘Labor’s health plan is too costly’, says fund chief. Mr Turner of the Hospitals Contribution Fund is on record as saying that the proposed scheme put forward by the Labor Party is simply an academic exercise, that this scheme would be costly and that estimates produced in support of the scheme were obsolete. He also criticised what he called the unnecessary coercion that would be involved. We of the Government Parties stand for the Liberal philosophy and the freedom that has been written into the voluntary health scheme.
Sir, if I had time to deal adequately with the education provisions in this Budget, I would be pleased indeed to refer to the success of those measures which have been ably handled by the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on behalf of the Government in recent years. I would refer with pleasure to the science grants and to the assistance given to colleges and schools in respect of libraries. But here, in this Budget Speech, history is made with a very splendid provision under the heading of ‘Independent Schools’. Whilst the Labor Party has almost split itself asunder within and without its own Conference and within and without its own parliamentary Party on this subject, this Government as evidenced by its Budget has taken a positive step to assist independent schools of all kinds. This is a recognition of the truth and the fact that the State education system could not cater for the students now provided for by the independent schools. The freedom in State education is preserved to the State governments as they have requested and as they wish it. With the concurrence of the State governments, a helpful subsidy will be available for the first time to the schools and colleges where acute problems in respect of salaries and costs have been causing concern.
This is a Budget of which the Government and its supporters can be proud. This is a Budget which indicates a sound Government deserving of re-election to the Government benches. I speak in support of the Budget as it ought to be clearly apparent. I believe that the people of Australia will give the Gorton Government an amazing vote of support not so far distant from this day.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, we have listened this evening to two very excellent speeches, one from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the other from the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). Both honourable gentlemen, in the time at their disposal, have drawn attention to and have given explanation of just a few of the shortcomings of the Budget which the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), a little unhappily I thought, presented to this Parliament last Tuesday evening. We freely admit that it does not take very long to point out and explain what the Budget actually contains, but it must be agreed by all that it would take quite a considerable time to refer to the numerous things that it should contain but does not. The concluding remarks of the Treasurer last Tuesday night, made in a spirit of bravado, were that this is the best Budget that has been introduced into this House in the past 20 years. I am the first to admit, because I like to be fair, that it would be pretty difficult, indeed practically impossible, for the Government to continue to bring down Budgets as bad and as barren as those it has previously presented. There can be no doubt that if on this occasion the Government has not quite accomplished that very difficult feat it has certainly gone very cose to it. Anyone who has not studied this Government’s previous Budgets and who heard the Treasurer say that this was its best must surely be wondering just how bad a Budget can be.
For instance, let us take social services. On the morning following the Budget the newspapers came out with headlines such as ‘Pensions Up’ and ‘Social Service Increases’, which suggested that the Government on this occasion had done something special when in fact it had followed the normal pattern. If one looks at the booklet entitled ‘Facts and Figures’ issued by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) last year one finds with regard to aged, invalid and service pensioners the average increase per year since this Government took office 20 years ago is 50c for single pensioners and 41c for a married pensioner whose spouse is also a pensioner. In 19S0 the weekly rate for all pensioners was £2 10s or $5, and after the proposals in this Budget become law it will be $15 for single pensioners and $13.25 for married pensioners - an increase over the 20 years of $10 and $8.25 respectively, which gives the average I just stated. If one goes back to more recent years one will see exactly the same pattern. In 1963 the single pensioner received $11.50. In 1964 the single pension increased to $12 and in 1966 it went to $13 - still only an increase of 50c per year. In 1968 it reached $14, and in 1970 it will be $15 - an increase of $1 spread over the 2 years. The situation of pensioner couples has worsened in recent years. In 1961 they received $10.50 each per week, and as a result of this Budget the pension will go to $13.25, which is an average yearly increase since 1961 of less than 41c.
Also in more recent years the Government has adopted a policy of granting increases only once in each 2 years, which suggests that if it is still in office after the forthcoming Federal election there will be no alteration to pensions until the latter end of 1971, Widows in class A have received an average increase over the 20 years of Liberal government of only 47ic. The same applies to the class B widows, while the class C widows have received an increase of only 41c per year. Since 1961 a similar pattern has applied. The important thing to remember is that the purchasing power of those increases has diminished very considerably. Therefore, despite the claim of the Treasurer that this year’s Budget is the best over the last 20 years it does not indicate any change of approach to the plight of the pensioner. It is quite obvious that the Government simply continues to follow a plan without any consideration being given to cost of living increases or the fact that pensioners generally are losing ground in their battle to combat ever increasing costs. In this respect the policy of the Government is quite clear, but in some others it is impossible to arrive at any definite conclusion of the Government’s intentions.
This Budget, like previous Budgets, when measured against comments and statements of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and other Ministers and honourable members on the Government side, does not tally out. I refer to what we have heard before and what we now find in regard to the means test on pensioners. Here we have a very definite contradiction. I want to go back to 1949. I know that this is a long time ago, but at that time the Party which is now in office said, and in fact promised quite definitely, that if it were elected to office at that time it would take immediate steps to abolish the means test. Unfortunately that Party was elected but it has never made any serious attempt, or any attempt at all for that matter, to honour its promises, and now it has said that it never will.
