26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Mon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr UREN presented from employees of Hawker De Haviland Australia Pty Ltd a petition showing that dismissals are taking place in the aircraft industry.
The petitioners pray that the Federal Government will take urgent measures to plan a light aircraft industry based on the requirements of general aviation and the commuter airlines; that offset payments be negotiated with the aircraft manufacturers; that the requirements of the services be co-ordinated and standardised.
Petition received and read.
Mr BRIDGES-MAXWELL presented from certain citizens of the Commonwealth a petition showing that the Federal Government should make available to the State of New South Wales more funds for education, to be spent particularly on a replacement programme of existing substandard public schools in this State.
The petitioners declare:
Our deep concern about the present state of the buildings at the Toronto Public School in New South Wales, which have deteriorated to such an extent, that their condition can no longer be tolerated in a country such as ours. We fear that the 485 schoolchildren attending this school are suffering most seriously in their basic education. Approaches to the Department and Minister for Education so far have only resulted in promises, the latest by Mr J. B. Cutler, who stated in his letter, N67/01994 of 29 November 1967 to the late J. B. Simpson, that he had authorised the erection of new classrooms, library, administration unit and amenities unit, to be completed by 1970, but which again have been indefinitely shelved since early this year, because of lack of finance.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives take action which will lead to alleviate this grave problem in the State of New South Wales and particularly the very urgent needs at the Toronto Public School.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to inform the House that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) left Australia yesterday to attend the fourth New Zealand International Trade Fair in Auckland. He expects to return to Australia on Friday, 29th August. During Mr Sinclair’s absence, the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) will act as Minister for Shipping and Transport.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Shipping and Transport a question concerning the Whyalla to Port Augusta railway. From an answer which the Minister for Shipping and Transport gave me yesterday and from other answers which have been given in the last week in the South Australian Parliament, it is now clear that it will be another 5 or 6 weeks before the Commonwealth and South Australia appoint the independent consultants on the standardisation of the line between Adelaide and Port Pirie whom they agreed to appoint last November and that it will be another 9 months after they are appointed before their report is presented.
-Order! The honourable member’s preface is far too long.
– I ask the Acting Minister: Is it true that the former Minister for Shipping and Transport, Mr Freeth, 2 years ago expressed the view that the railway between Whyalla and Port Augusta could not be constructed until the standard gauge railway was built between Adelaide and Port Pirie? Is it true that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner was asked to reassess this priority over a year ago, and made his recommendation that the Whyalla railway proceed as far back as 21st January this year? I ask the Minister: What is delaying the announcement of this project?
– I have been Acting Minister for Shipping and Transport for only about 6 or 7 hours. I have to admit that I do not know all about my ministerial duties. If the Leader of the Opposition will put his question on the notice paper he will receive a considered reply.
– Has the Minister for Health yet received a report from the rubella committee farmed in’ January 1969? Is a suitable vaccine against rubella yet available in Australia? Has the Minister any proposal for implementing a plan for immunisation against rubella in Australia, particularly having regard to its effect on the unborn child?
– The honourable gentleman has raised a very important public health question. Many experts estimate that rubella is the greatest cause of deformity in the newly born child. There have been considerable developments throughout the world aimed at developing a vaccine for rubella, and as a result of these developments, in December last year I set up a committee of experts to advise me. That committee has been represented at an international conference on the subject in Washington, and at this very moment I understand the committee is preparing its report for me. A number of vaccines recently have been licensed overseas. Application has been made for them to be licensed in Australia. An evaluation of them has been completed by my Department. The evaluation will go now to the Drug Evaluation Committee and the Epidemiology Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council for consideration. The honourable gentleman can be assured that as soon as I get this report and as soon as these evaluations have been made, I will be giving very prompt and careful consideration to any recommendations which are made.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, by stating that I have just returned from a visit to Northern Ireland where I witnessed scenes of hatred, bitterness and bloodshed which have already caused the death of eight people and could lead to civil war. I ask: Has the Australian Government taken any action to attempt to bring peace and understanding to the people of Northern Ireland? If so, what was that action? Has it voiced any protest against the cruel and inhuman treatment of a downtrodden minority? Would it support the United
Kingdom Government if all grants of money to Northern Ireland were cancelled while this state of civil war exists? Will the Prime Minister have an impartial statement prepared setting out the history of the troubles in Northern Ireland, or will he invite representatives of both sides to come to Australia to explain the situation? The honourable members who are singing out ‘hear, hear’-
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat
– Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, and the problems which may arise there are obviously matters for the United Kingdom Government to seek to quell. By ‘quell’ I do not mean put down; I mean to stop the hatred and bitterness, of which the honourable member spoke, arising from either side.
I was not able to follow all the particular parts of the honourable member’s question but the Australian Government itself, because it believes that this is a matter for the British Government, has not sought to interfere and would not think it proper to interfere or to intervene. As to the suggestion that I might set out in, I gather, some sort of White Paper the history of the difficulties which have culminated in the fighting which has occurred in various areas in Northern Ireland, I think that a large volume would probably be required for the purpose and that it would, in any case, be able to be gathered from other sources.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question. Is he aware that air travellers to and from Canberra have been seriously inconvenienced, particularly during the past couple of weeks, by the extremely late arrival and departure of aircraft to and from Melbourne and Sydney? Will he investigate the deterioration of the service provided by both airlines so far as timetables are concerned? In view of the fact that neither of the two major airlines appears to care that it is causing great annoyance to the air travelling public, will the Government give consideration to the licensing of a third domestic airline?
– There are a number of domestic operators in Australia which function outside of the two airline policy.
However, the two major operators which have the rights on the trunk routes will continue in operation under an agreement which will be in force till 1977. So far I have not been made aware of any deterioration in the services, particularly services to and from Canberra. However, I will certainly make some investigations regarding the matters raised by the honourable member and let him have some information about the problems.
I might say that the two airline policy has been most successful. I have said this on past occasions in the House. In fact, the policy has been so successful that from time to time we have had requests for information about the system from many overseas countries. Indeed, as I have said before, people have come here from overseas specially to investigate and inspect the system that is provided to see whether it can be introduced in their countries.
Having referred to the success of the two airline system in Australia we do acknowledge at the same time, of course, that problems associated with maintaining timetables can arise. No doubt, the problems that have arisen in the services to which the honourable member referred would be operational ones or could perhaps be due to weather conditions in other centres. But there is only one assurance that I will give the House; that we will not arrange or not permit any airline to operate on a basis or a standard which does not conform completely to the high safety standards that are laid down by the Department of Civil Aviation. I would rather see an aircraft delayed on the ground than that aircraft take any risk in the air. I am sure that most honourable members of the House would agree with that. However, I will make some investigations in regard to the question that has been raised by the honourable member and will let him know the results.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. The Minister will recall that around 12 months ago the Government announced that it would undertake an appraisal of the Burdekin Dam project when evaluation staff was available. I ask: When will this appraisal take place; why has there been this extraordinary delay; is the Minister aware of the economic smash which will occur in the Burdekin as well as the Burnett if underground water supplies continue to fail? Finally, will the Minister give a positive answer as to when this evaluation will take place?
– What I said 12 months ago was that when the Snowy Mountains team had completed its evaluation of the Bowen-Broken Basin scheme we would then be prepared to discuss with the Queensland Government the use of elements of the Snowy Mountains Authority on re-evaluating the proposed Burdekin scheme. The BowenBroken Basin study has only fairly recently been completed. We are now negotiating with the Queensland Government the conditions under which the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority would be made available to assess the Burdekin scheme.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Industry aware of suggestions for a further summit meeting of representatives of major wheat exporting countries? If so has he any knowledge of the likelihood of such a meeting being held?
– I am aware of these suggestions. They touch on a matter of such importance that I would like to explain the situation to the honourable member and the House. Since the ministerial meeting on wheat held in Washington in July there have been continual exchanges between the major exporters, both at the policy level and at the technical level. The agreement reached in Washington in July that it would be necessary to reduce wheat prices was a decision brought about principally by the necessity to meet the prices being quoted in Europe at that time by non-members of the International Grains Arrangement.
It was agreed that other exporters parties to the Arrangement had to become competitive and so reduce their prices. At a little later date, in circumstances which I have already explained to the House, the same reduction was made in prices in the Far East. The objective in this has been to watch the situation carefully with the purpose of trying to secure fair shares of the market to all traditional exporters and, in due course, in an orderly manner to try to return to a level of prices incorporated in the International Grains Arrangement. The reduction in prices is intended to be temporary with the objective of getting back, in an orderly manner, to agreed prices under the International Grains Arrangement, some modifications in the schedule to that Arrangement being in contemplation. Work has been going on towards this end- in London in meetings confined to exporters but of interest to importers.
It is intended to hold in London in September a meeting pf what is known as the ‘Prices Review Committee of the International Wheat Council’ with a view to getting some measure of permanency in this new situation. In the meantime it is a fact that exporters, having by agreement departed from the minimum prices under the International Grains Arrangement, are now quoting prices which are or which are suspected of introducing an element of doubtful price competition. If this trend were allowed to continue we might drift inadvertently into a virtual price war.
-i rise to order. This is the’ time for questions without notice.- The Minister’s answer is obviously one to be given on notice. He is now abusing question time.
-Order! On other occasions I have told honourable members that the Standing Orders do not place any restriction as to time on a Minister answering a question. The answer which the Minister is giving is completely relevant to the question asked by the honourable member for Mallee and therefore is in order.
– Further to my point of order, Mr Speaker, the Whip of the Australian Country Party has asked a question to which the Minister has a prepared reply. We feel that if-
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– We feel that if you allow-
-Order! The honourable member for Reid will resume his seat It is not the function of the Chair to make some haywire guess as to how a question may have arisen. The question having been asked correctly and in proper form it is entitled to be answered.
– I do not want to trespass on the time of the House; I think that this is the first question I have answered in a fortnight, so I have not- been occupying the time of the House. But this issue is of tremendous importance to the many scores of thousands of Australian wheat growers. I have said that we could inadvertently drift into what would be, virtually a price war and as a contribution- towards avoiding such a situation I have proposed over the weekend that arrangements should be made to convene at a very early date - almost immediately - a meeting of technicians specialised in all the intricacies of wheat marketing, this meeting to be held in an appropriate place overseas to sort out the situation and to try to preserve order in the international marketing of wheat. My proposal is at present being discussed both in Washington and in’ Ottawa. I think that the report that has come out of a summit meeting is really relevant to the proposal that I have initiated. The only purpose of the Australian Government, and I am sure it is the desire of the Australian Parliament, is to preserve order in the . international marketing of the item which is our second, biggest export trading item.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether he is aware that the Federal Council of the Australian Medical Association has rejected recommendations 15 and 18 of the Nimmo Committee’s report, namely:
That doctors who wish their fees to be eligible for medical benefits .- . . follow a practice of informing their insured patients at the time of a first consultation of the amount of their own fees for any further medical treatment recommended and the amount of the established common fees.
That an arrangement be developed whereby the established common fees for medical services may be adjusted at appropriate times on the basis of the relevant economic indicators.
Were not these recommendations crucial to the Committee’s concept crf the common fee? If they were, how does the Minister justify his assertion that this concept can be implemented?
– The Australian Medical Association has advised me of its views on the recommendations of the Nimmo
Committee. The Association probably would have done this in any event, but one of the reasons it has done so is that I actively sought its views as, indeed, I have actively sought the views of other groups which are absolutely crucial to making any health scheme work. I might add in parenthesis that this approach is quite different from that of the Opposition which accepts some academic scheme produced by a couple of economists, varies it for its own political purposes without any close consultation with the people who have to make it work at all- -
– Your officers swore that the calculations were correct.
– I make this contrast between the Labor Party’s way of doing things and the Government’s way.
In answer to the particular question asked by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie, the Government at present has under study the - recommendations of the Nimmo Committee.
– It has had them for 6 months.
– The Labor Party gets quick decisions because it completely ignores the views of the people who have to make a scheme work. That is easy. We have this matter under consideration and we are in the process of making our decision - that is the Government’s decision - on the recommendations of the Nimmo Committee. We will be taking into account the views of such bodies at the Australian Medical Association, which are essential to making the scheme work.
– I direct a question . to the Acting Minister for Shipping and Transport, fs he aware that last year 1,326 young people between the ages of 17 and 29 years were killed on Australian roads and many others were disabled for life? Is it a fact that most of the serious teenage accidents occur late at night or very early in the morning? Is the Australian Road Safety Council or the Australian Transport Advisory Council” looking into a suggestion I put forward that a late night driving curfew be imposed on young drivers as a means of reducing road casualties and relieving parents of a good deal of anxiety? As background for this, I might mention-
-Order! The honourable member’s question is far too long. He is now giving a great deal of information. I suggest he ask his question.
– I have asked my question, Mr Speaker. Perhaps the Minister would like to answer it.
– I am informed that the figures given of fatalities involving young drivers are correct. A good deal of information is available to the Department of Shipping and Transport, but the Department has very little detailed information as to the exact time of the occurrence of accidents. I am aware that the honourable member for Later raised this matter on, I think, 14th August, during a Grievance Day debate. Many problems affecting road safety are under examination, but I am sure the honourable member for Lalor would agree that there are a great many difficulties in imposing a curfew on drivers, especially young drivers.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Defence by referring to. the remarks that the Minister made during his speech on the Budget in which he referred to work for naval dockyards in modernising ships, building new ships for the Navy and so on. Will the Minister say what the study of the light fixed wing aircraft and advanced trainer aircraft and the small extension to the Macchi programme will mean to aircraft workers at Fishermen’s Bend, Victoria, in terms of continuity of work for their industry? Is the Minister aware that the lack of continuity is costing the Commonwealth shipbuilding and aircraft industries many highly skilled craftsmen and that this decline is causing grave anxiety to the council and business interests of the city of Williamstown and those employed at these establishments? Will he state clearly that the newships to which he refers will be built at. the naval dockyards, Williamstown, and the aircraft at the Government Aircraft’
Factory, Victoria? Can he tell the House when this production will begin and give an assurance to the workers employed in these highly important defence industries that the Government will not allow these industries to become redundant?
– As I have had occasion to point out in the House several times, no country has been able to maintain complete continuity of production in its aircraft industries, except the United States of America. While ever it is true that the life of an aircraft exceeds the period of its building and that Australia needs only small numbers of particular types of aircraft, there must be rises and falls in the curve of production and therefore in the curve of activity within the entire aircraft industry. Since the closing of the Mirage programme, the aircraft industry has been in one of its low periods. However, I do not think the Government can be accused of not making every possible effort to see that work is available for that aircraft industry. If one looks at the history of the aircraft industry, one will see that every aircraft used by the Services since World War II, during which the numbers were adequate to justify development, tooling and so on, has had a considerable Australian content in it. At the same time I should point out to the honourable gentleman that employment in the aircraft industry in Australia today is still running at 8,000 men. This is above the figure of 6,000 which existed in 1961 at the beginning of the Mirage programme, so despite the fact that there is a lull ahead employment is still very high.
We have made every effort, as the honourable gentleman knows. I have announced in the House that the Government has agreed that we should manufacture in Melbourne the wings of an aircraft to be produced in the United States. But this is a new aircraft and the market has still to be gained for it before that contract can begin. At the same time we are converting the Ikara missile into a pilotless target aircraft. This will bring an additional workload to the aircraft factory. Although I note that one newspaper said that it will allow us to maintain the existing level of employment until the next major aircraft programme comes along, this unfortunately is not the fact. It is not a major programme by any means. The honourable gentleman asks for some undertakings about where these jobs both for the Navy and for the aircraft industry will be undertaken. Unfortunately, at this stage I cannot give him precise details of that. After all, there are three units in the Australian industry - the Government Aircraft Factory, the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and Hawker de Havilland Pty Ltd, all capable of producing aircraft, and it would be asking too much of the Government to commit itself to place the whole of its aircraft requirements in one place. As far as ships are concerned, I am unable to say at the moment what the project will be because these ships are still in the design phase. But the honourable gentleman may rest assured that we are not proposing to up-grade the productive facilities at the naval dockyards for the fun of it.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Has the right honourable gentleman seen a statement by the Leader of the Opposition relating to Labor’s health proposals? Have all factors been taken into account in assessing the cost to the nation of these proposals? Would the actual weekly cost of this scheme to the average citizen be lower or higher than the present health scheme? Is that statement’s reference to tax concessions consistent with the Scotton and Deeble plan or does it appear to be an impromptu innovation? What would be the effect of this scheme on low income earners in view of the proposed Government legislation entirely to relieve them of health insurance payments? Finally, what would be the effect of this scheme on citizens of Queensland, a minority of whom at present pay health insurance because that State is solidly committed to a free hospital scheme?
– I have had drawn to my attention a statement issued by the Leader of the Opposition last night after apparently some travail yesterday, and attached to it are two tables and they do refer to the health scheme, or alleged scheme, which is, I think, being put forward by the Leader of the Opposition. The covering statement is quite incorrect in that it says that it purports to present the costs of Labor’s proposals in this field and, of course, it does nothing of the kind, because the Leader of the Opposition will remember that Labor’s proposals included, amongst other things, free dental and free chemist services.
– Where have I said that?
– You have said that- (Opposition members interjecting) -
-The House will come to order. Yesterday I bad occasion to suggest that the interchange of conversation and interjections across the table cease. I hope that that request will be acceeded to.
– I take a point of order. The honourable member for Bowman bases a question on a document which is not before the House. I will be very happy to table it and then there can be a debate on it.
– There is no substance in the point of order. A question has been asked by the honourable member for Bowman in relation to a statement which has been made, I presume, publicly and the question is based on a matter of public interest.
– 1 take this point. I submit that it is out of order for any honourable member to ask a question based on something which he cannot verify.
– Order! Honourable members will cease interjecting.
– Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister is now making comments alleged to be based on statements which I in fact have never made. If it is out of order for honourable members to ask questions on statements which they cannot verify, I submit that it is out of order for Ministers, even the Prime Minister, to base answers on statements which they cannot verify. I point out that you cannot find any statement where I have made blanket references to things such as dental services or the other matters that he was referring to-
– The chemists. Mr Whitlam - Yes, the chemists.
-Order! The question is in order. The answer is in order because it is relevant to the question.
– It was not-
-Order! It is not the duty of the Chair to adjudicate on the authenticity of statements made. But if the honourable member claims to be misrepresented, I suggest that he may make a personal explanation after question time.
– On your ruling on a point of order, Mr Speaker, you have given as your reason for allowing the Prime Minister
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member that he will be out of order if he is canvassing the ruling of the Chair.
– No. You stated that the answer was in order because it related to a matter in the question-
-Order! The honourable member is now canvassing the ruling of the Chair. If I may correct the honourable member, I said that it was relevant to the question.
– I take a point of order too. I want to ask you whether it is in order for an honourable member of this chamber to make the remark that the Prime Minister has just made a damn fool of himself? Is that parliamentary?
– No, I never heard this at all. I am not sure whether the remark was made.
- Mr Speaker-
– I rise to a point of order.
– If you had heard it, Mr Speaker, it would have been both unparliamentary and untrue.
– A point of order, Mr Speaker.
-Order! I call the honourable member for Capricornia.
– My point of order is this: The question asked by the honourable member for Bowman has several sections. I submit that at least one of them calls for an expression of opinion by the Minister on a matter which is not within his jurisdiction.
-Order! The point of order is not upheld because the objection should have been taken at the time when the question was asked.
- Mr Speaker, if I may, I should be .glad to provide a free, tranquiliser to the Leader of the Opposition. He seems to be upset by this.
– Well, I do not need stimulants.
– Good! The proposals put forward by the Labor Conference as I understand them - and the Leader of the Opposition can deny this now if he wishes
– These are long range objectives.
– … did propose Government supporters - Oh!
– Oh, I see! Oh; they are not real proposals at all.
-Order! I suggest to the House that it come to order. All interjections, of course, as all honourable members well know are out of order. Interjections are coming from both sides of the House. I believe that this is not in keeping with the dignity and the decorum in which the House should conduct its business. I suggest that all honourable members come to order and allow the Prime Minister, in answering the question, to be heard in the correct and proper manner.
– Apparently the proposals put forward are for long range objectives for free chemist and free dental services. I do not know what ‘long range objectives’ means. It may be, you know, jam tomorrow §r the day after or the day after that. Assuming that they are objectives which are really to be put before the electorate, then there is no costing of them whatsoever in the document presented by the Leader pf the Opposition. Indeed, perhaps it is as well that they are not because, if costing were to be done on these, it is thought that free pharmaceutical benefits would cost some $40m a year and free dental services some $60m a year. So, they are conveniently left out of the costing of Labor’s proposals even, let us assume, if they are long range proposals, whatever that may mean. But even moving further- -
– What about the Fill and-
-Order! The honourable member for Newcastle will cease interjecting or I will deal with him.
– Mr Speaker, I really do not know what they are so touchy about on this health scheme. 1 thought they liked it.
However, I was asked about the weekly cost of this proposed scheme to the average taxpayer and I believe that the answer to that question - and it should be known to the public - is this: At the present moment a single man or a single woman can obtain minimum cover for a payment of some 65c a week in insurance, and minimum cover is all that is offered by this scheme. This proposal now would mean that any single man or single woman whose taxable income exceeded $52 a week would be paying more than he or she is now voluntarily paying. These people would be paying it under compulsion and it would no longer be a tax deduction which the voluntary payments now are.
It would also, of course mean, if introduced as set forward, that those poor families whom our scheme proposes to insure for nothing would be required to pay something around $20 a year. So for a single person earning that type of income, $52 or more, the cost per week would be more. For a married couple, as soon as the income exceeded $104 a week then the cost would increase above the present voluntary contributions. Once again the present voluntary contributions which are now tax deductions would no longer be tax deductions, but the money would be compulsorily taken without the benefit of tax deduction. In addition, if this scheme, which the Leader of the Opposition told us yesterday he has adopted, is put into practice then the taxation he proposes would be levied both on the income of a husband and on the income of a wife, whereas at present a husband’s contribution covers the wife and family under this scheme. Where there are two incomes there would be two income taxes, one on the income of the husband and one on that of the wife, and neither of them would be tax deductible.
It is further true, as I stated yesterday in this place, that should some individual wish better than minimum coverage and be prepared to pay insurance premiums to benefit societies to get better than minimum coverage then those additional payments he would make would no longer be tax deductible as they are at present under the Government’s scheme, thereby again increasing the weekly cost to the taxpayers of this country.
In regard to Queensland I would not be quite sure what the situation is, but I understand that because in that State there is free public ward treatment some 56% of the people
– It used to be everywhere in Australia until you abolished it in 1953.
– You are touchy, aren’t you? Because in that State there is free public ward treatment some 56% of the people in that State do not now pay insurance, and they would be compelled by a Labor government to pay this kind of insurance as a compulsory tax and without any of the benefits of tax deductions. Even the tables as presented to us by the Leader of the Opposition on page 2 show a sketchy little sum indicating $149m could be gained in taxation by a H% impost on people’s incomes. This is a mistaken calculation. It has been worked out by taking the total taxable incomes available and by taking U% of those and working it out at $149m and forgetting to pay any attention at all to the part of the scheme that provides that nobody is to pay more than $100 a year no matter how high his income. It is not of great significance, perhaps only a difference of $3m or $4m a year, but it indicates the great care which has gone into these calculations. I think that I would merely like to conclude in answering the honourable member’s question with this remark: We have been told-
– I raise a point of order. Is it in order for the Prime Minister again to display his inability to represent Labor Parry policy honestly?
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. On previous occasions you have warned members of this House about the length of their questions and answers.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat or he will hear me again.
Motion (by Mr Curtin) negatived:
That the Prime Minister be not further heard.
– I was on the point of concluding my answer to the: very, interesting question asked by the honourable member for Bowman by pointing out that we had been told by the Opposition: There is no subject to which the Labor Party has devoted so much attention, no subject in which its proposals have been so fully investigated*. Yet here we have a document leaving out of calculation altogether the so called long range objectives, placing greater imposts than are at present required on all medium income earners, placing higher imposts than are at present required on people on incomes of up to $39 a week. Mr Speaker, I believe that it is quite possible that the Labor Party has devoted more attention to this than to any other subject, but that says nothing, for the other subjects it has devoted attention to. The proposition is as full of holes as a worm eaten cheese and about as palatable to the electorate.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question about a subject on which he has not spoken before this week, namely, health. I ask him: Is it true that the Nimmo Committee, whose report was tabled in the Parliament over 5 months ago, would have free health insurance made available to all families with incomes below a poverty line devised by the Institute of Applied Economic Research at the University of Melbourne? Does he agree that under the proposal announced in the Budget, to which he made no reference in his own speech on the Budget, families with no children and with incomes up to $9 a week above that poverty line will receive free health insurance while families with three children and with incomes up to S3 a week below that line will be denied it? Does he recognise, too, that the discrepancy for families with more than three children is even greater? Finally, is he aware that by this poverty line 22% of Australia’s larger families are poor and will not receive the amount of assistance under the Budget proposals recommended more than 5 months ago by the Committee that be appointed?
– I am happy to inform the Leader of the Opposition that the Budget proposals were that families with incomes of $39 a week or not exceeding $39 a week would not be required to pay any health insurance at all, whereas at present they are required to do so and under the scheme as presented by the Labor Party so far they will be required to do so.
– Pursuant to Section 30 of the Science ahc! Industry Research Act 1949-68, 1 present the 21st annual ‘ report of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for the year ended 30th June 1969. I ask leave of the House to make p short explanatory statement in connection with the report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I offer my apologies to the House for hot being able at this time to lay on the table Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s financial statements for the year 1968-69. In explanation I remind the House that 1968-69 was the first occasion which the budget of the CSIRO appeared ja the new format authorised by the amendments to the Act in 1968. These amendments have resulted in considerable revision of the methods of accounting within the CSIRO. This, in turn, has involved the preparation of a new set of financial statements in a form suitable to receive the approval of the Treasurer and to be certified by the Auditor-General.
