27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-I have to inform the House that His Excellency, Mr Hyo Sang Rhee, Speaker of the National Assembly of Korea, is within the precincts. With the concurrence of honourable members I propose to provide him with a seat on the floor of the House.
Honourable members ; Hear, hear! (Mr Hyo Sang Rhee thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.)
-I desire to inform the House that His Excellency, Mr Hyo Sang Rhee, is leading a delegation from the Parliament of Korea. Members of the delegation are at present in the Speaker’s Gallery and on behalf of honourable members 1 extend to them a very warm welcome.
Honourable members ; Hear, heart
Mr FOX presented from certain residents of the State of New South Wales a petition showing that the red kangaroo and many other marsupials, through shooting for commercial purposes, have been reduced to a numerical level, where their survival is in jeopardy. None of the Australian States have sufficient wardens to detect and apprehend people breaking the laws in existence in each State, and in such a vast country only uniform laws and a complete cessation of commercialisation can ensure the survival of our national emblem. It is an indisputable fact that no natural resource can withstand hunting on such a concentrated scale unless some provision is made for its future.
The petitioners pray that the export of all kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the Commonwealth Government make a serious appraisal of its responsibility in the matter to ensure the survival of the kangaroo.
Petition received and read.
Dr KLUGMAN presented from certain citizens of the Commonwealth a petition showing that (a) the Commonwealth Parliament has acted to remove some inadequacy in the Australian education system; (b) a major inadequacy at present in Australian education is the lack of equal education opportunity for all; (c) more than 500,000 children suffer from serious lack of equal opportunity; (d) Australia cannot afford to waste the talents of one-sixth of its school children; (e) only the Commonwealth has the financial resources for special programmes to remove inadequacies; (f) nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States have shown that the chief impetus for change and the finance for improvement come from the national government.
The petitioners pray that the House make legal provision for a joint CommonwealthState inquiry into inequalities in Australian education to obtain evidence on which to base long term national programmes for the elimination of inequalities; the immediate financing of special programmes for low income earners, migrants, Aboriginals, rural and inner suburban dwellers and handicapped children; the provision of preschool opportunities for all children from culturally different or socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Petition received and read.
Mr MORRISON presented from certain citizens of the Commonwealth a petition showing that (a) the Commonwealth Parliament has acted to remove some inadequacies in the Australian Education system; (b) a major inadequacy at present in Australian education is the lack of equal education opportunity for all; (c) more than 500,000 children suffer from serious lack of equal opportunity; (d) Australia cannot afford to waste the talents of one sixth of its school children; (e) only the Commonwealth has the financial resources for special programmes to remove inequalities; (f) nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States have shown that the chief impetus for change and the finance for improvement come from the National Government.
The petitioners pray that the House make legal provision for a joint Commonwealth State inquiry into inequalities in Australian education to obtain evidence on which to base long term national programmes for the elimination of inequalities; the immediate financing of special programmes for low income earners, migrants, Aborigines, rural and inner suburban dwellers and handicapped children; the provision of preschool opportunities for all children from culturally different or socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
– 1 ask a question of the Treasurer. Is it a fact that resident companies of Norfolk Island enjoy lower taxation than do resident companies of Australia? Is it also a fact that resident companies of the mainland of Australia are using this set of circumstances to avoid taxation? If this is so, what action is the Minister contemplating to overcome this situation?
– We have reason to suspect that there are a good many operations of this nature being undertaken with a view to avoiding Australian income tax. The Commissioner of Taxation himself has been inquiring closely into these matters and an investigation is toeing made. However, up to this time I have nothing definite to report.
– I address a question to the Minister for Education and Science. Is the Department of Education and Science presently engaged on an inquiry into scientific and industrial research in Australia, known as Survey and Comparison of Research and Expenditure or alternatively as Project SCORE? Can the Minister advise the House of the progress made in the survey so far? Can he advise the House when it is expected that the survey will be completed?
– The Department is engaged in Project SCORE. It is difficult to say precisely when U might be completed: it is in its early stages, lt would certainly not be completed this year and could take 2 years. We are pinpointing the research done firstly in Commonwealth departments, then in State departments, then in universities and colleges of advanced education, then in mining and manufacturing industries and other businesses and finally in nonprofit organisations. Each one of these fields presents its own problems. A questionnaire was finally settled and was sent to all Commonwealth departments in January. We are expecting replies in April. I do not have the date in my mind, but I think the departments were asked to reply by 3rd April. The Prime Minister has obtained the cooperation of the Premiers in pinpointing research expenditures in the States. He asked them to nominate Ministers with whom I could deal and who would be interested in research. They have nominated Ministers, and these number SO. It is necessary to establish the form of the questionnaire which will be geared to produce the answers from the various State departments. We are presently engaged in that exercise.
We have conferred with the universities on the best procedure for obtaining figures from them, and we have decided on a provisional form of questionnaire. Pilot projects are being conducted in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne, and depending on the success of these pilot projects we finally will determine the form of questionnaire for universities and we will proceed wilh them. In regard to colleges of advanced education, we will take the advice of State Ministers. The Department of Trade and Industry and my Department have been conferring closely with the Manufacturing Advisory Council, which has a technology sub-committee, on the most appropriate form of questionnaire for the business community and we are pinpointing the actual business concerns to which the questionnaires will be directed. Both of these are fairly major tasks. Work on them is in progress but they have not yet been completed. A similar type of activity is proceeding in relation to other kinds of businesses and non-profit organisations. We are still endeavouring to identify and list the non-profit organisations. It is a very complex exercise which we hope will produce very valuable information for Australia on what we are doing in the field of research. But it will take a considerable time to complete this exercise.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. How does the honourable gentleman reconcile judgments on the state of the economy expressed by him yesterday with those expressed in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech a week earlier? Is the economy in an overheated condition, as he said is widely recognised, or have pressures on costs and prices been kept reasonably under control, as the Governor-General stated?
– Of course, in this matter the Leader of the Opposition is deeply indebted to certain journalists who have the capacity to write articles. I would deduce from his question that this morning he read the front page of the ‘Australian Financial Review’. There is no basic conflict at all between what the Governor-General said in his Speech and the statement I made that the economy is now somewhat overheated. 1 trust that the Leader of the Opposition has seen the latest statistics which were put out by the Commonwealth Statistician yesterday on the national income and expenditure for the December quarter. If he has not, I hope he will. From those figures he will reasonably deduce that the pressures which have been evident for some time have built up lately and have built up quite sharply. What was said in the Governor-General’s Speech was a reasonable deduction at the time. In the period since, the economy has not fallen into a disastrous situation or anything approaching it, but the inflationary trend is now a matter for concern. Next week the Leader of the Opposition will also have the benefit of being able to study the lastest employment statistics in great detail when they are announced by my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service. If after this study, which I hope he will make in the meantime, he has further comments to make on any disparity, I will be glad to answer further questions next week.
– I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise: What positive action has the Government taken to control the export of kangaroo hides and manufactured goods of kangaroo leather such as athletic track shoes, which is now becoming a very big business? Is the report true that an American firm has placed an order for one million skins for this year alone. What action has been taken in conjunction with the States to stop or control the marketing of kangaroo meat for pet food and in general to co-operate with the State governments to preserve our unique fauna and flora?
– As the honourable gentleman would know, his question also concerns two other Ministers - my colleagues the Minister for Trade and Industry and the Minister for Education and Science. So far as the legal situation is concerned, the export of kangaroo skins or hides is prohibited. They are declared to be a prohibited export and may be exported only on the authority of the Minister for Customs and Excise and then only on the production of a certificate from the State fauna authority to the effect that the hides were legally taken. As for products of kangaroo hides, there is no limitation on export for the obvious reason that this would be completely impossible to police.
Mr Speaker. I have no personal knowledge of a recent order of 1 million kangaroo skins. So far as the control of articles made from kangaroo skins is concerned, the general philosophical view of the Government is that we would need fairly strong reasons to put a ban on the export of any commodity so well policed by the State governments. We know that each State fauna authority is exercising close control over the preservation of Australia’s flora and fauna.
Until such time as the Commonwealth receives representations from the States to ban the export of kangaroos the Commonwealth would be loth to move unilaterally in this regard. The honourable gentleman also asked what action is being taken. I can tell him that this week, I think, or early next week, there is to be a conference at official level between Commonwealth and State authorities concerning the export of live kangaroos and other fauna. At this conference no doubt the subject matter of the honourable member’s question will again be discussed and recommendations, if thought fit, made to the Commonwealth
– l ask the Prime Minister whether he agrees with his friend the honourable member for Boothby that 20 years of Liberal-Country Party Government have produced a Communist society in Australia? If the Prime Minister does agree, would he say that the honourable members most diligently working as undercover agents to that end have been the honourable members for Evans, Mackellar, Moreton and his friend and colleague from Lilley? If the Prime Minister does not agree with the honourable member for Boothby, does this mean that that honourable member speaks only for one of the many segments of the Liberal-Country Party coalition? In either case does, the Prime Minister not agree that Government failure or impending failure is implied?
– I would not say that I believe for one moment that there is a Communist society, or anything approaching it, in Australia. Nor do I believe that those carefully reading the remarks of the honourable member for Boothby would think he was saying that either.
Opposition members - Oh!
– Well, honourable members opposite would. I do think that he pointed out, as he had the perfect right to point out, that there were significant Communist influences within the trade unions, within the State branches of the Labor Party and generally those organisations
Opposition members - Oh!
– Mr Speaker, in his exercise of free speech, which is now sought to be denied to him, he not only had the right to point that out but to indicate those facts which supported what he had to say, for example, the Labor Party in Victoria appearing to chair a conference which called for mutiny among our troops abroad. Surely these are proper things for an honourable member to say. What has been surprising about this matter, Mr Speaker, has been the venom which has been poured out personally against the honourable member rather than any attempt to refute the remarks he made concerning the influence in various sections of Australia.
– The man is mad.
-Order! The honourable member for Lang will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– 1 would have thought, Mr Speaker, that a proper discussion of this matter would have been concerned with whether it was true that these influences were there or whether it was not true rather than a personal attack being made on a person who was expressing his right of free speech.
Many of us have heard members of the Opposition in this House get up and charge this side of the House with being Fascists. Perhaps the relative truth of these two charges can be judged by the fact that we brush this off because we know that nobody will believe it. The Australian Labor Party gets upset because it knows that many people do believe the charge made against it.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. I refer to the recent announcement by the Reserve Bank that interest rates will be increased by 0.5%. Considering the severe impact that this rise will have on farmers’ financial obligations, will the Minister recommend to the Reserve Bank that the 0.5% increase should not apply to rural producers?
– I know that the honourable member for Canning will readily appreciate that no one in the community has a greater interest in restraining inflation and keeping down inflationary cost rises than the farming community, and this is the main objective of the statement by the Reserve Bank and the change to be made. As I mentioned yesterday, within the general increase the relatively privileged position of exporters and rural producers will be preserved. As I undertook yesterday, I have since begun the process of discussion with the Governor of the Reserve Bank about the position of those members of the farming community who in recent times have been suffering hardship. We regret very deeply that these are as numerous as they are. I shall continue the discussions with the Governor of the Reserve Bank and point out to him - I am sure he is well aware of it, as indeed are the banks - the difficult position in which many rural producers are now placed.
– Has the Minister for Health seen reports that the Government, under a contingency plan will exclude doctors who refuse to co-operate with its health scheme from participation in the scheme? Does such a contingency plan exist? If so, what is its nature and how does the Government intend to enforce it?
– If the honourable gentleman reads Hansard he will see that I answered his question yesterday. ] do not think that I need add anything further to it.
– 1 address my question to the Minister for External Territories. For the sake of the record, can he refute the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition during his recent visit to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, which is administered by Australia under trusteeship from the United Nations, that it is the ‘only remaining colony in the world, with possibly the worst labour conditions in the world’? Will the Minister assure Mr Toua Kapena, a member of the House of Assembly and the Papuan Ministerial Member for Labour, that the Leader of the Opposition did not speak for Australia when he branded him as an Uncle Tom, or submissive slave, in front of his own people?
– Unfortunately, I suppose that Australia’s image has suffered very considerably by the visit of the Leader of the Opposition. He has aided those people who denigrate Australia’s efforts in our very difficult task there. Of course the Leader of the Opposition did not choose to look at all that has been done by Australia in Papua and New Guinea. I recollect reading an article in one of our newspapers which described the present situation in West Irian. I make this point only by way of contrast. According to my recollection of the article, it said that 60 cents per capita was spent on the people there. On the other side of the border the figure is $60 of Australian money, not taking into account the other money which is spent there. I suppose one can compare the two countries. Twenty years ago the Territory of Papua and New Guinea was in just about the same situation as West Irian. It had been ravaged by war; all that was left was, I think, 2 schools and 2 hospitals. Last year I opened a hospital at Goroka which cost $2m. Papua and New Guinea now has 31 high schools, a university, an institute of higher technical training and an agricultural college. All of these were provided by Australia. The allusion to wages and so on is, of course, utterly ridiculous. In Papua and New Guinea the minimum wage is equivalent to S20 a month, but in, for instance, some African countries the minimum wage is only $8 to $12. The same situation applies in some countries in the Pacific area.
The last part of the question was in reference to Mr Toua Kapena. I believe a vast majority of Australians would deplore the gross insult to a very respectable and distinguished Papuan and Ministerial Member. He is a man who is held in very high regard by his people and for whom I have great personal respect and regard. The Leader of the Opposition did not stop there; he also described the House of Assembly as a rubber stamp, which is quite in contrast to what he said in a Press statement. But this is not unusual. I have a copy of a Press statement he made at Port Moresby on 1 2th January. He said:
We have tried to impart a feeling not only of urgency but of self-confidence in the ability of New Guineans to make their own decisions. There are New Guineans who are well equipped to fill the highest political and administrative positions in their country. Indeed, no Australian could claim the contrary without reflecting on Australia’s record of administration at its crucial point.
The House of Assembly and its members should now be taken seriously as the representatives of their people and treated by all Australians with proper respect and seriousness.
– These are the people he called a rubber stamp?
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for Immigration. Is it a fact that the Government has initiated a campaign to step up the migrant intake from Yugoslavia, which is a Communist country?
– The honourable member is no doubt aware that I made a statement in the House during the course of the past week seeking to formalise the continuing migration to this country in recent years by many Yugoslavs. I point out to the honourable member that he should not see this as the beginning of any mass migration programme from Yugoslavia because the agreement which has been formally tabled in the House was presented against the background of the long history of migration from Yugoslavia over a period dating back to the 19th century. At present there are 100,000 Yugoslavs and their dependants in Australia. They have proved themselves to be very hard workers and to have a capacity for effective integration. As I indicated when the agreement was tabled, in the case of Yugoslavia and all source countries for our migration programme, Australia has always reserved the right to determine which settlers will come to our shores. That certainly includes settlers from Yugoslavia. The basis of assessment in our selection procedures, as honourable gentlemen know, includes the individual’s general suitability, health, character and, I mention particularly for the information of the honourable gentlemen, the potential to conform to the social and political norms of Australia.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. This is the first opportunity I have had to raise this matter. A few moments ago the Prime Minister mentioned a call to mutiny which was made at a meeting of certain shop stewards in Victoria, which was chaired by the Victorian President of the Australian Labor Party, Mr G. Crawford. I ask the Prime Minister: Was this call against the law of the land treason? If so, why was no action taken? If, in view of the answer to the honourable member for Boothby yesterday, this is a question of policy, could the Prime Minister explain to the House what the policy is?
– I believe that after I have answered the first two parts of the question there will be no need to answer the last, because I do know that Mr Crawford chaired this meeting and that this meeting put out a call for mutiny amongst troops in the field. As a result of that the AttorneyGeneral was asked to examine this statement very carefully with his law officers to see whether a charge would lie under the Crimes Act for that. The reports of the law officers on completely legal grounds were that they did not believe it was sustainable in law. Having answered the first two parts, I think the question as to policy does not arise.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister for Defence. In a defence statement in this place last night the Minister listed the major pieces of equipment which are to be purchased in the next defence programme. Is the Minister aware that Australian shipbuilding and aircraft manufacturing industries are badly in need of orders for new ships and aircraft? Can he give an assurance that the orders for 84 observation helicopters costing $23m, 42 utility helicopters costing $31m, 2 twin engined support and training aircraft costing $8m, a light destroyer costing $5m and 1 logistic cargo ship for the Army costing $10m, will all be built in Australian shipyards and aircraft factories?
– It is quite firmly the policy of the Government to use Australian industrial resources where this is practicable and possible. I think that there was a constant thread running through my speech last night which indicated that where military requirements can be satisfactorily met, if we can get offset arrangements, or where there are prospects of commercial sales as a result of local production, in addition to military sales, then these things obviously influence a choice in one direction rather than in another direction. Considerations of this kind have an impact in a number of areas and in the matters which were mentioned last night. I do not want to go through the whole list in detail, but where there is a considerable order for aircraft we will be seeking offset arrangements if this is at all possible.
– Why not build them in Australia?
-Order! The honourable gentleman has asked his question.
– I think that I have answered the question. This is the general policy objective, but at the present time I think that honourable members have, to some extent, to be reasonable in their approach to this matter. If we are buying two aircraft of a kind, quite clearly it would not be practicable or reasonable to set up production facilities for those two aircraft. If the purchase is to be a larger one, there are additional possibilities ahead.
As regards the Navy destroyer, the S5m mentioned was for the detailed design which would follow the preliminary design which is not yet completed, but the detailed design should be commenced in the next financial year. It has been policy for some time for the construction of vessels to take place in Australia where this is practicable. The ships to which my predecessor referred late last year, that is, the fast combat support ship, the oceanographic ship and the hydrographic ship are to be built in Australian yards. The Army logistics ship is another one that will be built in Australian yards and the honourable member and the House may rest assured that this general policy is one that will be pursued by the Government with the utmost vigour.
– Can the Minister for Primary Industry advise what action has been taken by the Australian Meat Board on a submission presented to the Meat Industry Conference on Diversification by producers and meat exporters in the Northern Territory for special arrangements for the Territory and Kimberley meatworks under the diversification scheme?
– As the honourable member would be aware, I did meet a deputation of northern meatworks representatives and producers. We discussed what they considered to be the inequities of the present diversification arrangements because the meatworks in the Kimberleys region and the Northern Territory did not have the same degree of flexibility as other meatworks around Australia. They did not have access to the domestic market for sales, they were limited by the shipping arrangements, and basically they produced a type of meat that was of a manufacturing nature which was mainly available for sale to the attractive American market. Having been told this I suggested that they ought to make a submission to the Meat Industry Conference on Diversification, which consists of the Australian Meat Board and exporters. They made such a submission and the Conference then decided to set up a sub-committee to investigate the matter. The sub-committee has reported to the Conference and I believe the Conference met in Sydney yesterday to look at this whole matter and to make recommendations to the Board. But I would like to say to the honourable member for the Northern Territory that I hope some consideration can be given to these northern meatworks. I believe that there is a degree of inequity and if some suggested amendment is not made by the Conference I will have to take action.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Following the meeting in February of the Australian Transport Advisory Council, was the question of the sealing of the Eyre Highway from Ceduna to the Western Australian border discussed with the South Australian Minister for Roads? If so, were any undertakings given by the Federal Minister to assist the South Australian Government in the sealing of this vital road to the West?
– As honourable members will recall, last year the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement was renegotiated between the Commonwealth and the States. During the course of the preparation of this legislation there were, of course, discussions between the States and the Commonwealth an the whole ambit of required avenues of expenditure for the funds envisaged under the new 5-year agreement. In fact, for the first time the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement provided for the expenditure of money in several designated areas requiring specified amounts to be set out in each State. There was an increase of some 50% over the amount provided in the previous 5 years for the State of South Australia.
Since that date there have been discussions between Ministers in different States on particular road projects that are of concern to them. It is true that in South Australia concern has been expressed at the extent to which and the speed with which the South Australian Government, within its resources, will be able to complete the sealing of the Eyre Highway. There have also been discussions on other roads in South Australia and in other States. At the same time I think it needs to be recognised that when the Commonwealth Bureau of Roards submitted its report to the Commonwealth Government it stated that the amount of money allocated and which was accepted by the Commonwealth was as much as could reasonably be expended within available resources of manpower and finance over the next 5 years. So while it is true that in many areas of Australia there is still, I believe, quite a critical need for additional money to be spent on road construction any additional expenditure would, of course, have to be considered in the light of this recommendation by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. I hope it will not be too long before we will see a completely sealed highway going right around Australia. One would hope that this new roads agreement will in fact be a step towards the achievement of this objective.
– Did the Minister for External Affairs hear the statement made by Mr Ian Smith, leader of the de facto Government of Southern Rhodesia, on the Four Corners’ television programme last weekend, or has he seen a transcript of the statement? If so, will the Minister say whether he drew the inescapable inference that in the opinion of Mr Smith the Australian Government sympathises with his regime and its policies? Is this the truth of the matter?
– I did not see the telecast of the interview with Mr Smith but I have since read a transcript of what he said. It is not for me to delve into the mind or the thinking of Mr Ian Smith, and I have not attempted to do so. Everybody who has read the transcript will have formed his own idea of what Mr Smith intended to say and what he thought. What I can say is that in recent days the United Kingdom Government has submitted a recommendation to the United Nations Security Council asking for confirmation that the unilateral declaration of independence is illegal and uncon stitutional. All nations have been asked to confirm their stand of not recognising the illegal regime. I can say on behalf of the Australian Government that we confirm it. Countries have been asked not to assist this illegal Government in Southern Rhodesia. The House may rest assured that we have no intention of giving any assistance to that Government.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Industry been drawn to a statement by a former Australian Country Party member of this House, Mr C. W. Russell, published in the ‘Australian’ of 6th February 1970, in which it is claimed that most supporters of the Country Party would be surprised to learn the source of funds for McEwen House, the Country Party’s new headquarters? Would the right honourable gentleman agree with Mr Russell’s general propositions that the present policies of the Country Party are counter to the interests of those whom the Party purports to represent? Will the Minister allay public disquiet by revealing the source of funds for McEwen House?
– As I understand the situation the purpose of question time is to enable honourable members to question Ministers about matters for which they are responsible, arising out of their official position as Ministers. This matter has no reference whatever to my portfolio but I take the opportunity to say that those who supported McEwen House financially came from every branch of the community.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question without notice and with less trepidation than of yore. Will the Minister give more details of the projected inquiry into tariff making which was referred to briefly in the Governor-General’s Speech? Will the Minister give an assurance that the long recognised position of independence of the Tariff Board will not be jeopardised by such an inquiry?
– It has been suggested that some activities of the Tariff Board might be modified, but the suggestion did not originate within the Department of Trade and Industry or any other department. Seven industry organisations, through the Australian Industries Development Association proposed to me that the procedures of the Tariff Board might be accelerated if one member were assigned to deal not with protective tariffs - I use that word in the customary sense of protection - but with considerations of dumping, by-law applications, classification of items under the tariff and additions to schedule A of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. All of these things are matters of a kind that do not require long and protracted public hearings, and it certainly appeared to me that it may be a practical solution. I have asked the Department to consider the proposal and particularly to consult the Chairman of the Tariff Board as to his views on the proposal. When I have the advice of the Department, and particularly when I have the views of the Chairman of the Tariff Board who, no doubt, will consult his own Board members, I will form an opinion as to whether the proposal ought to be brought before the Government. That is the history of the proposal and, of course, there is nothing in the suggestion at all which would impair the traditional independence of the Tariff Board.
– The Attorney-General will have noted, I am sure with interest, the ruling by Mr Justice Fox that under the criminal law which applies in the Australian Capital Territory it is not permissible for the police to fingerprint persons in custody unless that course is necessary for identification. In view of this ruling I ask whether it is his intention to persevere with the relevant clause of the draft code for the Territories, tabled by his predecessor last May, under which it would be lawful for a police officer to take prints of the hands, fingers, feet or toes of a person in lawful custody and to take photographs of a person in such custody. In other words, will the Government ‘be content with the ruling given by Mr Justice Fox or will it wish to remove the restrictions which His Honour’s ruling has imposed in such matter.s?
– I have, of course, read with interest the newspaper reports of the judgment of His Honour Mr Justice Fox. That judgment was given in relation to a section of the New South Wales Crimes Act in its application to the Australian Capital Territory which is, as the Leader of the Opposition correctly points out, different in substance from the proposed, I think, section 135 of the draft criminal code. The honourable gentleman asks me whether I have formed any intention to persevere with the draft section relating to fingerprinting and photographing which was proposed by the Law Council of Austalia. I can only say that the whole question of the precise formulation of the provisions of the draft criminal code is still under consideration. We are still considering representations from interested bodies, including the Law Society of the Australian Capital Territory which has yet, I think, to present a full report to us. I do not propose to bind myself in any way by stating my intention now because, in truth, I have not yet formulated one. However, I shall, of course, take into account the views expressed by His Honour in his judgment before I make up my mind as to what I shall advise the Government in relation to the particular proposed section of the draft code.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The need for the Commonwealth Government to exercise the powers granted it by the Parliament and the people in the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) Act of 1967 to rehabilitate the Aboriginal people, and in particular to rectify the grave malnutrition revealed in the Medical Journal of Australia of 21st February 1970.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– This definite matter of public importance is raised by the Opposition in the conviction that it is impossible for findings so serious as those made by David Jose and John Welch in their research, the results of which were published in the Medical Journal of Australia for 21st February 1970, to pass without comment in this Parliament. The article is headed with medical expressions I will not read. It deals with the growth retardation, anaemia, infection and protein calorie malnutrition of Australian Aboriginal children. The lesson that the Opposition draws from this is that there is a need for a very strong lead from the Commonwealth to rehabilitate the Aboriginal people.
I should like to read from the findings of Jose and Welch resulting from their study of 2,250 Aboriginal children. They say:
Growth measurements and clinical data were obtained from 2,250 children on six Aboriginal settlements in Queensland. Growth retardation affected up to 50% of Aboriginal children aged between 6 months and 3 years. Severe retardation occurred in 16% of this age group and was accompanied by anaemia and infection. At two missions where early infant feeding was supervised children showed normal growth patterns, suggesting that Caucasian growth standards also apply to Aboriginal children. Genetic factors influenced growth variations in some areas. Clinical and dietary findings, lower concentrations of nutritional factors in the blood of growthretarded children in relation to normal controls, and growth responses following the addition of specific nutrients to the diet, suggested a deficiency of multiple nutritional factors in these children. Commonest deficiencies detected were of iron, ascorbic acid and total calories, but low serum concentrations of albumin, cholesterol, folate and other vitamins were frequently found.
