27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2 p.m., and read prayers.
Australian Capital Territory By-election: Issue of Writ
– I have to inform the House that on 20th April I issued the writ in connection with the by-election for the Australian Capital Territory. The dates fixed are those announced to the House on 15th April.
Dr CASS 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; and (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 (1) 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;
Petition received and read.
Mr KENNEDY 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; and (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 (1) 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; (2) the immediate financing of special programmes for low income earners, migrants, Aboriginals, rural and inner suburban dwellers and handicapped children; and (3) the provision of pre-school opportunities for all children from culturally different or socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
– particularly the ‘big red’ species - is now so low that they may become extinct. As a tourist attraction the kangaroo is a permanent source of revenue to Australia. It is an indisputable fact that no species can withstand hunting on such a scale, when there is no provision being made for its future.
The petitioners pray that the export of kangaroo products be banned immediately and that the Commonwealth Government take steps to bring control of wildlife under its jurisdiction. Only a complete cessation of killing for commercial purposes can save surviving kangaroos.
Petition received and read.
Mr REID presented from certain residents of the State of Victoria a petition showing that because of the uncontrolled shooting for commercial purposes, the population of kangaroos - particularly the big red’ species - is now so low that they may become extinct. As a tourist attraction the kangaroo is a permanent source of revenue to Australia. It is an indisputable fact that no species can withstand hunting on such a scale, when there is no provision being made for its future.
The petitioners pray that the export of kangaroo products be banned immediately and that the Commonwealth Government take steps to bring control of wildlife under its jurisdiction. Only a complete cessation of killing for commercial purposes can save surviving kangaroos.
MrWENTWORTH presented from certain electors of the Division of Mackellar a petition showing that in the national interest, it is essential that there be an effective and respected Commonwealth conciliation and arbitration system; that the decision given by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the professional engineers’ case on 3rd December 1969, which has followed to the letter in both magnitude and date of operation the salary increases for engineers employed in the Commonwealth Public Service which were announced before the arbitration hearing had concluded, has given rise to utter dismay and has indicated a lack of independent assessment: that recent statements made at the Australian Workers Union Conference and by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions have indicated disillusionment with the Federal arbitration system and have particularly referred to the professional engineers’ case; that an unacceptable arbitration system must inevitably lead to industrial unrest throughout Australia.
The petitioners pray that the Australian Government lake positive action as soon as possible to re-establish confidence in the Commonwealth arbitration system.
Petition received and read.
Mr LIONEL BOWEN presented from certain electors of the Division of KingsfordSmith a petition showing that in the national interest, it is essential that there be an effective and respected Commonwealth conciliation and arbitration system; that the decision given by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the professional engineers’ case on 3rd December 1969, which has followed to the letter in both magnitude and date of operation the salary increases for engineers employed in the Commonwealth Public Service which were announced before the arbitration hearing had concluded, has given rise to utter dismay and has indicated a lack of independent assessment; that recent statements made at the Australian Workers Union Conference and by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions have indicateddisillusionment with the Federal arbitration system and have particularly referred to the professional engineers’ case; that an unacceptable arbitration system must inevitably lead to industrial unrest throughout Australia.
The petitioners pray that the Australian Government take positive action as soon as possible to re-establish confidence in the Commonwealth arbitration system.
Mr GRAHAM presented from certain electors of the Division of North Sydney a petition showing that in the national interest, it is essential that there be an effective and respected Commonwealth conciliation and arbitration system; that the decision given by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the professional engineers’ case on 3rd December 1969, which has followed to the letter in both magnitude and date of operation the salary increases for engineers employed in the Commonwealth Public Service which were announced before the arbitration hearing had concluded, has given rise to utter dismay and has indicated a lack of independent assessment; that recent statements made at the Austraiian Workers Union Conference and by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions have indicated disillusionment with the Federal arbitration system and have particularly referred to the professional engineers’ case; that an unacceptable arbitration system must inevitably lead to industrial unrest throughout Australia.
The petitioners pray that the Australian Government take positive action as soon as possible to re-establish confidence in the Commonwealth arbitration system.
Mr MARTIN presented from certain electors of the Division of Banks a petition showing that in the national interest it is essential that there be an effective and respected Commonwealth conciliation and arbitration system; that the decision given by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the professional engineers’ case on 3rd December 1969, which has followed to the letter in both magnitude and date of operation the salary increases for engineers employed in the Commonwealth Public Service which were announced before the arbitration hearing had concluded, has given rise to utter dismay and has indicated a lack of independent assessment; that recent statements made at the Australian Workers Union Conference and by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions have indicated disillusionment with the Federal arbitration system and have particularly referred to the professional engineers’ case; that an unacceptable arbitration system must inevitably lead to industrial unrest throughout Australia.
The petitioners pray that the Australian Government take positive action as soon as possible to re-establish confidence in the Commonwealth arbitration system.
Mr TURNER presented from certain electors of the Division of Bradfield a petition showing that in the national interest it is essential that there be an effective and respected Commonwealth conciliation and arbitration system; that the decision given by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the professional engineers’ case on 3rd December 1969, which has followed to the letter in both magnitude and date of operation the salary increases for engineers employed in the Commonwealth Public Service which were announced before the arbitration hearing had concluded, has given rise to utter dismay and has indicated a lack of independent assessment; that recent statements made at the Australian Workers Union Conference and by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions have indicated disillusionment with the Federal arbitration system and have particularly referred to the professional engineers’ case; that an unacceptable arbitration system must inevitably lead to industrial unrest throughout Australia.
The petitioners pray that the Australian Government take positive action as soon as possible to re-establish confidence in the Commonwealth arbitration system.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. What is the average waiting time in the casualty departments of the major teaching hospitals in Australia before casualties are first seen by a medical officer? For patients admitted through casualty departments at these hospitals and requiring immediate surgery, what is the average time lapse between arrival at the hospital and examination by the surgeon who will be responsible for the surgical treatment? How do these times compare with those in equivalent hospitals in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Sweden? If these facts are not known to the Minister, on what criteria does he base his claim that Australian teaching hospitals subsidised by the Commonwealth are as good as any in the world?
– On behalf of the honourable member, I will address his query to the State Ministers for Health, who have responsibility for the matters he has raised.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise by drawing his attention to a speech which I made in Ihe grievance debate last Thursday on the plight of the kangaroo and the urgent need to have effective protective measures. J ask the Minister whether he read the speech and whether he is aware of the public’s concern in this matter, as is evidenced by the number of petitions presented to this Parliament? Is it a fact that the State governments do not have the facilities to police the killing of kangaroos and to see that their own laws relating to the killing of kangaroos are obeyed? Finally, does the Minister propose to investigate the allegations I have made and to do something about them?
– I not only read the honourable member’s speech but I also had the privilege of listening to it. On studying it, I must say that certain aspects of it did impress me. We have taken the view that the kangaroo and its preservation are primarily matters for State governments. That is sound. Several Federal Government departments have some sort of interest in the preservation of kangaroos. After the honourable gentleman had spoken I called on Thursday for a report from my Department to see whether we had any figures about the seriousness of the situation. 1 was alarmed - the language used in one of the petitions today - to discover that we had exported 2,500,000 kangaroo and wallaby skins in the last 2i years. That does not necessarily indicate the number killed, but skins are exported at ihe rate of 1 million a year. One wonders whether any species can survive that kind of killing rate. Therefore 1 have instructed my Department to prepare a report for me, the preliminary version of which arrived on my desk this morning. The officers were working over the weekend on it. When I have digested this report I will be conferring with those other Federal Ministers concerned and. if necessary, with the State governments with a view to making a submission to Cabinet on the matter.
– Is the Minister for Health able to say how many major Australian public hospitals have intensive care units and resuscitation units with the latest monitoring and resuscitation equipment? If so, from his experience and the facts he should know, how does this compare with other similar hospitals in the other major
Western countries? If these facts are not known to him, in view of the increasing financial cost and responsibility faced by the Commonwealth in our hospital systems, ] ask on what does he base his statement that our hospitals are as good as those in other major Western countries.
– My direct answer to the honourable gentleman’s question would be much the same as the answer T gave to the honourable member for Kingston. But it appears to me that my remark has rather stung honourable gentlemen opposite who for their own political purposes have represented the Australian hospital and health system in the worst possible light. This was done by a number of honourable gentlemen opposite in the debate. What I pointed out in the debate was that the honourable member for Oxley was lavish with his praise of the United Kingdom hospitals system.
– I rise to order. I would like to raise 2 points. Firstly, the Minister cannot revive a debate in the present proceedings. Secondly, I made no mention of the hospital system in the United Kingdom at all.
-The point of order is not upheld.
– Perhaps I could ask this question: Who is reviving the debate? I point out that the much criticised scheme that has been developed in Australia under our system for providing hospital care has produced hospital standards in this country of a very high level. Above all, it has produced hospital accommodation which a person can obtain almost on demand. This is in contrast to the United Kingdom system which is much admired by the honourable gentleman opposite. Under that system, a person who has to undergo elective surgery must wait some years for a bed. When I was in the United Kingdom 3 years ago, it was not uncommon for a person who had to undergo a hernia operation to have to wait for 5 years before it could be done. It is this tax financed system, so admired by the honourable gentlemen opposite, that is the Labor Party’s policy in this country. I still stick to my statement, which is supported by everybody who has travelled the world and looked at the situation in other countries, that although our hospital system is not perfect it is certainly amongst the best in the world.
– I address my question to the Treasurer. Whilst it is true that expenditure by all sections of the community has been increasing in recent years, is it correct that government spending is leading the field in this acceleration of expenditure? For how long can government expenditure be increased annually at more than 10% when the gross national product is rising at 5% to 6% and productivity is increasing at only 3%.
-I would say that public expenditure is increasing at a rapid rate. At present it is something like 11% for current and 9% for capital expenditure. It is certainly increasing at a fast rate but at a rate which is in line with increases in various other factors of demand. It is true that if this overall rate of demand continues relative to our capacity to produce and our gross national product in real terms, something has to give way. This increase in government expenditure is not just an increase of expenditure by the Commonwealth; it is State and local government expenditure as well. This has been in response to the incessant demands by the public for better capital facilities and better public services generally. While pressure for these services increases, of course, the expenditure is liable to rise in response. 1 do not think that increases in public expenditure are outstripping others. The fact is that in the aggregate the total is rising. Currently demand is rising at the rate of about 10%, whereas our effective productive effort in real terms is rising at the rate of 5½% or 6%. While these factors prevail there will be pressure in the usual places - on the labour market, wages, prices, imports and the usual manifestations of the existence of excess demands, but I do not think that I could single out the government sector as being the only sinner in this regard.
– I address a question to the Minister for Health. What are the morbidity and mortality rates for common operative procedures such as tonsillectomy, appendicectomy, hernia and gall bladder operations in major Australian public hospitals? How do these rates compare with those in equivalent hospitals in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Sweden and Canada? If these details are not known to the Minister, on what scientific verifiable criteria is he able to assert, as he did on 15th April last in this House and again today, that our hospitals are as good as those in other countries?
– Order! In the last 3 questions honourable members have referred to a debate that has been held in the chamber. I rule that the Minister should not refer to the debate that was held last week. That part of the honourable member’s question which refers to that debate is out of order. The Minister may answer that portion of the question which is in order if he so wishes.
– I will be glad to attempt to obtain the information sought by the honourable gentleman if it is obtainable. Among other places, I will refer the question to the Morbidity Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council which, I am sure, will be interested in it.
– The Minister for the Interior will remember that I have asked questions on past occasions relating to the wishes of the United Arab Republic that Australia should remove its war dead from war cemeteries in Alexandria. I have coupled this with a suggestion that Australia should dedicate an Australian national cemetery in Canberra. Can the Minister report any progress in the investigation of these matters?
– The honourable member for Calare has raised this question on two or three different occasions. Discussions took place with the United Arab Republic after it had intimated that it would like the war graves removed from Alexandria. A decision was taken that if the United Arab Republic was to press this point the war graves would be removed to El Alamein. It was also decided by the countries represented in the discussions that the cost of such removal should be borne by the United Arab Republic.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point is that this is not a question without notice. It is quite obviously a question on notice. If the Minister desires to make a statement we will give him leave to do so after question time. This is a waste of question time.
-Order! There is no substance to the point of order. A Minister is entitled to answer a question as he thinks fit.
– My point of order-
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. 1 am still speaking to the House. The Chair has no way of knowing whether a question is with or without notice. Ministers are, of course, entitled to anticipate questions. I am not in a position to know the situation and therefore I cannot uphold the point of order.
– Further to my point of order, Mr Speaker: So that we may maintain the decorum of this House I intend to take a point of order every time that a Minister reads from a prepared statement; otherwise we will be wasting question time.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. The point of order is not upheld.
– It might be of interest to the honourable member for Reid to know that the document to which I am referring, together with many other pieces of paper, has been in my brief since the commencement of the session in case a member of either the Opposition or the Government parties should ask such a question. An estimate was prepared of the cost of removal of the war graves from Alexandria to El Alamein. This information was conveyed to the Government of the United Arab Republic but since then there has been no further contact with that Government on the point. I am unable to add anything further to that for the honourable member’s benefit other than to say that the Director of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Australia recently visited the war graves in Alexandria and found them to be in very good order.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. In how many of our hospitals receiving grants from the Commonwealth are tissues removed at operation routinely examined in pathology departments in order to provide final proof of the diagnosis for which the operation was performed? In how many of our hospitals are medical and surgical audits performed, covering admission, provisional and final diagnosis, morbidity and mortality rates? How do these rates compare with equivalent hospitals in the United Kingdon, the United States and Sweden? How can one compare hospital standards in Australia with standards in these countries without knowing facts such as these?
– 1 have been ticking them off on my fingers; presumably there is one to go. I think that I must give to the honourable member the same answer as I gave to the honourable member for Kingston. I will attempt to find out from my colleagues in the States the information that he has sought. I will make the additional point that in general if these points that honourable members opposite are making from the depths of their technical knowledge are valid and relevant ones in relation to the hospital systems no doubt they will be brought forward by the State Ministers for Health and their departments in the discussions thar are currently going on but it is their responsibility to run the hospital systems and it is their responsibility to decide if these points are .significant in relation to the standards of their hospitals.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the rapidly expanding meat production in Australia and the high and rising meat prices in the United States will the Minister, while in Canada, arrange a visit to the United States with the object of obtaining an increase in meat exports to that country through an increase in the global quota of meat imports now allowed by the United States?
– I am aware of the desire of the Australian meat industry to get as large a quota as it possibly can into the United States market for beef and mutton. Most officials, when they do go to America to have discussions - particularly the Prime Minister or the Minister for Trade and Industry - bring this matter before the attention of the administration. I would like to say that any liberalisation of the present quota is not an easy thing to accomplish. First of all, the quota for beef and mutton imported into the United States is fixed by Act of Congress and any liberalisation would necessitate an amendment through Congress or the intervention of the President himself. However, having said that I will certainly be discussing with Secretary Hardin the question of imports of meat into the United States when 1 attend the Ottawa grain conference in about a fortnight’s time.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. I note that he stated that the waiting time for beds is much greater in the United Kingdom, presumably because the beds are financed by taxation, and I ask him: Does he claim that a shortage of bed space causes a lower standard of efficiency in hospitals? Does the result of treatment provided in a hospital give a bettor measure of the efficiency and standards of hospitals? If he is unaware of the comparative results of hospital treatment in this and other countries, on what scientific data does he base this claim?
– The honourable gentleman has placed me in a little bit of difficulty because he has very much revived the debate in relation to this. But the answer to his question is no. A system which produces a situation as we have in this country, where anybody can obtain a hospital bed of a standard of his own choice virtually on demand, cannot have too much wrong with it. I think in those circumstances a hospital bed which gives a high standard of care and is available virtually on demand - and that is the situation in Australia - cannot have too much wrong with it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development representing the Acting Minister for External Affairs. I ask the Minister whether any, and if so what, request for military aid has been received from the Government of Cambodia by Australia and if any such request has been received, what has been the response of the Australian Government.
– A submission was made to our Ambassador in Phnom Penh asking for military equipment to be supplied. At the present time this submission is being considered by the Government.
– If there are no more doctors in the House-
-Order! I cannot hear the honourable member.
– You may want a doctor.
-Order! The House will come to order.
– My question on Army hairstyles is directed to the distinguished - -tonsorially that is - Minister for the Army. May I crave your momentary indulgence, Sir, to congratulate him on the truly barbarous award of best groomed man of the year-
-Order! I cannot hear the honourable member. There is too much noise in the chamber.
– He is talking about wigs.
-Order! the House will come to order. Will the honourable member please continue.
– And combine my congratulations, Sir, with a whispered warning to him on the danger of a junior Minister publicly outranking his boss? My question is: Since the Minister has accepted for himself the arbitrament, the judgment, of the Hairdressers Council on what is appropriate hirsute adornment, will he now as political controller of the Army provide for the same judgment - that is the judgment of the master hairdressers - to be given on what are appropriate hair styles for the Army? And if not. why not, since the adage is good that what is sauce for the peacock is sauce for the troops?
-Order! Does the Minister wish to answer the question?
– Yes. I regret that I did not hear the latter part of the question. However, there is a matter of some import in the question asked by the honourable member. There are many people, not merely the honourable member for Riverina, who could be considered for the award which was bestowed on me. I have requested a review simply because at the present juncture the regulations apply equally to members of the permanent military forces and the Citizen Military
Forces. Quite obviously there are some members of the Citizen Military Forces who, either for personal reasons or for reasons relating to their vocation, feel that they should wear a hair style or a length of sideboard slightly longer than the regulations permit. I have received so many requests from members of the CMF to review the situation that I agreed to do so. 1 remember the honourable member for Prospect writing to me about this and referring to the length of sideboards worn by certain honourable members on this side of the House - not including myself. Because 1 regard this matter as important, as do certain members of the CMF, I decided, as indicated, to review the situation. 1 do not intend to pre-judge it. I have sympathy for those who find themselves in this position. I am awaiting the report on the review by the Adjutant-General before indicating my own views and the view of the Army. I have instituted the review because of the reasons given. It is not a matter for frivolity. I felt I could be of some assistance to those who are faced with this awkward situation.
– My question without notice is directed to the Attorney-General. Has his attention been drawn to-
– Mr Speaker, 1 rise to order. Only a few minutes ago a note was delivered to the honourable member from the Attorney-General. This is not a question without notice.
-Order! I do not think the honourable member is in any position to assert that this point has any relationship to the question.
– 1 ask the Attorney-General whether his attention has been drawn to an article in a national newspaper headed: How I dodged your coppers’ - by Ronald Biggs. Has the Minister or the Government any authority to impel the proprietors or the editor to divulge any information on Biggs? Can the money paid to Biggs or his nominee be impounded?
- Mr Speaker, my attention has been drawn to the newspaper reports to which the honourable member referred. My answer to the substantive questions asked by him are as follows: The police force for which I am ministerially responsible, although it is naturally interested in the Biggs affair, has no legal power to compel any newspaper proprietor to divulge information about this matter. Naturally, I imagine that police investigations will be made into the reports which have appeared in 1 newspaper. The newspaper proprietor concerned may or may not bc in a position to divulge relevant information and if he is in such a position may or may nol do so. But he cannot be made to do so. This Government has no power to impound any money that may have been paid to Biggs or to somebody in trust for Biggs or his children. The power just does not exist.
- Mr Speaker, I ask you a question without notice because there is no procedure by which I can ask you a question upon notice. You will note, Sir, that today is the third anniversary of the military coup in which the Greek Parliament was suspended and many Greek parliamentarians were detained. You will recollect that these and other outrages have since been condemned by many international gatherings including meetings of the Interparliamentary Union of whose Australian group you, Sir, are chairman. I ask you, Sir, whether you will let honourable members know what representations the IPU has made to the Greek tyrants and what response they have made to those representations.
-The Leader of the Opposition well knows that Australian representation on the Inter-Parliamentary Union consists of members of both sides of the House. Each member is entitled to speak at the IPU as an individual member and not in respect of government or party policies. I shall look into the question raised by the Leader of the Opposition and, if there is any information I can give to him, I will do so.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the low prices obtaining for wool on the auction market and of Japan’s dominance as a wool buying nation, will the Minister on his projected overseas trip discuss with Japanese textile leaders the actions that the
Australian wool industry leaders are contemplating to alter the present method of selling wool?
– It is my intention to travel to Ottawa via Japan. I have arranged with the International Wool Secretariat to have discussions with the 10 major textile manufacturers in Japan. We must recognise that Japan, being the principal buyer of Australian wool, plays a very important role in any alteration in the method of disposing of Australian wool that might be recommended to the Government. It is therefore my intention to discuss fully with these purchasers of Australian wool their reactions, to gauge some sort of impression from them and to notify them that there is a very strong feeling within the industry in Australia that some alteration ought to be brought about. 1 think that in due course something will happen.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister no’.ed President Nixon’s pledge to withdraw 150,000 United States troops from South Vietnam within a year? Does he recall the Prime Minister’s promise that Australian troops would be phased into the next substantial withdrawal? Does he agree that, on the scale of the American withdrawal, the whole Australian Task Force should bc removed from Vietnam? When will Australian units be phased into the withdrawal as promised by the Prime Minister?
– I am aware that President Nixon has made a statement today. I understand that it is to the e fleet that the United States will withdraw 150.000 troops from South Vietnam by the next Northern Hemisphere spring, which appears to make it about 12 months from now. The Prime Minister intends when he is back in the House tomorrow night - I would imagine, at 8 o’clock - to make a statement dealing with the Government’s attitude in this matter.