This is the cause of the delay. However, J can assure the House that I Will ‘table, the CSIRO’s financial statements for 1968^69 as soon as they are available, and I expect that this will be about the second week in September. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that I have distributed a booklet entitled ‘Estimates of Expenditure 1969-70- Brief Explanatory Notes’. This booklet will give honourable members, I hope, a complete analysis of the additional funds Included in the budget for CSIRO.
Bill-by leave - presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
-4 move: That the Bill be now read a second time.
As some honourable members will be aware, a review has been in progress for some time of the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act and regulations. Although some progress has been made it has not been possible to reach the point where amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act affecting the provisions throughout Australia can be presented to the Parliament for consideration before the forthcoming general elections for the House of Representatives. The Government’s intention is that the review should be resumed immediately after the elections and taken to finality as soon as possible. In the meantime there are some provisions which affect only the Northern Territory which it is possible to make now and which the Government considers should desirably apply for the forthcoming elections, thus bringing the Northern Territory into line with the rest of Australia.
The first of the provisions is the subject of this Bill. It deals with the position of a member of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory who wishes to stand for election to the Commonwealth Parliament. In the case of a member of a State Parliament the position is quite clear. Section 70 df the Commonwealth Electoral Act debars a person from nominating for election to the Commonwealth Parliament if he is at the date of nomination or has been within 14 days prior to the date of nomination a member of the Parliament of a State. In the case of a member of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory, if he were elected to the Commonwealth Parliament it is possible, though not certain, that he would have to resign from the Legislative Council to continue in this Parliament.
The Government believes that there should be no uncertainty in this matter. Just as it has been thought wise that the member of a State legislature should not be eligible to stand for election to this Parliament, so it is considered that a member of the legislature of the Northern Territory should not be able to nominate. Accordingly the Bill provides - and this is its sole purpose - that no person who is at the date of nomination or was at any time within 14 days prior to the date of nomination a member of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory shall be capable of being nominated as a senator or as a member of the House of Representatives. I might interpolate that this action is in common with other actions that the Federal Government has taken to put the Legislative Council on a similar footing to State Parliaments. It is consistent with other Bills that I have brought down in this House in the time that I have been Minister in charge of the Northern Territory such as giving the elected member of the Northern Territory full voting rights and also giving the Legislative Council an elected majority.
The second change that is being made does not require action by the Parliament. I take this opportunity, however, to announce that the electoral regulations which apply in the Northern Territory are being amended so that at the forthcoming House of Representatives election it will be possible for electors of the Northern Territory to vote as absent voters at any polling place in the Territory. At the present time electors can vote in person at a polling booth only in their own electoral district. The only alternative is to record a postal vote, which, except where the elector resides more than 5 miles from a polling place in his electoral district, requires either an application for a postal vote or personal attendance before the Returning Officer at Darwin or the Assistant Returning Officer at Alice Springs. These provisions were appropriate when the electorate, spread over a very large area, was also thinly populated. The number of electors in the Northern Territory has however risen from 8,735 to 21,662 over the last 10 years. It has therefore been decided to extend to the electors in the Northern Territory the same facilities for absent voting as are available to other electors of the Commonwealth.
– Might I ask two questions of the Minister on this Bill?
– The question is: That the Bill be now read a second time. Does the Leader of the Opposition want to move the adjournment of the debate or does he want to ask for leave to make a statement?
– I would seek leave to ask two questions. However, if the Minister does not give me leave I will commence my speech on the motion for the second reading of the Bill straight away.
– I will give the Leader of the Opposition leave to ask the questions.
– Mr Speaker, I seek leave to ask two questions which relate to this Bill.
– Leave is granted.
– I thank you, Mr Speaker, and the House. The first question I ask is: Would this Bill, if enacted, prevent a member of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory standing for the House of Representatives or the Senate from the Territory or would it prevent such a Legislative Councillor standing for the House of Representatives or the Senate in any State as well? I ask this question because of two circumstances about which I think my memory is clear. Mr Nelson, who was the member for the Northern Territory in the House of Representatives, when first elected was, and I think continued till the following election to bc, an M.L.C. for the Northern Territory. Under this Bill he would have to resign from the Legislative Council before he stood for the House of Representatives. However, the other situation has arisen. Another member of the Legislative Council, Mr ‘Tiger’ Brennan, I believe, contested at the last House of Representatives election the Queensland division of Mcpherson as a way of protesting against the honourable member for Mcpherson (Mr Barnes) who at the time was in charge of the Northern Territory. The first question I ask is: Would this Bill, if enacted, prevent a member of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory standing for a House of Representatives or a Senate position outside of the Territory and not just within the Territory?
My second question relates to the reference to a senator. If this Bill would prevent - as I imagine it is intended to do- a member of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory standing as a senator for the Northern Territory, does that mean that the Minister is likely’ to perni.it a vote to be taken on my Bill to give Territorians Representatives in the Senate and a vote for the Senate? My Bill has been before the House since November last.
– Are we going into a debate on this question? If we are not, I will provide the Leader of the Opposition with details.
-Order! Is the Minister asking for leave to make a statement?
– The Minister might like to convey the answer to me in writing before the debate is resumed.
Debate (on motion by Mr Whitlam) adjourned.
– Mr Speaker, I move:
That standing order 103 (eleven o’clock rule) be suspended for the remainder of the session.
As I have already indicated to the Opposition in discussion, I would think that it would not be necessary to ask the House very often to sit much later than midnight. Suspension of the 1 1 o’clock rule will, however, give a degree of flexibility to our arrangements when the Government has a heavy programme of legislation to complete before the session ends. Although I am asking the House to adopt this motion, the Government intends that the business of the House will be conducted with the respect due to the Parliament.
13.31] - The Opposition opposes this motion. Firstly it should be said once again, because many members of the public do not realise it, that suspension of the 11 o’clock rule has the effect of permitting matters to be introduced for debate for the first time after 11 o’clock at night. There is no need to suspend the 1 1 o’clock rule to permit debates to continue on any matter upon which debate has commenced one second before 11 o’clock at night. Accordingly we do not have to suspend the 11. o’clock rule in order to sit all night. It is very rarely that the House of Representatives adjourns before 11 p.m. but unless the 11 o’clock rule is suspended the House can debate only matters upon which debate has been commenced before 11 p.m. Of course, when the adjournment is moved honourable members may speak on any subject. The Leader of the House (Mr Erwin) has moved the suspension of the 11 o’clock rule to enable .matters to be brought up for debate for the first time after 1 1 o’clock. This is not respect for the Parliament, as the Minister has piously stated.
This is to be the shortest budget session that any of us can remember. It is true that in nearly every session the 11 o’clock rule is suspended. Looking back over the last 10 years, this motion has been commonly moved in the budget session to suspend the 11 o’clock rule to permit matters to be brought on for the first time after 11 p.m. Never, however, has the Government asked for the rule to be suspended so early in the. budget session. Since resuming after the winter recess we have sat for only 7 days. According to the unofficial timetable which we have now been given we will sit for a further 10 days.
– ‘For a further 13 days.
– I thank the honourable gentleman for the correction, because it reinforces my argument. We will sit for a further 13 days. Never has the suspension of the rule been moved so soon after the commencement of the sittings. In 1958 we had sat for 15 days before the rule was suspended. In 1959 it was not suspended. In 1960 we had sat for 32 days before it was suspended. In the years 1961 to 1964 inclusive we had sat for 21, 34, 20 and 32 days respectively before the rule was suspended. The rule was not suspended in 1965 but in 1966 we had sat for 22 days before it was suspended, in 1967 for 22 days and in 1968 for 31 days. This time we have sat for only 7 days before suspension of the rule has been proposed. We have 13 days to go. Only once before - in 1960 - did we sit so many more days after the rule was suspended. In 1958 we sat for only 7 days after it was suspended. From 1961 to 1964 inclusive we sat 9, 2’, 5 and 5 days respectively after the rule was suspended. In the last 3 years we have sat for 8, 9 and 7 days after the rule was suspended. This time we will sit for 13 days after the rule is suspended.
Honourable members are therefore entitled to ask why the 11 o’clock rule is being suspended after so few sitting days. Why is it expected that the House will sit so many days after the rule has been suspended? The motion represents a complete breach with the precedents of the House. I submit that there can be only one reason - so that Ministers may bring on matters for debate after 11 o’clock, at an hour when the public cannot hear the debate on the radio and at a time when it is too late for the morning newspapers to report the debate. There can be no other reason. Ministers will now with impunity bring up matters and hustle matters through at an hour when the public cannot hear the debate, because the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be off the air, and at an hour when the newspapers cannot report the debate.
I do not dispute that there are some Ministers who need protection of this kind. We saw this very clearly today. Two of the matters upon which the Government is most vulnerable- health and rural production - have been on the notice paper for 5 months or more awaiting debate. It is now 5 months and 2 days since the Nimmo Committee’s report on voluntary health funds was tabled in the Parliament. The debate was adjourned on15th April. A great many honourable members wish to speak on this matter but the Government wants to suppress debate on it. The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) did not speak in the debate on the Budget. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) did speak. He purported to reply to my speech on the Budget. I directed some analysis to the medical and hospital benefits funds and to the Nimmo Committee’s recommendations. The Prime Minister did not mention what I had said. Obviously at that time he had been unable to think of any answer.
Today he was stimulated to dilate at length on this subject. It was his theme at his Party meeting this morning. Hordes of Ministers were sending for copies of my statement on the subject. Yesterday the Prime Minister did not even know the names of the economists concerned. He referred to one as Scott instead of Scotton.
I have never known him to bumble over words so early in the day. Senior research officers of the Department of Health had verified the Scotton and Deeble proposals before the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs. They are completely authenticated. They cannot be just thrown aside. Here is a matter on which the Minister concerned will not speak in the Parliament. He has made a statement outside the House on such health proposals as there are in the Budget, and they deviate from the Nimmo Committee’s recommendations. They are of less assistance-
– Order! I remind the honourable gentleman that we are debating a motion to suspend the Standing Orders, not a health matter.
– I ask you, Sir, to bear with me.I want to give a further couple of illustrations of the evil which can flow from permitting matters to come on for debate for the first time after 11 o’clock at night. There are three such matters in the rural production field. Since 30th April there has been on the notice paper a ministerial statement about wheat delivery quota proposals. No debate has been permitted on it. Since 20th May there has been on the notice paper a ministerial statement on marginal dairy farm reconstruction. No debate has been permitted on it. Since 27th March there has been a suspended debate on the merino export embargo. No resumption of the debate has been permitted since the Senate expressed its view that the embargo should not be lifted at this time. 1 pass to another subject and refer to two matters concerning national development. Since 17th April there has been on the notice paper a ministerial statement on the national water resources development programme. This is in a year when Queensland, at least, has had its severest drought since 1902. No debate has been permitted on this matter. There is another ministerial statement on the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority which will terminate all work on the Snowy in less than 4 years. This statement has been on the notice paper since 28th November last year. No debate has been permitted on it. I come to a concluding example. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) made a statement on 10th
October last year on Australian crude oil. The fear is that the more Australian crude oil we refine for sale in Australia the higher the price may be to the Australian consumer. My colleague, the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor), secured the adjournment of the debate on 10th October last year. No debate has been permitted to take place since then.
All of these matters can now belatedly come on after 11 o’clock at night. There can be no fruitful, meaningful debate on these matters at that hour. Certainly, the Ministers concerned need protection. Some have not spoken in the Budget debate. They have made statements outside. They have made statements in the guise of answers to Dorothy Dix questions by their own supporters. But there has been no debate. There can be debate at any time between 11 p.m. and the time the House sits the following day. This is not good enough. Why is it that the Ministry will not, in its dying weeks, permit debate on these matters at hours when the public can watch, when the public can listen and when the public can obtain and read a report? There can be only one conclusion. This Government, as was forecast, fears parliamentary sessions. It does not want public debate on sensitive issues or involving sensitive Ministers. Tranquillised or stimulated from the top to the bottom these Ministers have to be shepherded and protected. It is easy to do this after 11 o’clock at night. It is not good enough for the public; it should not be good enough for this Parliament. Accordingly we object to the suspension of the 11 o’clock rule, and we particularly object to it being suspended so early in the session, earlier than ever before, when there are so many days of sitting still to go.
– We have listened for 12 or so minutes to a speech from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) on a theme with which I think the majority of honourable members would agree in certain circumstances. If there were to be unlimited time in front of us when it would be possible to meet and discuss matters between the hours of 2.30 in the afternoon and 11 o’clock at night, of course everyone in .his right senses would agree that this would be the desirable method of procedure, but the Leader of the
Opposition has pointed out that we have a terminus on this occasion, because it is necessary to consult the voters of Australia on 25th October. One possibility behind the remarks that have just been made at such length is that the Leader of the Opposition would rather postpone that reference to the electors. But if this were not so, we also have to face the fact that the Government has made provision for three sets of 4-day sittings. That is, the next 3 sitting weeks will be of 4 days each and not 3 days. So the question emerges: If we are not going to get through the legislation that is before us within the time stipulated and before 11 o’clock, should we sit for 5 days or 6 days a week? I can say from my own experience, and I think I speak for most other honourable members, that to sit for 5 days a week in this place for 3 weeks running would be an exhausing experience that would not enhance the value of our discussions any more than would the proposals that the Government is making.
The real point about this is that we do have legislation which must be brought through as quickly as possible to law, to enactment and to the fulfilment of its provisions. There are across Australia today hundreds of thousands of people who are waiting for the magnificent provisions relating to pensions to be implemented. These people will wait until the House has discussed the legislation at the second reading stage and in the Committee stage) and it has finally received the royal assent to make it law. This must be done as soon as possible. There are at the moment a quarter of a million people who are not getting pensions and who will get pensions when these provisions are brought down. There are other persons who are getting a small pension and whose pensions will be quadrupled or more because of the new liberal provisions. These are the people who are waiting to see the House get about it business and for that business to be transacted.
To say that the Government is trying to push matters through without the scrutiny of the Australian Broadcasting Commission or of the newspapers of the country is sheer nonsense. If something exciting enough takes place during the debate on the adjournment of the House at 2 o’clock in the morning it finds its way to the headlines of the national Press. If anything is done - and this is the fear of the Leader of the Opposition - that is not proper or if something is being treated less than seriously by the Government, the nation will know soon enough. I make this proposition simply, because I do not want to speak at great length, but with the terminus in front of us, with the days set aside for sitting and the amount of business that has to be done there is no real alternative to the motion before us. No alternative was put forward by the Leader of the Opposition, although he spoke so passionately.
– Mr Speaker, I move-
Motion (by Mr Erwin) put:
That the question be now put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Original question put:
That standing order 103 (11 o’clock rule) be suspended for the remainder of the session.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) proposed:
That, in relation to the proceedings on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1969-70 and the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1969-70, so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the House making one declaration of urgency and moving one motion for the allotment of time in respect of both Bills and the consideration of the proposed expenditures in the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1969-70 in the order and groupings shown in the motion for the allotment of time.
– The Opposition opposes this motion. The Leader of the House (Mr Erwin) has previously referred to conversations between him and those entrusted with the conduct of proceedings on my side of the House, and he will therefore not mind me referring to the fact that in the proposed guillotine which he gave us the time allowed to debate this $7 ,000m Budget is 35 hours 40 minutes. It is the shortest time allowed for the debate on the Estimates for some decades. I would like honourable members - or at least the public - to realise that this has been moved in the context of the greatest restrictions on free speech by any Federal government in peace time.
-Order! I would remind honourable members that it is very difficult to hear with the loud conversation throughout the chamber.
– I was saying that there has never been a government which, in peace time, has imposed so many restrictions on free speech. One only has to notice the threats issued by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen) against public servants and the threats issued by him against university students if they hope to secure public employment in the Commonwealth Public Service or anywhere else. I mentioned the Attorney-General because he should know the traditions of the rule of law and freedom of speech. There are many other Ministers, of course, who have aided and abetted this attitude, and all too many backbenchers on the Government side. It is in that context that we have to look at this abbreviation, this truncation of the debate on the Estimates. We are being given one hour to debate every $200m of Commonwealth expenditure this year. The Estimates debate is the only time when a Minister cannot avoid having his administration challenged.
Earlier today we have given instances where Ministers have made ministerial statements which do not come on for debate, where Ministers have made statements on policy outside the House, . and where Ministers have failed or not been allowed to speak in the Budget debate, but in the estimates for his department a Minister’s administration can be challenged. While a Minister has unlimited time to speak on the estimates of his department honourable members have a limited time only and you, or your Deputy, Mr Speaker, call members from either side of the House, so accordingly during the debate on the estimates for any particular department if one deducts the time that a Minister has to speak - which he alone chooses - then the Opposition perhaps has half the remaining time to challenge his administration. A Minister ignores the challenge at the peril of his own personal reputation and the fortunes of his Government. On this occasion the Government is asking the Parliament to sit for a shorter space of time to debate the Estimates than ever before and this, of course, is a matter which comes up during the morning, afternoon and ordinary broadcasting hours and reported hours at night, so accordingly we will be denied as full an opportunity as we have ever had previously to debate the Estimates. I repeat that the House will be given 35 hours 40 minutes to debate the Estimates this year.
– Thirty-seven hours.
– Isit 37 hours?
– In 1968 we had 52 hours 49 minutes, and that was a year when it was thought that there was to be a House of Representatives election. In 1967 - a Senate election year - we had 48 hours 11 minutes. In 1966 - a House of Representatives election year - when there had to be an election for the House of Representatives, we had 54 hours. In 1965 - there was no election that year - we had 56 hours 45 minutes. In 1964 - a Senate election year - we had 55 hours 19 minutes. In 1963 - a House of Representatives election year - we had 44 hours 44 minutes. In 1962 - not an election year - we had 58 hours 36 minutes. In 1961 - a year in which there had to be elections for both Houses - we had 56 hours 37 minutes. In 1960, which was not an election year, we had 65 hours 15 minutes. Accordingly, we have had fewer hours in recent years than we had in 1960, but this year we have 37 hours 40 minutes, a much shorter period than we have ever had before.
We have just beard the argument put that these matters are necessary in order to get through Social Services Bills. That was the argument put for suspending the 11 o’clock rule. May I therefore state the general situation, no Social Service Bill, no Repatriation Bill and no Bill granting any benefits under this Budget to individuals has yet been introduced. Accordingly there is no delay on any of these matters. According to the customs of the House, if a Bill comes in today or tomorrow no debate on it can be resumed until the House resumes sitting on next Wednesday week. What nonsense it is to suggest that one has to suspend the 11 o’clock rule or truncate the debate on the Estimates in order to get through some Bill extending benefits to the public. No such Bill has yet been introduced. Let me go then to a matter of history. No honourable member can recall an occasion when debate in either House delayed any benefit, that is, there has never been a Social Services Bill, a Repatriation
Bill or a Housing Bill which has been held up in the Parliament beyond the date on which the benefits were announced in the Budget as coming into operation. The Parliament has never delayed such Bills.
The third objection is, of course, that we should have more sitting days. No objection has been made by the Labor Party to the Parliament sitting on more days. We never asserted the proposition that Parliament should not sit on Mondays or Fridays. We object to having fewer sitting days. We object to having longer sitting hours in any one day and we object to having sitting hours when everybody else is not working or cannot follow our proceedings. If it is proposed that we sit on more days in order to have a proper debate before the election date which has now been announced, we do not object to that procedure. What we do object to is a ceiling being placed on the number of hours we can debate the Estimates - a lower ceiling than we have ever had. We object to matters so early in the session coming on for the first time after 1 1 o’clock at night. We ought to accept the fact that in all other parliaments in the English-speaking world, particularly the Congress of the United States in Washington and the Parliament in Westminster Congressmen and members are sitting on more days in the year. It is only this Parliament which keeps to the standing order that we ordinarily sit only on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons and nights and all day Thursday. Other parliaments do sit more days.
In opposing this proposition, I am not relying on the argument that we should not sit more days, particularly when we are having an exceptionally early election. I am objecting to the suppression of debate and the suppression of freedom of speech which we have come to expect from this Government whose Ministers are asking us now to suppress debate as regards their own individual administrations. This is the only time in the whole year when each Minister has to hear his administration under challenge and we are having less time to hear that challenge than ever before. We therefore oppose the motion.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make two comments. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has said that there will be suppression of debate on the issues which will come before this House before it rises prior to the Federal election. My own feeling is that little fear need be held by anyone on this matter, for the nation as a whole will be inundated with words in the next few weeks. On these issues, ample opportunity will be available for anything which has not been said to be said ad nauseam. I cannot accept the view that there will not be an adequate discussion on the measures and matters which have been put before this House, which are being crystallised and which will be brought to a conclusion in the way in which the Government has planned.
I can understand the argument that, after 11 o’clock at night, people begin to get tired. All that goes on in this place is not, as the Leader of the Opposition lightly referred to the subject, confined to certain sitting hours between 2.30 in the afternoon and all the rest. Members of his Party, like members of my own Party, if they attend committee meetings, will be putting a great deal of time during the luncheon and dinner hours into deliberations and discussions quite apart from the things which come on in this House. To judge the activity of honourable members and therefore the strain on the physical resources of honourable members simply by referring to the number of hours of sitting of the House is not to give a fair reflection of the transaction of business in this place during a sitting week.
But, of course, I can understand that at 11 o’clock at night, due to these things, a person gets tired. After midnight a person is even more tired. By 2 a.m., some of the strangest things can happen in this chamber and everyone in the nation knows about them in a very short time. I recall one event that took place at the table at 2 o’clock in the morning. It had to do with a glass of water and the then Minister for External Affairs. I do not think that even the Leader of the Opposition can say that on that occasion things which ought to have been hidden were hidden. I think that the objection to the motion is, in so many words, wasting the time of the House which should be concerned with the valuable business that must be transacted. I think that we should get on with this business.
- Mr Speaker-
Motion (by Mr Erwin) put: Thai the question be now put.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Mr Envin’s) be agreed to.
Question so resoived in the affirmative.
Declaration of Urgency
– I declare that Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1969-70 and Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1969-70 are urgent Bills.
- Mr Speaker-
– Order! Any debate or amendment of the motion is completely out of order.
That the Appropriation Bills be considered urgent Bills.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) proposed:
That the time allowed for the consideration of the Bills be as follows:
– 1 oppose the motion. If anything exemplifies the panic of the Government on the eve of an election it Is the document which allocates the time for discussion of the Estimates. It indicates the Government’s sheer panic and its desire to avoid criticism. When one studies this document one sees that for every portfolio in which there is trouble and in relation to which sound criticism could be made - and there would be criticism from this side - the most limited time has been made available for discussion.
Let us look at the Department of the Treasury, for instance. One hour has been allotted for discussion of the Treasury estimates. It means that if the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) does not open his mouth only two speakers from each side will be allowed to discuss these estimates. Why would the Government not want to have criticism of the Treasurer and his Department? Why would it not want to keep from the light of day the Treasurer’s goings on with Maxwell Newton and others? Why would it not want it to be known that he had the
Budget forced upon him by others? Why would it not want to hide the criticism that would come from this side of the Parliament of the numerous shortcomings in that Department, the way in which the Treasurer has been stood over by others, and the fact that the Budget does not actually represent his point of view?
Then we come to the Attorney-General’s Department. One hour has been allocated for discussion on the estimates of that Department. The Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) certainly does not want us to bring up the Pratt case, the Sime case, the Newton case or the riots and things like that.
– Order! I think the honourable member is getting a little away from the motion. The motion relates to the allotment of time for the discussion of the estimates for the various departments, not the administration of particular departments.
– I bow to the wisdom of your ruling, Mr Speaker, but I merely point out that there is significance in the time allotted for discussion of the matters that the Government wants to hide and does not want to discuss. That is why only one hour has been allocated for discussion of some departments such as the Attorney-General’s Department. Mr Speaker, can you imagine the Attorney-General not speaking at all in the course of the discussion? That would mean that a maximum of only two members from each side of the House would be able to participate. Probably none at all will be able to participate because the AttorneyGeneral might well cover up by speaking for the full hour himself. If I had the record that he has in his Department I think I would do that to save criticism.
We find that only one hour has been allocated for the Prime Minister’s Department. That means that only four speakers in this House will be able to discuss the estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department. Let us forget the amount of money that is involved. This is a$7,000m Budget, but only one hour is allocated for the Prime Minister’s Department. Even you, Mr Speaker, the fair man that you are, could not deny that there is a sinister reason for the restriction that has been placed on discussion in this Parliament and why this limited time has been allotted. The Leader of the House (Mr Erwin) made a mockery of the Parliament when he said earlier today: ‘We are going to show respect for the Parliament in the allocation of the times’. We find that the departments where the Government is most vulnerable, where the administration of Ministers is suspect, and the goings and comings and machinations of which are matters which the public wants brought to the light of day, are those on which we will have limited discussion. Not only will we be given only one hour to discuss such estimates but I suppose they will come on for discussion at about 3 o’clock in the morning when the only members awake will be those on this side of the House.
Mr Speaker, as you can see, the Government is extremely vulnerable. The Leader of the House has talked about his respect for Parliament, but he has moved the gag a dozen times today already and has proposed that we have the shortest period for discussion of the Estimates that we have had for many a day in this Parliament. If anything has shown up his incompetence alongside the record of his predecessor it is the justice he is meting out in this motion he has proposed. I wonder why the Government has limited discussion of the estimates for the Department of National Development to about 2 hours? It does not want national development to be discussed. At least the Government would not take much time over it because it has no plans for national development. But we on this side of the Parliament would like to say what has not been done in regard to water and mineral resources and all the great development projects of this country.
