26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to inform the House that it is the intention to hold the general election on Saturday, 25th October this year, and to dissolve the House of Representatives as at noon on 29th September 1969. The date proposed for the issue of writs is 29th September 1969, and for the close of nominations, 7th October 1969.
– Another spate of resignations.
– In reply to the honourable member, I trust that the resignations will come from the other side. It will not be decided by the honourable member.
– The Treasurer will recollect indicating to the House during the last session that he intended to refer aspects of Labor’s platform to the Treasury for costing. Does he realise that he thus proposes to use a Public Service department as a research office for political parties - the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party? Will he allow the same facilities for the Labor Party, especially full access to suppressed economic analysis reports on a wide range of matters such as some development projects and certain sectors of primary and secondary industry?
– If the honourable gentleman had listened to his Leader he would have known that his Leader did apply to the various departments to have aspects of Labor Party policy costed. If he cares to write to the permanent head of the department himself-
– He would not give me a report.
– If the honourable gentleman wishes to write to me and to ask me in polite terms to have some costing done, he will find that I will do my best to see that the costing is carried out quickly and efficiently for him. So there is no distinction between what is done for the Labor Party and what is done for the
Liberal Party or the Country Party. Perhaps I should say that the honourable member has been here long enough to know what the procedures of the House and of the Parliament are.
– I ask the Minister for Education and Science: Have there been demands for a national inquiry into education? Are not all of the States conducting their own inquiries with common terms of reference? If so, what would a national inquiry achieve which would not be accomplished by the present inquiries? Are any inferences to be drawn from such demands?
– There has been a long and persistent request for a national inquiry into education from a number of organisations and not least of all from the Australian Labor Party and from the present Leader of the Opposition. Despite the fact that all the States have together taken a decision to form common terms of reference - and these have been published - and conduct their own inquiries into primary and secondary education and the needs of teacher training during the next 5 years, the persistence of the Opposition in continually requesting a Commonwealth sponsored national inquiry, thus by-passing the States, exhibits very clearly the wish of the Opposition to gain control of all education throughout Australia. The States have made it quite clear that they have responsibilities in these areas. They have taken decisions to conduct their own inquiries with common terms of reference because they wish to maintain their own responsibilities and do not wish the Leader of the Opposition to ride roughshod over them.
But when we look at more recent proposals for the establishment of a body which might be called the Australian Schools Commission, which would be given the detailed task of looking into the specific needs of 10,000 primary and secondary schools throughout Australia at any one time, it is quite clear that the intention of the Australian Labor Party is to by-pass State education departments, to by-pass the judgment of independent authorities and to gain control over all schools, government or independent, in Australia. I cannot imagine a more disastrous or a more dangerous policy for education in Australia.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I remind the honourable gentleman of his reply to my question on Tuesday of last week when he assured the House that the Government would give prompt consideration to the petition for the early release of John Zarb. In view of the compassionate grounds on which this petition was based, can the honourable gentleman now give his decision to the House?
– As I reminded the honourable gentleman before, this is a matter that rests with the Governor-General for decision after he receives a recommendation from me. The matter is still under consideration and should not be long delayed, but I am not in a position to say more than that at this time.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Will he give consideration to the issue of a special commemorative medal to mark the bicentennary of Captain Cook’s landing in Australia next year, the medal to be presented, with the approval of Her Majesty the Queen, to all those people, including service personnel, who have given or are giving special service to the nation? Will he make an early announcement on this important historical matter?
– The honourable member for Bennelong may have had in mind as precedents for the suggestion he has made the distributions of medals that were made on the occasion of the silver jubilee of the late King George V in 1936 and on the coronations of the late King George VI and of Queen Elizabeth II. I would have some reservations about a medal of this nature to commemorate the bicentenary of Captain Cook’s landing in Australia, but I shall give consideration to the proposal nevertheless.
– I would like to ask the Minister for Health a question. It refers to the refusal by the Victorian Government to add a State grant to the substantial voluntary contribution made by the people of the Bendigo area to finance the addition of six storeys to the Bendigo Home and Hospital for the Aged. I ask the Minister: Is he aware that the Victorian Government’s refusal to help this home and hospital is due to the Victorian Government’s claim that the provision of such facilities is a Commonwealth responsibility and not a responsibility of the State Government? Secondly, what is the Minister doing to break the deadlock on. this issue, the real victims of which are the aged ill of the Bendigo area and of the whole State of Victoria?
– If the honourable member places the complete details of this matter before me in the usual way I will be glad to examine them.
– Can the Minister for National Development inform the House what decisions have, been made regarding the construction of the Dartmouth Dam? Is the recently reported statement regarding this dam that New South Wales had no plans and the Commonwealth had provided no money true? Or is this statement like so many emanating from the same source, ill informed and irresponsible?
– The position with respect to the Dartmouth Dam is that the River Murray Commission made a unanimous decision that the next major storage construction on the River Murray should be the Dartmouth Dam. This decision was unanimously accepted by the three State governments concerned and the Commonwealth, but in accepting k the State governments informed the Commonwealth that they would have great difficulty in financing their one-quarter shares of the construction costs and requested some assistance from the Commonwealth.
The Prime Minister and the Treasurer duly met the Premiers of the three States concerned and made an offer to them. This offer was that the Commonwealth should provide its quarter share and in addition half of each .State’s share as a long term repayable loan. The loan was to be without any repayment for the first 10 years and then was to be repaid over the next 15 years. In other words, the Commonwealth offered to provide altogether 5/8ths of the cost of constructing Dartmouth Dam. Two of the States immediately accepted this proposition. The third State, New South Wales, has now stated that it will accept the offer. Proceedings are now under way between the three States and the Commonwealth to amend the Agreement. When this is done legislation will be introduced in this Parliament and in the three State Parliaments. When that legislation has been passed the building of Dartmouth Dam will commence.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Have the State Ministers for Health given him reports on the condition of mental health services in each State? If so, what action has the honourable gentleman taken in the light of those reports? Does he propose to inform the Parliament of the conditions disclosed by those reports and the measures which the Commonwealth will support in improving them.
– As honourable members will be aware the Commonwealth Government has for many years, under the States Grants (Mental Institutions) Act, made very substantial contributions to the capital costs of mental institutions in Australia. The position was last reviewed about 18 months ago and the present Act still has about 18 months to run. In preparation for a review of the situation when the present Act runs out I asked the State Health Ministers at a conference in Darwin to provide to my department certain information in the form of replies to a long questionnaire on which the Government could base a judgment as to what part, if any, it should play after the current Act runs out. In most cases that information has been received and is under study. When it has been finalised I will be putting something to the Government, and no doubt when a decision is made an announcement will be forthcoming.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. I note that the amount provided in this year’s Budget for Lady Gowrie Child Centres is the same as for the last 3 years. Will the Minister say whether it is proposed to increase this amount to enable these centres to maintain their standards of service in the face of steeply rising costs?
– I am glad to be able to inform the honourable gentleman that the Government has made a decision to increase the grant to the Lady Gowrie child centres by $30,000. The grant will be increased from $120,000 to SI 50,000. This matter was finalised too late for it to appear in the printed Budget papers but the amount will be sought in the Additional Estimates. While I am on this matter I might inform the House that because of the increasing emphasis on the educational activities of the centres and less and less emphasis on the health side, the Government has made a decision to transfer the responsibility for these centres from the Minister for Health to the Minister for Education and Science.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Could he advise the House when the report of the air disaster at Port Hedland will be tabled in the Parliament? Has the inquiry revealed serious metal fatigue in the structure of this type of aircraft and that officers of the Department of Civil Aviation have been lacking in the supervision of air navigation regulations? Have all the remaining aircraft in this series had their airworthiness certificates revoked? Finally, could the Minister say whether the parents of unmarried sons and daughters killed in. the air disaster will receive any compensation under the Civil Aviation (Carriers Liability) Act?
– It is a coincidence that I am just now finalising some details of my report to Parliament. I hope that this report will be presented shortly. It will contain quite a lot of information on this very subject. This investigation is taking some considerable time. I mentioned this matter to the honourable member for Newcastle the other day and because of his previous interest in the matter I indicated that I would not anticipate that I would have the report from the Department before about the end of September. One of the main reasons for the additional length of time was that there was a metallurgical problem and we have no equipment in Australia for the testing of the metal samples involved. We had thirteen separate samples to investigate and report on. We have had the utmost co-operation from the British Aircraft Corporation which has the necessary equipment to undertake this testing. It took about a fortnight to test each of the thirteen samples. The work was undertaken on a twenty-four hours a day basis. Work has been carried out on the samples since we first sent them over and has only recently been completed. We expect that we will have an analysis of these examinations shortly. From that point we will be able to come to conclusions which will enable us to submit a report. But, as I said, I would not expect that to be until about the end of September.
The question of any claims for compensation is of course a matter which I could not refer to under the existing circumstances. This matter is one that is first of all governed by the Act. But as in many cases there could be individual processes through the court I would not care to comment on this subject at the moment.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. In view of Press comment which has contained certain conclusions arising from the Budget speech, will he confirm that taxation concessions in respect of contributions to mining companies will extend to shares, contributing shares and options of all the mining and prospecting companies in Australia, including those engaged in prospecting for and producing oil.
– I will confirm that the taxation changes contemplated by the Government relate to all mining companies including those engaged in oil exploration. At the moment a dealer in shares can get a 200% deduction in respect of capital paid providing certain formalities are met. That applies particularly to oil mining companies. So far as other mining operations and afforestation are concerned, deductions can be of the order of 133i%. It is contemplated that only the amount of the contribution will be deductible and not the 200% or the 133J% deduction. Provision will, of course, be made to ensure that the legislation is not made retrospective. So it will apply only in respect of dealers who are classified as such under the provisions of the income tax legislation as it now exists.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Now that American Airlines has been granted the right to operate between the United States of America and Australia will Qantas Airways Ltd have to share the business with two American airlines? What action is being taken by the Minister to safeguard the future of Australia’s national airline as a result of competition from these American monsters? If the Department of Civil Aviation accepts the entry of American Airlines onto the route without reciprocal concessions being granted to Qantas in the United States, such as the right to carry passengers from all American cities as the American company can with its internal network, will Qantas be operating at a decided disadvantage to American Airlines?
– This is an important matter and one to which I have referred in the House on several occasions. It is interesting to note that an airline which earlier appeared to have an outside running has been selected by the President to be the second American carrier in the Pacific region. American Airlines is one of the largest operators in the world and no doubt will offer significant competition I have made the point clear on previous occasions that we have an agreement with the United States, called a Bermuda-type agreement, under which the United States has the right to license a second operator to provide a service in the Pacific region. The United States having given a licence to the operator to commence services, the next stage is for the operator to submit to the Department of Civil Aviation its proposed schedule of operations showing the frequency of services and the airports it intends to service. The Department then enters into negotiations and discussions with the airlines concerned and then the United States Government.
Australia’s interests have to be protected. We have always stated that we are concerned that there should not be over capacity on the Pacific route. Our objective all the time is to ensure that such a situation does not occur. We want to maintain the viability of the airline operations on an international basis in this region, but at the same time we recognise that tremendous developments are expected in the growth rate of the Pacific service. No doubt the advent of a second American carrier to Australia and to other points in the Pacific will partly cater for the increase. However, the Government certainly will be doing its best to protect Australia’s interests which, of course, are the interests of our own international operator. Whatever frequencies and points of entry are agreed to in Australia, and on other routes where we have some influence, we will at the same time endeavour to ensure that as part of the bargain we have access to other areas in the United States or elsewhere.
– Has the Minister for Education and Science heard of a recent statement by a professional kangaroo shooter from Queensland that unless early action is taken kangaroos will become extinct in that State? Will the Minister tell the House what progress in regard to conservation was made at the recent conference of Federal and State authorities? In view of the fact that a great deal remains to be done if our wild life is to be effectively protected, will he convene another such meeting at an early date?
– I would certainly agree with the last part of what the honourable member said when he indicated that a great deal needs to be done. The honourable member needs to be congratulated for his pertinacity in bringing these matters to the attention of the House. I can report that at the meeting of Ministers - and this was expressed in a Press statement made on behalf of Ministers after the conservation meeting - each Minister expressed the view-
– Mr Speaker, I rise to order. I direct your attention to question No. 1653 on the notice paper.
– Order! The question is in order. There is no reference to an additional meeting in the question on notice.
- Mr Speaker, one sometimes wonders whether the numerous questions that the Leader of the Opposition puts on the notice paper are, in fact, designed to gain information or to prevent questions being asked at question time in the House.
– Answer the question.
– I am answering the question now. I can report that each State Minister - and this was published at the end of the conservation meeting - expressed the view that for his own State he believed the protection measures for kangaroos were adequate. I am expressing this as the view of the Minister concerned - a view that he was expressing in relation to his own State - and nothing more than that. On the other hand there is a view held quite strongly in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation that more frequent surveys of the kangaroo population, more frequent counts of the population and, as a result of that, possibly greater control measures, are necessary to decide the adequacy of the judgment that has been made about the present protection measures. The meeting of Ministers endorsed the view that a number of working parties should be established. The fauna authorities conference, which comprises the principal public servants dealing with these matters in the States, will be meeting next year and reporting, it is envisaged, to a further meeting of Ministers to be held next year. The Commonwealth has undertaken to provide secretariat services so that meetings of the fauna authorities conference and of the working parties can proceed much more effectively and efficiently, I hope, than has been the case in the past.
(Mr Clyde Cameron having directed a question to the Attorney-General.)
– Order! The question is out of order. There cannot be any reference to proceedings in the current session of the Senate.
– Then I want to ask the Minister - because the remainder of the question is in order-
– Order! The question is out of order.
– But the remaining part of it is not.
– Order! The honourable member will not canvass the decision of the Chair.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of statement’s ‘s made by the President of the Victorian Farmers Union which were published in yesterday’s Press and which indicated that he would take action to sell all surplus wheat on the open market if this wheat were not accepted by the Australian Wheat Board? What action does the Government intend to take to ensure that such actions do not take place? What action does the Minister’s Department intend to take to ensure that a black market in wheat does not develop to such proportions as would destroy the wheat stabilisation scheme?
– I am aware of the statement that was made by Mr Wood, the President of the Victorian Farmers Union. I think it was made on Monday, and the least I can say is that I am very shocked to think that an elected leader of an agricultural organisation should make such an irresponsible statement. The Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, which is the supreme industry organisation, attacked the difficult problem of surplus wheat and the difficult marketing conditions by proposing a quota programme. The idea was to enable growers to send at least a quantity of thenwheat to the terminals, to have it stored and to be paid for, and for this to be done in an equitable manner. Also the Federation was hoping that this would have some dampening effect on increase of production. However, if there are to be industry leaders who are prompting people to disobey the intentions of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation and to violate the rules and regulations of the Australian Wheat Board only one thing can happen, and that is that there will be chaos in an industry where there has been traditional acceptance of orderly marketing. I am sure that Mr Wood’s statement would not have the concurrence of other responsible industry leaders. Already today I have seen some replies from industry leaders. I hope that this sort of talk is not heeded by other people in the industry.
People who have the interests of the industry at heart must take a responsible attitude to an extremely difficult set of circumstances. To make such a statement is to tend to produce a degree of panic in the industry. There is no reason at this stage to be fearful of the outcome of this season. Nobody can forecast accurately just what the size of the crop will be, and we will have no illegal trading of wheat until there is an excess of the quota available to be traded. Anybody with a long experience of the wheat industry knows that between this time of the year and the time when the crop is actually harvested there can be a vast difference in the estimates. In Western Australia and in Queensland drought conditions are starting to bite in. The figures that were originally estimated in these States will be well down, and indeed in Western Australia they , could be lucky to reach their quota, whereas in Queensland it is doubtful whether they will reach thenquota. New South Wales is the State which will play a very important part. Whilst the crop sown this year in New South Wales is down by 700,000 acres, the size of the crop will depend upon the average yield. At the moment there could be a fluctuation from 150 million bushels to 230 million bushels. That means that at the moment there is in balance 80 million bushels in New South Wales. This could make all the difference as to whether or not we are going to have over quota wheat in Australia as a whole. It ill becomes any industry leader to make such an irresponsible statement as to say that he is going to trade his over quota wheat no matter whether it is in violation of the industry rules or not.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. I preface it by saying that I am sure that the Prime Minister is well aware of the serious situation that has developed in the wheat industry because of world surpluses. I am also sure that he appreciates the great problem of storage for both quota and non-quota wheat, as well as coarse grains such as barley and oats. Will the Prime Minister say whose responsibility it is to cover the initial -cost of such storage? Has Victoria applied for an extra loan or grant to cover this extraordinary expenditure? When may the growers of that State expect to receive a favourable reply? I ask the question knowing full well that the Prime Minister appreciates the position concerning black marketing which was referred to by the honourable member for Corio.
– The Commonwealth Government has consistently taken the view and traditionally taken the view that the provision and the management of wheat storage facilities are the responsibility and the prerogative of the States concerned in which those storages are situated. That is the answer to the first part of the honourable member’s question. The answer to the second part is: Yes, the Acting Premier of Victoria has written to the Government suggesting some assistance for the provision of wheat storage. I will be giving a reply - I emphasise the word ‘reply’ - to the Premier of Victoria within the next few days on this- matter. I understand that my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, has been in contact with a number of wheatgrowing sections and wheatgrowing areas and has suggested to them that they should consider very carefully whether it is in the long term interests of the industry that much storage should be provided in addition to that which is already there. I understand also from my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, that the storage of wheat is likely to create local rather than regional problems throughout Australia. For the rest - the question of the black marketing of wheat - I refer the honourable member to the question just answered by the Minister for Primary Industry.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question. What is the name of the Canberra justice of the peace whom Commonwealth police officers first approached to sign the warrant authorising a search of the office and premises of the publisher Mr Maxwell Newton? Is it a fact that this justice of the peace refused to sign the warrant and that after this- refusal the Commonwealth police then approached Mr Tillet of Kingston? Did the justice of the peace first approached say why he would not sign? If so, what were his reasons? In seeking authority to enter Mr Newton’s premises why did the Commonwealth police not take the warrant to the Australian Capital Territory law courts for signature in accordance with their usual practice whenever they have papers and documents which must be signed by a justice of the peace?
-I am not aware that any approach was made to any other justice of the peace before the approach to Mr Tillet. Therefore I cannot accept the assumption in the early part of the honourable member’s question. If he has any information about this matter which he can give to me I would be prepared to look into the matter and reply to him. As to the reason why the approach was made to a justice of the peace rather than to a magistrate, section 10 under which the application was made for a warrant gives the power to a justice of the peace and not to a magistrate. In the Australian Capital Territory a magistrate is deemed to have the powers of a justice of the peace, without being one. I think some view may have been taken in the past that to comply strictly with the section application would have to be made to a justice of the peace.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Industry say whether the practice of sending trade missions and trade ships abroad is continuing to boost our exports to the extent hoped for by the Government?
– Yes. It is intended to continue to send trade missions overseas in the interests of expanding Australian export earnings and of providing additional employment and opportunity for investment in Australian industry. The record of recent missions has been that in 1967 a general trade mission went to Britain and to northern Europe. In 1967 another mission went to South Africa. In 1968 there was a mission to Britain and southern Europe. Also in 1968 there was a mission to east Africa. In 1969 there was a mission to the Arabian Gulf. In addition to these general missions there have been some specialised missions in respect of particular industrial items or to particular confined areas. There was, for instance, a mission to South Africa which was proposed and largely conducted by the Export Development Council. There was a mission to South East Asia confined to selling the products of the Australian chemical industry. There was a mission to the Philippines confined to the selling of sugar milling equipment and there was a mission to South Africa confined to the selling of chemicals. These missions have served their purpose which ls to expand sales and to expand Australian industry. The results of the missions are widely publicised to all of those organisations and firms which can gain benefit from the knowledge of the result of the missions. It is projected that in the next 3 or 4 months there will be an automotive products mission to South Africa and east Africa. This is consequential upon the discoveries of the Export Development Council mission which went to South Africa and found there a very encouraging prospect for the export of Australian automotive products. Other missions are at present under investigation. This is a policy that has proved to be very successful and very fruitful.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Defence. When I visited the border of New Guinea and West Irian in July at the point where Indonesian troops intruded onto Australian territory some months back, there was no evidence that satisfactory continuous communication had been established between the police posts at Wutung and the military post at Vanimo, some 20 miles east. Why were no steps taken to cover the border at this point by establishing a permanent effective signals network? In view of the likelihood of increasing numbers of refugees from West Irian entering Australian territory will the Minister take urgent action on this matter if he has not already done so in the last week or so?
– I shall! be glad to look Into the matter that the honourable gentleman raises, but of course the district is constantly patrolled by parties having communications. I shall check the matter that he has mentioned.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Is the Government aware of the dissatisfaction of the large middle income group with the income tax structure? Will the right honourable gentleman keep this section of taxpayers in mind when he is next considering a revision of the taxation structure?
– As I pointed out on two previous occasions, the Government has had before it reviews of the personal and corporation taxation schedules and has given very careful ‘attention to them.
– The Prime Minister said that you recommended against change.
– Under the circumstances of the time.
– I think that those words ought to be added - under the circumstances of the time. On the last occasion when we looked at the problem, what was needed, so it was thought, was a complete review of the total taxation structure of the Commonwealth including personal rates, corporation rates and indirect taxes, and so during the course of the last year the Treasury has put the best officers that it can put onto the job of carrying out a profound and detailed review not only of Australian taxation structures but also of comparable taxation structures in other parts of the world. In other words, we are gradually getting to a position where the review not only can be put into submission form but also can quickly be considered by the Government. The only other matter to which I draw the attention of the honourable gentleman is that I did state in the Budget Speech that if any greater inducement or help were given to demand it could create difficult conditions for us. From my own examination of the figures recently presented in the Budget, I would say mat a sensible review of the scales of personal income taxation would cost about $250m in a full year. So against this background we have to take great care to ensure that we do not create conditions which will add so much to demand expenditure that it can create subsequent difficulties for us. But the short answer to the honourable gentleman’s question is that we are looking at the taxation structures. We have them under careful consideration, and as soon as it is practicable to put a submission to Cabinet or to the Prime Minister, it will be done.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) - by leave - agreed to:
That the honourable member for Bonython (Mr Nicholls) be appointed a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works in the place of Mr O’Connor, resigned.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to this House: Extension of the City South Telephone Exchange, Sydney.
The proposal involves erection of a selfcontained building’ of nine floors plus basements adjoining the existing telephone exchange building to accommodate crossbar subscribers exchange equipment and associated plant and services. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $1,850,000.
In reporting favourably on the proposal the Public Works Committee observed that the date for completion of the building may be difficult to meet and every endeavour should be made to accelerate completion. All possible action will be taken by the Department of Works to give effect to the Committee’s recommendation.
The Committee also recommended tha! PVC coated galvanised steel roofing be used in lieu of copper as proposed. This amendment will be incorporated in the contract documents. Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
- Mr Speaker, I take the opportunity to make some comments on the remarks of the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) and also on the report itself. In doing so, I should like to draw the attention of the House to paragraphs 17, 19, 20, 50 and 51 of the report. Paragraph 50 states:
When reporting to the Parliament on the Pitt Exchange proposals in 1967, the Committee was critical that the project was even then running late and that as a result there could be a state of emergency in the provision of subscribers and STD services in the northern city area between 1970 and the operation of the first equipment in the new building.
Paragraph 51 reads:
The City South Exchange area -
That is the reference now before the House - which, like the Pitt Exchange area, is part of Sydney’s central business district, is also without access to STD and cannot expect to enjoy this service for at least another 3 years. It is to be regretted that such a large part of Sydney’s city area is so poorly serviced in this respect and is a situation which we regard as unsatisfactory.
The fact of the matter is that the City South Exchange is to be erected in an area of Sydney which is rapidly coming into focus for re-development, particularly in the commercial arena and to some degree in the provision of residential accommodation. The Committee had the advantage of knowing - this is highlighted in paragraph 17 - from information it has received that another twenty-five buildings tentatively estimated to cost another $98m were being planned for this area. These included a good proportion of high rise structures, and nine of them were to have between thirty and forty-seven floors. The information given to the Committee at that time showed that a considerable number of approvals were accounted for by the Sydney City Council.
I desire to highlight the situation in which this exchange is placed. Even since these figures were given to the Committee, a considerable number of building approvals outside those referred to have been granted in this area. It is also worth emphasising that the City South Exchange covers an area immediately to the south of Hyde Park and facing on to Liverpool Street. This area is now coming into focus as a highly acceptable residential area, and already some of the propriety companies have moved into the area and have plans for some very substantial development.
When the report of the Public Works Committee on the Pitt Street Exchange was presented to the House, the Minister for the Navy, who was then the Minister for Works, agreed to have a look at the timetable for the construction of this exchange. He was able to obtain from the Commonwealth Department of Works a constructive proposition which the Committee was unable to obtain at the time of its hearing, as a result he was able to show that the construction of the Pitt Exchange could be expedited. Already the foundation work, the framework and some of the construction work is well ahead of the original programme that was put forward to the Public
Works Committee. In the matter of the City South Exchange, it was submitted to the Committee and noted by the Committee - I wish to highlight this fact - that there is a strong tendency to believe that there will be difficulty in completing this project by the specified date. I believe this was something that the Postmaster-General’s Department, its representatives, and officers from the Department of Works were prepared to concede.
I am submitting to the House that with the fast development in this sector of Sydney the situation could become more acute. I am now asking the Minister for the Navy, even though this matter does not come under his portfolio, to ask the responsible Minister in another place to approach this matter in the way the matter of the Pitt Exchange was approached 2 years ago and to look into the programme for the construction of the City South Exchange with a view to re-casting it so that there will be more certainty and definition about the timing of it. If it is not possible to do that, then any other action to step up the timetable for construction will play a significant part in bringing STD services to this very substantial section of the commercial area of Sydney. Lucrative returns can be gained by the PMG from the installation of STD facilities, particularly in an area such as this, and the rewards which will be available to the Department by a step-up in the building programme would make it worth paying an extra premium for the construction of the building with greater enthusiasm or greater speed than is proposed at this stage. I ask the Minister for the Navy, who represents the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), to take this proposition back to his colleague with a view to overcoming the uncertainty surrounding the City South Telephone Exchange.
– I assure the honourable member for St George (Mr Bosman) that the present Minister for Works (Senator Wright) has this matter under very close consideration. I assure him that arrangements have already been made to employ consultants to press ahead with the documentation. This is already in hand. On the assumption that the Committee’s report would be favourable the Department of
Works began documentation. All possible steps will be taken to see that the building is ready as soon as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) proposed:
That government business shall take precedence over general business tomorrow.
– The Opposition supports the motion which has been proposed. Ordinarily the Opposition votes against the displacement of general business by government business. We realise however the difficulties in which the Government finds itself. This Budget session will be the shortest on record. There will be the fewest sitting days ever to consider the Budget, to consider the Estimates, and to consider the barest minimum of Bills flowing from the Budget. If there is to be any proper debate on the Budget, the Estimates and the Bills, members will need to take advantage of every opportunity possible. Accordingly, the Opposition facilitates the debate on those matters and the displacement of general business.
It is with some regret that it becomes necessary to displace the motion that the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics be instructed to publish details of overseas investment in Australia, notice of which has been given by our colleague the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters). This is a matter upon which the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has had a laborious gestation. We are told that he will make a statement on this subject. It might even be that we will be vouchsafed an opportunity to debate his statement. If the matter went ahead as part of general business tomorrow the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) presumably would have to speak on the subject. We do not want to embarrass the Treasurer in his declining months. When he is asked in the future what he achieved in the 22 months of Gorton government he will be able to say with Talleyrand: ‘I survived’. How many others will be able to say even that?
-Order! I think the Leader of the Opposition is getting a little wide of the terms of the motion.
– No, I am supporting it.
-The honourable the Leader of the Opposition may make a passing reference to matters appertaining to a motion but in no case shall any other matter supersede the actual terms of the motion. I think the Leader of the Opposition is getting a little wide of the terms of the motion.
– I respect your wishes, Mr Speaker, and your sensitivity. It is quite clear that if there is to be any debate on wheat, which is one of the subjects on the notice paper under the heading ‘Government Business’, then private members’ business, that is general business, must be displaced. The same applies to wool marketing and the export of merino rams. One of the unfortunate things is that the longer the session goes the more the Leader of the Country Party and Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) will find it necessary to announce that his departure from the Parliament is being deferred and the more senior members of the Liberal Party will have to accelerate their departure. If the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) deserts the sinking ship, who can safely remain on it? It is in this spirit that I support the motion. It is necessary to get into the campaign quickly. The Australian Country Party has to choose a candidate for the vacant seat of Paterson and campaign for its candidate in the seat of Farrer. Just as Fairbairn’s seat is fair game for the Country Party so also is Fairhall’s seat.
-Order! 1 call the attention of the Leader of the Opposition to the requirement that no honourable member shall be addressed by name. Again I suggest that the honourable member is getting wide of the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 19 August (vide page 421), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Whitlam had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after That’ be ‘omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: this House is of opinion that the Budget is inadequate in that -
it increases taxation and health and housing costs for families,
it makes no considered and comprehensive approach to the needs of all schools,
it ignores the problems of capital cities and regional centres,
it defers further development projects and urgent rural measures, and
it neglects industries based on Australian natural resources and defence requirements’.
– Since the Budget was introduced last week the response by the primary producing sector of the economy has been one. of loyal silence to the Government, one of bitterness and one of despair. It must now be patently clear even to the most loyal of Government supporters in the primary producing ranks that the real and major problems of primary industry have been treated with some contempt by the Government. This has been indicated by what is contained in the Budget proposal’s. The representations that have been made by primary producer organisations, notably those concerned with wool, wheat and livestock industries about the important problems facing them have been ignored. The most glaring deficiency in the Budget in regard to primary industry is the point blank refusal once again of the Government to take some effective action to arrest what has been described as the economic stagnation spreading more and more throughout the rural industries. Associated with this stagnation is a progressive decline in the real income of the producers, particularly producers of wool, the greatest primary industry. This is due almost entirely to the insidious increase in farm production costs which again is shown in the Budget papers.
So eager has been the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) - and of course his actions have been endorsed by the Government - to present to the nation a picture of prosperity in the farm sector that the Government has resorted to tactics which at the very least would be somewhat questionable in terms of correct commercial accounting or budgetary control. For example, in an attempt to boost the total value of farm production in 1968-69 compared with the previous years, the value of wheat production is shown at $750m. This is value far in excess of the value in previous years. There is nothing wrong with this if in fact the value per bushel is a fair one. But because of its sheer size, this item of $750m for 1968-69 exerts a telling influence on the total value of farm production in Australia. At least one-third of the amount of $750m, which is put down in the Budget papers as the value of wheat production, is at present unsold. Is it fair to put a per bushel value of approximately $1.50 on this unsaleable surplus? This is in fact what the Government has done.
On the national expenditure side of the Budget the Government conveniently ignores making provision for a contribution to the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Fund on the ground that wheat sales will not be finalised before 30th June 1970. This means that in this financial year there is no provision in the Budget whatsoever for payments to the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Fund, notwithstanding the fact that the Government last year made a payment of $43m to the fund. One can ask whether these are really questionable tactics or whether they are acceptable. On the one hand the Government includes an overinflated value of stocks of wheat, while on the other hand it does not even include in expenditure a provision for payment to the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Fund.
In the national financial scene rural industries can be described as being economically sick. No amount of disguising figures can hide this fact. The Budget papers reveal that the realised net income from the farming sector in 1968-69, other than companies, amounted to $ 1,200m. Despite the growth of the gross national product since 1964-65 of approximately 35% the farm net income is lower than the $l,235m earned in the 1964-65 period. So although the gross national product has gone up in that period by 35% the actual value of farm net income - that is after costs have been taken into account - has gone down. This is in fact what the wool industry, in repeated representations to this Government, has shown. The wool industry has shown a serious and deteriorating economic position.