– I direct a friendly and respectful question to the Acting Prime Minister. Has his attention been drawn to the order of arrangements for the visit of Her Majesty the Queen to
Parliament House on Thursday night? Did he notice that the Queen is to be subjected to addresses of welcome by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition? Does he agree with me that this is a heavy line-up and that 1 address would be sufficient? Furthermore, did he notice that the schedule fails to mention the anticipated activities for Princess Anne at the ball? Would we be correct in thinking that this is so because the organisers are fearful that the young and attractive Princess might just think that a function such as this is ‘bloody’?
– AH the arrangements that are made involving Her Majesty and the Royal Family are made after consulting the Queen and with her approval, lt is approved by Her Majesty that she should attend the reception given by the Government and the Parliament on Thursday evening in this pl’ace. The practice, which has been followed on earlier occasions, is that those judged proper to speak for the Government, for the Parliament and for the Australian community should briefly express their words of welcome, not only for themselves personally but also in respect of those whom they represent. This has been done previously, and it is the procedure to be followed next Thursday.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether his attention has been drawn to a recent article in a South Australian newspaper quoting Mr Giordano, publisher of a monthly bulletin, as saying that more should be done in the field of housing for migrants. Will the Minister comment on this statement? Will he comment also on the progress of the new flat programme for migrants and indicate when this programme will be applied to South Australia?
– J recall seeing the article to which the honourable gentleman refers and, as 1 interpret my recollection of that article, Mr Giordano was suggesting that the Commonwealth should provide flats which could be sold to migrants at low rates of interest. The question of permanent accommodation for migrants does not fall within my sphere of responsibility but I want to observe two factors. In the first place, the
States are the principal suppliers, of relatively low cost housing for migrants and under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement the Commonwealth has made available substantial sums of money to the States to finance these programmes but the Commonwealth has no control over their implementation. In the second place, since the inception of the migration programme it has generally been agreed that migrants should not be placed in a position of advantage or preferment in connection with housing or other facilities by comparison with native born members of the Australian community. However this does not preclude measures being taken to offset the disadvantages at which resettlement places migrants vis-a-vis the Australian community.
In answer to the latter part of the honourable member’s question as I recall it, I inform him that our responsibility as a Commonwealth lies in the provision of initial transitory accommodation for Commonwealth nominated migrants which takes 2 forms, flats and hostels. Since 1964 the Commonwealth has spent or committed for expenditure approximately $26m on the hostel programme. The new flat programme which was initiated by my predecessor some 18 months ago has proved a most notable success and is seen as complementary to the hostels programme. I recall inspecting the sites that were to be acquired when I was in South Australia some months ago. They have since been acquired and I am informed that construction of the first of the 50 flats to be provided in South Australia will be undertaken shortly.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. From his many years of experience in Government does he agree that matters concerning Australian foreign and defence policies are best decided with balanced judgment? Is he aware that the proposed Vietnam Moratorium Campaign touches most intimately on Australian-Asian relations? Finally, can he recall any stage in his 35 years in this place when such unity has been secured involving left wingers, Communist Party members and leading members of the Australian Labor Party as is presently evident in the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign.
– I think I could reply to the latter part of the honourable member’s question by saying that it is not within my recollection over a period of approximately 36 years in this Parliament that all sections of the Labor Party, many sections of the trade union movement and certainly those who are known to be Communists or to influence the Communist line have lined up in apparent complete agreement. It is a matter of great regret that there should be such an alignment, including members whose function is to make the laws and, therefore, in my opinion, to defend the laws, for the purpose of ignoring the legal situation and demonstrating against laws which are operating with the approval of the Parliament and which are designed to be in the interests of the safety of the nation.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question. What loss will the Commonwealth suffer following the disaster to the ‘Amanda Miller’ as a result of the fire at Whyalla? Will this be the greatest loss by fire which the Commonwealth ever suffered? Has the Commonwealth ever inspected the fire procedures at this largest shipyard in Australia and, if so, when?
– I have no idea of what loss has been incurred in the past or at any stage through fire. No doubt, there have been very substantial losses on other occasions. In this instance, the Commonwealth’s interest is, first of all, through a subsidy which is payable directly through the Australian Shipbuilding Board and as to which there is an insurance cover. Negotiations towards the terms of that insurance cover - whether it will cover the reinstatement of the ship or the reimbursement of the contributions by the Commonwealth - still remain to be resolved.
As to the fire protection measures adopted at the Whyalla shipyard of Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, might I say that all the men who were involved in the fire acted, I believe, very admirably on the night of the fire. It must be recognised that the fire occurred on a Saturday night at a time when most people, including I would presume those in Whyalla, were not about the shipyard and consequently were not available readily to take the necessary precautions to put out the fire, lt is true also that, in a very disastrous incident, it is quite remarkable that only 1 person, I understand, was injured in any way in the course of the fire. One needs to express some gratitude for that fact. 1 think that, in terms of the procedure for fighting fires, one other thing should be said. The nature of this fire was such that it would need to have been contained at the very moment it started or it would have been beyond the capacity of any fire fighting installation, no matter how large it was, to control it when we bear in mind such things as the explosion of propane gas, the explosion of oxy-acetylene cylinders and the other inflammable material that necessarily lies around the hull of a big ship which, by its very shape, causes a profound draught that serves very much to accelerate the force of the fire.
Consequently, it should bc recognised that while my Department currently is looking into the circumstances of the fire and intends to examine whether or not all the necessary procedures for future operation have been adopted, in my opinion the circumstances of the fire were such that no reasonable man could have expected even the most adequate of fire fighting equipment to extinguish the blaze once it became substantial.
– Does the Treasurer anticipate decreased expenditure in many fields including housing through tighter lending conditions? Is he aware that, in the State of South Australia, housing is more dependent on bank finance than it is in any other State? As South Australia has only recently emerged from the worst housing slump in its history, can the Minister see any way in which the industry in that State can receive some protection against a current policy that may well have proper economic justification in other areas?
– I do expect lending generally to become more difficult and tighter for the obvious reason that demand is currently outstripping our capacity to supply and, without this pressure being brought to bear, our risks of developing a nasty inflationary situation will be very much greater. As regards South Australia specifically with respect to housing in general terms the situation will no doubt become rather more difficult, lt is necessary to take some of the pressure which has developed in the last few months off the industry and certain areas may suffer more than others.
I think, if the honourable member looks into it closely, that he wilt notice that the development of building societies, which are specialist institutions devoted to the provision of housing finance, has been far less in South Australia than the development in other States. If he looks into the historical factors which cause this situation it might help to enlighten him. If he brings his documentation to me I will certainly look into the specific problem which he has raised.
– I move:
The proposal involves expansion of the existing laundry and sterilising facilities and increasing boiler capacity to serve the need of 950 beds. The Committee has reported on a proposal which involves major extensions at the Canberra Hospital to enable the setting up of an interim central’ laundry and sterilising service which would serve the needs of the A.C.T. hospitals until a new central facility could be established elsewhere. The estimated cost of this proposal when referred to the Committee was $l.6m. In its report the Committee recommended that:
The Government should reconsider the proposed arrangements for providing laundry and central sterilising services to Australian Capital Territory hosiptals with a view to:
The Government agrees that full benefit of integration of laundry and sterilising facilities be enjoyed as soon as possible and that expenditure at Canberra Hospital on interim facilitiesshould be at a minimum. The economic advantages and operational difficulties of making do with minimum facilities until a new central service is operational have been fully considered in relation to updated forecasts of availability of beds, and arrangements have been made for planning to commence on the new permanent central facility. Interim facilities to cater for 950 beds, as considered by the Committee, will be provided at the Canberra Hospital. The existing laundry and sterilising facilities will be augmented and the steam raising capacity increased to serve the additional load. No major building extensions to the present laundry are proposed. The present estimated cost of the work is $0.95m, which includes an allowance for increases in equipment and building costs since the proposal was examined by the Committee. Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
– I have grave reservations about the proposal that has just been placed before the House by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp). What the Government is proposing relates to one section of the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works which was brought down in its report in the latter part of last year. This is that an interim expansion will take place in the laundry and sterilising facilities at the Canberra Hospital. The major proposition in the recommendation of the Public Works Committee concerned recommendation (a). This recommendation reads:
Proceeding immediately with the design and construction of permanent laundry and sterilising facilities on a site other than Canberra Hospital.
The Minister has in fact said that it is the intention of the Government to proceed with this commitment. This is a vague and indecisive commitment on the part of the Government. Frankly, hospital planning in the Australian Capital Territory has become such a crazy mess and so unreliable, unpredictable and dangerously dislocated that I feel I must express grave reservations about what the Government intends to do and about how seriously we can accept its commitments in relation to the proposed new decentralised laundry and sterilising facilities. It could very well be that what the Government is doing in accepting only one section of the recommendations is to put another hex on hospital development in the Australian Capital Territory.
The first question I would put to the Minister is this: How can he possibly talk about interim expansion of the laundry and sterilising facilities at the Canberra Community Hospital if he does not relate that expansion to some alternative which is the end result in view? How can anything be an interim unless it is done with a concrete objective in hand? The recommendations of the Public Works Committee are clear and concise. They call for ‘proceeding immediately with the design and construction of permanent laundry and sterilising facilities on a site other than Canberra Hospital’. The recommendation stresses the words ‘proceeding immediately’. It also stresses that we do this having in view the design and construction of a permanent facility. It would seem highly desirable for the Government to have come into this House and given a concrete undertaking of its intention to do this. There have been too many deferrals of hospital planning in the Australian Capital Territory for us to feel satisfied at all that the Government will proceed with this project in the near future. I put it to the Minister and to the House - and I put it to the Australian public - that hospital facilities, including the laundry facilities we are talking about now, are approaching a difficult state in the Australian Capital Territory. The whole concept of planning of hospital facilities in the Australian Capital Territory by the Government has been a schemozzle. Indeed, if the planning had proceeded according to more rational criteria than has been applied up to the present time, we would not be incurring an expenditure of $lm for what has been described vaguely as an interim development of existing laundry and sterilising facilities at the Canberra Hospital.
I will quote from some official reports which are my sources of information. Had the Government followed advice on hospital development in the Australian Capital Territory, which was urgently pressed by various committees in the past, there would have been no need for the expenditure of Sim on this stop gap measure. The central laundry facilities could have been developed at a much earlier stage and we would not. have been wasting public money of this magnitude. In support of my argument that hospital services in the Canberra community are in a grave state, that this was avoidable and that the Government has been recreant in its attitude toward hospital services, including the laundry facilities, let me quote from the 1960 report of the Public Works Committee. In that report the Committee said:
Preliminary planning should be undertaken now to determine the type of hospitals to be erected in the future and the relationship they would have with the Canberra Community Hospital.
Quite clearly, when one talks about the development of hospitals, one talks about all the ancilliary services which are part and parcel of such services in the community. Involved” in this is not only the development of hospitals but also the development of laundry facilities. The sad situation was that between 1960 and 1964, although the Public Works Committee stressed the urgent need for the Government to undertake rational planning of hospital services in the community, absolutely nothing was done. There we have a 5-year period in which the Government was in hibernation while the population explosion in the city, which is phenomenal, continued. Canberra has a much more rapid rate of population increase than any other centre in the Commonwealth of Australia. But in spite of that and the sort of demands especially for hospital services which were generated, the Government went into hibernation in that 5-year period, and nothing occurred. It did this despite the recommendation, which was pressed with some urgency, in the 1960 report of the Public Works Committee that preliminary planning should be undertaken immediately.
In 1964 the Austraiian Capital Territory Hospital Planning Committee was set up. It investigated some of the needs of the community for hospital services. In 1966 it recommended that the Woden Valley project should be referred to the Public Works Committee. However, nothing was done about fulfilling this request until 1968. In other words, some 18 months were lost. 1 hope that the House is following the sequence of events which I am unreeling because they are of real significance and they dovetail into a series of critical events which have developed since early I960 along the pathway to the current unsatisfactory situation in hospital services. So we find ourselves in the position today where near enough to Sim of public money has to be spent on a short-term measure for laundry facilities.
I should interpolate at this stage that the proposal of the Public Works Committee is that this money to be spent on these interim works will provide expansion of services for a period of 3 to 4 years. Because of the failure of the Government to react in a responsible way to the recommendations of the Public Works Committee., it will now pour Sim of the taxpayers money - or a large proportion of it - down the drain on a project which is to provide services for a period of 3 to 4 years. That is, of course, if the Government fulfills the undertaking which has been vaguely given to the House today, that it will follow the major recommendation of the Public Works Committee to proceed with the design and construction of permanent laundry and sterilising facilities at a site other than the Canberra Hospital. 1 hope that the Minister will give us a concrete undertaking before this debate concludes as to when the design will commence and when construction will get underway. 1 have no faith in the planning functions of the Government. 1. see the present recommendation before us as symptomatic of the general failure of the Government to plan adequately for health services for the Australian Capital Territory. I have the 1968 report of the Public Works Committee before me. At page 10 paragraph 1 1 1 of the report says:
This is in relation to the ratio of beds as to population: will be minimal if Cbe population increases are as predicted and the Calvary and Woden accommodation is available on schedule. Should the population projections be exceeded .or either construction schedule falls behind, then the shortages could be critical.
What we are talking about today is a system of a general malaise of hospital planning in the community. The fact is that the provision of these two services, the Woden Valley Hospital and the Calvary Hospital, are well off schedule.
Construction of the Calvary Hospital has been shifted to an indeterminate date, if we can accept the public statement of the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) released in February this year. He said then:
At the same time an examination of the economies likely to be associated with a 300-bed hospital, instead of a 200-bcd hospital, had led the Government to the view that it should explore further the possibility of the Government building a 300-bed hospital, to be run by the Little Company of Mar>’, instead of the previous proposal to subsidise construction by the Order of a 200-bed hospital.
He was speaking about the Calvary Hospital. There has been a long record of delay in the provision of this hospital for the community. The statement of the Minister, which he seems to have repeated in a Press release published in the ‘Canberra Times’ yesterday, indicates that the plans and commitments which the Catholic Order had on hand for the construction of a 200- bed hospital at Calvary can now be scrapped. The people concerned can now recommence. They can now commence planning possibly for a 300-bed. hospital. But I stress the word ‘possibly’. The experience of this Catholic order has been most unhappy in relation to this hospital. In 1965 Archbishop O’Brien of the CanberraGoulburn diocese submitted to the Government proposals for a 400-bed hospital. In 1966 the then Prime Minister, the late Harold Holt, agreed to the development of a 200-bed hospital by the Catholic Church in this city with a 75% government subsidy. Then a $4m ceiling was slammed on to the total expenditure for the hospital. This in turn meant, because of the way in which costs had been increasing - another factor that I will come to when I complete this sentence - that the hospital bed provision would be reduced to between 120 and 150.
The other factor is that the Government had been making a comparison between the estimated per bed cost for its Woden Valley hospital and the per bed cost for this 200- bed hospital. I suggest that that was a quite invalid comparison. One cannot compare a 200-bed hospital with a 600-bed hospital, but this is what the Government was doing. There are certain items of fixed capital expenditure which must be accepted as a whole item regardless of the size of the hospital. So, accordingly bigger hospitals get more benefit from these items of capital expenditure. Let me put this another way. Diseconomies arise because of the indivisibility of certain items of capital equipment. When we go beyond a certain size in the provision of beds we move into demand for new items of capital equipment and, in some cases, the full capacity of that equipment may not be used; so there is a diseconomy. Quite clearly it was wrong and invalid, as any person who has any understanding of elementary economics could have put to the Government, to compare a 600-bed hospital per bed cost with a 200-bed hospital per bed cost.
Let me revert to the point I was making earlier. The Catholic order in this city originally wanted to build a 400-bed hospital. To me, this seemed a much more rational proposition to have put before the Government because the economies were clearly on the side of the bigger hospital. I advert to the Committee’s report because I want to stress the relationship between what I say now and the laundry facilities. The lack of planning has cast us into this present position in relation to the laundry and also a general deficiency in the hospital services provided in this capital city. The report is based on the Calvary Hospital being completed in 1971. What I have said, and the Minister’s reference now to a 300- bed hospital in quite an indefinite way, indicate that the commencing date, let alone the completion date, of this hospital is indeterminate. So the critical situation discussed in this report is thrown into relief. In any event the date for occupancy of the Woden Valley hospital by patients has slid to 1973. According to some medical authorities in this city it could very well be as late as 1975. So we have this crucial problem of lack of planning of hospital facilities in the community.
What is the Minister proposing to the House? He is proposing an extension of this lack of planning - of this patch-up, piecemeal approach. When will the Government take up this crucial point which has been registered in the report of the Public Works Committee on hospital laundry services? Frankly, I think it is a valid recommendation to suggest that the laundry and sterilising facilities ought to be centralised. I stress to the Minister the urgent need for him to give us a concrete undertaking about this important proposition. I shall quote in full paragraph 35 on page 4 of the Committee’s report on laundry services, because it is important. It states: lt was evident to the Committee that the time already taken in planning the proposed services has not been used as profitably as it might have been, with the result that the time now available in which to complete designs and arrange construction is very short. Nontheless, it seemed that a satisfactory result, on the lines now recommended by the Committee, is possible-
I wish we could get words underlined in Hansard because the following is extremely important: providing positive planning action ls taken without further loss of time.
I emphasise the words ‘without further loss of time’. The Minister has given no undertaking to commence the important planning section as recommended by the Committee. On what date does he intend to set about the planning? On what date does he intend to set about the construction? Not only has he mentioned no date but he did not have the courtesy to supply me with a copy of his statement to the House.
– It is specifically stated that it will begin as soon as possible. That is a concrete statement.
– The Minister for Health has been saying ‘as soon as possible’ to the people interested in the Calvary Hospital for about the past decade. In 1965 the Catholic order made its first overtures to the Government. The information these people have been given has been of a loose and vague nature. They are in an indeterminate situation as to the future of this hospital undertaking. I put it to the Minister that the present facilities for laundry services are inadequate. Quite clearly new central facilities cannot be made ready in time. The Canberra Hospital extensions are essentially a stop-gap measure. Quite clearly we need immediate progress on the development of the central laundry and sterilising facilities concurrent with the interim measure which we now have before us. Indeed, the interim measure will become completely meaningless unless we have a positive undertaking on the development of the new central laundry service. 1 stress to the Minister just how important it is to treat this matter seriously. There have been a number of miscalculations, some of them unavoidable, in relation to the need in the community. In 1956 the projected population of Canberra was 75,000 by 1985. In 1960 the projection was reassessed as 104,000 by 1970. In 1968 the projected population was 132,000 by this year and 240,000 by 1978. Obviously any reassessments must be upwards. In the sort of situation it is quite wrong for the Government to be apathetic or lethargic in responding to the requirements of the Canberra community for hospital services. I have already indicated how the Government hibernated between 1960 and 1964 and how between 1966 and 1968 nothing was done apart from referring the Woden Valley hospital project to the Public Works Committee pursuant to the recommendations of the Australian Capital Territory Hospital Planning Committee.
– You have said the same thing about 5 times now.
– Even if I say it 100 times you will do nothing about it.
– But it consumes the time of the House.
– If I spoke as long as you do and said nothing like you do. I would be as accomplished as you are.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member and the Minister should direct their comments to the Chair.
– I quote again from the Public Works Committee report which is regarded with some agitation by the normally catalystic Minister. Paragraph 1 12 on page 10 of that report states:
Time alone will tell whether the failure to act on the 1960 recommendation will have serious consequences but it seems anomalous, with the planning expertise in Canberra and the information available about future developments, that a potential breakdown should be possible in a vital community service.
So the most recent report of the Public Works Committee on hospitals in the Australian Capital Territory expresses grave concern about a potential breakdown in planning in this vital community service. Of course, the Government is clearly responsible. If the Minister acted instead of becoming cynical and objectionable - although 1 did not notice much difference to his normal character - in responding to what I have said, it would be more appropriate. He has been the cause of much criticism within the Australian Capital Territory because of the way he has ignored hospital needs. It seems ridiculous that the Woden Valley, with a population of 25,000 rising to 80,000, is getting a new 600-bed hospital while the people of Belconnen, with a population of 30,000 by 1973 rising to 120,000, should be without any proposals for a hospital. I submit that we are considering a very serious matter and that the Minister ought to give us at least some concrete undertaking as to dates when planning and construction will proceed on this central laundry and sterilising facility.
– It is a queer commentary on the mutability of political affairs that the last time this matter came before the House I was sitting at the table representing the Minister for Works and it was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works of which the former honourable member for Perth, Mr Chaney, was Chairman. Now that this matter has come back before the House I find myself as Chairman of that Committee and it gives me an opportunity to make 1 comment, that is, to pay a tribute to the quality of the report on which this Government action is based. 1 have a great and increasing respect for the performance and traditions of the Committee. This report is a sample of its responsibility and of the depth of the Committee’s considerations. I can say that because I was not a member of the Committee when this report was framed. It is a tradition of the Committee quite definitely not to take a party political view but to weigh things up on their merits, and this is what has been done in this case.
I would like to take the opportunity as the present Chairman of the Standing Committee on Public Works to pay a tribute to the past performance of the Committee. The only other thing I want to say is to congratulate the Government on having the wisdom to follow the Committee’s advice.
– I rise because of the usual tendentious speech of the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) and I think an interjection that I made is worth explaining. There has been a lot said about the extra time needed for debate on this sort of matter in this House. I want to go on record as saying that if honourable members did not go around the track 3£ times - in other words, saying the same thing over and over again - our present hours of sitting would be perfectly sufficient for debates. I think that the honourable member for Oxley’s contribution today is a perfect example of that. He just kept reiterating the same thing. He has alleged that my colleague, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) who represents in this place the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), did not give an undertaking that the integrated laundry and sterilising services would be built. I draw the honourable member’s attention to what was said today by the Minister.
The Government agrees thai full benefit of integration of laundry and sterilising services be enjoyed as soon as possible and that expenditure at Canberra ‘Hospital on interim facilities should be at a minimum.