That is why I point out today that in the allocation of time - and let the people of this country and the Parliament take note - every department in relation to which the Government is vulnerable and where its election prospects might be affected has been given the very minimum of time. Democracy has been thrown to the wind, and this power crazed, ageing Administration seeks now to suppress criticism so that it might, under false pretences, be voted back into power. On behalf of the Opposition, I condemn the programme that has been brought forward and say that it is a mockery of the Parliament to allow 37 hours to discuss the expenditure of $7,000m at a time when this country is crying out for the light of day to be brought upon the Parliament. We hope that the people can see what the Government is doing in this election year.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Speaker, I support what my friend, the honourable member for Grayndler-
Motion (by Mr Erwin) put:
That the question be now put. The Mouse divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Question put:
That the allotment of time be agreed to.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 13 August (vide page 213), on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and also the five associated bounty Bills. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. Mr Speaker, I suggest therefore that you permit the subject matter of the six Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the six measures? There being no objection I will allow that course to be followed.
– Each of the six Bills before the House is important. At this stage I would like to say on behalf of the Opposition that, although we raised no objection at the time the Minister asked the House to debate the six Bills together, if this arrangement had not been made we would have debated the six Bills separately and the person leading for the Opposition would have been entitled under the normal procedure - unless he was gagged again by the chief gagger of the Government, the Minister for Air (Mr Erwin) who is at the table - to debate each of the Bills for 45 minutes. Rather than be gagged constantly, the Opposition has agreed that we should try at least to have some semblance of order in respect of this debate.
The Bills are the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill, the Pyrites Bounty Bill, the Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Bill, the Phosphate
Fertilisers Bounty Bill, the Urea Bounty Bill and the Sulphate of Ammonia Bounty Bill. In every case, except for the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Bill - and to a degree it is also affected - all of these matters are under the active consideration of the Australian Tariff Board. The main reason for the introduction of the legislation is to extend the time the Acts related to these Bills will operate. In most cases the extension is for about 6 months. The Opposition does not oppose any of the Bills. In fact, it supports them for the reason - and this was given by the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) in his second reading speech - that the matters covered by them are under active consideration by the Tariff Board and therefore it is only correct that the operation of the bounties should carry on until the Tariff Board makes its findings public and the government of the clay acts on them.
The Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill and the Pyrites Bounty Bill are, of course, concerned with each other directly and indirectly. The same is the case with the Urea Bounty Bill and the Sulphate of Ammonia Bounty Bill. These Bills have common characteristics, particularly with respect to the end results. To a degree the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Bill is also inter-related. Firstly, I would like to deal with the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Bill. This Bill increases the bounty on standard superphosphate by $4 per ton. This brings the total bounty in this financial year to $12 per ton. The Bill also provides for an increase to $60 per ton on the phosphorous pentoxide content in superphosphate other than standard superphosphate and for a similar increase related to the phosphorous pentoxide content of other phosphatic fertilisers.
It is also noted in the Minister’s second reading speech that the provisions relating to trace elements remain unchanged. In other words, the weight of the trace elements that are included in, or added to, the superphosphate will still be deemed to be part of the total weight to which the bounty will apply. It is very difficult for one to talk about six Bills at once. Therefore, I suppose 1 and most other speakers will concentrate on one Bill depending on which is more important in the eyes of the particular speaker. I would like to make some observations on the Sulphate of Ammonia Bounty Bill. When the nitrogen bounty was first introduced in this Parliament practically all nitrogen used in various forms as fertiliser was imported. While such conditions applied it was reasonably easy to ascertain whether the subsidy was being passed on to the consumer - that is to the farmer. As Australian plants have come into production they have their own production costs. The charge has been made in some quarters that the full level of the bounty is not being passed on to the farmer. As Australian production takes over the market it will become the task of a government department, such as the Department of Customs and Excise, to ensure that the farmer gets a fair go and benefits fully from the subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers. It is a different matter with the bounty paid on the manufacture of fertilisers. This goes direct to the manufacturer. Although the subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers is not before the House at this stage it is relevant to the consumption of urea and sulphate of ammonia. What is to be one of the largest plants in Australia, the Austral Pacific, has not yet commenced production of any note, although I understand that it has produced a little urea. The Imperial Chemical Industries plant has been producing nitrogenous fertilisers and it would appear that it has passed on the subsidy.
It is interesting to note a Press release made by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) relating to the proposed operation of the subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers.. It is pleasing to note that manufacturers of nitrogenous fertilisers will have to relate their final prices, after payment of the subsidy or bounty, to the import parity price, which will have to be a non-dump price. The price cannot be related to the price ruling for some urea which some countries are dumping in Australia. If the price determined by Australian manufacturers is above a fair price for imported fertiliser the imported urea would be able to attract a subsidy.
There is no question about this being a good move. Provided it works correctly the scheme will ensure that the Australian farmer will get his fertiliser at a price comparable with overseas prices. This is an important point to be written into the proposed legislation complementary to the
Urea Bounty Bill and the Sulphate of Ammonia Bounty Bill because the Tariff Board is looking at the overall matter of protection. Even if the Austral Pacific organisation is able to manufacture with economies of scale it still may not be able to compete with mass produced nitrogenous fertiliser from Japan and the United States. Even if the company were more efficient than overseas producers it would be a sheer impossibility to compete against them. This being so it is clearly a matter for the Tariff Board. The chief concern of the legislation would be to ensure that the subsidies are passed on to the consumers so that they may buy at a competitive price whereas the Tariff Board would have to decide the level of protection for Australian companies. This would beg the question of the efficiency of Australian companies producing nitrogenous fertilisers as well as the definition of dumped and non-dumped products.
It has been suggested that the bounty being paid under the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Bill is not being passed on to the consumer. This charge is difficult to prove. It is all very well to say that you have a final price less the subsidy but obviously a company could increase its costs to absorb some of the subsidy and thus completely erode the total level of subsidy. Perhaps the most important point to consider is whether the Australian farmer is paying more for his superphosphate than is his counterpart in other countries of comparable standard. It would appear that the Australian farmer is being treated very generously because were it not for the subsidy of $12 a ton he would be paying about $26 a ton. He is actually paying $14 a ton for his superphosphate. In America the price is more than $A40 and in Europe it is more than SA30. Although superphosphate may not be the preferred fertiliser in those areas, nevertheless the difference in price demonstrates that the Australian farmer is being treated quite generously. No doubt this generous treatment is one reason why in some areas, particularly in western New South Wales, there has been in recent years such an expansion in wheat acreages. Given the combination of relatively cheap sheep land, relatively cheap fertiliser, and soil moisture, the returns from wheat production have been a tremendous temptation to get into wheat production, at least in broad acres. I imagine that in recent years - not this year - many big graziers had reasonably large incomes if, with the stimulus provided by the reduction in the price of superphosphate, they were successful in getting reasonable yields.
It is necessary that the Department of Customs and Excise be able to police the subsidy arrangements to ensure that costs are being fairly computed and that the consumer is paying a fair price. I urge upon the Minister for the Interior, who introduced most of these Bills, and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), who introduced the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Bill, the need still to stimulate production in certain areas of Australia, particularly in pastures. In view of the capacity of the production plants in Australia it was necessary to encourage a high level of usage of phosphate and nitrogenous fertilisers. Undoubtedly there is tremendous scope for the use of both types of fertiliser in this country. In the future I think nitrogenous fertiliser will have greater scope in terms of increased application than will the phosphates, although most of Australia is deficient in both elements.
The interesting thing about superphosphate is that most of its uses in southern Australia have been, to a degree, fairly clearly defined with respect to improved pastures and intensive agriculture or even extensive agriculture. But the big untapped scope for phosphate at present is in the sub-tropical and tropical areas as well as, to some degree, in the almost semi-arid areas where their application depends upon soil moisture. Perhaps the biggest scope for the use of phosphate in the northern areas is with respect to tropical and sub-tropical legumes. A lot of very good work is being done by the State Departments of Agriculture, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and, to a limited degree, by practical farmers and cattlemen themselves. All the signs are apparent of the tremendous scope that exists for a reasonably priced phosphatic fertiliser in association with improved legumes such as Townsville lucerne, siratro, phaseolous lathyroides and others. All are showing great promise in our northern areas and it is quite clear that provided soil moisture is present the scientist, in association with the extension worker and the farmer himself, will solve one of the most depressing and distressing problems in the north, namely, the long period of the year of low productivity due to a low nutritional value in the pastures themselves.
Nitrogen, too, I believe has a very exciting future because we have, as I mentioned before, the very large Austral Pacific company coming on stream shortly, and i think the assumption can be made that the price of nitrogenous fertilisers must come down. If prices are at a certain level and we have a capacity to use 300,000 tons but a usage of 160,000 tons it seems obvious that either costs must go up with over-capacity or, if there is an increased use of nitrogen, in time the break-even point will be reached and prices will fall. More importantly, we have to watch overseas events very closely. It is there that nitrogen prices certainly could fall. If they do fall then Australia will benefit from the legislation that I understand will be introduced later and which was foreshadowed by the Minister for Customs and Excise.
It is well known that the greatest scope for the use of nitrogen is in association with consistent soil moisture. The best areas for nitrogen use are irrigated areas. The industry that uses most nitrogenous fertiliser, in the form of sulphate of ammonia, is the sugar industry. It is becoming clear that although the sugar industry is fairly stable with respect to production because it is pegged by peaks or quotas, with increased costs the sugar producer has to - I will not say become more efficient - increase his yield as best he can within his cost structure. One of the ways of doing this is by the judicious, scientific and commonsense use of nitrogen. Again, as with superphosphate, the big untapped area for the use of nitrogen in Australia is in the pasture field. Until a few years ago nobody would have thought of putting nitrogen on pastures unless they were irrigated pastures. Tn tropical and sub-tropical Queensland few people would think of putting superphosphate on native pastures or even improved pastures, although this has been the practice in southern parts for a long tune. But in recent years, due to the very good work of the State Departments and CSIRO, there has been a growing awareness of the tremendous response to the application of nitrogen to pastures - even to pastures that often are considered a menace, including guinea grass and Johnston grass. One of the improved pastures which shows great promise for the use of nitrogen is pangola grass. Already experimental trials that are being carried out by government departments have shown remarkable responses. In fact it is difficult to believe some of the carrying capacities, but they are there in black and white. Tests have been replicated and in some cases the techniques have been put into practice with the result that in some instances a carrying capacity of 4 to 5 beasts an acre has been achieved on the wet tropical coast whereas under the old system the carrying capacity was one beast to 15 to 20 acres. This, of course, involves a study of the application of scientific principles as well as economic principles, but it is becoming very obvious that there is great scope in the wet tropical areas, in areas where there is an abundance of soil moisture, for the application of nitrogen.
I do not think anyone would argue with a thesis that I have had for a long time now that the beef cattle industry is the safest, over a period of time, of all primary industries. It will have its ups and downs. It had them in 1958 after rationing was completed on the United Kingdom market and before the American market came in. It will have them now, because there is no question that the beef cattle industry is walking an economic tightrope at present due to the quota arrangements in the United States of America and the most peculiar way in which those quotas are suddenly coming to an end this year. However, that is a question of management. There is one fundamental fact about beef production in Australia: We can produce as cheaply as, if not cheaper than, any other country. History has shown that when one has the tremendous comparative advantage of being able to produce a commodity cheaper than or as cheaply as any country then, over a time, it is a very good commodity on which to concentrate, particularly if it is a food for which there is no real substitute. Honourable members may say that there are substitutes for beef and that people can eat pig meats, poultry and so forth, but a study of consumption indicates that as living standards rise in most countries the consumption of beef increases. In fact, beef is rather a luxury in most places, even in the United States. As long as it takes 9 months to produce a calf and it does not pay to stall feed the breeding mother, as is the case here, then Australia, with its relatively cheap abundance of grass and its tremendous potential for grass, will have a marked advantage over the rest of the world in terms of beef production. Our problem is one of marketing. This is a question which must be tackled constructively and in a delicate manner. I have always believed, and will continue to believe, that over a period of time the beef cattle industry is the primary industry that has the greatest future because there is no real substitute for beef in practical terms.
One could speak at length about the various potentials that exist for the application of phosphatic fertilisers and nitrogenous fertilisers. But it is important that we accept the fact that costs on Australian farms are rising and that most of these costs are beyond the control of the producer. Therefore, when commodities are to be sold on the cut-throat world market as distinct from the domestic market, which is often subsidised, the Government should accept the responsibility for introducing measures that will reduce the cost of farm production. One way to reduce these costs is to provide some financial assistance for the fertiliser industry. One could’ argue that the nation gains from such assistance. In most instances, if producers are encouraged to use fertilisers, the economic response justifies not only the overall subsidy but also the actual cost of putting the fertiliser on the pastures or using it in agriculture.
I look on this as an investment rather than a subsidy. I do not like the use of the word ‘subsidy’ when it is applied to fertilisers. In fact I do not agree that the financial assistance is a subsidy; it is really an investment. Some people, especially some manufacturing interests, are inclined to over-emphasise the use of subsidies to farmers. They point to Bills such as those before us now and say that we disguise subsidies by calling them ‘bounties’. But I doubt very much whether any secondary industry that is protected by tariffs could match the gain in national income or in the improved balance of payments that comes from the subsidies paid on fertiliser production. I think it could be argued constructively that the tariff is more of a subsidy to secondary industry than the bounty on fertilisers is a subsidy to primary industry. The fertiliser bounty is an investment and a long term incentive whereas the other is simply a high tariff to keep, for example, the motor car industry or the spare parts industry viable. The tariff is really a subsidy in the truest sense of the term when we look at its net effect on national income or the balance of payments.
It was put to me that I should try to contain my remarks within a smaller compass than the allotted time so that another honourable member would have time to speak. This has become necessary because the Government has introduced the guillotine for the debate on the Estimates. I object to its introduction. I again object to debating six Bills at once. Mandrake could not debate six Bills at once. All the Bills are different although, as I said, they have some common features. Even if we wanted to debate them, we could not, because that would take practically the whole afternoon, if we occupied all the time allotted to us on each Bill. The Opposition supports all the Bills.
– I will confine my remarks to the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Bill, which will be, I am certain, received with approval by all primary producers. The first point I make is that the Bill merely restores the value of the original bounty which was granted some time ago. Over the years the value of this bounty has been constantly eroded by price increases and I certainly hope that this bounty will not suffer a similar fate. After the original bounty was introduced we saw successive rises in the price of phosphatic rock, particularly from Nauru, and I hope that the rate of increase in the price of phosphatic rock will not be maintained in the future. Of course, this bounty is a very considerable contribution by the Government to help offset the costs of primary producers. It will help them in their constant battle against rising costs, which seem to be inseparable from modern industrialised society. The Bill will increase the value of the total bounty paid to approximately $50m a year, and this is substantial help indeed. It also follows the sound economic practice of subsidising inputs rather than outputs.
One point that has caused me some concern for some time is the lack of precise knowledge of the results of different rates of application of superphosphate. We get large differences in pasture production with relatively small variations in the rates of application. I have some personal knowledge of this, the Victorian Department of Agriculture having had experimental trial plots on my own place for a good many years. It is obvious that the economic effects of this lack of precise knowledge are important where large quantities of superphosphate are used. For instance, we would have a very significant saving in costs if the response from 90 lb of superphosphate to the acre over 1,000 acres was equivalent to the response from 1 cwt to the acre over 1,000 acres. I am delighted to see that more research is being devoted to this subject by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, by the various State Departments of Agriculture and, I understand, by the fertiliser companies themselves.
I do not think there ls any doubt that the additional superphosphate that will be used as a result of this bounty will increase production. But can the increased production be sold? This question highlights the need for future primary production in Australia to be directed towards products that can find a market. Production for the sake of production will aggravate already existing problems in some industries. It is truly a tragedy that Australia, one of the most efficient primary producing countries in the world, frequently is not allowed access to markets where it can more than hold its own on the basis of cost, quality and, in fact, demand for its products. Australia has a vital interest in doing everything possible to free world trade to the maximum extent. But in this hard, business, commercial world of today we very seldom get something for nothing. Therefore, we must realise that there will be of necessity reciprocal action by Australia to permit important access to the Australian markets for the products of other countries. This in turn directs attention to the importance to the primary industry of the current efforts of the Tariff Board to develop a tariff policy based on sound economic principles and with a far more discriminatory approach to applications for high rates of protection.
If it can be shown that we are taking steps to allow greater access to Australian markets for efficient, high quality goods manufactured overseas, this surely must correspondingly strengthen our hand when we negotiate for the right to sell our primary products in countries with highly protected primary industries. Only when we have been able to bring about such a situation will primary producers and the Government through the export income earned be able to obtain the full benefit from this increase in the superphosphate bounty. I trust that our policies will encourage the creation of a climate which will result in a progressive freeing of world trade and enable our primary producers to take full advantage of this most welcome and helpful legislation.
– I, too, wish to confine my remarks to the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Bill rather than deal with all of the other items, that one could deal with this afternoon. This Bill, which was introduced by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) recently, comes as a result of the announcement in the Budget of an increased bounty on phosphate fertilisers from $8 to $12 a ton. This increase will, as my colleague the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) mentioned, be welcomed by a number of primary producers throughout Australia. I believe that this bounty has a twofold purpose, and the main one, of course, is to reduce the level of farm costs. The second is to encourage the greater use of superphosphate. It is rather interesting to note that the Minister said in his second reading speech:
One of the most significant effects of the bounty was on the area of improved pasture which increased from 41 million acres in 1962-63 to 54 million acres in the year 1967-68.
He also referred to the fact that the sales of phosphatic fertiliser had increased in a similar period from 2.8 million tons to 4.3 million tons. This is a very significant increase. I believe that this is a very important piece of legislation as far as primary industries are concerned. It is time we had a look at the history of the introduction of the superphosphate bounty because it was my colleague the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) who, if my memory serves me correctly, spoke on the importance of the superphosphate bounty as long ago as his maiden speech early in 1959.
– I was fighting for it long before then.
– Together with some of my other Country Party colleagues, I fought on this issue until such time as we convinced the Government that it should be reintroduced. That was on 14th August 1963. My colleague the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) has interjected to the effect that it was discussed earlier than this. This is true but it is also true to say that during those years when the honourable member for Indi and 1 were battling very hard for this there was a lot of strong opposition to the reintroduction of a superphosphate bounty. However, that is now history and I do not wish to discuss it any further.
The Government decided on a $6 a ton bounty which remained in force until August 1968 when it was increased to $8. It has now been raised to $12. I think there are many people who do not realise the importance of the contribution made by the Commonwealth to the industries that use superphosphate. Some interesting figures prepared by the Department of Primary Industry show that this year the contribution is $19m greater than that of last year, bringing the total cost for this year to $50m. But if we go back over the years we see the variations in the total bounty provided by the Government. In the year 1963-64 the amount was $18. 81m; in 1964-65 it was $22.88m; in 1965-66 it was $24.98m; in 1966-67 it was $26.25m; in 1967-68 it was $23.56m; in 1968-69 it was $3 1.7m; and the estimate for 1969-70 is, as I said, $50m. So for that period a total amount of $198.1 8m has been provided. This, of course, does not include the other bounties which I could discuss such as the sulphuric acid bounty, the urea bounty and the sulphate of ammonia bounty. I might add that the amount expended on those bounties should be added to the amount which has been paid for the superphosphate bounty because many of these other commodities are used in various forms in conjunction with superphosphate.
The value of this to the individual grower is of interest, because according to the Department of Primary Industry to an average wheat farmer, that is, a man who has between 450 and 500 acres under cultivation, this will mean a saving of $675 a year. To the grazier who owns 2,000 sheep, it will mean a saving of $600 a year. As I said earlier, there has been a lot of criticism about the original introduction of the bounty, and today there is still some criticism even from the odd beneficiary. It is claimed that the funds are paid to the manufacturers, and not passed on to the growers. The important thing is that if we were not to have this bounty increased by $4 one could expect that the price to the grower himself, or the user, or the consumer - call him what you like - would be $4 extra. The true value of the bounty is of interest. When the first bounty was introduced in 1963 - that was $6 a ton - it was equivalent to 29% of the total cost of superphosphate. Today the bounty has increased to 512 and this represents a percentage of 45% of the total cost of superphosphate. This, of course, is encouraging to the development of primary industries, which I believe needs some encouragement.
In recent times one notes that the contribution by primary industries to our exports is falling. In 1967-68 primary industries accounted for 64% of our exports. In 1968-69 they accounted for only 58%. So this bounty is one form in which we can perhaps encourage the production of more primary products. It can be said that we might be producing too much wheat at the present time. But I believe that the question of whether we are encouraging over-production of a commodity because of assistance in reducing cost is not the issue at all. We should also remember that although only a small percentage of superphosphate is used in the production of wheat its effect is passed on in the form of pasture improvement. I believe that if we can increase pasture improvement in the wheat areas it is only natural that this in itself will tend to reduce rather than encourage the production of wheat.
I wish to quote some figures from a statement made by the Minister for Primary Industry in answer to a question asked by my friend and colleague, the honourable member for Indi. At page 252 of Hansard of 14th August, the honourable member asked the Minister whether he had read some reports that people were being encouraged to grow more wheat. The Minister said in part:
The greater use of superphosphate helps the meat and woolgrowing industries considerably. In fact, 64% of the superphosphate used in Australia is used by the grazing industry. Only 22% is used by the wheat industry. The balance is used on other crops.
I do not wish to prolong this debate. Suffice it to say that I am very pleased that the Government has seen fit to increase the bounty from $8 to $12. I believe that primary industries and primary producers generally will accept this bounty on the basis that the Government is endeavouring to do all that it possibly can to assist primary industry as a whole. It is with a great deal of pleasure that I support this Bill before the House.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill and the Pyrites Bounty Bill provide for an extension of the bounty for 12 months until 30th June 1970 pending the report from the current Tariff Board inquiry into these industries. I understand that two references are before the Tariff Board at present. The first seeks to ascertain how the Government can best fulfil or discharge its outstanding obligations to enterprises which installed capacity for the production of sulphur bearing material of an Australian origin or for the production of acid from Australian materials. The second reference, which has not much to do with the first one, asks the Tariff Board to ascertain whether the Government should continue to assist the industry to use Australian materials.
Dealing with the first reference regarding fulfilment or discharge of the outstanding obligation of the Government, I say, having studied this matter fairly fully, that no doubt exists in my mind that the Government has an obligation. Some 20 years ago, there was a world shortage of brimstone. We must bear in mind the dependence on fertilisers for production in rural industries in this country and the importance to Australia of rural exports. Some 80% of out overseas export earnings come from the rural sector of the economy. It was very important then that the Government give some undertaking to manufacturers operating acid plants which used Australian pyrites that it would assist those manufacturers and provide some sort of enabling insurance to protect them against imports of sulphur. The Government encouraged these manufacturers and said that it would protect those industries using indigenous sulphur in its production.
I mention by way of example that in 1953 the Government made a grant of $30,000 to the State of Tasmania on a $1 for $1 basis for the construction of a jetty and conveyor equipment at Strahan for the shipment of larger tonnages of pyrites to the mainland. In 1959, the Government discontinued this policy but recognised that it had an obligation to producers who had co-operated in the past policy. This obligation has been fulfilled by the payment of bounties both on pyrites and sulphuric acid produced from indigenous materials and sold in Australia. Conjecture has arisen concerning quite a deal of this matter and particularly as to the period of time of the obligation.
I would refer to the comments of the Tariff Board on page 12 of its 1967 report on its inquiry into sulphur bearing materials. In this report, dealing with the question of obligation, the Tariff Board said:
In setting the period or obligation, the Board is of the opinion that 20 years would’ be reasonable. According to witnesses, this is about the average life of a pyrites plant with normal maintenance. In selecting the period of 20 years, the Board is mindful that the Government has never committed itself as to the duration of its obligation to the industry. However, assuming that the Government accepts that it has an obligation for this period, the Board suggests that it commence from 1954-1955, when most production commenced under the scheme of encouragement. This would mean that the Government’s obligation still has 7 years to run, that is, until 1974.
Dealing with the question of how best the Government can discharge its obligation, I feel that this should be done by way of compensation in the case of mining concerns which have lost their markets to imported brimstone. The Tariff Board recommended along these lines in 1967 and suggested a figure of $385,000 compensation for Norseman Gold Mines Pty Ltd and $28,000 for Mount Morgan Ltd. As to how the Government can fulfil its obligation, I think the Tariff Board’s opinion that 1974 should be the year for the end of the obligation is a reasonable one based on the life of the plants. In view of this, the present bounty on pyrites and acid from pyrites should be extended for a further 5 years beyond 30th June 1969. I mention again that the Pyrites Bounty Bill before us is to extend the bounty for a further 12 months pending this Tariff Board report.
I must point out that more and more acid producers are changing over from burning pyrites to using imported brimstone, possibly for the reasons that I will outline later. I think that pyrites producers must be protected until the end of the 20 year period. The Government should pay them compensation in the meantime if any of them lose their markets for the indigenous material. This changeover to brimstone is going on, even though some of the mining concerns have financial affiliations with the acid and brimstone plants. The Mt Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd in Queenstown was selling 70,000 tons of pyrites a year to Commonwealth Fertilisers and Chemicals Ltd in the 1950s. This quantity dropped to 30,000 tons in the 1960s. As from the third quarter of this calendar year, Commonwealth Fertilisers and Chemicals Ltd will take no more pyrites from Mt Lyell. However, we have another outlet in that as from early next year the Mt Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd will be supplying 150,000 tons of pyrites to the North-West Acid Co. at Burnie in Tasmania.
As to the second reference before the Tariff Board - whether the Government should assist the mining industry using indigenous materials - I maintain that there is a definite obligation and indeed a national responsibility for the Government to assist the industry for several reasons. Imported sulphur is subject to violent fluctuation both as to price and as to supply. . Before 1959 the price averaged out at about $30 per ton landed. In the 5 years from 1960 to 1965, that price fell below $30 per ton landed. After 1965, the price rose to a peak of $50 per ton landed. It has been falling since late last year. In recent weeks, it has taken quite a tumble, particularly in relation to sulphur which we can get through the pool from Canada.