If we take a more accurate value for wheat produced this year we will find that the net income of the farming sector is reduced even further. No amount of political dodging can disguise the effects on the farm sector of the cancerous growth of farm production costs over which the producer has had little or no control. In the last 4 years there has been an increase in farm costs, other than wages and depreciation, of 25%. I emphasise that I am talking here about farm production costs other than wages and depreciation. Therefore, do not let us blame wages as being the crucial factor in increasing farm costs. Even if we include the dubious figure of $750m for wheat production the gross value of farm production over the same period has increased by only 14%. Compare that with the rate of increase of the gross national product. Even when we include wages, depreciation, rent and interest in total costs, the Budget papers show that there has been no increase in net income from farm production. So, again, the net income of the farm sector has gone down while the gross national product has gone up.
These are indicators that cannot be disguised. They show very clearly that economic stagnation throughout rural industries is a depressing and deteriorating trend which will gather momentum. Let us look at another indicator. The stagnation of rural industries is further illustrated by the average increase of gross national product in the farm sector over the last 5 years. This increase has averaged only 1% per annum. The comparison with the nonfarming sector during this period is incredible. During this period the nonfarming sector has increased by 40%, which is an average of 8% per annum. Those honourable members who support the Country Party should keep those figures in mind. I will repeat them. The gross national product of the farming sector has increased by 1% per annum over this period but the gross national product of the non-farming sector has increased by 8% per annum. Such an increase could seriously affect the future of the primary industries operating in the export field, particularly those operating in a relatively free market system, such as the wool industry.
The annual increase in the cost of materials and services on farms is estimated to be running at double the rate of increase in the manufacturing sector at present and the gap is widening to the detriment of the farming sector. The serious economic position of the rural sector should be of tremendous concern to the Government and to the Treasurer, but it is clear that the matter is being ignored by this unsympathetic Government. The Government appears to be mesmerised by the glamour of the mineral boom and the value to the country of potential exports. Furthermore, because of the very high umbrella type of protectionism that is afforded to the manufacturing sector through tariffs and other means, the manufacturing industries are able to pass on increased costs to the consumers in Australia. Overseas markets are the main markets for the wool and wheat industries and these industries are unable to pass on increased costs to the consumers in those markets. But the manufacturing sector’s main market is the consumers in Australia and it is able to pass on increased costs to them. The gap widens because the commodity prices index for primary producers in the export industry is practically stagnant whilst the actual prices received by the manufacturing industries are going up and up all the time. The consumer in Australia, whether he be a farmer, a retailer or an ordinary citizen, is footing the bill for these rises.
The seriousness of the cost-price squeeze is illustrated by the official statistics collected by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. These statistics show that since 1950, which is the base year, unit costs of production - this is the only correct way in which relativity can be measured - and the marketing factors of farms throughout Australia have increased by an average of 185%. I repeat that since 1950 unit costs - not the absolute level - in terms of wages, services and so forth have increased by 185%. To counter such an increase in costs the farming sector has either to increase productivity or get a higher return for its product. Increased productivity has been achieved through science and technology, but there is a limit.
The serious economic position of primary industries can be appreciated if one compares the 185% increase in costs with the increase in commodity prices. Since 1950, the price of wool has increased by an average of only 26%. Is it any wonder that the small producer of wool is on the way out. Irrespective of how efficient he is in terms of wool cut per head or per acre, in terms of manpower or whatever criteria one wishes to use, the salient fact is that costs are increasing at a certain rate and the price of wool is not increasing at a corresponding rate. In fact, the price of wool has increased by only 26% since 1950, which is the base year for the statistics I am using. Despite a tremendous increase in volume, wheat has increased in price per unit by only 45%. The bright spots in the primary producing sector are beef and, to a lesser extent, other meats. In this area there has been an increase in the unit price of 228% since 1950. As far as beef production is concerned the unit price has in actual fact gone up at a greater rate than the increase in costs. This is the only industry in which such a position applies. Prices received in the dairy industry have increased by approximately 117% over this period and for all crops by 82% .
What of the future? Under the Government’s policies the farming sector is walking a path of political or economic hopelessness in regard to the cost-price squeeze. The cost-price squeeze or stranglehold is tightening with greater ferocity every year. Costs accelerate every time there is a drought, a drop in trade or a reduction in commodity prices. For proof of the Government’s inability to understand the seriousness of the economic position one has only to look at the recent decision to tighten bank credit and to increase interest rates. This decision is taken at a time when the primary industries are in trouble. Surely that is proof of the unsympathetic approach of the Government to the primary sector. Bank interest rates were increased and bank credit was tightened to stop inflationary pressures, but within 3 weeks of this action being taken the Treasurer introduced into the Parliament a highly inflationary budget which will place pressure on the cost of production and will affect primary and manufacturing industries. Once again the farming sector, particularly primary industries engaged in the export field, will have to bear the burden of the
Government’s inconsistent policy action. According to the Treasurer, inflation could occur so he puts a squeeze on bank credit and interest rates and 3 weeks later he presents a highly inflationary Budget.
Perhaps the greatest smack in the eye in this Budget is directed at the wheat producers. Over the years they have been encouraged by the Government to increase production so that Australia can earn valuable export income - that cannot be denied - but in this Budget the only mention of wheat is a rather apologetic explanation as to why the Government was not making provision for funds for the wheat stabilisation scheme. One would have expected that in this Budget the Government would have made some provision for the storage, either temporary or permanent, of the huge stocks of wheat which are mounting up throughout Australia. By refusing to make any provision for either temporary or permanent wheat storages the Government is shirking its responsibility. As far as the Government is concerned any surplus can rot on the farm. Such an attitude shows a deplorable lack of foresight. It is symptomatic of a tired, worn out and uninformed government. In fact, the Government has adopted an attitude of arrogance towards the wheat farmer. Such an attitude is tantamount to accelerating the collapse of the wheat stabilisation scheme as far as domestic marketing arrangements are concerned. Can anybody blame any wheatgrower for wanting to sell his surplus nonquota wheat on the so-called blackmarket when the Government makes no attempt to provide temporary or permanent storages for his wheat?
It is high time the primary producers throughout Australia realised that the Government is so pre-occupied with the glamour of minerals and their potential value to Australia that it is gambling on minerals replacing primary industries as the main earner of export income at some time in the future. The Government believes that it can neglect the problems of the primary producers. The Government works on the assumption that the primary producers in Government held seats will continue to support Government candidates. This may or may not be true but it is an assumption which is most unwise. A little more than 60% of this country’s exports, despite the glamour of minerals, still comes from rural products the big proportion of which are not protected in the true sense of the word. This sector has a powerful political and economic voice which will not be stifled for much longer.
Unless the economic conditions in the rural sector of Australia are revitalised and unless the wool and wheat industries in particular are given a better future in terms of viability - particularly the wool industry - devaluation of the Australian currency is more than just a possibility. This I believe because I cannot see how the wool industry will continue to carry on under the present guise of protection when it is being crucified by the cost-price squeeze unless either devaluation takes place or massive subsidies are given to it. And if massive subsidies arc given to the wool industry it will only accelerate the pressures of the problems of farm production costs.
The Government’s inability to secure respect from industry and from the State governments is illustrated by the rather abortive proposals for the reconstruction of the dairying industry. The scheme was announced in 1967 but nothing effective has emerged since. While this dairy fiasco continues the dairy farmers in the marginal areas, particularly of Western Australia, northern New South Wales and Queensland, will continue to suffer. As honourable members will recall - and I notice that it is not mentioned this year - in the last Budget Sim was provided for the reconstruction scheme. Apparently nothing was spent and this amount has just been carried over again for this sector. There is no guarantee that it will be spent this financial year. The belated attempt to appease the farming sector by the provisions relating to depreciation, superphosphate subsidies and probate are laughable when compared with the actual size of the problem facing primary industries, particularly when one considers the actual value of these handouts as compared with the value of the tariffs for such industries as the chemical, motor car and capital goods industries. There has to be some balance, because the capital and consumer industries in Australia can pass on their costs to consumers. Why should primary industry be penalised because the majority of its products have to be sold on a cut-throat competitive world market?
The Government’s growing contempt of primary producers is perhaps without parallel in Australia as regards the almost inhumane treatment of the drought problem in Queensland. Incredible as it may seem, the Government places a figure of $306m on the value of stocks of wheat on hand at 30th June, yet the Government refuses to allow any of this wheat to be diverted to the owners of starving stock at a reasonable price. The Government’s defence is that it might influence the price level of the coarse grains market. If the Government had any idea of what is happening in central and north Queensland it would know that there just are not any coarse grains. How any primary producer located in the recurring drought devastated areas of coastal Queensland and inland Queensland whose stock have been affected by drought and who, in the last 6 months have had to cut the throats of their lambs or let the crows pick out their eyes, can continue to support a Government which refuses to give them the same treatment as was given to Victorian farmers, a 40c a bushel subsidy, is beyond me.
While on the subject of drought, let me deal again with one of the most blatant omissions from this Budget, and that is with respect to national development How can any country prosper unless it has a high proportion of its gross national product being channelled into national development projects, particularly when it is suffering serious losses in areas where water conservation would mitigate or minimise the extent of drought losses?
– I suggest that the honourable member looks at the Budget. Money is available.
– No additional money is available. If the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) follows me in this debate, I hope he will clarify one point that most Queenslanders want to know about: Will any water be made available from the Commonwealth’s water resources programme before 1972? It seems to mc, from my reading, that nothing will be made available. The Minister should not tell us money is made available in this Budget. It simply is not so. There is no new money. There is need for finance for water conservation projects in Queensland where people are suffering the greatest economic loss of any drought area in Australia. I, and others in this House, have referred from time to time to the Burnett, Fitzroy and Burdekin areas.
– You told a fib earlier.
– These are proven areas of great potential. Despite what the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), who is so good at swimming in rivers, may say, there are great rivers in this district which would test even his capabilities. Queensland is the only State which has not received Commonwealth funds to promote, directly or indirectly, the great development of power. Water and power are fundamental to economic growth. Both are of the highest priority in Queensland. The Government’s record of discrimination against Queensland in the provision of funds for water and power is an unbelievable display of what we would call ‘arrogance’, because in the last 20 years, of the total of $800m that has been committed for water conservation, power, irrigation and flood mitigation, Queensland has received a paltry $20m.
The Government still has not carried out a reappraisal of the Burdekin River project which was promised about 12 months ago. Where is it? No doubt it will be announced shortly, but I can assure the Minister for National Development that the people of the Burdekin area will not be fooled in any way by an announcement of a reappraisal. The Government ignores the fact that in 1949 the Burdekin project was given the No. 2 priority in Australia, below only the great Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. Complementary legislation was passed. As I have mentioned before, we even had the great statement by the then Leader of the Australian Country Party in 1949: ‘We will press on with the Burdekin project and build it without delay’. That was 20 years ago and we still have not had lc of action in this great valley. I am glad that the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) is at the table. He will recall that last year he gave assurances to this Parliament regarding oil drilling on the Great Barrier Reef and the Parliament believed that oil drilling on the Barrier Reef would not take place until more scientific research had been implemented at least for some years. But what do we see now? The Government, because of the ruling of two judges of the High Court, must take the full blame for what is going on with regard to the Barrier Reef since the majority of this drilling will go on in Commonwealth waters. Despite the fact that there is legislation, it has to be endorsed by this Government.
One would have thought that the Government would at least have provided some alternative in respect of the Great Barrier Reef, one of the greatest tourist attractions in the world. It is still not recognised as an industry, and those concerned are still unable to get development funds from the Development Bank.
As I said before, so far as the Great Barrier Reef is concerned this Government will stand condemned for the actions which are taking pl’ace at the present time because of the assurances given by the Minister for National Development. He has just walked out of the chamber. He gave the Parliament an assurance that drilling would not take place on the Barrier Reef and it is no good saying that what has happened now is the responsibility of Queensland. It must have been endorsed by this Government. There can be no question that if there is the problem of a blow out this Government will be to blame.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I take the first opportunity to express my appreciation of the services of one of the most efficient and honourable Ministers to serve Australia for many a year. I speak in regard to the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) who represents the electorate of Paterson. It has been my great joy and privilege to have been associated with the Minister for many, many years. We are both Novocastrians. I had ample opportunity to judge, long before he came to this Parliament, his great worth and value as a businessman. He came here not as an opportunist but to serve his country in the threatening days of bank nationalisation. Due to his undoubted ability he was elevated to the Ministry after only a few years. The service he has rendered stamps him as a statesman as distinct from a politician. It is unfortunate that some would, even at this time, endeavour to take away the great service that he has rendered to Australia. We who know him well are aware that he has not enjoyed the best of health for some time, and as long as 3 years ago he was advised by his medical adviser to think about easing up considerably. So let there be no doubt in the mind of anyone that the Minister is retiring for the reasons stated. Knowing him and his character as I do, he would not be false to himself or to this Parliament.
We have heard from the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) in regard to wheat. Following his Leader, he makes many mis-statements and does not keep exactly to the truth. In regard to wheat and the drought in Queensland this Government has an open ended commitment with the Queensland Government. Every amount spent over $4m has been underwritten by this Government.
– Does that apply to wheat?
– That does apply to wheat. In the drought in northern New South Wales a few years ago, although the Government did not provide matching £1 for £1 grants it did underwrite the drought charges to the farmers of that area. When we analyse what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said last night we see that he would have us become a nation of bureaucrats, committees, inquiries and the like. We realise the extent to which the Opposition will go to bolster up its unhappy position by bringing in outside influence in the way of committees, commissions and so on. Parkinson’s theory would, of course, soon become Parkinson’s disease. We would have the shakes. Our economy would tremble. In no time we would have inflation and, of course, the natural corollary of inflation is unemployment. This Government has brought about stability. We have full employment, and we have been fortunate in having one of the greatest Treasurers, if not the greatest Treasurer, since federation. Because of his grasp of his portfolio the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), despite consumer demand and full employment, has restrained inflation to something like 3%, and it is only a man of great ability and understanding of finance and economics who could accomplish such a feat.
We have progressed from a period of stop and go, and the economy is well balanced.
The last financial year was one of record growth, despite what the honourable member for Dawson stated. The gross national product is estimated to have increased by 8.7%, bringing the average annual rate of real growth and output in the past 5 years to 5.4%. This spectacular growth has been brought about by the strong recovery in production in the rural sector.
Despite what the honourable member for Dawson said, we on this side fully recognise the value of our primary production. We recognise that this is our most stable and secure earner of foreign exchange. Although wool and wheat are going through a difficult period it may be as well for me at this stage to warn people who endeavour artificially to restrict the sale and production of these products to act very warily. From time immemorial wheat has adjusted itself to changing situations throughout the world. There have been times of abundance of wheat in the world’s granaries - in Winnipeg, Manitoba and such places. I well remember that in 1930 or 1931, at the height of the depression, there was a strong move to restrict wheat sowings. I remember Sir Alfred Davidson, who was then Manager of the Bank of New South Wales, deputing one of his officers to attend an inquiry being held and to implore the people concerned never to restrict wheat sowings. Within 12 months there was a shortage of wheat. Throughout the ages there has been a balancing effect. Of course, chemicals developed by science have in some way mitigated the ravages of such pests as weevils and rodents but there are still some things, such as drought and Mood, which man cannot control. Before any authority recommends a restriction on wheat sowings it should give the matter full and earnest consideration.
Listening last night to the Leader of the Opposition I heard many misstatements. He said that the Government was doing nothing to help State schools. If all the assistance being given by the Commonwealth to State schools, including the SI Om for technical training, which after all is education, were totalled we would find that the $24m that is being supplied as aid to independent schools would be surpassed. Without presuming to give the exact figure, I think something like $30m is going to State schools compared with the sum of $24m going to independent schools.
Last night we heard a tirade about the cost of housing and the burden of interest rates. The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) claimed that interest rates represented an excessive burden on home owners. I will concede that interest is a costly item, but the honourable member should compare the amount paid in interest by a home owner with the amount of rent he would have to pay for a comparable home. The honourable member will find that the person who pays off a loan over a number of years is still infinitely better off than the person paying rent, notwithstanding interest charges. Money is like all other commodities: If other commodities increase in price, the cost of money - the interest rate - increases likewise.
On the subject of the cost of homes I can speak only with regard to the situation in New South Wales. The greatest increase in the cost of a home has been the increase in the cost of land, brought about by an artificially created black market. This black market was created in 1951 by the New South Wales Labor Government when it placed an embargo on thousands of acres of rural land and thousands of blocks of land on the fringe of Sydney. Much of that land already had formed streets - perhaps not kerbed and guttered - and water and electricity connected. The high prices being charged for building lots in New South Wales are the direct result of demand outstripping supply. This situation was created under a socialist Labor Government and, to our great discredit, perpetuated by a Liberal Government. This situation is a disgrace. Once you restrict the sale of land or place an embargo on its use you create a black market.
We hear a lot from the Leader of the Opposition about urban planning. I was interested in a report in today’s Press of an address given recently by Sir John Overall. He dealt with a matter which I have raised in this House on a number of occasions. Why in the name of heaven should we have in the area between Newcastle and Wollongong more than twothirds of the State’s population, all of our engineering complex and all of our major industries? In this age of nuclear bombs one bomb on the area and most of those who live there would be off. Two bombs and the lot would be devastated. The town planners assume the power of God. If they can foresee the future why do they allow these things to be perpetrated? As I understand Sir John Overall’s suggestion, this heavy concentration of population and industry would extend not from Newcastle to Wollongong but all the way to Melbourne. How stupid can bureaucrats be? Is it not time we did something about decentralisation instead of just paying lip service to the idea? Would it not be better to establish new cities away from the coast? Cities established on the seaboard are always the most uneconomical of cities with all of the services radiating inland from the seaboard. A city should be so planned that all of the services can radiate from the centre.
Why this is allowed to continue is beyond my comprehension. This august body, the State Planning Authority of New South Wales, is the most devilish bureaucratic institution known. There is only one power that it does not have: It cannot make a farmer grow a crop of wheat if he wants to grow a crop of oats. Other than that it controls our whole wellbeing and every square foot of land in New South Wales. I trust that enlightenment will come and assist the low wage earner and the young married couple who at the present time would be very fortunate to buy a building lot of SO feet by 150 feet at a price under $4,000. This is a crying disgrace to us who call ourselves Australians. There are thousands of blocks of land which are subject to an embargo and which if freed these young people could purchase for the purpose of building their homes. I often think how foolish we are continually to increase the amount that can be borrowed on a home. What have we done? We have created an imposition upon the low wage earner. We give him extra money simply to innate the cost of land. Then he is held in bondage and subjection for the rest of his life, as a result of socialistic legislation that should never have been allowed in a democracy such as Australia.
Thousands of acres were tied up in a supposed green belt. This was the bureaucrats’ name for it. We were told that we must have a green belt. Why did we want a green belt in a city such as Sydney, with the Pacific Ocean on one side and the wonderful Hawkesbury River and the great Blue Mountains virtually surrounding it?
The authorities put a great area of land under an embargo and tied it up. But in 18 years the green belt has disappeared. Gradually they released it. We had to have it for town planning, and to the best of my knowledge and belief there is practically no green belt left. Of course, I do not attribute any wrongdoing to the former executive officers of the Cumberland County Council or to the present State Planning Authority, but the bribery and corruption - although I could not prove it - that went on was of such a nature that the then Labor Government had to get rid of the Cumberland County Council and it superimposed upon us the State Planning Authority.
– When did all this happen?
– While you have been asleep. I am sorry, Dan, because you will not be here much longer, but we will give you a farewell.
– I hope that you remember me.
– Yes. It is with great pride that I congratulate the Treasurer on the Budget that he has presented. He is a person of great ability and understanding. Understanding is one of the greatest words in the English language. It is because of his great understanding and his application that we, the Party, go forward with great confidence and present the Budget to the people of Australia where we have done much to assist those in greatest need. The great benefits that will accrue from this Budget have not yet been appreciated. When the incidence of the tapered means test is fully understood it will be realised how wonderful this Budget is. Therefore I have much pleasure in supporting the Budget and opposing with all my zeal the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
Mr BARNARD (Bass) (4.27]- This is in every way a very curious and contradictory Budget. The most important source of uncertainty and anxiety is that the policy innovations of the Budget are in flagrant contradiction of the assessment of the economy on which fiscal policy should be based. The Budget statement opens with an account of the economic context which is sober in the extreme. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) points to areas of concern about the economic future although he is at pains to emphasise the .conditions of high prosperity in which the Budget has been framed. He goes on to paint the picture of an Economy in which private investment is driving expansion, where the effects of a strong rise in demand are manifest, where costs and prices are rising, where money is freely available and where the labour market is under considerable pressure. On this basis the Treasurer goes on to erect a budgetary superstructure whose net impact is claimed to be mildly deflationary. The deflationary nature of the Budget is attributed to two factors, the reduction in the deficit from $3 85m to $30m and the domestic surplus estimated to be around $5 00m. The Treasurer says that this surplus - about $300m more than that achieved in 1968-69 - should have a considerable effect in modifying the expansion of domestic monetary liquidity.
I should like to make some brief comments on these assumptions. The reduction of the deficit to $30m was referred to in an address by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) on Monday night in Adelaide. The Prime Minister is quoted in the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ of 19th August last as saying that a section of economists was saying that the Government’s proposals were inflationary. The Prime Minister discounted this, pointing to the reduction in the deficit from $385m to an estimated $30m. ‘No-one can say that this is not deflationary,’ the Prime Minister is reported as saying. Apparently the nature of the deficit is relied on by the right honourable gentleman to rebut claims that the Budget has strong inflationary trends. This is a challengeable assumption.
While Government spending increases demand to the full extent, higher income tax revenues draw funds from savings as well as consumption. The withdrawal from the savings component does not affect demand. To this extent the expansionary effect of higher Government spending is not offset completely by additional taxation revenue. It is a basic fact of fiscal theory that even a balanced budget can have a strongly expansionary impact. The reliance by the Prime Minister on the much smaller deficit is no indicator of the inflationary or deflationary impact of the Budget. The size of the domestic surplus was emphasised by the Treasurer, although this is a concept which has not been stressed in previous
Budgets. The mere fact that this surplus rose by $300m has no relevance to the deflationary or inflationary impact of the Budget.
The basic question is whether the size of the surplus is sufficient to curb the existing inflationary trends in the economy. It is probable also that the size of this domestic surplus is substantially over-estimated. The Budget statement at pages 40 and 41 points out that the increase in receipts not closely related to future trends in economic activity will be extremely large in 1969-70. This is attributed to a substantial increase in provisional tax and company tax revenue flowing from 1968-69 - an increase estimated at $307m or 18%. The statement emphasises that a significant proportion of such taxation revenue is allowed for from the previous year’s income. It goes on to point out that with respect to 1969-70, it is unlikely that a large proportion of these particular receipts would operate to offset the inflationary impact of budgetary outlays. To the extent that these receipts do not operate to offset an inflationary impact, they must be deducted from the Treasurer’s domestic surplus. This could reduce this estimated surplus considerably.
This concept of domestic surplus is also relevant to the section in the Budget Speech on monetary liquidity, where the Treasurer states that the Budget would reduce monetary liquidity. By the Treasurer’s own admission, the impact of the surplus on the money supply would be more than offset by an excess of receipts on private transactions abroad over payments, and by the big increase in rural credits advances by .the Reserve Bank. On page 22 of his statement the Treasurer concedes that a large volume of monetary liquidity has been carried over from the previous year. Against this background it is difficult to see how the domestic surplus can be put forward as an effective brake on inflationary trends. Overall, there are strong grounds for concluding that the impact of the Budget will be much more inflationary than the Government is prepared to concede.
As pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) last night, there are strong grounds for inferring that the Treasurer has formulated his Budget on the basis of accelerated inflationary trends. The dangers of this course are inferred rather than clearly stated in the Treasurer’s statement. On the basis of the plain inferences in the statement, however, I believe it is completely wrong of the Prime Minister to dress this up as a deflationary Budget. The risks in the budgetary courses adopted by the Treasurer should be clearly stated and clearly understood by the electorate, with a federal poll imminent. There is very little of an innovatory nature on the revenue side of the Budget. There is a minor concession on personal income tax and there is the liberalisation of the age allowance. There are income tax and estate duty concessions to primary producers which are unexceptional, although they infringe all criteria for the equitable treatment of people in comparable circumstances.
Air navigation charges are increased by 10%. The Treasurer says this is consistent with narrowing the gap between airport and airway costs and revenues. This still leaves a substantial volume of recurrent costs uncovered by charges in civil aviation. The huge cost of running the Department of Civil Aviation is a subject which should be intensely scrutinised in this House during the Estimates debate, and I have no doubt that honourable members on this side of the House will take the opportunity to deal with this aspect of civil aviation during the debate. On the expenditure side there is a significant reduction in defence spending, which I will consider later in relation to the Government’s forward defence planning.
The Leader of the Opposition dealt at length with the changes in social welfare, health and education, and at this stage I should like to make some brief comments myself. Although this is the second consecutive year in which basic pensions have risen, the net impact has been to compensate for price rises. Any inflation flowing from the Budget will erode further the real value of pension payments. The Government has passed up the chance to improve the equity of these basic pensions by tying them to an index of prices or an index of prices plus a productivity factor. Nor is the muchvaunted tapering of the means test a substitute for the transformation of the whole system of paying social welfare benefits recommended by the Labor Party.
The Treasurer made great play in the opening paragraphs of his statement on increased repatriation benefits. On examina tion, these improvements do little to arrest the deterioration over the past 20 years in the position of repatriation pensioners relative to wage earners. Totally and permanently incapacitated war pensioners have been given a reasonably generous increase of $2.50 a week, but their net pension of $36 is still well below the minimum sought by the Returned Services League. It does not conform to the request made by the Returned Services League in its submission to the Government repatriation subcommittee. The request has been ignored again in 1969, in the same way as requests were ignored in 1968, in 1967 and indeed as far back as one can go during the term of office of this Government. Reasonable requests put to this Government by the National Executive of the Returned Services League have been completely ignored. While I do not want to deal exclusively with the question of repatriation at this stage - an opportunity will be presented to all honourable members to debate repatriation matters generally when the appropriate legislation is before the House - I should point out that this Government has completely ignored the recommendations of the Returned Services League, despite the Government’s promises back in 1949 when it was in Opposition.
Indeed, the National Executive of the Returned Services League in 1967, at the time of the last Senate election, took the unprecedented course of publishing 500,000 pamphlets expressing its disapproval of this Government, and more particularly, its disapproval of the attitude of the Government in consistently ignoring requests that had been put to the Government by those who represent the great bulk of ex-servicemen in this country. Although the increase in the intermediate rate of $2.25 a week is welcome it falls well short of the minimum pension sought by exservicemen’s organisations.
War widows have been shabbily treated with a $1 increase in basic pension and a 50c increase in the domestic allowance. While I will deal with these matters more adequately when repatriation legislation is before the Parliament, one ought to pose the question at this stage: Can the Government justify a situation in which a war widow, whose husband has died as a result of his service in the interests of this country in either the First World War or the Second World War or in Korea, is paid less than a single and totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman? Yet this is the situation this Government allows to continue, and its increase under the terms of the Budget is $1 a week. War widows form one of the major components of the culture of the poverty in Australia and reduction of their plight should be a major priority in budgetary social welfare measures. General rate pensioners on the basic rate have been completely neglected, although the special compensation allowance payable to more seriously incapacitated general rate pensioners has been raised.
In the area of housing the Government has confined itself to providing an extra $5m for war service homes and introducing a scheme costing $25m over 5 years for age pensioner dwelling units. Again I merely point out for the benefit of the House, in order to put the record straight, that the Government, by increasing the war service homes allocation this year by $5m. is merely bringing it back to the level at which it stood several years ago. It is now less than it was under this Government 2 financial years ago. So all that the Government is doing is restoring a portion of the amount that it took away from those who would benefit under the war service homes legislation approximately 2 years ago.
I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not wish to detract from the worth of the general increase in pensions for age and other classes of pensioners, but it is significant that in a vote-catching Budget the Government shied away from stimulating demand for home building by measures such as adjusting the home savings grant scheme. This is undoubtedly a correct economic decision in view of what the Treasurer said about the acceleration of private capital expenditure to boom levels in 1968-69. But it reinforces the conclusion that the Government has given rather more weight to inflationary trends than is conceded in the Budget. Even with an election just over 2 months away, the Government resisted the inclination to innovate in a way which would stimulate home demand. This is a tacit admission that the deflationary nature of the Budget stressed by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer is not founded on fiscal fact.
In summary, on both the revenue and expenditure sides the Treasurer has failed to remove injustices and anomalies and to provide a more efficient basis for resources allocation. This lack of equity is most apparent in the Treasurer’s failure to mention the reconstruction of the tax scales on more equitable lines, even though he had said previously that tax scales bore much too heavily on middle and lower income earners and had promised relief. This injustice has been compounded by the Treasurer’s reliance on higher tax revenue from these groups as a primary source of revenue for his Budget. Yet the bulk of taxpayers in these tax brackets have been ignored on the benefit side of the Budget. The Treasurer has conceded that the progressive tax scales bear onerously in particular on the middle income bracket, yet he has exploited these scales for budgetary purposes without any hint of amelioration.
The present system of progressive tax scales does not afford fair treatment to all Australians because people in essentially the same circumstances do not bear the same tax burden. People in essentially different circumstances do not bear appropriately different burdens. There have been many proposals for reform of the Australian tax structure in the past 10 years. I believe that the time is appropriate for a comprehensive review of the incidence and effects of all taxes imposed in Australia at Commonwealth and State levels. Such a review could assess the impact of taxation on the operation of the national economy, the conduct of commerce and industrial organisations and the position of individuals. It could make recommendations for improvements in the tax law and its administration. It could examine and overhaul the existing complex tax legislation with a view to eliminating inequities and anomalies and closing loopholes which prevent fair taxation.
Again one could deal at great length with this subject. I refer to some of the anomalies which must be apparent to honourable members in this House. For example, a family man is granted an allowable deduction for taxation purposes of $312 for his wife, but if he can afford $1,200 for superannuation and insurance he is allowed to deduct the full amount of $1,200. Surely no honourable member on the Government side would concede that this is an equitable way of dealing with the taxation laws. Yet this is the system that has grown up and has been perpetuated by this Government during its period of office. As an interim measure, until a review such as I mentioned could be completed and its recommendations tabled, relief could be given to low and middle income earners by lowering the tax rates and reforming the system of concessional deductions. It is regrettable that, despite his professed interest in this area of fiscal reform, the Treasurer has neglected to provide this sort of relief.
The most significant pruning of Government spending is displayed in the defence vote. This was quite unexpected, lt abruptly ends a trend of recent defence spending which has been sustained since the early 1960s. It seems to have been done quite blatantly to free resources for the social welfare proposals of the Budget. The Opposition does not quarrel with this freeing of resources, but by doing so the Government has reversed the declared policy of defence spending in previous budgets in a most blatant way. Furthermore, the reasons for this policy about-face were not satisfactorily explained in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech. The tone of the Budgets of recent years has been that welfare had to be sacrificed for defence build-up. In the 1967-68 Budget Speech the Treasurer pointed out that between 1962-63 and 1967-68 the defence bill had increased by an average of 22% each year. He pointed proudly to the accomplishment of this expansion without serious disruption to the economy or without direct control. He pointed somewhat wistfully to what might have been done in enlarging economic capacity and activating economic growth with the resources poured into defence. However, he predicted that the maintenance of the rate of increase in defence spending would produce deep impairment of the economy.