Nutritional deficiency in pregnant mothers and infants, and inadequate early infant feeding were considered primary initiating factors, but infections, with subsequent intestinal malabsorption, were important secondary factors precipitating and maintaining growth retardation…..
A high proportion of children dying from gastroenteritis or pneumonia, or found to be suffering from deafness, had a previous history of growth retardation. Some evidence was presented that children with growth retardation have poorer educational and employment records than children with normal infant growth.
Later in the same report, they also say:
Chronic and recurrent bacterial infection of the nasal sinuses, throat, middle ear, and lower respiratory tract is a further important source of morbidity, with high rates of deafness and bronchiectasis. Infection also reduces the nutritive value of the diet to the consumer. Chronic streptococcal infection of the tonsil with unusually high antibody responses in growth-retarded children may be related to the high prevalence of rheumatic heart disease in Aboriginal children.
The leading article of the journal makes these comments on the intensely analytical article which it published:
Millions of the world’s children suffer from malnutrition; that the Aboriginal child is no exception is suggested by a series of reports describing the situation in our own country, published by G. M. Maxwell and R. B. Elliott in 1969, by E. S. Kettle in 1966 and by D. G. Jose and J. S. Welch in this issue. Whatever the name given to the condition - ‘protein-calorie’ malnutrition, infantile marasmus, ‘postweaning’ growth failure, or what have you - the end result is the same: The child is substantially below expected levels of height and weight for age. The parameter of age is important in the diagnosis, lt is not uncommon perhaps to see fairly well-covered children, who superficially look normal. The remark is made: ‘What a sweet 3-year-old!’ The tragedy is that he is exactly 6. This is malnutrition.
The condition emerges in the second 6 months of life; by the age of 2 years, a large proportion of the children studied are affected. At the same time, the death rates begin to rise. As in the developing’ countries (where malnutrition is common and freely admitted), Aboriginal children have a high death rate and are plagued by gastro-enteritis, respiratory disease, and chronic ear, nose and throat conditions; all of this is superimposed upon a rising Aboriginal birth rate.
Common sense would suggest that lack of food is the likeliest cause of malnutrition; that this may be so for the Aboriginal infant is supported by the finding that breast-milk alone has insufficient calories for good growth in the later months of life, as was reported last year by R. B. Elliott and his colleagues. In older children, the caloric lack must have other causes. The likely ones are poverty, ignorance, and a ‘cultural’ block towards the adoption of rational feeding habits; of these three perhaps the first is the most important, since levels of ignorance and cultural patterns vary in this world, yet poverty and malnutrition are ubiquitous.
The article goes on to say:
We hear that a national nutritional survey of Aboriginal children is planned; this may well only confirm the facts which we now have. Would it not be reasonable to accept that malnutrition exists, and to plan and finance a multi-disciplinary pilot study into its prevention and treatment?
Whatever controversies there may be about the assimilation or integration of Aboriginals or about Aboriginal land rights, there ought to be no controversy about their health, especially the health of their children. The Commonwealth should never rest content until all the facts are out in the open. lt should accept as objectives the reduction of Aboriginal nec-natal infant, child and maternal mortality to the low levels of the community generally. For a long while there has been a pseudo-liberal approach to this by State governments, which have said: ‘We do not recognise race. We do not keep separate statistics on Aboriginal mortality. That means that we do not want to find out because we do not want to be under a pressure to cure them’.
The Western Australian Government, after some pressure, accepted the challenge that it should take a look at Aboriginal infant mortality and the immediate effect was that it found that Aboriginal infant mortality in Western Australia was 120 per 1,000 compared with about 19 per 1,000 for the general community. It then began to take steps to reduce the mortality rate, and the rate is now down to 60 per 1,000. But in most areas, because we refuse to classify people according to race, we do not have the special statistics we ought to have, and so we are dependent on private surveys in the Northern Territory such as that conducted by Dr Lancaster-Jones, which showed that in some areas of the Northern Territory the Aboriginal infant mortality rate was 200 per 1,000 compared with less than 20 per 1,000 for the European community. I have seen the statistics for Alice Springs. They are not kept separately according to races but those who have abstracted them, in what is, at any rate, a high degree of likelihood as to selection of race, show that in those considered to be Aboriginals there is a very, very high mortality rate indeed.
I think we have to accept that Aboriginal poverty is not like any other poverty. I know that the Minister for Social Services and Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth) is aware of these things but we also have to accept the fact that no State Government at the present time has any adequate philosophy of total attack on this problem. One of the best minds on this subject said, referring to State governments:
Governments do not have the professional expertise to devise appropriate plans for social and economic advancement. Aboriginal administration traditionally has been concerned with policies of protection, control, and welfare. These policies are essentially static in their purpose and intent, and their required administrative personnel, police, doctors, welfare officers and clerks. For social and economic advancement the personnel requirements are also pre-school, kindergarten, primary school, secondary and technical school and adult education teachers, infant health sisters, homemakers, youth counsellors and supervisors, em ployment counsellors and supervisors, cottage parents and hostel managers, all with understanding and skills required to deal with Aboriginal and part-Aboriginal people and situations.
I think the Commonwealth must take a stand in its own right in relation to this matter. Whatever it does to rehabilitate the Aboriginal people will not clash with the State governments if it is done with genuine intention and if the States have worthy motives.
I want to say one thing about other forms of government: There are certain local governments in Australia which have large Aboriginal populations in their areas and which do not have the funds to carry out the water supply schemes, sewerage schemes, and so on, on Aboriginal settlements that they might want to carry out. It is very unfair to leave to local government the provision of these very necessary facilities. Local government has a very great deal to do with Aboriginal needs. This leaves those local governments with large Aboriginal populations floundering, and subject, of course, to a very great deal of criticism because in point of fact they can do nothing. The Commonwealth now having its own standing, should make direct grants to those local government authorities which are affected in this way.
The other point I would like to make is this: I think the Australian people were tired of the situation that existed for so many years in relation to Aboriginal policy when the States contended that the Commonwealth had the money and the Commonwealth contended that it did not have the necessary constitutional power. Now I believe the Commonwealth has the resources to attack this problem and it now has the constitutional power, since the prohibition on it was removed by the greatest majority of Australian people in history in the referendum of May 1967. I hope we will just pick up and put in the waste paper basket jargon like ‘assimilation’ or ‘integration’ or all those sort of things that are supposed to be a policy but which are not any policy at all. It is no use asking the welfare officers: ‘What have you done to assimilate the Aboriginals today?’ There is nothing that they can answer because the expression of policy has no meaning - no meaning at all. It does not put the administration under any discipline of achievement whatsoever. But you can ask: ‘What have you done to reduce infant mortality, neonatal mortality, child mortality, maternal mortality, to eliminate tuberculosis’ - from which Aboriginals are almost the only sufferers - ‘to lift levels of employment and of education, and to train adults who are illiterate?’ All these things are specific policy goals which we have been lacking so long in Aboriginal policy. These are things that really do put the administration under some kind of discipline of achievement.
I think that the interest of the Minister is undoubted but I think his political position is somewhat tragic. His predecessor as Minister for Territories had control of the physical resources of the Northern Territory and also Aboriginal policy and was in a position to make a two-pronged attack. The Minister only has control of Aboriginal policy and has no power to mobilise the physical resources of the Northern Territory in the way that his predecessor had. There should be some kind of three-pronged attacked from the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) whose Department must be involved in a finding 60 devastating as that published in the Medical Journal of Australia, the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon), so far as the Northern Territory is concerned, and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. If those three Ministers work together I think they can produce some new sort of scheme which will show a totality of view of Aboriginal health, education and well being, and allocate to it the resources that should be allocated. Australia can afford to handle the problems of the Aboriginal people and I think it is a matter of will.
– Mr Speaker, it is not seldom, of course, that honourable members on this side of the House welcome an urgency motion because it enables them to score and make the Government point of view effective. I welcome this debate but not for that reason because in this case it does give an opportunity for honourable members on both sides of the House to say something about a matter which is of concern to both sides. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) was good enough to say that I was sincere in regard to Aboriginal health and welfare. May I return to him the same compliment and say that I believe that in this matter he is sincerely stating something which is not only in his heart but also, 1 think, worth saying?
The Government is fully aware of the situation and is doing something about it. The honourable member for Fremantle quoted from the Medical Journal of Australia dated 21st February 1970. The article in the journal, was, I think, very largely the outcome of a conference held a couple of months earlier - early in December 1969 - at Sydney University which was sponsored by the Commonwealth Department of Health and my own Office of Aboriginal Affairs. It was called ‘ a workshop on the health and nutritional status of Aboriginal children’. It was attended, among other people, by Dr Jose who was one of the authors of the article from which the honourable member quoted.
The Government recognised this problem. We are also doing something effective about it. The honourable member quoted statistics from Western Australia where, as he said, the death rate had been halved in the course of a few years. The same is true of other places. I shall read to the House figures we have achieved in the Northern Territory where there was some kind of dissection of the figures on the basis of Aboriginal race. The relevant figures for the death rate per thousand live births, were as follows: 1966, 149.0; 1967, 101.1; and for 1968 they were 80.9. In those three years we almost, not quite, halved the rate. This improvement is continuing. Now, Mr Speaker, I would like to read to the House another extract from the same Medical. Journal and the same article quoted by the honourable member for Fremantle, which seems to me to be relevant:,
The final eradication of malnutrition will be a long process. We know the general approach - improvement of social and economic circumstances, education, and the initiation of maternal standards common in a ‘white’ population. For the Aboriginal, we have yet to develop mechanisms to achieve the success of the general approach. To do this we need more knowledge of the economic viability of Aboriginal communities, a better insight into the characteristics of the successful Aboriginal mother, an appreciation of food prejudices if they exist, and, above all, a persistent belief that the eradication of malnutrition is worthwhile. None of this will be easy; all of it will be expensive; many of the efforts will be disheartening.
I agree in essence with that summary. It is not an easy thing to do. One cannot simply meet the problem on one front. It is part of an approach on a number of fronts, where standards of education, housing and so on all are concerned. But let the House be fair and remember that in the last couple of years since the Commonwealth has been in charge the infant mortality rate has been halved. The rate is still too high, but we are still reducing it. We recognise that, as the ‘Medical Journal’ says, it will be a long road and some aspects of it will be discouraging. I have spoken about the Northern Territory. The honourable member for Fremantle referred to Western Australia. Although there are not detailed statistics available, I would have thought that what is true of Western Australia and the Northern Territory is generally true of Australia. I have said that I do not believe the present situation is satisfactory, but I do believe that it is improving, and improving at a very fast rate. Under the Government’s policy it will continue to improve.
It was because we recognised this fact that we called the conference in December to which I have referred. It was asked that the proceedings of the conference should be considered confidential, but I have no reluctance in making the record available to the honourable member for Fremantle on a confidential basis, because he will see there that the kind of problems that be was very justifiably talking about were being analysed and some constructive ideas were put forward. One of the things which emerged from the conference - and it was a concrete suggestion - was that the use of unfortified milk in the period immediately on weaning was a great source of trouble. The view was expressed that if the Aboriginal mothers could be induced to use fortified milk in place of unfortified milk a great many of the problems - not all of them, but a great many of them - would be eliminated. When I heard this and found this opinion expressed by the most competent authorities I checked it in a number of places and personally contacted a number of doctors who were active in the field of Aboriginal welfare. In general they agreed with this opinion.
I went to a number of Aboriginal settlements to find out what the practice was and I came across a piece of information which was disheartening. Fortified milk was available, and it was available free, but Aboriginal mothers would not use it. I spoke personally to sisters in charge of welfare clinics on the settlements. I found that the fortified milk was available free of charge but it was not being used and they could not induce the Aboriginal mothers to use it consistently. This is exactly in line with what the ‘Medical Journal’ says, that there will be a great number of disappointments and much that is disheartening. So I have taken another step in this regard. I have had some tests made in adding specific amounts of iron and ascorbic acid to unfortified milk so that it will have the virtues of fortified milk. At the present moment on my instructions experiments are being conducted to find a product which can be placed in normal stores and which will have this fortifying element in it. I believe that within a few weeks the experiments will be completed. They are being conducted under the advice of Dr Clements, who is probably the most eminent authority in this field.
If it is found that we can get a satisfactory product then I think it will be possible to substitute this for the normal unfortified milk so that the unfortified milk is not available. In this way we will be able to cure not all but a great amount of the malnutrition in Aboriginal children. It may be said that this is a small thing. It is not a small thing, but it is not the whole answer. I cite this as the kind of concrete thing we are doing in order to approach and overcome the very real problems which the honourable member for Fremantle has brought forward. This is related to the thesis of Dr Kalokerinos, which he elaborated when he saw the circumstances of many Aboriginal children in the west of New South Wales. He believes, rightly or wrongly, that there is some kind of mechanism - perhaps a genetic mechanism - which makes it difficult for Aboriginal infants to absorb ascorbic acid and therefore there is a tendency towards scurvy amongst them.
I took this matter up with the medical authorities. There are differences of opinion in regard to it. May I say that, as a layman, I am rather impressed with the results obtained by Dr Kalokerinos, but I also say that, as a layman, I must be guided by the most competent medical opinion. It is thought that if the foods can be fortified with perhaps an inordinate amount of ascorbic acid it will do no harm to other people but the Aboriginal infants will benefit considerably from it. I think I had better not refer to exact places and so on, but I found in Queensland that the doctors believe that if this one simple thing were done perhaps the problem would be halved.
– Do your experiments with fortified milk apply only to the Northern Territory?
– No. If this pilot project succeeds then I hope to apply it generally throughout Australia. All I am saying is that the Government recognises this problem. In the last 2 years it has taken measures which have halved, but not eliminated, the excess mortality. Last December, 2 months before the article was written, we convened a definitive conference in regard to this problem, and we are trying to find ways and means of applying the medical knowledge available in order to eliminate what is still a distressing state of affairs, although it is not nearly as bad as once it was.
I am sometimes of the opinion that the Aboriginal cause is not helped by those who call for quite extreme measures but that the problem is, instead, one which has to be faced on all fronts. If you merely look at nutrition you will fail; if you merely look at education you will fail; if you merely look at housing you will fail; and if you merely look at unemployment you will fail. All these things have to be looked at together. I do not believe that success can be achieved by separating the younger generation Aboriginals from the older generation Aboriginals; they are all the one people. I do not think that you can take one group and advance it and leave the rest to sink, which is why I regret a little the statement by the honourable member for Fremantle that the policy adopted is unimportant. I think the policy adopted is important, but it must have a material foundation. In this respect the honourable member for Fremantle and myself, as well as the policy of the Government, are tending towards the same objective.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Speaker-
Motion (by Mr Snedden) put:
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Suspension of Standing Orders
When 1 gave notice of this motion yesterday I mentioned briefly that the motion was purely procedural and that no immediate introduction of sales tax legislation was contemplated. Alteration of sales tax rates usually involves the introduction of nine sales tax Bills. Over a period of many years the House has found it convenient for the Bills to be taken together. Standing order 291 permits these Bills to be introduced without notice, but it is necessary to suspend the Standing Orders to enable the Bills to be presented and dealt with together. When passed, the motion will remain effective for this session. By moving the motion at this time we will avoid the speculation which could result if a motion were introduced later in the year.
-I accept this contingency motion, as it is called, but I am sure that yesterday there was concern in some quarters that the Treasurer (Mr Bury) might be contemplating introducing some early amendments to the sales tax legislation. I accept his assurance that this is not the case and the Opposition agrees to this motion on the basis of its being merely a necessity.
– I do not believe that we ought to agree to such a motion. In the first place, it is a completely abstract one in which there is nothing particular upon which the Treasurer (Mr Bury) is basing his request. It means that for the duration of this session we are to suspend the Standing Orders so that certain provisions relating to some of the greater abstractions that flow from constitutional beliefs shall not hold up the House. The facts are that we are now attempting to remove all application of the Standing Orders from any consideration of sales tax Bills as yet unborn. So far as I can see from the Notice Paper there is one sales tax Bill on the Notice Paper but apparently it has nothing to do with the question we are discussing.
The Government is asking the House to consent to an operation so that it can get its business through in a better way. and this has happened immediately after we have been gagged in this House on a discussion of an important social question. I do not believe that any honourabe member ought to agree to the motion. I believe that the very spirit of the contingency motion, as presented at page 126 of today’s notice paper, is against the general principles of the Standing Orders. If you are going to do this kind of thing, if you are going to introduce contingency motions of this sort, if you are going to tear up the Standing Orders on such occasions as this, why have them at all? It simply means that this House becomes more and more a part of the executive instrument. It means that the House has no say over its own affairs. When we vote for this motion I believe that we are surrendering the initiative so far as sales tax Bills are concerned.
In many ways money Bills are one of the important pieces of legislation that come before the Parliament. The whole system has been built up protecting the right of this Parliament to discuss money matters, financial matters and taxation matters without let or hindrance. This has been the whole principle behind parliamentary development for the last 300 or 400 years. I do not believe that we ought to accede to the Government’s request on this occasion. 1 personally do not believe that we ought to accede to it at all because day by day we on this side of the House are consistently being treated with great discourtesy and disregard as was evidenced only a few moments ago when an important subject was being debated and the gag was applied.
I still wait for the day when those freedom fighters on the other side of the House, who believe that the things which they see in the Liberal Party’s platform are dinkum, true and beyond criticism and that they ought to stand up for them, will cross the floor, on an issue such as the one we are discussing or on other issues when the gag is applied, and show some of that intestinal fortitude which they like to drag out of the young men of Australia while they sit home safely week by week.
– Did I hear correctly, that when the Treasurer (Mr Bury) asked the House to agree to the motion which he moved, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) who is Labor’s shadow Treasurer, agreed to it? Did I hear correctly? I think I did.
– You did indeed.
– I did. Immediately afterwards the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), who has no authority at all on the front bench of the Australian Labor Party, got up and completely denied what Labor’s shadow Treasurer had said. This is amazing. This illustrates what we have been saying about the Labor Party for a long time. It has been proved today.
– Mr Deputy Speaker-
– Order! The honourable member for Melbourne Ports has spoken in the debate.
Mr CREAN (Melbourne Ports)- -I wish to make a personal explanation. I have been misunderstood, by my colleague. I merely said that I accepted the assurance of the Treasurer (Mr Bury) that this was only a contingency motion and that there was no intent to introduce any legislation, and that if any legislation is introduced, notice of it will have to be given in the same way as notice has to be given of other legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Appointment of Select Committee
-(Parting Downs - Minister for National Development) - I ask leave of the House to move a motion for the reappointment of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise.
– Is leave granted?
– I said no.
– Leave is granted.
– I move-
– I rise to order. Mr Deputy Speaker, is it not a fact that the Standing Orders provide that leave must be given unanimously?
-If the honourable member for Wills presses his point, the Chair will be forced to uphold it in acceptance of the Standing Orders. It is the normal practice for the House to accept, from whichever member of the Opposition is the leader on a particular subject before the House, approval for leave being granted for a statement to be made. That is the position, and I point that out to the honourable member for Wills.
– With due respect, I said no when the Minister for National Development sought leave to move a motion.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for National Development moving a motion for the reappointment of the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise.
– I second the motion. Question resolved in the affirmative, with the concurrence of an absolute majority.
– I move:
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon -
The motion, if agreed to, will re-establish the Committee so that it can further its inquiry. The motion reconstitutes the Committee with powers and functions similar to those possessed by the Committees in the 26th Parliament and in the first session of this Parliament. In addition, it gives the new Committee power to consider and to make use of the minutes of evidence and records of the previous committees.
– I move:
At the end of sub-paragraph (c) of paragraph (1) add the following words: ‘with which is associated the positioning and development of major airports.
If this amendment is accepted, the subparagraph in question will read:
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon -
We welcome the Government’s decision to re-appoint the House of Representatives Aircraft Noise Committee because of the major noise problem which exists around many airports in Australia today - to mention a few, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Amberley, Darwin and Townsville. I could refer to New Guinea and mention a number of airports there. I have been a member of the Committees which have been sitting since November 1968 when the first Committee was formed. I feel that at this stage there is a major problem which requires a major decision. I personally cannot see any solution to the problem confronting Sydney, for example, other than to shift the airport If the airport is to be shifted, obviously, the Committee which is investigating the noise problem must have a look at this matter. Parliamentary committees have for some considerable time been recommending to this Parliament that the Department of Civil Aviation examine the siting of a second major airport for Sydney. I refer, for example, to the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works presented on 23rd September 1965, wherein the Committee stated in paragraph 50:
We recommend that steps be taken to identify, as soon as possible, the site for the development of Sydney’s second major airport.
That was in 1965. Here we are in 1970 and still no move has been mads and no indication has come from the Department of Civil Aviation or the Minister that any alternative site as far as Sydney is concerned has been selected. We feel that this amendment will provide one way of getting around it. I know that the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) or other Government supporters will reply that if we extend the powers and the terms of reference of the Committee, we will defer the report of the Committee. I draw to the attention of honourable members the fact that the Parliament already has an interim report and that the Committee is thinking in terms of a further interim report so that we can make recommendations to the Government
In any case, does the Government take any notice of the recommendations of select committees? For example, the report of the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety was presented on 21st September 1960. Nothing has been done about the recommendations contained in it. We also had the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television. Its report was presented on 29th October 1963. What has been the result of that Committee’s work? The Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes presented its report on 11th June 1968. Even in the wool industry today we have the situation that ports throughout Australia are suffering a retardation of trade as a result of the Government’s taking no notice of the evidence which was presented to that Committee and because the container consortium is completely reneging on what it said at that inquiry.
In addition, there was the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures, the report of which was tabled on 29th May 1968. It would appear from what was said in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that there is to be some activity about this. The Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution tabled its report on 11th October 1969. There was a lot of talk about that report but no cleaning of the air. The Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs tabled a report on 29th October 1969. We are starting to do a little bit with that. Does it really matter whether we extend the time for presentation of the report of the Committee? As has already been indicated the Committee is prepared to bring down interim reports. It has provided one already and will, I feel, provide another one very shortly.
So the argument that we will only delay the final report is humbug on the part of the Government in refusing to accept a fair and legitimate amendment to the terms of reference of the Committee so it can really do the job of overcoming the noise problem. In any case, when interim reports have been presented to this Parliament has the Government taken any real note of what was said in them? I just mention two small matters which I consider important. For example, at paragraph 13 of the interim report the Committee said:
Against this background . . .
The Committee was referring to the need for town planning, that is, for the Department of Civil Aviation, to take heed of town planning - . . your Committee recommends immediate action by the Commonwealth to initiate arrangements for the establishment of airport planning and co-ordination media incorporating State and local government bodies involved in urban development planning and plan implementation.
Now, there is no evidence of this having taken place already but there is evidence that in the Northern Territory, where this Government has complete and absolute authority, the recommendation of the Committee to take heed where residential development is to be placed has been ignored. We read in a statement by the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) on 6th February 1970 that a new school is to be built at Berrimah at a cost of $463,570. And where is the new school to be located? As honourable members are aware, it will be right under the flight path of the northsouth runway which is the main runway at Darwin. The Minister for Works took no heed of the Committee’s recommendation in the interim report tabled in this place last year. What is the use of making interim reports if the Government takes no notice of them? There was another and most important disregard of the Committee’s recommendations. Paragraph 14 of the interim report states:
Your Committee, in the course of inspections of RAAF bases in various places in Australia, has noted the proximity of existing and planned houses for RAAF personnel and families to sources of aircraft noise generated by RAAF aircraft. Your Committee is concerned at this apparent indifference towards the ordinary comfort of persons committed to living on these service bases and would commend measures to mitigate the effects of aircraft noise to existing homes and recreational buildings. Your Committee urges reconsideration of plans already approved for residential development on RAAF bases so as to avoid unnecessary exposure of service personnel to aircraft noise. It also commends these considerations for personnel in future planning of RAAF bases.
That is a clear statement of what the Government and the Department of Air should be doing with regard to RAAF bases and the location of residential development for the people who live on the bases. I know that we have had no complaints from the personnel on the bases about the noise but I do not think we can be fooled by that because no member of the RAAF in his right senses would make a complaint because if he did he would very quickly finish in the dog house, as we all know. I just draw the attention of honourable members to this paragraph and also to the fact that about a fortnight ago the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works carried out an inspection of the Pearce air base in Western Australia. What did it find? lt found that accommodation is being built there with no provision whatsoever for soundproofing. So what is the use of the Committee making recommendations to the Government that present plans be reviewed and future planning be developed in such a way as to provide protection for the personnel on RAAF bases?
Here are two blatant cases of the Government taking no notice of recommendations; the school at Berrimah in Darwin which has air conditioning but no soundproofing and the accommodation at Pearce air base in Western Australia which has no soundproofing. I feel that Ministers have no regard whatsoever for what the Committee has said up to this point and we feel that there is only one way to overcome the problems of some of these airports and that is to give the Committee the power to investigate alternative sites when it can see no solution to the present problem. Some of the airports have unique problems. The atmospheric conditions prevailing in Brisbane - I am not going to claim that I know a heck of a lot about this, but we heard the explanation from experts - cause a layer of heat over the airport, which bounces the sound back on to the adjoining residences. To my way of thinking there is only one way to solve that problem. We cannot shift the atmosphere so the airport has to be moved away from the present site. We cannot think in terms of shifting the houses. This is one matter which the Committee should be looking at.
On behalf of the Opposition I submit that the proposed amendment should be accepted because I honestly believe that the Committee should be charged with the responsibility - if it cannot find a technical solution to the problem - of finding an alternative site for the airport. We cannot trust the planners because I just gave honourable members two examples of where the planners were not prepared to take heed of the recommendations of the Committee and two Ministers were not prepared to take note of them. The only way to get around this is for the Committee to have the power to determine alternative locations for airports where the noise problem cannot be solved.
– I second the motion.
– I sincerely trust that the claim of the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) that the Government will pay no heed to the findings of the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise is without foundation because I am one whose electorate is subjected to a great deal of noise from aircraft. Only last year when the Committee met in Brisbane J and some seventy residents of my electorate presented certain facts to the Committee. I wonder what has happened to that information. I trust that when the Committee is re-appointed it will note the comments which I and those seventy residents of my electorate made last year. The Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz), who has moved the motion for the re-appointment of the Committee, is a former Minister for Civil Aviation. [Quorum formed] The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), who drew attention to the state of the House, is an example of what happens to people when they are subjected to too much noise from aircraft. When I was in the United States recently I visited about thirty airports. 1 believe that Australia should follow the example that has been set in North America. There many airports have been re-sited beyond city limits. In Washington. DC. a new airport has recently been completed about 35 miles out of the city so that persons living in Washington will not be distracted by the noise of aircraft.