This is a very important economic aspect in the industry. The cost of sulphur can run as high as 90% of the total cost of acid produced in a sulphur burning plant. This wide fluctuation in the price of sulphur is carried through to the value of acid that is produced. When the price of imported sulphur falls, marginal producing mines overseas - and some of those on the middle range, that is, middle marginal producing mines - naturally close down. This then creates a world shortage of sulphur, and it is anticipated that this is what will happen. Because the price is tumbling it is inevitable in this cycle that is common in the sulphur producing world that some of these mines will close down, resulting in a shortage of sulphur; then the price will rise again. In order to get some stability and to guard against complete dependence on supplies from overseas this Government must continue its support by means of a bounty on both pyrites and the acid from pyrites. I have emphasised the importance of the dependence of the rural industries and rural production on this, and I now turn to the saving of foreign exchange. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard a table which sets out sulphur imports and the cost of those imports to Australia.
A study of this table reveals that last year sulphur imports cost this country $21. 5m. By 1975 the consumption of sulphuric acid is expected to rise to 31 million tons. Working on the basis that three-quarters of this is made from imported sulphur we can expect sulphur imports to rise by 1975 to about 900,000 tons, and at current landed costs this will involve Australia in foreign exchange expenditure of approximately $50m. I said earlier in my remarks that Mount Lyell has an alternative market now for its pyrites and it is not seeking compensation. It has lost the market that it had traditionally in Melbourne for many years but it now has another one, so that unlike Mount Morgan and Norseman, this company on the west coast of Tasmania is not seeking compensation. North West Acid Pty Ltd is establishing an acid plant at Burnie which is expected to produce 420,000 tons of acid from pyrites each year. This plant will be the first of its type built in Australia since the Sulphuric Acid Pty Ltd plant in Adelaide was commissioned in 1954.
It is significant to bear in mind what the Tariff Board report had to say about the normal life of an acid plant of some 20 or 15 years, which is the time that has elapsed since the last one was commissioned. Over a plant life period of 15 years it is expected that by using indigenous materials this plant at Burnie will save Australia between $70m and $110m in foreign exchange. That is a considerable amount of foreign exchange and I think that the people concerned are to be commended for their initiative and effort in establishing such a plant. When this plant now under construction is in full operation it will use 150,000 tons of pyrites from Mount Lyell in Queenstown and a similar amount from the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australia Ltd at Rosebery. The capital cost of the plant is $14m and the production will provide a great boost to the economy of the west and north west of Tasmania. The work force of this plant will be over 100 and there will be an increase in numbers engaged in the production of pyrites in Queenstown and in Rosebery. Employees will be required for the rail link to Burnie, for the transport of material from the rail terminal to the plant, and, after treatment, for the disposal of waste products miles out to sea. The disposal of waste products is one of the big factors in pyritic burning acid plant operations. The pyrites contain about 50% of sulphur and there is a huge quantity of waste material for which no use can be found at present, and this waste must be taken away from the factory site and dumped. It is proposed to take it from Burnie some miles out to sea. All this adds to the cost of operations.
The Government should give this company and any others like it an assurance by way of a bounty such as that suggested by the principals of this company of 22c a ton of acid for every $1 by which the price of imported sulphur falls below $28 a ton f.o.b. gulf ports. When freight is added to this it represents a landed cost of about $38 a ton. It is important for the Government to realise that if such a bounty is not granted and the price of imported sulphur falls below $28 this huge concern, which is of great economic importance to this area: - apart from its use of indigenous materials - and upon which we would virtually depend for supplies of sulphur in times of war and shipping difficulties, would most likely have to go to the wall.
I congratulate the North West Acid Co. and commend it for setting up an establishment wherein Australian materials are to be used, but this company must be protected because this is a national asset. The Government should take into account the additional costs involved in a plant of this type as opposed to a brimstone plant. In the 1967 Tariff Board Report on Sulphurbearing Materials the following reference was made to these costs:
The capital cost of a pyritic acid plant is more than double that of a brimstone plant with the same capacity.
Operational costs of a pyritic acid plant are from three to four times the cost of those of a brimstone plant.
The total cost of producing acid from pyrites is much higher than the comparable cost of acid from brimstone.
The brimstone process is cleaner and the life of the plant greater than that of a plant which bums pyrites.
The Commonwealth Commissioner of Taxation recognises the rapid depreciation of a pyrites-burning acid plant as against a plant using sulphur and he allows 10% for a pyrites plant as against li% for a sulphur acid plant.
This Bill extends the payment of the bounty for a further 12 months until 30th June 1970, to the producers of pyrites and to existing producers of acid from pyrites. I commend the extension and sincerely hope that the Tariff Board will again recognise the importance of these industries to the Australian economy when it next considers this matter and the need to relieve, to some extent, our complete dependence on sulphur imports. This can be done by extending the period of obligation until 1974 at least, and by providing an insurance for the heavy capital expenditure by way of bounty for acid production from Austra lian materials in such new and vital industries as North West Acid Pty Ltd in Burnie, Tasmania. We must encourage the use in Australia of indigenous sulphur bearing materials on the grounds of economics and security and because such use must result in a substantial saving in foreign exchange.
In the time that is left to me to speak on this Bill I want to refer briefly to one particular aspect of it, that is the payment of a bounty for the production of certain superphosphate fertilisers. I have been advised by produce merchants on the north west coast area of Tasmania that they were informed that they will not be able to qualify for the $4 bounty announced in the Budget to operate from 13th August 1969. This is the third time that these people have been caught in this manner. 1 do not think that this is a fair way of treating them. In other parts of Australia where the produce merchants are closer to the superphosphate plants they simply order the supplies of superphosphate and it goes straight out to the farmer, but in this area on the north west coast of Tasmania the produce merchants buy in supplies of superphosphate and they have it in store for the benefit of the primary producers who want to do some early sowings of peas or other crops. Because they had it in store on the night that the Budget was delivered they will not be entitled to the $4 bounty for the quantity that they had in store. This is entirely wrong and unfair.
The Government realised that this position existed when the bounty for nitrogenous fertilisers was brought in and it did something about it. It gave a credit for the fertilisers held in store at the time. Why cannot it do the same thing this time? I appeal to the Government to take this into consideration. If the Government does not take similar action it will be doing a great disservice to the farmers of Tasmania because in future the produce merchants there will not keep superphosphate in stock in August because they will be expecting a change in the bounty when the Budget is brought down in that month which is the normal time for its introduction. Therefore the farmers in that area will be denied access to a ready supply of fertilisers which they need for their farms. These produce merchants should not have to carry this $4 a ton impost, and I appeal to the Government to give some consideration to reimbursing these people or to allow them the benefit of the $4 bounty. Some of these produce merchants are in a small way and they are unable to carry this additional burden. I make this plea to the Government on behalf not only of the produce merchants in that area but also of those in the electorate of the honourable member for Wilmot.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– As the House is aware, this debate covers six Bills, all of which deal in one way or another with fertiliser or the ingredients of fertiliser. The Bill which 1 wish to speak about in particular is the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Bill 1969. This Bill will increase the bounty on superphosphate from $8 a ton to $12 a ton. I am sure that this increase will be welcomed by farmers all around Australia, and so it should be. It is a further recognition by the Government of the importance to primary production of the increasing use of superphosphate and, more importantly, of the very serious and continuing problem of rising costs that the farmers of Australia, indeed the farmers of the world, face. The farmers have no control whatsoever over many of these costs. The bounty on superphosphate will help the farmers to counter the problem of rising costs.
The bounty was reintroduced by the Government after a lapse of some years in the Budget of 1963. On that occasion the Government announced a bounty of $6 a ton. That announcement was welcomed by the Australian Country Party, which had fought strenuously to persuade the Government to introduce a bounty. Many members were instrumental in putting this matter to the Government, none more so than the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King). I must say that I said a few words on it myself now and then, as also did the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), now the Minister for the Interior. It was because of the support received from the members of the other Government party, the Liberal Party, and the efforts of the Country Party that the Government at last introduced this very important bounty. The bounty remained the same until last year, when the Government increased it to $8 a ton, and now a year later the Government has seen fit to increase it by another $4 a ton or by 50%. 1 am aware that time is the essence of the contract tonight and that there are a lot of matters for the Parliament to deal with between now and when it rises, so I do not intend to dwell on the subject at great length. However, I do want to make one point. From time to time members who represent country areas have heard from primary industry leaders and from individual farmers that the bounty has been swallowed up by the rises in the price of superphosphate. There is one point, of course, that these members of the farming community ought to remember. No matter to what level the price of superphosphate rises, if a bounty is payable they will still get it at the actual price less whatever the bounty is. So it is not quite fair to imply that when everything else is rising, the price of superphosphate ought not to rise. Irrespective of whether the price has risen considerably or not, the position is that the farmer of Australia has enjoyed this concession, which has amounted in total to over $70m to date.
The fact of the matter is that the price of superphosphate is not determined in the way that has been stated by the leaders of the primary producing organisations and the individual farmers. I would like to record the accurate position as it relates to the bounty being eaten up or just being equivalent to the rise in the price of superphosphate. In 1961 the price of bulk superphosphate was $21.20 a ton. It remained the same in 1962, and in 1963 it was reduced to $18.45, which was a reduction almost equivalent to the rebate of $3 a ton that was paid by most suppliers. Then in September 1963, when the bounty of $6 a ton was introduced, the price went down by an equivalent amount to $12.45. It remained the same for 2 years, when the price of bulk’ superphosphate rose to $14.25, which was an increase of $1.80 a ton. This price remained the same for about a year, and in late 1966 it took quite a dramatic jump to $19.75, which was an increase of $5.50.
The reasons for this were several but the main one was that the world sulphur price rose considerably. In other words, the increase had nothing to do with the fact that the Commonwealth Government had introduced a bounty of $6 a ton 3 years before this and the suggestion that the manufacturers of this commodity were taking advantage of it. Furthermore, the price of phosphate rock from Nauru rose considerably and some of the manufacturers, because of a shortage of phosphate rock from Nauru, were forced to import rock from Florida, which obviously is much further away. Therefore the phosphate was much dearer. I remember very distinctly that one of the manufacturers told me that it was a much harder type of rock and that this caused excessive wear and tear and damage to the machinery that was used to manufacture superphosphate. From $19.75 in 1966 the price went to $21, and in late 1967 it was reduced by 20c to $20.80. In August 1968 - the price still being the same - the Government introduced a further subsidy of $2 a ton, which brought the price down to $18.80. It remained at this figure until the day after the present Budget was introduced when, because of the introduction of an extra subsidy of $4 a ton, the price became $14.80.
So contrary to the opinions that are expressed very often to those of us who represent country areas, the net result is this: In 1961 it cost a farmer $21.20 to buy a ton of superphosphate; today it costs him $14.80 a ton, which is a reduction of $6.40 a ton. So the Australian farmer really is getting a very fair deal by the provision of this subsidy on superphosphate. It has contributed to a reduction in his costs. I am sure that if the primary producer stops to look at the facts, he will agree with the proposition that I am putting to the House.
The other thing which the subsidy on superphosphate does is to encourage the use of superphosphate. I will refer to some figures to illustrate this point In the year before the subsidy was introduced, 2.519 million tons of superphosphate were used in Australia. In 1967-68, which is the last financial year for which we have records, the usage of superphosphate had risen to 3.637 million tons - a rise of about 1.1 million tons, or an increase of nearly 45%.
This illustrates the point which the honourable member for Wimmera, the honourable member for Gippsland, the Minister for the Interior, and other members of the Country Party have constantly been putting to the Government. They have said that if the Government recognised the problem of rising costs which is facing the farmer and provided a subsidy on superphosphate, the use of superphosphate would increase and, as a result, the production of the farmer per acre would increase. The payment of the subsidy is another factor which has helped the farmer to meet the cost problem. Along with other members of my Party, I welcome the introduction of this legislation. I am sure that it will benefit the farmer and also Australia.
Finally, I want to refer to the criticism which we read in newspapers from academics and from some newspaper writers, whom I do not think have had a great deal of experience in the farming world, that we should not subsidise the Australian farmer. If we do not subsidise him, we are putting ourselves on a level above that of any other major country. There is not a country which does not subsidise its primary producers. I am not in a position to advance an economic theory as to why this is necessary, and what is more, it appears to me that there is no-one in the most advanced countries who can find an economic theory why primary industries should not be subsidised. As I say, there is a great deal of criticism by academics and by the man in the street. But we must remember that not only primary industries are subsidised; many secondary industries in the world are also subsidised. So there seems to be a need for some super-economist to appear to solve this problem. But until he appears, no-one in Australia, or no-one in this Parliament, ought to begrudge or oppose subsidisation, to a reasonable extent, of Australian farmers. So in common with my colleagues in the Country Party, I believe that this is a wise piece of legislation and one which will do only good for the Australian farmer.
Mr ARMSTRONG (Riverina) 18.153-1 should like quickly to add my support to the Bills before the House. One of the greatest attributes that a jockey has is to be an able judge of pace. My colleague, the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten), would never have made it as a jockey. I want to refer particularly to superphosphate, because although the other fertilisers are very important, superphosphate is the main one. It has been the main factor in the upsurge in production in Australia in the last 12 to 14 years. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) in his second reading speech said:
The bounty was designed to serve a twofold purpose, namely, to reduce the level of farm costs and to encourage greater use of superphosphate as a means of promoting more economic production.
Anything that can be done to reduce the level of farm costs will make a great contribution towards overcoming the problem that exists in rural industry today. The Minister also said:
The trace elements involved were copper, zinc, cobalt, molybdenum, managanese and boron. . . trace elements added to superphosphate shall be deemed to be superphosphate for the purposes of the bounty.
It is very difficult to assess the value of fertilisers to primary industry in the period of 12 years, because many other things have contributed to the great increase in our production, particularly in livestock. But nothing has been more significant in this increase than the application of fertiliser to our lands, and in no area is this more noticeable than in irrigation areas. We have applied water to land which otherwise by nature would be dry.
Without boring the House with statistics, I will refer quickly to some figures which amply demonstrate the increase in livestock production. In New South Wales cattle production has increased from 3.6 million to 4.8 million and in Victoria from 2.6 million to 3.9 million. The figures are very significant in Queensland because it is only very lately in time, in the last few years, that the application particularly of nitrogenous fertilisers has been of benefit to pastures in Queensland. The position in Queensland has remained almost static. Of course, tragically, the livestock numbers would be lower at the present time because the figures I am quoting are a few months old. Cattle production in Queensland increased from 7.3 million to 7.7 million. It increased from 560,000 to 860,000 in South Australia, from 890,000 to 1.5 million in Western Australia, and from 331,000 to 588,000 in Tasmania.
There is a similar pattern with sheep. The States which have been able to apply fertiliser have increased their production dramatically. Production in the State of Queensland, which until comparatively lately has not applied fertiliser, has remained almost static. The numbers of sheep in New South Wales have gone up and down a little, due to drought, but the figure was 62.9 million, and it is now about the same. The total number of sheep has increased from 23 million to 31 million in Victoria. In Queensland it has decreased from 22 million to 20 million. It has increased from 13.5 million to 18.3 million in South Australia, and from 14 million to 33.4 million in Western Australia, which is a dramatic increase in 12 years. This is an illustration of what fertilisers mean to primary industries.
After all, the most important pasture that we can produce is grass. Grass is the pasture which brings the greatest results, and it is also the pasture which has produced the widest results. As was pointed out in an answer by the Minister for Primary Industry, 64% of superphosphate is used on pastures, 14% is used on various crops other than wheat and 22% on wheat, which is approximately 1% of our total usage of superphosphate on every million acres of wheat. My colleague and friend - despite what I might have said about him, I hope he is still my friend - the honourable member for Indi quoted figures with reference to the cost of fertilisers since 1961 when the bounty was first applied. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate the following table in Hansard.
1961 March 1963 September 1963
October 1965 November 1966 1967 1968 August 1968
$21.20 SI 8.45
$12.45 - a reduction of $6 by bounty $14.25 - an increase of $1.80 $19.75 - an increase of $5.50 due to an increase in the world price of Sulphur in the cost of Nauruan rock
$20.80- a reduction of 20 cents $18.80- a further bounty of $2 making $8 in all
Present price $14.80 - reduced by a further bounty of $4 making $12 bounty in all. Total amount of superphosphate used in Australia: 1962-63 - 2.51 million tons 1967-68-3.63 million tons
This table serves to prove that the primary producer has benefited to a greater extent from the bounty than perhaps is believed in certain places. Some people believe that most of the benefit has gone to the manufacturer. The fact that the cost of superphosphate in 1961 was $21.20 and today is $14.80 amply demonstrates the benefit that has accrued from the bounty. This is just one small measure, and only one small measure, of which the primary producer is deserving. If he is going to be kept in business he has to receive this sort of assistance, and also a lot more assistance of other kinds.
– I do not wish to gild the lily or to add to the scholarly case put for the Opposition by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) in support of the Bills before the House, but I wish to sound a brief warning in regard to the things these Bills do not do. They do not give preference to small operators on farms that barely support the family working on them. In fact, the large operators that are taking over and squeezing out small farmers and graziers will get the lion’s share of this type of handout which is a blanket subsidy on fertiliser purchases of all sizes for all purposes. I submit that it is high time to remove all subsidy beyond such a ceiling as would reasonably be required to keep small farms working at optimum efficiency with a minimum of interest burdens and all the other burdens that they have and which the big operators do not have. This, of course, is contrary to the philosophy of honourable members opposite who are committed to the prospect of spoils to the victor and more subsidy to the rich. They foster the stock exchange and the Golden Casket philosophy in regard to the struggling farmer, holding out to him the carrot of sudden windfalls and growing fat in retirement on the efforts of others. But that carrot is consumed by the big land holder as it has been since ever the world produced landed gentry distinct from those who till the land.
– I do not think the honourable member knows what he is talking about.
– The result is that foreign millionaires are taking over Australia. For the benefit of the honourable member who wants to know what I am talking about, he may wish to know that the biggest single land holding in the world is now in this country. It is in the hands of a Texas oil tycoon who is now combining forces with Australian millionaires like the Baillieus. Only a change of government will bring prosperity and stability to small primary producers and to our primary industries and save them from the big monopolies that are harming small producers. The handouts from Country Party Ministers for agriculture, while helping small farmers temporarily, also keeps them in hock to conservative governments.
The other point that I wish to raise briefly concerns the pyrites bounty. This bounty is like so many other secondary industry and mining industry handouts, bounties or subsidies. I am not complaining that the bounty on pyrites and other bounties have not helped industries in my electorate because they have, but they are a short sighted way of fostering industry. What we should be doing is to make other industries that use these subsidies more efficient. We should be doing this with public funds in combination with private investors. I just sound this note because this legislation is the philosophy of the Country Party. It is high time the Australian electors realised that this is only a patch-up way of fostering industry - by taking from Peter to pay Paul. It is not fostering the optimum use of our resources, and the best prosperity to be derived from these industries if national planning is used and if national needs were considered as well as the stimulus of profits.
– It was not my intention to speak on these Bills. However, my interest has been aroused by the speeches made by members of the Country Party and also the speech made by my colleague, the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham). I notice that no information has been given to the House, particularly by members of the Country Party who have spoken on these Bills, as to who are the principal fertiliser producers in this country. I can assure the House that I am aware that the Sulphide Corporation Pty Ltd at Newcastle is a big manufacturer or producer of superphosphate. Some thousands of tons of fertiliser regularly flow out of the Sulphide Corporation to be distributed throughout Australia.
– Does it give much employment?
– This organisation gives a lot of employment and I am happy about this point. But if the honourable member listens a little longer he might hear another point on which he might enlighten me and the House. The Sulphide Corporation is wholly and solely a subsidiary of one of the biggest mining companies in Australia - Conzinc Riotinto of Bougainville fame. When an organisation such as Conzinc Riotinto merges into the fertiliser industry I come to the conclusion that it must be a very lucrative field. In other words, it must be a quick, high profit making industry.
We find in this debate that the Australian taxpayer is subsidising the manufacture of fertiliser, but we hear nothing in the Parliament as to what the fertiliser manufacturers are making in the way of profit. I intended my remarks to be brief. The Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon), who is at the table, may be able to enlighten me and the Parliament as to what Conzinc Riotinto and other manufacturers are making in the way of profit out of the manufacture of fertiliser. If the Australian people knew, I believe that they would be amazed and stunned at this Parliament granting subsidies to the extent that it does instead of asking the fertiliser manufacturers to reduce their profits and therefore reduce their price to the Australian farmer.
We find - and I follow the theme put forward by my distinguished colleague from Capricornia - that no doubt some of the grazing companies that benefit from this subsidy would be the likes of Wave Hill which is mercifully treated. I do not know whether fertiliser of this type would be used at Wave Hill, King Ranch or some of the other foreign owned gigantic properties which are now taking over Australia. I would like to know what proportion of these foreign owned grazing companies are using fertiliser which receives a Commonwealth Government subsidy which is paid by the Australian taxpayer. I believe that the Minister should enlighten me and the Parliament.
– in reply- I think the first thing I ought to do is to inform the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) that he does not understand the fundamental provisions of the Bill. The honourable member makes the very odd complaint that a company that is in his electorate is receiving a bounty given by this Government at the expense of the taxpayer. He makes the claim - this is inherent in what he said - that the bounty is not being passed on to the farmer but in fact it is going into the profits of Conzinc Riotinto. If I know my geography, the company to which the honourable member referred produces superphosphate. Is that correct?
– In that case the honourable member should know that the bounty paid to the manufacturer comes off the price of superphosphate to the farmer. In other words, the farmer pays $12 a ton less now as a result of the bounty than he would have paid in the first place. The real situation bears little relation to the emotional charges which the honourable member made against a very big company which employs many people - happily I understand - in his electorate. It is easy to see that the honourable member is not a farmer. I forgive him for that, just as I forgive him for not really understanding the provisions of the Bill.
– Wave Hill.
– I could invite the honourable member for Hunter to accompany me, as the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has done on many occasions, on a trip through the Northern Territory, when he would discover, obviously for the first time, that at Wave Hill superphosphate is unknown. It is not used by the bag, by the pound or by the ounce. Technological know-how in the growing of grasses in that part of the Northern Territory has not yet reached that stage where superphosphate is of any use. So the honourable member can go home tonight and rest assured that there is no annoying link between one nasty company that he has named and another large company that he believes also to be nasty, situated in the Northern Territory.
The honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) read very badly a written speech but nevertheless advanced a point of view that sounded like somebody on Sunday, with great respect to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and to my friend the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie). The honourable member for Capricornia tried to make a point about the small fanner. I would like the honourable member to understand first of all that under the Constitution the Government has very little say as to how bounties are spread. We have the right to hand out a bounty but very little right to nominate who will be on the receiving end of the bounty.
– We have no right.
– Exactly: We have no right at all. Judging from what the honourable member said one would think that the Government had the right to say: ‘Vestey’s is a big organisation. It does not deserve a bounty. It is making a million and we will not give it a bounty. But Joe Blow down the street with a small farm and a small profit margin should get a bounty.’ The Government does not have that right. Let me tell the honourable member for Capricornia that one of the things close to the Government’s heart in bringing down this legislation was the small farmer of this nation. Nobody has more sympathy for the small farmer than I or the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), who regrets his inability to be here tonight. He is on a very important mission elsewhere. All of my colleagues on the Government side have the welfare of the small farmer at heart. Far be it from me to talk politics but if the honourable member for Capricornia wants to debate what Labor would do for the small farmer and what the Government is prepared to do, let him name the time and the place and I will be happy to accommodate him.
– When did-
– Do not let the honourable member for Wilmot get aroused. The simple fact is that I and the Minister for Primary Industry - in fact all of my colleagues on this side - are concerned for the small farmer. We believe there is a place in this nation for him. Let us not misunderstand that.
I do not want to delay the House unduly but these points should be answered. The honourable member for Capricornia made another comment which really comes down to what I see as the crux of Labor’s policy - the nub or the guts - call it what you will. He suggested that the Government should use public funds to encourage more efficient use of pyrites. I say that this is at the heart of Labor’s policy because it boils down to the old issue of nationalisation of industry. I am sure that the honourable member has in his mind-
– The Minister has election jitters.
– I have no election jitters. When I can win my seat with 27,000 votes compared to 9,000 votes polled by the Australian Labor Party candidate, why would I have jitters? So do not say that this is a case of jitters. This is a simple and plain fact of life: The ALP in its dogmatic way, as we saw again tonight, continues to bring up this threat to free and private enterprise in this country - enterprise that has made this nation great and which under this Government will make it even greater. What does the honourable member want to do? He wants to interfere with every little farm and industry; to nationalise it; to build up a big bureaucratic organisation. He wants to control and plan. That is the cry: Let us control and plan. This is the essence of Labor’s policy, as expounded tonight by the honourable member for Capricornia. I fear for the future of Australia if by some mischance the Labor Party gains control of the treasury bench. If this happens the great growth that we have seen over the past 20 years under this Government will stagnate and die. The prosperity of the nation and the people will suffer.
One or two other matters of sense were put forward, one by the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies). I believe that these should be dealt with. The honourable member referred to the problem of storekeepers and merchants who had bought superphosphate into their stores prior to the introduction of the Budget. This matter has been considered on two previous occasions - when the bounty was introduced and when it was increased. On both occasions the Government believed that there had to be a stop point somewhere and when you have a stop point someone must suffer. The Government chose the point that is applied in relation to taxation law, such as sales tax. Changes in sales tax apply as from the day after the announcement of the changes and goods which have left the hands of the wholesaler are not affected. The same principle applies - unfortunately, as the honourable member for. Braddon said - to merchants who have bought superphosphate into their stores. The Government has looked at this aspect on several occasions and believes that while its decision must appear arbitrary to some people, this is the best point at which to stop. The question can be asked: If the bounty is to be paid in respect ot superphosphate that has already been bought into a store, what about the farmer who has already purchased superphosphate? It could be argued that he bought this superphosphate into storage on the day preceding the announcement of the bounty. Even if he has used it, it could be argued that he would still have it in his shed if the weather had been wet. Why not pay him in those circumstances? There has to be a stop point and someone must suffer. The Government has chosen this point and the merchants are aware of the situation. This is the one thing in their buying and selling that they should watch closely. I want the honourable member to know that the Government has considered the matter very carefully.
The honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) expressed the fear that an increase in the superphosphate bounty might encourage an increase in wheat production. I think the Minister for Primary Industry dealt with this matter in the House recently when he said that only 22% of our superphosphate was used in wheat production in 1967-68 compared with 64% used on pastures. In that year wheat acreage was about 22.4 million acres. The purpose of the increase in the bounty is io lower production costs and to enable higher productivity. So while I register the honourable member’s point, I think the Minister for Primary Industry has demonstrated that the bounty applies over a much broader field than mere wheat production. As I said to the honourable member for Capricornia, we do not have the right to say who will get the bounty and who will not, so we have applied it over the whole field, having regard to the fact that we are trying to achieve the maximum good and the best use of the resources available to the nation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, with your concurrence and some latitude I should like to debate all the related Bills together rather than dealing with each individual Bill separately because my comments and questions relate to them all. The Bills are concerned broadly with superphosphate, phosphatic fertilisers and nitrogen. I am concerned with the clauses that relate to the actual rates of payment and with the Government’s repeated refusal to raise the rate of subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers from $80 per ton of contained nitrogen and to raise the actual bounty in respect of sulphate of ammonia and urea. All speakers from the Country Party have concentrated on the superphosphate subsidy. The Opposition, as I said at the commencement of this debate, supports the Bill.
The Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) made an impassioned speech about supporting the smaller farmer. Every Country Party speaker and every Opposition speaker referred to the insidious increases in costs. One of the principal reasons for increasing the bounty is to reduce the cost of superphosphate to the growers. I am asking the Minister: If it is good enough for the user of superphosphate, principally the wool grower and the wheat farmer, to receive a benefit why is it not good enough for the user of nitrogen to receive a benefit? The cost structure is basically the same in both cases. After all, ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulphate, urea and anhydrous ammonia - and particularly sulphate of ammonia and urea - are all being used extensively, one way or another, in increasing proportions on farms. As I said, the cost structure is basically the same throughout Australia and it is increasing. Let us not forget that one of the principal users of nitrogen is the sugar industry and sugar farmers are not in an enviable position as regards their income. Even though the world price of sugar has increased I have noticed that in the last 10 days it has been reduced drastically.
Where is the consistency in the Minister’s statement about his great concern for the small farmer? Some small farmers are using nitrogen in orchards, irrigated areas and sugar farms. I realise that this is a policy matter but when various elements are being used more and more throughout Australia, particularly in the nitrogenous fertiliser field - sulphate of ammonia, ammonium nitrate, urea and anhydrous ammonia - a subsidy is of importance to the small farmers. Surely they are entitled to some relief in meeting insidious cost rises because in the last two Budgets we have seen increases in the bounty on superphosphate but no increase in the subsidy paid on contained nitrogen per ton, nor any alteration in the bounties on urea or sulphate of ammonia. If the Minister is consistent in his argument about supporting the small farmer and helping him meet the price squeeze I suggest that he recommend to the Government that it increase the subsidies in relation to nitrogenous fertilisers.
[8.45)- The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) said that the sugar farmer is not in an enviable position. This contrasts rather remarkably with the statement in his second reading speech that the sugar industry is now in a stable position. I think I quote him accurately.
– lt is stable in respect of production.
– The honourable member is qualifying his remark if he refers to stability of production, but I accept what he says. The honourable member is quite right in saying that what he has raised is a matter of policy. When the Government was preparing the Budget it had a number of heavy demands and it tried to meet requests for a wide range of expenditure. The honourable member is aware of proposed changes in social service benefits and in the welfare field generally. He is aware of the proposed expenditure in the field of education. The Government was faced with demands from many sectors and it has tried to meet them. The Government is extending the superphosphate bounty, but there has been a heavy demand on available resources. The nub of the matter is that this whole question is presently before the Tariff Board and the Government did not want to prejudge or complicate the issue in any way by increasing other subsidies at this time as honourable members, particularly those from Queensland, have requested.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon) - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Nixon) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent (a) Orders of the Day Nos 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 for the resumption of the debate on the second reading of the Pyrites Bounty Bill 1969, the Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Bill 1969, the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Bill 1969, the Urea Bounty Bill 1969, and the Sulphate of Ammonia Bounty Bill 1969 being called on together, (b) a motion being moved that the Bills be now passed, and (c) messages from the Governor-General recommending appropriations for the several Bills being then announced together.
Consideration resumed from 13 August and 21 August (vide pages 213, 519 and 521), on motions by Mr Nixon and Mr Anthony:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
Bills (on motion by Mr Nixon) passed.
Messages from the Governor-General recommending appropriations announced.
Consideration resumed from 26 August (vide page 711).
Proposed expenditure, $3,079,000.
– On the expiration of this Parliament I will retire from active political life, after having lived through and thoroughly enjoyed a close association with the trade union movement as a member of the Boilermakers Society of Australia for a period of 52 years. I joined the Redfern Branch of that Society when apprentices were accepted into it before the 1917 railway strike. I was a paid officer of the Sydney Branch of it for a period and I have been an active member of the Australian Labor Party for a similar period. This is an honour that makes me proud indeed. I wish publicly to convey my personal thanks to all members of the Australian Labor Party branches in the electorate of KingsfordSmith, which was part of the original electorate of Watson. I also thank all the good people of my electorate who have been kind enough to return me to this parliament through eight election campaigns over a period of 20 years. My heartfelt thanks is extended to them.
I would also like to thank the entitre staffs of the Parliament itself - the Clerks of the House, Hansard writers, members of the Press, both male and female, the staffs of the Library, the dining room, the bar and other Parliamentary facilities. I am a teetotaller but I still make my way to the bar at times for an orange drink. I think special thanks is due to Mr Gordon Pike, the Transport Officer, for the kindness and very efficient services he has accorded to me. I would also like to thank the management and staff of the Kurrajong Hotel for their kindness. I also extend my heartfelt thanks to all members of the Public Service departments connected with parliamentary life for their kindness and prompt attention to all inquiries that I have made on behalf of my constituents. Without their assistance, the going would have been much tougher and I say thanks again to those honourable people.
I have enjoyed every moment of my life in this House. I have always been outspoken in expressing my views. I have crossed swords with Mr Speaker, sometimes to my disadvantage. However, that did not alter my warm personal opinion of him. This applies also to the Chairman of Committees and to the Temporary Chairmen of Committees. When I look around this House, especially at the front benches on the Government side, I see the faces of many people with whom I have crossed swords politically. However, I have found that each case for a constitutent that I have forwarded personally to a Minister has received deep consideration, although at times my representations have not been successful. I make this comment on behalf of my constituents and personally thank the individual Ministers who have helped me in the past.
From time to time debates in this House have become most heated when political opinions have been expressed, as it is a member’s prerogative to express them, in the strongest words. However, I found outside the political arena the warmest friendliness shown to me as the member for Kingsford-Smith and, previously, as the member for Watson. I conclude with a warm expression of thanks to my Leader, Deputy Leader, the Party Whips and my colleagues, the members of the Australian Labor Party in this House for their warm support.
– What about the Australian Country Party7
– I cannot leave out the members of the Australian Country Party and all the back bench members of the Liberal Party. To all honourable members on the Government side, similarly, I extend my warm and affectionate thanks. It has been a wonderful experience for me to have the privilege of membership of a trade union - that is a most important privilege - and of a political career extending over most of my adult life of 50-odd years. So again I extend my heartfelt thanks to all members of this House and hope they will all enjoy a long and healthy life and much happiness with their families. I will begin my retirement with very pleasant memories.
– I came into this House on the same day as the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin). I well remember the day we both were sworn in and I well remember his maiden speech. I shall always remember his speech tonight. It is typical of the honourable member that he should pay tribute to so many people. He is a warm hearted, generous man. Some 5 years ago I went to London to attend a conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in company with the honourable member and I have through the years enjoyed both his company and his friendship. I am sure we all join in wishing him well in his retirement, but we are glad that he will be with us for a few weeks yet.
A glance at page 3 of the Appropriation Bill that is before the Committee shows that the estimates for the Parliament for the year 1969-70 are the lowest of any, with the exception of the very small Department of the Cabinet Office. The estimates for the Parliament for the current financial year, which ends on 30th June 1970, total $3,079,000. This is a slight increase on the actual expenditure of the Parliament during the previous financial year, the previous actual expenditure being $2,806,056. I do not think that anyone could justly complain that Parliament is a heavy burden on the purse of the nation. The annual debate on the estimates for the Parliament is always taken as an occasion to make some comments about the institution of Parliament. From time to time honourable members on both sides of the chamber take the opportunity to make suggestions that they consider would lead to the better working of the Parliament. We all know that the Parliament has been evolving over a period of some 700 years and we all know that it is still evolving. None of us claims that Parliament is perfect. We all know that it will go on evolving and will go on changing. Indeed the unique quality of Parliament is that it has a faculty for adapting itself to changing times and circumstances. A long period of time - a long period of trial and error, I might say - has brought the system of parliamentary government to the position where it stands today.
I am mindful of a comment once made by Sir Winston Churchill, the greatest statesman undoubtedly of this century and one of the greatest statesmen of all time. He said: ‘The system of parliamentary government is the worst form of government until one looks at the others’. I think that is a fair statement, and no doubt he said it with his tongue in his cheek. The ‘InterParliamentary Bulletin’ for the last quarter of 1968 contains an extremely interesting article by another eminent statesman, Mr Lester Pearson, who was formerly Prime Minister of Canada. The article is entitled We’ve got to change the way Parliament works’. Mr Pearson was, of course, directing his remarks particularly to the House of Commons at Ottawa, but much of what he says, I think, is pertinent to us and we could with advantage study many of the points that he has put forward. Some of them are no doubt not applicable but I believe many of them may well be and we could learn and adapt from a study of that article.
Mr Pearson examines the procedures and the practices of parliament in these modern days and he makes a number of thoughtful suggestions regarding parliamentary reform. He puts forward some valuable ideas for making parliament more efficient, for speeding up its handling of an ever-increasing load of legislation and for making debate more meaningful. In particular, I agree with Mr Pearson’s suggestion that the maximum use should be made of committees which, I think it will be generally agreed, are a vital part of the legislative process. With the increasing complexity of government the need for first-class research facilities will no doubt continue to be of paramount importance in the years ahead. The Standing Orders Committee of this House agreed not long ago to make various recommendations for the better working of this House, and these recommendations will no doubt be brought forward for consideration some time early in the life of the new Parliament. I believe there is a great need for better programming of legislation early in each session to avoid the end of session rush which has been a marked feature of every session through the years that I have been in this place. I know that the present Leader of the House (Mr Erwin) is ambitious to achieve a better programming and I commend him for having this purpose in mind. I believe and I hope - I am sure all honourable members join in this hope - that through a combined effort on the part of Ministers, departments, parliamentary draftsmen and the legislative sub-committee of the Cabinet some better programming can be achieved in the new Parliament.
I think if the Government can manage to set out early in each session the intended programme, as far as it is able to, for that session and then discuss with the Opposition the timetable for dealing with each item of legislation we would have a more orderly process and a speeding up would be achieved earlier in the session instead of in the last fortnight or so of each session. I am sure that I speak for quite a number in this chamber when I say it would be better to sit if necessary for an extra week at the end of each 3-month or 3i-month period rather than sit into the small hours of the morning. Again I say that I know this is the purpose of the present Leader of the House. He does not wish us to sit into the small hours of the morning. I have heard him say that he does not agree with this procedure and he intends to endeavour to avoid it. Members generally are undoubtedly most strongly opposed to what is described as legislation by exhaustion, a procedure which undermines both the health and the efficiency of members and of the parliamentary staff, and also affects the prestige and the reputation of the institution of Parliament itself.
Long hours are, more particularly I believe, most unfair to the staff of the Parliament from the Clerk himself down to the most junior employee of the Parliament. It is most unfair. They cannot speak for themselves in this matter and I think it is up to some of us to speak on their behalf. I know very well that there are some senior members of the staff who have at least another hour’s work every night after the House rises. We are able to leave the premises and go to bed but there are some senior officials who must necessarily stay up for another hour preparing the next day’s work. So T stress that it is most important that we take into consideration the extra burden and the undermining of health which is incurred by long hours as far as senior parliamentary staff are concerned. I would include in this the Government Printer, because he and his staff have to stay up in order to have the daily Hansard printed in time for distribution the next morning.
Undoubtedly the time ls coming when Ministers and members in this national Parliament will of sheer necessity have to spend more time in the national capital. Various members have put forward suggestions regarding sitting days. I myself have put forward suggestions. I do not contend that my suggestions are necessarily those that should be accepted but I do think that there is much merit in the suggestion that we should sit for 2 weeks out of every 3 weeks and that the third week should be the recess week. Instead of having a 4-week cycle we should have a 3-week cycle. Wc should sit for 4 days in one week, preferably stay in Canberra for the weekend, then sit on the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the following week and then go into recess for a period of 10 days or so. That would give members approximately one-third of the 3-week period in their electorates and at the same time it would be advantageous as far as the health of members and staff is concerned and the general efficiency and working of this Parliament would, I believe, be uplifted. This, of course, is a matter for members generally to consider and decide upon. This is not a new matter that I now mention; it has been brought forward from time to time over the years. I do know that members from the distant States, particularly the members from Western Australia who have a long distance to travel to this national capital to sit in the Parliament are necessarily greatly affected by reason of the time factor involved and the health factor, lt is tiring travelling 3,000 miles from east to west and then back again in 3 or 4 days’ time, and I hope that as time goes on, perhaps in the new Parliament, members will be able to agree with the Government on some better timetable for the working of the Parliament.
There is a trend in many countries for Ministers and members to spend the whole or almost the whole of every session in the national capital, at the seat of government, and 1 believe that whether we like it or not in this vast continent it is a trend which will eventually be with us, and we will have to accept it. In an imperfect world it is impossible to achieve perfection. It is also impossible to please everybody. Australia is a vast, far-flung island continent and members come from all over it. Some travel only a short distance, as from Sydney to Canberra, but others travel vast distances, as from Alice Springs or Perth to Canberra and I do think that in any future planning everybody’s interests must be given equal consideration.
There is one special plea that I would like to make in relation to the next Parliament. I feel that there is something missing in this Parliament. That is a cross bench for Independent members. I think that it is most important that provision should be made for a bench where Independent members, of whom we have two in this House at the present time, could sit. I think that it is undesirable from every point of view that Independent members should sit or have to sit among members of a party which they left. We have two illustrations in this House. I do not want to stress the point; I do not need to. One honourable member, a former member of the Australian Labor Party, is now an Independent member. The other honourable member is a former member of the Liberal Party and he is now an Independent member. I believe that it would be more fitting and more proper if a cross bench for Independent members were established at some suitable and proper place within the chamber. I hope that that will be done in the next Parliament.
May I conclude by joining with my honourable friend, the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith, in paying a very hearty, a most warm and appreciative tribute to the members of the Parliamentary staff whom the honourable member mentioned in detail and whom I have not time to mention in detail. To all of them I would like to say how much I, along with other honourable members, appreciate their generosity and their help. We lean upon them very heavily for their assistance in a variety of ways. Without their dedicated service Parliament indeed would be unable to function.
– In this debate on the estimates for the Parliament, I wish to say something about the Parlia ment. I stand for democratic government of the people, for the people, by the majority of the people. One of my ambitions when I came to this Parliament 20 years ago was to work to achieve a democratic parliamentary system, to have one nation and one people. My hopes were raised when the Menzies Government in 1959 set up the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Review in order to strengthen the weaknesses of the Parliamentary system and remove the obstacles preventing a true democratic system. That Joint Committee, I believe, was made up of men with the best brains ever to be assembled in this country. They were endowed with great knowledge and ability, legal training and parliamentary experience. Sir Robert Menzies was one. Dr Evatt was one. The right honourable gentleman from Melbourne, Mr Calwell, was a member. The late Eddie Ward, the former honourable member for East Sydney, was one. Mr Reggie Pollard was one of the others. Our present Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, was a member.
After taking evidence from eminent people all over Australia, the Committee presented a splendid report. Notwithstanding the fact that the Committee comprised leading members from the Government and from the Opposition, its findings were almost unanimous. Indeed, 11 out of the 12 main recommendations in the report to Parliament were reached unanimously. I thought, after studying the report, that we were about to move forward from the horse and buggy era. But my hopes have since been dashed to the ground. The Menzies Government which set up other committees as well as this one treated them as Aunt Sallys.
We have had the report of the Morshead Committee which inquired into defence. If its recommendations had been carried out, we would not find defence in the mess that it is in today. The defence situation has disgusted the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) to the extent that he is pulling out of the game. We had the report of the Committee of Economic Inquiry, known as the Vernon Committee. This was the best report on economics that was ever brought down in any Parliament. There were other reports from other committees. I am sure that if the recommendations in the reports of those committees had been implemented
Australia would have moved forward to better things, given greater satisfaction than we now enjoy, and had true democracy instead of mock democracy. On average, everyone would have been better off.
Let me deal with some of the faults in the present parliamentary systems in Australia. We have six State Parliaments. Five of them are subjected to interference from Upper Houses which are not democratically elected. Queensland is the only sensible State. It abolished its useless Upper House. It is to be congratulated. Let us look at the position in the Upper Houses in other States.
– What does the honourable member think of the Senate?
– I will come to that. Members of the Upper Houses in New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria all are elected on a restricted franchise. For instance, in New South Wales, the people do not have a vote to elect the members of the Upper House which is the Legislative Council. The members of the Upper House are selected by the members of the Legislative Assembly voting jointly with the present members of the Upper House. The people do not even have a vote. Can honourable members call that democracy? In Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania the system provides that only people who have quite a bit of money, who own a certain amount of property or who have military titles have the right to elect the members of the Upper House. These people control the destinies of the States. Can honourable members call that democracy?
Now I wish to say something about the Senate. I think that it should be abolished, along with all the other Upper Houses. It is just as out of date as the other Upper Houses. The Senate is as undemocratically elected as the other Australian Upper Houses are. Soon we are to have an election. The leaders of the two popular parties - that is the Labor Party and the Liberal Party - will announce their policies to the people. The people will elect one Party or the other Party to govern. The people will approve either of the Liberal Party or the Labor Party. Yet, when the elected representatives of the people come to this Parliament, they will be subjected to the interference of 60 members in another place who even did not face the election on 25th October. Can honourable members call that democracy? f say that they cannot.
I could not let this opportunity pass without making reference to the Australian Democratic Labor Party. As a matter of fact, the DLP is blackmailing the Government at the present time. It is saying to the Government: ‘If you do not do this or that for us, well, we will withdraw some of our preferences from some of your members’. Is that not blackmail? It is deplorable that the DLP should be in a position to dictate to the government of the day what it can do and what it cannot do. It is a minority group holding the balance of power. The DLP is virtually a dictatorship. It is no different from the dictatorships in other countries. It is like the controlled democracy in Indonesia and the position of the various Communist blocs which are controlled by dictatorships. Many States in South America and South Africa are controlled by military dictatorships which are no different from the dictatorship exercised by the DLP.
One of the things that I do not like about the DLP - and I am sorry to say this - is that its members are all Labor renegades. I feel that Senator Turnbull is in the same category. He ratted on the Tasmanian Labor Party some years ago. Now he is making a double somersault by ratting on his position as an Independent member. He is going to run as the Leader of the Australia Party. I think that the coming into existence of the Democratic Labor Party is the worst catastrophe since Federation.
Now, like the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin) I wish to say something about myself. I am finishing up as a member of the Parliament. I will be off the payroll on 29th September. I will be going to the unemployment office to register. Since I came to this Parliament I have served on five joint Parliamentary committees - the Joint House Committee, the Broadcasting Committee, the Public Accounts Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Standing Orders Committee. I enjoyed, like the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith, the mateships formed on those various committees. It was wonderful to get to know the people serving on those committees while moving around Australia with them. I wish also to express thanks to all the officers and staff, as the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith did. They go to no end of trouble to help - the Parliamentary attendants, the dining room staff, members of the Press, officers of the Library and Hansard, the Hotel Kurrajong staff and the secretaries of the committees. I do not like to speak about myself but there are some things that one can be proud of, and I am proud to say that in the 20 years that I have served in this House I have never been called to order by Mr Speaker. I believe in the proper decorum of this House and adherence to the Standing Orders.
I am sorry to be leaving here. I have been in politics for 54 years and I have enjoyed every minute of it. I have not taken a holiday during the whole of my Parliamentary career because I felt that as I was out of my constituency when attending the sittings of Parliament, my place was in my electorate when Parliament went into recess. However, I hope to commence a happy holiday with my wife on 29th September - that is, if I get this job at the unemployment office.
We are living in a very entertaining world today and I am sure that I shall enjoy life. I feel that there is something wrong with anybody who cannot enjoy life today. I hope that my enjoyment of life will last for several more years. My last hope is that on 25th October next the people of Australia will see fit to elect a better government than they have now. I enjoyed youth, as every other youth has done, and the only thing I had against it was that it did not last long enough. But I think the youth of today, whom I would like to see enjoying themselves more, are not doing the right thing.
– I believe that they should be acting in a different way from the way in which they are in fact acting.
– They should be studying.
– Yes, that would be sensible, but I do not think that lying down in doorways and on footpaths and obstruct ing people will get them anywhere. It will only get them a bad name. I believe what they should do is to study political science. They should study the constitutions of the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party, and the Australian Country Party. They should take an interest in these things and I am quite sure that after studying them that they could not avoid becoming members of the Labor Party. In conclusion I want to say something about the leaders I have been loyal to. I was here with Mr Chifley, Dr Evatt, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) and the present Leader, Mr Whitlam. I have given them my loyalty. I have helped every one of them. When they were criticised I defended them and when I got the opportunity to praise them I did so. I hope that on 25th October next I will be rewarded by seeing the Party that I have been fighting for since I left the cradle elected to office.
– Two of the three honourable members who have spoken on this section of the Estimates are leaving the Parliament on 29th September. Both of them have made their contributions to this debate and we on this side of the chamber wish them well in their retirement. We realise that they have given good service to their Party, to the Parliament and no doubt to their constituents. No honourable member can come to this House for 20 continuous years without giving the service that the Parliament needs and the service that the constituents want. From some points of view, I regret that the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin) and the honourable member for Banks (Mr Costa) never had the opportunity of serving in government, because I believe they needed this experience, but they can watch good government in action while they watch a good government proceed to the Treasury bench after 25th October next.
I too shall devote my attention to that section of the Estimates headed ‘Parliament’. It is covered by divisions 101 to 105 inclusive and, in addition, divisions 108 and 109. These divisions can be found in Appropriation Bill No. 1 1969-70 at page 6. [Quorum formed.] The estimated expenditure under these provisions is a total of $3,079,000 which covers the administration of Parliament, that is, the services provided by the members of Parliament, but it does not cover the salaries and allowances of the members themselves. This amount of $3,079,000 covers the administration and services rendered by departments like the Library, which has expanded in recent years and gives good service by way of research and copying services for members of this Parliament and honourable senators as well. It also covers the Parliamentary Reporting Staff. We have already heard two speeches delivered today praising the dedication and expertise of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff, not only of those who sit at the table in the centre of this chamber but also those backroom boys downstairs who fulfil the functions required of officers of a national Parliament. The Hansard staff generally are to be congratulated for their dedication and expertise in the matters associated with the Parliament.
I mentioned that these divisions did not cover the salaries and allowances of members and senators because these are usually under a separate section, but for the information of honourable members and the public generally a total of $2,712,000 covers salaries and allowances for members and senators. There is an additional amount of $362,400 which Ministers of State receive in addition to their salaries as private members and their allowances. This amount of $362,400 comes under the Prime Minister’s Department, and I question the reason for this. I cannot understand why part of the salaries of members of Parliament, whether they be ministers or not, should come under the Prime Minister’s Department.
However, my remarks will relate more particularly to the attitude of members of Parliament to their work and the criticism that is often levelled at them not only by their colleagues in the Parliament itself but by the news media as well. Generally the critics of members of Parliament feel that we arc fair game for their criticism because we are in the public arena. So they endeavour to convey the impression that many of us need a good shaking up and that we should do a great deal more work than we have done hitherto. The news media have their rights. They may criticise members of Parliament as much as they can. I believe that most members accept their criticism in the spirit in which it is given. It has ever been thus and it will continue.
In the 9 years that I have been here I have certainly seen changes in the attitude of members of Parliament and also in the calibre of the members who are sent here by the various parties. As recently as last week we saw three new members in this Parliament make their maiden speeches. Each of them came from a different Party and each of them was selected probably in a different way, but each of them was a credit to the young Australians who are coming here as members of the Federal Parliament. The member of Parliament today is not at flambouyant as a member of Parliament in years gone by. He is a dedicated man, an educated man and a man who has to do hard grind and hard work to retain his position as a representative of the Liberal Party, the Country Party or the Australian Labor Party. This area finds out the good qualities and the bad qualities of members of Parliament, and flambouyance and acting has gone for all time. I well rember the last speech made in this House by the former honourable member for Franklin on 31st August 1966. He had been here for 20 years. I cannot understand why he said what he did, but it is recorded in Hansard on the date that I have mentioned. He said in part:
But of course the simple trouble is that members sublimate their own opinions to the wishes of the Party, and this is not good for Parliament. I believe that the honourable member for Bradfield was right when he said that Parliament as such had lost its real touch and its ability to be a lawmaking force. . . . Again I look around and sec some members here who, to be quite frank, could not care less about this matter; they are here for the numbers, and that is about all.
I find it difficult to understand why the then honourable member for Franklin used those words. He had been here for a long time.