At a Liberal women’s rally in Brisbane on 30th July the Prime Minister told the gathering quite definitely that the means test should not be abolished, and further that his Government never would abolish it. The honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) this evening, in making his last speech on the Budget in Parliament, supported what the Prime Minister said in that respect. The fact that the Liberal Party as a vote catcher had previously promised the people of this country that it would abolish the means test does not mean a thing. It did not even warrant an apology. In fact the wishes of the people in this regard have been treated with complete contempt. Neither the Prime Minister nor the Treasurer has told us where or how far they, the Government, intends to go towards easing the means test. It could easily be that it has reached its limit now, or very close to it. Perhaps in the reasoning of the Prime Minister it should not be extended any further. This is rather important. What reasons did the Prime Minister give for saying that the means test should not be abolished? The reason he gave was that people should not be taxed to provide a pension for the Prime Minister’s wife or other wealthy people. It may be interesting to know that the wife of the Prime Minister is a very wealthy person and apparently the Liberal women at the rally also were mostly very wealthy.
What I am concerned about is whether the Prime Minister intends to adopt the same principle in all other respects. What first comes to mind? One must assume that this Government intends to attach the same principle to maternity allowances and child endowment, because one has not been increased since this Government took office and the other only very slightly several years ago. Certainly after what the honourable member for Swan said tonight he must say yes. It must be remembered that people are paying tax, if we use the Prime Minister’s line of thought, to provide maternity allowances and child endowment - if 1 may use the same example - to Mrs Gorton and other wealthy people. What is the difference between being taxed to pay benefits of that nature and being taxed to pay pensions? Personally I think it is a darned disgrace that the Government has refused to increase those benefits in keeping with the cost of living. But now it is even worse. The parents of this country are faced with the position where the Prime Minister, if he is dinkum and if he has the courage of his convictions, will impose a means test on maternity allowances and child endowment. If he does, what will that means test be? To find this out we only have to go to the Budget Speech.
This Budget, so the Treasurer informed us, proposes to liberalise the means test so that a married pensioner couple will receive the full pension only if their combined income does not exceed $18 per week and providing also that the property or money in the bank limitation placed upon them by this Government to allow a maximum of $18 income is not exceeded. If their income does exceed $19 per week the pension will be reduced by 50c a week. Will this be the means test which this Government will impose in relation to child endowment and maternity allowances? Will the full amount of child endowment, for instance, be paid only where the parents’ income does not exceed $18 a week? Surely not. How ridiculous, people may say. But before saying ‘surely not’ let us examine this Government’s attitude to child endowment and maternity allowances over the past 20 years. No increase has been made to the maternity allowance since this Government came to office. As a matter of fact it is the same today as it was when a Labor Government introduced it back in 1943. Despite several promises of a review, child endowment has not been increased for the first or only child during the past 18 years. Even worse, the payment for the second child has never been increased during the life of this Government. The payment for the third child has been increased by only 50c during the same period. So there can be no doubt that this Government does not favour the payment of these allowances and it is obvious from its past performances that it is likely to decide at any moment that such payments should cease altogether or at the very best that a means test should be imposed upon them.
Now that the Prime Minister has come out with his reason for definitely refusing to abolish the means test on pensions, it must be London to a brick that if his
Government is returned to office at the forthcoming election he will take immediate steps to place a means test on child endowment and the maternity allowance with a view to their eventual termination. If it is thought that it would be ridiculous to suggest that the Government would use the income of $18 as the basis for its means test, the best we could expect would be the test that applies to unemployment and sickness benefits. If the Government applied the same formula to child endowment it would mean that parents with one child could not expect to receive the full amount of endowment if their combined income exceeded $25.50 a week, $28 if there were two children and so on. As I said earlier, if the Prime Minister is dinkum in his approach to the means test on pensions and if be has the courage of his convictions, he cannot do anything but attach a means test to all items of social services. So the future for the continuation -of the maternity allowance and child endowment must be far from bright if this . Government is allowed to remain in office.
I was amazed and greatly disturbed to find that the Treasurer . made no specific mention in his speech to the crippling costs of production in our primary industries. There were no suggestions or attempts to halt or even slow down the ever increasing costs which, if allowed to continue, must eventually force large numbers of farmers to leave the primary industries. Apparently the only solution that the Government sees is that advocated by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) and that is to remove the smalt farmer because he is uneconomical at existing costs of production. This is an amazing attitude and is certainly not corrective or even imaginative. Those farmers who today are just inside or even well inside the economical range will within a few years, if costs are allowed to keep on rising, be on the borderline or over the edge. They also, under this Government’s approach, will be told to get out. This gradual erosion will eventually lead to the stage where we will have practically no rural industries at all.