Only last year T first suggested that Brisbane Airport should be re-located somewhere between the Gold Coast and the City of Brisbane. My electorate is subjected to some of the conditions which the honourable member for. Newcastle referred to. From time to time residents of the area experience interruption’ to television and radio reception. Panes of glass have fallen out of the windows of one old home in the electorate. These facts illustrate how progress and modern science have contributed towards the problems that face the individual today. In his later years - he is still a young man - would the Minister for National Development like to be sitting in his home watching television or listening to the radio, only to be left shaking, and wondering whether the end of the world had arrived as an aircraft zoomed over the top of his house? I ask him to bear these matters in mind when the Government considers the recommendations of the Committee.
Although I favour the re-siting of Brisbane Airport between the Gold Coast and Brisbane, I do not go along with those advocates from the Gold Coast who have only one thing in mind, namely the parochial promotion of their area, because they do not look beyond tourist promotion and dollars in their pockets when they, talk about resiting the airport. But we cannot forget that residents of Brisbane are now suffering from aircraft noise. This is why I press for the re-location of the airport. I ask the Minister to give an assurance that the Committee’s findings will be taken seriously by the Government because the noise of aircraft is seriously disrupting the lives of people not only in my electorate and other electorates in Australia but al! over the world.
– I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). Commendable as are the terms of reference proposed by the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz), the crux of the matter, particularly in New South Wales, is the location of airports. If ever I heard a case made for supporting the amendment it was the argument advanced by the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron). Having suggested that Brisbane Airport be re-located between the City of Brisbane and the Gold Coast he surely will not vote against the amendment. He has put forward an argument which supports the argument advanced from this side of the House - that the Committee’s investigations are practically useless unless it is empowered to investigate the siting of airports.
Let me refer to the situation in my electorate. I have it on the best authority that shortly before the last elections the Government was so concerned about the effects of aircraft noise in the electorates of St George and Barton, then held by members of the Liberal Party, that it directed that aircraft should avoid flying over those electorates and instead operate over the electorate of Grayndler. This was done in an effort to weaken my hold on the electorate. I will give figures to show how successful the Government was in its endeavour, but it still could not save the former members for those seats, who were replaced by the brilliant honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison) and the distinguished honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds). The Government’s sinister move did not have the desired effect in Grayndler and did not hold St George and Barton for the Liberal Party.
My electorate has about 125,000 people. Many of them are already in the condition which the honourable member for Griffith forecast for the Minister - elderly and in failing health. They enjoy their television and their radio, but the zoom of jets flying overhead has practically destroyed their health and welfare and the enjoyment they obtain in their old age from such things as television and radio. I have received from a constituent of mine a letter which reads:
In a local paper you are reported to have lodged a complaint that the Aircraft Noise Committee is not hearing evidence from the Marrickville area. If some of the Committee lived under the beam guiding planes to Mascot they might have second thoughts. I have lived at this address for 35 years come May 23rd and have had the quiet and convenience of being near the city. The past few months have completely changed life here. It is not possible to have a sustained conversation, to make oneself heard and to be heard in local shops. Worst of all, at the hours when one would reasonably hope to see and hear a TV programme it is almost impossible for some months now. Not one programme can be heard, due only to planes going almost directly over my house at such frequent intervals. The attached page lists the times of planes over here in my viewing hours. The noise precludes hearing a word from the TV for from 5 to 13- seconds with each fly-over. I am 74 on 4th March and was on Gallipoli at 19 years (a sergeant 10th Battalion) and served in New Guinea for over a year when 49, so I have perhaps some reason to be allowed some peace and maybe pleasure in my declining years. Everyone 1 have spoken to complains about the almost deafening noise and its frequency. Only by those in your position can the seriousness of loss of sleep and pleasure too be brought home to the Committee, and 1 am sure the many pensioners even within 100 yards of my home will back you up.
This gentleman then lists the times at which aircraft passed over his home, and later 1 may ask permission of the House to incorporate the list in Hansard. However, 1 have extracted some details from that list. He said that on Friday, 20th February, between the hours of 6.15 p.m. and 7.45 p.m., a period of 90 minutes, 12 planes passed over his house. That is 1 in about every 8 minutes. On the same day between 7.45 p.m. and 9.55 p.m., a period of 130 minutes, planes passed overhead on an average of 1 every 9 minutes. On Saturday, 21st February between 6 p.m. and 7.30 p.m., a period of 90 minutes, 9 planes went overhead, 1 every 10 minutes. This proves the accuracy of the information I got that planes were directed over my constituency undoubtedly for political purposes. It has a real bearing on what this gentleman said. The areas of Leichhardt, Stanmore, Petersham, Sydenham, Marrickville, Newtown, Tempe, St Peters, Dulwich Hill and Annandale are suffering because of the failure of the Goverment to do something about the problem or take action such as that referred to in the the amendment that has been moved today. I do not want the planes re-directed back over the electorates of Barton and St George because the people there are entitled to comfort, but why cannot the planes come in over the sea to Mascot? If that is not possible with an aerodrome in the situation that Mascot is in, is that not a case for accepting the amendment moved by the honourable member for Newcastle in order that the Committee may investigate the re-siting of the aerodrome?
Recently I had a telephone call from the headmaster of Newington College. He said that planes were flying so low over the school that they were completely disorganising lessons and the running of the school. He said that it was practically impossible to teach and to make full use of the school’s educational facilities. T had a telephone call from the Reverend Hawkins of Leichhardt. He was honoured by Her Majesty the Queen for his services to the aged, sick and others in the community. He said that because of the passage of aircraft overhead the health of persons in the homes for the elderly that he conducts at Leichhardt was suffering. Something must be done about the position and unless it is done he does not know what will be the ultimate effects on those people. Not only are individuals but schools and aged persons homes are being affected because aerodromes have been sited close to residential areas. This is a difficult problem to solve when aircraft come into Mascot but it could bc solved if the aerodrome were re-sited in another area. In America and other parts of the world major airports have been relocated.
I hope that the Minister will not discard the amendmentt, The Committee can do commendable work but it needs more teeth and the amendment proposes a fundamental approach to the problem. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment, thus giving an indication of his good intentions. I do not want to say much more about the matter. I think that I have been a pioneer in respect of aircraft noise in Australia. I raised the matter in the Parliament almost 20 years ago when I complained about low flying planes at Mascot. Everybody laughed, although aircraft noise was a problem then. At that time buses and trams were probably making as much noise as aircraft but now, with jet aircraft, noise has become a major problem. Tt was a problem 20 years ago when planes were coming in low and endangering life. limb, and comfort. 1 suggested then that noise would ultimately be a real problem and that a committee such as the one we are now discussing might investigate the matter.
I should like to hear from the Minister a good explanation why the amendment will not be accepted. It is practical and reasonable. No matter what complaints I and other members mav Ion’s.? in the Parliament, at some time Parliament will have to consider re-siting aerodromes in Australia, but at this stage the Government should be not only investigating where aerodromes should be sited but also giving the proposed Committee, which has many knowledgeable men on it, the opportunity to investigate sites. Irrespective of what recommendations the Committee may make concerning the technical aspects of noise, it should be able to ascertain whether aerodromes are in the right position or whether they should be re-sited to remove many of the aspects of airport operations that are distressing people.
I do not think that this is a political problem. Far be it for me to raise politics on a matter like this; not for one minute would I do so. But I cannot help saying that the Government has been exceedingly dilatory in this matter. If it rejects the amendment it will be playing politics in a real way. Let us face it, there is a united Parliament on this question. We all have people to protect. The people administering schools are seeking protection. People in charge of rest homes and hospitals seek protection. It is the responsibility of all of us to do our best for them and our best cannot be done effectively, no matter what our intentions, unless the Committee has the right to investigate where aerodromes should be re-sited and bring down a recommendation and see that it is carried out by the appropriate Minister from whichever side of politics he may come. Therefore, in a nonpolitical and I hope constructive and practical way, I put my submission to the Parliament. I hope that the Minister will see fit to accept the amendment moved by the honourable member for Newcastle.
– I oppose the amendment. I was interested in the comments made by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) who once again indicated a political approach to a very serious matter that has engaged the concern of members from both sides of the House and has engaged the Government in a serious and positive way. Last year the Committee proposed today was, in fact, established. It functioned until the Parliament was dissolved for the last general election. The Committee was quickly reappointed after the election - in fact, on 25th November 1969. It would not have been necessary to re-appoint it now had it not been for the requirement of the procedures of this House that when Parliament is dissolved statutory committees have to be re-appointed. A significant factor is that exactly the same amendment was proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) on 25th November last. The debate on that occasion disposed of the matter quite effectively and, really, it is playing politics for the amendment to be proposed again.
Right away I want to say that the honourable member for Griffith (Mr ‘Donald Cameron) made a very honest assessment of the problem when he came before the former Committee. On the other hand the honourable member for Grayndler, who almost wept a moment ago about his constituents and the problems they have because of aircraft noise, has yet to appear before the Committee. He had ample opportunity when the Committee sat in Sydney. But did he come forward and give evidence? No. He ran away from it because he could see some danger in getting involved. He wants to play politics all the way along the line and so I say this afternoon that this is just further evidence of this kind of tactics. It is a disappointing tactic for the public at large who rely on their members of Parliament to do their very best for them.
The reason for my opposition to the amendment is simply because the Committee, as previously constituted under the terms of reference, has been functioning effectively and has been well able to cover every aspect of the problem within the generally accepted functions of a select committee. To suggest that it should go further and actually report on the relocation of airports is, of course, to draw a red herring across the trail. The facts are that the Committee in its work thus far has questioned, under oath, officers of the Department of Civil Aviation. It has had every opportunity to inquire into the possibility of re-siting airports and it will have, without question, if reconstituted as now proposed, equal opportunity in its future work to continue in this direction. But there must be a proper relationship between the capacity of a select committee of Parliament and the task in which it would be involved in nominating and selecting sites for new airports, which is another field altogether. It is quite competent for the Committee in the case of Mascot, Eagle Farm or any other airport in Australia, to come forward with facts and evidence to show that the future use of those airports provides some hazard of a nature for which there is no solution. The responsibility is then on the shoulders of the Government to deal with the question of other and alternative sites. That is exactly the way that the Committee set about its task. The report it submitted to the House of Representatives before the dissolution of the last Parliament shows that it is able to do its job effectively and well.
If the Committee were required to do more than is clearly set out in the terms of reference, it would become something more than a select committee. Extension of the terms of reference would necessitate the Committee having at its disposal a whole body of technical advisers. It would virtually have to set up a special department of the Parliament to examine technical matters and then come back and say that certain things should be done. That could never be envisaged as the responsibility of a select committee, whether it be in this field or in another field. The terms of reference provide amply for an investigation into the operation of existing airports and they provide sufficient scope for adequate comments to be made by the Committee on matters within its responsibility. They are aircraft noise and its effect on the community - on people who dwell near airports and on the community surrounding airports.
The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) has been a very active member of the Committee, as have other Opposition members. I remind the House that the Committee in its report of 28th August last referred to the future pfenning by the Royal Australian Air Force of bases around Australia. There is nothing to suggest that this section of the report of 28th August has not been taken into account fully by the Air Force. There is no evidence to support the suggestion of the honourable member for Newcastle that two Ministers have already failed to acknowledge the recommendations of the Committee. Indeed, the contrary can quite well be regarded as the fact.
The honourable member for Newcastle went on to say that a school was to be constructed at a place called Berrimah in Darwin and that this was dreadful. He said that the Government had failed because no notice had been taken of the work of the Aircraft Noise Committee on this matter. 1 remind the House that the Committee took evidence in Darwin on 17th February. The proposals for a school at Berrimah were made known to the Committee at that time. It had not previously looked at the situation in Darwin and was not previously aware of the proposal to construct a school at a place called Berrimah. Therefore, it is begging the question to say here this afternoon that the Government has failed and that certain Ministers have not acted responsibly. The real truth of the situation is that the Committee in its hearing at Darwin obtained a fairly wide range of information and has sufficient information for it to take the problem of Darwin into account with the problems it has found in other parts of Australia and to report on the problem within the limits of the terms of reference under which it functions.
The honourable member for Newcastle is wide of the mark in suggesting that anything more could be achieved by widening the terms of reference in the way proposed in the amendment he moved. Such added responsibilities would inhibit the Committee in undertaking the work that it was primarily supposed to do and that is to assess the problem and the extent of it, to assess the effect of noise, to look at ways and means of solving the problems of noise, to call for information from within Australia and from abroad and to do this within the ambit of the present experience of the growth of civil aviation in Australia. To suggest that the terms of reference should also require the Committee to go out and select new airport sites is merely to suggest that all the other work should be completely abandoned, that we should give up here and now and say that there is no future in continuing to use Mascot, Eagle Farm or Adelaide airport or in continuing with the pattern of operations that has existed for some years now and must inevitably continue for one very obvious reason. If a decision were made tomorrow to resite Mascot, how long would the building of the new airport take? How long would it be before commercial use could be made of the new airport? I suggest that it would take at least 5 years and maybe 10 years. If the emphasis were to be placed merely on the selection of new sites for airports and not precisely on the problem that confronts us - the problem that was so dramatically described by the honourable member for Grayndler - the Committee would be abdicating its responsibility to try to effect some improvement in this very serious problem that concerns the community around airports.
The honourable member for Grayndler went further and said that there had been some political connivance, that the Government had directed the Department of Civil Aviation to change the routes in and out of Sydney airport so that aircraft flew over his electorate and two other electorates when they could quite well have been flying over the sea. If the honourable member for Grayndler is so out of touch with what is happening in and around his electorate and the City of Sydney, it is time that he talked to his colleagues on the Opposition side of the House; it is time that he talked to the Department of Civil Aviation and it is time that he came before the Committee as he has every right to do if he so chooses and found out what is happening. He would find that the picture is very different from the one that he has painted.
He would find that, because of the work of the Committee thus far and the cooperation of the Department of Civil Aviation, a good deal has been done to alleviate the noise level. He would find that the aviation industry today is carrying a substantial cost factor in its operations because of the introduction of noise abatement measures. This springs primarily from the fact that many aircraft approaching Sydney come over the ocean, circle over National Park and then come on to the runway across Botany Bay. With most of the flights I take into Sydney, particularly in the early evening, I find that this adds between 7 and 10 minutes to the journey from the point of departure, whether it is Brisbane, Grafton, Coffs Harbour or some other centre. This has resulted from the work done by the Department of Civil Aviation in a faithful and positive approach to the immediate problem, which is the injurious effect of noise on the residents of electorates which are supposed to be under the care of members like the honourable member for Grayndler, who admitted to the House this afternoon that he has failed miserably to come to grips with the problem and to understand it. 1 go further and say that the Government, accused as it was this afternoon, has certainly not been lacking in appreciation of the problem. To see this, one has only to refer to the statement of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) about 6 weeks ago on the formation of a committee at Mascot. This accords fairly directly with the recommendations of the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise presented to the Parliament at the end of last year. I refer to paragraph 13 of the report, which states that the task is a challenging one, but the Committee recommends that there should be co-ordination between the States and local government authorities regarding urban development and planning. The statement by the Minister for Civil Aviation, to which I have referred, announced the setting up of a committee with representatives from planning authorities. local government councils and State instrumentalities together with representatives from the Department of Civil Aviation to effectively get on with the task and to do the job that has to be done if we are to do anything to alleviate the disabilities from which people resident in and around the cities are suffering. As a country member I want to say that this kind of requirement cannot be accomplished without the expenditure of vast sums of money. I do not want to deny city people some protection from a problem which has beset them and which is not of their own making, but T want to remind this Parliament that aircraft noise is a pretty costly problem to deal with.
To suggest to this House that the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise, as it has thus far functioned, has been ineffective and that unless it is given the right to recommend new sites for airports it will be rendered unable to fulfil the responsibility for which it has been appointed, is to mislead the public and this House and to draw a red herring across the trail. I oppose the amendment, and I urge the House to ensure that there is not a short circuiting of the real responsibility of this Committee by putting into its terms of reference something which will throw overboard the primary responsibility of the Committee.
Mr DALY (Grayndler) - I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for Cowper said that I had not availed myself of the opportunity to appear before the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise and that I was not prepared to do so. The fact of the matter is that my views on the matter are well known and have been made known in this Parliament. Furthermore, they have been conveyed to my colleagues on the Committee, in whom I have complete confidence, knowing full well that they will present my views in an effective way. The only thing that destroys my confidence in the Committee is listening to the honourable member for Cowper.
-Order! The honourable member may not debate the matter.
– Like most honourable members who have spoken in this debate, I rise to speak because I have some personal acquaintance with the problem of aircraft noise in my own electorate. But that is not my only reason for speaking. I believe that the time has come when some importance should be given to matters of this kind which in the past have not been the subject of consideration by governments, let alone by those who profit from various activities with which noise is associated. In the past these matters have not been important, but they are important today. I rise not only because my electorate is affected and because I personally am affected but also because this is a matter of wide importance in communities, and this is now being realised as never before.
In the last 2 or 3 years three things have happened which have brought this matter home to many of my constituents and to myself. First of all, the north-south runway at the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport was extended. More and more planes are now using that runway and whether they are coming into or going out of Sydney they pass right over the centre of the electorate of Bradfield. In fact, there is a beacon at Pymble, in the middle of my electorate, and at that point the aircraft begin to descend when going into the airport or they rise at that point after leaving the airport. So I have some knowledge of the problems associated with aircraft noise.
The second thing that has happened has been that international jets are now coming in along this route. They have very noisy engines. At the same time, the domestic airlines have within the last 2 or 3 years converted to jets. The number of planes, international and domestic, coming into Sydney has increased and is still increasing. Heaven knows what the position will be in 10 years time. Indeed, I understand that it will be necessary, on the estimate of increase in traffic, to duplicate the runway and perhaps quadruplicate it. I do not know what will be necessary, but what is now bad will become utterly intolerable. I can only say that a capital blunder has been made. I do not know by whom or when, but a capital blunder has been made in developing the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. New buildings have only just been completed at the airport. Because we have spent millions of dollars on the airport the problem there will continue for some time, but we should now be looking for a site for an alternative airport so that at least in 10 years time we can repair this crass blunder that has been made.
I would like to have some information from the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz), who is at the table, because he is not unfamiliar with the problem. He was recently the Minister for Civil Aviation. I would like him to tell me how many jets, international and domestic, are likely to use, say, the north-south runway in 10 years time. An estimate must have been made and the information must be in the files of the Department of Civil Aviation. Information of this kind in the Department is not secret. It has been collected at the expense of the taxpayers. There is no reason on earth why such information should not be made public. It is not the private property of the Minister for Civil Aviation; it is not the private property of the Government. I should like to know what plans there are for duplicating, quadruplicating, or whatever it may be, the existing runways. What will we have to face in 10 years time? These figures must exist. These things must have been known when this blunder was made. The blunder should not have been made in view of the facts that must have been known. But the worst has not yet come. We will soon have things called jumbo jets, whatever their technical title may be. We have been fed on blurb that they will make no more noise than the existing planes. I would like to have the facts about the noise that these whispering giants, the jumbo jets, make in terms of decibels at a given distance compared with existing planes.
The problem goes beyond jumbo jets. We also have on the horizon the Concorde aircraft. I would like to read some information about the Concordes. It might upset even the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) when he hears the effects of the Concordes over a wide area. It might even affect the cows in bis electorate, and this would be serious, and he would begin to take notice. If it affects only people, what does it matter? But once it affects the cows in the electorate of Cowper action should be taken. Let us have a look at the Concordes. The British built prototype Concorde is to do 50 high speed test runs shortly down the western coast of Britain, laying a swathe of sonic booms 50 miles wide. Imagine a Concorde on a trip from Brisbane to Sydney passing over the electorate of Cowper and leaving a sonic boom 50 miles wide. During the tests in Britain the sound is expected to be within earshot of 1.7 million people, 700,000 of them in Northern Ireland. Belfast will be the biggest city affected. But it is important to note that a shift in wind could involve Dublin or Glasgow, so we just do not know how far the noise from the boom will spread. The boom will be 50 miles wide but, depending on shifts in the wind, the boom may be heard over a much wider area.
The report goes on to state that no harm is expected to befall well maintained buildings along an 800-mile strip. I hope all the buildings will be well1 maintained. The weather and other factors will prevent precise forecasts, so we really do not know where the effects of the boom will end. Although the tests are only designed to evaluate the Concorde, they will yield a valuable by-product on the acceptability of the sonic bang. Sweden has already announced that it intends to ban supersonic flights over ils territory. Four more
European countries - Norway, West Germany, Holland and Switzerland - indicated in February that they meant to do the same. The situation is difficult already. Within 10 years, even with existing aircraft, it will be intolerable. In addition we will have the jumbo jets and later, perhaps, the Concordes. So I suggest, Mr Deputy Speaker, that this matter should be taken in hand now. I propose to vote for the amendment moved by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) as this is the only means available to me of saying to the Government that the selection of a new site is now a matter of urgency. I have no other effective means of saying this.
The Government’s motion before the House is not wide enough to cover this urgent matter. Why is it urgent if we cannot expect a new airport for 10 years, if that is the earliest time at which we can write off the millions of dollars we have just wasted on the development of Kingsford-Smith Airport? Why then should we be concerned now? The reason is that unless the Government does select a site now it will find that development’s will take place which will make it impossible then to use that site. Therefore it is essential to do this now. The land should be acquired and zoning should look after the kind of development that occurs in the vicinity.
There are other aspects of the noise menace of aircraft. There is the question of night flying. I understand that Sir Reginald Ansett, who is a very courageous man and a very forthright man, is anxious to operate his cargo flights by night; not the jets - there is a thought - but just the turboprop aircraft. Well, if the Government lifts the curfew, first we will have turbo-prop aircraft operating at night and they will be followed by the jets. Is this to be allowed to happen? Is this forthright, determined man to have his way? Surely the rights of little people have to be protected. After all, if we go back to our remote ancestors probably all of them came down from the trees. Probably all our ancestors lived in the jungle. Our ancestors were not accustomed to doing other than sleeping when they were tired, then waking and hunting when they were hungry. That is how the human being is constituted. When we lack sleep we become exceedingly irritable - and no wonder. Our health becomes impaired. Our mental attitudes are affected. This is commonplace. We do not need a medical man to tell us this. All of us know it. We are not constituted to be woken up and kept awake at all hours of the night. Therefore we have to concern ourselves with the question of night flying.
Again, what are we doing through the international organisation - the International Civil Aviation Organisation - to pressure manufacturers and operators to produce and purchase aircraft that do not cause this discomfort and ill health to millions of people throughout the world? It may suit aircraft manufacturers to produce larger planes; it may suit operators to fly them. But who represents the little people? Nobody, except their governments. If their governments fail them then they have no protection at all. What did the recent Minister for Civil Aviation, the present Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz), do at meetings of ICAO to join with other small countries and say: ‘Why should we put up with your jumbo jets; why should the taxpayers have to pay for lengthened runways, extensive terminals and all the rest? For what?’ Is this happening in order that there should be cheaper fares for our travellers? Not at all. It is happening to bring about greater comfort? Not in the least. It will take passengers longer to get their baggage out of these new airports than it takes now. There is no advantage to be gained for the people of Australia. Such advantage as there is will go to the aircraft manufacturers and the aircraft operators.
What has this Government done? What has the Minister for Civil Aviation done in the world council of civil aviation affairs, ICAO? What has he done to protect the interests of this country and other small countries against the needs, the requirements, the insistence of manufacturers of aircraft and aircraft operators?
So it is that there is now a need to begin to select new sites. I say this especially so far as Kingsford-Smith Airport is concerned because I happen to know it best. However, I have no doubt-.that the same need exists in other capital cities. This is something that does matter. We are sick and tired of governments ignoring the needs of small people. We are sick and tired of big business riding roughshod over us. There at the table sits the Minister for National Development who formerly had the responsibility for these matters. I do not know who decided to enlarge KingsfordSmith Airport. I do not know whether the responsibility was his or somebody elses I am not interested to who is to blame. The Government itself must, as far as it can, rectify this blunder and do so as soon as it can. This may take 10 years but let us start now. If the Government sets out to find an alternative site and one is found soon, then I should be happy. But I want to be quite certain that this is done.
It may well be that the select committee investigating airport noise is not the best kind of organisation to go into these technical matters but it is the only body in respect of which I now have a vote which can undertake something that ought to be done. The Government has given no indication that it is prepared to do it or that the Department is prepared to do it. None whatsoever. If the Government thinks only of the expensive apparatus that is to be officially opened in the course of a few weeks then there is no likelihood that it ever will admit its mistake. Therefore I am going to vote for the amendment moved by the Opposition as an indication that the sooner we set about finding an alternative site the better so that development cannot go on in that area which ultimately will make its use impossible.
It is said that if the proposed committee goes about looking at sites the next thing that will happen will be that the price of land will go up wherever the committee’s members set foot, in the belief that that spot is where the new airport will be. All I can say is that if there is an indication that the price paid for resuming land will not exceed the value of that land before the Committee trod upon it, then the Government can look after the situation. We should get on with this business now. It is no use talking gobbledegook and saying that we do not know whether we are going to need another airport or whether other developments will occur. We know now that we need another site for an airport; we know now that it should be developed as soon as we can get rid of the present white elephant, although we cannot do so tomorrow. There are steps, essential steps, to be taken now in order to move in that direction. Therefore I propose to support the amendment.
– I rise to support the amendment. 1 believe it is a natural corollary of the motion before the House, lt seems totally unreasonable to argue that we should look at all the various causes associated with aircraft noise and possible solutions to these problems yet completely ignore anything to do with the siting of future aerodromes or the resiting of existing aerodromes. The fact of the matter is that we will be constructing new airports in Australia, particularly those in capital cities, in the years to come - possibly not next year or the year after but in future years. Also, we will be resiting some of the existing airports. If we are to bury our heads in the sand and say: ‘Let us not worry about this; let us not look at these problems, as a Parliament, until such time as the departments, and the State governments, have made up their minds and the decisions are final and unalterable,’ then we are devoid of all responsibility in connection with this matter. There is no evidence to suggest that it is better to ignore a problem than to face up to it.
I believe the amendment, as it is phrased, will give this proposed committee the responsibility to report on this matter of the siting of airports. 1 do not believe it should do so in technical terms but I believe it should set guidelines as to the location or re-location of future major airports. I want to indicate what can happen where airport runways are placed in certain positions. This was not done recently and I do not suggest that this Government was to blame. The main runway at the Avalon airfield is located in such a manner that the Boeing 707 aircraft - in order that training routines such as turns, take-offs, circuits and bumps can be proceeded with - fly directly over the township of Lara. On either side of Lara are miles of open space. If this airport were being constructed now I would hope that the technical know-how that we have would make it definite that the runways would be located in such a manner that aircraft would avoid such a small built up area which is at this stage in an urban setting. New runways are to be built there. New airports are to be built in the future. I believe that this Parliament has some degree of responsibility to look at the problem of the siting of airports.