The reason why we have not said anything about the Government’s intentions in respect of that, apart from this statement which by implication means that the facilities will be built, is that this is not part of the reference to the Committee. The honourable member knows that full well, but as he has asked for information I will give it to him. The building will be completed, we would hope, in June 1974 and be operational at the beginning of 1975, several months after the opening of the second stage of the Woden Hospital. Planning is going on at the present moment and plans will be taken to the Government, I hope, in the near future.
The other point I want to make is that the honourable member for Oxley out of his ignorance alleged that because of poor planning the works under reference at the Canberra Hospital were just money down the drain. That is plainly incorrect. What in fact will happen is that by the time this new facility is built the existing equipment at the Canberra Hospital will have become obsolete and will need to be replaced. Therefore at the end of that time the Canberra Hospital will have no more equipment in this respect than it would have required anyway. There will not be one penny spent which would not need to be spent at the Hospital. The existing equipment at the Canberra Hospital will be obsolete or will reach the end if its useful life in 3 or 4 years and therefore the extra equipment being installed would have been required anyway at that point. So we are not installing a greater capacity than would at any time be required.
The other point is that - and I would have thought that the honourable member for Oxley with his penchant for planning would appreciate this - things like these integrated units come in very large lumps. Is the honourable member suggesting that we should have installed facilities of this size, completed and ready for operation at the time when the new facilities at the Canberra Hospital will come into operation? Is that actually what he is suggesting? Is this what planning would have produced? Of course, what he is suggesting would have produced a situation in which there would be at that point of time an enormous over capacity and an enormous waste of public money. One of the things which the honourable member for Oxley does not seem to appreciate and one of the things that makes great difficulty in this general field of hospitals and hospital bed provision is that economically these facilities come in very large lumps and however carefully one plans for a situation one inevitably finds that one either has too few beds or too many beds. This is in the nature of the case when one is producing hospitals of 300, 400, 500 or 600 beds. It is inevitable in the nature of the case when installing something like a central laundry and sterilising facility which economically has to be built to provide for large numbers of beds. I believe that the honourable member for Oxley is completely mistaken and completely wrong headed in suggesting that if this central laundry and sterilising facility had been produced much earlier than it will be produced this would have actually saved money.
The final thing that I would like to say to the honourable member is that he obviously has not understood the Woden and Calvary situation. If he had properly read the report of the Standing Committee on Public Works to which he referred - I suspect that he has properly read it and just omitted to mention this particular aspect because it did not suit him - he would have found that the Committee was very critical1 of the proposal to separate the 2 stages of the Woden Hospital. The separation of the 2 stages of the Woden Hospital was an uneconomic process. However the Committee went along with this proposition of separating the 2 stages of the Woden Hospital for one reason and one reason only. It is for that reason that the Government took the actual decision. The Government felt that by separating them and phasing in the Calvary Hospital in the time phase we would have beds available from the Calvary Hospital and we would produce hospital beds more quickly in Canberra. What happened was that, because of a number of events which I will not go over here but which have been fully explained in the statement I have made, we were not able to get the Calvary beds in time. The Government made a decision to return to the previous and economic proposition of following on straight away with stage 2 of the Woden Hospital after stage 1. That, incidentally, is one of the reasons that made it possible for the Government to accept this proposal which is under reference.
– That is rubbish.
– The honourable gentleman has had a lot to say. He has made a lot of tendentious statements, some of them untrue. He has indulged in a great deal of what I must believe to be deliberate misrepresentation. When I draw his attention to the fact that he has obviously and deliberately chosen to suppress something the Public Works Committee has said, he says to me: ‘Rubbish’. What has happened is that in the event that the Government has not been able to obtain the Calvary Hospital beds in the time it hoped it would, we are reverting to the proposal which both the Government itself and the Public Works Committee thought was the most reasonable and economic proposition - to follow on with stage 2 of the Woden Hospital after stage 1. We have given the Little Company of Mary an undertaking that if it is prepared to do so we will guarantee the building of a hospital by it under the previous arrangements - a 300-bed hospital to start in 1974 and the beds to become available in 1976 which will phase the beds produced into the bed needs. What is the honourable gentleman suggesting? Is he suggesting that we should build both stages of the Woden Hospital and Calvary at the same time, something which in everyone’s opinion as far as I know would involve a substantial oversupply of hospital beds in Canberra? Is this what he is suggesting by the criticisms he is making?
Unlike the honourable member for Oxley I have not repeated myself and I shall not repeat myself now. I have dealt with the ill-based criticisms that were made by the honourable member. In relation to this reference and to every other reference that has been made to the Public Works Committee in my time as MinisterI would like to compliment the Committee on the standard of the job it has done and particularly compliment it on its understanding of the enormous difficulties of precise forecasting, planning and provision of hospital services in a situation like the Canberra one where the population is growing at such a rate.
DREVERINGHAM (Capricornia) [3.34] - I just want to raise a few points that have been brought up in the course of the debate. I feel that the important thing that must strike everyone who has listened to or reads what has been said is this Government’s disregard of the Public Works Committee’s report and in particular the disregard of the Committee’s recommendations and the disregard of the Catholic Diocese which is perhaps the most successful of all hospital planning authorities in this country. Anybody who has had cause to be treated in Mater hospitals and other Catholic hospitals in this country can confirm that that church is a very efficient body in this direction.
The Government has shown disregard of community need and I submit that the only basis and the only reason for this disregard - the disregard of our own parliamentary specialists, the Catholic hospital specialists and the needs of Canberra - is that the Government has had regard to two lesser matters. One is the day to day election pressures which have been accentuated by the forthcoming by-election in the area; the second is because of an equally shortsighted fear of a credit squeeze. The Government did not want to embark on a major expenditure in the short run; it would rather have to pay a few years later and leave it to a Labor government which would have to foot the bill for the major work that must follow this interim measure.
The alternatives were clearly set out in the Committee’s report The first alternative provided for a laundry facility separate from the Canberra Community Hospital. This is set out in paragraph 30 of the report. The second alternative which the Government is proposing, and which the Committee does not recommend, is set out in 2 parts. The first part is the minimum alterations to the existing facilities at Canberra Hospital to carry 150 temporary beds and the initially occupied beds at Cavalry Hospital, which would mean another 200. This would mean a total capacity of 950 beds. 1 take it, by what the Minister is proposing, that he is going to make this provision for the next 3 or 4 years to deal with 950 beds, as the Committee states, including the 200 beds at Calvary. If this is so, how do we fare if the Calvary project is shelved? Are we then not getting a 200-bed capacity surplus in the laundry facility by adopting this interim measure - if we scrap the Calvary project? The Minister for Health said: ‘Is the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) suggesting that we build both hospitals together?’ I say that the honourable member is suggesting simply what the Committee recommends in paragraph 45 of its report:
That the Government should reconsider . . . providing laundry and central sterilising services . .with a view to
proceeding immediately with the design and construction of permanent laundry and sterilising facilities on a site other than Canberra Hospital; and
constructing such additional facilities at Canberra Hospital as are required to provide an interim service, pending completion of the permanent facility.
That is all my colleague the honourable member for Oxley has suggested and the Minister is going ahead to build this surplus capacity which within 3 or 4 years could be rendered redundant. He has stated that the Government’s stand is thatfull integration should be enjoyed as far as possible and that the interim facility ought to be kept to a minimum. The point I have just made is that the interim facilities have not been kept to a minimum and will not make the integrated facilities enjoyable as soon as possible. If it is true, as the Minister says, that the existing facilities at Canberra Hospital will be obsolete in 3 or 4 years, it is not sensible at this stage to install1 something which will also be out of date in 3 or 4 years. This would be duplication which could not be justified.
To highlight the central point which I think arose from my colleague’s statement that the Government has allowed things to get out of hand and has been guilty of neglect in the past and is now belatedly and fearfully trying to catch up in order to preserve its chances of offsetting the criticism that is coming on this issue, I would like to refer to the Committee’s report. Firstly, we find from paragraph 1 1 that the project for the Little Company of Mary was planned to be occupied late in 1971. The report states:
The target date has now slipped behind and it is now thought that the first patient will be taken about February 1973.
The target date may slip so far behind that in fact there will be no beds available there for which this interim facility is designed, partly, to cater. At paragraph 35 the report states:
It was evident to the Committee that the time already taken in planning the proposed services has not been used as profitably as it might have been, with the result that the time now available in which to complete designs and arrange construction is very short.
Is this not the old, old story of stop gap and last minute activity by a tired and disinterested government? Is this not typical of the whole pattern of health and hospital services in Australia? Never is there leadership from the Commonwealth, even in the Territories which are directly and totally its personal responsibility. Yet this is the sole responsibility of the federal level of government. Not only has the Government disregarded the report of the Public Works Committee; I want to point out where it also has disregarded the planning of the Catholic order. In a report in the ‘Canberra Times’ of 23rd February it is stated:
Archbishop Cahill said that although the original approval for the hospital had been given by the then Prime Minister, Mr Holt, to Archbishop
O’Brien in 1966, the first that he (Archbishop Cahill) had heard of the change of policy was through the press release last Friday. 1 expect the Government will be in touch with me regarding this change of policy’, he said.
This is the sort of pattern about which I am complaining. There is no consultation with the people involved in this change of policy. The first they heard about it was what appeared in the Press. The only aim of the Government’s policy is to try to get a bit of favourable publicity. Its policy is not aimed at providing services. What justification can there be for trying to get a little bit of kudos from releasing something to the Press when the matter has not been discussed with one of the principals involved in the overall planning? This is a hotch potch and an incompetent patch-up job. I trust that the people of Australia, particularly those in the Australian Capital Territory, will take due notice of it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 4 March (vide page 79), on motion by Mr Bury:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Speaker, I move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: realising that some estate planning may already have been effected following the promise of this legislation on 24th September 1969, the passage of this limited Bill which offers some measure of relief from death duties in the rural sector is not opposed, but the House is of opinion that it is inadequate, as it fails to recognise -
the extension of liability for and the burden of Federal and State death duties resulting from the pressure of inflation,
the particularly critical situation of -
the relatively small farm in the rural sector, and
the small business unit in the industrial and commercial sectors, where in both cases a large part of tha estate is in a non-liquid form, the dismemberment of which to meet the tax liability destroys the basis of efficient operation, and
that difficulties are aggravated by the joint operations in this field of the Commonwealth and the States .
The House considers that these matters should be fully examined with a view to early relief being afforded by further amendments of the Act’.
I thought it wise to read the amendment first, Mr Speaker, because to a great extent the case which I wish to make will bring
Out the points involved in it. When the Treasurer (Mr Bury) introduced this Bill in this House some weeks ago, he said:
The amendments proposed by the Bill will result in a significant reduction in the duty payable on smaller rural estates. In the Government’s view, they will provide valuable assistance to the heirs to farm properties and will do much to discourage the breaking-up of economic farm units to obtain finance to meet estate duty.
It might be said, firstly, that it possibly is indicative of the Government’s attitude to a lot of problems that it seems to be more concerned with the problems of the dead than it is with the problems of the living. Insofar as this Bill claims to give relief to small rural landholders in particular, again, as with many of the measures proposed by this Government, when they are subject to analysis, the greatest benefit is given to those who least deserve it and the least benefit is given to those whose need is greatest. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard a table that was incorporated earlier when the former Treasurer, the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) outlined the substance of this Bill in September last year.
This is a simple table which shows the benefit to people in particular income groups who are affected by estate duly. One of the purposes of this Bill is to increase what is called the ‘statutory exemption’, as it applies to rural properties, from $20,000 to $24,000. Many of the farms about which we are talking unfortunately have liabilities as well as assets and the duty currently payable is based on total assets minus total liabilities. The value of a farm can be substantially above that figure because there may be a mortgage or an overdraft as high as $20,000 which, of course, has to be deducted when computing the value of the estate for duty purposes. 1 do not deny, as a common sense proposition, that all of us would sooner pay a duty of $400 than $937. I simply wish to ask a categorical question: In terms of the critical needs of farmers and others concerned when this situation arises as a result of the death of the owner, is the position really made significantly different because the duty has been reduced by $537? I ask that question critically, lt makes a difference of $537. Fair enough. But in terms of the nature of the transactions involved and in terms of the critical problems associated with the payment of mortgages, the payment of other costs and so on. the difference is pretty small when related to the total problem.
On the other hand, as one goes further down this table which I have had incorporated in Hansard, one finds that the reduction of duty is quite significant if the property is worth $110,000 prior to the calculation of statutory exemption. In that case the reduction in duty payable is $5,170. The maximum advantage under this proposal, according to the table, occurs when the net value of the estate before allowance of statutory exemption is Si 70,000. This occurs before the cut-off point. At $170,000 the maximum advantage is a reduction of $7,830 in the duty payable. Tt was this that led me to make a survey of the operation of probate and estate duties in the Commonwealth. What astonishes me is that very little systematic work has been done upon these propositions. I am astonished by the paucity of information contained in the annual report of the Commissioner of Taxation about them. I presume that he has published all the figures that have so far been requested.
Nevertheless they are deficient for making any sensible analysis of the impact of the duties payable at death on any sort of property. Every year there are about 100,000’ to 105,000 deaths in Australia. According to the statistics in the latest report of the Commissioner of Taxation, fewer than 15,000 people had estates that were dutiable or, broadly, estates that had assessable values in excess of $20,000. So it is a fairly rare group in the community, to start with, that even accumulates property of an assessable value in excess of $20,000. Only 1 in 7 persons who die is liable for estate duty at the Commonwealth level.
The incidence of duty is somewhat higher in the States. This is a tax field where both the Commonwealth and the States operate jointly. I took as being relevant the figures for Victoria, because it was rather difficult to look at all the States. In 1967 the number of estates for which probate papers had to be lodged was 19,768. Bearing in mind that Victoria has about one-quarter of the population of Australia we see that substantially more people in Victoria were liable for estate duty, or probate duty as it is called, than in the Commonwealth sphere. I think that it is called succession duty in South Australia because the tax operates somewhat differently. The reason for that increase in the number of estates liable for estate duty of one kind or another is that more people are possessors of dwelling houses and by reason of inflation the values of most of those properties at death exceed the ceilings of statutory exemption.
In the ‘Taxpayers Bulletin* of 24th March an interesting table appears at page 20. It shows the amount of estate duty that has been collected by the Commonwealth over recent years. I do not want to go through the whole of the table but I mention that for the year 1968 the amount of Commonwealth estate duty collected was $54,717,000. For the year ended 30th June 1969 the amount collected was $60,726,000. Again, that is not a very significant part of the total taxation collections by the Commonwealth. The difference amounts to about $6,000m. If one looks at the totality of State and Commonwealth collections and at the amending legislation, one sees that part of the difficulty is that it seeks to give relief that cannot be adequately effective for the people who need it most because of the operation of the States in the same field. The States rely upon this tax to a greater extent than does the Commonwealth. In fact, New South Wales collects as much as the Commonwealth does in estate duties and Victoria collects a sum equal to about twothirds of what the Commonwealth collects. In the aggregate State collections in this field are about $120m. I have already mentioned that Commonweath collections in this field amount to $60m.
On an examination of the incidence of this tax - these figures, too, can be found in the report of the Commissioner of Taxation - one finds that the number of dutiable estates for the year 1967-68 was 14,449. They had a gross value of $243m realty and $597m personalty. The value of personalty was nearly 21 times as great as that of realty. Those figures typify the existence in an industrialised community such as ours of the tendency to hold one’s property in the form of personalty rather than realty. It is in the field of realty that estate duty is most significant for rural properties. The gross value of $840m was reduced to a net value of $805m because certain deductions to charitable organisations were available. Then SI 8m was described as exempt estate. State duties accounted for $1 14.6m, and these are deductible in arriving at the amount that is liable for federal duty. The statutory exemption was $ 155.8m. Those 3 items totalled $289m. That means that the dutiable value of estates had fallen from $840m to $51 6m. The total duty assessed on that residue was $58m. Looking at the breakdown as between the States - they are listed according to the value of the estate, as are income statistics - one finds that of estates of a value under $50,000, which are the ones we are most concerned about in this measure, 9,717, or nearly 2 out of 3, were dutiable for Commonwealth purposes. They amounted to 67.1% of the total, which is slightly over two-thirds. Their gross value was $283m, and the net duty assessed on ali those estates was S4m.
I submit, as a rough stab, that not much would be lost if estates of under $50,000 were exempt altogether for federal purposes. The loss of revenue would- be about $4ni. 1 will have more to say in a moment about the rural estates. The Treasurer said in his Budget Speech that the full effect of the abatement of duty on rural estates would involve a loss of revenue of $5.3m. About Sim of it, or one-fifth, will go to the smallest estates and, as happens with so many other things, the major part of the advantage will go to the larger estates. The other interesting proposition with regard to probate duties is that if we look at the total figure of 14,489 estates we see that something like one-quarter of them or about 3,700, were in the rural field. This simply highlights the central problem here. Rural property holders in fact do not comprise anything like one-quarter of the total population. But it is more likely that a farm will come into the purview of assessment for estate duty, Commonwealth and State, than will some other form of property because farms tend to be still personally held. This is one of the real difficulties that face the Australian community at the moment. ! What is the size of a viable farm? Merely to talk about ‘farm* in general is too wide. A sugar farm is a different proposition from a poultry farm; the wheat farm is different from a mixture of wheat and wool. Even wool farms are classified, according to statistics, in various forms - pastoral, wheat-sheep, high rainfall and so on. The thing that astonished me was that in most of the fields, other than fields such as sugar and dairying, the average capitalisation was often in the region of $200,000. This seems to me to be a pretty significant social problem. I must say I found an exercise I undertook quite interesting in some respects. For instance, according to the wheat survey of 1967 which took a 3-year average between 1964-1965 and 1966-67, 46.5% of wheat farms had capitalisations under $100,000 and 53.5% had capitalisations over $100,000. This also applies when we go into the dairy field. There is a greater range of variety in this field and, as honourable members from farming communities know, dairying is one of the most critical fields in the whole problem of rural activity in Australia. The dairying industry seems to be divided into 3 categories called ‘all industry’, manufacturing’ and ‘whole milk*. The range of size of dairy farms by capital employed in the ‘all industry’ category is from $20,800 to $83,000. In the ‘manufacturing’ category it is from $19,900 to $71,000. In the ‘whole milk’ category it is from $24,300 up to $94,400.
Then we get into the dried fruit categories, and I am sure the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) will be interested in this. I take my figures from the April 1969 issue of the ‘Quarterly Review of Agricultural Economics’ published by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. The dried fruit man is still a comparatively small farmer in terms of capitalisation but nevertheless is still fairly large. For what is called the ‘Sunraysia specialist’ the average capitalisation is $32,200. For what is called ‘Sunraysia only’ - I will leave to the honourable member for Mallee to explain to me afterwards the difference between a ‘Sunraysia specialist’ and a ‘Sunraysia only’ - the figure is $31,900. In Robinvale the figure is slightly less at $29,700. In an area known as ‘midMurray’ it is $17,800 arid in South Australia it is $25,500. In all areas of the dried fruit industry the average is $29,000.
In cotton farming there is a tremendous range of variation. For the MIA, which I understand is the Mumimbidgee Irrigation Area, the average capitalisation is given as $133,700. In the Namoi it is $320,800. Apparently one has to be pretty big to start up as a cotton grower in the Namoi area although one does not do too badly when one gets there. In Queensland, the southern area’ has an average capitalisation of $112,700, the ‘central area’ $46,900 and the ‘raingrown’ area $43,200. In the Ord area in Western Australia, a Government creation, the average size is $98,600. In the sheep area we are really getting into very big stuff. I do not want to go into too much detail about this; the figures are set out very completely in the supplement to the Australian Sheep Industry Survey 1964-1965 to 1966-1967, which is also published by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. There are 3 divisions - the pastoral zone, the wheat-sheep zone and the high rainfall zone. In those areas the capital structure is quite often of the magnitude of almost $200,000 and the value of the land represents more than half of the value in most cases. Again this raises a pretty significant social problem. It seems to me that the Government’s measure does not give the greatest assistance to. those who need it most. It tends to give the least assistance to those who need it most and, as in so many other fields, no attempt is made by the Government to define the economic farm unit which it thinks should not be broken up. There . is no doubt in terms of sheer size that there are some units that are not in much danger of being broken up and, to some extent, while there can be an area too small to farm, I think occasionally the social problem is that maybe some areas are too big to farm. This afternoon I do not want to enter into any of those interesting fields but I think there are some areas which have to be examined before a systematic approach can be made to this problem.
I was interested, when trying to make some comparison between what applies here and what applies in some other parts to find that in the British system of death duties - the method in which duty falls has been restructured to some extent - there has always been a scheme whereby the rate of duty payable on what might be called agricultural or farming units in that country was only 45% of the duty applicable in other cases for estates of the same size. Apparently if a person was shrewd enough he could almost at the point of death convert his estate from industrial to rural to get the advantage of a lower duty. I am glad to see that there are some provisions in this measure that keep that door closed. It is surely of great concern to a community - and most of all to certain parties who pride themselves on being free enterprise in their attitudes - to ask: Is Australia not tending to become a sort of latifundia where property is handed down from generation to generation rather than a place where somebody can just start up by saying that he wants to be a farmer? On the other hand, because we are not facing up to the realities and some of the difficulties - this is why I began by saying I think sometimes we are too concerned about giving relief at the point of death instead of giving vital assistance during the life time of a farmer - we are allowing certain things to go on within our existing tax structures that could very well1 be -blocked.
I was astonished to read an advertisement in a publication which I bought the other day. I went into one of our bookshops. A sale of back issues of overseas magazines was in progress. The shop was selling magazines that it had not been able to sell earlier. Honourable members know what I mean. The bookshop purchased too many of the magazines and was selling them a few weeks later because they were stale. Honourable members may be familiar with the glossy English magazine ‘Country Life’. I bought an issue of ‘Country Life’ dated 9th October 1969. It contains a half page advertisement which is headed:
John D. Wood & Co., in association with Hepper & Sons, East Parade, Leeds, and other Yorkshire offices.