All we heard from the Treasurer in his Budget speech was a bleat about the increase in wages and over award payments. He lays the blame on those factors for the increase in the costs of production. He knows very well that in determining a wage the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission looks at the situation as it is when the case for an increase is being argued and not at what it may be after any wage increase is granted. The Treasurer also knows very well that manufacturers and others are in a position to determine themselves what will be paid for the article they produce and they are permitted to increase their charges with every increase in wages. Sometimes as soon as the Commission makes its decision and even before ‘ the wage increase becomes effective, the cost of goods is increased and there must be a subsequent increase in wages. This will go on until something is done about it and costs will continue to rise. People who cannot determine for themselves the price of their product or their labour will suffer. The Treasurer referred to what he called the Government’s frequently expressed intention to assist primary producers. All I can say is that if there is any such intention it is seldom put into practice.
J also refer to his remark that the Post Office expects this year to make 290,000 telephone connections. I want to tell him in that regard that this Government will need to change its policy on telephone installations in rural areas if they are included in the target. The recent change in policy has meant a very steep increase in costs to potential subscribers and it is now causing and will continue to cause the cancellation of applications unless costs are reduced and the policy changed. The increase in costs has been estimated In some areas to be as much as 300% above those that applied previously. The Department argues that the new method will give a service of superior quality and longer life. This may be so and certainly I am not in a position to deny or accept that argument. The point I make is that there is very little value simply in the knowledge that it will provide a better service if the people who require the service are unable to meet the cost of installation. Certainly, in a number of cases that have been brought to my notice recently the new charges are prohibitive.
For the information of the House, I will quote a few of the individual charges to show what potential subscribers are expected to pay. The following charges relate only to two exchange areas: $3,400, $3,726,
$3,093, $2,490, S2.316, $2,240, $2,170,
$2,070, $2,150 and $2,316. The total is $25,967 for ten farmers. They certainly would have to be able to see a considerable advantage from the use of the telephone to outlay amounts such as those. Yet the Treasurer tells us that this Government is always watching the interests of the primary industries in rural areas.
Someone may ask: ‘What length of line is required?’ That is a fair enough question. With regard to the cost of $3,726 that I quoted, the distance from the exchange would be about 14 miles, but from the point of departmental construction it would be only about 9 or 10 miles. Two other farmers are also along that 9 or 10 miles of line. One is about a mile off the main line and the other is about half a mile off the main line. The costs to those two farmers would be $1,620 and $1,932 respectively. So, over a length of 12 miles or a little more the total cost is $7,278, or about $600 a mile. On the subject of the distance involved, we must remember that the Postmaster-General’s Department is prepared to install only one exchange for a certain minimum number of subscribers. I think it is sixteen. In wheat farming areas one must naturally expect that in gathering sixteen subscribers several of them will be several miles distant from where the exchange is situated.
That brings me to another point in regard to the policy and the costs I have quoted. In one area there were 22 applications, but the applicants found that under this new policy the cost to 5 of them would be more than $2,000 each and the cost to 3 others would be more than $1,500 each. If these 8 decided that they could not afford the charges and dropped out, it would mean that the remaining 14 would not be served either because they would be short of the minimum. In another area of 20 applicants there are 6 who would be charged over $2,000. Here again, if these are forced to drop out, the remaining 14 are also out because of the required minimum.
This new policy may operate reasonably well in closely settled areas or in areas of small farming properties where the houses are fairly close together, but it is quite unsatisfactory and in fact quite unreasonable, so far as I am concerned, in areas such as those to which I have referred, that is, in growing areas where the farmers live so far apart. Some of the fourteen in each area are fortunate enough to live close by trunk lines, and as a result the cost of installation to them is nothing at all, in some cases $100 or $200. Because the farmers living well out cannot afford to pay the charges made and because without them there would be no telephones for anyone, the farmers living closer to the exchange have in some areas agreed to treat the installations on a group system and strike an average cost which all would pay. But even where this is agreed upon the Department refuses to levy costs and charges on this basis and adopts the policy that each subscriber is responsible for his own actual costs and that any group agreement must be a private one to which the Department will not be a party.
This in turn has raised a doubt with regard to allowable taxation deductions on installation costs and whether a farmer who pays out more than his own actual cost can claim for the amount he actually pays or only for the amount he would pay if the group arrangement did not exist. I have taken this up with the Taxation Department and as yet I have not received any reply. However, even if the applicants in the areas mentioned did club together, the cost to each would be $1,200 or more, so it becomes fairly obvious that if the Government really desires to see farmers in outlying areas enjoy the benefit of a telephone service it would need to adopt a different policy from the one presently in operation. The present policy contains an odour of pressure or unpalatable manipulation in that those who are fortunately placed must either pay a substantial amount to assist those unfortunately placed or themselves forego a service. Realising how important a telephone can be to fanners situated some distance from their town of supply, we feel that the Government is using this as a lever.
Another bad factor in this situation is that applicants know what the actual costs to all other applicants are, and those in outer areas, if a group payment system is formed, may feel that they must always be under an abligation to those who pay more than their own actual cost. Some would not be prepared to be placed under such an obligation and would prefer not to have a telephone at all, which again could cause a collapse of the whole group arrangement in the area. Another bad factor is that some could decide to stay out of any arrangement with the idea of applying subsequent to other installations, when the individual costs for further installations would be much less. Here again, because of such decisions, the whole area could be affected. Now not only is there a need for a change of policy in relation to high costs of installation but also there is a need for a change in the way in which the costs will be applied. The Department could meet this by deciding that the whole of the area could be serviced for a certain total amount at a charge applied equally irrespective of where farmers are situated or when they apply. This would do away with any feeling of obligation and any manipulation with regard to applications, and it would certainly solve the taxation problem. I just put that forward to show that this Government, despite all its expressions of concern for the farmers, is not really disturbed at all.