I do not know whether the amendment gives enough scope, but I hope that the Committee - if not the Committee then the Government - will devise means by which the Parliament can set guidelines which will prevent the type of fiasco associated with the siting of the Tullamarine airport. There, the Victorian Government decided that it would allow houses to be built off the ends of the runways. It thus defeated any rationale that may have been created for retaining areas free from homes in the immediate proximity of the flight paths of various aircraft. There is another reason why we should be very careful about the siting of our major airports. Predictions have been made of the future activity at airports and there have been reasonably accurate predictions of the growth of our major cities.
About a week ago on arriving at Essendon aerodrome I watched one of the jets which are now in operation moving down the runway. From the time it left one end of the runway until it arrived at the other end it was impossible to see the aircraft from directly behind it for the smoke from the exhausts. I understand that in the United States of America the operators of aircraft with certain types of engines have been warned that they will not be able to continue to operate the aircraft over major capital cities. This has not happened in Australia because I doubt whether anyone has the power to direct the airlines on such a matter. The fact is that tons of pollutants are being spewed out over our urban areas every day. As the airline traffic grows, as it most certainly will, we shall have to look for a possible cure for this problem. The Committee may well look at the problem of pollution while it is looking at the problem of aircraft noise.
If the Government’s attitude to the amendment in the past is to be taken as an example we could well say: This Committee is going to investigate aircraft noise and its recommendations will be completely separate, but any recommendations that may come forward in the future on the siting of airports are something else’. We could also set up a third committee in this
Parliament - to see if we could get the maximum possible confusion - to look at the effects of pollutants from aircraft operations. Then we could receive three separate sets of recommendations. Alternatively, we could allow the one committee, composed of men who are very quickly becoming conversant with the various problems associated with aircraft noise and operations, to look at all the problems and bring back recommendations which could form guidelines in the future for this Parliament and of which the Department of Civil Aviation could take note. I hope the Department would take note of them.
We have a choice. The honourable member for Cowper in his closing remarks referred to the cost involved. He said it would be extremely costly to re-locate the existing airports. I suggest that, irrespective of what we do in this field, it is going to be costly. But I believe that it will be less costly if we examine the problems of new airports, as suggested in the amendment, now before they are built than if, as the honourable member for Bradfield suggested, we look at the problems after the airports are built and then try to correct them. It is always easier and less costly to prevent a problem than it is to try to remedy it after millions of dollars have been expended. I support the amendment
– I had not intended to speak on this matter but I have listened with great interest to the debate and I must admit that the more I have listened to some honourable members speaking in favour of or against the amendment the more I have been convinced that there is certain justification for it. I find myself in a very difficult position. I do not necessarily enjoy voting for an amendment moved by the Opposition. I also find myself in the position that when I spoke last week on the Address-in-Reply debate I said that honourable members had a responsibility - perhaps I was pointing to the other side of the House - and I wondered whether on some such occasion honourable members opposite might accept that obligation. I find it difficult on a matter like this to make the challenge to them and yet sit here and not accept it myself. I listened to what the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) said. It may well have been hot air, as has been suggested, but I have some admiration for what he is doing and, I think, achieving. My opinion was swayed when I listened to the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson). I am not saying this as a reflection against him, but he used the illustration of a school built at Darwin and then said it was wrong for the Labor Party to say that those who had planned the school had not taken into account the findings of the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise because the Committee went there only in February. I took that to mean that if somebody were to do something about the siting of aerodromes this would not happen in future because we would know in advance where the aerodromes were likely to be sited, or the possibilities of where they should be sited.
The second illustration put forward was that if Mascot airport were rebuilt it would take 5, 10 or more years to build. Surely that is a good argument for starting now and not later, because if we are going to do nothing about it and if we are not going to give it any consideration until some time in the future, it seems to me that we will be putting off dealing with the situation until it gets worse and worse.
– That is what you do with everything.
– Mr Speaker, my young friend who, I understand, has not yet made his maiden speech is one of the most verbose members that I have ever heard in this House. In regard to the amendment put forward by the Opposition I found, on reading it, that it was fairly innocuous. I think it serves a purpose. I read it as follows:
At the end of sub-paragraph (c) of paragraph 1 add the following words: With which is associated the positioning and development of major airports.
If I read the sub-paragraph in that way, it then states that a select committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon:
The effects of aircraft noise on persons, property, institutions and communities wilh which is associated the positioning and development of major airports.
I had some discussions in London and in Europe in 1967 on the question of airport noise. I hold the opinion that the end solution can only be achieved by deciding where in the future you are going to site your airports. If we do not do something now but allow housing to be established in the vicinity of proposed airport sites we will have exactly the same sort of problems in the future as we have at present.
I turn to the proposed terms of reference of the Committee. Paragraph (a) relates to a definition of the major forms of noise associated with aircraft which cause complaint. The answer is jet engines and a Pygmalion noise which occurs every time aircraft take off and land. Paragraph (b) relates to the problems which emerge from the incidence of the various forms of aircraft noise. I suppose windows are broken, people cannot sleep and nervous conditions are caused which sometimes result in divorce proceedings. 1 do not think the Committee would have to spend much time investigating those matters, although it seems as though the Committee must be experiencing some difficulties because it has been in existence for a long time. Paragraph (c) relates to the effects of aircraft noise 0:1 persons, property, institutions and communities. One has only to look at the honourable members who represent electorates near airports to realise that they are walking examples of the effect of aircraft noise. Then we come to the units used for the measurement of aircraft noise and any special factors peculiar to Australia. I suppose it is important to inquire into the units used for the measurement of sound and so on. But the whole thing does not seem to me to be terribly effective anyway. Unless the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz), who represents the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) in this Chamber, can convince me that there is a good reason why the amendment should not be accepted, I regret to say that although a supporter of the Government I feel I shall have to support the honourable member for Bradfield. If the Minister is able to convince me that the amendment should not be accepted because it is dangerous, ineffective or will impede the whole inquiry, I will be prepared to change my line of thinking. However, on what I have heard so far during the debate, I feel that in all conscience, although 1 do not have an aerodrome in my electorate and aircraft rarely fly over it, I must support the amendment because I am convinced that the amendment is innocuous and I can see no reason why the Government should not accept it.
– I oppose the amendment on the ground that it will only prolong the inquiry, which is undesirable. The siting of proposed airports is a matter for the Government. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that certain areas are under consideration at present. To foist extra duties onto the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise would only hamper and impede the preparation of a report concerning the manner in which the problem of aircraft noise can be alleviated. It would require at least 3 years of intensive study, meetings and inquiries to prepare a report on the siting of new airports. For that reason I strongly oppose the- amendment.
The Committee has travelled far and wide and it has taken much evidence, lt is desirous of submitting another interim report to the Parliament as early as possible and the final report by the end of this year. 1 urge those honourable members who are genuine in their desire to abate the noise problem to vote against the amendment. I think the Committee has taken sufficient evidence from a cross section of the community to allow it to submit certain recommendations which will result in some alleviation of the noise problem for the time being. In my opinion it is undesirable at present to require the Committee to inquire into the siting of airports because it would be necessary for many professional people to give evidence on the subject. I consider that the siting of future airports is a matter which should be left to the Government to decide. 1 strongly oppose the amendment and plead to those honourable members on this side of the House who want relief from the noise problem as soon as possible to oppose the amendment.
– I seek some advice from you, Mr Speaker. It seems to be assumed that if the amendment is carried it will have the effect of altering the resolution of appointment. It would then read-
-Order! I think I can anticipate the honourable member’s question. lt is not the prerogative of the Chair to advise honourable members in relation to these matters. The Chair’s function is to conduct the debates of the House in accordance with the Standing Orders. Indeed, it would be improper for the Chair to advise honourable members. It is the duty of honourable members to decide what action they should take in certain matters.
– Does that mean that an amendment which is nonsense can be moved?
– Providing an amendment is relevant to a motion and does not directly negative it the amendment can be moved.
Mr SWARTZ (Darling Downs- Minister for National Development) [5.27 - Speaking to the amendment I would like to inject a new note into the debate. I would like to pay tribute to the members of the original Select Committee on Aircraft Noise and the one which was established at the end of last year - including honourable members on the opposite side of the House - for the job they have done on the Committee.
– We have done a good job.
– Despite the fact that differences such as this arise in the House on occasions and, because of the political atmosphere, emphasis is placed on certain things, the Committee has, as the honourable member for Newcastle just commented, done a really good job. The interim report which was submitted is a tribute to the work which was done by the members of the original Committee, to the energy with which they devoted themselves to their task and also to the careful consideration they gave to these important matters. 1 know that when the new Committee is set up it will carry on its task in exactly the same way. As a result, not only will the Parliament be better informed and the Government be in a better position to take action in the future but also the very people who have entered into the discussion today will obtain some benefit from the considerations of the Committee. I would also like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the original Committee was set up as a result of a motion which was proposed by the then honourable member for St George, who was a private member on the Government side of the House. When the matter was raised I was the Minister for Civil Aviation and I agreed that such a committee should be formed. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) accepted my recommendation and the motion was adopted by the House when it was proposed.
I think it is necessary to consider the matter in its proper perspective. The Committee is comprised of representatives of both sides of the House. Although the matter was raised by a supporter of the Government in the form of a private member’s motion the proposal was supported by both sides of the House and both sides of the House are represented on the Committee. The Committee has certainly carried out its task very effectively. The criticism that has been directed towards the interim report or the work of the Committee,I am sure, has not been levelled in a critical way of the individuals on the Committee who themselves have forgotten the fact that (hey belong to different parties and work together jointly for a common objective, which is a very sound one indeed and one which I am sure we all support. As I said previously, I know that the same type of spirit will prevail in the new Committee when it is set up.
There was one matter raised by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) which I feelI should correct fairly early in my reply to this debate. He asked what the Government has done to use its influence in the international field - in the International Civil Aviation Organisation, which is commonly called ICAO. I remind him that when I attended, as leader of the Australian delegation, the last triennial conference of ICAO in Buenos Aires I did, on behalf of Australia, introduce a resolution to the assembly. At that particular time Australia took the initiative in this field by introducing a resolution which was adopted, and a new annexe was added to the convention of ICAO. In other words. Australia led the world in this particular field in the international sense, in having this matter brought forward and raised up on to exactly the same plain as the convention on safety and the other conventions which form the basis of ICAO. When I returned to Australia I made a statement in the Parliament, and although I cannot disclose what was said in the Party room. I did make a statement in the Party room. I also referred to this matter on at least three other occasions in this Parliament. So I would have thought that all those who were members of the last Parliament would have been as much aware as my friend the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) was of what I think was a considerable achievement by Australia. It showed that Australia was an important civil aviation nation and that it was. playing its part in the international field.
As a result of the resolution which was adopted, a special committee of ICAO was set up. It meets permanently in Montreal. To my knowledge, so far it has had several meetings. Australia is represented on that committee, which has already done a tremendous amount of work in this field, not only to influence the member nations, but also to influence engine and aircraft manufacturers. I merely say this to try to indicate the emphasis which Australia has placed on aircraft noise. As a result, there has already been an improvement in the perceived noise decibles - -PNdBs - which are generated by the latest type of jet aircraft engines. The honourable member for Bradfield referred to the jumbo jet, or to the first aircraft in this field, the Boeing 747. Bench tests, which were carried out on each engine - of course, the engine was enormously greater in thrust than the engine of the 707 - showed IS PNdBs less in sound effects than the engine of the 707 showed. This, of course, is a very substantial improvement. I have not the figures since then because I have been out of touch with this field for some months. I believe that when we get the figures for the tests which have been made since the 747 has gone into regular service, we will see that there has been a considerable improvement.
I would also like to point out that the noise abatement procedures adopted in Australia are stricter than those adopted in any other country. First of all, I refer to the curfew on night jet operations at certain of our major airports. This curfew is not maintained in any other country. I refer to the strictness of our flight procedures. They are stricter than those applying in most other countries. I also refer to the control over ground engine running operations, which is stricter in Australia than in any other country. The curfew on night operations applies only to jet aircraft, not to operations by less noisy aircraft, such as jet prop aircraft. When reference is made to the curfew we refer only to jet operations.
The honourable member for Bradfield asked whether we could provide him with some figures for projections of the traffic pattern at Sydney airport. Obviously I have not those figures with me at the present time, but I will see that his request is passed on to my colleague.
– In 10 years time.
– Within that time I shall ensure that some information is given to him. Reference was also made to the future of Sydney Airport, and the suggestion was made that something should be done about this matter now. We are not waiting to do something about it because an interdepartmental committee was set up in 1968. Announcements regarding this committee have been made on several occasions, to my knowledge. I made announcements on at least two occasions. The Committee already has done a tremendous amount of work in this field although, as I will illustrate shortly, it is not expected that its report will be available for a considerable time yet.
The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), I think in a rather jocular way, referred to instructions before the last general elections to divert aircraft over his electorate from the electorate of St George and other nearby areas. Although this was said in a rather jocular way, it is recorded in Hansard and perhaps it will be reported in the Press. People have heard it. I should like to indicate quite clearly that the air traffic control system in Australia is under no direction whatsoever. Air traffic controllers are responsible for safety, and no direction whatsoever can be given to them in this regard. To do so would be the gravest reflection on the officers of this particular corps who do such a tremendous job and who, in association with other branches of the aircraft and aviation industry in Australia, have established a safety record which is so very sound by world standards. I can assure the honourable member for Grayndler that no directions whatsoever would or could be given to air traffic controllers.
There are two other points I want to make. The basis of the establishment of the first committee on aircraft noise was referred to in a debate in this House in November last year by the Prime Minister when he took part in the debate. 1 will repeat his words because they clearly show the purpose for which the Committee was originally established. He said:
But the purpose of the Committee set up by this House was not to examine where in the future airports should go; rather was it to seek to alleviate the nuisance caused to people living in heavily built-up areas by existing aerodromes and by aircraft using those aerodromes.
In other words, the purpose of the inquiry was to seek to alleviate nuisance caused to people near existing aerodromes. That was the basis of the original formation of the Committee, in accordance with the motion which was accepted by the House at that time.
We have been asked the reason why the Government does not wish to accept the amendment which has been moved by the Opposition. I would say straight out that if this amendment were accepted, it would mean that the Committee would carry on investigations into the siting of major airports in Australia, and it must be remembered that the investigations would not apply only to Sydney and Melbourne. There are dozens of major airports in Australia which would come within the Committee’s investigations. If the Committee carried out this investigation, the long term result would be the deferring of any report by the Committee to this Parliament or perhaps to the next Parliament.
– That is not true.
– We already have an interdepartmental committee which has done well over 1 year’s work especially dealing with one airport situation. By the time that Committee completes its work, I should imagine it would be at least another year or so. This interdepartmental committee works several days a week - something which honourable members would not be able to do - on one airport situation. Honourable members should apply that to every major airport throughout Australia and multiply that number by the time spent. These are the terms of reference that would have to apply to any committee looking at airport siting which, as I say, is an extensive task and would take considerable time.
The positioning and development of major airports are stated as a very complex matter involving intensive and extensive investigation into these aspects: Firstly, the engineering feasibility of constructing a suitable airport on a particular site; secondly, the airspace and air traffic aspects of a particular location in relation to other air space users, including air traffic at other aerodromes; thirdly, the purpose for which an airport is required and the allocation of traffic between that airport and other airports in the general vicinity; fourthly, having in mind the purpose of a particular airport the protection of traffic and the capacity of a particular site to meet the traffic requirements; and fifthly, the environmental questions including community effects of aircraft noise. So one can see that the time that has been devoted to the investigations into aircraft noise is only one of a series of aspects that would have to be considered, all of which would take considerably more time than the time devoted to the consideration of aircraft noise.
This information has been provided to me by the experts in this field in the Department of Civil Aviation who are concerned with the engineering and development aspects of airports. All I can say is that if this type of investigation was to be undertaken by a single committee we certainly would not have a report presented during the life of this Parliament and I would be very doubtful, if the committee did the job properly and investigated all the major airports in Australia, whether it would come to the stage where we would be able to have presented to the next Parliament a report of a suitable type that would be available for consideration at that time. But I would also draw attention to the fact that the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) has already given notice that he intends to move that a select committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the development of major airports and harbours. This is a matter that must be considered in its own context. Therefore, I would suggest that because the honourable member for Newcastle has placed this item on the notice paper he should agree to withdraw this amendment at this stage, let the Committee go ahead with the good work it has been doing, which it can do and can continue to do and present a report in a reasonable time, and let his resolution related to airport siting and so forth be considered as a separate issue.
– I rise to make some comments on the remarks by my friend the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), particularly in view of the fact that my friend the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) has indicated that unless somebody can convince him of the wisdom of not doing so he might be prepared to support the amendment which has been moved by the honourable member for Newcastle. My friend the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) has also indicated that he proposes to support the amendment on the basis that this would lead to positive action for the selection of a site for a major airport to service the metropolis of Sydney. I say to the honourable member for La Trobe in particular that I feel that the amendment that has been moved by the honourable member for Newcastle ought to have been sought to be included as paragraph 1 (k) because the positioning and development of major airports, as the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) has made clear, is a problem to be resolved after great investigation, after analyses of the most technical nature, and after considerations involving the governments of the States and local government communities in the various major cities. i would imagine that this is the type of conclusion that can be reached after a long period of time by appropriately equipped people in the technical field and, in the first place, by the advisers of the Government within the Department of Civil Aviation. I feet that if the amendment, for example, were carried and subparagraph (c) of paragraph 1 read: That a select committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the effects of aircraft noise on persons, property, institutions and communities with which is associated the positioning and development of major airports’ it might be contested that this in fact does not mean that the Committee could set out to make decisions about or recommendations concerning the positioning and development of major airports unless these matters were to be directly associated with the effects of aircraft noise as such. Therefore, I have suggested to honourable members that the only sensible way in which the amendment could be put would be to include it as paragraph 1 (k) and to make it separate, because it is in fact an absolutely separate matter. Surely a distinguished and honourable gentleman like the honourable member for La Trobe or the honourable member for Bradfield, who is in his own right a lawyer, will agree that this is a reasonable assumption on my part and that if they do vote for the amendment they will only be supporting the honourable member for Newcastle in some political tactics that he is putting forward here this evening. They would not do it for that purpose. They would vote for the amendment only because of its actual validity and I recommend to both honourable gentlemen, including my learned colleague the honourable member for Bradfield for whom I have a great respect, that they consider the amendment and ask themselves whether voting for it would be justifiable in terms of intellectual integrity or whether it would be simply a case of supporting tactics that will bt an irritation here in the House.
However, I seriously challenge the sense of the amendment. I know full well that the honourable member for Newcastle and other members of the Opposition, were they in Government, would never tolerate a select committee of the House of Representatives being responsible for what will be one of the most complicated policy decisions facing all of the governments functioning within this federation today. There is no doubt about this because there have been many illustrations of it in the past when the Australian Labor Party was in government. When faced with similar situations it flatly refused to allow this sort of distortion of recommendations to be put forward to the House by a select committee. Now I would like to say something about the atmosphere created by my learned friend the honourable member for Bradfield in relation to supersonic aircraft. I am sure that my former colleague on the Printing Committee would grant me the privilege of saying something to the Parliament about this matter because I am privileged to be one of the gentlemen in this place who have flown in an aircraft - at supersonic speeds, I share this privilege with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) - and I am prepared to say that people who think in terms of the modern aerodrome and in terms of the supersonic speeds attained by Concorde type aircraft should realise that these aircraft when approaching an airport will be flying at subsonic speeds. Probably 300, 400 or 500 miles from the airport the aircraft will have reduced its speed to subsonic speed. At this speed it should be no noisier than aircraft operating today.
There are many problems associated with aircraft which fly at supersonic speeds. Since the advent of supersonic flight we have discovered many problems with both military and civil aircraft which fly at this speed. No doubt as we progress and as such aircraft are used to a greater extent, more technoligical problems will be revealed.
– What about the noise when the aircraft is taking off?
– The noise from the aircraft when it is taking off will be about the same as is experienced today with the Boeing 707 or the Boeing 747 because the aircraft will not reach supersonic speed immediately it is airborne. It will climb gradually for 300 or 400 miles and will fly at supersonic speeds for about only 70% of a 3,000-mile leg. There should not be a great deal of alarm for the future. I know that there are many problems associated with supersonic flight. They will be technological problems and should not be related to noise, which is the matter of interest to the Select Committee. Those problems will be substantially worse in the case of supersonic aircraft flying at subsonic speeds than they are today in the case of ordinary subsonic aircraft. Australia, through its Department of Civil Aviation, has properly taken a leading role in these matters and has displayed a real interest in noise abatement. The International Civil Aviation Organisation, whose headquarters are in Montreal, is aware of the part Australia is playing. Overseas conferences - one in South America and one last year in
Canada - have observed that Australia is seeking to interest people in these matters. The ICAO seeks to regulate, to develop and to keep safe civil aviation throughout the world. We believe that in conjunction with the many other matters which the ICAO examines it should examine the problem of aircraft noise. But whatever we achieve in this respect it must be remembered that the airline industry is marginal the world over. Even in socialist countries very little profit is earned from the activities of civil airlines. In America, Europe and the United Kingdom government subsidies in many forms are necessary to keep the major civil airlines operating. I make this point to stress that every move with a bearing on the economics of civil aviation is vital and important. My friend the honourable member for Bradfield said in an emotional moment that nobody was prepared to speak for the little man and that it was the aircraft operator who was to be considered first so as to keep his operation economic and allow him to perform his function, under licence from the Government, in a proper way. The implication was that the profits accruing to the airline operators, wherever they might be, were so great that the rights of the common man were being ignored. I would point out to my friend that in Australia enormous pressures have been exerted upon the Government for subsidies in every form to be granted to people operating aircraft in this country.
– Why are you fighting with the Country Party?
– Come on, now.
– I would point out to the right honourable member for Melbourne that subsidies for airlines were known in Australia when he sal on the treasury bench. lt was clearly understood by him and his colleagues in 1947 and 1948 that government subsidies in a variety of forms too wide to be put in detail here were absolutely necessary. As I have pointed out, all over the world today the support of taxpayers has been essential in order to keep the major airlines flying. The airlines provide a great public transport service. In the circumstances, and having regard to the technological problems that exist, I think it is wrong of the honourable member for Bradfield to say that the man in the street is the one who suffers. The fact is that if you are to have modern forms of air transport you must accept a certain amount of inconvenience from noise. No matter how far from your metropolis you locate your airport it is inevitable that the local government authority will encourage people to build homes in the vicinity because so many hundreds of people work in a variety of services associated with an airport. Come what may, noise or no noise, they will want to live close to their place of employment. There will be pressure which will lead to a rise in property values close to the airport. The Commonwealth does not have the constitutional authority to deny State or local government authorities the right to develop around an airport.
– Why not?
– Because there are geographical limitations to the airport and the Commonwealth is supreme only over the land that comprises the airport. If the Victorian Government is prepared to grant permission through its local government authority for the creation of services around the new airport at Tullamarine, inevitably people will live there and in a few years time we will be faced with all the old problems again. In the United States there has been a great deal of conflict in the north west - in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. There have been all sorts of problems in and around New York. La Guardia Airport is still being utilised. The noise problem there is enormous. The J. F. Kennedy International Airport is already inadequate. The O’Hare Airport at Chicago, which is the finest in the world, is one of the busiest in the world, and it has a great noise problem. The problems associated with San Francisco and Los Angeles are so vast that if we were faced with them I am sure that we would be happy to band over to local government authorities as much responsibility as we could.
Let me show how the American Congress has dealt with these problems. Today the local government authority responsible for the City of San Francisco and the City of Los Angeles faces litigation amounting to more than $ 1,000m.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting the House had been considering an amendment proposed by the honourable member for Newcastle. For some time, following the speech of the Minister for National Development who was a former Minister for Civil Aviation, I had been devoting myself to convincing the House and the honourable member for Newcastle that this was an inappropriate amendment and not in the interests of the civil aviation industry. I am hopeful that the honourable member for Newcastle will withdraw his amendment for I am quite sure that this would be the most intelligent course of action on his part. My honourable and gallant friend, the honourable member for La Trobe, and my honourable and learned friend, the honourable member for Bradfield, have given some indication of support for the amendment. I believe that I have put before the House sufficient reason to convince the honourable member for Newcastle that he should withdraw his amendment and I confidently predict that his action will be clear in the near future. I am also very much of the view that the honourable member for La Trobe and, I trust, the honourable member for Bradfield will see the wisdom of what I have recommended to them and will appreciate that the passing of this amendment would, in fact, have only a delaying effect upon the working of the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise.
I have spent a considerable time explaining to the House facts in relation to supersonic aircraft and to Australia’s position in the International Civil Aviation Organisation. The Minister has already explained in great detail the forward position of leadership in this matter that has been adopted by the Commonwealth Government’s representatives in the International Civil Aviation Organisation over recent years. I have also explained the great problems that have faced the Government of the United States of America, in particular on the north western and north eastern side of the American continent.
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Is it right for the Leader of the House to try to intimidate a member who has expressed the view that he will vote against it?
– Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member for Grayndler will resume his seat.
– The honourable member who has interrupted in an effort to prevent me from convincing his colleague that this amendment should be withdrawn has deliberately tried to occupy my time. As is well known in this House, the honourable member for Grayndler is a superb tactician, almost as superb as the man who is speaking.
-Order! The honourable members time has expired.
– I would not speak merely for the purpose of stonewalling but I have been provoked into saying a few words by the various comments that have been made about the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise. Since November I have had the privilege of being Chairman of that Committee which has done a lot of work that has not been appreciated very much by the people who watch us. They say that all we are doing is going about having a look at things and not getting any results, but I should like to assure the House that in the previous 12 months when the former member for St George, Mr Bosman, was Chairman of the Committee, the Committee visited every major airport in Australia, with the exception of Darwin, and examined the problems there. The Committee visited Darwin in February. The former Committee made suggestions which have resulted in the adoption of procedures by the airline companies which have mitigated the great annoyance that many people have had inflicted on them by the new method of transport - jet aircraft. One must have a lot of sympathy for the people residing near the Kingsford-Smith Airport who have to listen to the noise of these aircraft. People in the municipality of Rockdale have to put up with the noise that is inflicted on them by this modern progression in transport which brings them great benefits but which they do not really appreciate because it impinges on their way of life.