In the 1968-69 Budget the rate of growth of the defence vote fell by 9%. In this year’s Budget there is a cut of $6tm in defence spending. If the normal trend of defence spending established on the pattern of recent Budgets had continued, higher defence spending of the order of $90m could have been expected. This means the Budget has provided for a probable total shortfall of $150m in the defence vote. The reduction of domestic defence spending has given the Government the flexibility to finance a substantial part of its welfare spending. The Treasurer said in his Budget Speech that this did not amount to a reduction in the defence effort; it had been possible because the main equipment programme had been completed and some expenditure had been spread into later years. This recasting of defence spending to release resources for improved welfare benefits would be welcome if it signified a new era of better forward planning of Australia’s defences. However, the strong inference is that this is an interim measure designed to give a hard pressed Government the scope to improve its electoral appeal. If the Government is returned to office the planning of defence spending will subside into the irrational and haphazard pattern that has prevailed for the past 20 years. Defence spending will increase rapidly as the inventory of new purchases grows and as commitments, which have been hidden - or spread into the future, as the Treasurer prefers to say - make demands on the allocation of resources.
The Treasurer did sound one reassuring note in his remarks on defence. He said that the Government intended to resume some sort of forward planning after the lapse of 2 years since the last 3-year defence programme. Now it appears that the planning of defence on the basis of a set 3-year programme of procurement is to be supplanted by a rolling S-year programme kept under constant review. Inevitably this will mark the return to the slovenly basis of year to year planning and ad hoc defence purchases. The Treasurer referred vaguely to some items of equipment that the Government intended to buy. The Navy is to get hydrographic and oceanographic vessels, which no doubt are admirable scientific vessels, but it is difficult to see how they will enhance our defence effort. A fast combat ship is to be built; a preliminary design study is to be made for new light destroyers; $60m is to be spent on unspecified arms and armaments for the Army spread over a number of years; and Learmonth airfield will be improved. These are the first positive items of defence procurement to be announced by the Government since Sir Robert Menzies’ last 3-year defence programme was announced in 1964. Whatever the faults of that programme it at least had the merit of listing firm commitments to purchase defence equipment. The logic or relevance of these purchases might be questionable, but at least honourable members in this House knew what Australia was getting and had some idea of the cost.
In the 1968-69 Budget statement the Treasurer said that the Government’s military advisers were engaged upon a comprehensive review of Australia’s strategic situation and prospects. This would lead to a new defence programme to carry the planning of defence capability forward into the 1970s. Now, a year later and with the 1970s only a few months away, the Treasurer can announce only a few vague commitments to defence procurement - commitments which may or may not eventuate. This comprehensive review and programme for the 1970s has deteriorated into a few miscellaneous and ill assorted projects which bear all the hallmarks of having been hastily chosen to give a bit of gloss to a dull defence prospect. Honourable members may get some enlightenment on this when the Minister for Defence speaks in the Budget debate. In the Minister’s present frame of mind and in view of the long record of frustration of defence planning since the last 3-year plan ended, I fear that little can be expected from the Minister.
There is no evidence in the Budget defence provisions of any impact flowing from the reorganisation of the planning staffs which was begun with considerable enthusiasm last year. In answer to a question during the last session, the Minister for Defence said that he would outline to the House as soon as possible how the reorganised and revitalised planning staffs would function. There were optimistic hopes that this reorganisation would eliminate wasteful competition between the Services for prestige equipment and put future planning for the armed Services on a coherent and balanced basis. The potential of the planning reforms has still to materialise.
That improved planning and coordination of defence procurement in particular is urgently needed was proved again by the latest report of the Auditor-
General. Again, as so often in the past, the report contained examples of inept planning and reprehensible waste in forward defence purchases. There is no sign that the Government realises the need to state its defence policy objectives, and to submit decision making to a rigid process of assessment and control. Honourable members can only be sceptical about the rolling 5- year programmes which appear to be the brainchild of the Prime Minister. It seems certain that defence planning and spending will continue to be carried gropingly forward into the future on the basis of year to year planning, subject to the dictates of the Budget or elections.
Another tragic omission from the Treasurer’s defence assessment was the future of the Australian aircraft industry. With its major programmes completed and no prospect of forward orders, the domestic industry is hovering on the edge of extinction. The economic and human waste involved in what seems to be the deliberate dismantling of this industry is incalculable. In summary, it must be concluded that this is a Budget of response. It represents the Government’s reflective response to the comprehensive and careful research policies of the Australian Labor Party which have been making a considerable impact on the electorate. The Opposition believes that as a party of radical reform it has a duty to state its aims. This is why the lines of our electoral policy have been apparent for the past few months.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) has spent, as did the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) last night, considerable time in dealing with social services and repatriation matters. I think it is indicative of the real belief of the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that in the five matters referred to in the amendment moved last night by the Leader of the Opposition, which indicates the matters the Opposition considers to be most important, neither social services nor repatriation matters were mentioned. These matters were not considered to be of sufficient importance to be incorporated in the amendment. The Leader of the Opposition last night in the opening stages of his speech indicated that the battle lines for the next election have been drawn on the one side by the Government with its Budget Speech. I agree with this comment.
This Budget follows twenty previous Budgets which contained endorsed policies after successive elections by the people of this country. This Budget reflects the fact that every government in Australia is of a Liberal or Country Party type and not of a Labor type. This is a democracy. The people of this country have adopted these policies. We have made changes. We have made progressive moves in legislation. We have given a lead. Our policies have followed logically one after the other whenever possible in relation to the economy and the political situation without destroying the growth rate or stability of the country. The new policies that we have brought down in the present Budget cannot be referred to without referring back to previous policies. So on one side, on our side, we have the policies of the people of Australia, and on the other side we have the policies, which have been announced, of the Australian Labor Party for the coming elections. But the policies of the Opposition were not announced in Parliament; they were announced at the Federal Conference of the Labor Party in Melbourne. They were announced by a Conference that determines policy, that controls the Party and that dictates the attitude of the parliamentary Party. But no parliamentary member of the Labor Party can speak or vote against the decisions of the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party. The Leader of the Opposition is our alternative Prime Minister but he cannot speak or vote against those decisions. In fact, as Leader of the Opposition he was carpeted before the executive of the Labor Party and severely censured. The number of delegates to the conference has been increased from thirtysix - they were called the thirty-six faceless men - to forty-seven.
– Are members of Parliament among them?
– I believe there are some members of Parliament. I also believe that the Labor Party will rue the day it appointed members of Parliament as delegates to that Conference. It would be a fine situation if Labor formed a government and a junior minister, or even a back bencher, who was a delegate to the conference, which has the final decision, were responsible for forcing the Prime Minister or one of his Ministers to come into the House and declare himself in favour of some policy which he had previously denounced.
The fact that the Leader of the Opposition has to go to the Conference for his orders was proved more clearly than ever before to the people of Australia when the last Conference was televised and the position was revealed even more graphically than when the honourable gentleman’s predecessor had to wait for a Conference decision in the corridor of a hotel in Canberra. The Leader of the Opposition pleaded before the last Conference for policies that he had espoused prior to the Conference. He said: ‘These are not Whitlam policies - they are ALP policies’. They were rejected although the Leader of the Opposition had pleaded for them. He had to plead because he has no control; he is not the leader in his own right. The Australian people saw what happened because his speech was televised. I do not suppose his position was more graphically illustrated than in the part of the Conference where the Leader of the Opposition addressed the Education Committee of the Australian Labor Party. He said: ‘If my policies on State aid are not accepted by the Conference I will resign.’ What a situation it would be if he became Prime Minister, the Conference rejected his policies and he resigned, just like that! The Leader of the Opposition is no more than a spokesman, a nominee or indeed a puppet of a machine, of a group that is not elected, that is not responsible to the electorate and that comprises delegates from certain branches of the Party and from trade unions of different political colours and creeds which are not always known.
The journal ‘Labor Comment’, published in July this year, speaking of the Victorian Conference, which sends delegates to the Federal Conference, had this to say:
Communist-run unions probably had the decisive voice in making it. While this influence was well disguised in the machinery of policy making, behind the scenes communist influence over the general climate, as well as specific decisions, of the Victorian branch is undeniable.
The article went on to say:
These dreadful decisions tell only half the story. It was a Conference where debates meant nothing, factional power and decisions taken in secret meetings outside everything.
The article concluded:
The Conference was a farce. The delegates knew it, the Party members knew it . . .
Yet, this is one of the important sections of the Party. It is clear that the Conference controls the Parliamentary Party.
As I have said, the battle lines have been drawn. I hope that it is not too physical a battle because during the Conference the Leader of the Opposition pleaded once again with members of his Party not to conduct the demonstrations, strikes or riots which occurred in the last general elections, and in particular at Prime Minister Holt’s meetings. The Leader of the Opposition pleaded on several occasions for this not to happen and consequently accepted responsibility. We will have to see what happens because he has accepted responsibility in this regard. As I have said, the battle lines are drawn. On one side we have proven policies after 20 years of Government and on the other side we have policies which have been rejected in every State, which are determined outside the Parliament and which, if they were implemented, would be implemented at the direction of people outside the Parliament. The policies of the Opposition are designed, as I will show, to destroy the administrative structure of the three levels of Government in Australia. In essence this will be an election campaign between federalists and centralists, between those who espouse the cause of the individual and those who espouse the cause of big government, between Parliament and Tammany Hall.
Let me prove my point: In the education field Labor proposes a schools commission which will, in essence, from the very definition given to it by the Leader of the Opposition last night, destroy the education departments of the States by taking from them the right to make decisions. One has only to read the statement of the Leader of the Opposition as to where assistance would be going to see this. Yet education makes up 40% of State budgets. If education was taken over federally this would tend to destroy the States. This policy would certainly destroy the independence of the independent school system. This Government proposes to assist the States in educa tion. The States will continue to make decisions in their own right. We will strengthen the States, as we have done in the past, through the very wide-ranging rises in grants made in the usual way through the general run of funds.
We will continue to assist the independent system and allow the schools concerned to retain their independence and make their own decisions. I believe the schools commission proposed by the Leader of the Opposition would be a monstrosity of bureaucracy. We should bear in mind that there are some 10,000 schools in Australia. This policy is a centralised one. Let us look at the question of urban affairs about which the Leader of the Opposition spoke at length last night. He proposes, if he forms a government, to create a department of housing and urban affairs. He intends to take the planning from the States and local government. This is another monstrosity of bureaucracy, if I may say so, because ultimately decisions about the zoning of streets, villages and towns would need to be made centrally to achieve the continuity that the Opposition wants. This could be achieved only at the cost of the ultimate destruction of local government as we know it. This is confirmed to some extent by the phrases used by the Leader of the Opposition in his speech last night. He said that the department would determine the shape, size and location of the new urban areas in Australia. At the moment these areas are the responsibility of State governments or local government. The Leader of the Opposition said that he would want the department to look into regional government. He said that we would have a Commonwealth government an<i regional government. The phrase ‘regional government’ is used only by those centralists who want to get rid of local government.
On the welfare side the Australian Labor Party has produced two new policies. One policy concerns health. A Labor government would bring in a centralised health insurance scheme which would take away from the individual the right of choice that he has at present. It would take away from the individual the right - which he has at the moment - of choice of the level of insurance. The Labor Party has announced that a taxation surcharge of a flat 1.25% will be imposed to raise $143m for its health insurance scheme. But the Labor Party has not made any mention of how it will raise the $300m needed to finance its dental health scheme, the pharmaceutical benefits it will provide for nothing and one-half of the costs of hospitals run by the States. If there is to be a 1.25% surcharge on income tax to raise $143m a surcharge of 3.75% will be required to meet the full cost of everything I have referred to. This would be a flat surcharge which, of course, could not be claimed as an income tax deduction. The Government has always given the individual the right to decide what level of insurance he will have and with which fund. The Government recognises that there are faults in the present scheme. That is why it set up the Nimmo Committee, whose report is now being examined. But the Government believes in the rights of individuals. Under a Labor government’s centralised policy these rights will be taken away.
In the field of social security the Australian Labor Party has two major proposals. The first is the abolition of the means test. The second is an increase in the present rate of the pension to one-half the minimum wage. Last May I asked the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) what these proposals would cost. He replied that from a social services point of view the cost would be in the vicinity of $700m a year and that an additional $150m a year would need to be found to meet the health side of the matter. Somebody would have to pay for this. I think it would be the sons, daughters, nephews, nieces and friends of the beneficiaries.
The ALP also proposes to introduce a superannuation scheme. Such a scheme needs to be financed. It has been mentioned that the Downing scheme will be the basis of the ALP’s proposal. To finance such a scheme Professor Downing proposes a 6.25% payroll tax. At present the 2.5% payroll tax raises $223m. As the Downing scheme proposes a levy which is nearly 2i times as much as the present one it will mean that industry will have to pay about $625m extra. In addition, the ALP proposes a sliding taxation scale - I think the phrase was ‘a sliding scale of contributions’ - from nothing for people in the lower income bracket to 4% for those in the $90 a week bracket. But these people are part of the middle income group which the Opposition has been saying is heavily taxed already. When reviewing these proposals in May of last year the ‘Bulletin’ estimated that this section of the community would need to contribute $400m. If ever there was regressive taxation this would be it. Under the scheme which is now operating and which will be amended by the proposed tapering means test announced in the Budget, people have the right to choose the level and type of insurance they want. Under the present income tax legislation people can claim deductions for insurance, superannuation and national health contributions and if they want to contribute at a higher level they can do so. They can also claim a deduction for rates and other local government charges. But under the Labor Party’s health, and social security scheme none of these deductions would be allowed because there is to be a flat contribution. The battle lines for the coming election have been drawn. It will be a battle between those on this side of the chamber, who believe in the Federal system, and honourable members opposite, who believe in the centralised system. It will be a battle between those who believe in the rights of the individual and those who believe in a big brother government. It will be Parliament against the Tammany Hall approach of the Opposition. What is the purpose of a centralised approach when the parliamentary party is controlled from outside, as is the Opposition at present? What is its purpose when the aim is ultimately to destroy State and local governments and to bring everything under the control of one government? I cannot answer those questions, but they are questions that each and every elector in Australia will have to answer before the next elections.
Let us examine the justification for some of the points that the Labor Party raised at its recent conference. These points were enunciated on behalf of the Labor Party by the Leader of the Opposition last night. Let us take its education policy first. The Leader of the Opposition threatened to resign if his education proposals were not adopted by the conference. He did not resign, but he must have been very close to doing so. The new policy of the Labor Party would result in a grant to independent schools of $25m and to State schools of $75m. In this regard the Opposition has said that the Government is not giving the State schools equality with the independent schools: that the $24.4m or whatever it is that the Government will provide by way of assistance to the independent schools should be matched or more than matched by grants to State schools. Outside of the direct assistance that the Government gives to the universities at present it also makes a grant to the States of about $10m a year for technical training, about $10m a year for teacher training and about $10m a year for science laboratories, which is a total of $30m. In addition to the sum of $24m-odd that the Government provides by way of assistance to independent schools is a grant of $5m for science blocks. This is also matched. In addition it pays approximately one-half of the recurrent expenditure to the States.
As a result of the Government’s assistance, there has been an extremely dramatic improvement in the field of education in Australia during the last few years. Expenditure on education in the States rose from $300m in 1963-64 to $508m last year, which is an increase of almost 60%. The States have met the requirements of the Martin Committee in most fields. In its revised report the Martin Committee said that there should be 49,800 primary school teachers in 1968. In fact, there were 51,600. It said that there should be 36,900 secondary teachers in that year, and there were 39,800. The Martin Committee recommended a ratio of 28 : 1 for primary school students in 1968 and the actual figure was 27 : 1. For secondary schools it recommended a ratio of 18:1 and the actual figure was 16.7 : 1. So, criticisms in that regard are invalid.
I believe that when one examines the policies the Government has enunciated one should also take into account the performance of the Government in the field of education over the last few years, such as the massive increase in the number of universities, the new structure of colleges of advanced education and the assistance the Government has given to technical colleges. There is also the matter of unmatched grants for teacher training. I remind honourable members opposite that during the last 5 years of the Renshaw Labor
Government in New South Wales not one teacher college was built but three are now being built. I also remind the House of the legislation for the provision of science blocks and laboratories, the assistance to libraries and the increased number of scholarships granted by the Government. Now we have the provision of assistance to independent schools. This assistance will help greatly the State school system because it will ensure that a number of children will not have to leave the independent school system and enter the State system. During the last 4 years there was a drift of 50,000 children from Catholic schools to State schools. They have had to be financed by the State system. Earlier additional assistance for independent schools may well have saved the New South Wales Government some $20m in this year.
When I look at welfare it is indeed good to note that the base rate of the pensions will be increased in this Budget by $1 for single pensioners and $1.50 for a pensioner couple. It is welcomed. It is needed. A close watch needs to be continued on this question, but what is of considerable importance in this Budget is the tapered means test. As the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) said in answer to a question by myself yesterday, there will be some other vast increases. The tapered means test will redress some of the inequities of the past and it will prove to be of immense assistance not only to the examples he gave in the repatriation field but also to many others.
One of the problems of aged people who have not been in receipt of a pension in the past is the question of .the fringe benefits. Whilst for various reasons - particularly negotiations with the Australian Medical Association and the problems the States face with their hospitals - it has not been possible to grant the fringe benefits to these people who are outside the pension at present it is, under this tapered means test, intended to allow for cash to be paid to them to assist them in their problems. But it goes very much further than this. It will encourage superannuation and it will encourage people to invest in annuities for their retirement. It will encourage savings. It will slow down the destruction of savings that the old means test had encouraged. But it will also allow for future governments to make special grants to areas where particular problems can be identified and eliminated without - as in the past with the old system and if the Labor Party policy were adopted of abolishing the means test - having to grant finance across the board to everybody who needs the money or not.
Under this system with the tapered means test it will be possible to take particular cases with particular problems and give them assistance. It will be possible to meet the definition of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) which he made in the Sydney Town Hall in his first speech after being elected as Prime Minister. It is, indeed, remarkable that within 18 months his Government has been able to achieve most of the main goals it set out to achieve. This, again, must be taken in association with other major policies of this Government. The recent ones have been the very important home care plan that was introduced into the House in the last session of Parliament, the increases in nursing home subsidies for intensive care, overcoming the problem of insurance against chronic illness and virtually the continuation of the whole structure of national welfare that has applied since 1950. These new proposals follow that structure. Of course, they include such important legislation as the homes for the aged, the merged means test, the widening of the means test some 4 years ago and the dozens of other pieces of legislation in the housing, repatriation and general health and welfare fields. These are the matters which must be considered by the people at this coming election.
As I said at the beginning of my remarks, the battle lines are drawn and I am happy to go to battle in October. I look forward to it because I believe in a federal system. I believe in decentralisation of administration. I believe in the right of the individual to decide for himself. I believe in protecting the general rights of the individual as against government. So, as I said earlier, I believe it is going to be a question of federalism against centralism and the rights of the individual against big government - the rights of the Parliament against Tammany Hall.
– I support the amendment. This is a political Budget. It is political in conception, political in intention and it is hoped that it will be political in effect. I make no bones about it. It is intended to be a political document and, for my part, I will deal with it in a political way. The Budget has been described by the Treasurer and his supporters as a welfare budget for the needy. Do not confuse all the needy with distressed people. The actual needy people covered by this Budget and its provisions are the Government members who are in need of votes from the electorate at this important time. This is the compelling reason and the only reason - not humanity, not people, not poverty but political survival of the Liberal-Country Party Government - that prompted this legislation.
Before I go any further, although I have not much time, I want to say a few words about the greatest lot of rot that I have ever heard talked in my life - the speech of the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Bridges-Maxwell). I doubt whether Mr Askin shared his applause for this Government because Mr Askin does not exactly think that the Treasurer is the nicest man in town nor that the Government’s policy on education or anything else is good. Mr Askin is a Liberal, but evidently a different kind of Liberal. Let us consider the Australian Labor Party’s conference and the criticism of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). The Australian Labor Party conference comprises delegates democratically elected from the greatest political movement in this country including members from this side of the House. Unlike the Liberals, who hide behind closed doors and who will not bring to the light of day their deliberations, the Labor Party conference is televised and publicised for all to see. The Leader of the Opposition is bound by conference decisions but not so bound as the man who leads the Government and who is responsible to the big business interests who will not bring to the light of day the policies - decided behind closed doors - they force on the Liberal Party in this Parliament.
Fancy the honourable member for Robertson talking about freedom of the individual. The honourable member for Warringah (Mr St. John) was under the false impression that Liberal Party policy meant what it said - that members could speak, think and do what they liked, free and independent in the Parliament. He tried it out. and he is no longer with them. He is a sadder but wiser man. The honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) even changed his seat and would not sit with the honourable member for Warringah who walked around the Parliament like a person suffering from leprosy or -the plague. This happened simply because the honourable member for Warringah, who would not submit to the control of the Liberal machine, endeavoured to speak as he thought fit in the interests of his colleagues. So, do not give me all this rot about the Liberal Party being free, independent and not controlled.
Ask Senator Wood what happened to him when he voted against an increase in sales tax. Why, we saw one night the great white father, the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, stand over the present Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) and make him vote against an amendment that meant a lot to the people of this country. The rebels that were in this Parliament have now been emancipated and silenced. I refer to the Minister for Social Services and the Minister for Works (Senator Wright). All honourable members saw them hounded because they endeavoured to exercise some measure of independence. Who will ever forget the honourable member for Warringah when he made certain statements in this Parliament? He was a member of this so-called independently thinking and independently talking Liberal Party. When he rose to speak in a party meeting, we are told, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said with magnificent diplomacy and magnificent democracy: M am not here to talk. It is the vote I want. Sit down.’ The honourable member for Warringah sat down and now he is to run as an Independent.
The honourable member for Robertson talked a lot of rot when he referred to members on this side of the House being controlled from outside. The world knows that he is wrong. Time does not permit me to go further into this but if the honourable member thinks that he can win Robertson on his speech today we had better awaken him to the fact that he will not be here much longer if that is the limit of what he can say in support of this Budget which is introduced on the eve of a federal election. The Budget must be judged in that context. The Government’s political stocks are at rock bottom and the electorate is demanding social and economic reforms beyond the capacity of this Administration. We have a new Prime Minister with plenty of promises on welfare and other matters but with a very low standard of performance. In fact, it is reported that many of his supporters inside and outside Parliament doubt his capacity to lead Australia. The honourable member for Warringah exemplifies and expresses this point of view and has left the Government and his party in disgust. He prefers to take his chance as an Independent opposed to Government policy. In recent months we have witnessed sordid intrigue in the ranks of the Government which indicated that time was running out. It is common talk that senior Ministers are at variance with the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) on matters of policy. This point was proved by the retirement from politics of the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) announced last evening, but whatever reasons are given for his decision it is apparent to all that he could no longer continue to carry out policies with which he disagreed and which he rightly or wrongly believes were opposed to Australia’s interest and were forced on him by the Prime Minister.
It is the Prime Minister’s first House of Representatives election. It is necessary that he win. It is necessary that he prove to those who still resent the way in which he was elected that he is the only man fitted to lead the Liberal Party. In these circumstances and in this atmosphere any means are justifiable to prove his point. Consequently, in a state of panic at the thought of political defeat which is staring him and his Government in the face, he has forced his wishes upon the Treasurer and introduced a Budget designed to win government at all costs in the coming election. I desire to make a few broad criticisms of the Government’s record at this time, with an election pending. As I said, the Budget is political. Let us deal with it in that way. The Government has now been in office for 20 years. It is tired, lazy and incompetent. I do not include the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) who is at the table because he is young and bright, a rather unusual thing in the Government. But generally that is what the Government is. lt is devoid of ideas and policy.
The members of the Ministry, some of whom have been elected merely because they are cronies of the Prime Minister, not only have no new ideas or capacity to add, but are there merely to support the Prime Minister’s point of view. It is common knowledge that the Treasurer and a number of other senior Ministers - one of whom left last night - are at loggerheads with the Prime Minister. It is also known that competent members like the honourable member for Higinbotham (Mr Chipp) and the honourable member for Fawkner (Mr Howson), a former Minister for Air, have been relegated to the back benches for no reason other than that the Prime Minister does not like them. The Liberal Party and the Country Party are at each other’s throats - and the Minister for the Interior will agree with that. The unity of the coalition is only a masquerade. The Prime Minister is only here because the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) threatened to walk out of the Government if the Treasurer was elected. The very provisions of the Budget and the concessions given to primary producers are symbolic of the stand and deliver tactics of the Country Party boundary riders. It is now said that the Deputy Prime Minister is going to delay his retirement from politics, as he cannot trust the Liberal Party to do the right thing by the Country Party in the event of his stepping down. What a lovely marriage that is.
To sum it up, the Ministry is at sixes and sevens, the few talented backbenchers - and they are very few - have been overlooked and the cronies of the Prime Minister occupy the places of power. The Country Party demands its pound of flesh in all this turmoil. This is the atmosphere in which the Budget is presented and the Prime Minister goes to the nation. Is it any wonder that he looked worried and distressed today when he made the announcement of the election to this Parliament. In the electorate concern is being expressed by all sections of the community, particularly the aged, the invalids and the widows because of the neglect of their welfare by this Government. Other sections of industry are concerned with the lack of tariff protection, the threat to employment, economic stability and defence. In fact, Australia is clamouring for leadership and sound Australian policies at this time. The Government, led by the present Prime Minister, shows no inclination or capacity to give the leadership or produce the policy so necessary in these remarkable times. The Labor Party has always realised Australia’s need and responsibility for a welfare plan to cover the aged, the sick and the infirm, the young and the old, a plan to provide for our economic and social security and for the development of Australia.
The Labor movement, through the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), has, over a period of many months, submitted to the Australian people the policy on which it would seek election. It is a well planned programme for social welfare, health, education, development and defence. It provides for the abolition of the means test. It is a programme with tremendous appeal to the electorate and indicates changes demanded for so long but for so long denied by the Government. Labor’s policy received acclamation from the Press, from industry, and from every section of the community which believes in humanitarianism. It is based on sound economics and is designed to protect and to develop, and to provide for all citizens of Australia. The effect of this policy on the Prime Minister was electric. He and the Deputy Prime Minister realised in their panic that Labor’s challenge had to be met whatever the cost and whatever might eventuate from it. The Government needed votes. A Budget had to be produced for the needy, but the needy people are the Prime Minister and his supporters who will be seeking re-election. In direct opposition to the advice from the Treasury and the Treasurer the Prime Minister, despite warnings of its effect on the economy, demanded that a Budget be produced in answer to Labor that would confound the critics, distribute benefits to all and sundry and in this way seek to bribe the people into supporting the Government at the Federal election, keeping carefully hidden the fact that around the corner there is a horror Budget like that of 1951. The Treasurer on a television programme the other night would not say whether or not that was the case.
To summarise, the result of Labor’s dynamic programme stirred the Prime Minister and his panic stricken supporters from their lethargy to produce a Budget mistakenly named the ‘welfare Budget’. This is the last desperate effort to save the sinking ship by handing out benefits galore. The Budget, as I indicated earlier, has distributed benefits far and wide. Time does not permit me to deal with them all. I shall reserve my comments in many cases until the Estimates are being considered. Needless to say, health, education, repatriation, primary production and social welfare figure prominently in this vote-seeking document. I want to say a few words particularly on the welfare provisions of the Budget. I do not intend to go into detail as I will have a better opportunity when the relevant legislation is introduced. I do, however, desire to offer some comment on the voteseeking provisions of this Budget. I say at the outset that naturally I welcome any benefits, meagre as they might be - morsels from the rich man’s table - for those who are in need, but at the same time I say the Government has given to the maximum number of people the minimum benefits that are possible.
Let us have a look at what this Budget provides. It provides an expenditure in round figures of, I think, $7,000m. Social welfare will increase by about $134m. Age pensions have now gone up by the grand sum of $1 per week, that is if the pensioner is single. In addition the pension payable to a married pensioner couple goes up by 75c a week to a combined pension of $26.50 a week. Widows pensions have been increased to $13.25 a week. There is a wide variety of benefits for which the maximum increase is about $1 a week. In this affluent age, single pensioners who have no other income can, under this Government’s welfare policy and with the supplementary assistance, get the magnificent sum of $17 a week to live on. Is it not remarkable? Does it not show the brains of this Government when the Welfare Committee of Cabinet, which met over a period of months at tremendous cost, with the loss of a great amount of time to its members and after hours of thought being given to this matter, came forward with a recommendation that 75c a week be given to married pensioners? Can we not see the Treasurer pondering that question?
Compare this increase with the $6,000 per annum that was given to the judges. Consider how the judges got not 75c but $116 a week. Think how they got their $16 a day; yet after great deliberation the
Cabinet Welfare Committee laboured and brought forth a mouse in the form of 75c for pensioners. The pensioners are to receive 75c a week. The judges received $16 a day, which gave them a salary of between $27,000 and $30,000 a year on which to struggle along. What a great Welfare Committee this is. Apparently it had not one new idea, one new plan or one new proposal in respect of this matter. The rate of some of these benefits has not been changed for years, as honourable members know. Many of these benefits have not been increased for almost a generation. The allowance paid in respect of minors to sickness and unemployment beneficiaries has not been changed since 1957. Adult benefit has not been changed since 1962. To listen to Government supporters lauding the Government’s proposals one would think that the Government had put into effect a major scheme of benefits. How did the Government decide on an increase of 75c for married pensioners? Why not more if it wanted to be extravagant? Why did it not give $1.75 to single pensioners instead of $1? After all, what has become the standard rate of increase to single pensioners of $1 was set as long ago as 1952. Compared with that time $1 would now be worth only 10c. Considering all these factors the Government’s approach to the problem is miserable.
Although some benefits have been increased by $1 or 75c, discrimination is still practised. A single pensioner with no other income but who receives supplementary assistance is limited to a pension of $17 a week. A married pensioner couple must exist on $26.50 a week. The very minimum in increases has been given by the Government in order to reach as many people as possible. Of course, it is the eve of an election. This is the Liberal Party approach: It is trying to bolster its credit with the people in an effort to win votes. Let us examine the allowance paid for the wife of an invalid pensioner. This benefit has not been changed since last year and before last year had not been changed since 1963.
Under this so-cal’led welfare Budget a totally incapacitated pensioner is forced to maintain his wife on a miserable allowance of $7 a week. There has been no increase in the allowance. Under this Government’s welfare policy an invalid pensioner is called upon to maintain himself and his wife on a maximum of $22 a week. Do not forget that such a man cannot earn anything because he must be totally incapacitated before he may claim an allowance for his wife. Nevertheless, the Government has not considered any increases for that section of the community.
I have taken out some interesting figures about social service benefits. Of a total of 3,275,356 persons receiving social welfare benefits of one kind or another, 2,196,427 - or 67% - will not obtain any form of increase under this Budget. Two out of every three persons in receipt of social service benefits will not obtain an increase under this legislation. Those who do nol benefit under this Budget include 1,701,914 children in respect of whom child endowment is paid and 187,500 student children in respect of whom endowment is paid. They include 251,285 persons eligible for maternity allowances. So it is seen that a wide cross-section of the community will get no benefit from this Government. Since this Government assumed office the rate of many benefits has been unchanged. There may have been increases here and there, but let us see in what areas there have not been increases. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out last night, the important thing is not what the Budget does but what it does not do.
There has been no increase in the allowance paid to pensioners for their wives. About 20,000 women are in this category. There is no increase in the allowance paid for the wives of invalid pensioners. In the case of invalid pensioners there is no increase in the allowance paid in respect of the first child under 16 years of age - there must be a tremendous number of these - although there is some slight increase in the amount paid in respect of the second and subsequent children. The maternity allowance has not been increased since it was introduced. If today it had the value that it had when it was introduced it should now be about $100. It is two decades since there was any change in child endowment. This is supposed to be a welfare government seeking votes. The funeral benefit has not been changed since it was introduced by a Labor Government in 1945. The funeral benefit was set at its present level at a time when many members of this Parliament had no idea of seeking election.