I now refer to health. In his Budget Speech the Treasurer said:
Consideration has been given to the recent recommendations of the Nimmo Committee.
He then went on to set out the two very minor amendments to existing health benefits and nothing else. There are to be no increases in Commonwealth benefits for hospitalisation or medical treatment. While the Treasurer has not said so, it is quite clear that the Government has rejected the Nimmo Committee findings almost if not completely. This certainly does not indicate any desire to improve the Health Act, because the Nimmo Committee was certainly very critical of it in many respects and made a number of recommendations which, if put into practice, would mean a very big improvement. The National Health Act in its present form is completely unsatisfactory in that it does not allow people to obtain adequate medical and hospital treatment at a reasonable rate of contribution. Government supporters when speaking in previous debates on health matters in this chamber have claimed that the present national health scheme is a voluntary one and as such is very commendable and acceptable to the general community. It is not necessary for anyone to get upset and excited about the so-called voluntary system to which, Government supporters claim, people can please themselves whether they belong. That is not the true situation. It is not purely a voluntary scheme open to everyone, for the simple reason that not everyone can afford to belong to it. Further, members of hospital and medical insurance funds cannot be sure that they will be able to afford to pay the additional costs above the benefits for which they contribute.
If the existing national health scheme was of an adequate nature people would find no obstacle to becoming members of health insurance funds. This is particularly so in relation to the present cost of health insurance, of obtaining medical and hospital cover as measured against the amount of benefit which will be paid upon that insurance. This is a very definite shortcoming of the existing scheme. This is one of the failures of the scheme to which the Nimmo report first drew attention - that benefits are frequently much less than the cost of medical and hospital treatment and that contributions to funds have increased to such an extent that they are beyond the capacity of some members of the community to pay. So how can it properly be said that the scheme is voluntary and open to everybody who wants to be in it? It is nothing of the sort; in fact it is quite restrictive.
The people who find the most difficult obstacles are not those who wish to insure themselves on the highest tables for benefits but those who wish to insure on the lowest tables. At best they can afford to take out only a minimum amount of insurance for medical treatment and hospital cover in a public ward - the lowest cost bed available. These people are suffering most under the existing scheme. It must be remembered that a person insured for public ward coverage, or one of his dependants, on being obliged to enter hospital cannot with certainty expect to be given a bed in a public ward. None may be available and a patient may be placed in a two-bed or four-bed ward, the cost of which is greatly in excess of the amount insured for by him.
The Nimmo Committee was very strong in its view that standard ward or public ward _ accommodation should always be available to every member of the community, regardless of means. Unfortunately, the recent trend has been to build more two-bed or four-bed wards to the exclusion of public wards, even though the general run of the community would, I feel sure, be seeking hospitalisation at a much lesser charge. A person who has insured only for public ward coverage should not have to meet higher costs simply because public ward accommodation is not available. At present people who cannot afford higher coverage are paying for it because they are frightened of the costs they will have to meet if they do not. No-one can fairly suggest that when people are placed in that situation it is a satisfactory scheme.
It must be also remembered that quite often people who insure on the lowest tables pay in the long run almost as much as others who pay the highest rates and can well afford to pay them. Many contributors to the highest tables receive as taxation refunds a substantial amount of medical and hospital insurance costs. For instance, a person who at best can take out insurance at a cost of only $1 a week will get practically no taxation refund for these contributions, whereas a contributor at $3 a week could quite easily be in a position to claim half or more of his contributions as a taxation refund. Under the present scheme the very unfair situation exists where one person can receive only minimum cover for SI a week while another person will receive maximum cover for $1.50 a week or even less. Despite all these shortcomings and the recommendations of the Nimmo Committee, there has been no suggestion of a change by the Government.
I was very disappointed to find in the Budget no mention of additional assistance to the gold mining industry. This is a primary industry which has no control over the price it is to receive for the article it produces. It is being very adversely affected by ever-increasing costs of production.
In his Budget Speech the Treasurer said:
The various proposals which I shall refer to in this speech are brought forward it must be remembered in conditions of high prosperity.
I would have been very interested had he taken the time to spell out where all this prosperity is, because it certainly is not amongst the pensioners or amongst people on what is termed fixed incomes. It is not amongst the ordinary man on the street or in industry; it is not amongst those in the fanning industry and it certainly has not brushed off onto those engaged in the gold mining industry. So there can be no suggestion that prosperity is spread evenly in any way. The Government’s failure to provide anything by this Budget to the gold mining industry is a clear indication of its intention to abide by the Prime Minister’s reply late last year when he said that he could see no need for any further stimulation of the industry. Remarks such as that show that the Prime Minister and his Government have no knowledge or appreciation of the actual situation or are completely disinterested in the fact that towns such as Mount Magnet and Norseman, and Kalgoorlie itself to a very large degree, are dependent upon the continuation of the gold mining industry at the current level. The Prime Minister even refused a request to send departmental officers into the areas concerned to make an assessment. That refusal shows the contempt that this Government has in this and many other respects.