The advertisement reads:
Western Australia - Agricultural Lease Back - between 5,OOO and 10,000 acres; capital required for land and development costs between £35,000 and £200,000 (to suit investors requirements).
Those amounts represent sterling.
The advertisement set out the following facts:
Location: Near the coast, approximately 250 miles north of Perth.
This is the interesting part:
Benefits: Estate Duty relief for UK residents also other UK and Australian Tax concessions.
Security: First class covenant from the Tenant (A public company) who have experienced a personal record in the area and who will provide the working capital.
Tenant Management: Farming Management Services Pty Ltd.
I do not know what that is. The advertisement continues:
The property offers A SOUND YIELDCAPITAL GROWTH and ensures the purchaser a developed viable farm at the termination of the 12 year lease.
I submit to the House that this is the sort of thing that is going on. We have the other example of the Pitt Street farmers. We used to call them Collins Street farmers, but because those from Sydney are dominant now they are known as Pitt Street farmers. They represent the same kind of thing. Apparently they are people who are persuaded into the field of farming. I do not deny that many of these gentlemen may turn out to be efficient farmers. But they go into farming because they have the income ability to purchase properties and to claim the concessions that are available for primary production. One of the advantages is that what are normally capital items to someone else can be treated as income items straight away, and even in other cases written down as depreciation much more quickly than others are able to do.
What we have are groups in the community taking advantage of these sections of our law. Surely it would have been possible to put a proviso in the Income Tax Act to deal with allowances in the same way as the Government is providing now in relation to probate that the advantages will not accrue unless a certain part of the total activities is primary in nature. I am no rural expert. I have never claimed to be a rural expert although I do not think that anybody can ignore having a big interest in rural problems. With all respect to the gentlemen from the Country Party on the other side of the House who appear to think sometimes that the only people who should speak on wheat, wool and beef are those who produce those items rather than those who occasionally eat or use those items, I point out that there is a long road, as we all know, from the farm to the mouth of the consumer. I think that these matters are of some concern to us. Nevertheless, I would suggest that one of the effects of the Collins Street farmer is to raise the capital value of land, which is the principal item in most farms, although the value of land cannot be unrelated to the stocking capacity of the land. I appreciate that point.
Let me highlight to the House the difficulty with probate in Australia at the moment. I have read, perhaps with some criticism, this interesting report entitled The Wool Industry’ prepared by CEDA which is the Committee for Economic Development of Australia. In relation to this matter, this group says at page 27: a property valued at $40,000 In 1911 would be valued at about $200,000 today, merely as a result of the inflationary process. Death duties on the propertyin 1911 (at today’s rates) would have been $4,566 absorbing 11½% of its value. Today, as the result of depreciation in the value of money (inflation) and not because of any change in the real . value, the same property would attract duties amounting to $67,222 and absorbing over 33% of its value.
When death duties were first instituted, they were justified on the ground that ordinary Income tax was very low, and therefore it was not unreasonable to collect something from the estate by way of succession and probate duties. That justification has long since disappeared with the sharp rise in income tax rates.
That is the opinion of the writers of the report. Nevertheless, surely it is obvious enough that just as much need exists for restructuring in this tax field as exists in some other fields of taxation impact in Australia today.
It seems to me that this is a sort of piecemeal meddling in the matter. I do not deny that benefit is given to the small as well as to the great. But the man who needs it most gets least. Again, I would draw the attention of honourable members to the impact of total duties in Australia. The State of South Australia, from which my friend. the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), comes, recently made amendments to its law which were supposed to give benefit to rural holdings but the full impact of that State remedy is lost because the Commonwealth then comes in for tax on a bigger residue than would otherwise apply. This seems to me to be a rather absurd situation.
Available now in the Parliamentary Library - it was not available until I asked for it, and this seems to be an indication of how little interest is taken in this subject in Australia - is a book entitled: ‘Estate and Gift Taxes - A Comparison’, edited by G. S. A. Wheatcroft. Any honourable members who have read overseas tax journals will be familiar with Mr Wheatcroft as a pretty voluminous contributor to such journals. In the course of Chapter 5 of this book, be makes a comparison between estate and gift taxes in Australia, Canada, Great Britain and the United States of America. He has prepared a table which, to some extent, would need to be modified now because it was written in 1965 and the Australian part is expressed still in terms of pounds, not dollars. The figures are simple enough to convert.
This is what he says:
Taking first the rates where no relationship applies-
This is where an estate passes, rather than from husband to wife, at some other level: it would appear that in the smaller estates the Australian rates-
These were combined State and Commonwealth rates: are more severe than the others . . . in the middle ranges (£A50,000-£A250,000 and equivalents) the Australian and British rates are roughly comparable, as are those of Canada and
USA, but the rates of the 2 former are approximately double those of the 2 latter: in the higher ranges the rates in Australia and Canada stabilise near 50% whilst those in Great Britain and USA go considerably higher.
If one had much more time one could argue the ethics of whether or not death duties should be imposed. One could also argue whether it would be a more equitable scheme to tax inheritance rather than to tax the estate itself, as is done in some countries. If probate were passed in smaller units the total incidence of tax would not be so great. These are the sorts of things that 1 would hope would ultimately be examined in Australia. As long as this examination is not made those who will bear the harshest burden of probate and estate duty will be, firstly, the small farmers. This is the situation at which our amendment is directed. lt is difficult to dismember a small business. There are plenty of businesses in the country and city with capitalisation in the region of $60,000 to $70,000. No relief is given under this measure for owners of those businesses. In the British Act there is a small business section. These are the ones on whom the highest impact of unsatisfactory legislation will fall.
We will have to clarify the position in Australia. To my mind, the sad thing about the wool survey 1 mentioned is that it sees the solution of the problem of the wool industry us a problem of aggregation. Surely this raises very serious problems in a country which believes that there are too many people in the city already and not enough in the country towns. Vet the solution to some of our rural problems is given as aggregation and making a viable farm somewhat larger. We can still have a process that will ensconce the people who are released from the small farms in the industries in the towns rather than in the cities, but it certainly needs a much more collective approach. 1 would ask the Government to consider viability. Some of the honourable members who will speak after me have been successful farmers. I think they recognise the reality that you would have to have a capitalisation in the region of $200,000. Much farming and a lot of the soldier settlement farming was posited on different sorts of bases. There is no doubt that in the next several years the problems of the wool industry in particular will be highly significant to the progress of the Australian economy.
I was interested to read a comment in an article that came to me the other day. The comment was attributed to Professor Gruen. Honourable members may know that the Monash University undertook on behalf of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation or one of the other United Nations bodies a survey of the world demand for primary products in the 1970s, taking into account what Australia would be able to contribute. At one stage just after that survey had been published Professor Gruen was optimistic enough to state that in the 1970s he thought that the wool industry could presume that it would receive between 44c and 46c a pound as an average price for greasy wool. But he said on 29th January 1968, nearly 2 years ago. when addressing a meeting of farm management consultants: ‘In the next 5 to 10 years a further decline in the price level seems to be more likely than any other eventuality’; but instead of talking of a price of between 44c and 46c Professor Gruen talks about one between 33c and 37c.
I do not think honourable members will cavil at the efficiency of wool farming in Australia in recent years, but every honourable member would know that a decline of lc a pound in the average price of wool means a drop of $20m in yearly earnings. Above all, it basically means that our overseas earnings will be affected by almost that amount because some 92% of the Australian wool clip is sold overseas. So if there is a decline from an average price of between 44c and 46c to a price somewhere between 33c and 37c, a drop in the region of 10c, it will mean a variation of S200m in external earnings. Whatever the consolation that may be taken to ourselves from increased earnings from minerals, it must be remembered that what is earned from minerals is very heavily underpinned by a commitment to service the overseas capital that went into the mining. That is not true in the case of the wool industry. The wool industry is still basically owned by Australians and therefore its export earnings are full export earnings, at least to that extent.
This is why we have taken, the opportunity not to give so much attention to the little benefit that the Bill will provide but to try to draw the attention of the House to the serious nature of the problems that are now upon us and the impact that existing and prevailing systems of taxation - both income tax and estate and probate duties - have upon us and to suggest why a measure as small as this, even though it may concede benefits somewhere, is still not fundamentally facing up to the critical problems of the agricultural, primary or rural sections of the community which are still important for their own sakes, for the sakes of the people who live in them and for the sake of the future expansion of the Australian economy.
– I second the amendment.
– -I rise to support the Bill to amend the Estate Duty Assessment Act which will provide relief to estates of deceased primary producers and provide powers for the Commissioner of Taxation to grant extensions of time for payment of duty. Before proceeding to support the Bill I would like to make some mention of the points that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) raised. I might say that he gave a very interesting, informative and statistical survey of the general problem, but I do not believe that his speech was a very powerful argument in support of the amendment that he moved. The amendment is badly worded in that we are told to take note that the House is of the opinion that the Bill is inadequate and fails to recognise the relatively small farms. Of course the purpose of this Bill is to provide relief for the average and the small farmer, because estates that have a valuation above $250,000 will not be eligible for some of the benefits contained in this Bill. I think it is ridiculous to say that the bigger you are the greater the degree of relief. In my electorate I would say - I think the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) is conscious of this - that there would not be many economic farms that would be valued under $100,000. That valuation includes stock, plant and land.
Most of the farmers in my area and most of the farmers’ families, of course, will be provided with some benefits under this Bill.
I believe that this Bill gives further evidence of the desire of the Government to ease the pressures on primary producers who are experiencing great economic difficulties as a result of falling prices, market difficulties and excessive cost pressures. Whilst primary producers, along with every other member of the community, can take out life assurance policies or enter into other arrangements to divest themselves of assets prior to death, these methods, and certainly the premiums, are in the main too costly for the average farmer to contemplate in his current situation.
Admittedly taxation concessions can be obtained from certain estate planning arrangements but taxation concessions are of no benefit where taxable incomes are already quite low or non-existent. Thus some “ relief from this form of vicious capital taxation was urgently needed for the benefit of bona fide rural producers. The first of these concessions provided in this Bill is the proposed 20% increase in the level of exemption applying to the smaller estates. I intend to outline these concessions to honourable members because the honourable member for Melbourne Ports did not touch on the degree of assistance that will be offered to the rural sector under this Bill. The statutory exemption will be raised from $20,000 to $24,000 passing wholly to the widow, children or grandchildren of the deceased. The exemption will be reduced thereafter by $2 for every $8 up to the value of $120,000. The same basis of reduction will apply to those estates which are not passing to close relatives but will commence from the exemption level of $12,000 and phase out at $60,000. This formula applies under the present law.
The next major relief provided under this Bill is relief in the form of partial rebate of duty. This will be available for rural estates of less than $250,000. The rebate will be calculated as a proportion of the part of the duty that is attributable to the rural property included in the estate. The rate of the rebate allowable will be determined by reference to the value of the estate before the allowance of any statutory exemption. On estates valued below $ 140,000 the rebate will be 50% of the part of the duty, calculated by the process of apportionment outlined in the Bill, which is attributable to the rural property. On estates above $140,000 but less than S250,000, the 50% rebate will be reduced by one-tenth of 1% for each $220 by which the value of the estate exceeds $140,000.
The next important form of relief is that the Commissioner will have power to grant an extension of time for the payment of duty in the light of any adverse circumstances of an estate. In the past the Commissioner has not had power to grant an extension of time for payment except upon sufficient security for payment. There was also the requirement that the whole of the State duty had to bc paid within 2 years. This extension of time will apply to all estates and not necessarily to primary producers alone. I commend the Government for this provision. There is also provision to ensure that estates of primary producers whose business has been conducted by family companies will qualify for the relief. Provision has also been made to ensure that the rebate benefits from the Bill will apply only to an estate that is comprised principally of rural property and earns more than 50% of its gross income from the business of primary production for the 5 years prior to the death of the owner. As the honourable member for Melbourne Ports said, this will to some extent eliminate the so-called Pitt Street farmer from the benefit, provided he has a mixed business and his income is derived from a farm or from other operations.
This Bill brings further badly needed relief to the primary producers whose land values have soared in recent years, despite the presently comparatively low income earning capacity of their investment. The rise in land values has, of course, caused enormous rises in the assessable value of estates. There have been many cases where family farms have been broken up because of heavy estate and State probate duties upon the death of the owner. This double barrel shot at the families of property owners is scandalous. At a time when policies should be implemented to maintain and encourage economic units of production, it seems paradoxical that we still have estate duty on our statute books at all. This concept was stolen firstly from the United Kingdom, implemented in the various States and then in the Commonwealth by a Labor Government in 1914, supposedly as a means of obtaining revenue to meet the increased expenditure of the war. I would now like to read the remarks made by that wellknown man. the late Mr W. M. Hughes, when the Estate Duty Bill was introduced on 15th December 1914. At that time Mr Hughes was the Attorney-General. He is reported in Hansard as having said:
I do not pretend that, in its present form, it ought to be permanent, though that is nol a declaration that probate, estate, or succession duties will not form a permanent part of the Commonwealth scheme of taxation.
So we are told that it was not necessarily to be permanent, but in the next part of the sentence we are told that he was not prepared to make a declaration that it would not in fact be permanent. Of course, he was a very enlightened man, but not as enlightened as he was when he left the Labor Party and joined the Nationalist Party. So we trace the origin of the estate duty in the Federal sphere right back to 1914. Since then there have been some concessions, but none of them has ever reached the level of these concessions.
The Bill brings to fruition some years of agitation by rural producers and their organisations for relief from the shattering and fragmenting effect of estate duty on the family farm unit. My own Party has been most active in its efforts to obtain relief from this burden. Indeed, it has been active in efforts to obtain the total elimination of estate duty. The previous member for the Riverina, Mr Bill Armstrong, was the chairman of the Country Party parliamentary committee which was set up to recommend way and means of progressively eliminating the burden of estate duty on rural producers. Estate duties and death duties are a most vicious and iniquitous form of property taxation. As I said earlier, they were introduced in Britain years ago to break up the large land estates. They no longer serve this purpose. Their effect on the family farm unit is destructive. Their application on the families of the deceased is bewildering and cruel at a time when widows, children and relatives would normally expect some consideration and sympathy from the State.
Why should the family of a man - or a woman - who throughout his life made his contribution to the development and progress of a country and who has paid income taxes, rates, levies and duties throughout his lifetime, have the savings or the residue from the taxed earnings subjected to a further tax upon death? There is no moral justification for this policy. If it is a means of raising revenue, then let us look at estate duty in that light. It earns less than 1% - I think .89%- of the total Commonwealth revenue. I believe that other forms of taxation should be used instead of estate duty. If it is designed to break up large estates then its purpose is laughable. Most of the large rural estates and properties are owned by large public or private companies and estate duty does not seriously affect these holdings. The death of a shareholder does not necessarily mean that the company suffers directly or that the company has to dispose of the estate to pay the estate duty of the shareholder’s family.
It has always been an enigma to me that we have come to accept and to live with this form of taxation which was introduced in 1914 by a Labor Minister. I liken the application of estate duty on an estate arising from the death of one who has saved and accumulated his wealth in spite of taxation during his lifetime to a bird of prey that picks the flesh from the bones of a carcass. It is a cruel and wicked tax without any moral, social or economic justification. But I do commend the Government for providing this relief for an important section of the community and I hope that this is the beginning of the end of estate duty in the statute book of the Commonwealth.
– I listened quite carefully to the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt). One of the points that he made was that estate duty was a cruel and vicious tax. If he believes that it is a cruel and vicious tax I would remind him that he is a supporter of the Government, which is placing the burden of this cruel and vicious tax on primary producers. If he wants to be fair dinkum he may merve an amendment or he may oppose the Bill; but as always happens we will see the members of the Country Party, who say that this is a cruel and vicious tax, support the Government when it comes to a vote. What the honourable member for Gwydir should do is to vote either for the amendment or against the Bill.
– I may be new to this place but I am not naive.
– The honourable memmer says that it is a cruel and vicious tax but he is a supporter of the Government, which is implementing this tax. Practically everything else that the honourable member said about primary industry I would agree with, but when one examines estate duty as it applies to all people in Australia there are probably points on which we could join issue. The honourable member for Gwydir criticised the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) and said: It is ridiculous to say that the bigger the farm the greater will be the relief. I am not certain what criterion the honourable member for Gwydir used here. In relative percentage terms this might be so, but in absolute terms there is no question that the bigger the property in terms of capitalisation or net value assessable the bigger will be the relief. If he means that the maximum should be $250,000, fair enough. If he thinks it should be greater than that, he should move an amendment.
One aspect that I should like to deal with involves a fairly technical matter - the honourable member for Gwydir dealt with it - namely, land value, which I believe is quite iniquitous in the assessment of probate and estate duties on farms. To prove my point I refer to research that I undertook on this matter some time ago. It is still relevant because, as the honourable member for Gwydir knows, land does not change hands quickly like motor cars and other items. From the figures that I have taken out from various surveys that have been conducted by the Commonwealth Government, some surprising facts emerge. These figures relate to bona fide farms. I base my data on surveys conducted by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics at different times. They reveal that the average wheat farm in Australia changes hands once in 52 years. This does not mean a change of hands from father to son or changes within a family, but a sale to another person. The average farm where the income is derived mainly from wool changes hands once in 58 years. This means that within this section of primary industry, where the turnover of land is infrequent, considerable death duties are collected from the family concerned. At the other end of the scale the greatest turnover is in respect of poultry farms where, as one would expect, there is smaller capitalisation. Such farms chang? ownership on average once in 21 years. In Queensland beef cattle properties change hands, in terms of new ownership, once in 60 years. My point is that an unfair valuation is applied to such land.
It is analogous to the share market. The fact that some shares are changing hands today at, say, §100 each does not mean that the other 5 million shares are worth $100 each. The market and the rate of turnover will soon determine their true value. If all shareholders decided to sell their shares they most certainly would not all get S100 each. Many think they are worth $100 until they try to sell them. If there is only a small turnover they will get $100. The same conditions apply to land. If everybody tried to cash in and sell land at the going land value the demand and supply forces would cause the price of land to come down. That is why I make the point that land is not like motor cars, oranges or apples. The rate of turnover is so low that in fact it is a false figure in terms of the overall value of all land. The fact that 2% of wheat land is changing to new ownership per annum does not mean that the other 98% has the same average value per acre as the 2%. The studies made on this subject by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and by other authorities overseas, for example, show that if there is one thing which has a false value today it is land.
– How would you value it?
– I happen to have technically supervised the wheat survey of 1962 by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics so 1 think I know something about valuations. Perhaps the honourable member did not know that. The point is that you cannot deduce the value of people’s properties from the value placed on a few farms selling in a particular area at a point of time. For example, in the electorate of the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) 2% of land on an average - if the Commonwealth average applies there - changed hands each year before the present crisis.
– More than 50% in the last 12 months.
– This is the point. This is exactly what I am illustrating. Suddenly with increased supply and market conditions as they are today we find that land prices sometimes goes down by 50%. They cannot: fall 100% because that would be down to zero. This is an important thing.
Therefore land values, as has been said, are completely fallacious figures. They cannot go up and down 50% if they represent a true figure.
– You have to pick the right time to die.
– That is right. As has been pointed out one of the burdens of estate tax is this aspect of fragmentation of properties. Too often we see a highly efficient property that has been built up by family labour and is using its resources efficiently in terms of either physical or economic criteria and then because of probate or death duty there is a break up in the partnership which causes the property to be sold or often to be split up. There is then the strong possibility of having an inefficient use of resources iri terms of the first use because the property is too small, or the 2 or 3 properties into which it is divided are too small in terms of fixed capital. I see this problem in the sugar districts in my own electorate. Farmers have to purchase capital equipment such as harvesters and in so doing are burdened with probate or estate taxes and are often forced to subdivide a bit of land and sell it to someone else to pay the taxes and the farms frequently become inefficient. Farmers are forced by taxation to become inefficient. Surely this type of legislation is actually defeating the purpose. On the one hand the Government says that farmers must get bigger in order to survive - some Government speakers have said this - but on the other hand taxes are increased by inflation and the farms often become smaller so that the farmers can pay their taxes when they die. An anomaly exists here.
It would seem that there has to be a radical change in the time honoured and traditional policies of Australian agriculture, and this matter should be one of national priority. One aspect with which we are dealing today is an alleviation or remission with respect to probate but, as was asked by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, has the Government really made a study of the burden of taxes on properties - not only probate but local authority rates and taxes? Local government authorities are being starved of funds and burdens are placed on properties in the form of rates and taxes. The Federal Government seems incapable of understanding that Australia’s present agricultural policies are outdated and financially unsound. This is illustrated by the mounting crisis which is spreading throughout rural Australia arid is characterised by organised marches and protest meetings of farmers and rural workers. When trade unionists march they are called Communists. When farmers march they are evidently heroes. The Opposition supported the farmers in their protest march held recently in Melbourne. The farmers have legitimate problems and it seems to me that the Government has continuously ignored them. I suppose that with the exception of beef and sugar all major export rural industries are in a serious economic condition today, with the future looking more serious rather than better. Alleviating the burden of probate taxes on the estates of primary producers will assist rural producers a little but the main beneficiaries of this legislation for estate tax remissions will be tha very large concerns, the very large grazing companies. Estate tax is a progressive tax which tends to reduce the size of the farm and farm efficiency. Estate tax, especially probate, as I said before, seriously penalises farms of moderate sizes which are in fact frequently using their resources efficiently.