As a result of the deliberations of the Committee and the thought that has been given to this problem for many years by the Department of Civil Aviation and the airline companies themselves who are very conscious of it, in April of last year many new procedures were adopted in Sydney. These have had the effect of lessening the impact of the noise on people living under the flight path of the 07 runway of the Sydney Airport. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) expressed concern about the noise of aircraft using the north south runway which is pointed in the direction of the electorate of Bradfield. There is a control point, shall we call it, at Pymble where aircraft take their bearing to come in on the flight path of the north south runway for landing purposes, but more than 70% of the take-offs from that runway are in the opposite direction. I am distressed to find how poorly informed the honourable member for Bradfield is on this subject. I take some of the blame for this myself. As a Committee we should have, given more thought to informing people-^ members of this House and the public as well - of what we have been able to achieve in respect of the noises that are inevitable if we are going to have the progressive form of transport that has been made possible by the invention of the jet aeroplane. The previous Committee has done a very good job to improve the position of people in the affected areas.
In moving this amendment the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) has really only engaged in an exercise which is designed to cause some trouble to the Government. The Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz), who is in charge of this discussion, has explained quite clearly to the House that this Committee was created to try to do something about the noise problem around airports. We are very conscious of the need to do this. Australia has taken a major role in the world and has given a lead in discussing the problem of noise around airports. I like that way of expressing it rather than saying merely ‘aircraft noise’. The procedures already taken have been to the advantage of many people.
All I want to say is that, having been given the very definite task of finding out how much nuisance there is, we have done much to effect some diminution of the noise problem of people who live around aerodomes. I speak particularly of the Kingsford-Smith Aerodrome. I know that it was in the mind of the Opposition when this amendment was moved. However, to accept the amendment would be a very great embarrassment to the Committee in the performance of the task it has been given. It would extend the work of the Committee, in my judgment, for at least 2 years. I have had the benefit also of having been a member of the Public Works Committee. When the development of the Melbourne and Sydney international aerodromes was being discussed, we went thoroughly into the possibility of using other sites. Even if other members of the Aircraft Noise Committee do not know, I know that the Department of Civil Aviation has done a very large amount of work on this aspect. I have seen the maps and the diagrams. I am sure that if the House knew the amount of work that has been done, an amendment such as this would not be accepted.
Motion (by Mr Kirwan) proposed:
That the honourable member for McMillan be not further heard.
– The honourable member for McMillan has resumed his seat. The motion, therefore, is not necessary.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
That the words proposedto be added (Mr Charles Jones’s amendment) be so added.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority .. .. 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Peacock, and read a first time.
) - I move:
The main purpose of this Bill is to revise the second schedule to the Parliamentary Allowances Act 1952-1968. Honourable members will be aware that 2 levels of electorate allowance are paid to members of the House, namely, $2,750 per annum to a member whose electorate is classified as city and $3,350 per annum to a member whose electorate is classified as country. The second schedule to the Act fists electorates for which the lower, or city, rate is paid. The higher, or country, rate is paid in respect of all other electorates. Changes in the schedule are necessary because of the redistribution of electorates. Some existing electorates have been abolished and new city electorates have been created. The classification of existing electorates has also been reviewed following adoption of the new electorate boundaries and changes, in the character of some electorates since 1 956. The new second schedule takes into account these changes. There is no change in the basic rates of electorate allowances for members of the House of Representatives - that is, $2,750 for members representing city electorates and $3,350 for members representing country electorates.
Other suggestions have been received from members about the division of electorates into two classifications - city and country; and about the classification of individual electorates and (he amounts of electorate allowances, lt has been decided not to make a change from the basic two classification pattern, that is city and country electorates, established by the Committee of Inquiry into Salaries and Allowances of Members of Parliament in 1955 and continued by the Committee of Inquiry in 1959. Senators receive electorate allowances of $2,650, or $100 less than members representing city electorates. The Government has decided that the rate of electorate allowance for senators should be equal to the rate payable to city members of the House of Representatives. Clause 4 (a) of the Bill will give effect to this change.
Sections 4 and 5 of the present Act each contain provisions setting the limits of time during which both allowances in the nature of salary, and electorate allowances are payable to senators and members. The opportunity has been taken to clarify these provisions in 2 respects. In the first place, clause 3 of the Bill proposes the insertion of a new section which specifies that, for the purposes of paying allowances, ‘the day of election’ is polling day, or, when there is no poll, the day the result is declared. This practice has been followed for many years in the payment of parliamentary allowances. The Bill therefore gives expression to existing practice. Secondly, under the present Act, parliamentary allowances of a sitting member who stands for re-election but is unsuccessful cease with the election of his successor. Last year’s redistribution has drawn attention to interpretation of the term ‘successor’ and to the possibility of doubt arising in cases of changes in boundaries as to the identity of each successor to members of the previous Parliament. Any possibility of doubt is avoided by redrafting the provision to ensure that a member will be paid his allowance until the day before the day of his reelection or, if he is not re-elected, the day before polling day. Clause 5 of the Bill covers this matter. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Daly) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 10 March (vide page 268) on motion by Mr Brown:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to:
May it please Your Excellency:
We. the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– In resuming the debate on the Address-in-Reply, I would first of all like to join with those members from both sides of the House who have expressed their congratulations to the new members who have delivered their maiden speeches. Some notable contributions have been made by these members, and I think that, as a result of the contributions one can expect them to make, this Parliament will be much better off in the future. The Address-in-Reply debate deals with a wide range of issues pinpointed by the Governor-General in outlining the programme of his Government. The main emphasis of the debate falls on the domestic issues of the economy, namely, health, housing, primary industry, education and social welfare. These issues have been covered in a series of extremely competent speeches by the new members of the House, who expressed many fresh ideas.
In essence, what this House has been discussing during the past few days has been the election programme of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). It is refreshing that this election programme should be debated because, after stating these policies in his policy speech, the Prime Minister did not debate them further. As a result, an election campaign which should have settled down to constructive and wide ranging dialogue was cheapened by the Prime Minister. For the purpose of expedience he chose to muddy the policies of the Australian Labor Party on health and social welfare rather than to debate the alternatives. Linked with this domestic policy strand was the traditional re-statement of what the late Harold Holt termed ‘kicking the Communist can*. This process is so deeply ingrained in the Liberal Party-Country Party election strategy that it is doubtful whether it can ever be scrubbed out.
It is remarkable that in a country of Australia’s maturity it is next to impossible because of the default of the Government, to have a rational and reasoned debate on defence policy during an election campaign. It is an intellectual tragedy that the defence policies of the contending parties cannot be forcefully debated without charges of treachery and lack of patriotism being raised in the most scurrilous fashion. Happily, there are signs that a better climate for these most crucial debates is evolving in the Parliament. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech was cursory on defence because of the expected defence statement by the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser). This statement was delivered last night. As it will be debated in this House tomorrow night, I do not want to deal with the substance of the Minister’s extremely lengthy statement. However, 1 intend to look in some detail at two important questions touched on by the Minister.
Sir, the first is conscription and its relation to future military manpower problems; the second is the structure of service pay and conditions and their relation to the future role of the armed services. In his statement the Minister for Defence said his Department was making a full examination of the total service manpower problems including national service. He said, further, that despite overseas experience there was no likelihood that Australian forces could be sustained without conscription. This explicit commitment to conscription follows a statement to this House last week by the Prime Minister. In answer to a question the right honourable gentleman confirmed that the Government intended to maintain the system of selective conscription for manyyears.
These statements should be examined in the light of the report of President Nixon’s commission on all volunteer armed force, known briefly as the Gates’ Commission. This commission was appointed by the President following an electoral pledge to find ways of meeting the draft. It was by no means a radical commission. A prominent Conservative economist, former armed service heads and businessmen were among its members. Yet this committee unanimously recommended that America end conscription of a selective nature and substitute an all volunteer army. In the process the Commission made some very cogent criticisms of the nature of conscription in Australia. Its report said that the return of Australia to conscription in 1964 had been put up as an analogy that an all volunteer force was not feasible for the United States. The Gates’ Commission rejected this analogy and it did so, I believe, for several reasons. The most significant reason was that the Australian Government had not made a concerted effort to attract additional recruits on a voluntary basis. The report goes on:
Once the decision was made to use conscription to raise force levels no serious effort was made to increase voluntary enlistments either by raising pay or redoubling recruiting efforts.
In the view of the Commissioners the Australian Government could have expanded the size of the armed forces on a voluntary basis by raising pay and reorganising recruiting. This adds up to a very serious indictment of the Government’s conscription programme from a responsible and far from radical source. The essence of the statement is that the Australian Government took the lazy man’s way out when it encountered recruiting problems. With a swift buildup for Vietnam in mind, a needless and unjust system of selective conscription was imposed although alternative ways of raising recruiting rates had not been tried or even considered.
The arguments against selective conscription have been put in this House many times. These basic arguments have been reinforced by the economic arguments against conscript forces put forward by the Gates’ Commission. The basis of this case against conscription is that a tax in kind in the form of involuntary service is imposed on a small proportion of the population. Men are forced to serve in the military forces at artificially low rates of pay. This means that these conscripts pay a form of tax which subsidises those in the community who do not serve. This amounts to a very substantial hidden cost which does not show up in the budgetary costing of the defence forces. There are other substantial social costs resulting from conscription which are not revealed by standard accounting techniques. There are costs borne by young men who are not conscripted but who arrange their lives in response to the possibility of being called up. Another factor is the loss of output to the domestic economy from those called up to serve.
In total these hidden costs refute even the most dubious justification for conscription - that it is cheaper than an all volunteer army. Of course, there is a substantial increase in the budgetary cost of an all volunteer army over a mix of conscripts and volunteers. But this paper increase in defence spending is actually a shift in the tax burden from a small number of conscripts to the whole taxpaying community at large. Taxpayers pay more in cash for their defence forces but this is achieved by elimination of a vicious tax in kind borne by a handful of 20-year-olds. This is a highly discriminatory tax which sharply curtails personal freedom.
Sir, in summary, those conscripted by the Australian Government or who volunteer because they may be called up are paying a hidden tax. The benefit of this tax goes to all taxpayers in the form of a lower defence payroll budget. Because young men are coerced into service at pay levels well below what would be required to induce them to volunteer, the whole structure of service pay is distorted. The supply of conscripts can be varied according to demand by the Government. One turn of the conscription screw and any shortfall in recruiting can be sopped up. This puts the volunteer serviceman in an invidious position because his pay rates are not dictated by market forces. They are controlled artificially by a Government which pays lip service to the free play of supply and demand. Again, if there is any lack of specialists in the military forces the conscription laws can be manipulated to fill the gaps. There have been complaints that this has happened in Australia, notably with doctors and engineers. With this very effective tool always at its disposal there is no need for the Government to concern itself with better pay and conditions for servicemen or with improving techniques of recruiting. For volunteer professional soldiers, military service in a conscript oriented army imposes severe financial penalties. These strains are weighing with increasing severity on the non -conscript component of the army as their wages and conditions become increasingly non-competitive.
Sir, the inescapable conclusion is that conscription is unjust and inequitable for those compelled to serve. In addition, it is extremely damaging to the long-term status, dignity and effectiveness of the armed forces. The trend of overseas experience is against conscripts and volunteers on the Australian model. Great Britain and Canada have been able to assure their national objectives without resort to conscription. In Britain the abolition of conscription has increased the average length of service per man by approximately 200%. It has reduced the proportion of troops in training by a third, thereby cutting turnover rates and training costs. This has enabled the maintenance of a higher proportion of troops in an effective status.
Again, in Canada, where military pay is closer to civilian earnings, there has been no difficulty in attracting recruits for a volunteer army. According to evidence submitted to the Gates’ Commission the quality of entrants is remarkably high and the number of enlistments could be doubled or trebled without difficulty. Now the United States of America has opted clearly for transition to a volunteer army. Australia has relied on all volunteer armies except in the two Great Wars, in the 1950s and since 1964. lt fought in two wars in the 1950s, Korea and Malaysia, without resort to conscription for overseas service. Only in Vietnam, the most dishonourable and discredited war in Australia’s history, has conscription for overseas service been sanctioned and applied ruthlessly. At a time when countries in a similar position to that of Australia have dropped conscription or are moving to drop it this Government remains wedded to a selective draft and refuses to examine the alternatives. With cynical opportunism the Government has settled on an easy solution which suits it and which it can vary with a minimum of effort. In this context the manpower study announced by the Minister for Defence can be used only to determine the future levels of conscripts required. The probability is that the future will see steadily increasing inputs of conscripts with volunteer levels dwindling as Service pay rates and conditions deteriorate. This is a dismal outlook for Australia’s defences and for the career serviceman in particular.
A belated recognition of this injustice is disclosed on the notice paper in the form of a motion from the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate). He moved that Service pay be brought into line with the pay and conditions of comparable industry. With an eye, no doubt, on his own electorate and the Nowra naval base he has cited the trade groupings and pay rates applying in the Navy. According to a report in the ‘Canberra Times’ last week this motion has been made to pre-empt Opposition action on Service pay. Unfor tunately the move comes years too late. Higher pay rates for the Services have been part of the Labor Party’s policies for several years. It has been consistently expressed by the Labor Party that substantial improvements in pay and conditions are needed to attract volunteers and to raise the effectiveness of the forces. Therefore the matter that has been placed on the notice paper by the honourable member for Macarthur is not new. As I pointed out, this is a policy that has been advocated by the Labor Party for some years. The honourable member for Macarthur can read the Labor Party’s platform on defence. There he will find that we have advocated, as a means of raising a volunteer army for this country, better pay and conditions, to move their pay and allowances to rates equivalent to those in professions outside the armed Services, and in addition to provide to all members of the armed forces the benefits of the war service homes legislation and full repatriation benefits whether they are serving in Australia or whether their service is outside Australia. So there is nothing new in this policy, as undoubtedly the honourable member for Macarthur now believes.
It is hypocritical of the Government to call for better pay and conditions while at the same time enforcing a system of conscription which assures that these rates remain at inferior levels. It is unnecessary to outline to the House the soldiers’ complaints about pay, the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund, Service housing, the disruption and expense caused by frequent repostings, separation from families, repatriation and resettlement problems. The new Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen) who is now sitting in the House will no doubt remember the complaints that were made last year by serving members of the Navy concerning their pay and conditions. Some action was promised. Very little improvement was made by the present Minister’s predecessor. I hope that the present Minister will show a better performance.
The Minister for Defence has emphasised the two areas of housing and repostings. He referred to these areas last night in his defence statement. They are constant sources of irritation to servicemen and their families, and it is right that remedies should be found. However, these pressing problems should not be examined in isolation from the whole range of sociological disabilities affecting servicemen. On the subject of pay and conditions generally, the Pay and Conditions of Service Branch established in the Department of Defence is a commendable innovation, but its work must be associated with a fresh approach to the pay and conditions of servicemen. An approach of this sort has been made in the United Kingdom where the Standing Committee on the Pay and Conditions of the Armed Forces has been established and reports regularly to the National Board for Prices and Incomes. The Committee has made a series of valuable reports on Service pay and conditions and the peculiar disabilities associated with Service life. Such a standing committee is the sort of model which could well be adopted by Australia for securing the changes in pay and benefits that are urgently needed.
On the question of pay the most frequent complaint of servicemen is that it always seems to be fixed on the basis of some sort of equivalent civilian work. No soldier will ever concede that the work value of his job can be assessed by reference to civilian labour. Of course there will be components which are comparable - for example, the work of a carpenter or plumber who may transfer his trade to the Services. But there are many aspects of military service which cannot be assessed by a civilian yardstick. In the civilian economy premium pay is offered to attract workers to risky and odious tasks. These are accepted as part of the everyday work of a combat soldier. In the United Kingdom it has been suggested that these peculiar aspects of Service life should be assessed in terms of a special factor called the X factor. This would take into account the special conditions of Service life and provide a compensation factor in Service pay rates. The X factor, as defined by the Standing Committee on the Pay and Conditions of the Armed Forces, takes account of four basic elements peculiar to Service life. The first is the soldier’s commitment to his Service and his subjection to a code of discipline much more far reaching than in any form of civilian service. The second is the soldier’s exposure to danger on active service. The third is his obligation as part of normal peacetime service to endure bad or uncomfortable conditions while in the field or on board ship.
The final one is the constant upheaval and uncertainty imposed by the need for high mobility in a military force, the so-called turbulence of Service life. In sum these constitute the X factor, for which an additional increment should be incorporated into Service pay.
This seems an eminently reasonable way of assessing the excess demands on a serviceman which would never be accepted by a civilian workman. It would also give an element of work value to the pay of servicemen, something which is completely lacking at the moment. The lack of such a study or of some special factor in Service pay rates puts a highly skilled soldier at a considerable disadvantage when compared with civilian earnings. For example, a private soldier of relatively high skill earns about $60 a week, including his marriage allowance. A very highly skilled soldier who is married will earn about $80 a week. A Warrant Officer Class 2 who is also a tradesman of high skill may earn about $100 a week. Against these figures it is worth noting that in the December quarter of 1968 the average weekly earnings for a man were $70 a week. Bearing in mind the demands and responsibilities of Service life, it is beyond question that servicemen are poorly paid on a work value basis. The same applies to officers’ pay rates if their duties and qualifications are examined in the light of civilian earnings.
In summary, there is little benefit in taking a few isolated sources of Service dissatisfaction and looking for remedies, but this is apparently what the Minister for Defence did last night. A comprehensive review is needed of the peculiar physical and psychological strains of Service life and of the Service environment. Associated with this is an urgent need for future projections of Service manpower. For example, does the Government have any idea how many servicemen will be needed after the Vietnam conflict ends? The evidence is that the Government is just as deficient in its knowledge of trends in military manpower as it is in future projections of the workforce generally. There is every reason to suspect that the Government will use the conscription legislation as a tool to manipulate troop numbers for short term ends. It can only serve to distort further the inequalities and injustices which conscription has brought within the Services and within the civilian economy.
I conclude on one of the fundamental points 1 made during the debate. I refer to the findings of the all important Gates Commission in the United States of America. It made a very thorough investigation of the draft system in the United States and recommended its complete rejection and the substitution of a new system of enlisting forces on a voluntary basis. We cannot overlook the fact that this Committee had an opportunity to consider fully the conscription legislation which was introduced by the Australian Government and it rejected it most emphatically.
Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s time has expired.
– At the commencement of my contribution to the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech, I should like to deal with a couple of points which were raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). The Deputy Leader of the Opposition spoke against conscription - in particular, selective conscription - and about pay and conditions in the Services. Firstly, I shall deal with the question of selective conscription. I think it is true to say that most Australians - certainly a good number of the members on this side of the House including myself - are not entirely happy with the system of selective conscription. I think many people would like to see the burden spread over a wider section of the community.
I would like to see universal military service, but I believe that it is, unfortunately, impossible under present conditions. Quite apart from the lack of instructors in the permanent Services and the lack of equipment and accommodation there is also the question of the effect on the economy. I have often heard people say that we had conscription during the last war, but they forget to add that we also had reserved occupations. We needed reserved occupations during the war to maintain our civilian war effort at an acceptable level and we would need reserved occupations now to maintain our national growth at a satisfactory rate. As soon as the concept of reserved occupations was introduced there would be all sorts of abuses. 1 think it would be a worse system than the selective system which, whatever its faults, is at least impartial.
The next point which was made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was against conscription itself. He said that Australia should be in a position to have an all volunteer defence force. He quoted various other countries where this system has been advocated or is already in operation. I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has forgotten that the very success of this Government’s policies in other directions has made such a system impossible. In all the other countries he quoted there is a far higher degree of unemployment than there is in Australia. The very success of the Government’s policies has made it impossible for it to maintain Australia’s defence forces at a satisfactory level by voluntary enlistment. The point is that for forward defence planning in any constructive and responsible sense it is necessary to know how many troops one will have at any given time and how many will come in at a later date. The fact of the matter is that the Government is not prepared to abrogate its responsibilities by putting itself in the position in which it is not able to plan for the future defence requirements of this country.
I imagine we will have a chance to debate the defence aspect more fully later in the session and therefore I shall devote the rest of my speech to the subject on which I intended to speak tonight. I refer to the Governor-General’s statement that the Government will continue to work with representative organisations to grapple with the problems facing the primary producer’. Last week in this House we discussed a matter of public importance, namely, the problems of primary producers. The debate was notable chiefly for the lack of constructive suggestions by the Opposition. I propose to remedy this situation by putting some forward myself. Firstly, I think we should ask ourselves whether assistance is necessary. I think there has been an extraordinary change in recent times in public awareness of the necessity for assistance to primary producers from the public purse. Far more publicity has been given in the newspapers and through other media to the plight in which many primary producers are finding themselves. All honourable members who represent country electorates could speak from their own experience on this aspect. The figures of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, which indicate a fall in primary industry income and so on, are welt known, as are the tables showing the rise in costs. ls assistance justified? I think it is justified, firstly because of the position rural exports have in the national economy. Rural export earnings are still over one half of the total export earnings of this country. Government assistance is justified also from a moral and social point of view. Many of the primary producers who are in trouble today can justifiably claim that they arc in trouble because of the policies pursued by the Government in other fields as well as, in some cases, the deliberate policy of closer settlement which was pursued by the Government very successfully in the 1950s when prices were high. As a result of these policies many primary producers are now in an extremely difficult position, although the policies were adopted by the Government in the light of what was economic at the time. Governmest assistance is also justified because, in general, primary industry is efficient. I know it is very difficult to make accurate generalisations, but the last figures I obtained indicate that the Australian primary producer feeds and clothes 59 people whereas his nearest competitor in any other country in the world feeds and clothes 41 people. Therefore, I think it can bc said that, in general, primary industry is efficient.
If it is agreed that help is needed and justified on national, moral and efficiency grounds, how should it be given? In the present critical situation there is a danger that the wrong things will be done under the pressure of present circumstances. There is tremendous pressure on industry organisations, on the Government and on the individual members of the Parliament who represent country electorates. In this situation there is a very natural inclination, I am afraid, on the part of industry organisations and individual primary producers to grasp at straws. There is also a very natural inclination on the part of the Government to offer apparent solutions which may be superficially attractive - for instance, the concept of direct or indirect subsidies - and the producers can be excused if they agree with whoever is advocating such policies.
I felt it was necessary for me to make my position quite clear in my own electorate. With the help of the local primary producer organisation in my electorate, I sought meetings in different parts of the electorate and the result of those meetings was an eye-opener to me. Those honourable members who are used to country meetings know how difficult it is to get people to come out to meetings at night. The smallest meeting I had during the last few weeks was attended by 300 people. Most of the meetings were larger. The other eye opener to me was the responsible attitude shown by the people who attended the meetings. They were not grasping at straws. They were not urging apparently facile solutions to their difficult problems. During the discussion of a matter of public importance which was raised by the Opposition recently I quoted one of the resolutions which was passed at one of these meetings, and I should like to quote it again because I think it is indicative of the responsible attitude shown by primary producers. It was in these terms:
That the critical situation of the rural economy both requires and justifies urgent and substantial Government financial assistance, and in applying this assistance the Government must aim for longterm strength, stability and independence of the rural community rather than attempt to deal with the present conditions by measures prompted by the desire for political popularity.
Other resolutions were passed, including one calling on the Government to increase its contribution to applied research aimed at reducing costs and increasing productivity in primary industry. I think this is indicative of the attitude which the people who are most affected are taking. But before deciding on how help should be given, I think we have to identify the cause of the present trouble. At the base of the trouble is the fact that with farms which are at the limit of production and which are still earning insufficient income for their owners and their families, particularly those with younger families, it is very difficult to see a way out. This is exactly the position in very many cases.
In most of these cases we are dealing with extremely efficient managers - in my part of the country, those running, perhaps, 4 or 5 sheep to the acre or their equivalent. They are now being forced by economic circumstances in some cases to exceed the limits of prudent stocking rates. I stress that these farms are efficiently managed and that all forms of diversification and investment have been investigated and in many cases are already in operation. They just cannot earn sufficient income at present day costs and prices under their existing acreage. What does the owner do in these circumstances? The first thing he probably does is to try to borrow in the hope that things will improve. It must be noted that this borrowing is not for the purpose of increasing production or for diversification. Therefore, the income is mainly so that he can carry on. Unless the prices of primary products improve, this type of borrowing does not have a capacity of repaying itself.
A colossal amount of borrowing of this type has occurred during the last few years since the 1965 drought. It has been a major factor in more than doubling rural debt in the last 10 years, from $950m to$1, 970m. The conclusion to which I come, therefore, is that much of Australia’s rural debt, because of the reasons for borrowing, is not capable of being repaid in the existing circumstances, and that, in itself, is a frightening prospect. The interest bill on many farms is the biggest fixed cost of the farmer. But a further consequence of this situation is that the farmer cannot take the measures necessary to increase his production to give him an income level commensurate with the rest of the community. There are two ways by which his income can be raised when he is at the limit of production and prices are not likely to rise - and I think we would be unwise to consider that they are likely to rise very much in current circumstances.
The first way to raise income is for the Government to subsidise output either directly or indirectly, as in the case of the so-called wool cost compensation scheme. I should like to say, once again, that direct subsidies on outputs have never solved problems, and in most cases they have created new ones. I will give an indication of what could happen, if some kind fairy came along and said to the wool industry: ‘Here is $100m’. It must be remembered that 75% of Australia’s wool is grown by 25% of the growers. So that $75m would go to the 25% of growers who needed it least and $25m would go to the 75% of growers who needed it most.
As an indication of what subsidies can do to an industry, I refer to the dairying industry. Undoubtedly, the subsidising of the dairying industry for many years has had the effect of accentuating the surplus position in which we find ourselves today, because the provision of a subsidy was responsible for dairying being conducted in areas which were not entirely suited to it, and production from these areas has accentuated our surplus production and has reduced the equalised price received by producers all over Australia. This factor has operated very much against those efficient producers in the favoured dairying areas of Australia, and it has also resulted in a misal location of resources since the dairying industry is not concentrated in the areas which are most suited to it. Now this subsidy is built in to the system and it cannot be taken out of the system without creating a great deal of disruption and hardship. This subsidy is a classic example of a subsidy ending up harming the very industry which it was designed to help and making eventual solution of the industry’s problems even more difficult. This is the historic result of subsidies on outputs of other products.