– Is the honourable member quoting from an official document?
– 1 am reading from the Budget papers. A lot of people are not covered by this Budget. The Government expects pensioners to live on a pittance while it gives benefits galore to other sections of the community. The primary producers are still getting everything they want, in the way of a subsidy on superphosphate and other benefits. The subsidy can easily be financed by other sections of the community. I have always subscribed to the view that the Government could well afford to increase social service benefits. Let us examine the profits being made by some companies in Australia. We find that in recent times Conzinc Riotinto of Australia made a profit after tax of $17,644,512; Rio Tinto-Zinc Corp. Ltd $52,484,000; Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd $24,400,000; General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd $25,458,198 and the Bank of New South Wales $14,241,605. Such companies could afford to pay more in taxes to enable pensioners and others to have some of the benefits to which they are entitled. The Treasurer has said that the economy is booming and that the country can afford to pay for these things. This Budget is claimed to be a welfare budget but it is designed to give the bare minimum of benefits to the maximum number of people with a view to winning votes.
Let us examine the means test. We heard honourable members opposite say that they do not believe in the abolition of the means test. I have in my hand a document published in 1949 and bearing on its cover a photograph of a former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies. Among other things it was the pledge to abolish the means test that took the Liberal Party to office in 1949. The document in question contains the Liberal Party’s policy as announced in 1949. Under the heading ‘Social Services’ it states.
Australia still needs a contributory system of national insurance against sickness, widowhood, unemployment, and old age. It is only under such a system that we can make all benefits a matter of right, and so get completely rid of the means test.
During the new Parliament we will further investigate this complicated problem, with a view to presenting to you at the election of 1962 a scheme for your approval. Meanwhile, existing rates of pension will, of course, be at least maintained. We will, much more importantly, increase their true value by increasing their purchasing power.
But honourable members opposite have now denied that they stand for the abolition of the means test.
– Who made the remarks which you just read?
– Former Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies. The present Minister for Social Services was elected to this Parliament on that 1949 policy. Not only are honourable members opposite now denying that policy, as St Peter denied the Lord in a more distant time, but in an effort to put value back into the pound they have had to change the currency.
The Government proposes to introduce a tapered means test. If it were not for the fact that we have a general election about every 3 years or that the Labor Party has a conference every year the Liberal Party would never get a new idea. In its policy speech in 1966 - the Government is still 3 years behind us - the Labor Party said that if elected it would:
Liberalise deductions on permissible incomes by deducting only $1 on every $2 earned above the permissible for full pension entitlement.
The cost of that concession was estimated to be $20m a year. The Government said that the country could not afford to do this, yet today it is spending about $40m on a scheme which it plundered from Labor’s policy. When the Labor Party said that it would abolish the means test the Government said that this could not be done, notwithstanding the policy on which it was elected in 1949. Now the Government has plundered Labor’s policy of a tapered means test. Of course, it is 3 years behind the time. You must admit that the Government is moving. Perhaps it will catch up with Labor’s policy. We are told that this is a wonderful idea of the Liberal Party. I wonder how long it took the Cabinet welfare committee to realise that it had plundered its new policy from Labor’s 1966 policy.
I mention these matters because it is important that they be brought to light, particularly in view of the fact that the
Prime Minister has now denied that he intends to abolish the means test. Under this Government’s proposals to taper the means test about 240,000 people will get no fringe benefits. They will not receive the medical and hospital services that are available to other pensioners. This tapering of the means test is just a sop to get votes. It is a halfbaked proposal. What this country needs is a policy like that enunciated by the Labor Party. The Labor Party has undertaken to introduce over a period of 6 years a national superannuation scheme providing for abolition of the means test. If the Government condemns that policy it is guilty of abrogating the policy on which it was elected to office 20 years ago. I ask the Government: Why has it discarded these policies? Why has the change come about? Why does it not give effect to the policies on which it was elected? As the Leader of the Opposition said last night, the changes that have been made are belated and inadequate and still deny to many thousands of persons’ who are dependent on social services the benefits that they should get. What about the forgotten people? There are about 700,000 people in Australia who are below the poverty line. This Budget caters for a number of them in a way which is nowhere near adequate. For this the people deserve the right to pass judgment and I believe that the judgment will bc against the Government. The benefits that are provided are provided not for reasons of humanitarianism. They are prompted by panic and the desire for political survival. Even so, the barest minimum has been given. The Minister for Social Services has been outspoken in days gone by about abolition of the means test. He said that it could be abolished without any cost at all. It will be interesting to see what line he takes on the new policies that have been introduced.
As I mentioned earlier, I believe this Budget to be a political document. It was followed today by the announcement in relation to the election. It does nothing to present an economic plan for the future or a plan for social reconstruction in the field of welfare. It is blatantly - impudently for that matter - presented for the express purpose of getting votes. I intended, therefore, to deal with it in a political way. I believe that there can be no mistake. The Budget is designed to cover the false facade of unity that exists in the Government ranks. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) and the Treasurer are hardly bosom companions, and the recent defection of the Treasurer’s staff to Mr Maxwell Newton has not improved the situation. There is a lack of discipline in the House and every member knows that this Budget is intended to cover up the concern in relation to the appointment of the new Leader of the House (Mr Erwin) over the previous appointee. The relationship between the Liberals and the Country Party has always been on the same basis as all shot-gun weddings. This time, however, one can see that it is well on the rocks. They have gone the full circle.
The Government refuses to discuss in this Parliament domestic policies in relation to wheat and wool because the primary producer has been betrayed. The social welfare policies are in disarray and the needy are poorer than ever. Twenty-year-old boys are conscripted to fight and to die in Vietnam, even at a time when American soldiers have been pulled out by the thousands. John Zarb and others languish in goals because of their conscientious objection to the war in Vietnam. The Government has no firm Australian policy on foreign affairs. It condoned the rape of West Irian by Indonesia, it speaks of the threat of Communism, it trades with Red China and now it flirts with its new found friend, Soviet Russia. What a line-up. I wonder whether the Minister for Social Services will leave town or the Government over this. Australia’s interests are forgotten. From all the way with LBJ we now go Waltzing Matilda with Nixon. Labor’s programme on the great issues confronting Australia and in the field of social welfare have been publicised and accepted by the people, and honourable members opposite are frightened because they know that what I have said about them is true. The Leader of the Opposition has outlined Labor’s programme on the great issues confronting Australia. He has laid bare the barren and worn out policy of the Liberal-Country Party Government.
This Budget should be judged not on what is in it but on what has been left out. For 20 years the Government by a mixture of luck, false propaganda, misrepresentation and plundered Labor policies has managed to stay in office. Today the Liberal Party under a new Prime Minister, disunited, dispirited and devoid of ideas, has presented a Budget which is unashamedly designed to retain office at any cost. The Liberal Party, to add to its woes, is at the mercy of its ill-assorted companions of the Country Party. That Party actually dictated who should lead the Liberal Party. The Prime Minister is not the choice of those who sit directly opposite. Internally disunited, the Liberals’ marriage to the Country Party is on the rocks. It is of national importance to change the Government. Australia, with magnificent natural resources and a growing population can no longer afford the luxury of a disunited, factional coalition controlling the destiny of our people. The time has come to change the Government. Labor can give leadership, policy, social justice, security and development to this nation.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Day) carried out a personal vendetta against many of the leading members of the Government. Honourable members who have been in this House for some years naturally would not have been surprised at what was forthcoming from the honourable member, because if one were to look through some of the speeches which he has delivered over the years, one would see that what he said tonight was a reiteration of what he has been saying over those years. It is not my intention this evening to make any further comment on the contribution by the honourable member for Grayndler because, as I said, it was similar to the speeches which he has delivered year after year.
It is almost impossible to run through this Budget item by item because it covers a great many issues, and I hasten to mention that some of them are indeed very favourable. However, there are some that are not so favourable. There is a drop of 5% in defence expenditure, and this comes as a very great surprise. It would cause alarm to many people, particularly when one considers some of the issues to the north of Australia at the present time. The fall in defence expenditure can be explained, as it was by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), by the fact that defence expenditure overseas this year will be $87m less than last year. I ask: Is this attributable entirely to new equipment, or is it due to a general reduction in our overseas commitments?
There are two items which I believe stand out: These are a reduction of $73m for aircraft purchases and a reduction of $22m for the purchase of arms and equipment. I and many other honourable members will be interested to hear from the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) a detailed explanation of the present position. I pause at this stage to say how I, in common with many Government supporters and no doubt many people throughout Australia, regretted to note the announcement by the Minister for Defence that he will be retiring at the end of this Parliament. The Minister for Defence is a man who has given a considerable amount of his lifetime and ability to the betterment of Australia as a whole. As I said, I very much regret that he has seen fit to announce his retirement. However, I wish him well in his retirement.
On the social welfare side, to my mind, this Budget will go down as implementing one of the biggest improvements in this field for many years. However, I will say a little more about that matter later on. Primary industry has fared very well in this Budget, and certainly not before time. My colleagues in the Australian Country Party have been putting forward many of these issues for many years. One issue is the increase in the superphosphate bounty. I am sure that my colleague, the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten), will join me in saying how pleased we are to see the bounty on superphosphate increased to $12 per ton. I could not understand what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) meant when he said that this bounty is a payment to the manufacturers of superphosphate and not directly to the growers, and that the users of superphosphate will eventually receive only $3.25 per ton, or some such figure. To my mind, this increase in the bounty will invariably be passed back to the growers or to the users of superphosphate. If the subsidy were not paid it is only natural that one could expect that the price of superphosphate would be an extra $12 per ton. Other provisions in the Budget which will benefit primary industry include a larger contribution to the wool industry, easing of income tax by way of a wider field of tax deductions, and finally an alteration in the payment of estate duty. These provisions are all very favourable to primary industry, and they have been needed.
Turning to education, the Budget provides direct grants to independent schools of S3 5 for each primary pupil and $50 for each secondary pupil, and these grants will be welcomed by independent schools. At the same time, many people throughout Australia strongly oppose such grants. I say to these people that Australia’s standard of education is high, but that in this modern age we must continue to improve the level of education or we will soon slip behind world standards. It matters not whether a child receives his or her education at a government or private school. A child must receive the best possible education. Education is like food; we can survive a little while without it, but not for long. Over recent months I have received a great deal of criticism regarding some of our government schools, particularly high schools in Victoria. The criticism has been that insufficient money is being made available to these schools, and I believe this to be true. I think we must ask for much more money to be spent on these schools. But under the present charter, this is the responsibility of the State governments, not of the Commonwealth Government. If schools are short of money, it is up to the State governments to do something about it.
But what does concern me is the fact that I believe education generally, or its administration, is becoming too complicated or, if you like, too duplicated. We have two sources for the supply of funds when in actual fact there should be one source. I do not mind which one it is. But for efficiency I believe that one government could handle the job better. Recently I made a statement to this effect, and I was accused by a State member of Parliament in Victoria of wanting the Commonwealth to take over education entirely. This is not the case. But sometimes I wonder whether the Commonwealth would not Jo a better job. According to the Budget papers that have been presented, Commonwealth grants to the State of Victoria for the coming year will be as follows: Universities $19.4m; colleges of advanced education $9.8m; teachers colleges $5.3m; pre-schools $121,000; science laboratories $4m; technical training $4m; school libraries $3m; research projects $807,000; and grants to independent schools $5.2m, making a total of approximately $51m
I now wish to turn to social welfare and the liberalisation of the means test. I, like many other honourable members in this chamber, was very pleased to note the action of the Government in this instance, particularly regarding the tapering of the means test. This is an excellent start, and it is something that I have been supporting in principle for a very long time. For too long the thrifty have been penalised. The person on superannuation and the person who has endeavoured to insure against age has had to pay the penalty. Many people throughout Australia have wanted to see the abolition of the means test. Why? This is the question. Because they, in turn, are thrifty and, even with the tapering off programme, will not be able to receive a pension. These people claim that they have paid taxes and are entitled to some recompense. This, of course, would cost the remaining taxpayers a lot of money. For my part, I say that if the Government of the day has some $400m or $500m extra to spend on welfare, then a great part of this money must be spent on the needy, who include the widows, the invalids, the deserted wives and those who have no chance of earning a living at all. I believe that this situation can be improved by recognising those people who have tried to save, whether it be by general saving, superannuation or some form of insurance. Today a person is permitted to deduct from his income for taxation purposes $1,200 for insurance payments. This sounds a lot, but for a family man it would not be unreasonable to have this figure increased to $2,000. I hope that the Prime Minister will have a look at this suggestion, possibly before he issues his forthcoming policy election speech. I also believe that contributors to superannuation funds should receive more consideration, from the point of view of taxation deductions, than they do at the present.
The means test had to be eased, but our economy cannot stand total abolition of the means test. Just think of the increase in taxation that would have to be made to cover increased social service payments. An increase of something like 20% in direct taxation would be necessary to cover it. Under the Government’s proposal a married couple will be permitted to have a total of $37,200 before they become ineligible to receive some form of pension, or, looking at it from the point of view of direct income, they may earn up to $70 a week before their pensions cease. I and many others will be anxiously awaiting the details of the Bill covering this proposal, which will be brought into the House in the next week or so.
As a member of two very well known and respected worthwhile organisations, namely Legacy and Birthright, I fully support the move by the Government to assist the widow with dependant children by increasing the allowance for both mothers and children. The pension for a widow will be increased by $1 a week, and the allowance for children under 6 years of age will be increased by $2 a week. There is no more deserving case than a mother, whether she be a deserted wife or a widow, with dependant children. If she respects her children and wishes to bring them up correctly, she should not be expected to go out and earn an income. This move will assist greatly, and I am glad that the Government has given consideration to it.
In the field of repatriation, totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners will receive an increase of $2.50 per week; the intermediate rate of pension will rise by $2.25 per week; general rate pensioners with a 100% incapacity will receive an increase of $2 per week and a general rate pensioner with an assessed incapacity of 75% will receive an increase of $1.50 per week in the special compensation allowance. But there is to be no general increase in the disability allowance, which means that any ex-serviceman with a disability of less than 75% receives no increase at all. This is not good, but worst of all is the fact that these ex-servicemen have not received any increase since the Budget in 1964. This is a shocking state of affairs. If a pensioner with a 50% disability was worth $6 in 1964, surely he is entitled to a little more than $6 per week today. With the general increase in every other type of pension rate, I would challenge the Government to tell me why there has not been an increase in this section of repatriation benefits. The allowance for a pensioner with a 100% incapacity has risen from $12 in 1964 to $17 today, and the allowance for a pensioner with a 75% incapacity has risen from $9 to $12.75, while the 50% rate has remained the same. From my observations I believe that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) is very sympathetic towards an increase for this class of pensioner, and I want the Government to do something about it. I warn the Government that if I am privileged to be returned here after the next election I am prepared to make sure that this issue is again raised. As a member of the Returned Services League, I do not believe that one should completely ignore the individual’s thinking on this matter, and I know the feeling of many members. They believe that all repatriation pensions should be given consideration when increases are made from time to time. 1 mentioned earlier in my remarks that the primary producer had fared fairly well in this year’s Budget. Anyone who understands primary industries at all will fully realise that assistance for them is necessary today. Comments from my Country Party colleagues and myself over recent years, although” we have been accused of being sectional, have at long last borne some fruit. Primary industry has made Australia. Without it we would be classed as one of the struggling, underdeveloped and retrograde countries of the world. Instead we are progressing and advancing at an extremely fast rate mainly because our exports are from primary industry. Only as late as today I checked on the percentage of primary products in our total exports. The disturbing fact I noticed was that between 1967-68 and 1968-69 exports from rural and other primary products, excluding mining, dropped from 64% to 58% of total exports. The percentage of mining exports had increased from 16% to 20%, and the percentage of manufactured exports had increased from 16% to 17%. Unclassified exports had increased from 4% to 5% . It is true that the mineral industry has taken a very big plunge on the export market, but I would remind the House that back in the old gold rush days our minerals accounted for a high percentage of our exports. They helped to build the economy in the early stages, but after a while they faded in importance. I will not be a pessimist and forecast what will happen to the mineral industry, but I realise that if the prices of some of our minerals were to fall overseas and our costs were to be increased, our mineral industry could be in trouble as an export earner.
Primary industries in general are food producing industries. The world needs food, and while we may have a glut in wheat and dairy products today this situation could easily change. We do not want to see a situation where because the primary producer is classified as a peasant or in the peasant stage he will not be able to cope with the increased demand for his goods. The most successful farmer today, or the farmer who can quickly produce more, is the one who has the necessary backing - and also the affluent one. Primary products must be protected. Even today business houses are talking gloom in the wheat areas of Australia. This is completely unnecessary if our Government can give the far n,:-i an assurance that it will protect them against adversity.
The wheat industry needs assistance right now. Over the years it has been a prosperous one to growers, and naturally this has encouraged them to grow more and more. Now we find that we cannot dispose of our total wheat crop because other countries have also been producing a surplus. The industry must be helped to cut back its production, and not just told that it has to cut back. I believe that the Government can help in this field, and it is endeavouring to do so at this time. This afternoon the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) said that the Government was apologetic for making no provision for wheat stabilisation. The honourable member for Dawson knows only too well that payments are made not in the year that the wheat is produced but rather at the end of the selling period of a particular pool. The honourable member for Dawson overlooked the importance of stabilisation in the increased quantity of wheat for which a sale price is being guaranteed today. I remind the honourable member that under our stabilisation scheme, farmers receive a guaranteed price for 200 million bushels of export wheat a year.
Many wheat growers were alarmed to note last week the announcement that the United States had cut the price of her export wheat by up to 10c a bushel. If Australia does likewise - and it appears inevitable - this would automatically mean that the Treasury will be guaranteeing to the wheat growers for this year alone some $20m for this cut in price, and at the same time it will automatically cover the wheat growers for Si 2m under the original International Grains Arrangement. I believe that this Budget proves that the Government is trying to help, but we can still go further. Twelve months ago the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) warned growers about overproduction, but I am afraid that the industry on that occasion practically ignored him. I have said before and I am prepared to say again that the statements made by the Minister for Primary Industry have been proved to be correct. When the history of this crisis is written I believe that people will respect the efforts of the Minister for Trade and Industry and the Minister for Primary Industry.
This year many wheat growers were faced with a problem. They had prepared their land for seeding and could not economically cut back. They found that the only way in which they could continue was to sow their crops, but they now find that they are unable to dispose of them. They have been told by the industry, that is the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, and the State governments that they must store the grain at home. To do this would be a most regrettable and retrograde step indeed. Possibly this is the worst thing that has occurred in this industry. The Victorian Government has requested financial’ assistance from the Commonwealth because that Government says it cannot find the money to build extra storages. That Government knows very well that it has the responsibility to cover the initial cost in building additional storages, but it has thrown the onus onto the Commonwealth Government. What I want to know now is why the Victorian Government is short of funds for this purpose. Is it passing the buck onto the Commonwealth? Why has the Commonwealth Government refused to agree to this request?
Some wheat growers are in a desperate plight. Two years ago they had the worst drought on record. They have had one harvest since then and they now find that they are faced with the problem of having to put out extra money to store grain which is in excess of their allotted quota. If the
State cannot find the money, then I believe the Commonwealth must. Failing this I forecast a disaster and many wheat growers wilt be pushed against the wall. I am fully aware that the Australian Wheat Growers Federation did not support the move for a second pool, and at the same time it did not support the request of the Victorian Government for extra money for the purpose of building additional storages. This is not unusual and it is not unexpected. Unfortunately two States are having very bad seasonal conditions now, and this may mean that they will not need any storage. In the overall interest of wheat growers in Victoria I believe that it would be better to have over-quota wheat to be stored collectively rather than separately on individual farms.
Before concluding my remarks on the wheat industry I wish to refer to a statement which appeared on Tuesday last at page 1 of the Melbourne ‘Age’ under the heading Wheat chief: I’ll break the law’. That person went on to indicate that he, as the leader of the largest primary producer organisation in that State was prepared to sell his wheat on the black market and as much as said that other growers possibly would do likewise. This is a most embarrassing statement. I want to make it very clear that I am not accusing the Victorian Farmers Union of being an irresponsible organisation, but I do query the statement of its leader. I have been led to believe that this particular person is classified as a very small wheat grower. I cannot confirm this statement, but I believe his area is less than SO acres. Nevertheless, this gentleman is prepared to make a statement which could encourage other growers to do likewise. If every wheat grower in Victoria and the other States decided to do likewise it would mean the end of the Australian wheat growers’ stabilisation plan. Despite all the criticisms that we have had in recent times with respect to the wheat stabilisation plan, there are very few wheat growers who would like to see this scheme thrown out. We are having trouble today with the International Grains Arrangement. Surely we should endeavour to keep our own house in order.
This afternoon the honourable member for Dawson mentioned the supply of cheap wheat for drought stricken areas. I admit that 1 sympathise and agree with his comments on this matter. However, I do not go along with him when he says that this would have an adverse effect on our coarse grains. At this very time coarse grain prices are such that it is impossible for a grower to produce economically at those prices. From memory the price of oats in Victoria 2 years ago was about SI a bushel but today one can buy almost any quantity of oats for less than 30c.
In the time that is left to me 1 want to deal with the Postal Department. In the 1 1 years that I have been privileged to serve the people of Wimmera in this place 1 believe it could be said that great changes have taken place, many for the good and possibly a few for the not so good. There has been tremendous improvement in the telegraph services, with extended automatic dialling being installed in many places and subscriber trunk dialling being developed at a fairly rapid rate. Our capital expenditure is continuing to increase, the estimate for this year being $229m as compared with an actual expenditure last year of $204m. I hope that the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) will make sure that some of this increase is spent in areas where it is urgently required, namely outside the metropolitan areas. The poor old country resident is always the last to enjoy such privileges. This is not to be unexpected because the costs in country districts are higher and the demand for these types of services is ever so much less. I believe, however, that there are certain issues that the Postmaster-General’s Department can and must look at very closely. I refer to trunk line charges and limited or restricted mail deliveries. These are both having a very adverse effect on business throughout rural areas. Both are very important and they are having a hardening effect on country living. 1 am not speaking just of the man who lives on the land; I speak of business houses equally as much. Business houses contribute very greatly to the trunk call income of the Postal Department. If a businessman carries on a worthwhile business, each year his trunk call charges are extremely high. Why should he have to pay more than his counterpart in the metropolitan area?
I now refer to the limited mail deliveries, particularly of second class mail, which are having a very adverse effect in country areas. As an example I take the country newspaper. If this paper is ready for despatch early on Friday morning it cannot possibly be delivered until Monday if it has to move out of the area in which it is printed, because by the time it reaches the second centre the mail has been sorted for that day and it is not permitted to be delivered on the Saturday. It is ever so interesting to pick up your newspaper on the Monday morning and read of the football team which played on the Saturday before or the tips for the previous Saturday’s races. I appeal to the PostmasterGeneral to have a look at this matter. 1 make a plea to the Postmaster-General in relation to air mail services. This is a privilege enjoyed by people living in the major cities, but although there are plenty of small air services to the small country towns, unfortunately those towns do not have the advantage of air mail services. The reasons for this are very obvious. Remuneration is paid on the basis of the actual mail delivered. Consequently, because the centres are small and because there is a small amount of mail to be carried the amount that the air companies would receive for carrying it is so small that naturally enough they decline to do so. I believe it is time that a further investigation was made of this situation so that this mail can be carried by air. I think that we are a bit inclined to forget the old motto of many many years ago that the mail must go through.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Firstly I would like to congratulate the Leader of my Party (Mr Whitlam) on the manner in which he presented the Opposition’s case in the House yesterday evening. I would also like to congratulate him on the excellent research that had been put into that speech to outline the failings of the Government, what it had not included in the Budget and the reasons for the manner in which the Budget was brought down. I support completely the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition which stated: this House is of opinion that the Budget is inadequate in that
I do not propose to deal with all of those items because obviously time will not allow me to do so. However, I would like to raise some matters. But before I start to deal with those sections of the Budget that particularly concern me I would like to say that in my opinion this Budget has been brought down by a Government that is scared stiff of its political future. It is scared because of several things. First of all, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has not clicked with the electorate.
– The honourable member is not on the air.
– It goes in Hansard, though. As I have said, the Prime Minister has not clicked with the electorate. Reference has been made to the Australian Labor Party Conference which was held early this month. It provided a clear indication of the unity of the Australian Labor Party - an excellent policy will be presented by the leader of the Labor Party when the election is held late in October. The Government is most unhappy with the political climate at the moment. The way Government members are at sixes and sevens with one another is obvious from the surprise announcement last night by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) who represents the electorate of Paterson. The Minister announced his retirement from politics on the grounds of ill health. I ask honourable members: Have they ever seen a healthier sick man in their lives? I have the pleasure of living close to the Minister and travelling backwards and forwards to this place with him. I have never seen him looking fitter in the 11 years that I have been coming down here.
This is a further example of the disagreement within the Government parties, in that the Minister for Defence obviously cannot get on with the Prime Minister and there have been complete differences of opinion on defence and a complete change in foreign policy. It was obvious to everyone last Thursday night when the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) delivered his speech that there is complete disagreement within the Government ranks. We have seen the disagreement between the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) and the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) over and over again in this place. The Minister for Trade and Industry could not have worked with the Treasurer if the Treasurer had become Prime Minister.
In the short time that the Prime Minister has held his position he has already elevated Sir Paul Hasluck, the former Minister for External Affairs. Now the Minister for Defence intends to retire from the Government benches. When we look at the excellent record of Sir Robert Gordon Menzies when he was Prime Minister, we find that men such as Barwick, Spender, Beal, Casey, Downer and Gullett, just to mention a few, were either pushed out of Parliament or elevated upstairs. It is pretty clear that the Prime Minister has been a very good pupil of the former Prime Minister from the way he gets rid of those people who could be a menace to him or a challenge to his leadership. It is pretty obvious that the leadership of the Prime Minister at this very moment is under challenge within the Government ranks. Therefore, the Government parties are divided within themselves and the Government is afraid of its political future. The Government brought down a dishonest Budget last Tuesday night.
I would now like to say something about those things missing from the Budget. I will acknowledge quite frankly that the Government has attempted to buy votes with social service increases. It has set out to buy votes with a payment of a paltry Si a week for single pensioners and $1.50 a week for married pensioners. This is a pretty clear indication that the Government does not have any real realisation of the problems that people on the base rate have to face. I would like to see any Government supporter living on a base pension of $15 a week or on a married couple pension which, when the increase becomes operative at the end of September or early in October, will be $26.50 a week. If we look at the cost of living today we can see that the $1 increase will only keep pace with the high inflationary spiral that has taken place in the last 12 months. In fact, the Government has not improved the pensioner’s standard of living. All it has done has been to try to keep pace with the increase in the cost of living. When one looks at the profits made by companies today it is clear that the inflationary spiral has been caused by the huge profits made by companies, much of which is being repatriated to the parent companies in other countries, mainly the United States of America and the United Kingdom. The Government has a lot to answer for to the electorate when the election is held late in October.
I now want to deal with a few other aspects of the Budget. I want to refer principally to transport matters, which are in a field where this Government has not accepted its responsibilities, and also to two important defence industries, which today are having extreme difficulties in retaining their employees. The aircraft industry has had to lay men off in recent months and the shipbuilding industry is in a similar position. It has given an indication to its employees that their services will have to be terminated. The first matter I want to deal with is the aircraft industry. This industry really proved its worth to this country during the war years. The aircraft industry turned out a number of aeroplanes during this period to assist the Services. However, the industry is labouring at present with mass meetings of strikers and men stopping work as a protest against the failure of this Government to ensure their employment. This is a state of affairs that the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) should pay due regard to and do something about. The time is long overdue when the Australian aircraft industry should be producing offset payment work - work to counter the purchase of aircraft overseas. Alternatively a light aircraft industry should be established in Australia. Recently two applications were made to the Tariff Board for special tariff assistance to ensure that a particular type of industry could be maintained. Do honourable members remember the application by the Victa Airtourer company, to which the Department of Trade and Industry was not prepared to give assistance? This aircraft was good. It was initially designed by an Australian. It has proven its worth and today it is being produced in New Zealand, a country with wage standards and labour costs similar to those in this country. But New Zealand now has this industry and is successfully producing the aircraft. The aircraft should and could have been produced in Australia, but due to the failings of the Government this did not eventuate.
Recently another Australian company with an Italian background made an application for tariff assistance so that it could go on producing an aircraft called the Transavian. This Government once again rejected the application. The Australian aircraft industry is continuing to contract because of the failure of honourable members opposite to do something about it. An announcement was made in May that the Government aircraft factory was going to build 100 wing sets and nacelles for a fourengined GAC100 STOL transport aircraft for the General Aviation Corporation of California. I ask the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly), who is sitting at the table: When is this job going to commence? When is the Government aircraft factory going to commence production of these items? It is common knowledge that the production of these items is not going to be proceeded with because the Department of Air and the Australian airline operators are not prepared to buy these aircraft if they are manufactured. As a result, the parent company is not prepared to place an order for any of the work with the Government Aircraft Factory. One cannot blame the aircraft industry in Australia for being critical when one realises the number of aircraft that have been purchased overseas by Australian airlines and the number that will be purchased in the not too distant future. The Government should insist that Australian airlines purchasing aircraft overseas should provide work for the aircraft industry in Australia.
It is worth white quoting some facts and figures on the number of aircraft imported during the last 5 years. Honourable members will be surprised when they are informed of the actual position. I have figures in front of me for the period 1964- 65 to 1968-69. I should point out that the 1968-69 figures are for only the first 11 months of that year. A total of 314 aircraft with an empty weight exceeding 5,000 lb were imported during that 5-year period at a cost of $33,340,000. There were 1,493 aircraft with an empty weight not exceeding 5,000 lb imported during that period at a cost of $29,086,000. During the period 1964-65 to 1965-66 a total of 276 unassembled aircraft were imported at a cost of over $3m. Statistics are not available for the rest of that period. Over, the 5-year period aircraft parts totalling $306,687,000 were imported. All told, $535,857,000 worth of aircraft and parts have been imported into Australia during the last 5 years, but not one dollar of that amount has been recouped by way of offset payment.
Let us examine what happens overseas. In other countries governments are able to negotiate offset payments. I wonder where the Australian Government stands on this matter. Where is it going? What is the Government’s real interest in the Australian aircraft industry? Does it want that industry to be maintained or is it prepared to buy aircraft off the hook without worrying about the Australian industry? Almost all the major aircraft manufacturers are prepared to negotiate offset payments with the countries which purchase their aircraft. I know from personal experience that whilst McDonnell-Douglas carries out most of its manufacturing in- California and other States in the United States, some components are made in Canada, Italy and other countries. This is because the governments of those countries have said: ‘Unless you are prepared to place some of the work with us we will negotiate with other companies in an endeavour to obtain work for our aircraft industry’. With the similarity of aircraft today it is possible to do this. It is the responsibility of the Government to negotiate with overseas aircraft manufacturers to get some of the work for the local industry. Another example is the Fokker Friendship. Forty per cent of this aircraft is built in the United Kingdom, but the manufacturer is prepared to arrange with the country that buys the aircraft for work to be done in that country’s aircraft industry. Australia has purchased over forty-six of these aircraft. That in itself is sufficient for a run of these aircraft here. A major section of the aircraft should have been built in Australia. Our aircraft industry should have been building the wing assembly, the tail1 assembly or some other part so as to provide work for our own people and to ensure that this important national industry is maintained. At present the industry provides employment for about 10,000 men and women. Therefore, it should not be allowed to fall by the wayside. It may be that if the Government continues along the course it has been following during recent years we will find ourselves lacking an aircraft industry in Australia.