In the short period of 9 years that I have been here I have found that there are many avenues where members of Parliament can express their views. They can express them in committees, in the Party rooms, in Grievance Day debates and in the debate on the motion for the adjournment. They have the opportunities to sway their Parties. They have the opportunities to amend the bad ways of their colleagues, if they are bacl, and there is no place like this Federal capital to express one’s point of view and assert this point of view df it is the right one. This was strong criticism by the then honourable member for Franklin and, as I say, I believe what he said was quite untrue. I hope that when I am about to leave and make my final speech in this place I will make it with the starry eyed approach with which I made my maiden speech. Maybe my eyes will not be as starry as they were then, because I have a long way to go before I retire. But I hope that I will still have the impression in my mind that the members of Parliament on the Opposition side and on the Government side are hard workers and do the grind that is essential for members of this Federal Parliament. 1 well remember, too, the comments of an honourable member who often talks on this section of the Estimates and indeed on most sections of the Estimates. I refer to the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). He often criticises his colleagues on bis side of the House, and he often criticises us on the Government side of the House. At page 780 of Hansard of 13th September 1966 he said that Parliament was just a rubber stamp. I have tried to point out that members of Parliament do not necessarily vote with their Party if they feel their Party is treading in the wrong direction. I have already heard it mentioned by the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury) that we have two Independent members in this Parliament. These two men came here, one under the aegis of the Labor Party and the other under the aegis of the Liberal Party. They had all the formats of Parliament to convince their Party that their views were right, instead of which they found it desirable, essential in fact, to transfer their allegiance. We now have an independent Labor member for Batman on the one hand and an Independent member for Warringah on the other hand.
I find it difficult, as I said earlier, to understand the views expressed on many occasions by the honourable member for Wills. I feel sorry at times for his constituents, because he often criticises himself when he expresses these views here. He said on 13th September 1966 that the Parliament was just a rubber stamp. But his reasoning had changed by 1968. In that year, when speaking on the same section of the Estimates, he said that he worked pretty much round the clock. I find it difficult to see how the Parliament is a rubber stamp when even only one member has to work pretty much round the clock. If the parliamentary institution is a rubber stamp, nobody has to spend much time in the chamber, in the committees, or in preparing speeches and educating ourselves in the ways of good government for a country like Australia. In fact, the final paragraph of the speech of the honourable member for Wills is illuminating and illustrates the point I am trying to make. This can be found on page 972 of Hansard in the debate on the Estimates in 1968. He said that he hoped that honourable members on both sides of the House would remember that this Parliament is probably one of the most effective democratic institutions in the world, and that Australia is a stable, secure society.
How can the Parliament be a rubber stamp when the same honourable member who said that it was a rubber stamp can finish his next contribution to the debate on the Estimates by uttering words such as I have mentioned. I agree with a few words that the honourable member for Wills used on that occasion. I believe that we do have a stable and secure society, but my reasons for thinking so may be different from his. The reasons are that we have a good government and good policies, and these policies are wrought through debate in the committees of the Government members of this Parliament, wrought by the debates that we have in our Party room and wrought by individuals who feel that they are members of a team.
– In speaking on the estimates for the Parliament tonight I am speaking, as did two of my colleagues before me, as a member who will not be around after the next election because of the redistribution of electorates. My electorate has been abolished, and as a result I will not be a candidate. But I have been a member of the National Parliament for the past 6 years and I would like to make some comments on what I feel are the main things I have learned in the short time that I have been here. First of all, I would like to say that irrespective of what the members of the Government may say - they may do their utmost to support many of the measures being introduced by the Government - I honestly feel that this Parliament is becoming a rubber stamp. There is no doubt in my mind that when the chips are down and members from either side are called upon to vote they vote as a team, supporting the political party that was responsible for having them sent here to the National Parliament.
There are many occasions on which individual members of Parliament have a right to stand up in Parliament and criticise all aspects of government in Australia. They can speak with a broad and open mind. I believe that members of the Opposition can do this to a greater extent than can supporters of the Government. During the period that I have been in this Parliament, whenever a matter arose that I felt needed airing in public, I have been able to stand up in the Parliament and voice my protest. I have been able to speak on any particular matter in which I believe that there has been an injustice or a miscarriage of justice. As members of this Parliament, I think that each and every one of us has an opportunity to do this.
But we also know that more and more of the powers are being taken away from the Parliament because of the growth of government by Cabinet, where decisions are made by the twelve men who sit in the Cabinet. They go into the Party room and put their submission before the members of the Party, who come into the Parliament and support the resolution or the legislation which has been submitted by Cabinet. Although honourable members opposite may say that this Parliament is not becoming a rubber stamp, I feel that they realise that the Government which is running this country at the present time is making Parliament more and more of a rubber stamp. I also believe that after 20 years in government the Liberal-Country Party coalition is breaking up. There is no doubt in my mind that there is dissension in the parties within the Parliament. I also believe that the Government itself is now greatly concerned about the policies which it has been trying to force upon the Australian people. These policies are now starting to rebound. I believe that this is probably the first time, since the short period after the 1961 elec tions when the Government had a majority of only one in this Parliament, that I have seen the Government on the defensive. I think that for the next month or so it will continue to be on the defensive.
Before I pass on to what I believe is an important matter, so far as the Parliament is concerned, I, too, would like to pay my respects to all the members of the staff in Parliament House for the courtesy which they have extended to me during the period I have been a member of this Parliament. I refer particularly to the staff in the papers room in the Library, to the staff in the dining room, to the attendants and to those people who look after us in our rooms. To each and every one of them I say thank you for the courtesy and for the wonderful job which they have performed. Also, I should like to pay my respects to the many public servants with whom I have come in contact over a period of years when making representations on behalf of constituents. I have always found that public servants do their utmost to assist members of Parliament to remove any little grievance which they may put before them. I thank all those Commonwealth public servants and liaison officers in the various departments for the courtesy which they have extended to me. I also say thank you to the members of the staffs of Ministers who, as we know, are public servants. I have found that they are always willing to assist members in any matter on which they like to approach them in their particular department. When the Minister is not available, his private secretary is always willing to assist and help a member. I would also like to say thank you to those people.
Whilst I can say that I have had some victory with Ministers, on a lot of occasions I have not done so. But at least I know that on occasions I have received justice on behalf of a constituent simply because I have appealed to a Minister. It is nice to know that some Ministers in the Parliament have a mind of their own and are quite prepared to make decisions and overrule some bureaucrat or public servant who writes letters on behalf of Ministers. I might say that those Ministers are few and far between. However, I would like to thank them for the occasions on which they have overruled some decision.
There is another matter which I would like to raise. This year I believe that we in this Parliament made a very bad decision so far as the institution is concerned. Whilst we know that in the community today there are many people who respect the Parliament, I believe that there are many who would not have much respect for the Parliament or for the parties because of the decision which we made in March this year. I do not want to canvass the facts of the matter, but I know that a particular question of privileges was raised in the Parliament. It concerned something that appeared in a publication. I do not wish to canvass what was written in the publication. But I believe that we must be critical of this Parliament, and of Government supporters in particular for the decision which they made at that particular time. Whilst many of us may have believed the statements which were made by senior Ministers who are responsible to the Parliament, so far as I was concerned, this did not relieve the stigma that had been inflicted by this issue.
The matter was raised in the Parliament and the Speaker gave a ruling that this particular matter ought to be debated in the Parliament. Unfortunately, it was not fully debated, because only three members in the Parliament spoke in the debate. My information also led me to believe that there were many members of the Government Parties who were told that they had to vote as a party on this particular issue. They came into the Parliament not knowing the facts concerning the particular issue. They made a decision which, in my opinion, gave these people who write smear articles an open book to write libellous articles about members of Parliament. I think that we, as a Parliament, ought to be criticised for the decision which we made on that occasion. I do not say that my Party made the decision because we voted against the motion. We said that the question should have been referred to the Privileges Committee. But the Parliament made a decision which allows these people to write libellous articles about members of Parliament. I personally do not agree that Parliament should make such decisions. I think that it was a retrograde step, and I believe that honourable members opposite should have another look at this particular matter, because I believe that a wrong was done by the Parliament on that occasion.
Probably nothing can be done about it now, but I know that on previous occasions when someone was writing smear articles about members of Parliament and also about union officials, the AttorneyGeneral of the day took the matter up and had an indictment taken out against the person concerned. The matter was taken to court and the person was sentenced for writing libellous articles about members of Parliament. The Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) in the last couple of months has shown himself capable of having an indictment taken out under the Crimes Act. Probably some indictement could have been taken out against the writer of this article. But we, as a Parliament, let the matter slide through, and I believe that the Parliament ought to be condemned for its actions.
Whilst I am aware that Cabinet government is growing a great deal in this country, I am also aware that there is, what I believe to be, an invisible government growing in this country. I refer to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. We know that as a result of the creation of this invisible government which is getting more and more powerful in Australia at the present time, many of our civil liberties are being eroded away. Our telephones are being tapped. There is no doubt that telegrams are being censored. Probably some of the mail which we do not receive and which is supposed to go through the chopping machine is also taken by these people. Whilst we have no redress through the Parliament because the agency concerned is responsible only to the Prime Minister, I feel that we as a Parliament ought to take some measures to see that the powers of this invisible government are curtailed in the very near future. I know that as a result of a raid that was made on the Maxwell Newton publishing company certain documents were taken from this gentleman’s home. Although the court declared that the issue of the warrant was illegal some of the information that was obtained from the raid is being used by this Government to put pressure on certain people in the community. I know for a positive fact that some members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, who had been given to writing articles for Maxwell Newton publications, had their names picked up in documents when the Commonwealth police made a raid on the premises and this information has now been forwarded to some of those big people who control the mass media of Press in this country. They have been informed that not only had these pressmen been working for their newspapers but also that they were doing work on the side for Maxwell Newton. I believe that this is a definite miscarriage of justice. I do not believe that any information that was obtained on that occasion should be used against anyone. It has been used and I think we ought to be ashamed of this fact.
Whilst I am aware that there are many supporters of the Government who may say ‘so we should’, this attitude only shows the arrogance of those members concerned. I think we should start to have another look at this matter. I think we should have an exact look at whether we ought to allow these matters to happen in Australia. We all say that this is a democracy; we believe in democracy. But if we allow these things to occur it will not be too long before there will be no democracy in this country and we will probably have a dictatorship. I have mentioned this matter because I respect the Parliament. I respect the Parliament because I feel that I have had the opportunity to express my views in Parliament on behalf of my constituents; to express my views when I have felt that an injustice has been done to certain people or to certain sections of the community. I have had the opportunity to stand up and protest on many occasions, not only by questions and speeches but also by way of interjections - on many occasions I have been called to order by the Speaker. But at least I have had the opportunity to raise these matters. I believe that we should continue to see that these opportunities are provided for members of the Parliament so that we may voice and air our views to the people of Australia.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In speaking to the estimates of the Parliament, especially to those relating to the facilities provided for members, I wish to refer to the functions of the member of Parliament, the changes in his duties over the past 20 years and the reasons therefor. Since 1949 we have witnessed one of the greatest migration schemes per capita known to the modern world, and the tremendous development under a Liberal-Country Party Government in the various avenues of social welfare. We have also seen one type of government for 20 years and the diminution in numerical strength of that government’s opposition. All these factors have undoubtedly changed to a great degree the purpose and functions of the member of this Parliament from those which appertained prior to the 1950s. Although, perhaps, some of these changes have been sporadic rather than gradual, the effluxion of time has probably dimmed the awareness of many members of the extent of the changes in their duties.
Other countries, some with a political climate similar to our own, have endeavoured to ease these additional burdens by the appointment of public commissioners on the lines of the Scandinavian ombudsman. The countries are notably New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the provinces of Alberta and New Brunswick in Canada, and there are others. The idea of such a public protector has been widely studied in other countries, in particular, the United States of America. Indeed, more recently Hawaii has introduced such a system. In the United Kingdom, approaches to the public commissioner must be channelled through the member of Parliament to whom he must report back. This perhaps may be one way of satisfying those members of Parliament who see their present contact with their constituents endangered by the appointment of an ombudsman.
However, in Australia generally there has been a tendency to oppose the idea of an ombudsman. In fact, a Northern Territory Ordinance to give effect to this type of setup was disallowed by the GovernorGeneral a few years ago. Further bases for objection have been the difficulties of our Federal system, the autonomy of the several States and the restrictions and delegation under the Constitution. Professor Rowat in a paper contained in a book entitled ‘Ombudsmen for American Government?’ had this to say:
The ombudsman has also been discussed in Australia for several years. Because of Australia’s federal system and close links with New Zealand, its seems strange that the plan has not yet been adopted there. It has been actively discussed by the Press and politicians, however, and numerous proposals have been made, especially at the State level. In 1966, the Government of New South Wales referred the idea to a Law Reform Commission and requested a draft Bill. Although the federal Government has so far insisted that an ombudsman is unnecessary, the plan may be adopted soon by one of the States.
Some may ask: ‘What is an ombudsman’? I rather like the definition expressed in the final report of the 32nd American Assembly, Columbia University, in October 1967, which states:
The ombudsman is an independent, high-level officer who receives complaints, who pursues inquiries into the matters involved, and who makes recommendations for suitable action. He may also investigate on his own motion. He makes periodic public reports. His remedial weapons are persuasion, criticism and publicity. He cannot as a matter of law reverse administrative action.
Arguments have also been advanced, in Australia particularly, that the individual member of Parliament can effectively carry out duties of the ombudsman in respect of his constituents. This, of course, many members of Parliament have endeavoured to do, but with consequent loss of the time to be devoted to their legislative duties and the necessary research for this purpose.
It has also been said that questions in Parliament, the Grievance Day and adjournment debates give a member ample scope to ventilate the individual complaints of a constituent, particularly where he is not satisfied with the answers to his representations to the relevant Minister. However. I would refute this on the grounds that, in practice, the majority of questions - honourable members know this as well as I do - are not based on or involved with an individual complaint and that the Grievance Day or adjournment debates do little more than inspire the hope that the Press may give some publicity to the subject matter. The functions of the Press have also been claimed as a medium to redress a wrong. In many cases we see flary headlines initially but when a matter loses its news value, whether the wrong has been redressed or not, the issue is often relegated to obscurity. However well a member of Parliament may prosecute these new and increasing demands on him, certain disabilities are apparent. These are referred to in ‘Canadian Ombudsman Proposals’ by Professor Stanley V. Anderson in a chapter entitled ‘The Legislator as Ombudsman’. He states that the complaint-handling function of members of Parliament is carried out unevenly because of differences in interest, ability and influence. He states also:
While the complaint-handling function is a useful one, it tends to distract the law maker from his primary legislative role. Some legislators in ombudsman countries have found it convenient to be able to refer complaints to the ombudsman. The constituent is always free to go to the elected office holder with a complaint rather than to the ombudsman. And only a portion of the services provided by legislators would be suitable for consideration by an ombudsman.
So much for the member of Parliament acting as an ombudsman. What about Ministers of the Crown? I pose the question: What time can a Minister find, even with the facilities available to him, to carry out this function of a welfare officer? There is also the tendency in a member of Parliament towards advocacy rather than investigation or inquiry into a particular complaint. Unremitting pressures on administrators by members of Parliament can have a reactive effect while on the other hand an ombudsman can be a protector of the bureaucrat. In his publication Ombudsman’, Geoffrey Sawer concludes with this statement:
It is possible that Australian members of Parliament have increased their grievance-settling activities in recent years by personal contact with administration rather than by questions in Parliament, and that only when they find (as many legislators in the USA have already found) that this burden is too great will they give more academic support to the widespread but unorganised popular opinion which favours the ombudsman idea.
In the same publication he states:
The parliamentary recourse remains very important and can be - and may be - made more effective by measures such as better organisation of parliamentary time and the provision of more office space and secretarial assistance for members.
Thus we have seen the pressures of handling constituent complaints increase most markedly over the past 20 years as a result of the vast migration programme, the extension of social welfare and the increased repatriation demands following the 1939-45 war and the Korean war.
In her Paper No. 5 of ‘The Unservile State’ papers entitled ‘The Aggrieved Citizen’, Iris Capell sums up the situation in these words:
Every member of Parliament wants to do his best for an indignant constituent, even if it means turning himself from a legislator into a welfare officer.
This is exactly what I have been doing, as have many other honourable members. Indeed, I have found that I was compelled to do this if I was to hold a marginal seat for my Government - a seat which I have defended successfully over four general elections. These demands and the increasing work on committees have imposed a great burden on time, to the exclusion of family and personal interests, as I am sure every honourable member has discovered. It is high time that a Federal member of Parliament was given the tools by way of additional staff, larger offices and better facilities to enable him to cover both these aspects of his dual functions.
In his report to Parliament for the year ended 31st March 1966 Sir Guy Powles, the New Zealand Ombudsman, stated that of the 759 complaints received: . . 272 complaints were fully investigated; this total included uncompleted cases carried over from the previous year. Of the 272 complaints investigated, 227 were considered not to be justified, leaving 45 cases to be actioned
Sir Guy operates in a population area of about 2i million people and has a staff to assist him. He has no other demands on his working time, which is spread over, say, 11 months of the year, allowing him about 240 working days. Let me point out, not by way of exact comparison but merely as an illustration, that with a population area of possibly only 150,000, last year I personally interviewed well over 200 individual constituents, received many hundreds of letters and investigated and prosecuted at least 130 individual cases of a major nature. I realise that some honourable members possibly do a great deal more than this. In the calendar year 1968 the House sat for 67 days. With travelling time added this left only about 160 working days on which to interview constituents. My only staff was one very hard-working secretary. As honourable members know, a hardworking secretary has been provided to members of Parliament since about 1946.
Some cases which I have handled have taken 4 to 5 years to settle. Cases which have been turned down as hopeless through normal channels - one even after a serviceman’s petition to the Governor-General had been denied - were finally settled; the wrongs were redressed and justice was obtained.
There is no doubt that in many cases the average citizen does not obtain justice through our existing legal and administrative channels. Without doubt there is a pressing need for an ombudsman. I therefore request in the strongest terms that a select committee of this Parliament be set up to investigate fully this whole question and that in the meantime additional staff and facilities be made available, upon request, to those members of Parliament who find themselves more and more involved in the category of welfare officers rather than their nominal role of legislators. In fact I will go so far as to say that if it is my good fortune to be returned as a member of this Parliament at the forthcoming elections I will take action upon my return to introduce a private member’s Bill for this purpose.
I have been associated in this Parliament with the honourable member for Banks (Mr Costa) and the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin) for 14 years. In that time I have enjoyed their friendship and their contributions to debates. They and I are poles apart in our political attitudes but they are sincere in their beliefs. I am sorry to see them leave the Parliament.
– I join with other honourable members who have complimented the staff of the Parliament - the transport officials, the Library staff, the members of Hansard and all those who make possible the workings of this democratic institution. With some regret I utter a ward of warning: Under this Government democracy in this Parliament is not only fading but has well nigh disappeared. I have heard Government supporters refer to Parliament as a democratic institution. They make pious speeches in this place about what Parliament stands for - what it could and should do. But what is their attitude when Ministers hammer through this Parliament all types of legislation by means of the gag and the bludgeon? I wonder what they say about the Ministry bringing into this Parliament legislation far reaching in its implications which Cabinet does not even bother to discuss in the Party room. I have heard Government supporters say that they have not seen legislation before it was introduced. Not only is Parliament becoming a rubber stamp for this Liberal-Country Party Government; every member of the Parliament is expected to be a rubber stamp for the Cabinet. Members have little say in the government of this country. 1 thought the speech made by the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Stokes) was a first class electioneering speech. It may bring the results it was intended to obtain. I would like to hear the honourable member and his colleagues say in this place how the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) should bring a little democracy into the Parliament. Why, question time is becoming a mockery. Today the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) occupied practically the whole session in answering not a question without notice but a question of which he had received notice and to which he read a reply giving every detail and fact. We have seen the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) warble on and on at question time to prevent members of the Opposition from asking questions that he knew would be embassassing to him. How often have we seen the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) stand up and answer written questions, handed to him beforehand by members of the Country Party, relating to wheat, wool, chaff and all those things that please the hill-billy Party in the corner? Honourable members know, as well as I do, that these things happen, and they are making a mockery of the Parliament.
Question time, under the present Leader of the House, the Minister for Air (Mr Erwin), has practically disappeared. It is occupied with long, tedious questions answered long and tediously by Ministers. The only Minister to answer questions decently, not always to our satisfaction but in a courteous and efficient way, is the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) who has been the light, given the Government away and resigned on the eve of the election. I know that the Minister for Defence used to sit and listen to some of his less talented ministerial colleagues - and there are a great many of them, I might mention - mumbling long and tedious answers. A man of his ability must have been disturbed to see the Government, through this process, destroying an important part of the procedure of the Parliament, the time when members can question Ministers.
Let us consider the Minister for Air, who is sitting at the table. He would have us believe that he is the greatest democrat of our time. Today he said: ‘We will pay due respect to the dignity of the Parliament’, and then he allowed us 2 hours to discuss all the ramifications of the democratic institution of Parliament and 37 hours to discuss the whole of the Estimates. Every Minister who is in trouble at the present rime - and that includes practically all of them - has the minimum of time allowed for discussion of the estimates of his department. I mentioned earlier today that we have 1 hour in which to discuss the Attorney-General’s Department. No wonder only 1 hour is permitted for discussion of this Department. Honourable members opposite do not want us to bring to the light of day the incompetence of the Government, or to mention raids on people like Newton and others and cases thrown out of court because of illegal entrances to people’s homes. Honourable members opposite do not want us to refer to the imprisonment of people on grounds that have not been supported by the public.
The whole pattern of the Government’s programme is the destruction of democracy in the Parliament. The Minister for Air, who was a 100 to 1 shot when he was appointed to his position, has moved the gag more times since he has been Leader of the House than did the former Leader of the House in a few years in that position. When the Government talks about democracy and democratic processes it is interesting to review the situation. The Government is soon to hold a general election. It has brought down a Budget that bribes everybody it can think of except the really needy people. Members opposite are panic stricken and are wondering what to do in order to maintain, in the days ahead, some semblance of solidarity. The Government brought down this Budget and in the next week or so we will see in this Parliament all of the Labor Party members wide awake and vibrant at 3 o’clock in the morning while every Liberal Party member is asleep on the Government benches. Honourable members talk about legislation by exhaustion, but the most spectacular sight is in this Parliament at about 3.30 a.m. when honourable members from all kinds of electorates try to talk intelligently. Half of the members opposite cannot talk intelligently at 10 a.m. and they are dreadful at 3 a.m. But that is what is going to happen during the debate on the Estimates. We will find when primary industries are being discussed - wheat and wool are currently subjects of great national interest - it will be at about 2.30 a.m. when the Government knows that nobody can hear the debate and the honourable member who is talking, no matter how intelligent he may be, finds it difficult to put two words together. Honourable members opposite know that this is what is going to happen, and they are destroying democracy by this process.
What can members do? We have to debate these matters. They are important and of legislative interest to the people of Australia, yet the Government, whose back bench members have told us tonight what Parliament should be, is following these procedures. I should like to hear the Minister for Air justify making members sit here until 2 a.m., 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. The only speech that he has made since he has been Leader of the House has been: 1 move that the question be now put’. Well, let him add a few more words tonight. Every honourable member knows that what I am saying is correct. I should like to hear the Minister defend Parliament, if he can. It would be interesting for two reasons. First, I should like to know whether he can talk on the subject and, secondly, I should like to hear him make a different speech from: T move that the question be now put’.
Let us consider other matters that come before the Parliament from time to time. We are permitted to discuss various matters on the motion for the adjournment of the House. The Government says: ‘If it is an important matter you can have two speakers, one from each side’ or perhaps two from each side if it is generous or if it has exhausted its legislative programme. Honourable members opposite call this democracy. If members do not give in to the Government they are automatically gagged. Debates on the most important matters are scheduled not for a certain time, say 2 hours; rather they are debated by 2, 3 or 4 speakers collectively. Yet members call it a democratic Parliament under this Government. Every Tuesday and Wednesday evening we are supposed to be able to speak for a reasonable time on the adjournment motion. I suppose that tonight that motion will not be moved until about 1 a.m., consequently the time that should be available for private members is destroyed by the Government’s way of running the Parliament.
– You would not-
– I listened with interest to the honourable member. I do not mind his talking when I am speaking but I would have been more interested had he offered the type of criticism that I am making concerning the undemocratic Government that he supports. I should like to refer to some other matters that affect the Parliament. I should like to know why the Leader of the House does not, as the Minister responsible for the conduct of the House, protect not only the rights of the limited number behind him in government but the rights of all private members in this Parliament. Every member is sent here to represent many thousands of constituents. Every member, no matter what his position in the Parliament, is entitled to put his point of view in the only place in Australia where there really is freedom of speech - that is, if the Minister does not rise to move the gag. But instead, the Minister continually infringes the rights of private members by not permitting discussion on adjournment motions and by not, at question time, pulling Ministers into line. In addition we find that we are curtailed in speaking to adjournment motions in the early hours of the morning. If something ticklish is raised or something that the Government does not want discussed, debate may be permitted late at night when the proceedings of Parliament are not being broadcast and people cannot hear what is happening.
There has been some talk of televising the Parliament. That might awaken the Government to the fact that if the Parliament is televised at 3 a.m. all of its members had better be awake and not sitting about as they generally do. I hope that if Parliament is televised the broadcast will not be restricted to the choice hours of the day. I should like some random televising of the Parliament. Let there be a spot check, as it were, and then the people will see what these late hours really mean - the destruction of debate, the interference with democratic workings of the Parliament and the dictatorship that Cabinet has over its dumb followers in the ranks behind it. Honourable members opposite are not going to say anything. They are looking for protection. You know that as well as I do, Mr Deputy Chairman.