I for one refuse to accept the criticism that has been levelled in the newspapers that the primary producers are getting preferential treatment in regard to this alleviation of probate tax. My reason for this is that farms are in quite a different category from companies and firms because they are unincorporated businesses. They are family farms in the main and they are quite different structurally. As we well know no 2 farms are the same. The person who is born and bred and works his apprenticeship on a farm and who knows the area well, be it a wheat farm or a property in the beef cattle area in the Northern Territory, must have gained through experience some advantage over someone coming onto the property for the first time. It is desirable to try to retain experienced people on farms rather than to force them off. The burden of estate tax on farms causes considerable capital erosion which weakens the producing capacity of farms. Although measures such as estate tax remissions are helpful, the overall problem of uncontrolled rising costs must be squarely faced by the Government. Because of inflation the estate tax is in fact increasing, like income tax. The more the inflation - except when there is a recession in primary industry - the greater the indirect taxes which contribute to the cost price squeeze. There is a limit to the degree of productivity increases which can be achieved to offset cost increases. As 1 said before, the economic balance between primary and secondary industry in this country is dangerously out of hand. We do not seem to be able to get it into the head of the Government that this serious imbalance is starting to show in a very dangerous fashion.
In the last 5 years the increase in the gross national product of the non-farm sector has been 40%, or an average of 8% per annum. The increase in the gross national product of the farm sector - the rural sector - has been 5% or 1% per annum. If we take costs into account we actually find a decrease or a negative figure for the farming sector in the last 5 years. Anyone who wants any proof of that can get it from White Papers. In Australia we have a booming non-farm sector and a stagnant farm sector as shown officially by figures. Estate duties and probate taxes are certainly not helping to achieve a measure of relief. In general, with the exception of sugar and beef, not only the farms but also the rural districts are encountering some of their worst financial problems since the depression 40 years ago. It is not just the farmer - it is also the services in farm towns, and in some cases large towns, which are dependent on the prosperity of the farmer.
It is necessary to have a look at the structure of primary industry in the world because this structure is changing quite rapidly. We have seen a transition from the old laissez-faire days to days of high protectionism. We are now at a stage where it is the affirmed policy of developed countries to make their countries self-sufficient in primary industry. This means that organisations such as the European Economic Community and countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom are making radical changes in policy which in fact give high protection to primary industry in order to make themselves self-sufficient. It is imperative that Australia look at this problem before it is too late and change its policies. On the one hand Australia has a highly protected secondary industry and on the other hand some primary industries are protected while others are practically not protected. As I have said before, the position is becoming out of balance, as we can see from the figures. Other countries have recognised that definite production controls have to be associated with financial measures. We are seeing that now in respect of wheat. Perhaps the best example of all and the most regulated is sugar.
– I rise on a point of order. I ask: Is this a general debate on agriculture?
– The honourable gentleman will proceed. The point of order is frivolous.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. Obviously you were listening to me whereas the honourable member for Angas, a Liberal member of Parliament from South Australia, was not. The point I was making. Mr Deputy Speaker, was this: Because of the parlous state of some sections of primary industry in Australia, indirect taxes, and on top of them probate and estate taxes when they fall due, are placing serious burdens on primary industry.
When the point of order was taken I was listing some of the efforts that have been made by other countries in changing their policies and why it is necessary for Australia to wake up to itself and change its policies with respect to primary industry. The price-cost squeeze - and this is only one of the factors with taxes - is becoming so important, particularly to medium and smaller farmers, that there is a limit to productivity increases and unless world prices rise it is obvious that the smaller farmer, despite his efficiency, will have to sell out of the industry because his net income is not enough. A small farm producer’s wool1 cut per acre or wool cut per head may indicate that he is highly efficient. He may be highly efficient in terms of productivity per man hour or whatever criteria one takes. But his net income is simply not big enough, after his costs have been taken into account, to allow for replacement of capital or for him to give his family a decent living.
Ohe can say, as I have said before, that the Government shows lack of leadership in primary production fields in refusing to solve these basic problems. Estate tax is not a basic problem. The basic problems are inflation, domestic growth and tariffs. Those are the things that the Government has to get at. The refusal1 by the Government to give positive leadership and its policy of encouraging the growth of secondary industry at the expense of primary industry are to be deplored. I shall give 2 examples of the Government’s complacency. One is the savage drought in south-western Queensland at present. What is the Government doing about this situation? The only time we see Ministers in the drought area is just prior to an election. They seem to have forgotten the tragedy in western Queensland at present. The second example is farm costs and the manner in which costs are going up. These are 2 examples of the need for Government’ action. The longer it refuses to give positive leadership the more will taxes like estate taxes burden primary producers.
The Opposition supports the amendment. I hope that the Government will read the amendment correctly and interpret it in the manner in which it was moved by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. It is a constructive amendment and it should be treated in a constructive way.
– Having listened to the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) I think that anyone might be forgiven for thinking that he is about the only person in this House who is concerned with the problems of primary industry. I would like to assure him that many honourable members on this side of the House are vitally concerned personally with primary industry and have been attending meetings on this subject from one end of their electorates to the other.
– And have done something about it.
– We have done something about it. We have been able to do something about it because many of us on this side of the House have had first hand experience in primary industry. We know what it is like having to deal personally with the problems that are facing farmers today because a great many of us are still practical farmers. There is nothing like first hand experience In any profession for gaining a true knowledge of that profession. There are far more honourable members on this side of the House who have qualifications in primary industry than there are on the other side of the House.
– There is none at all on the other side.
– My friend the honourable member for Angas tells me there is none at all.
– I do not think there are any.
– I doubt it. I can assure honourable members opposite that we have many competent people on this side of the House.
– Order! I think the honourable member for Corangamite can do well without any assistance.
– The honourable member for Dawson questioned the system of land valuation. I think he said that there had been a 90% increase in the value of wheat farmland over the period of 5 years to which the last inquiry related. But of course, this 90% increase was not due to the system of valuation; it was due to the incorporation of the price of land in the cost of production formula which was used to give the home consumption price of wheat. This had a dog chasing its tail effect because at that time wheat was selling well, there was a guaranteed price and people were attracted into the industry. This made good wheat growing land more and more valuable and this in turn was used to push up the domestic price of wheat. That is why land values in wheat areas rose 90% in 5 years. It was not because of any system of valuation.
– That is still the Commonwealth Bank valuation on all wheat land.
– I know. But I understood the honourable member to say that he was questioning the system of valuation. I am pointing out why this extraordinary increase occurred. As the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) said by way of interjection when the honourable member for Dawson was speaking, this situation does not apply today. Since the introduction of wheat quotas and the difficulties associated with wheat marketing there has been a drastic fall. There is no doubt that land valuations in the wheat industry have fallen drastically since the introduction of the wheat quota system. The honourable member for Dawson claimed to have some expertise in this matter, due to his previous association with Government departments, but I did not hear him put forward any constructive suggestions as to how we could overcome this problem of valuations which are unrelated to the income earning capacity of the land involved and also the rapid fluctuations. It might be worth considering whether values for probate purposes should be based on a longer averaging period so that we could, at least, get rid of the worst features of violent fluctuations.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I congratulate the Government on introducing this Bill. It is not only needed but also completely justified. I would also like to compliment some of the previous speakers in this debate. 1 think this has been one of the more constructive debates this session. I was particularly pleased to see that the provisions of the Bill, as introduced, were better than I envisaged they would be when the legislation was first foreshadowed in this House last year during the life of the previous Parliament. 1 made a speech on that occasion. I do not intend repeating what I said at that time but there are some very important implications in this legislation. The first is an acceptance by the Government of the peculiar difficulties faced by rural industry.
The honourable member for Dawson suggested, by inference, that the Government had never appreciated that rural industries were operating under peculiar disabilities. Introduction of this legislation is proof that the Government does realise this situation. I also would like to refer the honourable member for Dawson to the recent decision of the Government not to extend the increase in interest rates recently announced by the Reserve Bank of Australia to primary producers or those mainly engaged in primary production. This again is a clear recognition on the part of the Government that primary producers are operating under particular disabilities which are not suffered by all sections of the community. I congratulate the Government for its wisdom in not extending the increased interest rate to primary producers.
Much mention has been made in this debate of the very real dangers of frag- mentation for which estate duty taxes are responsible. I do not intend to enlarge on this matter. I was interested to see that the rebate outlined in this Bill is limited to an estate with a maximum valuation of $250,000. There are several important implications involved and here again I believe that the Government has been realistic. There is no doubt that in most primary industries there are economies of scale to be gained. It is not so widely recognised that there are diseconomies of scale. I had a chance to discuss this matter some 12 months ago with officials and office bearers of the National Farmers Union in the United Kingdom. They were able to give me some information to the effect that amongst its members those who were getting the best return on capital invested were the top 10% or 20% of the owner operators. Contrary to a lot of opinion, it was not the largest corporate farms which were obtaining the best returns on capital - it was the best of the owner operated farms.
I have always suspected that this is probably so also in Australia. I was very pleased to have my suspicions confirmed by some research work which was incorporated in the report on the wool industry by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia which was referred to by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). The researchers came to the conclusion that so far as sheep properties in Australia were concerned the best return on capital was achieved by properties having a flock size of between 4,500 and 5,000 sheep. For flocks over that number the graph of the return on capital did not merely taper off, it actually turned over. Diseconomies of scale began to appear and the graph started to go down even more rapidly when the flock size was over 12,000 or 17,000 sheep.
This brings up the question of what is an economic sized farm. Again, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports referred to this point. If policies result in too much aggregation, clearly in the wool industry and, I suspect, in others as well, there will be a misallocation of resources in the same way as there are misallocations if the units are too small. I think we have to be extremely careful to strike a balance between the two. That is why I think the
Government has been wise to insist on a ceiling figure of $250,000 as the limit for this rebate.
Does this diseconomy of scale apply in other industries? Quite frankly, we do not know. I suggest that this should be an avenue for immediate research. We must remember that agriculturally - indeed, so far as the whole economy is concerned - we are in a dynamic situation, not a static one. Therefore the answer never will remain the same. It will change with economic circumstances and with the development of new knowledge and techniques. But at least if we did some research into this point we might know where we are at the present time.
The second main reason why 1 would like to congratulate the Government so far at this Bill is concerned is that for the first time we have a definition - perhaps a pretty rough and ready one - of a primary producer. A primary producer is someone who has had at least 50% of his assets in and who has derived 50% of his gross income over the previous 5 years from primary industry. In view of the present economic situation of rural industries there is a great deal of justification for looking carefully into whether this definition could be extended into other spheres. I think this point also was touched on by other speakers in the debate. The fact that previously the Government has tended to give blanket concessions to primary industry undoubtedly has been responsible for attracting into primary industry capital which otherwise might not have gone there. In other words, in that sense there has also been a misallocation of resources. I think that, for example, in preferred credit terms and, perhaps, in the field of income tax concessions as well, the Government will have to look very carefully in the future to decide who should qualify for concessions in order that we will get the best use of the limited resources we have and not merely attract capital into an industry for the concessions available. 1 think that this definition of a primary producer is one of the most realistic concessions that a primary producer has yet received from this Government. It is also good business since it will result in a more efficient allocation of resources. There is justification for close examination as to whether it could be extended into other spheres of concession. I trust the Government will consider looking at this matter in the near future. In the meantime, as 1 said at the start of my speech, this measure is a clear indication that the Government realises that primary producers are operating under peculiar disabilities in a rapidly expanding industrial economy. I hope that the Bill foreshadows more policy measures which will take account of these disabilities suffered by the rural sector.
Mr MARTIN (Banks) (5.21] - In speaking to this measure 1 feel that it is necessary to go back a little into the history of Commonwealth estate duty. Commonwealth estate duty first came into operation on 21st December 1914. It is important to note that the present rates of Commonwealth estate duty have remained unchanged since 1941. Let us look at the situation concerning total collections. In the year 1958-59 the total collections of federal estate duty were $26,617,488. In 1959-60 they were $27,505,220, and in 1960-61 they were $29,613,906. Let us jump a few years and come to the financial year ended 30th June 1967. The collections for that year were $41,533,748. The figure for 1967-68 jumped up considerably to $54,716,655. For the year 1968-69, which is the last year for which figures are recorded, the collections jumped up to $60,725,780. From those figures we see that the increase is a not inconsiderable amount of the total Commonwealth revenue.
Let us look at the position as it affects the holders of rural property. Despite what one often hears, the Australian Labor Party is very much interested in the man on the land. For the year ended 30th June 1968 the total number of assessments issued for federal estate duty was 14,489. Of that total 3,783 were in respect of primary producers. In other words 26% of the total assessments issued for estate duty were in respect of deceased primary producers. The total gross value of estates for the year ended 30th June 1968, which is the last year for which statistics are available, was $840,226,000 of which primary producers represented $275,742,000. In other words the value of primary producers estates represented 32% of the gross value of estates in that year.
Now we come to the dutiable value, which is the value after deducting statutory exemptions and other items. For the year ended 30th June 1968 the total dutiable value of all estates in Australia was $516,320,000. The primary producer content was $184,562,000. In other words, primary producers’ estates comprised 36% of the total dutiable value of all estates in that year. Let us look at the tax paid by the primary producers. The total net duty assessed for the year ended 30th June 1968 was $57,711,000, and primary producers paid $21,901,000 of that total sum. In other words, primary producers paid 38% of the total revenue collected from federal estate duty for that year.
From those figures it seems fairly clear that the burden of federal estate duty is being unfairly borne by this section of the community and that the Government, which professes to help the primary producer, has failed. Now is the time for members of the Australian Country Party to stand and be counted. It is clear that the section that they represent is paying more than it should. I suggest to the honourable members opposite who occupy the Country Party benches that they should have the courage to vote for our amendment. Our amendment states, amongst other things: the House is of opinion that it-
That is this measure - is inadequate, as it fails to recognise -
It is quite clear from the figures that I have quoted that members of the Country Party, if they were sincere on this issue, would come out and support us in our attempt to gain a little more justice for the rural producer.
What are the critical needs in this matter that we are discussing today? Is the reduction in estate duty proposed in the measure a real help? Let us take a few examples of the reductions in estate duty which are proposed in the Bill. On a net value of $40,000 before the allowance of the statutory exemption - this would be a relatively small rural holding - the present duty payable is $937. The duty proposed under this measure is $400. The net reduction in duty payable would be only $537, which is a paltry amount.
– Over 50%, though.
– It is still a paltry amount. We will jump up the scale a little further. At $50,000 the duty payable under the present legislation is $2,104. The duty payable under the proposed legislation would be $1,053, making a reduction of $1,051. Is that going to help to stop the break-up of a holding? Let us go even higher and take an estate of $150,000. The duty payable under the present legislation is $25,500. The duty payable under this measure would be $17,773, a net reduction of $7,727. It would hardly buy a tractor. The same situation applies right down the scale. For the benefit of honourable members present - there are not a great many Country Party members present - I would like to read the comments of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon), as he now is, and who previously was the Treasurer. In a speech which he made in this House in September 1969 he said:
The purpose of the proposed reliefs is to provide assistance to discourage the breaking up of economic rural holdings, particularly family holdings, because of the need to pay estate duty.
Will the remission, if the Government likes to call it that, of an amount of $3,765 on an estate of $90,000 prevent the breaking up of a holding? Of course it will not. It is pious humbug to say it will. What I would like to ask is whether the relief now being provided will help to prevent the break up of farms. I would like these questions to be answered by honourable members opposite. Of course it will not. It is only a political stunt. This measure does not do what it claims to do; in fact it might well have the opposite effect.
Getting down to the Bill, there are 2 criteria for the application of the rebate provisions to primary producers. There is an assets eligibility test and an income eligibility test. I would like to ask the Treasurer at some stage in this debate to explain to me and other honourable members on this side of the House why in the definitions clause the terms ‘gross income’, gross farm income’ and ‘gross value’ are used? Why are these not ‘net’? I suggest that if we have a real look at this legislation we will see that it does not have the benefits for the genuine and bona fide primary producer that it claims to have. It could well have a far greater benefit for what is commonly called the Collins Street farmer or the Pitt Street farmer. I would like some information on these facets of this legislation.
It is quite a complicated piece of legislation and a lot of questions can still be asked about it, particularly by honourable members on this side of the House. I cannot for the life of me see, if my thoughts on this matter are correct, why this measure should be of assistance to the Pitt Street farmer or Collins Street farmer - in other words, the non-bona fide farmer. The Pitt Street farmer is not the traditional farmer. In fact people in this group have affected the bona fide farmers. They have bought farming properties for one reason and one reason alone. It was not to help the primary producer of this country or to increase primary production. They bought in for one reason and one reason alone and that is to get income tax benefits. This group is also responsible to a large measure for the parlous position of primary production today. In wheat production they have reached the stage where they are gradually killing off the traditional farmer who has had his quotas cut because of the incursions of this type of person in the fields of primary production. They have also affected the benefits that could be derived by the primary producer from the estate duty measure which is now before the House. They have built up the value of land to a false value so that they can get their income tax benefits. They have paid prices well above the real value of the farm and this has had the effect of building up the value of all farms in the vicinity on a notional value only and not on the real value. This has affected the bona fide primary producer because it has built up the alleged value of his estate for State stamp duty and Federal estate duty on death.
The non-bona fide farmer is of no benefit to the farming community. Values of rural properties in the last 5 years have increased by more . than 90% and in no small measure I think the blame can be fairly laid at the feet of the nontraditional farmer who has bought in and forced up land values. The honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) stated that the con cessions being provided by this measure are for bona fide producers. But are they? I would like honourable members opposite to examine their consciences, do a little homework on this measure and determine how the bona fide farmer is benefiting. If they do they may well come to another conclusion. This measure does not give real assistance to those who need it most, those for whom the former Treasurer stated this legislation was being introduced. The whole Estate Duty Act should be altered. There should be a complete restructuring of the whole Act and the effect it has on primary producers and other sections of the community. As a matter of fact the Australian Farmers Federation is inclined to agree with the statements that I have made today, even though its secretary was not commenting on the same subject. The Melbourne ‘Herald’ of 8th April this year reported:
The Secretary of the Australian Farmers Federation, Mr A. S. Norquay, today defended income tax concessions for primary producers on the eve of a 2 day meeting in Canberra.
The report continued:
Mr Norquay said today that income tax concessions for primary producers were never intended to reduce or avoid income tax by prosperous business or professional men. Farmer organisations were anxious to remove any element of abuse.
I suggest that honourable members opposite, particularly those from the Country Party, should take note of that comment and attempt to get the Government to eliminate the possibilities of abuse arising from this Act, especially as they benefit the non-bona fide farmer.
– The great Lord Acton once wisely remarked:
The earth belongs to those who dwell upon it, not to those who lie beneath it.
This remark is applicable to the subject today. I want to mention very briefly the history of death duties because they arose and were developed in the United Kingdom and provide a background to the law which exists in Australia today. The earliest record of death duties was in 1694 when there existed such a duty in the form of regressive stamp duty. Many types of death duties were applied and were amended until in 1894 five of the then existing death duties were replaced and one estate duty in the present form superseded all the others. In 1949 Sir
Stafford Cripps, Chancellor in the then Labour Government introduced the most highly progressive estate duty known, rising to 80% of the value of the estate. That replaced all the other death duties and became and still is the sole estate duty. It is interesting to note that only a few years ago 25% of the estates in the United Kingdom were taxed more than 40%. Inevitably the growing weight of death duties has led to legislative provisions along three distinct lines: Firstly, to alleviate the burden of special cases; secondly, to facilitate payment without unnecessary hardship or undesirable economic consequences; thirdly, to combat evasion and avoidance. It is the first 2 of these with which we are concerned today. Provisions in the United Kingdom legislation allow for marginal relief on the progressive scale, quick succession duty and relief in provisions concerning agricultural property. In the United Kingdom this was introduced in 1925 and provides for relief of 45% of the ordinary rate of duty. Death duties were first introduced into New South Wales in 1865 and in Tasmania in that year also. By 1895, all the States imposed such duty. The Commonwealth itself imposed death duty in 1914, authority arising from explicit reference in the Australian Constitution.
There are 4 points to which I wish to refer particularly today, but, before I do, may I make a passing reference to the amendments put forward by the Opposition. These amendments have been dealt with, I think almost completely, and answer fully by the honourable members for Corangamite (Mr Street) and Gwydir (Mr Hunt). May I comment that, in the main, they are spurious, vague and superficial. They are clearly attempts at vote catching. I do not believe that the thinking taxpayer will be fooled by such a transparent device. There is sense in only 1 of these sub-paragraphs, I believe, and that is sub-paragraph (b) (ii), to which I will later refer.
The major principle in the Bill is that of providing relief to primary producers and to the estates of primary producers who are deceased from 25th September 1969. There are 2 conditions to obtaining that relief. The first is that 50% of the assets of the estate should be concerned with primary production and, secondly, that a gross income of at least 50% from primary production for the last 5 years shall have been received. The previous speaker, the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin), made reference to this second condition and suggested that the provision ought to relate to net income. I can suggest only to the House that the honourable member has not examined the Bill very thoroughly or he would realise that such a suggestion would rule out, many, many bona fide primary producers.
The relief given by these provisions is threefold. First, the minimum amount of exemption has been increased by 20% above the existing levels. Secondly, a 20% reduction above that minimum level is to be given. That diminishes on a sliding scale on a proportion which cuts out at the level of $120,000. Thirdly - and perhaps most importantly - a partial rebate of duty applies, being 50% of the ordinary rates on that area of value of estates between $140,000 and $250,000. Again, it is at 50% on the $140,000 and diminishes in proportion to nil at $250,000. A long standing principle in death duty law is that greater relief in death duties be given to beneficiaries who are members of the family. That is, that greater relief be given to widows, children and grandchildren than to others. It is right that a man should be able to work, to save and to leave his assets to close relatives and that they have some benefit for that. It has long been recognised that this principle exists and I wish to discuss it further a little later.
I am glad to see - and 1 commend the Government for realising this fact - that recognition has been given to the fact that when primary producers own company shares they should be entitled to relief in this respect too. It is important that this should be recognised as well as the case where assets are left to individuals. The leaving of estates to persons other than members of a family means that those in receipt of assets from an estate are worse off because, firstly, they pay higher duties. Secondly, they have a lower exemption limit. In this case, the amount is $12,000 as opposed to $24,000 and, thirdly, the relief to which such people are entitled, which I have mentioned earlier, cuts out at a far lower level, namely $60,000.