As 1 said previously, I have been heartened and encouraged by the meetings which were held in my electorate. These people do not want direct subsidies, but 1 believe that we have to offer them an alternative, and this is a policy, as I have said previously, which is designed to establish a sound and independent rural community, not a sector in perpetual trouble or forever dependent on higher and higher subsidies in order to maintain income. Do not let us forget that the money which will be used to maintain this income will have to come from the 85% of people who do not live in country areas. I think they have every right to expect that money which is provided from the public purse to assist rural industry will result in the strengthening of the industry in the way which I mentioned a moment ago. I believe that help is justified, and 1 believe that those who are going to provide it are entitled to ask that it be provided in a way which will reduce dependence rather than create a situation in which dependence is created for as far ahead as we can see.
What is the second means by which income can be raised? The second means by which a primary producer can raise his income is by increasing the scale of his operations, but when the farm is at the limit of production on the existing acreage, this can only be done by acquiring more land. At present interest repayment terms of about 8% over 10 years, this is just not a paying proposition under the present level of costs and prices. The result is that land tends to be bought by people who do not have to make a living off it or can afford to accept a very low return on their capital. This situation is resulting in frustration and disquiet amongst the farming community which can see at least a partial solution to its problems but which is unable to do anything about it. 1 believe that the time has come when the Government should have a very careful look at the tax concessions available to those whom I call non-bona fide primary producers. From now on, ] think that whatever concessions are available should be given to existing primary producers, using the Federal estate duty legislation, which was recently introduced into this House, as the basis for definition of a primary producer. Very roughly, a primary producer is one of whom it may be said that at least 50% of his assets and 50% of his taxable income over the previous 5 years have been derived from primary industry 1 say this because in the present circumstancesI do not think we should be encouraging further production when we have difficulty in disposing of what we are already producing. Therefore, my main proposition is for the Government to grant assistance to bona fide primary producers as I have defined them, by making available to them long term loans at lower rates of interest - subsidised rates of interest, if you want to call them that. Certainly lower rates would have to be paid for by the rest of the community, but it would result in a stronger, more independent primary industry, rather than one continually having to be propped up by direct subsidies. This therefore fulfils the objective which I mentioned a moment ago of the taxpayer getting better value for his money. In addition to this main proposition should go measures to attack the great problems of rising costs. For example, I would like to see expert economic advisers available to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the adoption of a much more discriminatory and critical tariff policy as advocated by the Tariff Board in its recent reports.
The Government should increase its spending on applied research designed to reduce costs and increase economic returns even if at the same time it has to reduce expenditure on pure research. I would like to see the incentive of double deduction tax concessions available to farmers for fees paid to farm management consultants to increase their productivity. HereI would like to make this distinction between increased production and increased productivity. I define increased productivity as increased output per unit of input, whether it be labour, capital or anything else. The Government could well consider taking over the expense of testing the whole of the Australian wool clip by objective measurement, that is. by core testing. The assessment of wool by objective measurement will certainly come and the quicker the better, and Government help in implementing its introduction would be a wonderful boost to the industry and an indication of real Government confidence in its future.
These are a few definite proposals to help primary industry, but I make no claim that the list is exhaustive. There is one further point that I would like to make. If, as I sincerely hope will be so, the Government makes available substantial funds to encourage a certain degree of amalgamation of farms to take place, there is an equal obligation on the Government to provide generous assistance to those who choose to leave the business of primary production. I say equal obligation because, as in the problems themselves, it can justifiably be argued that the Government itself through its closer settlement schemes and pursuit of the desirable objective of rapid national growth is to some degree responsible for the present situation. The farmer is in general a hardworking, intelligent, independent individual, but as a rule he is not trained for any other job. It is inconceivable to me that all of these attributes and qualities would be largely lost to the community by his having to take an unskilled job and I ask therefore that hand in hand with policies to enable efficient, able farmers to increase the scale of their operations should go provision for those who wish to leave the industry to be trained to continue to play a full and useful part in the economy. With these two objectives in mind I feel sure that a really constructive approach can be made to the problems of primary industry.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Corbett)Before I call the honourable member for Maribyrnong I would remind the House that this is the honourable member’s maiden speech.
– In his Speech the Governor-General indicated that the Government was concerned about the problem of drugs. Federal Ministers have conferred with State Ministers an the problem and: . . Steps are being taken to co-ordinate the activities of Commonwealth and State law enforcement agencies.
Beware! Is the problem of drugs one of law enforcement or is it one of illness and the need for medical treatment? I do not intend to enlarge on this question now as there is a Senate Select Committee inquiring into the matter. I wish to discuss another sphere of criminal activity which is far more important, or at least far more frequent than the traffic in drugs. By way of illustration might 1 suggest that there are 30 criminals in this House, that is, when the division bells rang and we are all assembled. I can name at least four of the criminals - they are amongst the medical practitioners in the House - but although I cannot so confidently name the remainder individually, in total I am sure there are at least 30 in this House. We - and I include myself - are guilty of an indictable offence because we have taken part in activities which are proscribed in the following terms. 1 will quote from the New South Wales Crimes Act which, apart from one notable exception, holds in rather similar terms for all the other States of the Commonwealth. Section 82 of that Act states:
Whosoever, being a woman with child, unlawfully administers to herself any drug or noxious thing, or unlawfully uses any instrument or other means, with intent in any such case to procure her miscarriage, shall be liable to penal servitude for 10 years.
Section 83 goes on:
Whosoever unlawfully administers to, or causes to be taken by, any woman, whether with child or not, any drug or noxious thing, or unlawfully uses any instrument or other means, with intent in any case to procure her miscarriage, shall be liable to penal servitude for 10 years.
Finally we come to section 84 - and this is where we mostly come into it. It states:
Whosoever unlawfully supplies or procures any drug or noxious thing, or any instrument or thing whatsoever, knowing that the same is intended to be unlawfully used with intent to procure the miscarriage of any woman, whether with child or not, shall be liable to penal servitude for S years.
The notable exception is South Australia, but the change in the law there is so recent that my claim and my figures have not yet been changed by the enlightened views in that State.
There are probably anything from 50,000 to 100.000 illegal abortions performed in this country every year. Those figures are based on estimates derived from police and hospital records, comparisons with other countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and an analysis of studies such as the Kinsey report. It is popularly thought that most illegal abortions are performed on girls - young, irresponsible and leading a life of promiscuity and so deserving of the fate which might await to punish them. Tragically, the facts are to the contrary. Over 70% of abortions are performed on married women. Over 25% of all married women have an abortion performed at some stage of their married lives.
Whilst in the case of the young single girl there may be no-one concerned other than herself and her boyfriend, and perhaps a doctor or another friend who has been through it all before, see how the numbers mount up, for they are all guilty for having helped her procure her abortion. In addition, the parents are also often involved. In the case of the married woman, usually with several children, her husband almost invariably knows. Once again there are the various contacts who help them to find the abortionist. Thus honourable members understand the reason for my assertion that in this House there are probably 30 people guilty of the offences I have mentioned.
As an aside, it is interesting to recall my own and most other young doctors’ experiences of abortions when on duty at a large public hospital. We ail knew and expected the women to start coming to the casualty department, bleeding, on Friday evening and Saturday morning. Funny how it was always Friday afternoon or evening when the poor woman stood on a chair to reach a high cupboard and fell off, or tripped when carrying the weekend shopping home, or fell over a toy one of her children had left on the floor, lt was always the same story. The truth, of course, is that they were not spontaneous abortions at all but were induced by the woman herself, a neighbour or a regular backyarder. The operation is performed on Friday so that if the woman has to be admitted to hospital - or in any case so that she can rest a bit and recover - her husband is home to look after the house and the children. If all goes well, by Monday morning it will be work as usual. But back to the reasons for bringing up this whole sordid business, for sordid it is as the sickening inquiry into allegations of police corruption in Victoria now in progress bears witness. Of aH those who I suggest are technically guilty in this House I am sure not one feels guilty, and not one would hesitate to act in a similar fashion again in the appropriate circumstances.
What of the women themselves who, in the main, are married with other children? I am sure that very few, if any, ever feel guilty as far as the criminal law is concerned. That is not to say that some do not sometimes later regret the abortion. That is inevitable; it is in the nature of all human decisions and actions. But that is not guilt. That is not justification for a law to make such an action a criminal offence. In any case, real feelings of guilt are rare. A study has shown that in the small minority who were depressed after the abortion there was clear evidence of depression and guilt beforehand. Thus, despite all the laws and all the religious and moral arguments, the fact is that more than 20% of the population, at a conservative estimate, has been actively associated with illegal abortions. Surely this is an unreal situation, created by laws which have no relation to people and their needs.
Over recent years several surveys have been conducted in this country on the question of abortion. In October 1967 a survey of 1,100 people indicated that 64% felt that abortion should be legal in certain circumstances, whilst 27% were against abortion. The remaining 9% were unable to make up their minds. Amongst Anglicans 69% favoured legalised abortion whilst at that time - 24 years ago, before the extensive public debate that has ensued recently - 49% of Catholics were in favour of legalised abortion, 40% were against it and the remainder could not make up their minds. It is interesting to compare those findings with those in the United Kingdom in 1965 when 75% of Anglicans and 60% of Catholics were in favour of legalised abortion in certain circumstances.
In 1968 the Victorian Branch of the Australian Medical Association conducted a survey of all doctors in Victoria. Briefly the result was as I shall indicate. Replies were received from 2.432 of the 3,843 doctors surveyed. Of the doctors who replied 77% considered that the laws relating to abortion should be liberalised and 88% of doctors felt that abortion should be legalised if there was risk to the physical or mental health of the mother. Eighty per cent felt that risk of serious foetal abnormality was justification for abortion whilst 54% felt that socio-economic factors could be sufficient justification for legalised abortion. A surprisingly large number - 26% - felt that a simple request from a woman was sufficient justification for an abortion. So we have the incongruous position where the majority of the population has clearly indicated through surveys that it is in favour of legalised abortion.
In practice we have more than 20% of the population actually and unashamedly breaking the law. We have some doctors regularly breaking the law, either by finding ready excuses to perform curettes when pregnancy might be doubtful or inserting intra-uterine devices when pregnancy might be feared. Most of the other doctors, not prepared to take such positive action, quite knowingly refer their patients to colleagues prepared to perform abortions. I would go so far as to say that if a doctor claims that he has never helped a woman to have an abortion he must have sent away at some time a woman in great suffering without helping her. In the eyes of the inhuman laws of this land he might be innocent but by any other human criteria he must be guilty of shirking his full responsibility as a doctor.
In addition to ordinary people and doctors by their actions indicating their feelings, organised groups within the community have advocated liberalisation. Amongst these are the Melbourne Diocesan Synod and the Department of Christian Citizenship of the Methodist Church of Victoria and Tasmania. These have been supported by the Council for Civil Liberties, the Presbyterian Church of Victoria and Tasmania and the Victorian Branch of the Australian Medical Association. The Victorian Branch of the Australian Association of Social Workers has come out strongly in favour of change in order to ‘reduce the social and psychological problems and remove the criminal status from otherwise law abiding and conscientious citizens’.
With community feelings running contrary to the law what is the position of the law enforcement agencies? It may be stressing the obvious but nonetheless it seems essential to say that policemen are men before they are policemen. They are fathers, husbands, lovers before they are law enforcers. They are related to, associated with, responsible for pregnant women no more or less often than any other male in the community. One has to assume that policemen are no less aware of abortionists than any other males in the community. Clearly there are many policemen who know about abortionists but who clearly have not done anything about enforcing the law in relation to abortionists. They have not been taking bribes. Even at the inquiry in Victoria only a handful of police are accused of taking bribes but I have no doubt that many more know about the abortionists. How many police have been taking bribes rs irrelevant to me. It has not been proved that any have taking bribes and at the same time they important fact is that most of the police who must know about abortionists have not been taking bribes and at the same time they have not been implementing the law. Why? I suggest that they have not implemented the law because they are normal, warm, compassionate men. They are deliberately turning a blind eye to the law breakers because they know that the law is intolerable, even though if this could be proved they would stand the risk of being charged with not doing their duty.
What are the effects of this ridiculous situation? Due to the fact that women demand the right to have an abortion they will inevitably find some way to achieve this in certain circumstances. If legally qualified medical practitioners cannot do it legally, some will do it illegally - at a price. If a legally qualified medical practitioner is not available some women will attempt to induce an abortion on themselves or they will persuade their husbands to try or they will go to some neighbour or backyard abortionist. At all levels, because of the illegality of the situation, bribery, corruption and extortion add to the misery and suffering, the feelings of anxiety and fear. To all this is added the increased risk of infection, severe illness, permanent damage or even death for some women when the operations are performed in poor surroundings or by unqualified people. To cap it all the community is dismayed by the hypocrisy at all levels and views the law enforcement agencies with scorn, ls it any wonder that the young despise law and order? Paradoxically I have suggested at all levels that the seemingly guilty are not guilty. Whilst some police might take bribes, most ignore the law because they are reasonable and humane. Whilst some doctors charge exorbitant fees to do illegal abortions, most doctors in fact implicate themselves - they break the law - without any financial return but only because they are humane and wish to help. Many men and women in the community break the law not because they are promiscuous and irresponsible but because they are married, over stressed and desperately seek abortions as the only way out in a perfectly respectable family situation where an unexpected pregnancy threatens the health or welfare of the mother and her whole family.
The crime is the law on abortion as it now stands in most States. Some of us in this House are criminals because we too at times help mothers, wives, daughters to obtain illegal abortions. We are responsible for this ridiculous situation because we refuse to recognise a bad law - a non-law. We refuse to recognise that such a law imposes on the community today, and always has if the truth be recognised, an impossible pattern of human behaviour. Such a law denies a basic freedom to women. It condemns them to be animals for breeding rather than free humans with a right to choose - to decide for themselves. We the politicians, in all the Parliaments of the Commonwealth, are the only ones who can change this situation. It has been said that if women were the legislators then such a law would not be on the statute books.
I will conclude with what 1 hope will not be loo much of a shock. Sex, it seems, is here to stay. Gone are the days when women expected to do without sex if they did not wish to have babies. However, with all the care in the world and all the latest pills or devices, unexpected pregnancies will occur. Women clearly now refuse to be condemned to have babies as the price for being human and expressing their feelings normally. To women abortion is not a crime but just another phase of family planning to be utilised rarely but if all other measures have failed. We must change the law which makes us all criminals.
– In speaking to the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech 1 should like, firstly, to take up the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) who bemoaned the fact that the recent recess was the longest between polling day and the date when members came back here. Of course, if we look at the facts, the return of writs fell due on 24th November and it was necessary that the House should meet within 30 days thereof in order to comply with the Constitution. That 30 days period brought us to Christmas Eve so it would have been quite impossible to have done other than what the Government did. To comply with the Constitution Parliament assembled for 1 day to enable members to be sworn in and it then adjourned. Few honourable members would have liked to return here immediately after Christmas because most of them would have been with their families enjoying the school holidays. However, the Government’s action has been vindicated because never before in the history of this Parliament has so much material been prepared for the opening of the Parliament and for Parliament’s worka day business. Never before has a GovernorGeneral’s Speech incorporated, as this one does, all the promises made in a Prime Minister’s policy speech.
Before analysing the contents of the Governor-General’s Speech I want to refer to the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) who occupied almost all of his speaking time in referring to our defence. It is to our great credit that the other ranks in the Australian Army receive more pay than their counterparts in other armies. They receive $2 a day more than the American other ranks up to the rank of lieutenant. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition spoke about conscription. Despite the ballot, our system is the fairest and most just of all. The families that made the sacrifices in World War I were the same families that made the great sacrifices in World War II. I could number hundreds of families which made no effort in either war but who, while our men were away, feathered their nests and are now very wealthy. Our system is just and fair. The only unfair part about it is that every lad is not involved. We would like to have every lad involved but because of lack of instructors and the necessary equipment it is not possible at this stage. The voluntary system has never been fair or just for the reasons that I have stated. The Americans have adopted our ballot system realising that there is no better method of arriving at a number when the whole is not wanted. 1 want to speak to all phases of the Governor-General’s Speech as far as time will permit me. We fought two world wars and the Korean War to prove that an aggressor should never succeed. Once we allow this principle to dissolve the world will be a much worse place. It must be remembered at all times that the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese are the aggressors. If honourable members care to refer back to 1966 and examine a pamphlet The Dissent and the Dissenters’, prepared by an American journalist, they will see that it proves how right he was and how right we were over Vietnam. In his pamphlet he states that Mao Tse-tung and Ho Chi Minh knew that if they could prolong the war sufficiently the doves and weaklings in America would succumb. Unfortunately for a great nation and a great President this is what has happened. Had the psychological war not broken in America and Australia the war in Vietnam would have been over and our men would have been back home. That is the truth and I defy anyone to prove that I am wrong. Just at the time when we were in the ascendancy the psychological war broke and history - have no doubt about this - will judge many people as traitors to their country. Many clergymen and the like were hoodwinked and unwittingly succumbed to the advice of these other people. But as surely as the night follows the day - and this is the tragedy of the whole affair - if we withdraw from South East Asia we will have to return, at great economic cost, which means nothing, but at the great cost of human lives, to preserve our country from attack.
All these people are, of course, very wise. They were all wise after the Communist coup in Indonesia failed in August 1965. Had the coup been successful, and it failed only by 4 vor 5 hours, I ask everyone with reason and common sense to try to visualise what would have been the position now. The timetable was for Mainland China to attack India on 23rd March of the following year. These are facts, and I defy anyone to disprove my statements. If India had collapsed under such an attack, our position in Australia would have been hopeless.
We will support the South Vietnamese. It is unfair to say that we are supporting them only to save our own skins. It was very refreshing last night to hear the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) say that we in Australia would never adopt isolationism as our policy. Once we do that, our days are numbered. We never wait until a bush fire reaches the homestead paddock before we try to put it out; we always go out and fight the fire in the back paddocks. The repatriation benefits for our soldiers far exceed the repatriation benefits given by any other country. Not only are our servicemen entitled to repatriation benefits, but they are also covered by the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. This means that they are eligible for a worthwhile pension if perchance they are injured. Nonetheless they do not receive one penny more than a grateful country should be pleased to give to them.
We grant certain concessions for the export of manufactured goods, and this is a worthwhile action. Such exports have increased considerably because of the incentives we have given to manufacturers. In consequence our balance of payments position is improved. I was very pleased to note that the Governor-General mentioned that the income tax on those in the lower and middle income groups would be reviewed. I was the first member of this House to raise the question of the incidence of income tax on the lower and middle income earners. In 1955 people with an income of more than $4,000 represented only about 8% or 10% of our wage earners. Today I am assured that they represent more than 50%. So it is very pleasing to know that the Government will grant relief to the low and middle income groups.
It is desirable that we have a tariff policy that will work to our benefit, provided that it is policed in a common sense way and does not protect inefficient industries. I would go so far as to say that we must have some form of protection. If we did not, countries where workers have low incomes would send their materials and made up garments to this country. With our standard of living, it would be impossible for us to compete with them. Therefore, it is desirable that we continue our protectionist policies. It is necessary, of course, to keep a strict eye on the administrative machinery and the Government does this. The great Hawkesbury River is in my electorate of Mitchell and I am pleased to note that the Government will make $100m available for the development of national water resources, flood mitigation and other works associated with our water resources. Major floods are not the only problem: the nuisance floods that occur from time to time also create a problem
T want to speak now about our primary industries and especially about wool. Never before in the history of the world have primary industries been in a more difficult position. We have an oversupply of almost every product of the land, and this is a world wide trend. The primary producers in each and every nation are suffering from the same difficulties. This is brought about by the cost factor, and we must implement a long range programme that will help the primary industries to overcome the problems of this difficult period. A temporary expedient may be needed in the first instance, but we must have a long range plan to rehabilitate the farmers and the rural workers. Subsidies aTe not the answer, because they foster inefficiency and we do not want inefficiency. The two primary products that will succeed in the immediate future are wool and beef. The others will have a difficult time. From time immemorial wheat adjusted the oversupply as a commodity to the demands of the world markets. In the depression years the granaries of Manitoba and other places were overflowing, but within the very short space of 4 weeks the whole stock of wheat was ruined by pests. When the wheat industry was going through a difficult period 2 or 3 years ago, we received orders for wheat from China and elsewhere, which relieved the position considerably. In regard to wool, it is paradoxical that although we have been told by the American research people that no surplus wool will be stored at the end of this year, at this time, when wool is in demand, the producers are getting the worst prices since the depression.
– Hear, hear!
– The honourable member is sorry that that is the case. I know that mining and minerals are very fashionable now, but we must all remember that the wool industry earned $854m for Australia last year compared with earnings of $500m from minerals. Of course, only 42% of the money earned from minerals remains in the country, whereas nearly all of the money from wool production remains in Australia. There is a fear among primary producers at the present time that I have not known before. Because of their pioneer stock and the great difficulties that they have had to surmount over the years, it is not customary to see our men of the land distressed at the way things are going. The Government is not responsible for overproduction in Australia. It is a world wide problem, and it will require all our assistance, knowhow and commonsense to assist primary producers over this very difficult period. Diversification is one answer, but when your neighbour and everybody else diversifies we reach the situation that has been reached in the wheat industry and, to a lesser degree, in the wool industry.
Seventy-five per cent of the wool produced in Australia is produced by 25% of the growers. The city slickers and other people who have come into the industry as mixed farmers have caused the high production of wool and have made it difficult properly to present and market wool. I have no doubt about the future of wool. I think that the free auction system should be allowed to continue untrammelled, although I have fears in my mind at the present time that there is an overseas cartel operating against the auction system and that, to overcome this, we may have to sell our wool, after proper presentation, on a basis of private dealing. The wool industry should receive the same encouragement as our secondary industries receive in regard to their export trade. Wool is our most valuable asset in terms of overseas earnings, and we have taken this for granted. If we can pay a bonus to secondary industries for their overseas earnings, why not do the same for the wool industry?
I would like to expound further the ways in which we could help the primary industries, but my time is running out. T would have liked to speak on the Fill, the greatest machine the world has known. Honourable members opposite may laugh, but it will be the salvation of Australia. They would buy the Phantom, which has had more crashes than the Fill. I was flying planes before they were in napkins.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Before I call the honourable member for Batman, I would remind the House that this is the honourable member’s maiden speech.
– My electorate of Batman is one of the biggest electorates in Australia, having some 62,000 electors and including parts of 4 of the oldest cities, namely, Collingwood, Fitzroy, Northcote and Heidelberg. I want to talk about the problem of urban living, which is a matter of particular concern to the people of Batman. I think we all agree that the problem of urban living manifests itself most acutely at the local government level. This is particularly true of my electorate. Our 4 local government authorities came into existence over 70 years ago and, in line with other local government authorities, were instituted to satisfy those social needs which would be better served by governments closer to the people than by either a State or Federal government.
With the wisdom of hindsight, we can see that the demands on local government bodies at the turn of the century appeared to be very simple and that the organisational and financial structures were designed to suit their needs at that time. However, society has not stood still. Our needs have multiplied; our problems have compounded, and although we have made some organisational changes at the local government level and some minor changes in the financial support for local government we simply have not kept up with the times. So today we have a state of affairs in which the resources of local government, particularly in my electorate, are quite incapable of satisfying the demands made on them both in terms of community services and in the pressures for urban development.
Let us consider for a moment the pattern of community services demanded of our local government authorities in the electorate of Batman today. Consider our elderly citizens. Fifty years ago people tended to live and work in the same area, and when the children grew up and married they often made their home in the locality in which they were born. However, the situation is different today. The people born and educated in the electorate of Batman since the war tend to make their homes in other areas of Melbourne, so we have a growing number of elderly people living alone and in need of some community support. The Australian Labor Party, of course, holds very strongly to the view that it is on the backs of these people that the economic worth of our nation was built and that we owe them a far greater share of our prosperity than this Government is prepared to recognise.
Local government bodies, of course, recognise the needs of our elderly citizens and they have stepped into the breach. They are properly expected today to provide elderly citizens clubs, meals on wheels, home help services, etc. These cost considerable sums of money. The State governments have recognised the justification for these local government services and the Victorian Government has made token grants towards the cost of these services. However, the grants are woefully inadequate, as is exemplified by the economic position of the elderly citizens club at Collingwood. The capital cost of this club was $70,000, of which the State Government paid $10,000. The State provides $2,000 a year towards the running costs so long as the Collingwood Council provides the meals service, which costs $10,000 a year. A similar situation exists with the other community services provided by the Collingwood Council and the other three local government bodies in the electorate.
Let us look at the young. Local government is required to provide infant welfare centres and immunisation campaigns and it is expected to support kindergartens. Here again the burden predominantly is on the municipality and its citizens with only token support available from the governments which control the purse strings. Local governments are experiencing tremendous difficulties today trying to satisfy what, in our affluent society, have come to be accepted as proper and essential social needs. I suspect that the situation is the same throughout Australia. We must recognise that these needs we are talking about are those which are best serviced by local government because it is the government closest to the people and these are basic human needs.
But that is not the whole picture, sorry as it may be. The principal source of local government revenue is rating. The rating system may have been a satisfactory source 50 years ago but simply is not such today. You just cannot go on pushing the rates up higher and higher. There has to be an end to this, otherwise, if rates become too high, private citizens no longer will be able to afford them, thus driving our people further and further out of their own cities to newer areas where the merry-go-round will start all over again. It appears that the municipalities are now caught between a limited source of revenue on the one hand and an exploding demand for services on the other.
This dilemma is sharpened by the larger urban development problems which the 1970s have in store for us. One of these urban development problems is the matter of high rise flats. It is part of modern mythology that these are the cheapest way of providing adequate housing for our citizens. Of course we know that in Melbourne such housing is not adequate enough for the citizens of our more affluent suburbs because only recently the citizens of Toorak were successful in preventing the intrusion of high rise flats into their living environment. Nevertheless, our governments are quite prepared to build these flats as fast as their funds allow, on the basis, as I said, that they are the cheapest method of providing housing for our citizens. Of course they are the cheapest if - it is a very big if and it has to be emphasised that it is only if - the cost of playing areas, schools, parking areas, reasonable social amenities and adequate transport facilities is excluded from the calculations.
It also needs to be pointed out that nobody seriously claims that high rise flat living pays proper regard to the rights of the individual in terms of dignity and privacy. What is happening in Victoria is that somebody in the bureaucratic machinery of government has marked certain areas upon a map as being in need of re-development, which in that person’s limited vision of life means nothing more than the construction of high rise flats. The land is expropriated regardless of the quality of life and the living environment in the area under attack, the people are evicted and the flats constructed. The people of Paddington in Sydney who have done such a magnificent job renovating and refurbishing the old houses in the area should thank God every night that the Victorian Housing Commission has no authority in New South Wales, otherwise some of the best living environments in Sydney would be demolished in the name of progress. As the people of Carlton in Melbourne know, while we can protect ourselves from those who do evil in the name of evil, God alone protects us from those who do evil in the name of good.