Information came into my possession only recently to the effect that only 30% of the Boeing 747 aircraft will be built in the company’s huge modern factory at Seattle. This huge factory was constructed in a matter of months by the company. But it will manufacture only 30% of the Boeing 747. Qantas Airways Ltd is fo purchase four of these aircraft and it has a provisional order in for an additional two. Why can the Australian aircraft industry not get a little of the work from the Boeing company? I do not necessarily mean that the industry should get some of the work on the Boeing 747s or 707s, but at least it should be given some work that is associated with aircraft manufacturing so that it can be kept going and people given employment. The estimated expenditure of the airlines in Australia on new aircraft over the next 5 years is $29 8m, which is a substantial amount. Figures supplied to me indicate that Qantas has an order in for approximately $200m worth of aircraft; Trans Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia for $78m; Airlines of New South Wales for $6m; MacRobertson Miller Airlines Ltd for $4m; Connellan Airways Pty Ltd for $2m and other airlines for $5m. Then we have the aircraft purchased by the operators of commuter services. These services are expanding and I believe that they will continue to expand. Aircraft on order for commuter services are worth $3m. Crop dusting aircraft are also purchased overseas. In 1967, a total of 296 aircraft were registered for crop dusting purposes by the Department of Civil Aviation; in 1968, a total of 313 were registered. It must therefore be obvious that there is a need for an aircraft industry in Australia. There is any amount of demand for aircraft.
At this very moment the Government should be saying to the manufacturers in Australia: ‘We want you to design aircraft suitable for Australian conditions. We will give you the necessary tariff protection to ensure that these aircraft can be built profitably in Australia.’ If that were done the industry would be maintained. Pressure should also be applied on overseas manufacturers to provide offset work in Australia. This would prevent the huge drain on our overseas balances for the purchase of aircraft. This is one field in which I know that the Government has not met its responsibility. The Government is continuing to allow the industry to decline day by day.
The other industry to which I wish to refer is the shipbuilding industry. I know that the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd’s yard at Whyalla has any amount of work at present - strangely, this always appears to be so - but over recent years the Australian shipbuilding industry has been through some very troublesome times and all the major yards- BHP yard at Whyalla, the State Dockyard at Newcastle and the Evans Deakin yard in Brisbane - have lost a lot of money. But because the operators of these yards realised that the industry had to be maintained until they could get any assistance from the Government by way of tariff protection or subsidy they carried on at quite a substantial loss to themselves over the years in the hope that a Tariff Board inquiry would be held. The Minister for Trade and Industry made a statement over 12 months ago to the effect that the Government was to ask the Tariff Board to examine the industry. However, that inquiry has not been held so far. The Government is taking too long. What I want to say is that whilst the shipbuilding yard at Whyalla has any amount of work on hand at present and whilst the State Dockyard at Newcastle has any amount of work at present, the Evans Deakin yard is in a precarious position. Irrespective of whether an order is placed immediately, over 200 men will be dismissed between now and November of this year. I emphasise the point that irrespective of whether an order is placed, 200 men will be displaced from their positions between now and November. During the last 5 weeks over 40 boilermakers voluntarily left the yard. They could see that the yard was in trouble and were not going to wait to be laid off. They had the opportunity of other employment and they accepted it. In spite of this another 200 will be dismissed. This yard is in a bad state as far as orders are concerned. It will complete its last order in February of next year. After that it has nothing. 1 said that the State Dockyard in Newcastle had any amount of work, but I point out to honourable members that that dockyard is building ships of a size not commensurate with the tooling of that yard. The State Dockyard has been built to handle and build ships of up to 25,000 tons yet it is having to keep its men in employment by building dredges and, for example, two Sydney ferries. These vessels could be built at Walkers Limited or one of the other small yards in Australia. As far as the Government’s promises are concerned, it should be prepared to introduce a scheme for shipbuilding. It should have a planned shipbuilding programme so that one yard could build the super-bulk ships, another could build ships of about the 20,000 ton mark and smaller yards could build the smaller type of ships, such as feeder ships and tenders for the oil industry. The shipbuilding industry today is in a precarious position because at present only one order is to be placed for one ship - an oil tanker for Esso Standard Oil (Australia) Limited. All other orders have been placed and tenders have been called. It is interesting to note the tankers that are operating on the Australian coast that were built overseas. They include the ‘Australian Progress’, Caltex Kurnell’, ‘Caltex Port Kembla’, Caltex Sydney’, ‘Esso Macquarie’, ‘Hemiplecta’, ‘Millers McArthur’, ‘R. W. Miller’ and ‘William G. Walkley’. These ships should be replaced by ships built in Australia. It is in this area that the Government should be introducing a planned shipbuilding programme to replace such vessels with Australian built ships.
I refer now to the Broken Hill Pty Company Ltd and I should like to read some information which I have obtained from the research service of the Parliamentary Library. It is headed ‘Charter of United Kingdom Ship by BHP Limited’ and reads:
In order to encourage a British shipbuilding industry the United Kingdom brought in a 20% investment grant for ships built in the United Kingdom. When the United Kingdom Government realised it was in fact subsidising the procurement by overseas countries of UK ships it immediately clamped down controls to prevent this happening. Before these controls were introduced BHP Limited had ordered a large ship to be built in the UK. Whilst the ship was under construction the controls were introduced.
In order to complete the ship under UK ownership and so receive the bounty, the BHP set up a dummy company in England as owner of the ship. It is understood that BHP now proposes to take out a charter party by which it will charter the ship from the dummy English company which is BHP owned.
The facts of the matter are these: The Iron Endeavour* of 69,115 tons dead weight is owned by the Broken Hill Pty Company Ltd and it is at present on charter by them. The steamship company in England that is the alleged owner of it is the Nile Steamship Co. Ltd. It leased it to H. Clarkson Ltd which, in turn, time chartered it to BHP. This Government is aware of this and has allowed the BHP Company to bring this ship into Australia on a 20-year charter arrangement. At the same time Australian shipyard workers are being displaced because the Government is not prepared to introduced a planned shipbuilding programme.
Two other ships that the BHP Company has are the ‘Iron Clipper’ of 35,441 tons and the ‘Iron Cavalier’ of 35,350 tons. These vessels were built overseas and they have been on charter on the Australian coast for several years now. These two ships should have been built in Australia. I noted the other day that the Australian National Line is negotiating the charter of a 55,000 ton ship for the Australian trade. If the Government can charter these ships for the Australian National Line, why does it not build them in Australia? The Opposition did not object to the container ships being built overseas. The vessel for the Australian-European trade left Rotterdam this morning, I understand. The other vessels are the roll-on, roll-off ship for the north bound Australia-Japan trade and the container ship for the Australia-west coast of America trade. We did not object to these ships being built overseas so long as they were immediately introduced into the trade to enable the Australian National Line to participate in overseas trade. The Government now should be planning not the replacement of these ships but the enlargement of Australian participation in overseas trade, particularly when one realises the raw deal that Australian industries get from overseas conference lines.
Recently I read an article in the ‘Commonwealth Automotive Review’ which stated:
The difficulties being experienced by exporters related not only to mounting costs of production but also to shipping and freights. The latter had always been a problem, because Australia has always been at some disadvantage in this respect. On top of this, freight rates had risen significantly over the last 3 years. Irregularity of services to potentially promising markets such as the West Indies, Africa, South America and the Middle East made it difficult for exporters to exploit them effectively.
This Government is supposed to be chasing exports and to be encouraging the Australian motor industry to build up its export market, yet the industry is coming out saying these things. What has the Government done about the freight discrimination to which the Australian motor car industry is subjected? For example, cars can be shipped from Japan to New Guinea at 70% of the freight charged to ship cars from Sydney to New Guinea. Consider the great difference in the distances to be travelled. From Sydney to New Guinea is one-third of the distance from New Guinea to Japan. The same thing can be said about Japanese cars that are being shipped to New Zealand. They have the same preferential treatment with freight rates. The cost of shipping a car from England to Australia is one-third of the freight charged to ship a car from Australia to England. This kind of discrimination is applying continually not only with the motor industry but with the steel industry - with the carriage of Australian steel to overseas markets. Yet the Government stands by and does nothing about it - does nothing to overcome this problem of Australian industries being exploited and discriminated against.
These countries have their own national shipping lines. The United Kingdom conference line of ships is, in the main, owned by British shipping companies which have a large financial interest in the British motor car industry, so there is a tie-up between the shipping industry and the motor industry so that British exporters enjoy a freight differential and are able to trade on more favourable conditions in Australia. It is time that the Government set up a section within the Department of Trade and Industry - a shipping section - to inquire into the unfair trade practices similar to those that I have mentioned. Its inquiries should be conducted in public so that everyone will know just what is happening in the shipping industry.
Regarding freight rates, early this month we had a statement by Mr W. Lawson, Chairman of the Australian Tonnage Committee of the Australian-European Conference. He said that because of the large capital outlay by the overseas shipping interests they were going to increase freights between Australia and Europe early in 1970. We have no say in it. We have no real interest in it. We have no means of challenging what is being done. A few years ago the conference line between the west coast of America and Australia was going to increase freights by 27 i% in less than 3 months. It was to be done by two increases, one of 174% and one of 10%. It was not until the Israeli Maritime Fruit Carriers Shipping Line moved into the field and said: ‘We will carry exports at the freight rates applicable at the present moment,’ that we were able to get freight rates consolidated between Australia and the United States of America. In fact, I do not think they have been increased over the last 4 years. This has only been because of the Israeli shipping line moving in and providing competition and opposition to the conference line. This is what the Australian Government should be doing today: It should be providing for and expanding Australia’s overseas shipping interests. It should be providing ships for the AustralianAmerican trade and the AustralianEuropean trade, not one ship for each of them and one for the northbound AustraliaJapan conference. It should be providing a number of ships and insisting on the right to carry at least half of our exports and half of our imports. It is our responsibility to bring goods here at the cheapest possible price and to ensure that Australian industries are not discriminated against by overseas national shipping lines protecting their own internal industries.
– I wish to address myself to the problems of the Australian economy. The Budget which we are discussing profoundly affects the Australian economy, and therefore my subject is an appropriate one. It is about time we took stock of our present position in the world and decided how we are going to tackle the problems of the future. Let us first examine our past and present history and performance. From having an overwhelmingly primary production economy, we have now become a highly industrialised society, with about 30% of our work force engaged in secondary industry, and considering our population, employing a fairly advanced and sophisticated technology. We have recently become one of the world’s greatest exporters of minerals of many kinds, and with probably more remaining to be discovered. With our natural population increase, together with a large scale immigration programme, we have one of the fastest growing populations of Western countries.
Surely very few countries in the world have achieved so much in so short a time and surely very few countries have such a wonderful future ahead of them. Our success, however, will not be automatic but will depend on how well we handle our tremendous natural advantages. No matter how great our natural advantages may be unsound policies, or policies which are merely politically expedient can fritter them away. This must not be allowed to happen and that is why I suggest we take a critical look at what is our present position so that we shall be able to develop the best policies for the future.
As I mentioned earlier, we have developed from a basically agrarian economy to a highly industrialised one. However, we are still dependent on primary industry for two-thirds of our export income and are likely to remain dependent on primary industry to supply at least half our export income for many years to come. This is the first and probably the most important fact to be kept in mind when considering the future of the Australian economy.
I realise there may be some who challenge the proposition that Australia will have to depend on primary industry to this extent, but just let us examine the figures. At the moment, our export income is approximately $3, 300m of which primary industry earns over $l,800m and our import bill is somewhat above this figure, the deficit being made up by capital inflow. All future projections suggest that if our present rate of development is to continue. by the end of the 1970s our import requirements will be about $6,000m, or almost double the present figures. Assuming that recent trends in the export of manufactures continue, by this time these will be earning $ 1,200m. Any substantial increase in this figure will require a fundamental reorientation of our policies as they affect manufacturing industries, including the critical re-assessment of our tariff policy, which I have so often advocated. Fortunately, there are clear signs that this fundamental re-orientation may be on the way.
Official projections from the Department of National Development estimate that minerals will be earning SI, 285m by the end of the 1970s, although it must be remembered that this is a gross figure and, despite my efforts to find out, I cannot get an accurate figure for net export earnings. However, since a great deal of capital invested in our great mineral projects is overseas capital, on which interest or dividends has to be paid, it will obviously be a good deal less than $l,285m. By following present policy we can therefore export a total of somewhat ‘ less than $2,500m for export earnings from manufactures and minerals, which is some $3,500m less than the expected import bill.
Now, unless we are to rely to an undesirable degree on foreign capital inflow to fill this gap and even assuming the adoption of policies which will result in a more efficient utilisation of our manufacturing resources, designed to improve their competitive position in the world, a large proportion of the gap will have to be earned by primary industry. Incidentally, it might be as well to remember that some years ago Professors Arndt and Shrapnel showed it is possible for outflow from overseas investment in the form of dividend and interest payments to exceed fresh capital investment. In such a situation, export income would be called upon to finance not only current imports, but our capital account as well.
I should like to emphasise that this is not an argument against overseas investment. In fact, it is a very strong argument to maintain capital inflow at a reasonable level. The greatest risk of overseas outflow exceeding inflow would occur if inflow dried up, or was drastically reduced. In any case, it is vital for the future solvency of this country that there should be sufficient confidence in primary industry to ensure the capital investment which will be required if primary industry is to undertake its task. With the recent history of rapidly rising costs in Australia, the primary producer, who, in the great majority of cases, has to sell his goods on the open world market, is finding it harder and harder to stay in business and unable or unwilling to raise the capital needed to make the best use of new knowledge and new scientific techniques. I firmly believe that, despite the success of the tremendous efforts of primary producers who have increased production by over 40% in the last 10 years, very substantial increases in efficiency and production are perfectly feasible with the knowledge already available, but under present circumstances there is a very real danger that primary producers will be unwilling to make the necessary investment because of the uncertain future of the industry.
On many occasions in this House I have stressed that one of the most significant factors in the rapid rise in costs has been the effects of previous tariff policies. Briefly, the arguments are as follows: It has been possible to build up Australia’s secondary industries only under the shelter of export income earned by primary industry. By an unsystematic and indiscriminate policy of protection, tariffs have contributed largely to rises in costs. Undesirably high rates of protection have sheltered many Australian secondary industries from the cold winds of import competition, and by denying primary producers the benefit of low cost imports while still requiring them to sell on world markets at world prices have gradually reduced their competitive position. At the same time, tariffs have accelerated and accentuated claims to the arbitration system for higher wages.
Since the great majority of Australia’s secondary industries have in the past been able to sell all their products on the protected home market, they have been able to afford higher wages by passing on their costs leading to further claims to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for still higher wages to cover these costs. Eventually, the manufacturer finds that his product becomes so expensive that it is losing the market to cheaper imported articles. The inevitable result is a request for still higher tariff protection, and so the spiral goes up and up. This process has been going on for years but now two factors have combined to make the position really critical. Firstly, the cost price squeeze has reduced primary producer income in real terms by 20% in the last 5 years. Secondly, some of our principal export earners are now in over supply on the world markets. In their turn, these facts pose two main problems. Firstly, what sized farms are necessary to give the owner a fair and reasonable standard of living in keeping with the rest of the community? And, secondly, what do the farms produce to earn this living?
It is clear from a recent Bureau of Agricultural Economics survey, showing that one-third of Australian farms produce an inadequate income, that something must be done. There is a current feeling among farmers that present Government policy will lead to large scale corporate farming, since by this means economies of scale will be achieved. However, earlier this year I had an opportunity to discuss this matter with officials of the National Farmers Union in England. They told me that farms in England with the highest return on invested capital were those from the most efficiently managed owner-operator farm sector, and not the very large corporate farms. From the English experience therefore it seems that the old adage that ‘a farm’s best fertiliser is the owner’s boots’ still applies and that the solution to our problems, while undoubtedly requiring some degree of farm amalgamation is not to be found in corporate farming. Perhaps even more dramatic and conclusive proof for this argument is to be found in the well known failure of large scale Socialist agriculture. Communist countries have had great difficulty in feeding their populations, and almost invariably their most efficient production has been from the small private plots which farmers are allowed to farm on their own account.
It seems clear that Australian agriculture will have to be increasingly flexible and able to take advantage of opportunities as they arise and therefore there is a vital need for some organisation to study and issue frequent and regular reports on commodity projections in the world markets. Probably the Bureau of Agricultural Economics would be best fitted to undertake this task. Despite the most valuable contribution which the Bureau makes to Australian agriculture, in the past, in my opinion, its emphasis has been directed too much towards statistical information on past production rather than requirements for the future.
Wool seems to be a subject which comes into a category of its own because it has always been possible to sell all the wool produced and as far as can be seen, this looks like being the case in the future, at any rate for apparel-type wool. This single fact - that is, free access to markets - probably warrants special encouragement for wool production. Such action would have a double advantage. Firstly, since over 90% of wool production is exported - a greater percentage than any other commodity - any help given to it has a correspondingly greater beneficial effect on raising export income. Secondly, making wool growing more attractive would result in resources at present devoted to products which are in over-supply, particularly wheat, being used for wool growing and so alleviate the marketing problems faced by these other commodities.
It must not be forgotten that allocating investible funds to the best advantage is the key to getting maximum export income from the land. The important phrase here is ‘to the best advantage*. This takes into account the vital question of markets. Obviously, policies which encourage maximum production are of no use if the product cannot be sold. We have a classic and unfortunate example of such a situation in the wheat-sheep belt, where farmers have very naturally taken advantage of the fact that one product gave them a much better financial return than the other. Unfortunately, the profitable product - profitable because of the assistance given to it - is the one which has run into marketing difficulties.
In formulating policies for the future we must avoid supporting inefficient or uneconomic production, and production for which there is no sale on world markets. If we try to support such production it will be at the expense of the economy as a whole and not in the best interests of the farmers themselves, since such action would perpetuate and accentuate an already acute problem. As explained earlier, we must have a healthy, confident and prosperous primary industry to earn Australia’s export income, and it will require skill and courage from the Government to devise policies which will satisfy this requirement. The proposed marginal dairy farm reconstruction scheme appears to incorporate the essential features for such policies - that is, long term credit facilities and provision for writing off redundant assets. This latter point is vital if over-capitalisation is to be avoided.
I should also like to draw attention to the credit facilities available to fanners in the United States and Canada, as outlined by the Australian Primary Producers Union in its submission to the economic subcommittee of Cabinet in July. Time will not permit me to go into detail, but these facilities all have one thing in common: They recognise the fact that the only solution to many farmers’ problems is to increase their holdings and this can be done only if long-term finance is available.
The Federal Land Bank System in the United States is a most interesting and successful example of a farmers’ co-operative credit system. Most of the initial capital required to start the scheme in 1917 was subscribed by the Government, but the Act provided a formula for retiring the government’s stock as capital, and the system has now been completely farmer owned since 1947, although under the general supervision of the Farm Credit Administration, an independent agency within the executive branch of the government. In my opinion, the Australian Government should closely examine this self-help scheme to determine whether something similar could be introduced in Australia. I fear that one of the obstacles might be that rural indebtedness in this country, which has more than doubled in the last 10 years - from $920m in 1958 to $l,891m in 1968 and is now at an all-time high - might make it very difficult for farmers to buy out the government capital. However, it is possible this problem could be overcome by adjusting the formula. Another and probably preferable solution would be greatly to extend the size and scope of the farm term loan fund and the farm development loan fund, which would avoid the necessity of creating a new agency.
I now turn to secondary industry for this, too, has changed dramatically in recent years. There has been an unprecedented and almost unbelievable acceleration in the rate of technical change. The Treasurer, in a speech last year, estimated that in 20 years time our population would reach 20 million - a rise of 80% - while our national production would be triple its present figure - that is, a rise of 200%. In other words, the increase in population in Australia cannot be expected to absorb all our increased production. For nearly 2 years I have been stressing this vital fact and the implication it has for our secondary industries, particularly those which have a high level of tariff protection. It is pleasing indeed to see that at last there is a growing awareness of the importance of this problem in the Department of Trade and Industry. Sir Alan Westerman, in a speech to the Australian Chemical Council earlier this year, said:
Opportunities are becoming harder to get for secondary industry to grow ‘inwardly’ deriving main support from untapped volume sales on the local market. If this is right then the market place will more and more have to be the world. The handicap of scale in new development can only be overcome by competing in the world arena.
I cannot resist, Mr Deputy Speaker, reminding the House of what I said in this place about a year ago:
Economies of scale are now becoming extremely important. More and more industries will discover that they can get a satisfactory return on capital only if their production is increased substantially. As our industrial capacity is increased still further, as I am sure it will be, the companies concerned will find that the relatively small Australian domestic market will be unable to absorb their increased production. This will mean that more and more companies will have to leave the comfortable protection of the local market and face the harsh realities of world competition. It would be disastrous if we priced ourselves out of this market by unwise tariff protection.
Sir Alan went on to say that the alternative to making the world our market for secondary industries:
Perhaps I and those others who have been stressing the absolute necessity for official acceptance crf this view might be forgiven if we so forget ourselves as to say ‘Hooray!’ as well as a heartfelt ‘Hear, hear!’
Another most important speech drawing attention to the problems facing Australian industries and the allocation of our resources was recently made by Mr R. Boyer, a member of the Tariff Board. Taken in conjunction, these two speeches provide valuable material for any debate or discussion on the future pattern of Australian industry. The rate of technical change will ensure that the problems they pose, and the possible solutions suggested, cannot be disregarded. Because the problems and their solutions may involve difficult political decisions it is no good just hoping the problems will go away or solve themselves. They will have to be faced and faced now. Policies directed towards their solution will have to be formulated now, not at some time in the indefinite future. It is clear that changes in the structure of secondary industry needed to meet the challenge of the future will be no less dramatic than in primary industry. In fact, they will probably be more dramatic because of the overwhelming importance of economies of scale applying more than they do in primary industry. There will be a clear requirement for rationalisation of production since our secondary industries will face tremendous competition in world markets, particularly from Japan. Fortunately, there is a growing public awareness of these facts.
One of the most striking examples of the change in climate in current thinking involving Australia’s secondary industries was provided by Mr Eric Dunshea in an address to a forum on the Australian protection system, organised by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia on May 9th this year. As most honourable members will know, Mr Dunshea is one of Australia’s leading industrialists, and Chairman of Dunlop (Aust.) Ltd. Mr Dunshea drew attention to several requirements for Australian industry if it were to survive and prosper in today’s economic conditions. He laid particular stress, as I do, on the necessity for optimum use of capital resources needed for further development of industry in Australia, and for rationalisation of production within and amongst firms to reduce fragmentation effects and unnecessary variety of specifications. It was like a breath of fresh air, to hear this sort of statement from a man in Mr Dunshea’s position, but the best, I hasten to add, was yet to come. Mr Dunshea said:
The sum of recent international trading and local legislative changes has moved Australia quite suddenly from a sheltered position to a state of strong internal and external competition where efficiency in operation is a first essential to everyone and where ability to compete in a world market unprotected and unassisted must be our ultimate goal.
When people such as Mr Dunshea speak like this we can look to the future with greatly increased confidence. Dunlop’s recent activities in the take-over field have demonstrated that Mr Dunshea has not only a keen appreciation of what is meant by rationalisation, but is prepared to take practical steps to bring it about.
Past policies have entailed considerable sacrifice - sacrifice of income for primary producers, sacrifice of their, competitive position for secondary industries. However, if we are prepared to take action now in full realisation of the problems ahead, I have great confidence in the energy and ability of our leaders in industry and the Australian people themselves to respond to the challenge. We cannot afford an industry which is inefficient and uneconomic or has insufficient sale for its products. If we protect the first we raise costs and lessen our competitive position; if we encourage the second, we are just compounding an already difficult situation. It is becoming clear that all Australian industry will have to be prepared for structural change and rationalisation. Australia will have to keep up with the world since the world will not slow down for us. The Government will have to realise that it will be much cheaper in the long run to encourage restructuring measures financially now, rather than drift on until the position becomes acute. For instance, it is unthinkable that in this prosperous country we could let the situation reach the stage where our farmers were reduced to peasant agriculture, and yet figures show that about one-third of Australian farms are not providing a decent living for their owners. Again, the Dairy Industry Reconstruction Scheme provides an excellent example of how these problems must be tackled, and the Government would be well advised to establish an Industrial Reconstruction Fund and put aside some money each year for this purpose. Such a fund would have a social as well as an economic function. On the economic side, its function would be to facilitate the rationalisation of production; on the social side it would be to retrain workers displaced not only by rationalisation, but also those displaced by automation.
There would need to be close cooperation between industry leaders and the Government to evolve policies which will enable structural change to be carried out under a free enterprise system, because if this becomes merely a scheme which results in Government interference in industry then it would end in bureaucratic disaster. But I believe that, in the last few years, there has been a mounting realisation among thinking people that the world economic situation and the rate of technical change make measures such as I have described inevitable. Hand in hand with rationalisation and structural change must go the job retraining to which I have referred, since the whole object of the exercise will be to encourage a more economic and efficient allocation of resources, and this in turn will necessitate some people learning new skills. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) has shown that he is acutely aware of this need, but while the union movement pays lip service to the principle there seems to be a reluctance to accept the consequences. It seems that the most likely explanation for this attitude is that structural change will inevitably mean that some unions will become larger at the expense of other unions. Not unnaturally, union officials do not regard very favourably anything which would reduce the numbers in their own union. To overcome the problem, there would need to be some amalgamation of unions, with provision for sections or divisions covering the various trades under the office bearers of the unions which had been assimilated. An excellent analogy can be found in the Victorian Farmers Union, with its Pastoral Division, Grains Division, Dairy Division and so on. It is pertinent to note that a committee in the United Kingdom has recently recommended that action be taken on these lines. Again
I emphasise that shibboleths must be discarded because in the future trained manpower must be increasingly adaptable.
I look on the Government’s role as being to encourage - financially if necessary - and advise, but never to direct those people and those industries willing to help themselves. Everything really depends on realising that it is no longer possible for many industries to exist or expand on the domestic market alone. As soon as this, concept is accepted a picture starts to emerge of the future of the Australian economy. It will rapidly become apparent that the primary and secondary industries, previously considered almost in competition for Government favour and assistance, now have similar aims and will face similar problems in achieving their objectives. I said at the start of my speech that Australia possesses natural advantages. We have tremendous resources of land and minerals. We have a homogeneous people speaking one language and we have an educated and skilled work force. We already have one of the highest standards of living in the world. We have a history of individual enterprise and courage and a history of political stability and freedom. What other country possesses all of these advantages? Just imagine that this is where we start from, that our future starts today. With all this- to build on, could we even contemplate the possibility of failure? I would hope not, but to use all our great natural advantages to the full will need a strong, imaginative Government and a people with the will and confidence to back it. I am confident that, under its present leadership, this Government has the ability to devise and implement policies which will eventually establish Australia as one of the great nations of the world.
– 1 support the amendment moved last evening by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). The Budget Papers reveal that farm costs rose in 1968-69 by 7% compared with only 3% in the previous year. As one who represents not only an industrial area but also a fairly large and very rich agricultural district, I am greatly concerned with the position of the dairy farmer and the small mixed farmer who are caught up in this rising cost price squeeze which is again evident from the Budget Papers. Whilst I appreciate very much the increase of $4 a ton in the superphosphate bounty - this provision was taken, in any event, from the Labor policy of 1963 - I feel that like other increases it will eventually be passed on to the manufacturer and the value to the primary producer will be whittled away. Much has been said in this place of the plight of the wheat industry. I sympathise with the wheat growers and I would commend to all of them the plan put forward by the Australian Labor Party. Their problems, of course, stem from world surpluses, including surplus production in Australia.
I should like to deal tonight with the position affecting the dairy industry because it, too, suffers from world surpluses. This is one of the problems facing the industry. So often we hear it said by academics that the dairy industry should look after its own problems, that the dairy farmers should do this and do that in order to put the industry right. It is absolutely ridiculous to suggest, as so often is suggested, that these people ought to solve their economic problems by cutting their costs, because like other primary producers they are on the end of the line. They cannot pass on any increased costs that come to them by inbuilding these costs into the price structure. The plain fact is that the dairy farmer today is producing 1 lb of butter at a cost 20% lower than that at which he produced it 15 years ago, although price structures have risen by as much as 14% in the past 6 years. Increases in the price of butter over the past few years have not kept pace with the general increases in the cost of living. Over the past 15 years the price of butter has increased by only 11% but the price index covering consumer goods generally has risen by 34% - three times as much. This, I maintain, is a tribute to the dairy industry and to its efficiency. This is a point on which we so often have to take up the cudgels with those people who are always telling the dairy industry that it must become more efficient if it is to survive.
As the cost of production rises, more and more farmers are attempting to expand their operations and raise their production. This, unfortunately, is placing them in a more difficult position economically, because we have seen in recent years only slight increases in the prices of farm products and in some cases there have even been price falls. An indication of this was the decrease in the return on butterfat to the farmer, from 41c to 39c per lb. The recent increase in bank interest rates must add to farm costs because the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), in reply to a question by the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) recently, said that farmers as a group could not be excluded from this increase in bank interest rates. I believe that the level of farm indebtedness in this country exceeds $l,000m. The increase in interest rates simply means that farmers in this country have to find an extra $5m a year in interest repayments.
Coupled with these problems concerning rising interest rates and cost of production is the fact that we are having difficulty in finding markets overseas because of the dumping practices entered into by certain European countries. Agriculture in these ‘ countries is heavily subsidised. The cost of the price support programme increased from $US500m in 1960 to SUS 1,500m in 1968 - an increase of 300% and there are further increases in sight. In the Common Market countries this has resulted in increased productivity and large surpluses. The Vice-President of the European Economic Community, Dr Mansholt, informed us when he was in Australia in April that the butter surplus in the Common Market countries was about 300,000 tons and that it would rise to some 500,000 tons next year. This is being dumped into Asia and the Middle East at 20c a lb. We cannot possibly compete at that price. New Zealand, our sister dominion, is faced with the same problem. Earlier this month the Chairman of the New Zealand Dairy Board, Mr Onion, said that New Zealand would have to dispose of some 40,000 tons of butter that was surplus to its requirements for the United Kingdom and for its home market at give-away and possibly ruinous prices to the New Zealand primary producer.
The dairy industry in this country has been trying to diversify ever since Great Britain first made application to join the Common Market in 1962. The dairy industry and the Australian Dairy Produce Board must be congratulated on setting up reconstituted milk factories in the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia, and the one that is shortly to be opened in Cambodia. I always feel that I should pay a tribute to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for the process which it developed when this move was first proposed. The CSIRO developed the process of recombining butter oil as produced in Australia with milk powder, which is also produced here. These products are taken to the factories in the areas to which I have referred. By adding sugar that is produced cheaply and locally in Asian countries, using the skilled labour in these countries which has been trained by Australia, a magnificent job is done in reconstituting these products into sweetened condensed milk for which there is a very good market in this part of the world.
The Dairy Produce Board used some of the old equalisation funds which were available after the last war, and it has done a magnificent job in training people in these areas and in setting up these factories, thus providing for diversification on the Australian dairy scene. It has allowed us to bring in new products which normally would not have been seen in dairy factories. I refer to butter oil and milk powder, in addition to the traditional sideline of butter. This has done a lot of good for the Australian dairy industry. As I say, the Australian Dairy Produce Board and the Australian dairy industry generally are to be congratulated on the work that has been done in this field.
Nothing succeeds like success, and of course, it was not long before the people from the Common Market countries realised what was going on. They could see this set up. They were soon to cash in on these moves. We all know the effect of their price cutting on milk powder, particularly last year. They undercut us in practically every part of the world. For a period it was very difficult to sell milk powder and large stocks built up, particularly in Victoria. This led to undercutting of prices in Australia. We know that Victorians were even trying to sell milk powder at cut prices as far north as Queensland and that they were taking anything up to $10 below the cost of manufacture in Queensland.