A ‘family company’ - I think that we could define it in this way - means a company all the shares in which at the date of a relevant person’s death are beneficially owned by that person or him and his family. In respect of that matter, I wish to request the Government to give consideration to allowing this relief of duty to an estate which is left to a family company, defined as may be necessary and with appropriate provisions. I. believe that this suggestion is consistent with the recognition by the Government that family companies need not be treated with disadvantage as against individuals. If we allow shares in family companies with rural assets, included in estates, to qualify as primary producers, we should allow such family class of companies, properly defined, to be given the same advantage as relatives when named as beneficiaries of such estates.
For my second main point I refer to the statement made by the former Treasurer, the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon). When referring to this matter originally, he touched on the principle - perhaps the main principle of the Bill - and said:
The proposed reliefs combined with the relaxation of administrative requirements will be a substantial step towards ensuring the retention of economic farm units by primary producers and their families.
Referring to the same principle, the present Treasurer (Mr Bury) in his second reading speech said:
This will provide valuable assistance to the heirs of farm properties and will do much to discourage the breaking up of economic farm units to obtain finance to meet estate duty.
I say with some emphasis that 1 do not criticise this principle of the concession and relief of death duties to be given to primary producers. All thinking people know of the fundamental contribution of primary producers to the building up of the economy of this country in the past and their basic contribution to the character of Australian life, both of which continue today. But I believe that the principles as stated could and should have a wider application. Economic units in the hands of families of non-rural character should get equal relief - the shops, factories, hotel’s and services being provided - where they are fixed assets. It is a strong human desire for people to aim to leave to their children - not huge estates which are not protected by legislation but, on the contrary, heavily taxed - either businesses or enough of their savings for their children to have adequate comfort or an adequate education. I believe that this is a laudable and a natural feeling. However people see the youth of today, many do receive such estates with gratitude, work them and work in them hard as economic units.
I have referred earlier to the United Kingdom legislation. In 1954 in the Finance Act, provision was made for a reduction of duty by 45%, the duty being then 55%, in the rates of estate duty charged on industrial premises, plant, machinery and equipment used by the deceased, or a company under his control, as in this legislation, to which assets the assets basis of valuation is applied. It does not include liquid assets, for instance, trading stocks. Indeed, the United Kingdom Government has a slightly different formula. It gives to private industrial business a concession similar to agriculture. Further details of the application of that legislation in the United Kingdom can be seen by reference to Green’s ‘Death Duties’ 5th edition, D. J. Lawday and E. J. Mann, starting at page 375. My contention is that a wider scope than the United Kindon, legislation should be given, as I have indicated.
The third point to which I wish to refer is that in the United Kingdom where provision applies for relief in agricultural property a considerable taxation avoidance has evolved. This avoidance is widespread. We have provided - and I believe it is a wise provision - that to qualify for this relief one must have received over 50% of his total income from primary production for 5 years. I believe that this provision needs to be further strengthened if we are to avoid a situation in which people, perhaps in the latter years of their lives, transfer their assets into rural assets simply in order to get relief from death duties.
As I have said, this is the situation that exists in the United Kingdom. I emphasise that a provision is necessary to prevent purchases to avoid death duties. Family heritage is one thing; tax avoidance is another. We should have such a provision for 2 reasons: In the first place, tax avoidance would result in a loss of dutv to the revenue, which is important enough in itself; but secondly, and of interest to everyone interested in the welfare of those in rural areas, as we all ought to be, it would create a more artificial demand for rural land. It would increase land prices at a time when full-time farmers are complaining about city investors raising farm prices in their bid to obtain the attractive income tax deductions that the development of farms can bring.
For my fourth point - as it may be a long while before one can make another comment on death duties - I would like to draw the attention of the House to a provision which exists in the United Kingdom law and which I believe ought to be considered by us and perhaps included in our legislation. Property articles of national, scientific or historical interest - including what one might generally call art’ - are increasing in number in Australia. Art is developing strongly in Australia and we have a number of national and international works of art. A provision exists in the United Kingdom - and I believe it ought to exist here - under which such articles are not included in the valuation of an estate in certain cases. Further, they are exempt if ultimately sold to a national or local art gallery or museum. Duty is paid at an average rate calculated on the valuation of the residue of the estate if these articles are sold to other than the galleries and museums I have referred to. This provision encourages the retention in the nation of works of art and historical and scientific articles. Such Government encouragement to build an artistic and historical wealth helps to build the national heritage and uplifts the influence on the lives of our citizens.
– I rise to support strongly the contention that the relief provided by this measure is not adequate. That is the contention submitted to the House by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), who led for the Opposition in this debate. This Estate Duty Assessment Bill has as its major feature an increase in the level of exemption from $20,000 to $24,000 and some provision for time to pay. Of course we must welcome any small recognition by the Government of the current crisis in the countryside. It is for this reason that we would not oppose this measure, but at the same time we feel that it is our duty to point out very strongly that it certainly does not go far enough to meet the present situation or to do the one thing that needs to be done in relation to estate duty at this time, and that is the restructuring of the entire impost.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports has traversed the detail of the situation, and the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has pointed out the importance of land values in relation to this impost and said that perhaps this is the key to many of the current distortions in the countryside in relation to costs, taxes and estate duty. The honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin) summed up the position very well. He said that it is all1 very well as an instalment. We accept it as such, but surely to goodness we should recognise on both sides of the House that what is needed is a complete restructuring of the estate duty impost not only in recognition of the present situation but in recognition of the situation that we will face in the future.
I was interested to hear a member of the Government describe the duty as cruel and wicked. He recalled that it was introduced in 1914. He condemned it without any qualification whatsoever. I invite him to tend his support to the amendment which has been moved very precisely and definitely by the Opposition which says that we welcome this as a temporary measure; but surely to goodness this does not finish it. Something further should be done fairly urgently because of the situation we find ourselves in at the present time. The Government has been in office for 20 years, and if the duty is cruel and wicked now it must have been cruel and wicked 20 years ago. Without any recrimination at all, surely to goodness we can now come together with a firm conviction and a united determination that the whole of this impost should be reviewed and restructured.
– Indeed. Some members of the Government have defended the legislation. The honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) has described our reasonable approach as superficial. I gather that in saying this he regards the Bill as quite adequate. I am surprised and also disappointed that he is leaving the chamber at this time. All the ramifications of the problem are related to farm size. It has been suggested that the bigger the farm the better and more efficient it is. I was delighted to hear a member of the Government say that his own investigations had led him to the United Kingdom and to a discussion with authorities there, who had pointed out to him that the top 10% to 20% of their efficient operators on the land were in fact owner-operators. This is totally in line with the experience and the data that is available in relation to Australia.
Of course, if we want to apply ourselves to exercises in farm size, it would not be a bad exercise to study what has happened in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which began with the idea that the biggest farm was the best. That was their guiding principle for a very long time. But today, talking technically and not politically with agriculturalists from that country I am sure they would admit that this is just not true and that the economies of scale fall away to zero and then reverse once the optimum size is exceeded. That can vary, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports pointed out so clearly in his speech this afternoon.
The hardship confronting primary producers at the present time, particularly the family enterprise, in relation to this duty, land tax. rates and the whole range of taxes, stems very definitely from the influx of hot money into the countryside. It was pointed out by the honourable member for Dawson that wheat farms changed hands on average only once every 52 years. But the incredible situation is that if some overseas concern or if some corporation from home or abroad with some speculative money moves into an area and makes a purchase at a quite fictitious and outrageous price the whole cost structure of that district is affected by it. The honourable member for Banks, who has great experience in taxation matters, described this as an ‘alleged’ value. He was being polite. I think it is a purely speculative value. It is certainly not a value that should be applied for purposes such as this. Nevertheless this is the pattern. It is often asked in the cities how it could be possible, with all the difficulties we have talked about in the countryside, that the price of land has not tumbled. It has not tumbled for 2 reasons: Firstly, I am very pleased to say, most of the farm operators and farming families are standing fast.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I was saying to the House just prior to the suspension of the sitting that most of the primary producers in the State of New South Wales, and in other States for that matter, are standing firm in the face of rising costs and in the face of the crisis in the countryside at the present time. They are standing firm against the temptation to put their properties on the market and against the temptation, perhaps to accept prices below what they would have been offered some time ago. It has been suggested, of course, that land values have already been affected. I would like to refer the House to the rise in land values, which is the key to the present problems in relation to estate duty. Honourable members might remember that the honourable member for Dawson particularly pinpointed this aspect of the legislation that we are dealing with.
The Rural Crisis Manifesto was produced by the Edenhope Agricultural Bureau. As a result of a fine piece of organisation, 10,000 farmers marched in Melbourne. It was a demonstration of solidarity of belief in their future and in their cause and the development of the countryside. The Rural Crisis Manifesto said this:
Rarely do land values decline. Yet there are numerous instances of sales at least 20% below the value of 2 years ago, and most potential sellers cannot find buyers. This state of affairs indicates the quite serious lack of confidence of both farmers and investors in the future of agriculture.
That was a comment made by the men of the Edenhope Agricultural Bureau. Just the other day the financial editor of a national journal, dealing with land values, said:
Rates are set at six-year intervals and since the boom days of the mid-1960s land values have declined by about 20 to 25 per cent … a major capital erosion on any terms.
Even more recently it has been suggested in another national journal that as a direct result of the introduction of wheat quotas - this was a reference to Victoria - land values had dropped in many areas from S90 to $60 in 20 months. In New South Wales some authority in a financial journal said that the
New South Wales Government’s purchase of property had been made at S39 instead of the previously prevailing value of $60.
These are isolated instances at the present time. 1 do not feel at the moment there has been any tendency to tumble land prices generally, but the problem remains that at this time we have artificial values brought about by the infusion into the countryside of hot money, whether from our own capital cities or from overseas. Then we have a situation of crisis in which the same hot money is standing by to buy up properties of family enterprises which, as has been conceded by honourable members on both sides of the House today, have the record of being the most effective and efficient in absolute terms.
Let us have a look at what is happening in my electorate. In one part there are growers and landholders with properties the average value of which at the present time would be $100,000. That seems a lot of money. When a farmer goes into a city and says: ‘Look, I have assets worth $100,000’, the reaction is: ‘My great goodness, what a wealthy man you must be.’ In fact, it is mostly fiction. What does that value comprise? It comprises land at an artificially inflated value, and the reasons for this have been accepted on both sides of the House. It comprises plant and equipment. But if the man were put out of business tomorrow morning, these would be put on the market and there would be no buyer.
As a matter of fact, at the present time - I think most honourable members who have any knowledge of the countryside would agree with this - there is pressure on the farmer to take over various items of equipment on hire purchase. Naturally the setup with the hire purchase agencies is that they have an agreement, which they implement. Let us suppose the purchaser says: ‘Look, I simply cannot meet this.’ In the normal course of events what then happens? The piece of equipment is taken over. It is put up for auction and disposed of as quickly and as effectively as possible. Whatever money is received for it is offset against the hire purchase debt, and if it is not enough then the man is charged with the balance anyway. So what does the farmer have? He has assets that are unreal in fact. I was once warned as a younger man against the tyranny of possessions. At the present time in the countryside the tyranny of possessions is very real because, although a person might have the assets on paper, he does not have the substance or the income, in fact. This is the problem that we face at the present time.
– It is no different in any other industry.
MrGRASSBY- Perhaps I should be grateful to the honourable member for Evans for that interjection, because it seems to me that the entitre crisis in the countryside is either being deliberately misunderstood by some city interests or perhaps is misunderstood because of ignorance of the significance of the crisis. There is in fact in this country at the moment a growth of what I might describe as an economic apartheid. What has been done is to lock two parts of the nation into separate entities and say that one part is a matter for one group of people and the other part is a matter for another group of people. There are not 2 Australias, to my knowledge; there is one. The interdependence of them needs to be demonstrated more clearly here, the greatest of our national forums, because at the present time there is obviously a lack of understanding of what is happening to the greater part of the continent. Perhaps the honourable member means that it does not really matter very much what happens in the rural sphere at the present time, because there are always corporations at home and abroad that will come in and say: ‘Look, you are in trouble. We will buy you up.’
I think the honourable member for Evans would know that in the City of Sydney at the present time, following an idea conceived in the cities of Zurich and Geneva - both cities were involved - people are standing by with very large sums of money and they are ready to say to any farmer who is in trouble: ‘My dear fellow, we will take over the farm for you and you may work for us. We would not dream of dispossessing you. You may remain there as our vassal, and when you get old we will give you a pension, and when you die we will bless you.’ If the farmers want to surrender, of course, that is fine. But I would venture to say that most of the people who inhabit the frontiers of our still undeveloped and still unoccupied continent wish to remain. The figure that I quoted earlier was not my own figure but was the figure presented to us by the honourable member for Dawson. lie said that the average turnover of farms in the wheat industry is once every 52 years. So the people have no great desire to flee from the frontier. They desire to remain, to battle, to reproduce and to see their progeny remain and push out a little bit further. There is no desire to retreat to the suburbs. But the measure we have before us, like many others, is contributing to the difficulties of survival at the present time.
I draw the attention of the House to an instance which perhaps illustrates the dilemma many people face. It concerns a family which has been farming in Australia for 5 generations. They bought a new property in 1935, subdivided it 5 years later and became quite settled. The property they have today they developed intensively by a tremendous amount of personal effort and by the use of the latest techniques that were available. To use an old phrase, they made the desert bloom in al! its reality. They have made a tremendous contribution not only to the economic life of the nation but also to its sociological progress. Obviously I cannot specify the people concerned but I hope that the House will accept that they would be among our most outstanding occupants of the frontiers of development. But what is their position now. Because of a sudden death in the family they face, after 5 generations, extinction. Just the other day the widow said: ‘My husband gave a great deal of thought in his will to the survival of the property as a viable proposition. He felt that the future of the property depended upon its not being further subdivided: so he made all possible arrangements in his will.’ But, to come back to the point on which I have been trying to focus attention, the greatest proportion of the estimated value of the estate is the value of the land which we have already established, I would hope on both sides of the House, is completely artificial.
It is often said that this sort of contingency that arises from time to time in time in respect of estate duties and associated matters can be covered by insurance. Let us see what this outstanding citizen, this outstanding primary producer, did in relation to insurance. He was insured on a basis that he calculated would be sufficient to cover the estimated death duties on the estate. His last policy was taken out before the drought - before the current crisis. He was then already . in his middle 50s. It seemed that he had covered himself, his family and their future adequately; but what has happened? With revaluations we now find that his insurance is totally inadequate. Whether or not he tried to adjust his insurance policies, the fact remains that he could not do so because the financial position of his family was such that he could not afford the higher premiums that would have been applicable to his age. This can be duplicated and multiplied across the nation. So the widow, in a plea related to these new valuations, said: This now places an intolerable burden on the property and every member of the family.’
This family has displayed what has happened following the drought. Has it been forgotten that this drought was the worst for 100 years? Has it been forgotten that it has imposed intolerable strains on individuals and whole communities? If the black death had returned to the urban areas of the nation and had decimated them would it have been forgotten so quickly? It seems to me that, in considering such measures as this, we have forgotten that the drought faced producers with the worst crisis for 100 years. When the honourable member for Evans says: ‘Is not this something that happens to all of us?’ the answer is no. I am afraid that I would be out of order in this debate in answering him fully but I hope that before the week is out there will be an opportunity to deal with this matter.
I want to go on record in this debate as saying that if the Government is going to wipe out the whole of the family enterprises in the countryside of Australia and to replace them with overseas corporations that will strive to follow the pattern, which has been established elsewhere, of controlling the whole of the food industries of the nation from the paddock right through to the housewife, then the honourable member will1 find in his electorate of Evans that he will have no recourse to this Parliament. He will have to go to boards in New York, London or Hong Kong and say: ‘My goodness, food prices are not good enough; food quality has degenerated and the quantity is inadequate1, because the policy governing the feeding of the cities - this is where interdependence comes in - will depend not on us but on the people to whom we have abdicated our responsibilities. When I rise in this chamber to discuss the affairs of the countryside I am not talking from the standpoint of economic apartheid. I do not want to do anything that would be injurious to the body politic as a whole. I am asking, in fact, for a balanced approach so that the advancement of the nation shall continue.
This is the summation of what I have said tonight: That the family enterprise has been demonstrated to be both efficient and effective and is the backbone of the rural development of the nation; that the current crisis is a product of policies or the absence of policies; that imposts, such as estate duty, must be totally reconstructed; that this small measure should be only a prelude to this being done as a matter of urgency; and that the vote on the amendment that has been put forward should be a vote of conscience. If we believe that the Bill is inadequate - I have heard nothing tonight, except from the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland), to the effect that it is not inadequate - then we should all join with the distinguished honourable member for Melbourne Ports who made a submission that was both reasonable and restrained. We accept the amendment; we welcome it. The proposed legislation is not enough. So please let us in this House of Representatives say so.
– We have just listened to quite a remarkable contribution by a member of the Opposition, inasmuch as he emphasised the rural problem but contradicted himself completely in the process and spoke of an apartheid approach by this Government. The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) very loosely referred to interests other than rural interests when he mentioned apartheid but he did not come to the point of telling us what he meant. He hid that among a lot of garbled words, and one can only conclude that his proposition was that there should be a removal of estate duty from all sections of the community. I do not dispute that this would be desirable, but 1 want to place first and foremost the problems of the rural industries. I want to direct the attention of the House to the matter with which we are really dealing, namely, the relief of estate duty on rural estates. There is nothing apartheid about this. The Government is being positive in what it has put forward. It has indicated in very clear terms - I think this must have escaped the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) to some extent - the benefit that should flow from the proposed relief from estate duty. Quite frankly, I can find nothing in the amendment that would afford any improvement to the proposed legislation. In fact all that the amendment would do would be to take away the immediate prospects of benefits to those who really need it.
This legislation is designed to have retrospective effect from 24th September last. It is designed in such a fashion as to give that relief to the efficient and practical farming interests which, by virtue of the impost of estate duty could find themselves unable to keep assembled in one unit and in one efficient operation the kind of rural enterprise that is very important to this nation. 1 refere to the whole range of farming enterprises whether it be wool, wheat, dairying, fruit growing or anything else. The reason is quite a simple one. This legislation is the result of a very careful examination of this problem by members of my Party and by the Government, and I express appreciation to the Government for recognising the value of what could be achieved by this legislation in the terms in which it is presented to this Parliament. The objective is to ensure the continuation of viable farming enterprises which the honourable member for Riverina seems not to understand, and which he chooses to describe in a very loose fashion, but which are in fact the bulwark of primary industry. On a property engaged in stud breeding the loss can be quite considerable if there has to be a sell-off of some at the stock. If one has a very efficient enterprise in agriculture the selling of some assets may disturb completely the overall operation.
This measure has been designed to meet this kind of difficulty and it takes into account very fully indeed some of the dissatisfaction mentioned by the honourable member for Riverina. He referred to land values. Is not this measure specifically to remove the problem of the increase in land values in regard to assessment of duty on estates? If it is not then 1 give up completely - I cannot read; I cannot understand plain English. The honourable member for Riverina gave us a long dissertation about the problems of increased valuations and he quoted from a document which I understand was prepared by some people at a place called Edenhope. I have no doubt that he has looked at that document from the front cover to the back. But I put this ro him: Is not the complaint he made that the fall in land values was a serious problem for primary industry? He complained about this fall in land values and yet he has accused the Government of being responsible for an increase in land values. He cannot have it both ways.
As one who is very much involved in primary industry I want to remind the honourable member for Riverina and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports - and I do acknowledge that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports recognises that there is a very high level in terms of capital requirement for farming these days - that if they are advocating a cutting down of the assets of rural producers then certainly they are hitting well below the belt as far as the security of rural industry is concerned. If there is to be stability and if there is to be a continuation of confidence in rural industry it certainly cannot be accomplished by advocating a slashing of values.
On the other hand my colleagues and I have recognised for a very long time that the rapid increase in valuations is an imposition on the farming community, and that is the reason for this measure, lt is a measure designed to relieve the rural industries of a very substantial cost factor in terms of the maintenance of rural properties so that they might be able to continue not in perpetuity precisely but to continue as the interest of a family or a descendant in a particular way. lt is all quite clearly set out in the Bill what the relationships of those who will derive the benefits shall be and the particular categories and levels of benefit. It is all designed to ensure that there is not a creation of hardship. It has been seen in recent years that there is hardship. This has been recognised. I think it was the honourable member for Melbourne Ports who said that the Government had taken a long time to do this. Someone on the Opposition side said that we had 20 years to do this and we had done nothing. I just want to remind those who put forward that point of view that the Opposition itself is not being very positive in this amendment which says that the proposal should be looked at again; that there should be further review; that we should stand by and expose again to consideration the whole range; and it adds that small business units in the industrial and commercial sector should be included in the benefits.
If this is the approach I put this question to the Opposition: Does it believe that if there were to be an overall lifting of estate duty the loss of revenue to the nation would permit the sources of revenue to deal with the very many other aspects of primary industry which require financial assistance today? 1 say the answer is no. There is a limit to what this nation can afford in assisting primary industry and I want to see to it that primary industry is assisted to the very maximum. For that reason 1 say that that section of the community, the small business and commercial sector which can only be interpreted as the non-primary industry sector, is in a much happier position economically than is the primary industry sector.
– There is a chorus from the Opposition side. Honourable members opposite want to deny the claim of the honourable member for Riverina. What he said, according to others on the Opposition side, evidently is not true
– What about the country towns?