Local governments virtually are powerless to provide the services which obviously should be provided for the people unfortunate enough to have thrust upon them th: task of rearing families in high rise flats or, for that matter, those passing their declining years in high rise flats. Local governments cannot provide the playing areas; they cannot provide the schools, swimming pools, youth clubs or elderly citizens clubs, all of which have to be provided separately for each high rise development. Is it any wonder then that local government is becoming a declining force in our government organisation?
Added to this, our inner city municipalities today are being faced with a very special problem. There is a growing awareness in our community of the need for more orderly development of our cities and urgent and constructive action on pollution control. Recently, there was published in Victoria a traffic plan for the future development of Melbourne. Essentially this proposal was concerned with motor cars and how to facilitate their movement through and around Melbourne. It is worth noting that motor cars now are being increasingly recognised as the greatest polluters of all. One could be forgiven for concluding from this report that cities after all really are places for motor cars rather than people. Such was the emphasis in this report on the priority of the need? of private transport over public transport or pollution control. Of course we will need freeways but surely we have to get this matter into proper perspective. I hope we are able to do this before we are so committed in our freeway construction programmes that our cities degenerate into the concrete jungles clouded in smog that have become so much a part of the North American scene.
However, it has to be emphasised that even with the best of all possible plans for transport, there are today, and will continue to be, special problems for our inner city municipalities. These are the areas on which our transport systems will converge and these are the areas that will suffer the greatest physical dangers as a result. They are also the focal point of the pollution problems of our nation. In short, this is the arena where our ability to construct the quality of our living environment is being most obviously put to the test. Thus, in the name of redevelopment, our inner city municipalities face a future of great physical upheaval. What voice have they in this planning function? The answer is: Practically none. For a start, the planning is completely unco-ordinated. Transport people, pollution authorities, education departments, social services departments and the other departments with responsibilities and authority act as though their associated departments did not exist. In the face of this unco-ordinated attack the local governments do not have the resources to give themselves a meaningful voice powerful enough to be heard and taken into account. And all of this intrusion into the municipalities is supposed to work itself out economically on the basis of enlightened self-interest which, as all honourable members know, is always self-interested and seldom enlightened.
From the local government point of view an immediate effect of freeways and high rise flats is to markedly affect the status quo in regard to the value of land in the community. Some land values appreciate, others depreciate, and no mechanism exists either to spread the burden of land depreciation or to equitably reap the benefit of appreciation. Thus we have a growing band of astute ‘ speculators cashing in on the profits accruing from the land whose value appreciates and having for themselves for their own private use those profits which more properly should accrue to the community. Of course, these speculators leave the losses attached to land depreciation to be paid by the people of the municipalities. This is enlightened self interest, or so we are told.
These are some of the problems faced by our inner city municipalities. The important point to appreciate is that the need is urgent because the appropriate government departments already have all their plans on paper and, indeed, in some respects, already have implemented them. It is essential for the people of our cities to have a voice in the matters that affect the quality of their lives. This is why we have local government. Our local government system may need to undergo drastic re-organisation but this will take time and we cannot wait for these matters to be finalised. What can be done immediately is to recognise that local governments simply do not have the resources available right now to enable them to have a meaningful voice in the planning of their communities. Direct financial grants to local governments would go a long way towards overcoming this particular problem. If local authorities had the funds they would be able to afford the cost of the research and expert advice necessary for them to be able to promote informed public interest in these matters and to make socially relevant and pertinent submissions to the appropriate authorities.
It is my contention that first and foremost cities are places for people to live and that the proper vehicle for people to express themselves, in matters directly concerning their own communities, is through their local government. They are unable to do this today. However the Federal Government could do a lot towards making this possible simply by recognising this need and providing financial assistance direct to local governments, specifically for the purpose of equipping them with the capacity to meaningfully participate in the planning of their urban affairs. This, of course, would be only the first step. Our ultimate objective is surely the provision of a living environment that will provide the quality of life that our people in this rich country have a right to expect; a living environment that will give our people the opportunity to develop themselves to their full potential.
I contend that one of the prerequisites for the development of people is their involvement in the construction of their living environment and the proper vehicle for this involvement is their local government. If local government bodies are powerless in these matters, as they arc tending to become, we can expect the public to be apathetic about them. It is within the power of the Treasury benches to reverse this trend, because they and they alone have the resources. The Labor Party recognises the problem. It sees local government as a vital part of our national political structure. When Labor becomes the Government it will ensure that local authorities have the resources they need to be able to play the role properly expected of them in this affluent society. We are sick of the cry: Where is the money coming from?’ Our attitude is based on the simple premise, that if this wealthy country cannot solve the problems of its living environment it is not because of the lack of resources but rather a failure of leadership.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, firstly may I congratulate the Speaker (Sir William Aston) on his reelection and on the honour that Her Majesty the Queen has bestowed upon him. I am sure that he will continue to enjoy the confidence of honourable members on both sides of the House. I extend ray congratulations also to the Chairman of Committees (Mr Lucock) who has held that office with dignity for several years. I should like to congratulate the honourable member for Batman (Mr Garrick) upon his well prepared and will presented maiden speech. I also congratulate the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) whose contribution on abortion, I am sure, will be long remembered in this House. I congratulate him on his maiden speech.
I note that some days have passed since two new members had the honour of moving and seconding the Address-in-Reply. I refer to the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) and the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown). I should also like to congratulate them for their contributions to this debate. I know that the honourable member for Paterson brings to this House a long experience both in local government and in the State Parliament of New South Wales. He was Mayor of Gunnedah in my electorate for 18 years and was the State member for Upper Hunter for 8 years. Not many honourable members in this House have had the background of public life, both in the local government field and in the State government area, that the honourable member for Paterson has had. I am sure that he will make a very valuable contribution to this Parliament.
In turning to the Governor-General’s Speech I wish to express my satisfaction that due emphasis has been placed on the important matters of defence and security, our role in South East Asia and our concern to assist the people of Papua and New Guinea along the road to economic stability and nationhood. The first and foremost responsibility of the Australian Government is to ensure the security of our people. Whilst we must continue to support the United Nations and its principles in the hope that mankind will learn to live in peace and harmony, we must, in the circumstances of world tension and conflict, do all in our power to establish an effective defence preparedness. Not only must we maintain a national service training programme and improve the technical capacity of our weapons but we must also continue to strengthen our alliances with powerful friends and friendly neighbouring countries. These alliances will be strengthened only if Australia has the capacity and the will to honour its undertakings. Australia must continue to show her willingness to play her part in maintaining peace and stability in South East Asia. We cannot isolate ourselves from the problems of South East Asia and the need to develop some economic stability in the less developed countries.
The 1970s are likely to be a period of great change in Asia yet, I believe, a time of great opportunity for Australia. We should be active, imaginative and positive, showing a genuine desire to help mankind live in peace, respecting human ideals and aspirations regardless of race, creed or colour. We must continue to develop our industrial and economic strength to achieve this purpose. I believe that we can look back with pride on what we have already done since the last war. This should give us confidence to go into the 1970s with hope and a will to build on what we have already achieved.
Coming closer to home, I mention our very real responsibility in Papua and New Guinea. Tha House must welcome the special emphasis given to Papua and New Guinea in the Governor-General’s Speech. The Government has clearly expressed its determination to take steps to advance the Territory along the road to self government and independence. May I say that I deplore the statements and antics of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) during his recent trip to the Territory. One could liken him to a bull in a china shop. It was grossly unfair of the Leader of the Opposition to try to make political capital while on his fact finding tour of Papua and New Guinea. It was grossly unfair to a fine race of people to set an arbitrary date for their independence, regardless of the wishes of those people, and to put impossible pressures on a people struggling to enter this age. I believe that this policy is washing our hands of our moral responsibility to them. No wonder that even the Pangu Party was upset by the Leader of the Opposition.
– What roti
– It is in print. The honourable member can read it. No wonder we beard statements such as that from Mr Toua Kapena who is the Ministerial Member for Labour. He said: ‘Mr Whitlam has varied his statements to suit his purpose’. The attitudes of the Leader of the Opposition can be described as ill-informed, irresponsible and sometimes completely untrue. What an impression that is for the Leader of the Opposition to give these people. I believe that his political stunts back-fired. Honourable members can make their own judgments of this man who regards himself as the alternative Prime Minister of Australia. No wonder that our friend, Oala Oala-Rarua - who was a leader of the trade union movement in Papua-New Guinea - told the Leader of the Opposition when he was leaving Port Moresby that he had stirred up trouble and that he could pack up and go home. 1 turn to a brighter aspect and in doing so 1 pay tribute to the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes), a man who has come in for some criticism in certain circles. It has been fashionable in some political circles to criticise a man who has approached his problems with great sincerity of purpose. He has been charged with one of the most difficult of tasks, that of trying to bring a fragmented people - 2¼ million of them with 700 different languages and dialects - into some form of cohesion. I can assure honourable members that on a recent trip to Papua and New Guinea I heard very great tributes paid to the Minister for External Territories by indigenous leaders. I am sure that there will be more people paying tributes to him than to the Leader of the Opposition at this very moment. Among the indigenous leaders are some very intelligent and able men. They recognise that they have tremendous problems. They do not want to be pushed into a situation with which they cannot cope. They have been searching for answers, and I believe that the Australian Government has been sincerely trying to help them find the answers. This was the impression that I gained from those indigenous leaders with whom I spoke. I believe that the decision to give the Ministerial members the day to day responsibility for the operations of their departments is a wise one. We have got to try to step up our efforts, as the
Governor-General’s Speech outlined, to help these people along their own road to nationhood. I do appeal to all concerned not to make a political football out of a country which has 2¼ million people who are struggling to enter this age. Surely their future is more important to the world and to us than the future of one or two aspiring Prime Ministers.
– Well, keep the batons and tear gas out, then.
– The honourable member had his say on this subject and I listened to him with great respect. EarlierI said that in order to play our part in South East Asia and to have a sound defence structure we must continue to grow sound and strong economically. This means we must have a strong industrial base with a strong minerals industry and a viable rural industry - I mean by that primary and secondary industries in our rural communities. Perhaps one of the most serious economic problems facing Australia in this context is the difficulties of the rural industries. During the course of this debate a lot of emphasis has been placed on this aspect. I believe it is due emphasis. Of course, there is a great need to speed up our efforts to make decentralisation a reality in this country. I believe that we must continue to support our rural industries. They deserve support because they provide the great bulk of our export income. Today they are suffering severely from heavy cost-price pressures, international marketing difficulties and the drought which has continued intermittantly since 1964 and resulted in very heavy rural indebtedness.
Although the great mineral industries and discoveries provide a new dimension in the field of export opportunities, the sustenance of viable rural industries remains a corner-stone in the maintaining of a healthy balance of payments situation in Australia. Too many people have been so overwhelmed by the rapid growth of our secondary industries and blinded by the glitter of the new found minerals that they are inclined to underrate the continuing importance to Australia of the rural industries and the country communities. The overseas earnings of the farm industries provide the funds which are necessary for the capital requirements and imports of the great industrial and mineral developments which are taking place in Australia. Of course, this growth has in itself contributed largely to the cost problem. The farmers have had to absorb continually these costs by increasing their productivity. In many cases they have increased production only to find that they do not have the markets to meet the increased production.
I believe that the State governments as well as the Commonwealth Government must take steps to try to restrain the rate of cost increases in this country. To those who lament the subsidies and other forms of assistance which are being extended to the struggling farmers let me say that they are entitled to receive just compensation to offset the cost pressures which have arisen as a result of our growing economy - even if some of these resources are not necessarily being used for farm reconstruction programmes. We are living in a subsidised society. Some people seem to believe that the only section of the community which should stand on its own feet is the farming section, lt is standing at the end of the line and is unable to pass on its costs.
The modest member of Parliament, using the ‘Financial Review’ as a medium for subtle anti-farmer support policies, is undoubtedly having an influence on certain sections of our community, but he is also having a curious effect on certain of our parliamentary colleagues in this House. One honourable member seems to have been uttering the same words in recent speeches he has made as the fictitious Eccles, the character who parades the columns of the Financial Review’ as an economist. Of course, there was another Eccles. I think he was in the ‘Goon Show’. The honourable member to whom I am referring wants to be careful that Eccles does not get up the hackles of the farmers in his electorate.
The truth of the matter is that Australian farmers are generally efficient by world standards, but they are being burdened by cost pressures which have, in many cases, brought them to crisis point. I think the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) stated the truth of the situation in regard to the wool industry. A crisis point has been reached in the wool industry. Here we have a glaring example of an industry which has a great price problem as well as a cost problem. As a wool grower, I represent one of the largest wool growing electorates in New South Wales.
– And it can do with a new member.
– I would like to point out to my friend from Currabubula that I know how impossible it is for a wool grower in my electorate to produce medium grade wool for 3 lc or 32c a lb; but these are the prices which the growers in my electorate were getting at the Brisbane sale last week. It is impossible to make a profit out of wool at those prices. The desperate situation which is obtaining in my electorate has resulted in the calling of a very large meeting at Moree on 21st March. I would not be at all surprised if 5,000 wool growers were to attend the meeting, which is to be held at the showground, to ask for a radical marketing change in the wool industry.
Not only is financial aid necessary, but it is also imperative that we improve the efficiency of the transporting, handling and marketing of the Australian wool clip. The new wool marketing proposals which were announced by the Government provide the basis for transition to a more satisfactory handling and marketing procedure.
Wool is a product for which there is a ready world market. We export 95% of this product. It yields us about $800m a year in foreign exchange. But it is a product which is not selling at 1970 commodity prices; it is selling at prices below those which were obtained in 1948-49. This is a ludicrous situation. We have spent millions of dollars on promotion and research. The Governor-General said that legislation is to be introduced which will halve the present levy imposed on wool growers for research and promotion and increase the Commonwealth contribution to $27m per annum.
– Money down the drain.
– Although the honourable member says it is money down the drain, I believe it is a sound investment. There is no product in the world today which can be offered and sold on the world market without some form of promotion. We know that wool is holding its place in the apparel and textile markets, but at an unbelievably low price. If the world wants wool every avenue must be explored and explored urgently to ensure that a price consistent with 1970 basic commodity values is obtained. There can be no place for further procrastination and division within the industry. Decisions have to be made but they can be made only when the industry co-operates and approaches the problems objectively.
The history of Liberal-Country Party governments has been one of putting into effect the policies of primary, secondary or any other industries, provided they are practical. The Australian wheat industry is a notable example. When the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation recognised that declining world trade was building huge surpluses of wheat throughout the world, it set to work to devise a policy to rationalise production so as to avoid the chaos which would have occurred had action not been taken to restrain production in some way. This year the industry faces further problems, and so once again it has come to the Government with a plan. This proves that this Government stands ready to act on behalf of the industry. So I hope that the Australian wool industry is ready objectively to assess its problems and to come up with a constructive plan which will take care of its long term future.
Since it is of vital importance to reduce costs of production. I welcome the decision by the Government to set up a bureau of transport economics to analyse the economics of transport in Australia. I think that this is some of the best news contained in the Governor-General’s Speech. Australia is a land of vast distances. The costs of transport are a big factor in the cost structure. Most of our rural industries and decentralised secondary industries and mineral industries are confronted with the high cost of transportation, lt is important that every effort should be made to reduce the freight costs on our products. This is an essential ingredient in any programme of decentralisation. I regret, however, that no move has been forecast to reduce the costs of telephone charges and trunk calls to rural and country town subscribers. This is an area where the Commonwealth could help substantially if> alleviating the cost burdens on country industries and on people living and working in country towns - people engaged in primary production.
The telephone in the remote area is no luxury, lt is a sheer necessity for country people in order to communicate and to transact business, but they are asked to pay a very high price for their isolation. I believe that insufficient effort has been made to reduce the costs of telephone trunk charges, in spile of the enormous capital expenditure on new techniques which should surely have resulted in some cost efficiences. It is high time that we had a proper look at this problem. It is ridiculous that it costs as much to ring Horsham in Victoria from Sydney as it does to ring Dubbo from Sydney. It is a crazy system that makes it as costly to ring Murwillumbah from Sydney as it does to ring Perth. The whole cost structure needs to be re-examined with a view to establishing a flat rate charge for all calls within a State, whether they be local or trunk calls, based on a 3 minute interval. Why should people be able to talk and gossip on a local call for hours on end when people who happen to be just a little outside a certain radius can get a trunk call for only a 3 minute interval?
Added to this burden - and I have not mentioned the worst cost of all - is the cost which is facing some farmers in my electorate who are now going on to automatic exchanges. In one case in my electorate a grazier has been asked to pay $4,000 in order to be connected to an automatic exchange. I am sure that the honourable member for Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick) will have more cases of this in the very near future, because although the present policy might help people in the closer in areas, it has been a disadvantage to people in my electorate.
Very few people will argue against the need for decentralisation in our country areas. They will argue the means. But here are areas in which I submit the Commonwealth should be looking with a view to assisting decentralisation to eventuate. Not only is decentralisation necessary to stop the drift of young people to the cities, to provide them with job opportunities without leaving home, but it is necessary to ease the great problem of congestion and pollution in the cities. I believe that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech has made a constructive contribution to the future of Australia.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr CONNOR (Cunningham) TI 0.36]- Mr Deputy Speaker, I add to those of other senior members of this House my felicitations to those honourable members who have made their maiden speeches. They are to be welcomed and congratulated. 1 listened with particular interest, however, to the speech of the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass). No doubt he spoke with great eloquence and sincerity, but the thought ran through my mind, as he gave statistics, whether, if a question were asked of the various people who admit to being victims of abortion, they would have carried the child had there been an adequate family income, had there been a suitable home, and had there been some sense of social security. After air, it is not yet the policy of my party that there should be legalised abortion. There is a line to he drawn somewhere between liberty, compassion and licence, and the drawing of that line will engender a very great national moral debate.
To put the matter on sordid economic grounds, we need every child that we can get in Australia. If the statistics which the honourable member for Maribyrnong has given are correct, the immigration programme of which we boast - and rightly so - is a concealed failure because apparently there are more abortions than there are people coming into this country, after deducting the number of departing migrants. There is a case to be put, too, for marriage loans because today a young couple face this stark necessity. With inflation of land prices and building costs, young couples have the stark choice of either saving to acquire a home or having a family - they cannot do both. If and when we get adequate child endowment payments and a just wage and security for every worker, I think we will be entitled to have a look at the matters raised by the honourable member for Maribyrnong. Let me put it in another sense: The average adult worker in his working life of 44 years, according to the latest statistics, will produce wealth for this Commonwealth of approximately one-third of a million dollars. It well behoves the nation to give assistance to those people who are prepared to produce children. There is a case to be put for the yet unborn, and I commend the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) for the magnificent article which appeared in the official Labor publication ‘Radical’ of last week, published in Sydney.
Now I turn to my main interest tonight. In the Governor-General’s Speech reference was made to the Government’s decision to enact legislation which will assert and confirm the Commonwealth’s undoubted right to the control of the products of the continental shelf. Of course, there has been an immediate and pained reaction from the various States but the hard truth is that this Government has only itself to blame because it has ignored the repeated warnings of the Opposition as to what the true legal and constitutional position is, was and always has been, that is, that the Australian national Government has the sole and the sovereign paramount right to decide what is to be done in the way of production of oil and natural gas in particular, the terms under which it is to be produced, the areas which are to be allocated to the producers and, above all, the ultimate price that is to be paid by the consumers.
The Government, of course, has lacked and has deliberately refused to evolve anything in the way of a national fuel and power policy. Our greatest national asset is undoubtedly those oil and natural gas resources which lie under our off-shore waters, in particular those of Bass Strait. There is no country in the world which needs cheap motor transport and has greater use for it than Australia. No country is paying a greater price to get it, whether it be in sales tax, the inflated retail price of motor vehicles or the fuel which they consume. Three and a half million to four million motorists and commercial operators have an interest in the ultimate price of the petrol, the diesel fuel and the natural gas which will come from the off-shore oil wells.
It is of interest to note also that the New South Wales Government has had to take drastic action. In fact, one might say that it is performing something like Solomon’s judgment because it cannot decide the parentage of a transmission line for natural gas from Bass Strait to Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong and other major industrial centres in New South Wales. The hard truth is that the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd interests, Australian Gas Light Ltd, and the Australian interstate pipelines consortium have not been able to agree amongst themselves as to the price, the method of control of that pipeline or even as elementary a matter as the route of it, and the New South Wales Government has taken unilateral action. The State Minister for Mines, Mr Fife, stated when calling for tenders that he could not commit the Victorian Government and although the matter had been discussed it had not necessarily been confirmed.
On the question of the route, the proposed one is undoubtedly the correct one, but let me remind the House that Melbourne got its first natural gas in 1968. Heaven only knows on what date in 1970 natural gas - which is the property of the people of Australia and not of Sir Henry Bolte and his cohorts in Victoria - will come to feed the major industries of the major State of Australia. Of course, behind the scenes there has been a tug of war between the State Minister for Mines, representing the State electorate of Wagga, the former Minister for National Development representing Albury and the electorate of Farrer and. of course, the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) and the area of Gippsland which he represents. The Minister for the Interior has won and the route is undoubtedly the correct one. Unless and until there is some decision on the price of the natural gas Sydney and the other major cities of New South Wales will never receive it. There seems to be some endemic form of economic myopia on the southern side of the Murray River.
May I remind the House that in 1967, when natural gas was first discovered, it was discovered on an illegal permit and a lease issued by the Victorian Government with the connivance and the consent of the Commonwealth Government. As with all of these problems, the longer one delays and the more reluctant one is to grasp the nettle the more difficult and painful the ultimate solution is, and the chickens of this Government are coming right home to roost because the hard truth is that for reasons best known to the Victorian Government it chose to agree to a price for natura] gas in that State which was contrary to the advice of a certain Mr Hetherington - an expert engaged for the purpose - and to ignore the very deliberate advice of its own Gas and Fuel Corporation, and finally to agree to a price which was twice that which Dr Alex Hunter, a noted authority from the Australian National University, said was a fair and reasonable price to pay. Without burdening the House with the details, I point out that the truth is that in Victoria the wholesale price of natural gas is of the order of 3.6c per therm. That price includes the cost of production, after-treatment and transmission to the Melbourne City gate valve. In Canada the price of natural gas is 1.4c per them. In the United States - let it be noted that in that stronghold of private enterprise there is a Federal Power Commission - the price of natural gas is 1.5c per therm. In the United Kingdom for the first 100 million cubic- feet consumption per day the price is 3c per therm. For the vast residue it reduces to 1 .5c per therm.
There may be very good reasons for what has happened in Victoria but the hard truth is that we have a most backward and most amazing agreement between the former Prime Minister, Mr Holt, and the present Premier of Victoria, which has been attacked as being illiterate and unintelligible. I draw the attention of the House to this masterpiece of parochialism and of interstate suspicion, rivalry and stupidity. The following is a letter written on 16th February 1967 by the Prime Minister to the Premier of Victoria. It reads:
Dear Mr Premier,
Following the discussion we had regarding the disposal inter-State of natural gas from the discoveries of petroleum off the shore of Victoria, I believe we have come to the following understanding.
We are agreed that Victoria should not be required to approve any transaction for the sale of natural gas inter-State which would have the effect of putting Victoria at a disadvantage in relation to that inter-Slate purchaser, having regard to the following: 1 Adequate reserves are available to meet contractual obligations already entered into.
In other words, the supply of natural gas for Victoria was to be assured. No-one can take exception to that. The letter continues: 2 The conditions of such sale and their relation to sales already effected in Victoria: 3 The effect of the cost of transmission to any such inter-State market.
For your part, you agree that, subject to the conditions stated above being observed, Victoria will not withhold consent to any such transaction.
Then, of course, there was the reciprocal letter accepting the terras. In other words, the position is that a State which never had the constitutional power to do so is still dictating to another sovereign State the price that is to be paid for natural gas. Sir Henry Bolte is playing dog in the manger and worse, because he is insisting that New South Wales is to pay the same exaggerated price, an entirely unrealistic and uneconomic price, as he has chosen to inflict upon the people of Victoria. Added to that, of course, is to be the cost of transmission. The whole rickety structure on which the legislation has been based in relation to off-shore petroleum has been destroyed by a recent decision in the case of Bonser v. La Macchia. It has been stated by Sir Garfield Barwick and Sir William Windeyer that Commonwealth jurisdiction in respect of the continental shelf commences at the low water line and extends to the outermost limits of the shelf. That being so all natural gas and crude oil is being produced on Commonwealth territory and it is the Commonwealth alone which has the power to fix at thegate valve - on the drilling platform in Bass Strait - the correct and fair price for natural gas. Until the Commonwealth is prepared to use that power New South Wales will not be able to get the gas to which it is entitled. This is a disgraceful state of affairs - one that cannot be allowed to continue.
The Government has been warned time and again. This issue has been raised repeatedly by me and other members of the Opposition, including the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). We have never deviated from our claim - a correct claim - that the Comomnwealth has the supreme power. What did we find in this case where the Italian fisherman was prosecuted for some offence in relation to fisheries and the type of net he was using. We found creeping into court no less august personages than the then Attorney-General and the Solicitor General for New South Wales to ask the court not to adjudicate on the status or sovereignty of the 3 mile limit - the area between low water mark and what bad been conventionally and by a common error believed to be within the control of the States. They were routed and told in no uncertain terms by the Chief Justice that it was necessary to make that decision. They went out greatly discomforted.
What does the Government intend to do? On the first day of this parliamentary session, immediately after the GovernorGeneral had delivered his speech, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) what he intended to do about regulating prices. He replied that he would not disturb the existing price structure. The price structure is this contemptible, illiterate and unintelligible arrangement - a matter of an exchange of letters which has never been ratified by this House and by which Sir Henry Bolte for all time is to decide the price and the terms and conditions on which natural gas flows to New South Wales. That is not the limit of the Government’s sins of omission and commission. There is an even greater sin. 1 come now to a gentleman who might fairly be described as subsidy Jack, because whatever he touches he subsidises. Probably the worst of his excesses was the fantastic subsidy he originally agreed to give following a committee of inquiry into the production of crude oil. The Prime Minister was not privy to that arrangement - he was not then Prime Minister - but having to face the possibility of an election in 1 968 he had stepped in and made the best deal he could. Instead of the agreed price - the fantastic price of $3.18 a barrel for crude oil - he put up an argument to the Esso-BHP group along these lines: Look, the McEwen price will last only until September 1970. After that the cat is out of the bag. The Labor Opposition is hot on the trail and you will have to accept world parity. I am putting a proposition to you - take a little less for the short term and we will give you more in the long term. Say that we guarantee that you will get world parity for the period 1970-1975. You know as well as I that there is over-production of crude oil throughout the world and that there is acute price competition. You will be well on the safe side and well protected.