This was a very unhealthy state of affairs. As I see it, the marketing difficulties which we have experienced not only overseas but also in Australia have been brought on by the payment of heavy subsidies and a world surplus build up by Common Market countries. Last year some of our people expressed the view that we might have to change to the production of more and more casein. We had a very valuable outlet for casein in Japan. It was not very long before some of the manufacturers of milk powder could see that casein was not being affected, so they turned from the production of milk powder to the manufacture of casern. I feel that this must inevitably lead to overproduction and depressed prices for this product, as happened in the case of milk powder.
I have dealt at some length with the problems facing the dairy industry, because all this points to the early need to develop a national plan for Australia’s rural industries. Supporters of this proposal maintain that such a plan would improve Australia’s pattern of agricultural production, by rationalising production and lifting the efficiency of production in all rural industries. The dairy industry is not alone in this situation, because most of our primary produce exports are faced with falling prices and growing market difficulties overseas. My Party is alive to these problems. Written into our rural policy is provision for financial assistance from the Commonwealth Development Bank at the lowest possible interest rate - not the high and increasing rate being charged at present. Dealing specifically with the dairy industry, our policy states, amongst other things:
Because of inflationary trends, tariff protection for secondary industries, devaluation of foreign currencies and uneconomic export prices which are beyond the control of dairy farmers, the subsidy system must be continued. Existing equalisation arrangements should be maintained for butter and cheese and extended to all manufactured milk products. In fixing the total amount of subsidy, full heed must be paid to the principle of the found cost of production.
I think this is what farmers need - stabilisation and found cost of production. They do not want to be confronted with the difficulties which I have endeavoured to outline to the House. At a time when there is a rising standard of living and increased wages are being paid in every section of the economy, dairy farmers who have done so much for this country are receiving less for their product than they received IS years ago. This is not good enough for this section of primary producers. It is a crying shame, and it is to the discredit of this Government that it has allowed this situation to continue.
But for the limitation of time, one could speak on and detail the difficulties and other problems facing primary producers. Many of the dairy farmers in my area go in for cash crops. They grow potatoes for the Sydney market, if they cannot get contracts for canning peas and beans. This year because of low prices and high freight rates, the position is very grim. How can anyone make a go of this, when potatoes from Queensland and New South Wales can be landed in the Sydney markets for a freight cost of $8 and $10 a ton and it costs our growers about $30 a ton in freight, on a market that is returning only $50 a ton? At least 60% of the return to my people is eaten up in freight costs. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) already is hinting at a possible increase in freight rates.
– It is outrageous.
– This is entirely outrageous, as the honourable member for Wilmot says, because the people who suffer are the primary producers. 1 maintain that it is up to the Commonwealth Government to do everything it possibly can to contain freight rates in this trade - certainly not to increase them. The outlook for processed potatoes is just as grim as that for fresh potatoes. The Chairman of the Federal Potato Advisory Committee, Mr Knox, earlier this month warned the Tariff Board at its hearing that Australian growers might have to consider dumping their crops to counter an increase in imports from Canada. This warning has come too late. We raised this question in the House some 12 months ago. The present rate of duty on imported potatoes is ridiculously low and is no counter to the dumping of the cheaper and inferior product from Canada and the United States.
An organised marketing scheme for potatoes is long overdue, and I only hope that the Tariff Board, at its present hearings on this important matter, will realise the value of this cash crop to the farmers of this country and take appropriate action to protect the industry from unfair competition. The Australian Labor Party believes in organised marketing. Up to the present time the only State that has held out against our plan for organised marketing of potatoes is Victoria. But if it is to be affected by the dumping of this inferior product from Canada at this ridiculously low duty rate, I hope it is not too long before Victoria wakes up and realises the benefits of organised marketing in this field and comes in behind all the other States for the benefit of the producers. As I indicated, we believe in organised marketing, and the rural policy of the Australian Labor Party provides for:
Australia-wide statutory marketing and stabilisation schemes where practicable for the disposal of primary products.
Our rural committee - and I pay a tribute to the honourable member for Wilmot for his part in its operation - has prepared a stabilisation plan for the apple and pear industry. So at least we recognise the urgent need to provide some practical assistance for restoring farm incomes and to give the man on the land a just return for his labours.
Turning to education, I want to say we in the Labor Party support the aid to be given to independent schools. State aid is now recognised by all the major political parties in this country. But the Government has closed its eyes to the urgent needs of primary schools under Government control. State government resources will be taxed to the utmost because of building programmes, including the provision of additional classrooms and equipment urgently required in State controlled schools. The Labor Party believes that planning of the highest order is essential in determining the assistance to be given to all schools. The Labor Party, if it gains office, will establish an Australian schools commission to see that our policy of assistance given on the basis of need is correctly implemented. Priority should be assessed and Commonwealth grants should be made to those schools, whether government or nongovernment, where the need is greatest.
This commission would be called upon to examine and determine the needs of students in government and non-government schools, primary, secondary and technical. The commission could then recommend grants under section 96 of the Constitution which the Commonwealth should make to the States to assist in meeting the requirements of all school children on the basis of needs and priorities. This Budget increases grants for science laboratories, technical training facilities, teacher and preschool training colleges and secondary school libraries, but it does nothing to assist the most important segment of the school population, the primary school children in the government sector. We believe that a commission could best assess their needs and make the necessary recommendations, as is now done with universities.
I wish to mention the limit on allowable deductions for educational expenses in the field of Commonwealth taxation. There is a clear and very definite anomaly in the allowable deduction for student children. The age of student children for whom taxation deductions are allowed is limited to 21 years. This creates a definite hardship on most parents, because apart from the arts it is practically impossible to complete most faculties by the age allowed, namely 21 years. If we are to encourage young people to gain the best from their educational opportunities, we must do all that we can to ease the burden on their parents. It is ridiculous to draw the line at 21 years and so reduce any incentive for parents to continue to make the sacrifices necessary in the interests of their family.
I turn now to social welfare. I believe that the increases in age and invalid pensions of $1 a week for the single pensioner and $1.50 a week for a married pensioner couple have already been eaten up in rising costs. Other increases long overdue have been made in unemployment and sickness benefits, and in repatriation benefits. The Government has been forced into liberalising the means test following the good reception given to the Labor Party’s policy to abolish the means test over 6 years. As one newspaper describes the Budget measures: ‘They amount to little more than a repair job on a creaking and anomalous system’. The new tapered means test introduced into the Budget does in fact preserve a glaring anomaly. The Treasurer stated in his Budget Speech:
Persons who become pensioners for the first time because of the introduction of the ‘tapered’ means test - to which I shall now refer - will not, however, be eligible for membership of the Pensioner Medical Service or entitled to any other subsidiary fringe benefits.
Many pensioners will be disappointed when they find that although they come within the scope of the pension scheme, the fringe benefits and the thing that matters most to a great many of them, the pensioner medical card, will be denied them. The Labor
Party’s policy provides for a national superannuation scheme and a compulsory health scheme, with the complete abolition of the means test over 6 years. After listening to the Budget Speech and examining the Budget papers, we in the Labor Party can never be slammed and howled down with the now worn out slogan: ‘Where is the money coming from?’ As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has stated, the Treasurer concedes now that to abolish the means test completely over the next 5 years would cost less in each pf those years than the present proposals would cost this year.
As a representative of the island State, I am always afraid ‘ that public discussion on the need for a rise in freight rates will sooner or later lead to the actual thing. This appears to be a period of softening up, so to speak, and the actual body blow will be dealt to my State later. The State of Tasmania is just as much a part of the Commonwealth as any other State, and because of our need to export manufactured goods by sea to markets on the mainland of Australia and to compete there with other States, we maintain that it is the Commonwealth’s job to contain freight rates as much as possible.
The Minister for Shipping and Transport hinted at increased rates on the Australian coastal shipping trade when he opened the Searoad container terminal at Townsville last Saturday. He said that this could be brought about because of the stoppages by workers on the ‘Empress of Australia’ and the ‘Australian Trader’ and the difficulties on the Darwin run. However, I agree with business leaders in Tasmania who pointed out that industrial disputes can surely be settled and should not be allowed to take control of the Australian National Line business. If it is otherwise, the Minister should be sacked. At the same time Tasmanians cannot see why the Darwin run should affect the Tasmanian trade, which is booming and where the turn-round is excellent. We know that the Tasmanian trade is a most profitable trade for the Australian National Line, and this trade has been built up on the basis of current freight rates. If on these rates the Tasmanian trade is very profitable, why should the freight rate be changed to pay for difficulties in some other part crf the Commonwealth? Why should we have to take the burden?
I think I have already indicated the high cost we have to meet to get our goods to the mainland. Why should we have to subsidise other parts of Australia when we have our own disabilities already in our own State?
We have had similar comments from the Minister relating to the number of passengers carried and whether this is an economical proposition for the ANL. But, as I have pointed out to him before, we need another vehicular ferry now, and plans for this one should be prepared almost immediately. Despite the coming on to the run of the ‘Australian Trader’ the difficulty of getting passengers to and from Tasmania has not eased at all. On 20th January this year the passenger list and the waiting list closed for sailings on the ‘Australian Trader’ for dates up to 12 months ahead, and yet the ship did not come on to the run until 6 months after the passenger list and the whole waiting list for the ship’s first run had closed. Because of this I fail to see any reason for the statement that these passenger services are not an economic proposition. We need these sea-road passengers. Our tourist industry in Tasmania has been developed and expanded with this in view, and our island economy would be severely affected if there were any reduction in this service.
On the overseas exports side, we pin our faith in the statement made by the Minister for Trade and Industry when he said that no State would be penalised by the introduction of the overseas container method of taking our exports. The present cost of taking a container from Tasmania to the assembly cargo point at Melbourne is approximately one-third of the cost of taking the container from Melbourne to its destination in the United Kingdom. Our exporters should not be placed at a disadvantage compared with their counterparts on the mainland. We maintain that the Bass Strait freight component should be merged into the general freight rate applicable to exports from any Australian port under the new container set up. While dealing with shipping, I urge the Minister for Trade and Industry to table as soon as possible the feasibility report in connection with a new port on King Island. This is urgently awaited by shipping interests, both in Circular Head and on King Island.
We hope that the report will provide a means of overcoming the difficult shipping problems with which Tasmania is at present faced.
There are one or two minor items I would like to refer to. One that I am always annoyed about and which I always think is most unfair and unjust is the taxation concession allowed to business people for expenses incurred in moving between their homes and place of business. The workers are not permitted to make this claim. The Government has failed again to grant taxation concessions in respect of fares paid by employees proceeding to and from work. Many workers in my electorate are paying a sizeable amount of their wages in fares. Some travel long distances, from as far as Ulverstone and Wynyard, to their places of employment at such industrial concerns as Australian Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd and the Australian Titan Products Pty Ltd and down to Port Latta which is controlled by the Savage River mines. If businessmen can claim such fares as a taxation concession then I fail to see why this should not apply to the workers.
I have repeatedly requested that fares involved in travelling in respect of medical treatment should be recognised by the Taxation Branch. I refer again to the disability experienced by people in such isolated areas as King Island and Flinders Island. A good general practitioner service is available on these islands, but sometimes people living on them are referred to a specialist on the mainland for specialist treatment. Then they have to fly there, and the air expenses are by no means cheap. The air fares are all first class because Ansett-ANA has the franchise. All air travel from King Island is first class, whether one is going to Victoria or to Tasmania. Quite often these people have to take a relative with them, and it is easy to imagine that the air fares, accommodation charges in the capital cities, and also the cost of the additional medical treatment are fairly substantial. The Government should recognise these difficulties. If this Government believes in decentralisation, then it should offer more incentive to the people who are living in these isolated areas and who are making a definite contribution to the growth of this nation so as to keep them there and to induce other people to move there.
Similar recognition should also be accorded to the people on the west coast of Tasmania because of disabilities associated with isolation, higher freight costs and the inclement weather conditions experienced in that region. Federal and State members of Parliament have consistently made representations to have this area transferred from zone B to zone A, and a well documented case has been presented every year. The Government should again review this request, bearing in mind the cost of living, the weather and isolation together with the magnificent contribution made by the workers in these mining areas to the economy of the nation and to its export earnings from the minerals mined in this region.
War service land settlement has always taken up a sizeable part of my time in my electorate because there are very large schemes in that area. War service land settlement continues to drag on despite the prediction by the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), when he was the Minister in charge of war service land settlement in 1954, that all work on this scheme would be completed by 1969. As the end draws near, the accounting must be done and the books put in order so that excess costs can be determined. Valuations of properties are being made and released to the settlers so that the Government can estimate what it can expect to recoup from the settlers. Once this figure is determined, it is subtracted from the total cost of the scheme and the excess cost is shared between the Commonwealth and the respective agent States in the proportion of three-fifths to two-fifths. We believe that the valuations are being inflated so as to reduce the large gap between the final cost of the scheme and what the Government will recoup from the settlers. We believe that there cannot be two valuations for any one property at the one time, yet we have concrete evidence of a State valuation for a property at $14,500 and a Commonwealth valuation at $23,604 for the same farm and in the same year of valuation. This is by no means an isolated case. To bring some measure of justice to these settlers, not only in my area but throughout Australia as the scheme comes to an end, I ask the Government to accept the State valuation nearest to the date of occupancy with, of course, the capital value of improvements and structures deleted, because these form a separate account for the settler.
I support the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. The masterly speech which he delivered yesterday evening provides a blueprint for progress under the Australian Labor Party and provides for a fair deal for all sections of the Australian community.
– My good friend the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) concluded his remarks by supporting the amendment and indicating that the speech made last night by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) was the form of address which should be warmly supported and applauded. I remind honourable members that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition was divided into a series of clauses which I presumed highlighted the areas that he determined were the ones that should be concentrated upon by his Party in disagreeing with the Budget. Nevertheless he spoke at great length about the need for improved social welfare and repatriation policies and the like. When I read that amendment which my friend on the Opposition side has just referred to and which he said he supports, I see no reference to social services or repatriation. Is this another example of the words of the Leader of the Opposition being in direct contrast to the actions taken by him and certain others who support him?
I presume we must take the wording of the amendment as being a mirror of the Opposition’s feeling on the Budget. Yet despite the glorious circumstances that are painted as existing under a Labor government, there is no reference to an amendment of social services or repatriation benefits. I find it somewhat difficult to understand how the honourable member for Braddon can speak in such glowing terms of the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition last night on the Budget and not being cognisant of the fact that this fairly important aspect of social welfare and repatriation policies is not mentioned in the amendment. After all, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), whom I venture to say had a strong hand in the determination of this
Budget, immediately upon being elected to that office gave an undertaking to implement social welfare policies and has been able to do so in a period of 18 months. Rarely has a leader been able to see the ideals and goals that he sets forth for his Party implemented in such a short period of time. He has sponsored a liberal concept - a well conceived concept - of a welfare system in Australia. I hope that I will not be out of order in quoting what someone belonging to another century had to say. After all, the policies of this Government are certainly well in advance of the philosophical concepts of this person in the 19th century. Disraeli said: ‘Worthy men with liberal principles are the ones who have enlarged democracy’. The revenue sharing proposals of the Budget are of great import. Before moving on I would like to say that I shall be relatively brief in my remarks tonight. The Prime Minister has announced the date for the forthcoming Federal election and I do not think it is wise to deter the House from getting on with the business at hand.
I would like to congratulate the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), with whom I have disagreed on occasions on the short term policy in regard to protection in Australia, on the ideal that he described in regard to rationalisation of industry and the concept that he saw our nation moving towards today. I say this even though I was moved to interject on a couple of occasions - although interjections will not be shown in the report because the honourable member did not respond to them. But these were minor disagreements; disagreements of degree. I feel that the ideal he put before the House was particularly constructive and very well thought out. I hope that honourable members will pay attention to the blueprint outlined tonight by the honourable member for Corangamite.
I would like to mention an aspect of social welfare which was introduced by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and, of course, endorsed by the Cabinet before its formation and presentation to the Parliament. In particular I would like to stress the tapering of the means test. I would also like to mention the concept of revenue sharing proposals because this is a matter of great import in the tapering of the means test. I would now like to say something about the income tax age allowance. We have not yet been given figures for this allowance but a generalisation was made in the Budget Speech when the Treasurer said:
In order to cushion the transition from complete exemption to taxation at ordinary rates of tax, the age allowance provisions include ‘shadingin’ arrangements to limit the amount of tax payable by an aged person with a taxable income in excess of the exemption levels. To take account of the new ‘tapering* provisions for age pensions to which I have already referred, we propose to reduce the tax payable under these limiting provisions and to extend the ranges of income within which the limitation confers a benefit.
This will give great benefit to those who hitherto have saved for a great period of their lives but who have been unable to draw a pension. They have been unable to draw a pension because they have been penalised by the income that they have been able to earn over and above the pension. I feel that this is the sort of policy that should be applauded. I am surprised that an Opposition that castigates the Government for allegedly disposing of the interests of the middle income groups would not be cognisant of these proposals.
The Leader of the Opposition has made many promises. I remind honourable members that earlier this year one could almost dial a promise every day just as one could now dial a prayer. We were being beset almost daily with new promises in new fields of government activity. Though the Opposition may say that henceforth we may never be hit with the cry: ‘Where will the money be found?’ I feel that if one is to examine, analyse and probe the promises made by the Leader of the Opposition, one will find that the amount of money that is required - and I recall the honourable member for Robertson (Mr BridgesMaxwell) mentioning this today - is quite exorbitant.
The Labor Party’s amendment, I feel, is devious and inadequate having regard to the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition, as have been many other propositions put ‘by him. This was the new leader; this was the leader with the new perceptions required in the contemporary world. This was the leader who last year renounced the leadership of his Party because he believed he should support a man called Harradine. He was a man of destiny last year but destiny has strange quirks of fate allied to it. This year at the Federal Conference the Leader of the Opposition was prepared to denounce a man over whom a year ago he resigned his leadership. This is the sort of man who spoke about social welfare policies as being of paramount importance but who did not include this subject in the amendment that he put forward.
The Leader of the Opposition has bowed to Party dictates, as leaders before him have done in previous years when there have been Federal Conferences. It is not for me to stress at any great length the description used by the Leader of the Opposition - witless men or faceless men. No matter how marginally we move beyond the constitutional structure of the Labor Party we know the control and influence the Party has over the policies of parliamentarians who sit in this chamber today. I regret that there has not been sufficient discussion of the defence proposals put forward by the Government this year. On that basis I will not discuss them at great length. But we can contrast the Government policies of involvement in Asia in determining the role that this country is to play after 1971 with the blueprint laid down by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) who the Leader of the Opposition describes as the forthcoming Minister for Defence. This is a blueprint for - remember the phrase - ‘Fortress Australia*. I think it was the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who said that Labor would provide defences within the perimeter of Australia’s boundaries. This is the sort of policy that the Leader of the Opposition put forward and which I know is supported by the Leader of the Opposition and particularly by the left wing members of his Party.
I heard the Leader of the Opposition make reference to a statement contained in the speech on foreign affairs made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) last week. I applaud the Minister on the so-called surprising turn he has made in relation to the USSR. Again, I do not want to put great stress tonight on this but to those who follow with reasonable interest the policies of this Government it will bc recalled that in June of this year the Minister for External Affairs said that the Soviet Union was not necessarily aiming at disruptive tactics in Asia. He said that it was natural for a great power to assert itself globally. Yet, I gather not only from the Opposition but from another Party that sits in another place that the announcement by the Minister for External Affairs amounted to an alarming policy - a new policy, a singularly different policy. I would have thought that they would have deduced from the announcement made by the Minister for External Affairs some months ago that this was the manner in which the Government was viewing the situation at the moment. Of course, this is the only realistic approach that can be made to the moves of the Soviet Union in Russia today. This is a development of the policy that supports the idea that since 1964 the Soviet policy towards under-developed countries - especially those in Asia - has undergone a basic revision. Take the case of Malaysia which was denounced by the USSR when it was created in 1963 - I think I am using the correct phrase - as ‘a neo-Colonialist artefact’ and which since that date has been slowly moving to a different rapprochement with that area. There was the visit of Mr Mikoyan to Malaysia in 1964. This signalled a great change in the relations between that country and the USSR. It led to the establishment of diplomatic relations and the signing of a trade agreement announced in 1967.
I rely to some extent for some of my material and the viewpoints I put forward on an article which was produced for the Australian Institute of International Affairs by Mr Jukes who is a Fellow of International Relations at the Australian National University. He traced the relations of the USSR with Malaysia and Vietnam and the manner in which the war has been played down by the USSR. It is not for me to justify the policies of the Soviet Union. Nor do I sanction or support the attitude of that country last year to Czechoslovakia - I have said in this House that this was an appalling negation of human rights. But the great test of the sophistication of Australian foreign policy will be the manner in which we show our ability to perceive which policies are utilised by the Soviet Union in moving into Asia. It would appear to me that there are three. Firstly, there is the natural expansionist policy of a Communist country. Secondly, there is the stated desire, which I would accept to some extent, to contain China. That is in itself an endorsement of the Government’s attitude that China is embarking upon expansionist policies in Asia. Even the USSR sees that. Thirdly, there is, of course, the classic Marxist problem of increased goods being produced by a country which is unable to reconcile itself philosophically by redistributing that wealth within its own bounds.
The Soviet Union must seek new markets. Its markets in Europe are taken up to the extent that they can no longer be expanded to a great degree. It is not surprising that it should seek markets in Asia. As I said earlier, this is something on which I do not want to place great stress, but it is something on which I support the Minister for External Affairs. This is not a new concept; it is a matter he has alluded to before. It is a matter that any sensible, realistic, rational thinking Australian will accept. After all, no matter which motivation by the Soviet Union is correct, and no matter how sophisticated our external affairs policy is, no amount of indiscriminate hysterical reaction to that country’s moves in Asia will prevent it doing what it is doing. Unfortunately, Australia is not in a position to retard these moves. It is therefore a test of the sophistication of our external affairs policy in this area. We have made it quite clear that it is not a subservience to this power; it is not a new concept; it is not a moving with the hammer and sickle; it is an adaptation to the movements of change in Asia today.
The world is changing. Even the Australian Labor Party, after great stresses and strains and 20 years of turmoil, alleges that it is changing. The Catholic Church is changing. The Party that I support, the Liberal Party, is changing. The Leader of the Party, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), has been able to call forth the new perceptions that are required in contemporary thinking for domestic and foreign affairs and he has been able to dissolve the myths which have masked the emerging realities in both these areas. I would hope that we would be able to follow through in the decade ahead to crystalise further and develop the changes that have been brought forth by the present Government.
The Government has certainly shown this desire in the field of education. In its attack on the Government the Opposition has placed great stress on the making of grants to independent schools. I applaud the moves by the Government to assist the independent schools. The reference to wealthy schools is singularly inappropriate and untruthful. I challenge honourable members opposite to show me a wealthy school. Certainly, there are wealthy persons within the community, but show me a wealthy school. No schools are wealthy. Certain schools have been referred to. Melbourne Grammar School is one. Almost 30% of its students are on scholarships. There are schools in even greater need than that school and these schools will be assisted to a great extent by the proposals outlined in the Budget for assistance to independent schools. It should not be said that the Government is not assisting the State or government schools because it is. It is doing so by way of aid to State technical schools and increased aid for teacher training. I remind honourable members that the present level will be increased 25% by way of an unmatched capital grant. It is expected that more than 6,000 places will be provided over the next 3-year period. There is also the assistance given by the Government to science laboratories and libraries. When one adds them all up one will find that the total amount of assistance to State schools is in excess of $30m. It simply cannot be said that the Government is providing aid only to independent schools. It is a matter of gross dishonesty by the Opposition to try and put it that way.
By the way, where are the voices of those arch opponents of State aid? The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) fought resolutely against State aid at the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party. I hardly think it is proper for me to say that he is now subservient to the Leader of the Opposition. I would think that he is probably waiting his time. I would think that the propositions which were so deep rooted, fundamental and philosophical to the honourable member for Hindmarsh at the time of the federal conference some weeks ago would not suddenly have changed with the bringing down of a Budget. Perhaps he has become salutary because of the forthcoming election. But the people of Australia will recognise that within the ranks of the Opposition are people devoted to cessation of aid to independent schools.
– Like the honourable member for Hunter?
– Yes. For the same reason, he is very quiet tonight. The honourable member is a dear man, a very welcome man in the ranks of the Parliament, but he is strangely silent on this matter. He is dedicated to the overthrow of the independent schools. I see that he is nodding his head in agreement. I am pleased that he agrees with what I say. Devoted to the cessation of aid to independent schools, he is a man who would place great stress on the primary aspect in the resolution of the ALP at its conference that prior aid must be given to State schools.
– Wait till I speak.
– I will wait with interest because the honourable member is a man whom I respect. I know he will put forward views that will not castigate me to any great degree. I realise that he agrees with the proposition I put forward. Being a man of certain principles he would not, unlike other honourable members on the other side of the chamber, get up and embrace aid to independent schools as his leader has done shortly before an election. He would support the emphasis placed in Labor’s conference resolution of promising aid to State schools.
– He would speak like a man of principle.
– Would he speak like a man of principle? In a way that is a conundrum. I would not answer that. But I know that the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), being a man of wide cultural interest, would support the proposal contained in the Budget for a grant of $300,000 for the arts. I hope that he will join with me in urging the Government to increase the amount it is providing for the film industry.
– My poor old miners swing picks and shovels. That is all they know about the arts.
– I wonder whether the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) had the honourable member for Hunter in mind when he said that when he looked around him he could see men who could portray Ned Kelly particularly well.
– We on this side of the House want art and culture for all workers.
– If the honourable members opposite support my endeavours for more money for the film industry, I am sure that the workers will get more art and culture. But we are all workers in the community. I do not accept the concept of a community divided into workers, capitalists and employers. I do not doubt that the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) works as hard as I do. I think I am entitled to the classification of ‘worker* just as much as he is. I do not see why a man who works from 9 o’clock to 5 o’clock or from 8 o’clock to 4 o’clock can take the category of ‘worker’ while a man who works, as we do in this Parliament, until the early hours of the morning is classified as a non-worker. I hope that the honourable member for Reid and the honourable member for Hunter will support the plea I make to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), who is responsible for the Council for the Arts and who received a recommendation on films from its film committee, which comprised eminent people, for more funds for the film industry. The grant of $300,00 which has been made will be spent in three different directions. I need not amplify them tonight. I compliment the Government on its acceptance of the views I have put in the past that greater stress should be placed on the teaching of Asian languages in Australia; that there should be a tapering of the means test; and that aid should be given to the Institute for Urban Affairs - an interesting and worthwhile body that we are now supporting. I hope that just as the Government has greatly assisted widows following the plea that I made in the Parliament on their behalf, honourable members opposite will support me in my call for assistance to the film industry.
– The honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) concluded his speech when he still had 7 minutes remaining to him and there were a lot of things in the Budget about which he was silent. He did not mention several things that are vital to this country, but I will speak of them. One is the inequality of the taxation scales, another is the financial relationship between local government and the Commonwealth and the third relates to Commonwealth-State financial relationships. The honourable member did not say much about inflation, which is possibly the most important matter arising from the Budget.
The burden of income tax on the lower and middle income groups is destroying incentive in Australia. The more a wage and salary earner receives for his or her work the worse off he or she is financially. This is a serious matter that is affecting the community. The situation has been brought about by the effects of inflation over a period of years without any compensating revision of the tax scales. Persons who 10 to 20 years ago were in the lower and middle income groups now belong to the middle and above income groups. Salaries and wages have been adjusted to meet rising costs and prices. While the pay envelope contains more money, that money does not buy any more goods, but probably fewer goods. Two dollars 10 or 20 years ago would be worth as much as $8 is today. I venture to suggest that if costs and prices were stabilised there would be no need to increase wages or salaries.
It is interesting to compare the percentage of income that is paid by middle income groups up to the $10,000 per annum mark in income tax in Australia with what is paid in other countries. In Australia it is 33J%; in the United States of America it is 13% or two-and-a-half times lower than in Australia; in France it is 10%, more than three times lower; and in the United Kingdom it is 27% . Sweden is the only country where these income earners pay a higher percentage, but Sweden is a true welfare state with total security from almost the cradle to the grave. If there is no revision of the tax scales to give justice to the lower and middle income earners the Australian percentage will soon be higher than Sweden’s percentage and we will have no comparable social benefits. This serious situation has been brought about by the failure of this Government - the Liberal Party, Country Party, Democratic Labor Party coalition - to put value back in the dollar. The Government has failed to take any action to cure inflation. Honourable members will recall that Mr Menzies, as he then was, when he went to the elections in 1955 had as his slogan: *We will put value back into the pound. The pensioners not only will receive an increase in pension but more importantly we will increase the value of their pension by increasing its purchasing power.’ We all know that that is a toil worn slogan but nevertheless it is a fact that this Government has done nothing about it. Eventually we will experience the same serious consequences as the United Kingdom Government is now experiencing. It will be a matter of the Labor Party being called upon to come in and clear up the mess created by this Government.
There has been no revision of taxation scales since 1954. Bearing in mind that $8 nowadays buys no more than $2 in 1954, this simply means that the wage earners in the lower and middle income groups are worse off today than they were in 1954. They are worse off because wage adjustments have accounted only for increases in the cost of goods and services, but have not had regard to taxation increases. I shall quote figures to prove this point. In 1954 the wage earner on $2,000 per annum paid $217 in tax. The same man on $3,000 per annum in 1969 pays $426 in tax. His salary has been adjusted to meet living costs but he pays $245 more in tax. The wage earner on $3,000 per annum in 1954 is now receiving $4,500 on which he pays $952 in tax. He is $490 worse off than he was in 1954. The wage earner on $4,500 per annum in 1954 now receives $6,000 per annum on which he pays $1,502 in tax, and he is $550 worse off. Honourable members can see that wage increases actually worsen a working man’s position. The union leaders should look at this aspect of the economy and rather than fighting for higher wages they should be fighting to stabilise the economy.
At the time of the last Budget the total number of taxpayers in Australia was 4,927,072 of whom 4,760,194 were receiving incomes up to $6,000 per annum. The number who paid more than $6,000 in tax totalled 167,878. The bulk of taxation is paid by those in the middle and lower income groups. Naturally they also pay the greater proportion of indirect taxation. From customs duty the Government receives $347m and from excise duty $901m. This is for beer, tobacco and petrol. Sales tax amounts to $494m. From these three sources the Government receives a total1 of $ 1,742m. Honourable members will see that the middle and lower income group pays more than two-thirds of the total tax. They bear all the burden. It is plain to see that of the total tax collections for 1968-69 of $5,437m the wage earner paid almost $4,000m. The wage earner is worse off every time he gets a rise. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) is better off. He has the easiest job in the House. He does not worry where the money is to come from, because it is increasing all the time.
Notwithstanding the moaning and groaning of Mr Askin, the Premier of New South Wales, and Sir Henry Bolte, the Premier of Victoria, they are getting their proper share of tax reimbursements from the Commonwealth. I remind them that last year the Commonwealth had a Budget deficit of S385m; this Budget provides for a $30m deficit. Every time they want money or someone requests from them expenditure on a public work they say: ‘We would like to be able to provide the money but we do not get enough from the Commonwealth’. It is obvious that when we budget for a deficit there is no money left in the kitty here. There is only one way for the States to get more money, and that is for the Commonwealth to increase taxation. Yet Mr Askin and Sir Henry Bolte have not the courage to say so. They would like the Commonwealth to increase taxation so they could get a better rake-off.