– The question is posed: What about the country towns? There is, of course, undoubtedly a problem in some country towns but can any member of the Opposition cite to me one country town where the retail price of goods being sold by a country business has not risen in comparison with the retail price in any other town or city in the nation? The answer is no. Certainly some small businesses in country towns have their problems and I do not deny this. I am very conscious of it but
Opposition members should not for one moment suggest that there is the same kind of low profit to carry on a business in a country town as there is to carry on a rural property, particularly in that section of the country where the effect of falling prices is being felt. This ranges over most primary industries and is recognised as the result of a world-wide trend, the problem of finding markets where the realisations can produce the return that will maintain the same flow of income to the farmer. This is not the fault of this Government. This is not the fault of this nation. It is just the consequence of the eventualities of the day and our responsiblity as a government - and we accept it in this measure - is to give relief where relief can be given. I have always been an advocate of the removal as far as is possible of estate duty on rural properties for the reasons that 1 have already canvassed.
The honourable member for Riverina went on to illustrate the position of a family enterprise which as a result of this crisis - and 1 presume he is talking about the crisis we have heard him to be so vocal about in recent times - sees the end of an occupancy of a farm after 5 generations of, I presume, ownership. Does he deny that this measure would be a help in a case like that? Of course it would. This is a positive approach by this Government in this situation. If the Opposition’s only answer is to say that the same benefit should be spread more widely and that it should be given to every section of the community irrespective of its economic situation, I say that the Opposition is being quite irresponsible. I am not able to quote the precise cost from a Budget standpoint of this measure. I am sorry that I cannot. If I believed for one moment that the Opposition would treat the matter as it has I certainly would have inquired and referred to the total1 cost. But one can assume that it runs into several millions of dollars. It is by no means a small and insignificant contribution to the benefit of rural industry at this time when rural industry needs and deserves benefits of this magnitude. If it were to be spread over a wide section of the community or over the total community then, despite the disagreement indicated by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports by shaking his head a moment ago, certainly there would be a reluctance to make the benefits as liberal as they are. For that reason the total cost from a Budget point of view would be tremendous. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports knows that. He still shakes his head.
– It is 1% of the total Budget.
– I put it to you that if 1% of the Budget, in terms of further concessions to the rural industry, can be spread over the total rural industry and not over those other sections which do not need it at this time, the benefit to the rural industry would be very much greater indeed.
– And 40% of it paid by the farmers.
– I seem to be worrying members of the Opposition. This is evidence of their lack of concern for the primary producer. This is evidence of a lack on the part of the Opposition of a completely endorsed policy for primary industry.
I know that the honourable member for Dawson is dedicated in these matters. He must often wonder what the Labor Party would do in government if he had to get the endorsement of all his colleagues for the kind of things which he advocates in this House. We have the evidence here tonight that there are differing views. I am sure that the rural community is very conscious that it could never risk a situation where a measure of this kind could be in the hands of a government of a different political colour from the one we belong to on this side of the House. I would (ike to refer once again to the Opposition’s amendment. Paragraph (c) of the Opposition’s amendment states: that difficulties are aggravated by the joint operations in this field of the Commonwealth and the States.
This is very true and it was for this very reason that not many years ago the Commonwealth completely relaxed and in fact abandoned its interest in land taxation. What happened? The States, which did not previously levy heavy land taxation, took the opportunity to step in and take over in this field. I ask: If we were completely to withdraw our interest in estate duty, what would be the consequence? I think that one can predict it with certainty.
The States would take the opportunity straight away to come into this field more strongly and completely remove the benefits that we might give. I referred to the incidence of land tax because it was a very clear policy enunciated by the present Government not so many years ago that it would leave this field to other interests. In particular the inference to be drawn was that this field would be left to local government. This did not happen. I want to issue a warning tonight that if this section of the Opposition’s amendment were by accident to receive support it would throw completely back into the hands of the States collectively but acting separately, the opportunity to come into this field as the sole operators so to speak, and the danger of that is clearly obvious. I hope that this will be understood in the electorate of the honourable member for Riverina and also in other country electorates.
If there is to be a continuing benefit of the kind that this legislation offers, for goodness sake make sure that this national Parliament and this Federal Government keep some control over the incidence of estate duty and all of its ramifications. I do not want to weary the House. I believe that the Government’s case is very clear cut. The Government has put forward its reasons for this proposition; it has done so with clarity. It has set about the task of providing a graduated means of relief giving first of all benefits directly to that category where a primary producer’s estate is passing to his widow, his children or his grandchildren.
Secondly, this legislation gives a shading out in respect of smaller estates passing to close relatives. Thirdly it gives a measure pf relief where there is a dutiable estate in respect of which there are those who have a particular stake in primary industry as participants in the estate. In each of these categories there is a graduated calculation designed to give the benefit to what might be described as the typical and economic unit in primary production. The legislation is designed to assist the type of property or enterprise that needs protection; the type of property or interest that is not economically strong enough to meet the demands of estate duty and other estate charges without resort to perhaps cashing some of the assets, the loss of which would jeopardise the continuation of the unit as a satisfactory producing unit. This provision cuts off at a point where it can be calculated that the economic capacity of the farm unit is great enough to stand the cost of duty. I can see nothing more practical than this measure. Certainly we would like to see it liberalised perhaps even a little more.
All of us who represent country interests and all of us who represent any interest at all are keen to see a benefit that might be a little better, or a great deal better for that matter, than what we are able to achieve. But I am one who is particularly grateful when something positive and satisfactory can be seen to be done and in fact is accomplished.
What the legislation before us proposes will be an accomplishment for country interests. It will be an accomplishment for the Australian Country Party. I well recall our leader, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), raising the question of the importance of matters of this kind if we are to meet the challenge that we face today in rural industries. To provide a solution to economic problems across the board is quite often a difficult thing to accomplish. But piece by piece and with precision and the right approach things can be done. The legislation before us is evidence of things being done and things being accomplished. The legislation on its own does not solve the total problem. But it is a very useful and a very positive contribution. As I said earlier, the Opposition fails to recognise this and wants to turn the whole proposal into another hotch potch approach which would be so lacking in precision that we would get nowhere with it. I support the Bill. I commend it to the House and I say to the Government, on behalf of country interests: Thank you for what is being done for Australia.
- Mr Speaker, I will not occupy the time of the House for long but I have been spurred by the speech of the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) into taking a little more of the time of the House than I originally intended. I feel that he has not collected his copy of the amendment and has completely misled the House - I presume through ignorance rather than through deliberate action - as to its nature.
As the sitting has been suspended for dinner since the amendment was moved, I would like to draw the attention of honourable members to it. It states:
The amendment then lists a few of the reasons as to why we consider the legislation needs further attention.
The amendment clearly states that we of the Opposition are not opposing the passage of this limited Bill yet the honourable member for Cowper spent a lot of time suggesting that we are holding up the small benefits that will be available to country areas because of our attitude here tonight. This one thing clearly shows his misunderstanding of our point of view. The honourable member then used such emotional phrases as ‘slashing of values’ although the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) had quite rightly and generously paid tribute to the excellent diagnosis of the situation put forward by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) who had led for the Opposition. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports, who moved the amendment, received tributes from the honourable member for Corangamite for his diagnosis of the situation in the countryside and for pointing out that large capital units were required in the various spheres of primary production.
The Opposition, Mr Speaker, has no slashing of values in mind at all. Before i leave the contribution of the honourable member for Cowper, it is very interesting to draw attention to the difference of opinion between him and the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt). The honourable member for Gwydir spent much of his time in making an emotional attack on death duties. I am sure that for vote catching reasons every honourable member would like to climb on that bandwagon. But many of us are more responsible. We will not promise the community that death duties can be lifted because there are great calls on the Government for finance for education, health and other things that we know about. I am sorry if I misunderstood the speech of the honourable member for Gwydir but anybody who reads Hansard will learn that that is what he did. It was good emotional stuff. He pointed out how iniquitous it is to have any sort of death duties. I am sure all of us feel the same way but we would like to know in a constructive way what the honourable member for Gwydir and those who support him propose to do. Incidentally, the honourable member for Cowper is not in the same category because he was full of praise for the Government and was very anxious that it should not step away from its responsibilities for collecting estate duties in case the States marched in and entered the Field in its place.
Mr Speaker, there are about 3 main points to which I would like to draw the attention of honourable members in addressing myself to this Bill. This Bill does not go nearly far enough. We of the Opposition believe that the whole field of taxation is interdependent. Anyone who knows anything about estate duties knows that gift duty is extremely bound up with estate planning. Income tax, gift duties and the taxes raised by the States alt have interdependence and this point should not be overlooked when we are discussing legislation such as this. It is my personal attitude that the time is overdue in Australia when there ought to be a royal commission or some other commission of inquiry in depth as to the interdependence of all these tax fields.
I do not support the honourable mem Der for Cowper in suggesting that the fact that the States may walk in and take over this field of estate duties is one good reason why the Commonwealth should not vacate it. I make that statement because sufficient study in depth of the whole field of taxation has not been done, even in the last 20 years. I think that the committee of inquiry which a leader of my Party sat on back in the late 1930s was the last time that such a review occurred. I do not want honourable members to mention the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation, the Ligertwood Committee, to me because I consider its terms of reference were far too narrow even in those days. Anyone who has had any experience at all in tax practice will know that the way in which an estate is wound up in this country at the moment is midsummer madness. You have to wait, on the one hand, for the Commonwealth to get its share and then for the States to get a slice of the cake before you can determine what the residue will be. In one State there is probate duty; in another it is called something else. In my own State of South Australia it is called a succession duty and it is operated on a different basis.
I am not a lawyer. I have not had detailed practice in this field but I have been a practitioner in the tax field and have assisted lawyers in attempting to draw together what makes up an estate. It is a saddening experience to see the valuable contributions made and the time taken up by well educated people in Australia in doing this sort of work. It is made more difficult by 2 governments having a bite at the same cherry. I consider that the cost involved is the main element of waste in practice in this field. So I, and my colleagues, I believe, argue very strongly in favour of an inquiry, in depth, into this field.
I do not propose to leave the question there. I believe there ought to be continuing research in the tax field. I have drawn attention previously in this House to the Canadian Tax Research Foundation. In Canada lawyers and accountants in the tax field, together with members of the business community and people in government, get together in this body, subsidised by government but mainly financed by contributions from the private field, to carry out continuing research into such matters as estate duty. I consider that such a procedure is necessary in order that when a Bill of this nature is presented to the House there will be an informed body of opinion, based on solid research, which will be able to determine whether the legislation is worth while.
This Bill has been introduced without consideration of its effect on State legislation. It is of an ad hoc nature. I could not support it other than on the grounds that it is a little in the right direction even if it is too late. I gathered from one or two of the speeches made by honourable members opposite that they felt that because the Bill gave some concessions to a particular area of the community we were hopping in and supporting it on an ad hoc basis. That is not so. ft has been recognised, for instance, in the platform of the South
Australian branch of the Australian Labor Party for a number of years that primary producers are in a special disadvantaged position because of the inflated values of land. One has only to look at the yield being received by most, if not all, in the field of primary production to know that there is a peculiar factor relating to an estate of somebody who was a primary producer. As the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) pointed out during his remarks, this factor is the price of land.
There are two main reasons for the price of land being inflated above all other prices in the community. The first is the fact that the Government, through the Income Tax Assessment Act, particularly in sections 75 and 76, encourages city businessmen - whether they be from Pitt Street, Collins Street, North Terrace, St Georges Terrace or the main streets of the other capital cities - to move in and take tax advantages by owning a plot of farming land. These tax advantages are divided into 2 fields. One concerns the averaging provisions of the Act as they apply to primary producers, and the other concerns those sections which give a straight deduction from taxable income of what is virtually capital expenditure. That is the first reason for the inflation in the prices of land. The second reason is the turmoil that exists in our rural community. As the returns to the primary producers are based on overseas markets and as internal costs are increasing, the only way in which primary producers can overcome the adverse terms of trade which afflict them is to increase their landholding, increase their unit of production to obtain economies of scale. As landholders buy up neighbouring properties when they come on the market the price of land is inflated.
Both of these areas can be given attention by the Government through the taxation legislation and through other policies affecting primary production. Both should be given attention because, although those who live on the land are perhaps not looking for the same yield as those in other forms of activity - of course farmers do buy a way of life, and a very pleasant way of life at that - on the present cost of land their yields are well below what they ought to be.
The final point 1 make is that the Bill is not being opposed by my Party, except that we wish to amend it because of the factors I have mentioned. We recognise that the price of land for primary production is inflated. The concession to be given will do little more than overcome the effect of inflation and give recognition in Commonwealth legislation to the particular disadvantage experienced by the primary producers.
– At the very outset I should answer 1 or 2 questions that have been put to me directly. I appreciate the speech made by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) because he pointed out all the things that the Bill does, and that saves me from going into that fine detail again now. Some other honourable members have repeated it. Surely we all know now what the Bill really does. Someone has said that the Bill does not do what is claimed for it. It does do what is claimed for it, because we have claimed for it only that it will increase from $20,000 to $24,000 the amount at which estate duty commences and several other concessions. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports spoke about the great Sunraysia area. That includes Mildura, Merbein, Red Cliffs, Irymple and other places in the north western corner of Victoria in the Mallee electorate. This is a good place to mention because it is one of the show places of Australia. Apart from its great productivity it has become an outstanding tourist attraction.
Let me return to the question that the honourable member put to me. He said that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics has dealt with this area and other areas along the Murray River in different ways. He said that the Bureau referred to one part of the area as Sunraysia specialist and to another one as Sunraysia. The other area mentioned was the mid-Murray which goes down to Nyah, Swan Hill and further along the river in an easterly direction from Mildura. My answer is that the Sunraysia specialist is a man who grows dried vine fruits exclusively. He grows them to some purpose, too, for over 70% of the whole dried fruit pack in Australia is grown in this area. This is a great export industry and one that should be valued by any government in office in Australia. The Sunraysia farmer referred to by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics is a man who may grow dried fruits and who also grows citrus fruits. He may have some other means of making a living. He is not exclusively concerned with dried fruits. The other area mentioned was the mid-Murray, further south. The farmers there grow dried fruits, citrus fruits and a lot of different kinds of seeds that are sold. They provide fresh fruit for the Melbourne market. These farmers are much more diversified than the specialist who grows dried fruits. By the way, it has been a wonderful season this year. The crop is very good.
-Order! I think that the honourable member is making a speech on dried fruits.
– Just at the present time, Mr Speaker, I am answering some questions put by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. He said that the Government is more concerned with the problems of the dead than with the problems of the living. I am not in a position to know just what the problems of the dead are. It really depends on the individual. I am somewhat up to date regarding the problems of the living as they concern primary industry and the people who live in country towns. I know that the employee and the employer in a country town know that they are dependent for their livelihood and prosperity on the product of the surrounding farmlands and the price that can be obtained for it. I know that the city people whom a lot of the Opposition members and some of the Government members represent will never believe this. They think they are doing the primary producer a good turn by buying his product.
The Labor Opposition is always saying: This is not good enough.’ I want to refer to the amendment that we have before us. It says that certain things have not been taken into consideration. That may be so; I am not arguing about that. It would be better if they were taken into consideration. The Opposition calls upon members of the Government and especially the Country Party members, to support the amendment. This is all right to a certain extent, but is this not true of the Labor Party’s attitude to everything that the Government puts forward? Did the Labor Party in the time it was in office - by the way it has been in office for only 17 or 18 years out of 70 years - reduce estate duty? For the first 10 years I was here any debate on this subject would have been opposed by Labor members because they held the view that the main function of estate duty was to cut up big estates. This is what has been said by the Labor Party and 1 can show it to honourable members in Hansard. They spoke about the wool barons. Who does not remember that? The only honourable members who do not remember that are newcomers. Let me instance one or two things that have happened. After all Labour has never thought of reducing the estate duty; it has always thought of increasing it. This can be proved by looking into the debates that have taken place in this House over the last 20, 30 or 40 years. That is not all that the Labor Party says. It says that the grant for homes for the aged, the homes savings grant, the merged and tapered means test are not good enough, that they should be better. But Labor had never thought of them before they were introduced. It has never attempted to do anything that was so good, but when the Government brings something forward Labor says it is not good enough. The Labor Party wants to take the business of the Government out of the Government’s bands.
An honourable member said in the debate: ‘Will someone in the Country Party move over and vote with us on these subjects?’ The answer as far as I am concerned is no, and the reason why is that, even if this did some little good and if it defeated the Government, it would only throw the primary producer to the Opposition. We know from speeches that have been made through the years how they would get on if Labor were in office.
To be fair, my concern as a representative of a great primary producing area is to keep the present Government in office because most Opposition members represent city interests. On the other hand members of the Australian Country Party, voting as a bloc, can do much for primary industry. However, I move on to what has been said by the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin). I believe we must have fair play in this House. He said that the members of the Australian Country Party should look at their consciences. I am always trying to keep my conscience up to date. I have no cause to be discontented with it at this stage. Then the honourable member said: ‘There are not many members of the Country Party here now’. I could have said on numerous occasions that there were not many members of the Labor Party present, but the Country Party was fairly well represented. I have seen the number of Labor members present in this House down to 3.
– Not tonight.
– I did not say tonight. I said I have seen this. The honourable member should not try to put words into my mouth. I did not refer to this; the honourable member for Banks did. Immediately the honourable member for Banks finished his speech he walked out of the chamber. The only reason I say this is that, when the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) had finished his speech and had to leave the chamber, honourable members on the Opposition side said: ‘He is leaving the House’. Why did they not say this when the honourable member for Banks walked out? 1 am pleased to say that we heard the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) speak in a much quieter tone tonight. He made quite a pleasing speech but there are a couple of points with which I do not agree. I am of the opinion that as long as we stick to policies and leave personalities aside we can all be good friends. I have some excellent friends in the Labor Party. We work for the good of Australia in different ways but let us hope we all believe we are doing good for Australia.
– Order! I would suggest to the honourable member that he come back to the subject.
– The honourable member for Riverina said among other things that we should study what has happened in the Soviet Union regarding farming enterprises. I notice he is nodding his head as if to say yes. As far as I am concerned that is the last place I want to go to study farming. The Russians have the last kind of objectives and habits I want to see in the farming community I represent. I am very conscious of the collective farming methods. The people go to the farm during the day. They come back into the town, stay the night and go out again.
Throughout its history, the Soviet Union may on occasions have achieved some good production results but they are rare occasions. T would never support the means it has used in achieving this production. Another honourable member - I think it was the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) - said that rarely do land values decline. It has also been said that a farm is sold only once in 51 years, and this was repeated by the honourable member for Riverina. If this is so the actual price does not decline because properties are not put on the market. The debate tonight on this subject would indicate that some honourable members have taken it for granted that inflationary prices or general values, not valuations, of land are the same as they were 2 years ago. This is quite wrong. There is some reluctance on the part of the honourable member for Riverina to say that land values have fallen. If land values fall it is one of the best things that can happen to primary producers. They sell only once in every 51 years and the benefits they would receive from less taxation of all kinds on the lower land values would give them a chance to survive.
I want to refer now to a question I asked in this House on 12th March. I asked the Treasurer (Mr Bury):
Is be aware that there has been a very sharp fall in rural land values but that primary producers are still being called upon to pay estate duty and other charges based on out of date book entries of previously inflated land valuations? Will the Treasurer, in so far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned, make investigations with a view to bringing rural land in line with reality?
In reply the Treasurer said:
Of course, it is a strong desire of the Government at all times to bring values into line with reality. If the honourable member will bring particular areas or districts to my attention as areas which do need special attention and perhaps special survey, this could be helpful. I would be grateful if he would do so.
The honourable member will also be aware that very shortly I shall introduce an estate duty Bill to ease the estate duty paid by members of the farming and rural communities. But I will bring the honourable member’s remarks to the Commissioner of Taxation - I presume he is the person the honourable member mainly has in mind - and if there is anything particular that the Commissioner can convey to me on this subject I will let the honourable member know.
He asked me where I thought the investigation should be made. Before question time was over I had a paper to put in his hand. It said: ‘In the wool growing and wheat growing areas of the Mallee electorate’. It is very good to have this Bill; it raises the exemption by 20%. But the aspect that matters is the valuation of the land. As a property is sold only once in every 51 years, the value of the land being kept down helps the primary producer. If a man owns a property, which is worth $100,000 on these values, and he does not sell it, he does not realise his assets and he does not get anything out of it. All the time that values are inflated he is charged higher water rates, land taxes, local government taxes and estate duty. The values are based on these high figures. I am hoping that, in conjunction with this Bill, we will see the Government bring land valuations into line with reality. That will mean that the primary producer will be relieved of paying a tremendous amount of duty that he now has to pay.
The debate on this Bill has been very interesting. All sorts of points have been taken. During the depression, about 1930, when it was said: ‘Grow more wheat’, and when that wheat was grown it could not be sold at anything like the price that was promised, those men growing that wheat did not move off the land at that stage. They stayed put. Things were desperate at that stage. People were attempting to sell others up in a way that has not happened so far this time. The situation was very desperate. I believe that the idea that the honourable member for Riverina has put up is quite fantastic. The honourable member has said that some big overseas companies will come in. I do not know whether they will come into the Riverina, but if they show up in the Mallee they will soon be hunted out. The honourable member suggested that these companies would say to the wheat grower: ‘We will take your place over. You can stay on the property. We will pay you so much and we will even give you a pension’. Australians just will not stand this sort of thing in any circumstances. After all, the whole position is that the farmer is of an independent turn of mind. One honourable member tried to suggest that Sydney businessmen and primary producers are different kinds of persons. They are different only with regard to the environment in which they live and work. Wherever they may be, they are all Australians. 1 believe that this Bill will do a certain amount of good. But the main thing that the Government should do is to create values on what has been done in the past on sales. The valuations on which the amount of the estate duty is levied are valuations that have been made over the last 10 years or more on sales. If a property was sold that was the value for that area or for much of that area. I now want the Government to carry on with the procedure. I was against it a little while ago but now prices have changed. I say that the Government should still go oh with the system because it will find that values have dropped considerably and primary industry will benefit.