The Budget Speech - this is remarkable and most disturbing- does not make any mention of further development in the north. There is so much to be done in the north that I expected to find quite a lengthy reference in the Speech of the Government’s intentions on that subject. I expected, for instance, to hear that something definite had been determined with regard to the damming of the Gascoyne River. For several years now, in answer to questions and in reply in debates, the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) has been telling us that an investigation has been in progress to determine the feasibility of the Gascoyne project. But apparently there is no intention of making any move in that direction, or at least any early move towards the construction of a dam. Otherwise the Treasurer would certainly have made mention of it The same must apply to the conservation of the waters of any other riven in the north of Australia. One would have expected in the time of high prosperity referred to by the Treasurer that steps would have been taken to conserve and harness our water supplies. One can only come to the conclusion that the Government sees no value in such conservation for the immediate future and that it is quite satisfied to sit back and treat northern development as a very minor cog in the wheel of progress. It is pertinent to point out that if we exclude-
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Budget brought down by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) on 12th August makes provision for just under $7,000m and deals with many subjects. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) dealt with a number of subjects in his speech tonight No doubt he put the Australian Labor Party’s policy on Australian economic affairs. I noted that the honourable member spoke for about 61 minutes before he made any mention of the primary industries of this country. Even then he dealt with only two subjects and this covered 2 minutes of his speech. One of the matters referred to was superphosphate. The honourable member indicated that the farmers would not get the benefit of Government assistance on this commodity. I will deal with this subject at a later stage. The honourable . member also said that there would be nothing in the Budget for the wheat farmers. He said that he felt there were some problems with this product. Perhaps in one respect there is nothing in the Budget in relation to the payment for wheat. But, as I understand the position, during this financial year the Government will be standing behind the wheat industry with an amount of $650m. That is quite a sum of money.
The Leader of the Opposition, in replying to the Treasurer tonight in a speech that lasted over an hour, did not mention one single agricultural policy. Regardless of what is going on in Australia today, agriculture is still the major export earner of this country. We certainly could not have this Budget before us tonight if it were not for the circulation of money that has been earned by agriculture. Agriculture is giving benefits to many people in this country, i note that in the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition is the statement: it defers further development projects and urgent rural measures’. I do not know quite what the honourable member meant by this. The Budget spells out literally hundreds of millions of dollars for developmental works - national development projects of many kinds.
In 1968-69 the sum of $229m is expected to be spent by the Postmaster-General’s Department alone. I thought I heard an honourable member opposite say that this is not national development. Of course it is national development. A lot of this money will be spent In coupling the States together. Western Australia still does not have a microwave system. Completion has been delayed to some extent. If coupling the States together is not national development, then what is? If it is not national development to bring communications to people in the cities and also to the people in the country areas as far afield as possible - that is what we have been doing over the years - then what is national development? I submit that transport is the biggest single developmental factor in Australia or any other country today. Whether the means of communication is rubber tyres on a road, railways, a pipeline or a wire, each means of communication is a medium of transport. This $229m which will be spent by the Postmaster-General’s Department will improve the transport system in Australia and, I might add, is very necessary to keep up communications in this country.
In relation to roads, a Bill was brought down in this Parliament not so long ago - in the last sessional period, if I remember rightly - to make available $l,252m for allocation to the States for roads. That sum is not all that is to be spent on roads. It does not include moneys to be spent on beef roads or moneys allocated for the Australian Capital Territory or for the Northern Territory. Here again the Budget is a programme for development of roads. Development of housing, development of education and development of assistance to industry runs into hundreds of millions of dollars within this Budget. These are all matters of development in my book. Perhaps some members of the Opposition do not agree, but to me they are matters of development. Every phase of this development is important. Development is important if we are to have an expansion of Australian industries. A nation cannot develop unless al’l aspects of its industries are developed. That is what this Budget sets out to do.
The capital inflow which we have seen come into this country over the years has assisted our balance of payments. Without the kind of money earned by rural industries and without this capital inflow, I suggest we would be in a rather sorry state. As I see the Australian economy today, some cost pressures are associated with this capital inflow. They affect the fixed income groups and the primary industries which, in the main, have to rely on exports to earn their income. It is while this pressure of development is going on - and I say that it should go on - that we must develop this country. We have a responsibility to do this. While this goes on we need from overseas knowhow, machinery to manufacture tools of trade and capital. We do not have enough capital! in Australia. Surely this is not unique. America developed in this way in its early days. Canada developed in this way. How -is Papua and New Guinea developing its resources at the moment? Could it do so without importing capital? This is a way of developing - the only way. How else can we press on with development with speed? Those industries and those people throughout Australia that might be affected by this inflow of capital and by the rapid expansion within this country, as we see it today, should not be made to suffer. This Budget sets out to do something constructive.