It is interesting to note how much the Commonwealth collects on behalf of the States by way of taxation and how it is distributed. I would like to give the figures for each State, but because my time is limited I shall deal mainly with New South Wales. Commonwealth taxation for 1968-69 totalled $5,437m. The direct tax reimbursement for New South Wales was $276m. But that is not all the money that goes to New South Wales. The Premier of New South Wales does not take into account that the Commonwealth pays, on behalf of New South Wales, $3 84m for social service pensions, child endowment, unemployment and sickness benefits and so on. Then we come to repatriation payments to war pensioners living in New South Wales. They receive S69m. The money being spent on the Snowy Mountains project will I hope benefit the nation, but it benefits mainly New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The share for New South
Wales would be about $20m a year. Over a 5-year period New South Wales will receive $76m.
The biggest item of expenditure is defence, but not all defence expenditure occurs in the Australian Capital Territory. The money is spent for the defence of the whole of Australia. Most of the munitions for the armed services are made not in the Australian Capital Territory but in the various States. Service personnel are not all stationed in the Australian Capital Territory and their pay is distributed throughout the States. I would add that the benefit to New South Wales from its share of the defence expenditure would be over $300m a year. Then we have the amount of money that is being paid for war service homes in New South Wales. This amounts to about $15m a year. The biggest share of the dairy subsidy goes to the north coast of New South Wales and amounts to about $7m a year. The amount of Commonwealth tax revenue which is spent on education in New South Wales is about $20m a year. All migrants do not come into the Australian Capital Territory. They go to the States and Commonwealth expenditure on their behalf would amount to about $4m a year. Expenditure on the Australian National Line benefits New South Wales by about Sim a year. So, to bring this argument to its logical conclusion, one can see that the money going to New South Wales from Commonwealth taxation would be about 25% of the total amount collected.
The Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria never admit that we are spending all these millions of dollars on social services, repatriation, defence, and so on. I do not think either of them has reason to complain. I think that those two States receive more than their fair share and should stop passing the buck. They should cease moaning and groaning and shedding tears of blood. I now wish to say something about payroll tax particularly as it applies to local government and semi-government bodies. I also wish to say something about the national debt. Earlier in the year during the debate in the Supply Bill I spoke about the high cost to municipal and shire councils of providing amenities and public services such as parks, playing fields, reserves and beaches, swimming pools,
National Fitness play centres, senior citizen centres, health clinics, libraries, home nursing centres and services and so on. 1 noticed a report the other day that the Library Association of Australia fears that it will not be able to continue or expand the library service which is so essential to the community.
At the time of the presentation of the Budget I made a strong plea to the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) to relieve local government bodies of the burden of payroll tax on the grounds that they, like independent high schools, do not operate for a profit. It will be remembered that the Payroll Tax Assessment Act was amended in 1966 giving exemption to such schools. I said at the time, and I have said since, that municipal and shire councils should also be exempted because they do not operate for a profit. I wish to point out that in the Bankstown municipal area 151% of the land is owned by the Commonwealth or State governments. Because it is government owned it is exempted from local government rates. If the Municipality of Bankstown would collect rates from such properties it would increase its revenue from the State by $160,000 a year and by $286,000 a year from the Commonwealth. So it can be seen that whilst local government bodies pay so much to the Commonwealth in the form of payroll tax they do not collect anything from the Commonwealth or State governments by way of rates. For instance, the Bankstown Municipal Council exempts the Commonwealth from $286,000 worth of rates, yet the Commonwealth exacts $60,000 in payroll tax from that body. 1 say that this is positively immoral. Exemptions could help all these councils.
There are three important councils within my electorate. They are Bankstown, Canterbury and Hurstville. I shall illustrate in figures the burden imposed by the Commonwealth and State governments on these bodies. The Canterbury Municipal Council collected $286,000 for the Department of Main Roads and yet in the same year the Department of Main Roads spent only $41,000 in that municipality. The municipality also paid $43,000 for the maintenance of the fire brigade, $156,000 for street lighting, $63,000 to the State Planning Authority and $38,000 in payroll tax, making a total collected by the Council for these bodies of $586,000. The total amount paid out by this council was $2,782,000 or about one-quarter of the amount of their total rate collection. Then we have the Municipality of Hurstville within my electorate. For main roads it paid $175,000, and it had hardly anything spent on main roads. The amount spent for the fire brigade was $25,000 and street lighting $106,000. The amount paid to the State Planning Authority was $39,000 and payroll tax amounted to $16,000, making a total for the Council of $356,000 out of a total rate of $1,428,000. The Council has to find $356,000 for these bodies.
I now turn to a communication I received from the Bankstown Municipal Council on these matters. It is very perturbed about them and the letter states:
It has long been the feeling of this Council that local government authorities should not be tax collecting agencies for the various statutory bodies of this State and that the use of local councils to raise revenue for these purposes is simply a method used by the State Government to avoid its own responsibilities as a revenue raising authority. In the’ case of this Council we are called upon this year to raise revenue of the order of $582,203 which represents 13.2% of the total revenue raised by rates, and to disburse this sum to the various authorities. In fact we are held responsible by the ratepayer for this huge sum even though we have no say whatsoever in how the money is spent.
I venture to suggest that not $100,000 would be spent in Bankstown on main roads in any year. If the Council could keep this money and spend it on roads we would probably have the best roads in the State with the best kerbing and guttering. The letter continues:
Of these contributions by far the heaviest is that which we make to .the Department of Main Roads. During this financial, year we must provide the sum of S43S,000 to meet the levy by this Department which represents almost 10% of our rale levy. This is an iniquitous impost and I feel that as a Council we must continue to use every available method of approach to the Government until such time as this situation is rectified. In my opinion we should again approach the Minister and make the following points: -
The Commonwealth Aid Roads Grant of $385 million spread over five (5) years will alleviate the burden from the State Government’s point of view and a large percentage of this relief should be passed on to local government.
The Government must realise that apart from this massive contribution local authorities must also pay half cost of secondary roads as well as a percentage of drainage, kerb and gutter and footpath contributions on all main roads.
Valuations on land are continually increasing with a resultant greater percentage allocation to the Mains Roads Department.
Council receives no financial benefit from the vastly increased revenue contributed by the /« motorist despite the fact that the increase ia motor traffic and consequent necessary roadworks places the greatest single strain on local government finance. In fact the ratepayer is continuing to subsidise the motorist.
I strongly support Bankstown Council and other councils in their efforts to obtain exemption from the payment of payroll tax on the grounds I have mentioned.
I would like now to say something about the national debt. The figures I will cite illustrate how severely local government and semi-government bodies are hit by the present unsatisfactory method of financing these bodies. The figures that I have are the latest available. In 1953 the Commonwealth’s share of the national debt was $3,892m. In 1963 it was $3,121m, representing a decrease of 19% over the 10-year period or almost 2% per annum. Now let us see what has happened in the State sphere. The national debt of the States in 1953 stood at $3,288m. In 1963 it amounted to $6,3 14m, representing an increase of 90% over the 10-year period or 9% a year. Now let us turn to the picture in local government. Here in 1953 the national debt stood at $286,000. In 1963 it was $690,000, representing an increase of about 140% over the 10-year period or about 14% a year. The national debt of semi-government bodies in 1953 was $684,000. In 1963 it amounted to $1,949,000, representing an increase of about 186% over the 10-year period or about 18% per annum.
This method of financing these bodies is absolutely wrong. They should be financed in the way in which the Commonwealth is financing the Snowy Mountains scheme, namely out of revenue or by means of national credit. It is absurd that in order to give the people the most important amenity they can have the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board has to go cap in hand to money lenders for finance. The Board has to pay between 51% and 6% on money borrowed. More than 50% of the amount collected in rates each year by the Board goes towards the payment of interest on loans. Is it not absurd that we should have such a financial arrangement? Eventually the situation will explode. Watch out when this happens. I may not be worried, because I will not be in the Parliament after the elections. It is crazy that the bodies providing a national service should have to go cap in hand to money lenders. I close on that note because I am horrified by the present situation.
– I rise to support the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1969-70 and in so doing I commend the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) on what he so aptly described as the best Budget he has seen during the past 20 years. Honourable members opposite have described the Budget as both inflationary, as the honourable member for Banks (Mr Costa) did, and deflationary, as some of his colleagues did. This is typical of their confusion. There has been a dramatic reduction in the national deficit. The Government has made an outstanding contribution to national welfare. Despite all this we maintain our defence effort, although reduced expenditure by 5% to $1,1 04m this year because some parts of our major equipment expenditure have been completed and others have been projected into the future. The overall effort is unimpaired.
I have previously urged the Government to look to northern security so I welcome the addition to the naval building programme of a fast combat support ship and the introduction of preliminary design study for light destroyers, because anybody with experience in our northern waters must know that either we patrol with ships capable of remaining at sea for weeks on end, with first class crew quarters, or we patrol as we do now - no slur on my friends in ‘Attack’, ‘Advance’ and ‘Assail’ - with ships that make these lengthy patrols a near nightmare in summer. Let us hope that this fast combat support ship can fit into this picture somewhere or that the role will bc taken by the new light destroyer.
Opposition criticism is aimed falsely at the Government because of its reduction in defence expenditure. Honourable members opposite are the great advocates of the policy of Fortress Australia. The honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) has a Defend Australia on the coastline’ theory. He lives in Melbourne, 2,000 miles south of Darwin. All these arguments are based on false grounds. I urge the Government to push on with the forward planning of a type of vessel which, in co-operation with the Royal Australian Air Force, can suitably patrol our northern coastline, waters and fishing grounds.
Let me turn now to social welfare. As promised by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) at the beginning of his term of office and pursued in last year’s Budget, the Government has continued a policy of helping the aged, the sick and those in need.
This year, it is noted, the Government has had the assistance of the Welfare Committee of the Cabinet. This addition of a special panel to advise on the needs of the less fortunate has helped to produce this Budget, which goes a long way towards meeting many of the problems of hardship in our community. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) should not think for a moment that I have forgotten my northern pensioners who are battling to make ends meet with the meagre increase of 51 in the base rate. Social services this year are running at a record level of $999m. The Opposition’s continual cry for the abolition of the means test has been squarely met with the very sound introduction of a partial easing on a sliding scale. This enables single pensioners whose means apart from the pension exceed $10 a week to continue to receive some pension, with a total allowable income including pension of up to $40 per week. In the case of a married couple a total income of up to $70 has to be reached before the pension cuts out completely. This is irrespective of the ownership of a house, furniture and a motor car, all of which are excluded from the eligibility test.
This is a very substantial gain for pensioners. I note that an additional 250,000 persons will either receive pensions for the first time or will receive increased pensions this year. The increase in the pension for the totally and permanently incapacitated person is very welcome, if somewhat overdue. Free health insurance benefits for families with low incomes should be a great boon while the non-repayable grants to the States, to cost $25m over 5 years, for housing of single age and service pensioners is also very welcome and fills a large gap. It should be a great help to many, many old people all over Australia. I hope that similar assistance will be avail able in the Northern Territory where there is a great need for this sort of accommodation, especially in Darwin, where the rents of almost any kinds of dwellings are very high.
Before moving on from social services I again urge the Government to take a long and understanding look at the position of pensioners in the north. The $1 increase in the base rate pension for single age and invalid pensioners is not realistic in view of the rise in the cost of living, especially in the north where $1 goes only about one-third of the distance that it goes in the south. General living expenses have been forced up in the Northern Territory by the irresponsible actions of wharf labourers. To some extent it is not their fault. They are easily led. Many of them are migrants who do not fully understand the bully boy tactics of the Communist and fellow traveller union bosses. They have no secret ballots; they cannot decide for themselves. Much of the necessaries of life arrive in Darwin by road transport because of this action, as I have mentioned before. It is 2,000 miles from Brisbane and not much less distant from Adelaide. Where does the $1 go? It is snapped up in additional transport charges before it ever reaches the mouths of the northern needy.
There is to be a substantial increase in national health services, the machinery of which is yet to be announced. We gather that the Minister will make improvements to the health scheme which, are relevant to today’s situation. These we eagerly await. I see from the Budget that demountable accommodation for patients and staff is to be provided for the Alice Springs hospital at a cost of $360,000. This is not before it is needed. I hope that it will bc in operation soon. The Superintendent and staff have been overworked in an overcrowded hospital for far too long. I urge the Government to press on with plans that are in hand for a new hospital at Alice Springs and to take particular note of some of the local opinions regarding the layout of this hospital. The whole health position in the Territory calls for review; for the rapidly expanding populations in the main centres are causing impossible strains. There is an acute shortage of dentists, doctors and nurses in these outback areas which must be met. This is where Australia is developing fastest We have all been saying: Develop the north. Our future lies there. Let us see to it that the basics of health requirements in these areas are attended to.
In the matter of education and science we see that there is to be an increase of 38% over last year’s expenditure, with payments to the States specifically for education up 53% to $165m. In the programme of development of colleges of advanced education comes the proposed Darwin tertiary education centre, the community college. It is a completely new concept in tertiary education for the Northern Territory. The planning committee is being formed at this moment, and despite extensive Labor Party knocking this is a major breakthrough and a great step forward in the Northern Territory education field. Independent schools in the Territory are to receive similar payments to those offered to their southern counterparts, while building at Territory schools is keeping pace with the expansion. Let me refer to just a few of these projects taken from the works programme. At Darwin the erection of the Nightcliff Secondary School is to cost over $lm. Also at Darwin, the erection of the Alawa Primary School is to cost $445,000. These are taken at random from a list of nine schools. Provision is made for the erection of a craft block at the Katherine Higher Primary School at a cost of $209,000. An amount of $100,000 was expended last year on additional classrooms, a covered play area and sewerage at the same school.
This is the sort of progress that is being made in regard to education in the Territory. I have always insisted that the Government keep pace with the fast developing Territory in provisions relating to land, housing, health and education. The impressive list in the works programme shows that the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Government are certainly making great efforts to do this. With the erection of infants schools, primary schools, secondary schools and additional classrooms, craft blocks, etc., in Darwin, Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Katherine, which cost $1.8m to June of this year, and with proposed new works on three pre-schools, an infant block, two primary schools and various additional wings and classrooms in Darwin, Katherine, Tennant Creek, Alice Springs, Berrimah, Nhulunbuy and Groote Island, at a total cost of $2.5m, considerable progress is being made. It gives some idea of the Government’s spending and forethought with regard to education in the north.
Tor those who will immediately try to work up a case to show that nothing is being done for our Aboriginal population, may I point out that the educational programme provides $2.4m for classrooms, housing and ancillary services at nineteen missions and settlements. Included in this is provision of $610,000 for Kormilda College, Darwin, which is the first transitional school in the Northern Territory and is run by a dedicated team of men under the Department of Welfare education head, Jim Gallagher. I visited all but one of these nineteen missions and settlements during the recess. They stretch from Milingimbi in the north to Areyonga in the south and include the establishments at Snake Bay and Hooker Creek. All of these are to get schools and ancillary services costing amounts to the tune of $174,000, $157,00 and $402,000 in some instances. This is real spending, and this is on Aboriginal education, mark you. Many of these schools already have buildings which are worth many thousands of dollars. The schools are not getting new buildings; they are getting improvements. But with all this, I must admit that the Roper River school certainly warrants the spending of $174,000 on it. It is a very old building and the floor has to be walked on with great care.
While I am on the matter of Aboriginal affairs, I point out that this Government instituted the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account to meet expenditure in the fields of health, education and housing. There is a further $7.2m to be paid into this account during the coming year. The Aboriginal Enterprises (Assistance) Act 1968 provided $4.7m for Aboriginal enterprises during the past year. This Government has provided 82.4m for Aboriginal welfare, settlement and mission schools this year. We have heard a lot of the Australian Labor Party’s new charter for the political and civil rights for the nation’s 200,000 under-privileged Aboriginals. Unfortunately, there are not many members of the Opposition present to see this glorious photograph of their new smooth leader. He referred to a new charter. Did he mention it in his speech on the Budget? No, he did not. He said nothing whatsoever about Aboriginals. Yet here he was referring to a new charter.
– Why do you hate the Aboriginals - because they are black?
– The Leader of the Opposition in his Budget speech did not mention these people. He must dislike them because they are black. Why did he not mention them? It was because he is as shallow and insincere as this charter, most of which is part of every day life in the Territory, anyhow. I say to Aboriginals in the Territory: Stick to this Government for it has proved by the production of positive education plans and building programmes, as well as Aboriginal enterprise assistance, that it is doing something positive for the people.
The shortage of land and housing has formed one of the major brakes on development in the north in the past. Ever since the rapid expansion in the Northern Territory began, say, during the last 8 years, there has been a drastic shortage of land for domestic and agricultural purposes - in an electorate of 520,280 square miles. In this Budget a tremendous effort has been made by the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) to make up the leeway. The construction of, and the reticulation of water from, the Darwin River dam at a cost of $9m will support future Darwin development. The . completion of stage 3 and the commencement of stage 4 pf the Darwin power house at a cost of $7.2m heavily underlines the Government’s awareness of this rapid expansion, and represents positive planning for the future.
Also in the Appropriation Bill there is provision for over 200 houses and flats and sub-division development to provide 1,750 residential blocks in the next 3 years in Darwin alone.
– The Territory is going ahead under the new member.
– Yes, this tremendous surge has occurred in the last 3 years. Nearly 100 residential, business and industrial lots are to become available in
Katherine; while in Tennant Creek the Peko Road sub-division will be continued to provide a further fifty lots in that town where the water supply is to be augmented at a cost of S3 75,000. The Northern Territory Housing Commission advance this year will be increased to $5m - an increase of SI. 3m. These figures are impressive. But the population expansion in the Northern Territory will continue to maintain a high rate and probably will lead the building and land development programmes. The Government must keep in front of it by continually opening up more land for these purposes. The intermediate centres of population - Adelaide River, Daly River, Pine Creek, Mataranka, Larrimah, Daly Waters and Elliott - must now be looked at with a real interest regarding the provision of electricity, water, land blocks and so on.
I turn now to surface communication. The North Australian Railway has been rejuvenated from Pine Creek to Darwin. There are many miles of new tracks. Many new ore cars and quite a few new locomotives are in operation. The terminal and workshop area in Darwin has been set up with much modern equipment. Triple headed ore trains run from Frances Creek to unload iron ore in a crowded little corner of the port of Darwin. The port of Darwin is crying out to be opened up, and the rest of the Territory is crying to see it operated, remembering my earlier remarks, in a reasonable and honest day’s work for a day’s pay manner. That refers, of course, to the labour - or lack of it - on the Darwin wharf. The 120 miles of railway track between Katherine and Larrimah must not be lost. The Territory probably will need that line shortly for more than taking cattle to the Katherine and Darwin meatworks. It is a good track. It is said to be the best on the line. It must not be allowed to fall into disrepair, even if the Commonwealth Railways considers it more economic to terminate the general mixed freight trains at Katherine.
The Alice Springs to Port Augusta railway is still, as it has been for many years, relying on long dry seasons to allow it to remain serviceable. The upgrading or relocation of this railway is an absolute necessity. I note that some new rolling stock is to be purchased for this line. I hope that with that the container cargo service from
Adelaide to Alice Springs will now fulfil the 4-day delivery claim made for it by the Commonwealth Railways. I ask the Minister to keep in mind the points made to him while he was in Alice Springs earlier in the year, concerning the cargo handling facilities at that terminal.
Continuing on the subject of roads, I see that much work has been done on the Stuart Highway. I drove up it and back down it during the vacation. With the exception of a few stretches - one at McGrath’s Flat about 35 miles north of Alice Springs and another between Katherine and Pine Creek - the road is in very good condition. But this vital link must be continually upgraded. The road must be made to carry heavy loads rather than the loads being cut down to fit a lightly constructed road. If that is not done the freight costs will rise, the local transport operators probably will go out of business and freight will cost even more than it does now.
The Alice Springs to Port Augusta road is still in its motor-hazardous state, although we must acknowledge the excellent work being done on the river crossings and approaches to the rivers - the Hugh, the Palmer and the Finke - on the Territory side of the South Australian border. In fact, there is a noticeable difference between the Territory portion of the road, which represents some 240 miles of this 700-mile road, and the South Australian portion. I urge the South Australian Government to upgrade its two-thirds of this road. I commend the Minister and the Government on the upgrading of the Jay Creek to Hermannsburg road and also the upgrading to gravel standard of 50 miles of the pastoral road from Ammaroo to Argadargada.
Earlier in the year the people on Lake Nash station on the Queensland border had to employ six-wheel drive prime movers to shift some of the 5,000 head of cattle they were moving away from their droughtstricken pastures to the Alice Springs area. During this time no-one in a private car could use the road owing to the extreme depth of the bull dust on it. I used to live at the end of this 260 mile stretch of road. I have walked cattle over it, transported cattle over it, and transported over it stores, my family and all the requirements for making a station, so I can appreciate the feelings of owners on hearing of this urgent upgrading programme.
– The honourable member is a man who is close to the people.
– Thank you. I am a man close to the people. Before concluding this part of my speech about roads in that area, I must say that it was good to see that the sealing of the Daly Waters-Cape Crawford section of the Borroloola road was completed almost on schedule, but not so the Top Springs to Wave Hill beef road. I gather that the contractor has run into trouble and this most, important cattle carrying road has improved very little, if at all, since I was last on it about 12 months ago. It carries cattle from Inverway, Birrindudu, Limbunya, Wave Hill, Camfield and Montejinnie stations to Katherine and Darwin meatworks. These stations run a lot of cattle and provide a very considerable part of the yearly turn-off from the Victoria River district. I urge the Government to compare critically the method of letting the contracts on this road with the Cape Crawford road on the other side of the bitumen - that is what we call the Stuart Highway. It must be pushed along quickly or work will be interrupted because of the wet season.
This Budget provides for up-grading of the Darwin air terminal. This work has been long overdue and is very welcome. The light aircraft hangar situation is still chaotic. I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) to try to sort out this problem as these aircraft play a large part in Northern Territory development. While I am on my feet I also make a plea for him to look at the commercial airline flights which call at Tennant Creek. The services seem somewhat lopsided and most aircraft arrive over the weekend. I also suggest the use of the Tindal airstrip for commercial jet aeroplanes.
The coming implementation of the drought bonds scheme will be welcomed by pastoralists all over the country but especially in the Northern Territory and now on the Barkly Tableland and along the Queensland border, where the drought is still raging, as it is further into Queensland.
Relief from estate duty in certain cases is a great breakthrough in principle. Relief from probate duty for primary producers should help many thousands of primary producers not only in the Northern Territory but all over Australia.
The increase in the superphosphate bounty from $8 to $12 a ton is further proof of the Government’s interest in the primary producer. It should increase the use of superphosphate and I hope that it will eventually assist the establishment of a local superphosphate industry. The allowance of the cost of structural improvements, such as dams and bores, and fodder storage as a tax deduction in the first year instead of over 5 years is another great concession for pastoralists which has been worked out by this Government and put up by the Country Party. This Budget shows that the Government has in the past 3 years realised that in the Northern Territory there is a vast area for sound development and that it is trying to catch up with the lack of interest which was displayed before the time when a Government supporter represented the Northern Territory. I wholeheartedly reject the amendment.
– I thought the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) would have exhausted his time. I was just reading an interesting book that was published quite recently. The name of it is ‘Church and Colonialism’ and it was written by a rather forthright Roman Catholic Archbishop whose diocese is in Northern Brazil. I had just got to a part of the book which I think could be related to situations that arise from time to time in this Parliament. I refer particularly to untrue and wicked accusations made by honourable members on the Government side against honourable members on this side of the House, particularly the honourable members for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns), Reid (Mr Uren) and Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). The name of this Roman Catholic Archbishop is Don Helder Camara. It is worth quoting half a dozen lines from this book. The author was writing about the poverty and illiteracy in Brazil, particularly in northern Brazil in the Recife area. He said:
Whoever decides to awaken the masses to the absurd, sub-human level of their existence; whoever rises up and demands human and social advancement, which implies a reform of structures, let him prepare himself for slander campaigns, let him expect with certainty to be considered and opposed as a subversive and a communist.
How true that is, Mr Deputy Speaker. If that quotation indicates the trend of the book then I recommend it to honourable members sitting on the Government side. They should read it before making accusations against honourable members on this side of the House who suggest social reforms.
I rise to speak in support of the amendment moved last night by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in the debate on the Budget. The Budget might be correctly termed a ‘dudder’s’ Budget. Every honourable member should know what a .A., AA -., is. He is a false pretender, a confidence man who tries to deceive the Australian people by selling them something spurious. That is my definition of this Budget. It pretends to overcome the plight of the poor but does nothing to discomfort the rich and over-privileged, as was pointed out last night by the Leader of the Opposition when he said that company taxation remains almost constant as a percentage of the taxation revenue. It has risen from 16.2% to 16.8% - a whole .6% in a time of record dividends. But collections from wage earners and employees rose from 19% to 28%. In the same period there has been virtually a 50% increase.
The Leader of the Opposition went on to cut holes in the Budget by pointing out that 15 years ago the middle class, 1 million taxpayers - half of the taxpayers in Australia - contributed 33% of income tax revenue but in 1967 those same people paid 40% of the taxation revenue collected by this Liberal-Country Party Government. In itself that shows that the Government is never sincere about taxing the high income groups in Australia. During that period income tax paid by the top 5% of wage and salary earners in Australia represented no more than 8% of the total. One can see that under Liberalism there is a steady trend towards the state of affairs and way of life that exists in Latin America.
The Budget makes no provision for retired mine pensioners. Miners have to retire from the mining industry at 60 years of age. They receive no medical benefits, local council rate concessions, transport concessions or water rate concessions. But when coal was important to the nation these people were promised the world. They were told that they would never want and they would be looked after forever and a day. However, because the commodity they produce is not worth so much today, due to the lack of demand, they are forgotten entirely. I urge the Government in future to show more compassion and give justice to the retired mine workers. Taxation concessions for fares paid by workers to get to their place of employment have been overlooked completely. Obviously the Government realises that there are insufficient votes in this type of legislation, irrespective of the injustice of it. The Government’s education proposals in this Budget are obviously causing some concern to back benchers of the Government Parties, particularly those Government members holding borderline seats. According to independent writers, whose journals can easily be obtained in the Library, there is great uneasiness among the Liberal! Party back benchers, and they could well be disturbed. One of the most nervous is the honourable member for Barton (Mr Arthur). He smiles like a boy in the graveyard at 12 o’clock at night trying to give himself confidence. Since the Budget was delivered I have frequently seen him in and out of the little place along here - more frequently than ever before. I think someone has given him a dose of preserved figs. After reading some of the journals in the Library I can well understand how nervous he has become. The Liberal back benchers are supposed to be greatly concerned over the Commonwealth Government’s State aid proposals. One might describe them as twisting the lion’s tail too much, but he will if he has not already done so, snap back. He is snapping back already at some of the members of the Liberal Party. The proposal of the Opposition to aid private schools is to aid those private schools in need and to make Commonwealth emergency grants for education, of which onequarter will be given to the private schools and three-quarters to the public schools. This is more practical, humane and in keeping with common sense and Christian principles. This is the thing that is worrying the Liberal back benchers, in particular the honourable member for Barton. When the honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) realises the backlash that is coming he will be considerably worried too and an addition will have to be made to the little place outside. The Liberal Party proposes to subsidise all private schools, irrespective of their wealth.
Whether it is the intention of the Government to do this for the purpose of inducing Prince Charles to come back here for advanced education at Timbertop, which will be substantially subsidised, I do not know. There is no doubt that His Royal Highness would make provision for his sons to come back here to be’ educated due to the fact- that the Government is prepared to subsidise Riverview, Shore, Timbertop, Christian Brothers at Waverley, King’s School at Parramatta, Cranbrook, Geelong Grammar, St Josephs,- St Ignatius, Newington and all the wealthy private schools in the nation. The Labor Party will subsidise the poor private schools, which is in keeping with Christian teachings. If I recall correctly, when I ‘went to Sunday school 1 was taught that a true Christian is someone who takes from the rich and gives to the poor, and that he who gives to the poor gives to the Lord. Well you know that Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lucock) as a clergyman and preacher yourself.
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Hunter that there is a good book that we follow in this House and that he might give some consideration to it as well.
– You see, I do show a flashback on my Christian training. Geelong Grammar, one of the wealthy Victorian private schools, has already received $100,000 in State aid for its science block and other additions.
– That is where I was educated.
– I understand the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith attended there. I do not know what as - whether he was a pupil or an employee.
– I was a teacher.
– He was a teacher. Geelong Grammar has already received $100,000 for a science block and other additions. Norlane is a public school situated within 2 miles of the Geelong Grammar School but it has not received any money. It has no science block. Under the Government’s present state aid proposals, Geelong Grammar will receive approximately $48,000. The honourable member for Barton must be very proud of that. I shall refer to him shortly. Norlane Public School will receive nothing.
– Because it does not qualify. The honourable member for Mallee should ascertain why it does not qualify. That might improve his majority in his electorate. Geelong Grammar, Timbertop, Kings School, St Josephs and St Ignatius - all of which are attended by children of the wealthy - will be forever grateful to the Liberal Party, aided by the Country Party, for having been so generous to them at the expense of the poor private schools which are inadequately catered for financially. Two of the Liberal Party’s principal architects of this form of legislation - arch Liberals - are none other than Packer’s pea for Parkes, back-bencher, and the honourable member for Barton. I think that a great slur was cast on those people who sponsored the rally to hear the Government’s policy on aid to public schools. I believe that the same degree of dignity should have been shown to those who sponsor state aid and to those who support the public schools. In Sydney recently parents of school children have been growling. The Government Parties fielded, if I may use the phrase, none other than the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to speak at the rally organised by the pro-state aid people. When the supporters of the public school campaign wanted to put their side for financial aid for public schools, the Government Parties fielded none other than the honourable member for Parkes, who is not even a retired or a retarded Minister.
-Order! I suggest that the House come to order. I remind the House that the honourable member for Hunter is capable of making his speech without assistance from either side. I suggest that the honourable member for Hunter proceed with his speech and, as I suggested previously, observe the Standing Orders of this House.
– I certainly will observe the Standing Orders. Mr Deputy Speaker, you have lifted my egotism to an all time high. I think a slur was cast on the promoters of the rally in favour of the public school system by not having a person of higher political rank than the honourable member for Parkes attend their function to explain the Government’s state aid policy. The other chief Liberal Party architect of state aid is none other than my esteemed, noble and friendly colleague, the honourable member for Barton. If I were making this speech in a couple of months time I would be referring to him as the former member for Barton.
– What is the view of the honourable member for Hindmarsh on this?
– His view is a pretty forthright one, but he is amenable to discipline. He, like the honourable member for Moreton, abides by the majority decision of his Party. The Government’s general policy on state aid is vote catching. The honourable member for Barton was most careful not to advocate his beliefs in this field to his electors prior to the last election. He was never heard to speak on state aid in the electorate of Barton prior to the elections. One night here he slipped and he has regretted it ever since. He regrets it more so today than than ever before. I want to quote what the honourable member for Barton said to the Parliament. He has never repeated thishe may be courageous to repeat it after I sit down because he is the next speaker. He might throw caution to the wind. On 5th April 1967 the honourable member is reported as saying at page 954 of Hansard: I take great pride in supporting the Bill.
The honourable member was speaking in the debate on the States Grants (Science Laboratories) Bill. He continued:
Over the years I have been a member of an education committee in New South Wales -
I think that was the Liberal Party’s education committee - which has been thinking about the problem of education. It had been thinking about it long before science aid to secondary schools became part of the Government’s policy in 1963. Together with other members of that committee I was very gratified but not surprised when in November 1963 Sir Robert Menzies announced his Government’s policy on education. This was something for which
I and my committee colleagues had been fighting for years. We recognised it as one of the most forward looking policies that had been presented for a long time.