Of course, it was an abortive move in the sense thai the election for which the Prime Minister was preparing was vetoed by the Democratic Labor Party. Had he dared go to the country at that time the consequences would have been just as drastic as they were 12 months later. A Labor government will inquire into the exact extent of the resources of Bass Strait. I have it on reliable authority that the depth of the oil bearing sands and the permeable strata is up to 300 feet and comparable to the best in the Persian Gulf. Let the Government deny that if it can or if it will. Let it deny that the cost of production is between 50c and 75c a barrel. With Bass Strait oil coming on stream within the next month or two, at peak production there will be a flow of between 250,000 and 300.000 barrels a day. If you take the differential between the price and the margin of $2.06 which has been agreed on, the profits are fantastic.
Let it be said that every credit is due to the Esso-BHP group for its initiative and the technical work it has don.e. Let it also be remembered that it had the advice of the best authority in the world - Mr Louis Weeks; Mr 2£%. He gave the group the correct lead and it had remarkably successful results. A benevolent Government has made the total expenditure on research, drilling, refining and transmission of oil tax rebatable. By the end of 1971 about $585m will have been spent on the Bass Strait oil fields by the Esso-BHP consortium. Let us look at the other side of the picture. Recently and conveniently, when it looked as though the matter of gas supplies for New South Wales would be warming up, this consortium, which is a pretty closemouthed consortium, suddenly discovered that in the Snapper field there was a little matter of about 3 trillion cubic feet of gas available, adding 50% to the known supplies. That is a total, I believe, of 9 trillion cubic feet, worth about $2,500m. It has been admitted that there is in the vicinity of 2.4 billion barrels of crude oil. So you can say that in return for an outlay of $585m there will be a return of about $8 billion.
That is very nice for the people concerned but what about the consumer. What is his position to be? Already, despite the fact that a petrol price war is being waged and despite the fact that reductions of up to 10c a gallon are being given to certain consumers, the major oil companies, keep ing a straight face, are approaching the South Australian Prices Commissioner seeking an increase in the price of petrol, using the plausible story that it will cost more to refine Australian oil. Where does the farce end? What does this Government intend to do? Obviously nothing, because its political philosophy is a very simple one: If there is no profit in it, let public enterprise do it; if there is a profit, let it go to private enterprise. This is the biggest bonanza of all time. This is the golden handshake. It is a scandal that we will probe to the limit. The Government has been warned. It has to accept the responsibility for this dereliction. The present situation is disgraceful. There will be chaos, confusion and litigation and the ultimate result will be the defeat of the Government on this issue at the next general election.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hughes) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Hughes) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Today has been a day of some difficulty for me. I have spent a considerable time thinking and that has brought about considerable confusion. I want to raise one matter tonight and perhaps tomorrow I will again sink into my oblivion. Yesterday the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) asked the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) a question about Mr Wilfred Burchett in relation to the Crimes Act. He asked whether certain things which had been done by this gentleman in Korea and North Vietnam were not covered by the Crimes Act and whether the Crimes Act has been amended or would be amended to provide that in future if such actions were carried out by anybody and were treasonable or considered treasonable against Australia such persons would be charged. He received an answer which, with respect to the Attorney-General, has confused me a little. I quote only part of that answer. The Attorney-General said:
The question that the honourable gentleman has raised does involve a very general question of legislative policy. I am bound to say that the requirement as to the existence of a proclaimed enemy was introduced into the Crimes Act in 1960. There being a question of policy involved, all I can properly undertake to do is to take the matter into consideration and let the honourable member know in due course what my decision is.
As you know, Mr Speaker, I have been endeavouring to attract your attention for a few days and today you kindly gave me the call at question time. I then asked the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) a question in relation to another matter concerning treason. I asked the Prime Minister, in relation to a call to mutiny made at a certain meeting of shop stewards in Victoria which was chaired by the Chairman of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party, whether, in fact, treason had been committed and, if so, why no action had been taken; and, in view of the answer given to the honourable member for Boothby by the Attorney-General relating to policy, whether the Prime Minister could advise me what the policy was. I am concerned about this matter because 1 am confused in my mind. I think a number of Australians are confused as to what the situation is in Australia in respect of such acts.
In 1967 we passed a Bill which stopped university students collecting money to be sent to North Vietnam or the Vietcong. The penalties we prescribed for anybody undertaking this work were quite considerable. Section 3 of the Defence Force Protection Act of 1967 states: (1.) A person -
contributes or gives money or goods to a person;
The section then lists various countries and organisations including the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the Vietcong. The penalties are listed and provide, upon summary conviction, for a fine not exceeding $1,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 1 year. The section lists the gradations of penalties. I emphasise that this section relates to the collecting of money by university students.
We also had a debate in this House relating to stopping people trading with North Vietnam or sending tallow there, the inference being that this was assisting and aiding the enemy and should not be encouraged. I think that honourable members from both sides were in agreement on this matter. Indeed, I think it was raised by the Labor Party. However, it seems extraordinary to me that when Australian soldiers are fighting in South Vietnam - when we have regular servicemen and national servicemen fighting there, and when we have called them up to go and fight there - we have no provisions covering such calls as have been made by the shop stewards and, indeed, by a Professor D. Roebuck of one university, an Englishman who came to Australia and who reiterated the call for the Australian troops to lay down their arms and mutiny. Not only that, but a number of teachers in New South Wales publicly came out and put their names to the call for the Australian troops to mutiny.
The Prime Minister made strong statements and said that the strongest action would be taken. He said it was disloyalty of the highest order to call upon troops to mutiny and that the Australian Government would see that the call did not succeed. I read his statement that action was to be taken to see that the call to mutiny did not succeed, so I want to know, with respect, exactly what this action is. Is it that the Government is going to strengthen the military police in Vietnam so that the call will not succeed? Or is it that the Government is going to prevent such calls being made here in the homeland as could be used effectively with the troops in Vietnam by certain sections to the detriment of our troops’ morale and their outlook on what is happening at home? It does seem to me that we are passing laws and we are fighting a war, yet people in Australia can get up and make such pleas as a call to mutiny. However they may explain it, the clear facts are that Professor Roebuck and a small section of the teachers in New South Wales have made it plain that they want our troops to lay down their arms, to disobey orders and turn around in the face of the enemy and refuse to fight.
I can imagine how the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) would have felt during the last war if he had been in a situation like this and had found that back at home, where he was hoping that people were acting in his best interest and trying to support him, trade unions and other sections were coming out blatantly and calling on the Australian troops to lay down their arms and mutiny against their officers and their country, and gaining the greatest coverage in the Press. I have waited, and many people have waited, to see what the Government is going to do about this situation. If the law is such that it does not cover this trespass or treason, surely the law should be amended. Surely it is time these things were prevented in Australia.
Last weekend I was at a Returned Services League conference in New South Wales. The RSL there protested strongly that it had heard little from the Government. It had seen little action from the Government in support of the troops - in support of their comrades in South Vietnam. The RSL had written to the Prime Minister, to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and to various national newspapers. Indeed, representatives of the RSL had even gone to the national newspapers and asked them to print that conferences in New South Wales and Queensland had condemned strongly and violently this most atrocious and disloyal call for Australian troops to lay down their arms. But they got no publicity at all. They are wondering what is happening in this country when these things can happen and where no action appears to be taken. They wonder when somebody gets up and says: Well, this is a question of policy and it is a matter of what decision I make when I make my decision.’ I am not criticising the Attorney-General for this because I can understand his problem, but surely to goodness if we expect men to go to Vietnam to fight for this country, each and every one of us, whether we agree with the war or whether we agree with the issues or not, has to see that they are supported. Anyone who has seen mutiny or has seen mutiny threatened in a situation where the morale of troops is lowered knows how terrifying it can be. Instead of saying that the troops should not mutiny, the Government should introduce a policy that will ensure that calls for mutiny in the future are outlawed in this country.
– I do not want to refer to the subject that the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) has just raised. I want to take the House back to the debate on the case of Burchett that took place in this House on 5th and 6th March. The Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) explained why the Government would not prosecute a man who it had accused of treason. At page 193 of Hansard he is reported as having said:
First of all I would deal with the last point raised by the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell). He asked me, in effect, about Burchett’s activities in Vietnam and whether anything could be done about them. The answer is that under the law as it presently stands - that is, the Crimes Act which now has an extra-territorial operation - a prosecution for the offence of treachery or the offence of treason cannot be mounted unless the war is a proclaimed war and there is a proclaimed enemy. Those conditions are certainly not-
I ask the Attorney-General to say now whether this means that under the law as it stands at present a person who goes to Vietnam and commits treasonable activities against the Australian forces engaged there is free from prosecution because this is an undeclared war and is not a proclaimed war against a proclaimed enemy. Does it mean that, so long as a person does not commit murder, a crime with which he could be charged, as the law now stands he can make his way to Vietnam, blow up troop establishments, sabotage our forces and engage in treasonable activities, yet be completely free from any charge?
If this is the position, is it not scandalous that people who demonstrate against this unproclaimed war are bundled into a police van, fingerprinted, photographed and treated like criminals? If a person cannot be prosecuted for treasonable activities in Vietnam, on what ground is the Government imprisoning people who in Australia refuse to present themselves for national service because they do not want to fight in an unproclaimed war or against an unproclaimed enemy? On what ground does the Government justify fining and imprisoning people who refuse to register for national service in this country because they believe they will be called upon to fight against an unproclaimed enemy in an unproclaimed war? Is it not amazing that, according to the Attorney-General, a person can commit treachery or treason and go completely free because this is not a proclaimed war against a proclaimed enemy, while another person who has the courage of his convictions can spend up to 2 years in prison because he does not believe in fighting in that unproclaimed war? Similarly, a person who demonstrates outside the Prime Minister’s Lodge is photographed, the photograph is kept for all time and he can be placed on a list that may result in his being refused a job at some time. Even at this time people in this Territory are being charged with offences when they engage in demonstrations and subsequently they are convicted.
Apparently the law applies to persons who commit minor offences but not to persons who commit treason. Persons who commit treason can go their hardest; the Government does not care. All it wants is the opportunity to blackguard such people and to utter smears against them. However, they go completely free. On the other hand the poor person who protests, refuses to register or has a conscientious objection to the war does his time the hard way in Pentridge, Long Bay or somewhere else because of the policy of this Government. It is scandalous that, in this situation, some people are in prison, others are facing charges and action is being taken against people who have the courage of their convictions and protest against this unproclaimed war while people who go to Vietnam and sabotage our efforts are allowed to go completely free. It is no wonder that great dissatisfaction is evident in some quarters.
I would like the Attorney-General, who is now at the table, to explain what he intends to do about the law. If the position is as 1 believe it to be, I think the people in gaol should be released immediately, no more prosecutions should be launched and the Government should not take the strong action that it does against people who demonstrate against this unproclaimed, undeclared war. Therefore, I raise this matter tonight. I am not much interested in what the honourable member for La Trobe has raised, because he is always talking about these things. His reactionary approach to these problems does not help anybody concerned with them. He places the wrong interpretation on matters and does not present the facts in the correct light. Then be seeks to have something done about them.
I raise these matters tonight in the hope that the Attorney-General will answer them. I refer him particularly to his statement on Sth March, which appears on page 193 of Hansard, in which he gave the reasons why a person whom government supporters had declared in the most smearing way to be guilty of treason could not be prosecuted under the law as it stands. It is a public and national scandal that men are in gaol for not registering for national service because they do not want to serve in the war in Vietnam. Demonstrations against the war have been stopped in the most vicious way by the Government, which is endeavouring to suppress the dissent against the war that exists in the community. Yet persons can commit acts of treason against our servicemen in Vietnam and can evidently go completely free. I ask the Attorney-General whether he will give u.s the benefit tonight, completely free of charge, of his knowledge of the law, of which he boasts so much in this Parliament. Let him wriggle out of this unproclaimed and undeclared war proposition and tell u.s why a man can commit treason and go free when another man cannot protest against the war or refuse to register for national service without being placed in gaol.
These matters are probably treated lightheartedly by the Attorney-General but it is not a lighthearted matter to spend a couple of years in Pentridge Gaol, Long Bay Gaol or somewhere else for offences concerned with a war which the Government says does not exist and which, for that matter, should not exist. I raise this matter because I believe it requires an explanation. Perhaps the Attorney-General will tell us whether he intends to amend the law or whether he intends to allow it to remain as it stands. It is all very well for the honourable member for La Trobe to get up here and attack trade unionists and others who have led the fight against this unjust war in Vietnam. He sits idly by and sees boys go to gaol because they will not serve in this undeclared and unproclaimed war. He never raises one word of protest in the Parliament. In other words, his role is merely to decry trade unionists and others who are putting up the fight that all fair people in this country should be putting up against this Government’s policy in regard to Vietnam.
Instead of giving us a lecture or asking for some action to be taken against trade unionists and others, the honourable member for La Trobe ought to ask the Government to withdraw its forces from Vietnam. Practically all nations are demanding that we get right out of that part of the world. The honourable member for La Trobe is no doubt well able to defend himself. Apparently he wields certain power in the Government, which is now tottering on the edge of defeat because of its limited numbers. I would like him to display more of the courage he showed earlier today on that momentous occasion when he voted for the Australian Labor Party’s amendment to the motion to re-appoint the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise. I would like to see him cross the floor and vote with the Labor Party on a national issue seeking the withdrawal of forces from Vietnam. The honourable member for La Trobe and other rebels on the other side of the Parliament have an opportunity to show their courage. The courage that they say it takes to fight in Vietnam can be exemplified in a smaller way in this Parliament by voting with the only Party that can do anything for the Australian people and put an end to the Vietnam war. T refer of course to the Australian Labor Party.
I hope that those rebels opposite who want to take a rise out of the Government will do so during the course of this Parliament. It is no good for honourable members opposite to talk about what ought to be done and what ought not to be done. As the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) said in a memorable speech on the Burchett case here the other night, it is a case of put up or shut up. If honourable members opposite do not like what the Government is doing, let them vote against the Government and so defeat it. That will be the test of whether or not they believe in the policies that are being followed by the Government. The honourable member for La Trobe is a happy, congenial though rebellious fellow. He has an amazing arrangement with the Government. He can say anything he likes outside the House as long as he votes with the Government inside the House. Tonight I offer him the opportunity to vote with the Opposition on this issue. Whilst the matter of the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise was an important matter, Vietnam is a much more important one. I would like to see him vote with the Opposition on this matter so that men can be released from gaol and justice can be given to those people fighting against an undeclared war. Above all else, I would like the brilliant Attorney-General to give us the benefit of his wisdom and knowledge on just what is the situation with regard to treason in this country.
Mr JESS (La Trobe) - I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for Grayndler suggested that I had an arrangement with the Government which allowed me to speak in one way outside the Parliament and to vote inside the Parliament in a different way. I deny this. I remind the House that I have crossed the floor at least once, whereas the honourable member for Grayndler has n<- =r crossed the floor at all.
– Over a number of years and in a number of Parliaments we have been treated to a series of very entertaining, almost Gilbert and Sullivan-like performances from the honourable and distinguished member for Grayndler (Mr Daly). I thought that there was one aspect of his speech on the motion for the adjournment of the House this evening which ought to be brought to the attention of our honourable and learned AttorneyGeneral (Mr Hughes). When the honourable member began his speech he cast doubts upon the integrity of what had been presented by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess). He said that it was a wrong presentation. Therefore, I ask the Attorney-General to clarify in this Parliament, for the benefit of the record, whether or not it is true that a distinguished and eminent member of the Australian Labor Party in Victoria did in fact incite Australian troops in action, at war. to mutiny and to throw down their arms in the face of the enemy. That is either true or false.
The honourable member for Grayndler may not with integrity in this Parliament cast doubts upon the validity of the comment made by the honourable member for La Trobe, and 1 hope that the honourable, distinguished and learned Attorney-General will handle that matter in the appropriate way, because he will recall, as he is old enough now to do so, that even 30 years ago when the last Great War started those gentlemen who sit on the opposite side of the Parliament until the middle of 1941, when the paradise of the people’s proletariat was attacked, were consistently against the war effort. They were doing everything they could to destroy the morale of the Australian forces engaged in the war against Nazi Germany. The comments made tonight by the honourable member for Grayndler were therefore ill-considered and, in my judgment, should be refuted.
– Since questions of law have been raised again tonight. I would like the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) to explain to me and to the House why one code of law can be levelled against one person or one section of the community and no code of law levelled against another person or another section of the community. At the present time a young man is serving a 2-year gaol sentence in the Sale prison in Victoria because he is a conscientious objector against war, particularly the war in Vietnam. This young man failed to meet his commitments under the National Service Act.
We know that 8,000 people throughout the Commonwealth have signed a statement known as the ‘Statement of Defiance’ - 1 will1 quote it later - and in doing so have breached section 7a of the Crimes Act. The Commonwealth courts in Sydney and in other places have in fact inflicted fines on certain persons. I might say that one person is the distinguished uncle of the Attorney-General. Other distinguished people have been fined. Eight thousand people have broken this law and more than one hundred people have been prosecuted already. Very few of them, even though they have been fined, have paid their fines. Yet the Commonwealth has not taken action to put those people in gaol. Refusal to pay the fine could mean 25 days in gaol
In fact the Commonwealth has now reached a position where it has refused to issue summonses because it is fearful that the 8,000 may grow into 80,000 and the 80,000 may grow into 800,000. These people want to stand by these young men - just a handful of young men - whom the Commonwealth is putting in gaol for their conscientious beliefs either as complete conscientious objectors against war or as conscientious objectors against a particular war. We know the treatment that the Government handed out to young men such as William White, Simon Townsend and John Zarb. They all proved themselves. They are great young men of our era. We should hold them up as young men to be given great respect because they are fighting for conscience and human dignity. Yet the Commonwealth has used its powers to put them in gaol.
However, 8,000 people have signed a statement of defiance and some of them have been convicted under section 7a of the Crimes Act. A former Attorney-General gave an opinion in this House. In fact, since he gave that opinion the senior magistrate in Sydney, Mr Rodgers, has fined many people. The statement of defiance reads:
Those young men whose principles will not permit them to register under the present National Service Act and who refuse to be coerced into any war which they believe to be immoral and unjust, have my wholehearted support, encouragement and aid.
If 1 were required to register under present conditions, I would refuse. Therefore, while young men may serve two years gaol because they have the courage to defy conscription and oppose the Vietnam war, I am compelled to stand with them.
That is not an easy statement to sign. I signed this statement of defiance. I thought deeply about the question. I know that it is not easy to make a statement such as that. I know how difficult it is for a young man 20 years of age to stand up against the establishment and law and authority, and to have the moral courage to say as a conscientious objector: ‘I will not go to war’ or to say: ‘I will not go to this war in Vietnam because it is an immoral war, it is a war that is a crime against the people of Vietnam and it is a war in which the most advanced civilised nation of the world has dropped more bombs on this little peasant country of Vietnam than were dropped on all the Axis powers during the Second World War’. These young men, who have read about and given thought to the Nuremberg trials, have said: ‘1 will not be a party to such an action’. I have tried to put myself in the position of these young men. I was a young soldier of 20 years of age.
– Here we go again.
– The Minister for Repatriation says: ‘Here we go again’. The trouble with him is that his mind is sick. He should do something about having it attended to. The point is that a man of 20 years of age has made a decision on a question of conscience. It is not an easy decision to make, lt is not easy to find the courage to stand up against the establishment. I think we should give such a man encouragement. 1 ask the Attorney-General why he does not prosecute the 8,000 men who have signed the act of defiance? Men have been convicted under section 7a of the Commonwealth Crimes Act. Although these men have been fined most of them have refused to pay the fine, with a few exceptions. Why does not the Attorney-General see that they get 25 days gaol in the same way that the Government gave Brian Ross 2 years in Sale gaol? Why does the Government pick on a young man and put him in gaol for 2 years when it will not deal with these other gentlemen within our community? Why is there this difference? Why does the Government treat one person in the community differently to others? I thought that under the law all men were equal; that no preferences were shown.
This is the point that concerns me about the Government: It is playing ducks and drakes with the law. I thought the law should be just, and just to everybody. The Government is still putting young men in gaol for 2 years. Why will not the Government prosecute the 8,000 men I referred to? It does not do so because if it did the number would grow to 80.000, then to 800,000, and the Government knows that it would have trouble on its hands.
– Mr Speaker, tonight honourable members on both sides of the House have invoked my assistance on questions of law. May I be permitted the wistful thought that my opinions are perhaps not so valuable in pecuniary terms as they were at one time? But be that as it may. I was interested in one remark by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) and I am sure you also were, Sir. He said he found difficulty in being defiiant. I have never before seen him labouring under that difficulty. Perhaps you have not done so either, Sir.
I propose to deal in, I hope, a reasonable dispassionate manner with the various questions put to me. Firstly, not necessarily by any means in order of importance, may I refer to the questions posed to me by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly)? The honourable member put this to me: Why, if proof of the offence of treason, as defined in section 24 of the Commonwealth Crimes Act, requires as one of the ingredients in the proof that the war should be a proclaimed war, does the Government not amend the law so as to abolish that requirement? That, in truth, I hasten to say, is a matter of legislative policy which would require consideration, if any amendment were to be made, by members of the Government other than myself. It does not lie solely within my jurisdiction to alter the law.
However, let me put to the House one simple thought: Let us suppose that the Government were to seek to amend the law so as to abolish the requirement for the purposes of the offence of treason that the war should be a proclaimed war. I wonder, Sir, how the honourable member for Grayndler would vote? He and his entire Party, unless I judge its members amiss, would vote to retain ingredient in the offence. T think the simple proposition which I have just put to the House serves to demonstrate - and I say this with friendly respect - that the honourable member for Grayndler is the most artful exponent of the art of shedding crocodile tears that this House has ever seen.
I come now to the matters raised by the honourable member for Reid before I deal with the points to which the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) referred. The honourable member for Reid asked me to tell the House why I have not, up to the present time, taken any steps to enforce the fines imposed on people who pleaded guilty to publishing, or allegedly publishing, the statement in defiance of the National Service Act.
– Why do you defer?
– I listened to the honourable member with attention and without interrupting. I hope he will pay me the same compliment. All I want to say about the committee in defiance of the National Service Act is that proceedings are pending in the Supreme Court of New South Wales, in the court of appeal, in which the Commonwealth is an intervening party. In those proceedings one of the prosecutors against people who allegedly signed the statement in defiance of the National Service Act is seeking a writ of mandamus against the Clerk of Petty Sessions requiring him to issue warrants for the committal of the defendants to prison. As I say, the Commonwealth is intervening in those proceedings by leave of the court of appeal. I think the House will accept my assurance that for me to open up this question at this present time would infringe most seriously upon a very important rule, and that is that in this House no-one should canvass the merits, one way or another, of litigation which remains sub judice. The honourable member for Reid, I hope, will accept my assurance that were I to do so I would be trespassing against that rule and opening up matters which should not be opened up until the court has given its decision.
The honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) and the honourable member for La Trobe each asked me about the mutiny resolution passed in Melbourne. Undoubtedly the resolution was published which, in its natural meaning, amounted to an incitement to mutiny. I confirm precisely what the honourable member for North Sydney put to me. The terms of that resolution reflected no credit upon those who were responsible for its publication. But i am going to be dispassionate, I am not going to go over that ground. The action by these people has been roundly condemned In terms upon which I could not improve. As a law officer of the Crown it is my task to approach in a calm fashion the question whether people should be prosecuted for alleged offences, fastening upon the principles of law involved, bearing in mind that as AttorneyGeneral I have a discretion whether to prosecute, and that that discretion is to be exercised on clearly settled grounds.
The first question is whether there is prima facie evidence of an offence. However, that is only one of the questions that is relevant to the exercise of my discretion. I have to consider not only that bare question but the further question of whether, upon the whole of the information available to me as a result of the inquiries I made in this case and in the case of Roebuck, a prosecution would be likely to succeed. That is a very important consideration for any law officer of the Crown to take into account before he decides whether to prosecute for an offence. I have exercised my discretion. It is a discretion, of course, for which I am answerable to this House and I readily accept the fact that I am answerable to this House for it. But I say this, and I say it without any hesitation, that after the most careful examination based upon very full inquiries which were made into the case of the mutiny resolution, I concluded, as a law officer of the Crown, that it was not a case in which I should regard it as proper to prosecute.
– Have you thought about altering the law?
– The honourable member for Casey (Mr Howson) asks me whether I have thought about altering the law. These thoughts do not altogether escape one, I can assure the honourable gentleman. I think the honourable gentleman will recognise the plain reality of life, and that is that I am one member of the Government and I am sure that he will give mc credit for not having allowed the thought to escape me. 1 was proposing to deal, as I thought it proper to deal, with the specific questions raised by the honourable member for La Trobe. I gave the whole question of the mutiny very anxious consideration. So did my senior advisers, including the SolicitorGeneral. The Solicitor-General and I considered the matter independently and, independently o!f each other, came to the same conclusion, namely that in all the circumstances disclosed as the result of inquiries it was not fi case in which it was proper to prosecute.
– You just have to rely on the old political smear.
– It is sad that after 3 years we have that squeak again in the House. The note upon which I propose to conclude is this: I hope the House will give me credit for having considered the matter anxiously and fully. I do not propose to say any more.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following answer to a question upon notice was circulated:
Cultural Agreement with Indonesia (Question No. 50)
What activities have taken place under the Cultural Agreement entered into with Indonesia in July 1968.
Various projects have been undertaken under the Cultural Agreement, some of which have required lengthy planning and preparation. The major activities have been:
The Department of External Affairs has been active in assisting arrangements for the appearance of the Balinese Dance Group at this year’s
Adelaide Festival. It has also co-operated with other interested Departments in the mounting of an exhibition of contemporary Australian paintings which will be shown in Djakarta and Bandung for three weeks in May and June.
In association with the Elizabethan Theatre Trust the Australian Embassy in Djakarta is arranging for the Australian Marionette Theatre to perform in Indonesia next July after its appearances at Expo 70 at Osaka. The Embassy is also involved in preliminary work on a project to bring a large group of Indonesian dancers to Australia later this year.
Since July 1968, twenty-two gift libraries of books on Australia have been presented to Indonesian universities and institutions. In this same period the Director of Culture of the Indonesian Department of Education and Culture and two executives of the Indonesian Publishers’ Association visited Australia.
House adjourned at 11.42p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 March 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19700311_reps_27_hor66/>.