In the social welfare section of the Budget expenditure will increase by about $134m to $999m. This, in my book, is quite justified. A country that has the standard of living that Australia has - and let us admit it, it is high - can well afford to look after its elderly people, its people in need and the less fortunate people in the country. I have said it before in this Parliament and I repeat it: We have an affluent society, but we have many people in need. If honourable members stop to think for a moment they will realise that because of the ages of these people today they have been through a rather torrid time of two world wars and a depression which left them without anything and, because of their stage of life, they have had no opportunity to pick up again and put aside for later years. There are many people who were not able to rescue much from the depression but they have managed to battle on and we, in our affluent society, should be looking after them. This Budget does just that.
– They are in their fifties now.
– My friend should start his calculations again. I referred to two world wars and a depression. They are far beyond the age of 50 years. The people I am speaking about are the people we are helping in this Budget. In the education field this Budget appropriates something over $265m towards helping those who need help. This is fairly obvious. When we talk about helping primary and secondary school children or their parents to secure a proper education, we should not forget that education is the responsibility, of the States, but where there are direct needs the Commonwealth can assist.
The hardest hit individuals in the cost squeeze in Australia are those people with young families who are trying to pay for a house, have a family and educate that family. It is at this stage of life that costs are highest. Before they are married they do not have these high costs. After their families have grown up and are earning they do not have these high costs. But when children are going to school obviously the costs are greatest and so assistance is being given to help the education of the children of those families who need help.
When we talk about development we must think not only of money but of people and this evening I want to talk about population trends in the various States. It is interesting to note the trends in Western Australia, which is about one-third of the Commonwealth in area - 1 million square miles - and where tremendous expansion is taking place. We must have an increased population if we are to continue with this development. It is interesting to note each State’s percentage of the total Australian population. The figures I quote commence with the year 1965-66 - and this figure was based on census data at 30th June 1966 - when Western Australia’s population represented 7.41% of the total Australian population. This percentage has increased since then. In 1966-67 the figure was 7.46%; in 1967-68 it was 7.59%; in 1968-69 it was 7.79% and for 1969-70 it is estimated at 7.91%. If we examine figures for the other States we find that without exception their percentage of the total population is decreasing. At 30th June 1966, the population of New South Wales represented 37.02% of the total population of Australia. It is estimated that in the year 1969-70 it will move down to 36.94%. A similar trend is noted in all the other States. In Victoria, the population in 1966 represented 28.13% of the total population of Australia. It is estimated that during the year 1969-70 this will move down to 27.89%. In Queensland, in 1966, the population represented 14.63% of the total for Australia. This is estimated to drop to 14.61% in the year 1969-70. The figure for South Australia was 9.57% in 1966. This is estimated to drop to 9.44% in the year 1969-70. I have given the figures for Western Australia. The population there has been increasing steadily. In 1966, the population of Tasmania represented 3.24% of the total for Australia. It is estimated that this will move down to 3.21% in 1969-70.
This movement is reflected also in the statistics issued to us recently by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden). Here again it is to be noted that of the settler arrivals to this country in the year 1963-64, 9,811 went to Western Australia. By 1967-68, that figure had increased to 20,149. I do not propose to go through all the figures, but the trend disclosed by them is similar to that evidenced by the Budget documents.
The point I wish to stress is that if the States are not given some special consideration by way of works, housing and all the other things that I have mentioned tonight, then Western Australia is going to be in trouble in providing for this influx of people who are required to develop the country. A State cannot provide housing, schools, water schemes and all the other things necessary to meet the needs of new settlers arriving at this rate unless it is given some special consideration or unless it is deriving some special income from within its own borders.
Unfortunately, during this year, which is looked upon as one of our expanding years and probably the greatest we have ever had, Western Australia has experienced very adverse seasonal conditions indeed. This was mentioned by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), who referred in his Budget Speech to both Queensland and Western Australia as experiencing adverse seasonal conditions. If these adverse conditions continue for much longer, it is possible that Western Australia will be looking to the Commonwealth for further assistance, because that State will suffer great loss which will cause a heavy drain on its economy.
Earlier I mentioned the need of certain industries for assistance. The Budget contains provision for a considerable amount of assistance to not only primary but also secondary industries - the mining industry, shipping and a number of others. This assistance is necessary because of some of the things to which I have referred. I note that the Budget makes provision for assistance to industry amounting to $201,621,000. This is quite a sum of money and it will assist the industries mentioned in no small measure. I shall refer to some of them in more detail in a moment.
One field in which sorely needed assistance is being given to primary industry is estate duty. It is estimated that in a full year the assistance given by way of relief in the estate duty field will cost $5,300,000. Over the years, as we have seen, a considerable number of estates has been split up because the heavy rate of duty levied has fallen onerously on certain people, i am very pleased that this provision is to be made and I take it that the details of the assistance to be given will be spelt out more fully before very long. This concession will help towards retaining very valuable properties that have been built up in this country over not merely a few years but generations. In my opinion it is a crime to see such properties destroyed because of the need to pay estate duty. All I hope is that the States that have not done something to ease the burden of estate duty or probate will follow the Commonwealth’s example and give some assistance in this area.