I challenge the honourable member for Barton to stand up on a platform in his electorate when he opens his campaign in a few weeks time and say this to the electors, now that the backlash is coming around. I challenge the honourable member to say in the House tonight whether he still holds the same strong views. He realised when he made this statement that he had said something that could recoil against him. It has recoiled. I told the honourable member what would happen when he made the statement that night. The honourable member has pretty decent people in his electorate. My advice to faim is to go and tell them the truth. The honourable member should tell his constituents that he never intended the Liberal Party’s policy to go as far as it did. They may stick by the honourable member; he may come back. I think that there is a lot of good in the honourable member.
– What point are you trying to make?
– I am trying to make a dishonest Liberal more honest. I am trying to make the honourable member a better father and citizen; a better member to represent the people of Barton. If I can achieve that with one Liberal a year I will say that my time in this Parliament has been worthwhile.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the Government is in a quandary about the forthcoming elections. You, Sir, are all right at present. We have no opponent for you around the Newcastle area. The Government finds itself in this position because it can no longer trot out the old Commo horse. He is tired. He has run a few good faithful races. He is like old Shadow King. He never let his supporters down. If he did not win he always ran well into a place. The Government is disunited and split on foreign policy. No longer can it tell the Australian people that the yellow hordes from the north are about to land. Government supporters can no longer say, as the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) one night interjected in my speech, that we wanted to stop them at Lake Burley Griffin. I wonder whether the honourable member will try to put this over the electors of Moreton again?
The phrase ‘the yellow hordes from the north’ is worn out. The Government cannot use it again because the United States of America is lifting travelling restrictions on its nationals to go to China. Also, the United States is going to allow a few goods to be imported from China. So the yellow hordes cannot be a threat to us any more. Otherwise, the United States - our great and powerful ally - would not take this action.
– And Mr Freeth is hugging the Russian bear.
– As the honourable member for Grayndler said, the Minister for External Affairs is hugging the Russian bear.
– What does the Australian Democratic Labor Party say about it?
– It will not be happy. It does not know where it will place its second preferences. It believes that there is greater sincerity in the political ideals of the Labor Party than in those of the Government.
Lee Kuan Yew has said that if his country drifts into jeopardy from an aggressor he will call on the Russians for protection. Lee Kuan Yew, a Prime Minister of a British Commonwealth, has made this statement and the Minister for External Affairs said the other night that Russia offers no threat to Australia. America is drifting towards recognising China in the United Nations. No doubt, we will follow suit. The United States will get the first bite at the trade cherry and we will get the second bite. The United States will get rid of her wheat there and we will still be pandering to China trying to establish a market with her for our wheat. I suggest that the members of the Country Party should keep in mind the fact that by being friendly with China - without sinking our democratic principles - we could possibly establish with her an outlet for Australia’s surplus goods in the not too distant future. Indeed, because of the attitude adopted by the United States, I believe that it will not be very far in the future when we do establish that outlet.
It is probable also that the USSR Navy will use the British naval dock at Singapore, thereby helping to overcome some of the economic problems confronting the Singapore Government. The dockyard could be used by the Russian navy to have minor repairs carried out to their vessels. I should not imagine that Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew would reject such a proposal because it would help to lift up the economy which has been declining as a result of the withdrawal of the British from Singapore. In my opinion, that would be a practicable and realistic move. As honourable members know, the standard of living in Singapore is much below ours. In my opinion, the coming of the Russian naval ships into the Indian Ocean cannot be looked upon by Lee Kuan Yew as being for other than friendly reasons.
In view of all these circumstances, the Government has had to trot out another gimmick for the election. It is a weak one. It was used several times by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) last night. He called it the taper. The taper is not going to do much for the basic pensioner. The tapered means test will do but little to lift the standard of those who are now living in poverty. They will still suffer impoverishment. The tapered means test might prevent -them from having to live a life of misery.
The Budget makes no provision for increasing the taxes to be paid by Hamersely Iron Ltd, Conzinc Riotinto of Australia, General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd and other powerful organisations in Australia which are controlled by overseas interests. They are to be allowed to continue on their merry way making millions of dollars of profit. When I read books about what foreign investment has done to Latin America, I begin to fear that the same thing may occur here if the electors of Australia are so foolish as to retain in power a government that gives such latitude to powerful foreign international monopolies who, as has been said, will leave Australia a poor country with holes in the ground. The double taxation agreements should be reviewed. Honourable members on this side of the House have been advocating this for some time. These agreements were entered into by the Liberal Government to attract foreign investment for Australia but the country should not be allowed to become saturated with foreign investment because of them.
As I have said, the handouts to be given to pensioners and civilian widows will do no more than prevent the poor from degenerating into a state of misery. I note from statements released by the Prime Minister’s Department today that the Minister for External Affairs proposes to give three naval vessels to the Philippines Government. That is very generous of us. We read in other journals that the Philippines Government is anything but an honourable government, but because the Philippines is a friendly nation which follows the capitalistic, monopolistic line, this Government proposes to promote it by giving it three naval vessels. The Philippines are threatening Sabah. It would be unfortunate if the Philippines were to use against Sabah any of the three vessels that we so generously donated. I think these things should be recorded in Hansard so that those who read it can make up their own minds whether our generosity is being overplayed. I feel sorry for the base rate pensioner and for the group between the ages of 70 and 80, which was referred to in a most effective contribution to the Budget debate by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) a short time ago. The Government proposes to make available an additional allowance of $5 a week to those pensioners who are 80 years of age or over. I think it would have been better if the age limit had been fixed at 70. I have received numerous letters about the pensions payable, but time does not permit me to read all of them to the House. A lady from Largs, which is in the electorate of the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall), wrote to me in the following terms:
May I put before you and your colleagues certain facts about a particular age group of pensioners. I refer to the 70 and 70-pIus group.
These aged people have taken the results of two world wars and the great Depression. The group not only comprises tradesmen, skilled and unskilled workers and/or their wives but many professional people.
They lost jobs, homes, savings, possessions and insurances’ during the Depression. Then when the demands of war came and work with it, wages were low and pegged and living costly. They had to scrape and struggle and sacrifice to educate and rear their children and some did manage to get another modest home but they were then too old to rebuild their circumstances. They were forced to retire having had no opportunity to save, to insure again or in the case of public servants to superannuate. They became base rate pensioners.
To say that the means test is penalising thrift is not altogether convincing. In many cases - most in fact - these later-coming pensioners had the opportunity to improve their position and benefited by higher wages, overtime, the improvements in working conditions-
I think I have read the main part of the letter. This lady went on to say: . . but the 70 to 80 age group had none of these. Their plight is pathetic.
I visited an 80 year old woman this week. She is alert, educated, intelligent, appreciates home, garden, books and music but she is obliged to make small objects for sale (and it is a burden) to keep her small home. Working at 80.
Any honourable member who has any sense of decency will admit that there must be thousands of cases like this. I have received many letters from educationalists on state aid for independent schools and anti-state aid. I would like to have read those letters to the Parliament but time does not permit me to do so. I condemn the Budget. It fails to meet the needs of, in particular, the pensioners, civilian widows and superannuants. If I may coin a phrase, it is a dudder’s Budget that is intended to deceive rather than to relieve. I wholeheartedly support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Firstly, I wish to thank the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) for quoting the statement that I made in approval of the establishment of science blocks in schools. I assure him that I still stand by the legislation that was passed and the statement that I made in 1967. If I were at all nervous about retaining my seat in the Parliament at the forthcoming election, I would have been greatly reassured by the knowledge that the honourable member for Hunter is being sent down from his electorate to campaign against me in the electorate of Barton. I think it will assure me of a greatly increased majority. This will be particularly so if, as I hope, he does a door-to-door canvass. I invite him to do so. The honourable member for Hunter referred to the meeting at the Sydney Town Hall in defence of government schools at which the honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) represented the Prime Minister. The honourable member for Hunter would have found that it did his heart a lot of good if he had been at this meeting and heard this huge audience boo and hiss the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) when he outlined his education proposals.
I rose to commend and support the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and the Government on the Budget brought down last week. I do so, not out of blind obedience to the party that I am honoured to represent in this House, but because it represents the recognition in practical terms of many of the principles in which I as a member believe and for which I have fought since I have been the member for Barton in this Parliament. I do not for one moment claim that the forward ideas enunciated by the Treasurer in the Budget are the result of my efforts, but I know that in the Liberal Party every back-bencher has his ideas listened to with respect and every back-bencher, working through the many Government committees, has an opportunity to make a contribution towards the formation of the Government’s policy and Budget proposals. As a member of ten of these committees I know how many of the ideas have emanated from them and have been included in this 1969 Budget. More than this, the Budget is the start of a programme sponsored by the Prime Minister and supported by his Cabinet and the whole of the Liberal Party to alleviate the lot of the poor, the aged, the sick and the helpless, and to make life more full for all Australians. This is the start of the programme which the Prime Minister has made one of his principal domestic aims, but it is a splendid start and one that introduces many quite historic measures. Nothing that the Leader of the Opposition says in somewhat petulant style about the Budget can hide the fact that this Budget has conferred benefits on more people than any other Budget in recent history. I can understand the disappointment felt by the Leader of the Opposition and his followers as well as by the rest of the Labor Party in this House, as for years they have been conning the people of Australia into believing that their party was the only one which cared for the less fortunate members of the Australian community. This point of view has not been believed, of course, in those States which have suffered for a long time under Labor governments because there they had a craw full of Labor promises and the breaking of promises and their phoney concern for the underprivileged.
And so today, for the first time in history, Australia does not have one Labor government. They have all been kicked out and replaced by Liberal governments. This is a truly historic situation and one that is likely to last for a long, long time. I think that is a fair gauge of support for the Australian Labor Party in this country. I think it is fair to say also that this state of affairs if confirmed by the latest gallup polls and is a fair barometer of what will happen throughout Australia in the coming Federal election and, I hope, in Barton. All this, of course, has a very direct reference to the criticisms of the Government and the proposals put forward by the Leader of the Opposition last night. It is not of much use for the Labor Party to make its series of lavish promises when most serious observers of the political scene acknowledge that it has not a ghost of a chance of becoming the government and having to put its proposals into practice. Most people realise that the Government will bring in the measures that have been included in the Budget and they are more prepared to accept, as part of the steady march of progress, the actualities of the Government’s deeds rather than the doubtful possibility of the Opposition ever having the chance to make its promises a reality.
It is amusing, in a wry sort of way, to sit here year after year and hear the Opposition predicting the downfall of the Government at each election. How do Labor supporters endeavour to bring about this downfall? They do so by a cynical attempt to buy the Australian voters’ allegiance. May I say, Mr Speaker, that for years they have underestimated the stability and the character of the Australian voter, and they underestimate the basic common sense of Australian people. If one wants to have a timely and typical example of this duplicity on behalf of the Australian Labor Party and its present leader, one has only to refer to his speech on the Budget last night. For months the Leader of the Opposition has been jetting around Australia declaring that the Labor Party, if it came to power, would eliminate the means test within 6 years. But when the Leader of the Opposition made his speech on the Budget last night, in the middle of flowery and quite involved phrases in criticism of the humanitarian aspects of the Government’s Budget, we find a very short, hasty reference to this means test promise and bis added promise to introduce a superannuation scheme for everybody. But what a different proposition he put forward last night. It was not a straight out promise to do these things but the quick statement:
A Labor government will appoint an expert committee to assess proposals for national superannuation and social security put forward recently by-
And he mentioned two academics. What a change from his previous promise that he would introduce these measures and do away with the means test within the life of two Parliaments. What has happened to bis promise to do these things? I do not know, but 1 do know that last night the Leader of the Opposition did not repeat the statement that his Party, in the unlikely event of it assuming power, would eliminate the means test and introduce a national superannuation fund. He merely said that it would appoint an expert committee to assess proposals for national superannuation and social security put forward by two academics.
I think it would be reasonable to assume that the Australian Labor Party would have fully investigated these schemes before its grandiose promises to institute them. But now we find that the Labor Party has to appoint a committee to assess their feasibility. 1 think, it would be reasonable to ask the Labor Party two questions on this aspect of its so called policy. First, how long would this committee take to make its inquiries? Some committees take years to do these things, and this committee is to be asked to make a detailed inquiry into arrangements under which contributory, income-related benefits are already provided in Britain, Canada, Scandinavia and every member of the European Common Market’. Having had a first-hand look at most of the schemes in those countries, I can assure the House that this committee will take a long time to investigate all these systems.
The second question which arises is an even more important one: What will happen if the committee has a look at all these schemes and finds that none of them is adaptable to Australian needs and conditions? Will the Australian Labor Party leader then say: ‘Bad luck - we have decided it is not practicable to eliminate the means test’? Will he then do as a former Labor government once did and reduce the age pension? These are interesting and quite disturbing possibilities. The alternative available to the Australian people is to accept the Liberal Government’s proposals which have already been thoroughly investigated and costed. They can take advantage of the most generous tapered means test which will bring into the pension range hundreds of thousands of worthy people who have been denied a pension in the past because of their thrift and providence. They can take note of the Treasurer’s statement that this is a start, and not a finish, to the further liberalisation of the means test.
The Government’s Budget proposals mean that a great number of people at present on pensions will be drawing up to $7.50 a week more than they are at present, and many married couples will draw even more than this. In fact, I think it is fair to say that thousands of people are going to be pleasantly surprised at the way they will benefit from this tapered means test. I am glad to see that over 100,000 worthy people, who are on superannuation or have saved a little capital, will be brought into the pension scheme because of this tapered means test.
– How many are there in your electorate?
– I think that there will be many. For years I have advised them that the Government Parties social services committee has been working towards this and that it would be brought in. But may I say modestly that I do not take all the praise to myself. I think I could be forgiven for repeating that people with minimum capital will be able to draw part pensions until they have an income of $40 a week if single and $70 a week if a married couple. This also allows ex-service pensioners to receive part social service pensions, so that a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner can now receive a total pension of $38 a week and an aged war widow can now receive a pension of $31.25 a week - an increase of $7.25 a week, including the domestic allowance.
I have waged a constant campaign in this House to have war pensions looked at as a compensation for a disability and not a pension to be looked at as income for the purpose of calculating a means test for supplementary pensions. This tapered means test will allow this worthy group of pensioners to receive some supplementary benefit. Unfortunately I do not have time to deal with every aspect of the Budget in this short speech but I do want to deal with another part of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition in which he shed crocodile tears about the way in which he says the States are being starved of funds by the present Liberal Federal Government. I would like to go on record as saying that I would be delighted to see New South Wales receive more money so that the Askin Government could do so many more of the things that it wishs to do to provide a fuller life to the splendid citizens of that State. But for the Leader of the Opposition to adopt this posture is sheer hypocrisy He knows that the philosophy of the Australian Labor Party is a centralist one. If he had his way, there would be no State governments and all power would be centralised in Canberra.
– He would starve them out of being.
– He might do that. As an ardent federalist myself, I regret this ersatz sympathy articulated by the Australian Labor Party on this matter. Far from providing more money for the States, the Australian Labor Party, if it came to power federally, would centralise power in Canberra and allow the States to wither away. I find it incredible that the Australian Labor Party is still painting a glowing picture of the glories of nationalised medicine when similar schemes in other countries have become great economic burdens on the community and have resulted in vastly inferior medical care for the aged. Also, it is incredible to me to hear Labor people talking about this socialised medical scheme as a free medical scheme. The Leader of the Opposition has told the country that this scheme would cost every person only an additional 1£% of taxable income. What is not always made clear is that this represents an average rise of 10% of the actual tax paid and an even greater percentage rise for people on small taxable incomes.
– Whose scheme is that?
– This is the scheme that the Australian Labor Party is postulating as a free medical scheme. The incredible part is that the smaller the tax paid by people the greater the percentage increase those people will have to pay. From a Party that is supposed to represent the working man, this is the most incredible part of this deceitful scheme. Of course, members of the Australian Labor Party are going around Australia making people think that they will be paying only li% extra in income tax, not H% extra on their taxable incomes. People need to take note of this fact. There is another point about it: The Australian Medical Association came out months ago against the ALP’s scheme. We must face the fact that without the co-operation of the medical profession a scheme such as this just would not work.
-What did Clyde Cameron say at the ALP Federal Conference about it?
– 1 do not know what he said at the Federal Conference about this scheme, but I have heard him say some pretty smart things about his Leader in this House. Here we have the two kingpins of the ALP’s new look policy shown to be mere shibboleths. The abolition of the means test has dropped from sight and the so-called ‘free medical scheme’ just will not work without the co-operation of the medical profession which hates the word nationalisation’ as much as I do.
The Opposition has made much of the Government’s apparent lack of interest in education. This is a surprising statement from a party which did absolutely nothing in the years that it was in power to give Federal Government assistance to any schools, independent or government. In typical style the Leader of the Opposition now accuses this Government of paying - and his words were - ‘not lc’ towards the Government schools throughout Australia. He conveniently ignores the fact that in this year the Government has set aside amounts of $12m for technical colleges, $13m for capital costs towards teacher training, $15m for science blocks and libraries plus the great contribution towards university education and the additional1 thousands of scholarships provided.
– That is more than $40m.
– Yes, but according to the Leader of the Opposition it does not amount to lc. Unfortunately, this is typical of the type of loose statements that we have become accustomed to from the Leader of the Opposition.
– Call them shallow and superficial.
– No, I never call anyone names. What the Australian Labor Party fails to realise is this: If the Commonwealth Government provides a State with $20m towards the capital costs of its government schools, this releases an equivalent amount from the funds that the State normally would spend on those things. So, this is a very direct contribution.
– It assists teacher training and teachers colleges.
– Yes. This is a very direct contribution towards government schools. I repeat that all these amounts release an equivalent amount of capital for the States to spend in the government schools. This is a very real contribution towards government schools and a refutation of the stand taken by the Leader of the Opposition. I think that all of us would like to see more money given to the States to.be spent on government schools. But I refute the charge that this Government has not done, and is not doing anything in this direction. In 1969-70 the grants made by this Government to universities and colleges of advanced education will be $9 6m, an increase of $19m on last year. Grants for science laboratories, technical training facilities, teacher and pre-school teacheri raining colleges and secondary school libraries - all grants towards government education - will in the aggregate be increased by $21. 5m, most of which will go to government schools. The Opposition has for a long time plugged away for an Australian schools commission. As usual its stated reasons are quite different from its real one, which is plainly and simply to gain control over every school, government and independent, in Australia - a total of over 10,000 schools. One can imagine the type of centralised control the Australian Labor Party under its present leader would exercise over education in Australia if this came about. This belief is given additional support by the studied vagueness of the
Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) whenever he has spoken about his schools commission. Mr Speaker, the time is late so I will not go on. I congratulate the Government and welcome the aid to be given to independent schools. I say this in the face of the many letters, some of them of a threatening nature, that I have received from people asking me to oppose this type of aid. I want to say to those people that while I am the member for Barton I will represent all the people in my electorate and endeavour to secure for all of them the best possible concessions and conditions whether they vote for me or not. People may not agree with what I believe and say, but at least they will always know where I stand and know that I will not depart from my principles because of threats of lack of support.
I also want to say that the provision of aid for independent schools does not subtract from the amounts given for government schools. It is quite a different matter. As I say, there are many other matters but the hour is late. Indeed, it is two minutes past midnight so I will conclude by saying that when the implications of this Budget are fully realised by the people of Australia they will be far more likely to accept the concrete, humane sensible proposals of the Government than to take a chance with the ambiguous, vague and often misleading promises made by the Leader of the Opposition. I reject the amendment put forward by the Opposition and heartily endorse the proposals brought down by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in this excellent Budget.
Debate (on motion by Mr Turnbull) adjourned.
Thursday, 21 August 1969
Motion (by Mr Fairhall) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I rise to pay tribute to a fine and very faithful servant of the Parliament and the Commonwealth who is today ending 25 years of service as an employee and later as an officer of the Parliamentary Library. I refer to Mrs Shirley Schreiber, better known to honourable members as Mrs Shirley Warde. Mrs Warde as she is best known to us, has remarried and has become the wife of one of, I think, the luckiest men in this country. I say this because her husband has taken to himself one of the most wonderful women I have ever met. Mrs Schreiber, as she now is, has been knownto me for something like 20 years. Not once during that long period has she displayed the faintest trace of discourtesy. No request was too much for her. Not once did she ever display the slightest sign of being inconvenienced, even when the most exacting demands were made at the most inconvenient time. Members of Parliament are busy men. Very often a thought may come to an honourable member only a short time before a speech has to be made. On innumerable occasions members of the Library staff are called upon to dig out a whole range of statistics or facts at very short notice.
Quite frequently a query occurs to a member only while the preceding speaker in the debate is delivering his address, or within an hour or two of the time that he is listed to speak. I can say that I have never found it beyond Mrs Schreiber’s capacity to get information for me accurately and promptly whenever I have needed it. The high standard maintained by the present Library staff is in no small measure due to the excellent standard of service set by Mrs Schreiber right from the commencement of her career as a cataloguer of the National Library on 15th February 1945.
For a few months in 1946 Mrs Schreiber served as an officer in charge of the Sydney library of the Commonwealth Office of Education. When she returned to Canberra later that year she was attached to the Legislative Reference Branch of the Parliamentary Library. It may not be known to all honourable members that Mrs Schreiber compiled the Commonwealth Parliamentary Handbook editions of 1953, 1957 and 1959. I invite honourable members to note the greatly improved standard of presentation of the handbooks in the years that they were prepared by Mrs Schreiber.
In 1961 Mrs Schreiber was promoted to senior librarian. Shortly afterwards the National Library was separated from the Parliamentary Library, and fortunately for parliamentarians, Mrs Schreiber elected to remain with the Parliamentary Library. In 1962 she was appointed by the Library Committee as Secretary of its sub-committee on the development of the Parliamentary Library and its reference service. The present highly efficient service given to members by the reference service of the Parliamentary Library is a tribute to the success of her great efforts.
In 1965 Mrs Schreiber visited many Asian countries on a study tour organised by the Australian Institute of International Affairs. It therefore came as no surprise to members of this Parliament that she was appointed as Senior Legislative Research Specialist in Foreign Affairs. Three years later she lead a group of fourteen members of the Australian Institute of International Affairs to Singapore, South Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan and Korea. Her vast knowledge of foreign affairs came from her studies overseas and from her reading of the textbooks that were so necessary for an understanding of the subject in which she specialised.
It seemed to me that there was no book I ever wanted that Mrs Schreiber had not read herself. I am telling the truth in saying that quite frequently she could tell me what it was I wanted to look up in a book and could go almost to the relevant page. I have never known any person to have such a wide knowledge of books and their contents and of authors as Shirley Schreiber has.
I first met Mrs Schreiber following my election to this Parliament in 1949. I quickly recognised in Mrs Shirley Warde, as she then was, a young woman of extraordinary intelligence and charm, a lady of impreccable character and integrity. She has always been the essence of ladylike dignity and never could be anything else. Every member of this Parliament has admired and respected her. We all have relied on her for information. The person who did not go to Mrs Shirley Warde for help was the poorer. Every honourable member who had the benefit of her assistance was a better member for that assistance, which was forthcoming immediately. I know that I speak for every member of the Parliament when I say that we are sorry to see such a tried and trusted officer leave the service of the Parliament. At the same time I know that our regret is mollified by the knowledge that in her marriage she has found the happiness that she so richly deserves. To Mrs Schreiber and her husband - I might say her distinguished husband - I wish good health and every possible happiness in the years ahead. She certainly deserves those things. I know that not one member of this Parliament would not join me in the sentiments I have expressed tonight about this very fine servant of the Parliament.
– As a member of the Library Committee I support the remarks of the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) and join him in wishing Mrs Warde and her husband health and happiness in the years to come. I understand that she is to leave us quite soon and make her home in Sydney. Mrs Warde has served this Parliament loyally and efficiently for 25 years. That is a large part of anybody’s lifetime. Indeed, she has served the Parliament for more years than most honourable members who sit in this chamber. I dare say that over the years at some time or another all of us have been greatly indebted to her for her readiness to help, her experience and her tremendous wealth of background knowledge, arising partly from her reading and partly, as the honourable member for Hindmarsh pointed out, from her travels overseas. Her studies ably equipped her to help members of this Parliament. She was always helpful; always cheerful. Nothing was ever too much trouble to her. Weall are greatly indebted to her for what she has done to help us as members of this Parliament. I am sure that every honourable member joins me in wishing Mrs Schreiber and her husband all the best for the future.
– I rise tonight to speak on an important matter. As a believer in civil liberties I am violently opposed to some of the methods adopted by this Government, which have led to the infliction of injustices on many members of the community. Tonight I protest violently to the Parliament about what I maintain was a gross miscarriage of justice on the part of the Attorney-General’s Department. A large industrial firm in
Sydney is responsible for the maintenance of fire extinguishers throughout many major buildings in Sydney and country areas. One of the firm’s employees has given faithful service to the company for 25 years. As a member of the Australian Imperial Force he served overseas against the Japanese. He was an executive officer of the New South Wales Plumbers Union. As such he was necessarily involved in industrial matters. He is a plumber by trade. In the course of his duties he has been allowed to enter many naval establishments, such as the Garden Island base and the submarine base at Chowder Bay, in order to service fire extinguishers. He has also been in many of the Army establishments in the State which belong to the Commonwealth Government. He was to go to the Attorney-General’s Department at Kirribilli to carry out the maintenance on some fire extinguishers. I do not know whether honourable members know the procedure that is adopted by the Government in these cases. The firm concerned has to submit to the Government the names of the employees who will go into the establishments. A security check is made and after they have been given a clearance by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation they are allowed to enter the establishments.
As I have said, this employee with 25 years service with the company and after having been in the establishments that I have mentioned, received notification through the company that he would not be permitted to enter the Kirribilli establishment of the Attorney-General’s Department. Of course he resented that, and I do not doubt that he was quite within his rights in protesting about it. But he could not protest through the firm because naturally it would not want to take up the protest. It would not get to first base with the Minister or the people responsible in ASIO who hold the security files. The firm would be ignored completely by the Government. So the man concerned came to me and I made strong protest to the Attorney-General about this fellow not being allowed into the establishment at Kirribilli to do maintenance on the fire extinguishers. What I do not like about the matter is that the letter I received from the Minister, after my strong protest, contained approximately five lines. After refer ring to the representations I had made on behalf of this Australian citizen the Minister said:
I have looked into the matter which you have raised and I am satisfied that the correct procedures were followed in the circumstances.
I do not know what the circumstances were. I outlined to the Minister all the facts that I knew about this gentleman. I put them in black and white. He said to me: These are the things that I have done, Mr Devine, over a period of 25 years. I have nothing to hide’. He was concerned about only one matter. He said to me: T did sign a petition sponsored by the Save Our Sons movement in which I protested against the Vietnam war’. I stated that fact in the letter that I sent to the Minister, having in mind that I would lay all the facts before him so that he could not come hack at me and say that I had not given him the full information.
I should like to know whether the records and dossiers of people in the community that are held by ASIO are made available to members of the staff or the bureaucrats who run the various departments so that they can peruse them. We do not know who those people are. Having regard to the amount of money that is being spent by ASIO I think many of us are aware that there are many people working in Commonwealth departments and in industry who are paid to spy on their fellow employees. That is the aspect which concerns me. What is this country coming to under the Fascist government which is running it? We are getting to the stage where we will be living in a dictatorship and the Government will be dictating to the people. I am concerned to know who has the right to look at these documents. Who makes the decision on whether the people concerned can go into certain establishments? Is the decision made by the bureaucrats within the Department or is it made by ASIO?
– By ASIO, of course.
– I could probably agree with the honourable member for Hindmarsh that the decisions come from ASIO. This case shows the kind of dossiers that are being kept on the ordinary citizen. This young fellow was prepared to go away and fight for his country when called upon to do so by the Government when the Japanese were knocking at our door. Anybody who is an ex-serviceman and saw anything of war realises that many of these people do not want to see their sons and daughters involved in wars because nobody wins them. They have a different outlook on life. This man signed a petition. I do not know where the petition was, whether it appeared in the Press or whether it went around the place where he worked. I do not know to whom the petition was submitted. It was probably to the Save Our Sons movement. It was forwarded as a protest. For all we know, it could have been submitted to this Parliament.
This means that somebody is perusing every petition that is signed by citizens of this community who are protesting against what this Government is doing. Somebody within the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation is perusing these petitions. As a result, a dossier is immediately prepared. The Security Intelligence Organisation has a file on signatories to petitions showing what they did or what they are doing. I feel that the Government is going a little too far and it is about time that it was pulled up. I am pretty sure that after the next general election when there is a change of government there will be some changes made. The Australian Labor Party is concerned about the way in which the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation is using Commonwealth money to the detriment of the Australian citizen. It is an important matter. It is important for a government and it is important for a parliament which believes in democracy. If we allow this to continue, finally we shall live in a dictatorship and people will be frightened even to blink. We do not want to see this happening.
I know that on many occasions dossiers have been used in the Parliament. I resented it. Every decent member of the Parliament resents it. We do not want it to continue. What I am opposed to especially is the arrogance shown by the Attorney-General in the letter he wrote to me in which he stated that in his opinion the correct procedure was adopted. I do not know whether he or one of his bureaucrats wrote it. It is not the sort of reply that I as a member of the Parliament expect from a responsible Minister. I do not think that any other member of the Parliament should accept such correspondence from a Minister especially of the calibre of the AttorneyGeneral. I utter a violent protest to the Parliament on this matter because I think there has been a miscarriage of justice as far as this individual citizen is concerned. A stigma has been placed on his character by this Government in the firm where he has given faithful service for 25 years.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Very briefly but nonetheless sincerely I should like to associate myself with the sentiments expressed by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) and the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury) with reference to Mrs Shirley Warde, who is now Mrs Schreiber. I have known this young lady ever since I entered the Parliament and I endorse sincerely the sentiments expressed and the compliments that have been paid to her. I know that she has been an outstanding servant of the Parliament and has rendered an invaluable contribution to the efforts of members to represent their constituencies, to express their views, and to do their work within the confines of this Parliament to the benefit no doubt of themselves but also of their electorates and the people. I think that you, Mr Speaker, have lost a very valuable servant of the Parliament. I thank her on this occasion publicly for the assistance that she has given. I congratulate her on her marriage and wish her well in the future.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.24 a.m. (Thursday)
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Warning - This medication may be dangerous when used in large amounts or for a long period’.
At its 68th Session in May 1969 the National Health and Medical Research Council again considered this matter and recommended that the above warning should be required on all packages of preparations containing salicylates, phenacetin or paracetamol when sold without prescription.
This medication may damage the kidneys when used in large amounts or for a long period of time. Do not take more than the recommended dosage, nor take regularly for more than 10 days without consulting your physician’.
I am not aware of any similar warnings in regard to salicylates or paracetamol.
Hospital Planning and Design (Question No. 1693)
asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice:
Have the Commonwealth and State officers yet met to discuss the proposal which the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works made in May 1968 for the establishment of an agency responsible for the collection, evaluation and dissemination of hospital planning and design information; if so, on what dates, and with what results.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Commonwealth and State officers have not met as yet to discuss in detail the proposal to establish a hospital planning bureau. The Commonwealth has obtained information concerning similar planning groups which are at present in operation in various overseas countries. This information was considered at the recent 1969 Australian Health Ministers’ Conference and it was decided that Commonwealth and State officers should meet to consider a number of matters including the proposal to establish a hospital planning bureau. The fheeting is to be convened by the New South Wales Department of Health.
Fluoridation of Water Supplies: Dental Health (Question No. 1696)
asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice:
What steps have been taken to fluoridate water supplies in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide since his answer to me on 27 November 1968 (Hansard, page 3378).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The South Australian Government has announced its intention to fluoridate the Adelaide water supply this year and the contract for the supply of the fluoridation plant has been let
I understand that there are no immediate plans by the Victorian and Queensland Governments respectively to fluoridate the Melbourne and Brisbane water supplies.
Compensation for Victims of Crimes of Violence (Question No. 1726)
asked the Minister for Social
Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 August 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1969/19690820_reps_26_hor64/>.