– I rise to a point of order Mr Deputy Chairman. The honourable member said that we are all dumb and will not say anything. I will say something. My point of order is that the honourable member has separated the Government members from the Cabinet and as a result his remarks, to which I take exception, contravene the ruling of the Chair the other day.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– I will meet the point of order and include all members opposite in that category. We know that we cannot expect Government members to fight for democracy in this Parliament because, as everyone knows, each of them is endeavouring to seek promotion to the Cabinet that will be in existence for about another 30 days or so. That is why members opposite do not speak in this Parliament. They know that the Prime Minister selects his cronies according to how often they vote for him in caucus or whether they have a swimming pool or something of that nature. The world knows this. Do not tell me that there is any democracy in the ranks of the Liberal Party. There is none in their Party and there is none in the Parliament. We need only ask the honourable member for Warringah (Mr St. John) what democracy is like in the Liberal Party. Members of the Liberal Party can say what they like as long as they keep it to themselves. But that is the democratic Party that is supposed to be running the Parliament democratically. This never happens in the Australian Country Party, of course. If it was not so serious, it would be laughable.
I rose in this debate because I was sick and tired of hearing pious sentiments expressed by back bench members on the Government side who will not line their Ministers up in the place where it matters, in the Party room, and restore democracy to this Parliament. When we go to the electorate, I hope the Australian people will realise that those honourable members in the Government ranks in this Parliament who have spoken the most about democracy are the most undemocratic people ever to control the treasury bench. I want the people to know also that we on this side of the House would have been able to put forward much more effective propositions and we would have been able to show the shortcomings of the Government more effectively than we have if we had been allowed more freedom of debate in the Parliament. The Standing Orders have been contravened by the Government to prevent our speaking.
I finish on a more pleasant note: I thank the staffs of the parliamentary departments, the Hansard writers and those associated with the Parliament. I pay tribute to those colleagues of mine who are retiring shortly for the contributions they have made to the Labor movement and for the able way they have represented their constituents. The fact that they have lived through 20 years of Liberal government proves their capacity to take punishment and to stand by the ideals that prompted them to enter the Parliament.
– It is my belief that no nation can be greater than the individuals who make up its population and that the Parliament can only be as good as the people elected to it. We have been very fortunate in this Parliament. Since I have been a member of it I have seen a cross section of the community here, and surely that is what we want in the Federal Parliament. In this way we hear the views of all the people. When the views of the people are heard, justice can be done to them. I want to deal with a few matters, but before I do so I will make a few remarks about the speech we have just heard from the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) while it is still in my memory. I look around the chamber and I find that the honourable member for Grayndler and I - I can be corrected if 1 am wrong - are the only two people here who have served in Opposition, he for 20 years and I for 3£ years. Someone said that it is good to have the experience of Opposition, and I agree with that view. But Labor is perhaps getting too much experience of Opposition. 1 would say that 31 years was just about a nice time.
T was the first man elected to this Parliament after the war. I had just been back in Australia for 4 months when I came here and I have been here ever since. When Labor was in office I had my best opportunities to speak between 3 and 5 o’clock in the morning. It is on record that when Labor was in office the House adjourned one morning and we went back to the Hotel Kurrajong. The breakfast bell used to ring then at 7.30 a.m. As I approached the Hotel Kurrajong the bell was ringing, and I had gone straight to the hotel from this chamber. If I was not here many other honourable members and the public might accept the word of the honourable member for Grayndler and believe that Labor did not sit late at night or in the early hours of the morning. Of course it did. He would have us believe that Labor did not use the guillotine. Of course it did. On many occasions I have brought copies of Hansard into this chamber to show how short was the time allowed by Labor for the debate of the whole of the Estimates.
I do not want to be hard on the honourable member for Grayndler. As he recalled just the other day when I was speaking to him, on another occasion I told the people how I had often thrashed him. He realises that I have thrashed him. When I came here first he was one of my greatest opponents. His ideas of what is good for Australia and my ideas are very wide apart. When he comes into the chamber and makes the remarks that he does about the Government, he completely forgets how Labor behaved when it was in office. But some people have long memories, and I am one of them. I want the Committee to know just what did happen when Labor was in office. Labor used the gag. too. The man who moved it is now deceased, so I will not mention his name. He was quite a good fellow. But they called him the Lord High Executioner. On one occasion I moved the adjournment of the House so that I could press the need for more money to be provided from the petrol tax.
– Mr Chairman, I move:
That the question be now put.
– Order! The closure cannot be applied when time has been allotted under Standing Order 92.
– (I was trying to get more money from the petrol tax. Labor was keeping in Consolidated Revenue just under three-quarters of the amount that was collected and was paying out just over onequarter. As I said, I moved the adjournment of the House. The second speaker was none other than the Prime Minister of the day, Mr Chifley, and he was followed by another Prime Minister, Mr Menzies, as he then was. After only three speeches on this subject, which Labor now says is most important - this is recorded in Hansard - Mr Menzies said: ‘1 see the Lord High Executioner is getting ready and will soon do his duty.’ He did, and the debate was over. I could go on relating such incidents as this for the whole of the time allotted to me. By doing so I could show the insincerity of the case put by the honourable member for Grayndler that this Government is the only government to do these things. Labor did them and this Government does them. For that matter all governments have done them in the past and no one government can be blamed for doing these things. Of course, when a government is in power it will not allow the Opposition to take the business of the Parliament out of its hands.
We are now debating the estimates for the Parliament and I want to make one oi two comments about the Parliament. First of all I want to clear up one or two misunderstandings that people have about members of the Parliament. These matters have come to my attention as I have gone around the electorate. The proceedings of the House of Representatives are broadcast on Tuesdays and Thursdays. However, it is provided that the broadcasts go off the air at 11.30 p.m. or when the motion for the adjournment is moved. Though we may sit until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, the broadcast stops and people throughout the country think that the Parliament has adjourned. Someone moves that the House do now adjourn, the broadcast ceases and people living in Sydney, Mildura and in other places think we have gone to bed. That is not right. We may sit for many hours after that. When the House has adjourned for the summer or winter recess, and I go throughout the electorate people say: ‘Oh, you are on your holidays’. Every member of the Parliament knows how he feels when such remarks are made. In a large electorate, the member is busier when the Parliament is not sitting than he is when the Parliament is sitting, because he must travel over long distances, He never knows when he might have to go somewhere urgently to meet someone who cannot travel to him. The work is harder when the Parliament is not sitting. People have the impression that when the Parliament adjourns for 2 or 3 months the members are on holidays. This is completely wrong and should be put right.
One of the best innovations in this chamber and one that I have appreciated most for some years now is the timing clock. We have one on each side of the chamber. In this debate I have a quarter of an hour. The clock is set at the quarter and it works backwards in an anti-clockwise direction. When the hand gets near the top of the clock, a light shines for one minute and warns the member that he has almost exhausted his time. It shines for a short period and when it goes out the time is up. When the member sees the light he can round off his speech and say something about the great Commonwealth of Australia or something to that effect. But before this system came into operation the Speaker had to remind the member because one could not be watching the clocks on the wall all the time and one forgot what the time was when one started. Sometimes one was interrupted in the middle of a sentence. Any man who gets caught in the middle of a sentence now is not watching his job.
I want to say something regarding past and present members of this House. I have seen them for a good few years now and I do not see any great improvement. We have a much larger Parliament now but we do not have the orators we had formerly.
Although I do not want to go into detail about it tonight honourable members know what 1 think about the subject. What is spoiling the oratory in this Parliament is that too many members are reading their speeches. I will say no more than that. As far as work is concerned, there may be more work to do but we have better equipment. Honourable members should think back to the days before 1949 when we sat on Friday as a rule, or in any event till late on Thursday night or early Friday morning. We had to travel to Sydney, Melbourne or anywhere else by train. There used to be three special carriages to take members to Melbourne and Sydney. Today there are fast aeroplanes and honourable members can go to Perth, or even Darwin in the time it used to take to get half way to Albury in the train. We have better facilities. We have all sorts of copying machines and better typewriters. Overall, I do not think there is any great change as far as members are concerned. I think the position is about the same when everything is taken into consideration. It has been said we should abolish the Senate. Of course, this move is not on the board. Does anybody think that senators will pass a Bill to allow for a referendum that would make them commit suicide? Of course they will not. As the time is moving quickly I will mention the men with whom I have come to be great friends. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin), sitting so close to me, is a man with whom I have been friends with ever since he came into this House. He is a hard-hitter but is always bright and cheery. He has always fought policies and not personalities. Honourable members should not be fighting persons because they only lower themselves by trying to degrade someone else. It is policies they have to fight. The honourable member for Banks (Mr Costa) - Eric Little by Little, as somebody called him; I think it was Hugh Roberton - is a man who says he has never been called to order by the Speaker and I agree with that. Then we have the honourable member for East Sydney (Mr Devine). I have not known him as long as I have known other members because he has not been here as long and although he sometimes puts over a pretty severe case I know he is right at heart and I know he is a real Australian.
One other man who is leaving this House, a Country Party man, is the honourable member for Lawson (Mr Failes). So also is the honourable member for West Sydney (Mr Minogue). Who will ever forget how he fought for the restoration of that clock on the Sydney Post Office, and how he publicised Lord Howe Island? I will never forget them. If I fail to mention anyone, please excuse me. I have been the happy recipient of friendship from these men. 1 want to state that very, very clearly. Let me tell honourable members a little story. A lady said to me: ‘The Speaker seems to act in a funny way in Parliament. He says: “Those in favour say aye. Those against say no”.’ She said to me: ‘No-one says anything and then he says: “I think the ayes have it”.’ She then said: ‘Why can he not make up his mind?’
– Order! The Committee will come to order. I am not sure about members reading their speeches but I think some honourable members may not be able to hear them read.
– The real thing is that when the Speaker says: ‘I think the ayes have it’ it is always the Government which has the decision because the Government is always in greater numbers. If it is a no vote on the Government side it is still because the Government has the numbers and then he says: ‘The noes have it’. Of course, it can be very complicated and very upsetting for people who do not understand these things. I want all those members who are leaving to take with them the best wishes of the Country Party. 1 am the only member of the Country Party who has had the chance to speak tonight but we extend goodwill to all of the people of Australia including every member of the Parliament.
– I rise to enter this debate to mention something which has not so far, to my knowledge, been mentioned, that is, the part played by the Parliamentary Library staff and the staff of the research section in particular. There is no doubt that the Library staff we have here is without parallel in Australia. There is no parliament in this country that has a staff that can compare with ours. These people stay on duty until half an hour after the Parliament rises, and there is no let-out for them. They cannot go and have a cup of tea, ring somebody on the telephone, or have some break from their work as those of us who are in the chamber can do. I am not suggesting that we are not hard-working because everybody in this place, to my knowledge, works very hard. I say that for Liberal Party, Country Party and Labor Party members, but all of us will admit that the Library staff have an even more exacting task to perform than we have. The amount of work that is being poured out by the Library staff and by the research section of it is growing more and more each day that the Parliament lives. The staff is being added to and those already there, I think, are working harder than ever.
I am pleased with one thing about the Government, and that is the attitude of Ministers in allowing honourable members to incorporate in Hansard material that has been gathered by the research section of the Library staff for the assistance of the member using it, so that that material once incorporated in Hansard is available in detail to every other member of the Parliament. Very often, it saves the research staff from having to gather it together for a second time. It gives every member of Parliament the benefit of that which each individual member has been able to secure from the Library staff. I can say that when the new Parliament assembles we on our side will be prepared to continue this practice. We believe it is something that ought to be continued. It is the duty of a member to show the Minister in charge the document that he intends to have incorporated. He ought not to ask for a document to be incorporated without letting the Minister see it. All kinds of documents that perhaps a Minister would not agree to allow to be incorporated in Hansard could be sneaked into Hansard. I want to commend to the Parliament and to every honourable member and to every Minister that this is a practice which ought to continue.
I do not know who it is that fixes the rates of pay for some of the Library staff. I am not fully aware of the scale of pay paid to all members of the Library staff. I would be surprised if most of them were getting what they are worth. I do know, however, that the men employed on the
Xerox machine on the floor below this chamber and who work at a feverish rate the whole time, when this Parliament is in session and when this Parliament is not in session, are not paid the kind of salary that they ought to be paid. The job is hard on their eyes and hard on their health. There has been a big turnover of staff. We have a young lad down there now who, I think, is not yet 20 years of age. He is a most obliging young fellow who works all hours of the day and night and who is willing to bend every possible effort at all times to help a member to secure photographic material.
I am sorry for one other thing. Some time ago the Joint House Committee decided that a kiosk was to be erected outside Parliament House so that visitors to the Parliament - the general public - could have somewhere to go to have a cup of tea at a reasonable price. It is not right that the public who come to this place are not able to get a cup of tea or some refreshments while they are here. Unless a member of the public visiting Parliament House knows a member of the Parliament who can take him for a cup of tea, that visitor must go across to Civic Centre or else pay through the nose for a meal at what is known now as the Lobby Restaurant. The kiosk should never have been used to create a high class, high price restaurant which is outside the reach of the ordinary person visiting this Parliament. Let us never forget that the people who visit this Parliament arc the people who pay to keep the Parliament going. They are the people whom we serve. They are the people who ought to be given some consideration.
It is a poor thing when the Parliament meets the cost of the erection of an expensive restaurant which is turned over to well to do visitors and to lobbyists. I might say that the Lobby Restaurant is well named. I did not think that those responsible would be quite as frank as all that. The people who frequent the Lobby Restaurant are the lobbyists with other people’s money in their pockets, sufficient to pay for entertaining members of Parliament. So, the position is reversed. Instead of members of Parliament entertaining the public, the lobbyists are entertaining the members of the Parliament in the Lobby
Restaurant. When the current lease expires, it ought to be cancelled. The restaurant ought to be turned over for the purpose for which the Joint House Committee intended it to be used, so that the general public can get refreshments there at reasonable prices. That, at least, surely they are entitled to.
I am rather sad to see the bitterness that is developing inside this Parliament between the Liberal Party and the Country Party. It saddens me to see a once great coalition drifting apart. It saddens me to see great men, and men who look the very picture of health, leaving this Parliament in their prime because they feel that they cannot remain associated with the Cabinet any longer. It saddens me to see men like the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) walking around with his hand on the back of his neck. It saddens me to see men like the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) looking up the expense allowances for the diplomatic posts overseas. It saddens me to see these men who represent without a doubt the cream of the Cabinet looking around for other positions.
In a way, they are more fortunate than some of the other members are. I could name some 23 or 24 members on the Government side who have not the prospect of being appointed to some diplomatic post, because we will not have them. There is a chance that the others might get in before the election and make their jobs secure. But I can assure the honourable members for Barton (Mr Arthur), Batman (Mr Benson), Herbert (Mr Bonnett), St George (Mr Bosman), Robertson (Mr BridgesMaxwell), Kingston (Miss Brownbill), the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron), Perth (Mr Chaney), Hughes (Mr Dobie), Bowman (Dr Gibbs), Grey (Mr Jessop), Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones), Kennedy (Mr Katter), Franklin (Mr Pearsall), Hume (Mr Pettitt), Maribyrnong (Mr Stokes), Swan (Mr Cleaver) and Gwydir (Mr Hunt) that there will be no positions for them after the next election because they have not carried out their tasks as members of the Parliament well enough to satisfy us who will be on the Government side after the election that they are capable of holding down a position of any kind.
I regret, however, that the honourable member for Denison (Mr Gibson) is leaving Parliament of his own free will. I am sorry to see the honourable member for Lawson (Mr Failes) leaving. He was a very great and honest representative. He has been pushed out by his fellow members of the Country Party following the redistribution that has taken place. The honourable member for Isaacs (Sir William Haworth) is leaving. I do not know that I am particularly sorry to see him leave. He has never been a particularly good Chairman of Committees or Deputy Speaker. But he is going and I suppose that we can think of some of his good points at a time like this. He has some good points which I think we ought to try to remember-
– Order! I suggest to the honourable member-
- Sir, I was coming back to you-
– Order! I would suggest to the honourable member for Hindmarsh that he might think also about the Standing Orders.
– Yes, 1 was doing that. What I want to say is this: This Parliament, as well as losing these distinguished men because of the policies of the Government over which they have no control, is losing them because the Parliament - this is the point that I wish to come to - is only the rubber stamp of the Cabinet. It is a pity that all these men who have some good qualities should be pushed out of public life because of the decisions of the Cabinet. These are decisions over which they have absolutely no control at all. If they do not support those decisions in the Parliament, they lose their pre-selection. Unless they slavishly follow the decisions of the Cabinet, in which they have no say at all, they go the way of the honourable member for Warringah (Mr St. John). He is fortunate. He will no doubt come back again mainly because he has been prepared to defy the Government.
I am sorry I have been reminded that only 5 minutes of my time remains and that my namesake, the honourable member for Griffith, who will probably be making tonight, in a few seconds, the last speech of his career as a member of this Parliament, wishes to say something. I hope that what he has to say will prove more interesting than the last speech that he made. I therefore yield to him. I will be here for many years to come, although his life in the Parliament is very short indeed. I thank you for your forebearance through the life of the Parliament, Sir. You have been a very fair person. I wish to thank you and to express my appreciation too for your fair play.
– Mr Chairman, in 1949, when I was 9 years of age, I thought how wonderful it was that the Australian Labor Party had just left the Government benches. Twenty years later, the ALP is still in Opposition. While the ALP contains men like the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), it will remain out of office for many more years to come. However, 1 wish to make reference tonight to the 160 years of service that have been rendered to this Parliament by the honourable members for Paterson (Mr Fairhall), Lawson (Mr Failes), Isaacs (Sir William Haworth), Banks (Mr Costa), Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin), West Sydney (Mr Minogue), Dalley (Mr O’Connor) and Scullin (Mr Peters).
With my time so restricted, I wish to say as somebody who has just arrived in this Parliament and, unlike the suggestion of the previous speaker, the honourable member for Hindmarsh, someone who will be here for many years, how much we - and I speak for most young members here - appreciate many of the expressions of kindness which have been shown to us by a number of the honourable members who are retiring. It is unfortunate that the Australian Labor Party has a rule governing the age of its members of Parliament. We like men like the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith, the honourable member for Banks and their kind. We realise that these men have many years of life left. We also realise that this nation and this Parliament will miss them. They are characters in their own right. As long as I am a member here, I will recall vividly the honourable member for KingsfordSmith, with his wit, biting points and requests to the Parliament to ‘wait a moment’ while he presented us with some critical remarks. Then there is the honourable member for West Sydney (Mr Minogue), the Irish rover, with his long questions on the troubles in Ireland. These honourable members have all gone to make up the Parliament. In my first term as a member of this Parliament they have all contributed to what will be very long and cherished memories. As a young member of this Parliament I wish them, the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) and the sometimes acting Chairman of Committees every good health in their years of retirement because they in their own ways have made a definite contribution not only to this Parliament but, more importantly, to this nation.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Department of the Treasury
Proposed expenditure, $71,499,000.
Advance to the Treasurer
Proposed expenditure, $20,000,000.
– I want to address a few remarks to the Treasury Estimates. 1 have listened with some interest to speakers in the previous debate on the Parliamentary Estimates and I must say that, though this is not the last speech which I will make in this Parliament, like so many others who cannot predict the future I must say that it may be the last Parliament in which I will make a speech - but of course no one can predict this sort of thing. I have been here since 1951 and I noted this evening that when I first came into this Parliament the total collection of taxes on the part of the Commonwealth was about S 1,250m. The Estimate that is before us projects taxation of $6,236m which is about five times the 1951 figure. Since 1951 the population of Australia has increased by nearly 50%, so although the number of people to be looked after has risen by 50% the amount of taxation calculated has risen 500%. Some part of this rise is due to the decline in the value of money in that period, but nevertheless it seems to me that we should appraise the measures that we have for determining whether or not we are getting value for our money.
The theory is that no dollar can be expended unless the Parliament approves of the expenditure. In many respects the Parliament is not always aware of what it is that it is approving, and therefore perhaps there is a need for better techniques to be employed than those we have at present. Surely there is no more appropriate place for this sort of problem to be grappled with than the Treasury. The Treasury Estimates themselves are quite modest in terms of Budget expenditure of $7,000m. The expenditure by the Department of the Treasury is a shade under $72m - 1% of the vast sum that is being expended by the Commonwealth as a whole - but in a sense it is the Treasury and the Auditor-General’s Department which are responsible for overseeing, on behalf of the Parliament, when Parliament is not quite aware of what it is doing, these vast sums of expenditure. I sometimes wonder whether the sort of instruments that we have at our disposal are really competent to encompass the magnitudes of the sums of money that we expend.
The other afternoon when I was reading a report of the Reserve Bank of Australia I was mystified by the cover of that document because it did not say whether it showed part of our mineral industry, a deposit on the moon, or anything else. Nothing is said anywhere on the cover as to what the report is. I was somewhat disturbed at the note dealing with Australia’s export trade on page 15 of that report, which states:
Exports of coal also grew rapidly.
Then it goes on to say:
Australian trade statistics do not include a separate classification for mineral exports, . . .
The Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics is within the jurisdiction of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), and it is rather curious that in the year 1 969, when minerals are regarded as such a substantial part of the Australian economy, mineral exports are not recorded separately. I would ask those who are responsible for this sort of thing to have a look at this matter. It may be that it is one of those matters of jurisdiction between the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) and the Treasurer. I have been told that sometimes the Minister for Trade and Industry and the Treasurer do not speak to each other but that they pass notes. I hope that they will at least pass a note between themselves about the deficiency of the statistical information on the export of minerals.
Surely in 1969 when Australia is faced with a SI ,000m short-fall between exports and imports, allowing for what are called invisible items, and in the hope of improving the situation we depend upon either reducing our imports or increasing our exports, we ought to have better statistical information as to what is our most likely best source of future export minerals. According to this report of the Reserve Bank we are deficient in the provision of sufficient statistical information as far as our mineral exports are concerned. I hope that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) and the Treasurer and the Department of Trade and Industry will be able to do something about this lack of information. We are given all sorts of information from departments such as the Department of National Development to the effect that mineral exports are our great hope iri the future, but apparently we cannot get information directly from trade statistics as to how well we are doing in this direction.
Earlier in my opening remarks I suggested that in the last 18 years, between 19S1 and 1969, our total receipts on Government accounts have increased fivefold and our population has increased 50% . I think the Treasury has a duty to make more comprehensible to the people what are called their national accounts. In the coming 2 weeks - it is only 8 weeks now to the next Federal election - we will be mesmerised, as usual, by large numbers. We will be told that certain things can be done and certain things cannot be done. The people who think they can call the tune about what can be done are those on the Government side. I want to make this point. If there are any deficiencies in the provision of social needs in Australia - and I think there are when one considers education, health and social welfare - the people who are responsible for them are those who have governed this country for the last 20 years. I am sure that there will be a tendency on the part of the Government during the next 8 weeks to tell us what it can do in the next 3 years. Most of the things that will be proposed could have been done already.
This is where the public ought to be aware of some of the mysticism of large numbers. It is easy to mystify the public when we talk about a sum like SI 00m or $200m or several hundred million dollars. To most people who are used to thinking only in terms of weekly incomes of perhaps $60 or $70 sums like $100m become a little bit incomprehensible. But if we are to get better education in Australia, better provision for health services and better social welfare, it can come only by greater public expenditure. As I said recently, in a community like ours where the population is rising by 2% to 3% a year, where nearly a quarter of total available resources are devoted to investment rather than consumption, and where you have resultant economic growth, the gross national product ought to expand year by year automatically. The question ought to be as to how we are to disperse the additional available resources that the community can produce. For the most part those resources are not due to anything that can be called private enterprise; they are due to the collective activities of the community.
O’ne of the places where the collective activities of the community should be seen to their best disposition is in the provisioning of education. A few weeks ago the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) presented a document to this House showing how much of the gross national product was being devoted to education. I think he showed that slightly over 4% of the gross national product was going towards education. That figure was obtained by taking into account not only Government expenditure on education but also the expenditure on the part of nongovernment schools. But in Australia three out of every four children who attend school attend government schools; one out of every four attends non-government schools. Therefore we must have greater public expenditure to provide for the total field of education. The body that is ultimately responsible or able to see that more attention is devoted to government expenditure on education is the Commonwealth Government.
In my view, the place where the greatest deficiency exists is in the expenditure at the State level. The States primarily are responsible for such fields as education and health. but unlike some other federal systems there are not many channels of revenue or resources in Australia available to the States. For example, in Canada and the United States the provinces and states can impose their own sales tax; they can put duties on petrol if they want to; they can charge excise on beer and cigarettes and so on. That is not the case in Australia. Therefore, if the States are to have more resources available to them greater payments must be made from the central revenue to the States and local authorities.
We have just recently contemplated a Commonwealth Budget of approximately $7,000m, and we have had a great deal of argument in this place about whether, on balance, the Budget is inflationary or deflationary. I would suggest, with all respect to the Treasury, that what is presented as a Budget here each year is not a precise instrument at all. It is a series of guesses. Just to show how much it is a guess, when the final outcome of the last Budget was determined at 30th June 1969 it was shown that it had been $60m short in its estimate of expenditure and that estimated revenue was $100m in excess of the actual figure. The margin of error was 21%.
I ask honourable members opposite and the Minister for Labour and National Service, who has some knowledge of this abstract field of economics, whether they could seriously say that Australia would be in a worse inflationary situation if $100m more were immediately given to the States and if most of that money were spent in the field of education. I ask them to weigh against what they call the assessment of inflation, which cannot be determined, the social benefits that could flow to the Australian community by better quantity and quality in public education.
– Order! The Honourable member’s time has expired.
– I, too, will devote my remarks on the estimates for the Department of the Treasury and the Advance to the Treasurer to the burden of taxation now imposed, particularly on the lower income groups. I will point out how tremendous pressure is placed on the hard-working, highly qualified middle income group of the Australian community. If we look at the document entitled ‘Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure’ we find that the Government has imposed taxation on most sections of industry, on individuals, and on companies, and has imposed customs and excise duties on various items. The total receipts of the Treasury will amount to the staggering figure of $6,874,968,000. This includes, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) has said, the grand total of $6,236,800,000 in the form of receipts from taxation, and the balance of $638,168,000 will be made up of other revenue.