The Budget provides for an increase in the subsidy on superphosphate. The subsidy will now be $12 a ton, representing about 45% of the total cost of superphosphate. It is interesting to note that when the subsidy was introduced in 1963 it represented about 29% of the total cost of superphosphate. It is also interesting to note, as the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) pointed out in answer to a question recently, that 64% of superphosphate used in Australia is used in the grazing industry. The subsidy is estimated to cost $50m this year. This again is an example of assistance to industry. Tonight the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) claimed that farmers would benefit to the extent of only about $3 a ton from the subsidy. I fail to follow his reasoning. If the subsidy of $12 were removed, obviously farmers would be $12 a ton worse off. That is simple arithmetic.
– The cost of superphosphate has to be passed on by the producer.
– That is right. The Budget also provides for the continuation of the subsidy of $80 a ton on nitrogenous fertilisers. This is estimated to cost $15m in 1969-70. The subsidy has led to a big increase in the use of nitrogenous fertilisers. Before the introduction of the subsidy these fertilisers were considered too expensive. This was the situation in Western Australia, but since the introduction of the subsidy these fertilisers have been used extensively.
A very important matter on which I touch tonight is the subject of research. I believe that we are fast approaching a stage in our development when we must pay great regard to research. We must ask where we are going and what we can do for industry. We cannot allow some industries to continue to operate without reductions in their costs. Obviously research is needed if the costs of industries are to be reduced and if these benefits are to be passed on. I have been examining some of these matters. The Budget discloses that this year more than $37m will be made available to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for various forms of research throughout Australia. We find also that the Government proposes to spend more than $21m on research of various kinds into the meat industry, the wool industry and the wheat industry, among others. I feel that the CSIRO should give greater consideration to Western Australia. As I have pointed out on another occasion in the House, all of the headquarters of this body are situated in the eastern part of Australia which is only one-third the continent. I have referred tonight to the rapid increase in population and rapid development in Western Australia. I hope that the CSIRO will see its way clear to increasing the number of research officers now stationed in Western Australia. We have problems there in many industries. One problem of particular importance is infertility in sheep. Research into this problem has been carried out for more than 20 years by the CSIRO, in a minor way apparently because so far no solution has been found. I feel that this matter should be tackled in no uncertain fashion in order to find an answer. But I do not believe that an answer can be found until the CSIRO moves into the field in greater force and establishes central administration areas within the State.
I also want to mention tonight the industrial research and development grants that were introduced by the Federal Government in 1967. A sum of $5.3m -was made available for this purpose in the 1968-69 Budget. The sum of $ 10.8m is to be made available this year for industrial research and development. I have attempted to find out exactly what has been happening in Australia in relation to research. It is very difficult to pin down a particular figure for the total that is in fact spent on research in any country. The Parliamentary Library indicates that there are no available official estimates of the amount of industrial research undertaken in Australia. There are figures, but they are very difficult to obtain.
An article on the subject was published by Mr P. C. Stubbs, a Research Fellow in the Institute of Applied Economic Research. It is quite a good article. I do not have time this evening to deal with it in full, but it indicates some of the research trends in Australia and refers to what we are in fact paying for research in Australia by way of importing ideas, techniques and so on. I do not think that we can afford to continue to import almost all of our research ideas. The graph in this document indicates that in 1958-59 it was costing us over $20m and in 1966-67 it was costing us over $50m to import ideas, techniques and so on. I have checked these figures with others and they seem to be fairly accurate. The latest figure I have been able to obtain indicates that in 1967-68 it was costing something like S64m. I feel that increased assistance for research will enable this country to develop.
I certainly hope that the assistance to research and the research itself are successful. I say that for more reasons than one. One of the objects of this exercise is to cut costs and increase productivity in Australian industries. On many occasions I have referred to the fact that the rapid increases in costs are being absorbed with great difficulty by the primary industries. They are at the end of the line, and something has to be done about the matter. I believe that some of the answers can be provided by further research in this field. If techniques can be found to operate machinery more economically, if better machinery than that which is used at the moment by many of the primary industries can be built, an excellent job will have been done. But I am not aware of whether sufficient work is being done in this field. Despite anything that may be said to the contrary, I know that machinery prices are increasing almost yearly and that the prices of parts are also increasing. Reports that I receive from many primary industries indicate that machines, although expensive, are not very reliable in many cases. I feel that more work channelled into the research field to explore every avenue to enable agriculture to operate at reasonable cost will be of benefit to Australia. The overheads, the costs and the capital involved in agriculture are rather frightening. It is not until research is undertaken that answers are found for the problems encountered.
There was a man in England who made machinery which was some of the best I have ever seen. His name was Ferguson and that is the name he gave to his machinery. But he went out of production. That sort of machinery was effective; it was useful. But today I do not see this type of thing produced, and I would hope that within this research programme techniques are found to produce machinery that is more suitable to Australia’s agricultural industries.
I intended to say something about freights. This is one of the very big countries of the world, and it has one of the largest freight cost factors. I think the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) referred to this earlier in the day in relation to Tasmania, particularly to the costs involved as between the mainland and that State. Obviously we in Australia do not want to see an increase in freight rates. This is one of our biggest single cost factors, both in moving our goods to the shore for export and to various other parts of the Commonwealth. We must look more closely at freight costs within Australia. I hope that the Government will make studies of them, although I realise that in the main it is a matter for the States which run most of the railways and are responsible for most of the road building. Perhaps the Commonwealth has a limited field, but it certainly has a responsibility in the field of shipping and an overall interest in the cost factor. The problem of freights is one which we, together with the States, should be tackling in order to assist not only the various primary industries but also the people who live in country areas and who also have to bear this burden.
Debate (on motion by Mr Duthie) adjourned. -
House adjourned at 11.43 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
Department of the Interior: Employment of Aboriginals (Question No. 1290)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Diplomatic Representatives: Official Calls on Prime Minister (Question No. 1316)
– On 15th April 1969 the Minister for External Affairs provided information about the dates in 1968 and 1969 upon which new Ambassadors and High Commissioners had presented their letters of credence and commission to the Governor-General. Other High Commissioners present letters of introduction to the Prime Minister.
It is not customary practice to publish a list of diplomats who call on the Prime Minister.
Northern Territory: Care of Children by Director of Welfare (Question No. 1370)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(2), (3) and (4) Number of children in each Institution and annual cost per child is as follows:
Children at the Institutions marked (A), (F), (G), (H), (O) and (P) are receiving specialist care and training associated wilh physical disabilities.
Institutions (B), (K) and (M) provide schooling on the premises for academically retarded children. These institutions operate on the cottage system and provide an active programme of community living with a rural background.
The child at institution (C) was placed in this home because of family background considered detrimental to the child’s future. He attends high school in the area.
The children were placed in institution (D) as infants because of the lack of accommodation in the Territory at the time. It is considered to be unwise to take them from their present family groups in cottage homes at this stage.
The children in institutions (E), (L) and (N) are girls with a background of immoral behaviour. These institutions provide special training and schooling for girls with behavioural problems.
The child in institution (I) lives in a cottage home in Sydney in order to be near specialist treatment for a rare medical condition.
Institutions (J) is a small home for difficult or neglected boys. The children attend local schools.
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
What progress has been made in concluding a new convention to ban chemical and bacteriological warfare since his predecessor’s answer to me on 28th August 1968 (Hansard, page 689).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The United Nations General Assembly, at ils 23rd session in 1968, and the Eighteen (now Twenty-six) Nation Committee on Disarmament at Geneva have continued their consideration of the question of chemical and bacteriological (biological) warfare since my predecessor’s answer on 28Lh August 1968, to the Honourable Members question on notice 481.
By resolution 2454a of 20th December 1968, which Australia co-sponsored, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General of the United Nations to prepare a concise report on the subject of chemical and bacteriological (biologic.il) warfare. The Secretary-General circulated his report on 1st July, and copies of it are available in the Parliamentary Library. The Australian Government is on record, in the Minister for Supply’s answer to question 1053 in the Senate, as expressing the hope that the report will stimulate consideration of effective action in regard to chemical and bacteriological (biological) warfare.
On 10th July, the British representative in the Geneva Disarmament Committee tabled a draft convention, parties to which would undertake never in any circumstances to engage in biological methods of warfare. It b expected that the Secretary-General’s report and the British draft convention will be discussed at the forthcoming 24th session of the General Assembly. The Australian Government hopes that these initiatives will give rise to serious and informed consideration of what effective steps might be taken to control chemical and bacteriological (biological) methods of warfare.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
How many countries have (a) signed and (b) ratified the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and when did each do so.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
United Kingdom .. July 1 1968
USSR .. .. July 1 1968
In addition, the East German authorities signed the treaty in Moscow on 1st July 1968.
asked the Minister for Pri mary Industry, upon notice:
What progress has been made in the discussions between Commonwealth and Queensland officers in developing a uniform fisheries policy in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
– The answer to the honour able member’s question is as follows:
At a meeting in Brisbane on the 12th May 1969 proposals for the rational development of the prawn fishery in the Gulf of Carpentaria were formulated by Commonwealth and Queensland Government officers and the Commonwealth is now awaiting the views of the Queensland Government on these proposals.
As you are probably aware, following the Queensland elections in May there was a reorganisation of departmental responsibilities and Fisheries was transferred from the Department of Harbours and Marine to the Department of Primary Industries, but I expect to have a decision from the Queensland Government at an early date.
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
How many companies were registered in Norfolk Island at the end of the last financial year.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The number of companies registered in Norfolk Island at 30th June, 1969, was 1,001.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
What was the (a) subject, (b) location, (c) cost and (d) purpose of fisheries research conducted by his Department in the last financial year.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The subject, location and purpose of fisheries research conducted by my Department in the last financial year is shown in the attached table. The cost of this research cannot be estimated since, for the most part, it was borne by normal Departmental expenditure and separate records have not been maintained.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 August 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1969/19690819_reps_26_hor64/>.