I propose, with the assistance of the information given to us by the Treasury, to point out to the people of Australia how much it costs them per head to run the country and how much it will cost a man, his wife and two children. I believe that the people of Australia, certainly the people in the electorate of Balaclava, will be amazed at the really staggering figures I produce. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports said that in future years there will be greater public expenditure. I say that if we are to get out of the explosive situation that we are now in with regard to taxation, there should be and must be less public expenditure in some form or other. In fact, I will conclude my remarks by saying that the things we have been doing in the past amount to mathematical madness. It is time that we had a true look at the situation from the standpoint of good Australians who are highly qualified and who are beginning to disbelieve that the Government can spend their money far better than they can spend it themselves.
I say that this sum of $6,874,968,000 is too high in total to extract from a population of 12 million people. It represents, on my rough calculations, $573 per head of population. Admittedly I have used the figure of 12 million and not the actual population figure for Australia. This is almost 50% higher than the gross national product in 1949. In other words, the gross national product in 1949, from 8 million people, totalled $4,47 lm, and in this year of our Lord, 1969-70, we propose to take from 12 million people in Australia, this grand total that I have mentioned of $6,874m.
Looking at the figures in the document entitled ‘Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure’ to which I have referred, and turning particularly to pages 6 and 7, we find that of this total to be extracted from the people, some $2,025m will be accepted by the Treasury as revenue from income tax, that is, tax from the working people in Australia. We find that $ 1,140m will be extracted from the companies which produce the goods and provide the services for Australia. We find, too, that the Department of Customs and Excise will take a total of $l,355m in the form of taxation. As I said earlier, this is far too high a price for government in a country of 12 million people. The Treasury itself, in the same document at pages 32 and 33, has broken down these tremendous amounts into tax paid per head of population in Australia. It finds the grand total of $553.23 per head of population. This amounts to $10 a week per head of population for every man, woman and child in Australia. As I have said, a man with a wife and two children pays more than $40 a week in the form of income tax, sales tax, payroll tax, customs and excise and the like. I repeat what I said before. An amount of $40 a week for a working man with a wife and two children is too high a price to pay for the government of the country.
I have mentioned this matter previously, and I have drawn the attention of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) to it on many occasions. For the record, I think that I should repeat some of the things that I have said previously. On the Raw Cotton Bounty Bill, which was debated in this House on 27th March 1969, I said, as reported at page 1023 of Hansard:
I cannot go to my electorate of Balaclava and say to the people: ‘Keep up paying your taxes, fellows, because we need the money to pay the bounty to raw cotton producers on the Ord River, the Namoi River, and the Nogoa when it comes into production.*
I said that in March of this year. On a later occasion, when dealing with the double taxation agreement with Japan and with Singapore, I also referred to this question. On 22nd April this year, as reported at page 1315 of Hansard, I said:
The first point I would like to make is that we are one of the highest taxed industrialised countries in the world. In other words, I do not believe that we can tax the people of Australia any more. I believe that real consideration should be given and must be given to reducing income tax in Australia. We cannot take any more from the people of Australia for this additional development.
At question time we have an opportunity to question Ministers about matters and on 14th May 1969, I asked the Treasurer this question, as reported at page 1739 of Hansard:
I ask the Treasurer whether there has been a remarkable and disturbing rise in government expenditure - that is, Federal, State and local government expenditure - in recent years. Has government expenditure increased as percentage of gross national product from 30% in 1960 to 35% today, and is the percentage rising?
I went on to ask him about other matters associated with this question. But I am making the point that this is not new, so far as I am concerned. I believe that 1 should continue to raise this subject in the Parliament until Cabinet, - the Ministers and the Government itself do something about this tremendous imposition of taxation on Hie people of Australia. As I have said, the figures are quite formidable, particularly when we realise that each year every man, woman and child contributes $553.23 to government revenue, in its many forms.
It is a fact that a man, his wife and two children pay an average of $2,102.92 a year to the Commonwealth, and, of course, much of this money is transferred to the States. A quick calculation tells me that a man and his wife do not pay $40 a week that I mentioned. In actual fact, they pay $42.50 a week. I believe that this form of taxation on the ordinary working man, particularly in the middle income group, has passed to a stage of disincentive. I believe that many people in Australia are looking at the tax forms and considering whether they should be putting their full effort into their job; whether they should carry out the overtime that is necessary in their workaday life; and whether they should allow their wives to go out and produce for the country. Goodness knows that we need more and more people in Australia producing for our wonderful country.
The ordinary family man should be able to ask the question that I am now asking. I can supply the answers because they have been given to me by the Treasurer on page 33 of the document entitled ‘Estimates. of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure’. The money goes in many ways. The document shows that the Commonwealth pays $132.33 per head of population to the State governments. Therefore a family of four pays a total of $529 each year to the State governments in the form of revenue collected by the Commonwealth Government. That family pays other taxes to the State governments. But I would like Sir Henry Bolte and Mr Askin in New South Wales to know that we in the Commonwealth collect from every family of four a total of $529 each year and transmit this money to Victoria, on the one hand, and to New South Wales, on the other hand.
The National Welfare Fund is also cited in the document. It takes a tremendous amount from the working man of Australia, and rightly so, too. It takes, per head of population, $107.62. To a man, wife and two children this represents a total of $8 a week. So we are taking $10 a week from a family of four for the States, and $8 a week from the same family of four for another purpose, making a grand total of $18. Then looking at customs and excise - and I am speaking from memory now - a family of four pays a total of $12 a week in the form of customs and excise duty. So we have this grand total already of $30 a week from a family of four. Is it any wonder that my constituents have been complaining and will continue to complain unless the Government or the Treasury does something about the form of taxation and the methods of collecting taxation? As I said earlier, it is a strange thing, I believe, that some of us in the Parliament have the feeling that we can spend the hard earned money of this man who produces for bis family of four better than he can spend it himself.
As I have said, I have raised this subject on three or four occasions in the Parliament. Therefore, I feel justified in making this gentle criticism on behalf of my constituents and on behalf of these people who make a tremendous contribution to the Commonwealth Government’s revenue. So I plead with the Government on the one hand to cut out or to reduce some of its expenditure in its many forms. It is passible that if we reduce income tax we may have to increase sales tax in certain areas. Here again the Government will need to have a good look at the areas where this sales tax can and should be increased. But if the family man of four that I have spoken of thinks he can afford luxury equipment, he should be able to afford the additional sales tax that I have in mind.
Looking at the figures that were given to us by the Treasury I find that every man, woman and child contributes $50.84 a year for Commonwealth salaries and administrative expenses. In other words, he contributes $1 a week for the real operations of the Commonwealth Government service. Maybe it is worth while but maybe it is not. I believe that air Ministers should be looking at their departments to make sure that some administrative control, from their point of view, is given to their departments. I wonder how many members of Parliament and certainly bow many people in Australia realise when they look at the salaries and expenses of members of Parliament that it costs this family of four $1 a year or 2c a week to keep their member in Parliament. This includes the additional allowance for Ministers.
I plead with the Government and I plead with the Cabinet to have a good look at the taxation structure to make sure that the working man - this family of four - can spend the money that has been hard earned.
– The honourable member’s time has expired.
– My remarks refer to the amount allocated for the administration of the Department of the Treasury. I want to refer particularly to Commonwealth employees’ compensation. A comprehensive compensation Act was promised as long ago as 1964. The procrastination that has taken place in regard to the preparation of amendments to this Act is to the eternal discredit of this Government. I asked a question on this matter on 13th August last. I asked the Treasurer (Mr McMahon): . . whether during this session of the Parliament he will bring down the comprehensive amendments to the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act promised in 1964 and repeatedly promised since then? If not, when will they be brought before the Parliament? Why has there been this delay?
The Treasurer replied:
I think the honourable member will know that for a period of at least 18 months I have been trying to get this Bill before the House. The problem is not related to the department concerned, but to the ability of the parliamentary draftsmen, with their limited resouces, to handle what is an immensely technical Bill which will contain a great number of clauses. Only this morning I asked the Attorney-General whether he would have a look at it together with the Parliamentary Draftsman, and I hope the Minister will be able to give me a reply soon. But 1 cannot give any encouragement to the honourable gentleman as to when this Bill is likely to be introduced.
There is nothing very unusual about the answer. As a matter of fact, we have been getting similar answers ever since 1964. This is what the Minister assisting the Treasurer had to say in 1967 - 3 years after the first promise was made. The Minister stated in his second reading speech:
I am happy to be able to inform the House that the Government has now virtually completed its examination of the many other proposals for the amendment of the Act put forward by honourable members and other interested parties in recent years and it is hoped that it will be possible to introduce amending legislation giving effect to the Government’s decision before the end of this session.
Among the other proposals he is referring to are amendments which were proposed by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) when the Act was amended in 1964. The honourable member moved the amendments formally on behalf of the Opposition without putting them to a vote because he received an assurance from the then Treasurer that the amendments would be further considered during the recess. That, of course, was nearly 5 years ago.
On 6th June 1968 the Treasurer announced ‘that the Government expected to submit a Bill for a new and revised compensation Act during this session’. He was referring to the 1968 June session. Towards the end of the year a Bill was introduced to amend the rates only and the Minister assisting the Treasurer, Mr Swartz, had this to say:
Honourable members will recall that, in his statement to the House on 6th June 1968, the Treasurer announced that the Government expected to submit a Bill for a new and revised Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act during this session. The drafting of that Bill, which is, by any standards, a major one, is proceeding.
That was the autumn session following the session when the Act was expected to be introduced. Later in the year the Treasurer said:
I regret to inform the House that, because of a number of unforeseen difficulties which arose during the review of the compensation legislation by a committee of Ministers and later during the drafting stage, it has not been possible to complete the drafting of a Bill that could be introduced during the present session of Parliament
On 26th March 1968 the Treasurer, in reply to a question from the honourable member for Bonython (Mr Nicholls) said that the legislation was proceeding with ‘the maximum of haste’. The words ‘the maximum of haste’ are clearly significant. All that we have had is delay pyramided on top of delay.
The handling of the situation since 1964 has left much to be desired. The matter has been raised continually by way of questions and now the Treasurer again indicates that further delay is likely. It is not good enough. Over 250,000 workers in the Public Service are being disadvantaged as a result of the Government’s procrastination. In addition, many thousand national servicemen, militia and Regular Army personnel, who come within the ambit of this Act, are being disadvantaged. The Commonwealth should be breaking new ground and establishing new principles in providing compensation for its employees injured or killed on duty. The Commonwealth Act lags behind most of the State Acts in many respects. It does not provide for artificial limbs, artificial eyes, hearing aids and other artificial appliances worn by the worker at the time of injury. In Western Australia, for instance, special provision is made for artificial aids such as limbs, eyes and spectacles. In New South Wales there is a provision for $50 for damage to artificial aids and $50 for damage to clothing. In South Australia there is provision of $60 for damage to clothing. In Tasmania there is provision for damage to artificial aids such as teeth, spectacles, hearing aids and so on.
The Treasurer has indicated that there will be a provision in the new Act for reimbursement of the cost of repair or replacement of artificial aids damaged or destroyed as a result of accident. That is why it is so important that there should be no further delay to the introduction of this comprehensive Act which has been promised to us.
The Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act should follow the lead in another field. A worker who is entitled to compensation under common law in the case of proven negligence ought to be entitled to compensation under the various workers’ compensation Acts. Whether or not the employer is negligent should not affect workers’ compensation when a worker is injured. The Treasurer has already indicated that he will follow the lead of some of the States in providing for lump sum compensation for the loss of power of speech, for facial disfigurement and also for the loss of genital organs or complete and permanent loss of sexual functions - injuries which have been so adequately mentioned in this Parliament by the honourable member for West Sydney (Mr Minogue). This is a result of our requests and we welcome the promised improvement to the Act. However, we strongly deprecate the delay in fulfilling the promises. Section 9(1.) of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act is well behind the times. The words: ‘By accident’ should be deleted. I do not intend to quote the section but the words ‘personal injury arising out of or in the course of employment’ appear in the Acts of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. A provision relating to personal injury by accident appears in the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act and in other legislation, such as the Seamen’s Compensation Act and legislation relating to the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and Papua and New Guinea. A provision relating to personal injury in the course of employment appears in the Tasmanian Act.
The existing Commonwealth legislation and associated legislation mean that no injury is compensable unless it can be shown that the injury actually resulted from an accident. A worker could be injured by radiation or some other means without an accident having occurred. This Act, which in many respects is below the standards of benefit provided in some State legislation, applies also to our national servicemen, our militia and our Regular Army. If these lads are injured or meet their death by accident arising out of or as a result of their service, they or their dependants come within the ambit of this Act - that is, before they go overseas or after they return. While they are in specified areas they do not come within the ambit of the Act. They should be covered at all times by the Repatriation Act. They should be covered from the time they enter the Services. It is ridiculous that men training for war, who are subjected to greater danger than they would meet in their ordinary working life, should come under the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act. They could be training in Australia for jungle warfare. They could be operating tanks or using live ammunition. I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) to consider this important matter in future legislation that may be brought before the Parliament.
We claim that our national servicemen, our militia and our Regular Army should come within the ambit of the Repatriation Act from the time they enter the Services but they now come under the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act. For this reason alone the legislation should be a model for Australia. It should contain the best provisions possible for our servicemen. In no respect should it be inferior to State legislation. The fact that the Commonwealth legislation covers our servicemen is an added reason why the Government should be condemned for delaying the long promised amendments to the Act. There is no provision in it for student children, as there is in some State legislation, but we are told that this omission will be rectified in the new legislation. In New South Wales $5 a week is paid for each child under the age of 16 years and for student children up to the age of 21 years. In Queensland a lump sum of $290 is paid for each child under 16 years of age or, in the case of full time students, under 21 years of age. In Tasmania $274 is paid for each child under 16 years of age or 21 years of age in the case of full time students. These amounts are paid in case of death. The Commonwealth provides child endowment for student children and it is paid to student children in New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania who may come under the provisions of the relevant State legislation.
In one important respect the Commonwealth Act is better than the Acts of Queensland, Western Australia, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania and is on a par with the New South Wales legislation. I refer to compensation for a worker who is permanently and totally incapacitated. The legislation of the Commonwealth and New South Wales provides unlimited cover, so that weekly compensation is payable for life. The other States have an upper limit which varies from State to State. In some States weekly payments already made may be deducted from a lump sum payment that may be provided. That is a bad provision which fortunately does not apply in New South Wales or Commonwealth legislation relating to permanent and total incapacity. Neither does it apply in New South Wales in the case of partial incapacity of a worker. The weekly payments continue without an upper limit.
In June 1968 the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) told us that the Government intended to amend the provisions relating to medical expenses. He said that the Government proposed to remove the existing restriction on the payment of expenses incurred in travelling to receive medical treatment. Workers employed in the Public Service are waiting for this to be done. How long must they wait? This proposal follows a suggestion made by the Labor Party in 1967. We on this side asked for this limitation to be removed. The amount of $1,000 provided in section 3 of the Act for medical expenses is well behind the times. In New South Wales and Tasmania the figure is $2,500. The relevant section of the New South Wales legislation is section 10. The amount is apportioned as $1,000 for medical expenses, $1,000 for hospital expenses and $500 for ambulance expenses. Section 8 of the New South Wales Act provides $50 for damage to artificial aids and section 10b provides $50 for damage to clothing. The funeral allowance provided in section 8 is $250. This is an additional payment. Section 26 of the Victorian legislation provides for the reasonable cost of medical, hospital, nursing and ambulance services. A similar provision appears in the South Australian legislation. In our opinion the Victorian and South Australian Acts are better than the New South Wales and Tasmanian Acts.
We look forward to provisions of the kind I have referred to being included in the Commonwealth legislation. From what the Treasurer has said it appears that these provisions will be written into the Commonwealth legislation but the important question is: When will this be done? The amounts provided under the present legislation for a worker, his wife and child are far too small by today’s standards. Take the case of a man on the average wage of $67.20 a week. Under the present Act he would receive $37.45 a week, which is less than the minimum wage of $39 a week. If he is in receipt of the average wage his loss in salary will amount to $29.75 a week. If a man were off duty with a hernia for 13 weeks his total loss in wages would be $385.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The estimates for the Treasury, which we are now considering, cover very important matters. In particular I want to refer to taxation provisions. Some very notable progress has been made in taxation provisions relating to primary producers. The Committee should take particular note of what has been done with respect to the allowance for structural improvements. This is a vital matter affecting the welfare of the farming community. It is of vital importance in the continuance of standards of productivity. It is a matter affecting the maintenance of efficient and prosperous enterprises in the farming sector. I believe that the work of the Country Party in this field has been quite outstanding in recent times, so much so that we now see in the recent Budget a provision, which comes under the administration of the Commissioner of Taxation, for an allowance in respect of structural improvements. This will provide a very useful adjunct to existing provisions. I refer to the reduction from 5 years to 1 year so far as the allowance for structural improvements is concerned. The importance of this is that it will give a primary producer an opportunity to undertake substantial improvements in the categories that are defined, such as dams, underground tanks, bores and the building of certain other structures such as hay sheds and the like. All of these are of great significance in times of drought and have an important bearing on continuity of production. The provision will enable deductions to be made in a single year instead of being spread over 5 years. It will do a great deal to boost the value of this concession for primary industry.
Another very important piece of progress has been the provision of an increase of 20% in the estate duty allowance. This, of course, applies not only to land but also to other assets normally used in primary production, such as livestock, farm plant and equipment. This will enable many holdings, which because of their composition in terms of stock carried are useful units of primary production, to carry on and not be the subject of the severe imposition of death duty charges which apply when a deceased person wills a property, in the interests of the maintenance of that property, to particular members of his family. This is a notable piece of progress and I pay tribute to the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Armstrong) and the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) for special work they did as members of a Country Party committee in impressing upon the Government the great importance of this matter.
In the few minutes remaining to me I want to refer to Commonwealth aid road funds. It will be recalled that last session we passed legislation giving great impetus to the funds that would be available under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act. In New South Wales the overall increase was no less than 81%, which is a tremendous increase in the funds that will flow to that State. The overall increase for the whole of Australia was a remarkable figure when we take into account just what has been spent on roads up to now. But it is urgent that every section interested in roads - the State governments and local government - should have some precise knowledge of the effects of the legislation we passed. I refer specifically to the provisions relating to certain classifications of roads. No doubt the administrative machinery has been working on this question but I hope that there will be an early pronouncement concerning precise definitions and the effects that will flow from them; in other words, the naming of the particular roads that will be covered by the various classifications. This is an urgent matter that I hope will be clarified soon.
In conclusion I want to refer to the outstanding work done by the Taxation Branch and to the forward planning of the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in New South Wales for the move to establish regional taxation offices in country centres. This is important not only in the interests of the Taxation Branch itself but in the interests of decentralisation. I was pleased to see an office established at Lismore in northern New South Wales. This is the first office of its kind outside the metropolitan area. I hope it will be followed by the establishment of similar offices in provincial centres such as Grafton, Tamworth and Wagga in New South Wales and in other places of a similar size in other States which are appropriate locations for these facilities. This can do nothing but good in helping the work of the Taxation Branch and in bringing about a better relationship between the community as a whole and the Branch. The days of fear of taxation commissioners have passed. We are in an era where close understanding can be had between the taxpayer and the Taxation Branch and this can best be achieved through regional offices. I commend this forward action and I hope we will learn of similar action in the near future.
– There were one or two points which the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) raised to which some answer should be given.
– Am I not going to be allowed to speak?
– The programme was arranged and the honourable member, like others, normally would keep to it.
– You have not given me much chance to speak.
– Is this a democracy?
– Order! The honourable member for Oxley will cease interjecting.
– The honourable member for Melbourne Ports referred to what he regarded as some deficiencies in the trade statistics relating to the export of minerals. The explanation of this concerns the legal provisions under which the Commonwealth Statistician operates. A number of statistics in this field reflect directly, and in other cases indirectly, upon the operations of individual businesses. Where this is so, the Commonwealth Statistician cannot publish them. This is a necessary preservation of secrecy under which the Commonwealth Statistician operates and which is so essential in many different fields.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports made a number of general comments, many of which are closely in line with the philosophy of himself and his Party. For instance, as to the large expansion of the gross national product which has taken place, even with fixed prices and without making suitable allowance for any inflationary element which might have crept in, the expansion has still taken place at a rapid rate. But so, of course, has public expenditure rapidly increased. The honourable member rather hinted - or more than hinted - that if in these conditions another SI 00m or $200m was squeezed in for some purpose dear to his heart, it would not necessarily make very much difference because the figures governing the situation, which were estimated by the Treasury, were so large and in any case susceptible to error as even the best estimates are, that his $100m or $200m might be lost.
I think this is a very dubious doctrine indeed, as the honourable member would rapidly find out if the worst were to happen and he were entrusted with planning the finances of this country. The honourable member attributed the expansion of the gross national product very largely to community effort and rather pooh-poohed the idea of private enterprise. I would say that one of the basic reasons for the so rapid expansion of national income and growth rate has been the operations of private enterprise and the impetus they have given to the growth factor.
The honourable member referred particularly to education. In this connection I remind honourable members that the direct subventions by the Commonwealth to the States for the purposes of education this year show an increase of 53% over last year. The greatest single item of expansion in the Budget is none other than payments to or for the States. As the honourable member well realises, a very large proportion of payments made to the States is passed on by the States to the education system, so that in fact a very large increased provision for education is being made by one route or another to almost every aspect of education in Australia. The honourable member says that this is not enough. I think one might well say the same about most items of expenditure which the Government sustains. As the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn) so aptly pointed out, the amount of income left to the individual taxpayer is not sufficient either. The honourable member for Balaclava brought out very clearly this continual choice we have of levying more taxation on people, on the one hand, and expanding public expenditure on the other hand. It is just as well, as the honourable member for Balaclava reminded us, that for all items of expenditure which we might think highly desirable a price has to be paid. That price is not paid by the Government or by us, except insofar as we join personally the general body of taxpayers. It is the taxpayer generally who meets all this expenditure, and 1 am very glad that the honourable member for Balaclava reminded us of this fact.
The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) devoted his attention, perhaps very aptly, to the Commonwealth employees’ compensation legislation, which has been promised to the Parliament, and he attacked the delay. I know from personal experience that this task took a great deal of time of members of the Cabinet and a great deal of personal attention was devoted to it over a very long period by a number of Ministers. The task is finished. But even a Cabinet cannot whistle up parliamentary draftsmen from the never never and this shortage remains a very difficult obstacle. However, I assure the Committee that this alone stands in the way of its very early and almost immediate introduction. As soon as this technical work is completed, the Bill will be introduced.
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed expenditure has expired.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
House adjourned at 11.52 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In sending Army advisers to South Vietnam in 1962 and in its later military contributions, Australia has responded to requests made by the legitimate government of the day, in exercise of its inherent right of self-defence. In the circumstances existing in South Vietnam, with the Communists seeking to overthrow by force successive governments and - to intimidate the people by murder and terrorism, tests of public opinion as we know them were difficult to achieve. However, the attitude of the majority of South Vietnamese has been made clear by their own readiness to resist aggression and terrorism. No South Vietnamese leader of note has joined the NLF, for example, whereas South Vietnamese have continued to come forward to serve as local officials, school-teachers and similar community leaders although they thus become prime targets for Communist assassination and abduction. In 1967, when elections were held in South Vietnam, almost 5 million took part, notwithstanding Communist attempts to disrupt the elections and to intimidate the voters. While it is difficult to assess the views of North Vietnamese, there is thus evidence that the majority of South Vietnamese have shared the anti-Communist policies of the governments Australia has supported by the provision of military assistance.
As to the ability of the Communist side to win majority support without violence, the evidence so far shows that they have failed to win it with violence. The fact that they have refused to consider President Thieu’s offer of 11th July 1969 of free elections with international supervision, suggests that they themselves have little confidence that their policies would win majority support in South Vietnam in a peaceful contest.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
What requests or suggestions were made at the meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Labour in Sydney in July for legislative or administrative action by (a) the Commonwealth, (b) the Territories and (c) the States.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There was no meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Labour in Sydney in July. A meeting of State Ministers for Labour was held at Jindabyne, New South Wales, and I am sending the honourable member a copy of the press release issued at its conclusion.
Transport Advisory Council (Question No. 1650)
asked the Minister for
Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
What requests or suggestions were made at the meeting of the Transport Advisory Council at Darwin in July for legislative or administrative action by (a) the Commonwealth, (b) the Territories and (c) the States.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As I have advised on previous occasions, the Australian Transport Advisory Council is a forum at which Commonwealth and State Ministers concerned with transport discuss matters of common interest Consideration is given to many detailed recommendations of specialist committees of the Council, which if endorsed, may result in legislative and/or administrative action.
The following is a list of the more important items considered at the last meeting of Council on which administrative or legislative action was proposed:
Austraiian Motor Vehicle Design Advisory Panel - Design Rules for Motor Vehicle Safety.
Implementation of Design Rules - Establishment of Australian Motor Vehicle Certification Board comprising Commonwealth and State authorities.
Australian Motor Vehicle Standards Committee - Amendments to Draft Regulations. Air pollution from motor vehicles. Road Safety Education. Seat belts in Government vehicles. Limiting maximum speeds of new passenger cars. Commonwealth/State arrangements for marine search and rescue. Pollution of the sea by oil. Operation of the trans-continental railway. Proceedings are of a confidential nature; however, press announcements are made at the end of Council sessions concerning the decisions of Council. The items which may involve legislative and/or administrative action on which press releases were made are as follows: Establishment of the Australian Motor Vehicle Certification Board comprising Commonwealth and State representatives to secure compliance with safety features set down in Design Rules. Modification of existing Design Rules. Air pollution from motor vehicles. Air cushion vehicles.
Seat Belts in Government owned motor vehicles. Road Safety Education - inclusion in school curricula. Pollution of the sea by Oil. Specialist Committees of Council - review of existing membership.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
What were the amounts in the last financial year (a) advanced for war service homes, (b) received in principal and interest on war service homes and (c) received in respect of war service liabilities discharged before the end of the repayment period.
– The Minister for Housing has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 August 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1969/19690827_reps_26_hor64/>.