In the part of Victoria which I represent is the shire of Karkarooc. That shire had been considering the lowering of land values. The shire decided to wait until there were some sales. But there have not been any sales of note. As only on sale values can we base our proposals if we want to work under the old system, without sales we must base values in relation to reality and on this basis will we give the primary producer some relief. I have mentioned the shire of Karkarooc. The stature of the Opposition is not improved by honourable members trying to laugh and joke about the name of a shire that stands high in the opinion of the people who live there and that has played a great part in the affairs of primary producers in north western Victoria. It may seem right for honourable members opposite to laugh about such names and to think that they are a joke. Many such names are original native names. We respect them. Surely to goodness the Opposition can do the same.
– Mr Speaker, this debate on the Estate Duty Assessment Bill 1970 has been particularly wide ranging in its scope. If I may say so without any sense of disrespect to honourable gentlemen on both sides of the House, it has tended to cover the general position of the rural sector of the economy and the whole gamut of the difficulties faced by that sector for reasons well known to honourable gentlemen. I wish to say at the outset that I certainly appreciate the constructive suggestions that have been put forward on both sides of the House. These suggestions - a number of which will be the subject of particular comment by me - will be subjected to careful examination in depth by the Treasurer (Mr Bury), and the Treasurer or I will respond in writing to the honourable gentlemen who have put forward those suggestions after their implications have been carefully examined.
I do not intend at this stage of the debate to comment on the generality of the circumstances characterising rural industry because much of this comment - and I am sure that this would be admitted by both sides of the House - is beyond the confines of the legislation before the House. Nor do I intend at this stage to embark on a dissertation of the rationale of estate duty and its continuing maintenance. Whilst not overlooking the essential importance of this subject, I point out that this again bears little relevance to the purposes of this Bill. What I do intend to do is to comment on several of the matters to which reference has been made by preceding speakers.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) has suggested the outright exemption from duty of estates up to a value of, say, $50,000. I recall the honourable member mentioning that this proposal would involve a revenue cost of some $4m annually and relieve over 9,000 estates from duty in a year. The revenue cost of course would be very rauch higher than the figure mentioned by the honourable gentleman as there would need to be a fairly extensive tapering in range from that figure. The honourable gentleman also drew some interesting comparisons between Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America. It is interesting to note here that taxes in Australia take a smaller percentage of the gross national product than is taken by taxes in any of the 3 other countries mentioned by the honourable gentleman. Nor should it be overlooked that Australia alone of these countries does not tax capital gains.
The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) dealt at length with the factors that tend to inflate the price of rural land. Without disagreeing with much of what the honourable member said, I point out that there are extensive objections and appeals provisions in the law under which the administrator of an estate can ensure that any valuation attributed to rural land is carefully reviewed. The honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) has made the suggestion that the eligibility tests introduced by this Bill might be extended into other spheres; for example, to prevent misuse by non-graziers of the income tax provisions for primary producers. This suggestion is, I think, very sensible, and will certainly be examined in some depth.
The honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) has suggested that the eligibility tests in the Bill might require strengthening in order to avoid such circumstances as may arise where persons seek to convert their estates into rural property as a form of estate planning. I doubt that this practice will arise as a result of the Bill before the House. But the Government certainly will keep the matter to which the honourable member refers in this instance under continuous review. The honourable member also commented on sales of estate properties to national trusts and galleries. This again certainly wil’l be examined although no doubt the honourable gentleman knows that in fact duty is not payable on testamentary dispositions to bodies of this kind.
I turn to a point raised by, as I recall, the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin). I wish to preface my reference to the point raised by the honourable member by indicating that the purpose of the assets eligibility test and income eligibility test is to limit the concessions to bona fide primary producers. The honourable member for Banks suggested that the use of gross income and gross assets would have a contrary effect and considered that net income and net assets would be more effective. As regards the assets eligibility test, I wish to quote to the House a statement made in this place on 24th September 1969 by the then Treasurer, the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon), which is relevant to the point at issue. At page 1877 of Hansard, the Minister said:
Both for the purpose of determining whether an estate is eligible under the assets test I have already described-
This is a reference to the text of his statement: . . and for the purpose of determining the duty attributable to primary production assets included in the estate, debts of the estate, including State death duties, will be distributed proportionately over all assets in the estate according to the gross value of each asset.
The use of gross values has exactly the same effect as allocating liabilities proportionately over all assets and using the resultant amounts, that is to say net assets, as the method of comparison. As regards the income eligibility test, the use of gross income figures will minimise the effect of abnormal expenditure in times when, for example, drought or other natural disasters may be a problem and it would be of more benefit to a bona fide primary producer who incurs high expenditure in his rural activities.
Finally I refer to the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), who has drawn attention to the need for research and inquiry into the taxes and duties imposed by the Commonwealth Government. The position is that the operation of our revenue laws is a matter kept under very close review by the Government. From time to time the Government has appointed ad hoc committees of inquiry which have rendered very valuable service. This is one solution put forward by the honourable gentleman. But most importantly, the Government receives a constant flow of advice and representations from industries, individuals, companies, professional bodies and, in short, any person or association who or which feels that he or it may have a point of view to put regarding the taxation and duty laws. This constant flow of information and advice is unquestionably a most valuable and continuing review. But I will most certainly refer the point raised by the honourable gentleman to the Treasurer for his consideration.
I want now to refer to the amendment put forward by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports and I want to say to the honourable member in a gentle way without offence that I felt, frankly, that the amendment was not encapsuled with the same clarity of thought I would normally have expected from him. because certainly a part of the amendment, as the honourable gentleman knows full well, does not relate to a matter that bears relevance to the functions of the Commonwealth Government. The amendment seeks further consideration of 3 matters: The effects of inflation on the liability for Federal and State death duties, the problems encountered by small business estates, both rural and non-rural in raising funds to meet estate duty liabilities, and the difficulties encountered by the imposition of death duties by both the Commonwealth and the States.
Of course, as the honourable gentleman and Opposition members know full well, matters concerning the imposition and incidence of State death duties are matters solely for the governments of the various States. The States have constitutional authority to levy death duties and have done so for a considerable number of years. I also want to point out to the honourable gentleman and to Opposition members generally that, as regards the relative burden of the Federal and State death duties imposed on smaller estates, the Federal estate duty assessed on estates of a dutiable value of less than $80,000 now runs to little more than one-quarter of the annual amount payable by those estates as State death duties. The Government is well aware that difficulties may be experienced by some administrators of estates in obtaining cash to meet the estate duty liability. This is a problem not confined to the smaller rural estates, although it is often a cause of acute anxiety in this area, and this is appreciated. The fact is that any estate, whether large or small, rural or non-rural, may find itself in a serious illiquid situation when no proper provision for death duties has been made.
The amendments to the collection provisions of the law proposed by the Bill will apply to all estates. Under the amended law the Commissioner of Taxation will have considerably more latitude in dealing with requests by administrators of estates for extension of time to enable them to convert assets into cash or to raise funds in some other way to meet their estate duty liabilities. There has also been mention in the debate of difficulties that are said to have been aggravated by the joint operation by the Commonwealth and the States in the death duty field. In practice it is found that difficulties that could be expected to arise because of the operation of 2 different pieces of legislation can be and are reduced to a minimum by the high degree of cooperation that is maintained between Commonwealth and State authorities.
I turn to the Bill itself. The exemption limits for small rural estates are to be raised, and this will mitigate some of the problems associated with inflation. The legislation is mainly directed towards providing some relief from estate duty for the smaller estates of deceased primary producers. By way of summary may I say at this stage that the amendment proposed in the Bill will, in the view of this Government, lead to a significant reduction in the duty payable on small rural1 estates and, in the view of the Government, will provide valuable assistance to the heirs of farm properties and will do much to discourage the breaking up of economic farm units to obtain finance to meet estate duty. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Crean’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Lynch) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
-I would just like to say a few words at this stage to clarify some of the matters that were raised during the second reading debate. Basically the attitude of the Australian Labor Party was that, whilst no-one disagrees that this measure gives some relief to such farmers as may die, it does little to keep alive some farms that may die in the years that are ahead of us. I think the figures that have been given from this side of the House aresignificant. In terms of the totality of the community, farmers comprise something like 8%, but in terms of numbers they are responsible for one-quarter of the estates that are levied for estate duty; and they pay, as my colleague, the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin), pointed out, 38% of the duty that is collected. With all respect to a Party that is supposed to defend the interests of the farmers, the purport of this Bill is to reduce by $5m or 8% the amount that is currently collected in estate duty, as it is called at the Commonwealth level. Of this, $lm will go to the farms worth less than 40%, but it will still leave the farmers, who comprise 8% of the totality of the community, to pay something over one-third of the total estate duty. If honourable members opposite are satisfied with that proposition, all I can say is that quite candidly it astonishes me.
– We will take what we can get.
– The honourable member may take what he can get but he ought to acknowledge what he is losing, and surely this is the significant part. As we tried to point out here this afternoon, there are a number of industries involved - the sugar industry, the wool industry, the wheat industry, the butter industry and the dried fruits industry. With the exception of the wool industry - nearly 90% of its total production is sold overseas - the basic difficulty is that more than half of the total production is not sold on the Australian market. Yet the conditions of competitiveness are determined by the internal costs and by the impact on the taxation system. We have suggested here this afternoon that two-thirds of the impact of probate duties - it is called estate duty at the Commonwealth level - is at the State level and only one-third is at the Commonwealth level. This matter has a far more harsh impact on the rural industries than anywhere else. Yet the Government has blithely accepted a palliative measure. I say again that the Australian Labor Party did not oppose the Bill. What it opposed was the Government’s failure to face up to the fundamental issues involved here.
– We know them better than you do.
– You may know better than I do, but you should convert your colleagues behind you. If you have differences I am willing to ferment them and I submit that the differences exist. But while honourable members play out their charades on the political scene the small farmers - there are more small farmers than there are big farmers - are the ones who are vulnerable in the process. I do not deny that this measure gives minor relief.
– Over 50%.
– No, it gives very little relief. All I am saying is that the Government is concentrating on those who are about to die when it ought to be doing something to enable them to survive. If the Government took a realistic view - this is all I want to impress upon the House - it would see that it has failed to realise what the real issues are.
– What the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) is endeavouring to say is that a market is a place where you buy and sell. If one only bought and did not sell there, it is only half a market. If it is a place where you buy and sell, say, only half your goods it is only a quarter of a market. I believe he is quite right in this proposition. I believe that the moment we start to change this by denying protection to secondary industry there will be a cry from all over Australia. The real point J would like to make very quickly is that the position is that we must have a tariff protection in order to give the population-
-Order! This is the third reading of the Bill. The honourable member has been here long enough to know that the debate on the third reading is confined and tariff matters cannot be brought in. The only topics that can be brought in are those referred to in the Bill itself or in schedules attached to it.
– I will not go on with that line or perhaps any other line, Mr Speaker. All I was trying to do was to put to the House, in the language of the primary producer, just what the honourable member for Melbourne Ports was endeavouring to tell the House.
– I just want to clarify the point that I was making at the second reading stage about the incidence of the increase in land values. I quote two instances that have been given to me from an area close to where the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) lives at Jackson. A survey that was carried out shows that on the property in question there has been a 600% increase in estate values in the last 20 years. To illustrate the severity of this, on a property worth S200,000, consisting of $160,000 realty and $40,000 personalty, the State duties are $37,640 and the federal duties are $29,582, making a total of $67,222.
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member, with all due respect, that he is now making points that should have been made during the second reading stage and which, in fact, were made then.
– 1 just wanted to make the point that increases in land values have caused tremendous increases in estate duty.
– 1 am disappointed that this Bill has made no provision for exemption in respect of works of art. 1 had been given a promise by previous Treasurers that this matter would be considered when this legislation was next before the House. I therefore ask the Minister for Immigration (Mr Lynch), who is the Minister assisting the Treasurer and is in charge of the Bill, why this promise has not been fulfilled. The history of the matter dates from 28th October 1966 when I received an answer to the following question:
Has consideration been given to amending the Estate Duty Assessment Act to exempt from duty not only the value of works of an devised or bequeathed for religious or public education purposes, but also the value of works of art devised or bequeathed for exhibition in parks or squares or buildings open to the public.
The answer I received read as follows:
Bequests of works of art to public libraries or religious institutions in Australia are exempt from any estate duty whether they are for exhibition in buildings or areas open to the public or not. Bequests of works of art to public museums and public art galleries in Australia are exempt as bequests for public education purposes. The question of extending this exemption is also one involving budgetary policy and has been considered from time to time.
As is my wont-
– Order! I would remind the Leader of the Opposition that this is the third reading stage and he is introducing completely new matter. I doubt whether it is relevant. I have let the Leader of the Opposition have the courtesy of the House, which he has had on many occasions, but this matter does not come within the provisions of the Bill. May I suggest to the Leader of the Opposition that the House disposes of the third reading of the Bill and then he may have leave to make a statement and ask a question.
– Very well, Mr Speaker. That would be quite acceptable to me.
-I seek some clarification from the Minister for Immigration (Mr Lynch), who is the Minister assisting the Treasurer. The Minister indicated that the various matters that were raised during the debate would be covered in detail by correspondence to the honourable members who raised them. During the second reading debate I raised one matter on which I seek clarification because I have already raised it in correspondence directly with the Treasurer (Mr Bury). I referred to a specific case. If it means that under this legislation a family, after 5 generations on the land, will survive that is fine; but if not, the legislation falls to the ground. Will the Minister give a specific undertaking that this case will be reviewed in accordance with his statement during the second reading debate?
-I will be happy to look at the circumstances to which the honourable gentleman has referred and, in that sense, will certainly have the case reviewed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– Mr Speaker, may I now seek the leave which you were kind enough to suggest that I might seek in order to make a statement?
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I do not need to repeat what 1 said when you bore with me during the third reading of the Estate Duty Assessment Bill which has just been passed. I had made quotations from Hansard of 28th October 1966. On subsequent occasions 1 raised the matter again and on 27th November 1968 I was given this reply:
The matter of extending income tax deductions and estate duty exemptions for gifts and bequests of works of art has not been further considered since my predecessor’s answer to a similar question on 8th November 1967. However, arrangements have been made for the matter to be looked into when the relevant provisions of the income tax and estate duty laws next come under review.
This is the first time that the laws have come again under review in the Parliament. 1 should like to know whether this matter was in fact considered and, if so, why favourable consideration was not given to it. The Archibald Fountain in Sydney, with which we are familiar, is the type of bequest which, as citizens and communities, we should be very happy to have. Since, however, it was not given to a public library, a religious institution, a public museum or a public art gallery it could not have attracted an exemption from the estate duty legislation. Therefore, any citizen in Australia who is minded to make such a bequest now would impose upon his successors the obligation to pay estate duty on money which he was donating for some public purpose instead of for their benefit. The relevance of this is shown by North America where the community benefits from such bequests, since the fiscal laws have encouraged such bequests. I am a little disappointed that consideration apparently was not given to this matter which 1 have been raising for some 3½ years.
– by leave -I will not comment at any length on the matter referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) because I am not privy to the correspondence to which he has referred, hut I will certainly check and provide him with an answer in written form. My understanding is that what was indicated through the office of the Treasurer was that the matter would be looked at. There was an indication and, in that sense, a promise was made. However, I am informed by Treasury officials that the matter has been considered and has been rejected because it does not, in the view of the Treasurer warrant a sufficiently high priority to justify inclusion in this legislation. Nevertheless 1 will certainly check the details which have been referred to and write to the honourable gentleman.
Debate resumed from 12 March (vide page 383), on motion by Mr Hughes:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I compliment the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) on the first Bill he introduced? We shall be very happy to support it. Might I say that we shall be very happy to support other legislation which I gather is near to his heart, such as giving votes to persons at 18 years of age or abolishing capital punishment? Also we would be very happy to support legislation for a Commonwealth Superior Court which his predecessor introduced. The present Bill is an attempt to solve the chronic problems associated with the attraction and retention of parliamentary draftsmen. This measure is fundamental to the operation of parliamentary democracy in this nation. The public interest in the drafting capacity of Parliament cannot be underestimated. Clear and precise laws can serve a crucial role in avoiding unnecessary litigation. The people can have ready access to a single statute which outlines the law - far easier access than they could ever have to law reports of judicial1 decisions.
The cost of litigation today is such that it is a public duty on this Parliament to avoid creating disputes by inadequate drafting. I believe that we common law countries can in fact learn from the continental countries. It is part of the democratic process that we should have codes which are readily accessible to all citizens as distinct from relying increasingly on judge made laws which mean that citizens have to ask lawyers to tell them what the law probably is. In fact, I would go further. We have developed a distorted attitude to the role of lawyers in the community. We put a higher premium on litigation than on legislation. At least in the Parliament we should never overlook the virtues of clear and accessible legislation. The history of separate drafting officers shows the extent to which Australia has lagged behind other parliaments. Just over 100 years ago an office known as the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel was established in Britain for the purpose of drafting Acts of Parlia ment. A similar office - now called the Office of the Legislative Counsel - was established by statute in the United States of America just over 50 years ago. Its function is to aid the drafting of public Bills and resolutions or amendments to them. In New Zealand a Law Drafting Office was established by statute 50 years ago.
The Commonwealth Government has at last decided to follow the example of Britain, the United States and New Zealand in creating a special office for the purpose of drafting Commonwealth legislation. The Australian Labor Party welcomes this action and looks forward to working closely with the Parliamentary Counsel in the very near future. The staff problem associated with the parliamentary draftsmen has become chronic in the last decade. During that decade it has been the source of concern in both this House and in another place. It has also been subject of 2 reports by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts in 1960 and 1968. It is clear from the continuing expressions of concern, from the high staff turnover rates amongst draftsmen and from the long periods for which vacancies had existed that the problems of staff in this crucial area had become chronic. I hope, as all members must, that this new step will begin the process of remedying this situation.
In his second reading speech the AttorneyGeneral outlined 2 aspects of a potential remedy, firstly with respect to salaries, and secondly, with respect to status. On the question of salaries the Attorney-General makes it clear that the salaries offered in Australia are low compared to those of the Parliamentary Counsel’s Office in the United Kingdom. I note that under the Bill only the 3 top positions in the Parliamentary Counsel’s Office will be statutory positions and that all positions below those will be under the Public Service Act. My Party hopes that this will accomplish the objectives that the Attorney-General has in mind, but this would seem to be dependent on the willingness of the Public Service Board to fix salaries for lower positions at levels having a proper relationship to whatever statutory salaries are determined by the Government. On the issue of status there are 2 aspects for which this Bill makes provision. First is the change in title to that which has applied in Britain for over 100 years. Secondly, there is the possibility of a greater degree of autonomy for the draftsmen in this new office. This point should not be underestimated, for it is the opportunity to exercise an independent discretion which graduates of law expect, and which they will be denied if the Government exercises too close a control over the timetable of Parliamentary Counsel. One is reminded of ‘The Gondoliers’ and the words:
But the privilege and pleasure
That we treasure beyond measure
Is to run on little errands forthe Ministers of State.
If that is to be the status of Parliamentary Counsel then I doubt whether it will attract the numbers required to overcome the problems of staffing. I trust that the new Parliamentary Counsel will be allowed some discretion in deciding whether they can assist private members in drafting their Bills. I trust that when the Minister states in his second reading speech that the first Parliamentary Counsel should be subject only ‘to the general direction of the AttorneyGeneral’ he means what he says. The direction should only be general and when the Opposition or when Government backbenchers give adequate notice to the Office they should have some assurance that they will not be ignored
On the days of 8th and 9th of this month the Opposition served notice on this Government that there was a limit to the Executive domination of the operations of this House. I trust that the Government and in particular the Attorney-General can appreciate the significance of that event, leaving aside the fatuous politics of law and order. In fact justice and legislation as an instrument of it are just as important. I trust that the Attorney-General in his general supervision of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel will accept the fact that there must be a limit to the extent to which the Government can dominate the services of the Parliamentary Counsel. I emphasise ‘Government’ and ‘Parliamentary’. I give 2 examples. Throughout the 1960s the Government has been reviewing the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act. The revised Act has finally been presented to this House and it clearly incorporates many amendments suggested by the Opposition, especially by the honour able member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). We have finally seen the results of the promise given in November 1964 that consideration of the Opposition amendments would be completed before the next session of Parliament. Much of the delay has been caused by pressure on the parliamentary draftsmen. We on this side of the House regard this reform as a high priority as do many back benchers on the Government side. I feel sure that an independent draftsman would have been able to assess the views of many members of this House, and the Bill would not have been delayed as it has been for well over 5 years.
Again the availability of drafting services can also be important for committees of this parliament. The initiation of bipartisan reforms can be an important role for such committees. Further, it would improve the legislative capacity of this Parliament. In this respect I refer to my own experience on the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review under the Chairmanship of the Honourable Neil O’Sullivan. As long as the Chairman was also the AttorneyGeneral this important Committee had the services of the parliamentary draftsmen. As the report of the Committee states on page 3, however, once a new AttorneyGeneral had been appointed the services of the draftsmen were no longer available. Perhaps I might interpolate here. It must be somewhat discouraging for successive parliamentary draftsmen to have found that when Attorneys-General have been superseded much of their drafting has been set aside. Sir Garfield Barwick had much drafting done on trade practices legislation which was then emasculated by his successor and the immediate past AttorneyGeneral brought in amendments to the Patents Act many of which had to be superseded, and again he brought in an admirable Commonwealth Superior Court Bill which apparently is no longer regarded as urgent or maybe desirable.
One aspect of previous practice with respect to parliamentary draftsmen is of particular concern to the Opposition. All members who presented measures to the draftsmen did so on the condition that a copy of all their submissions and drafts were made available to the AttorneyGeneral. This is a serious disability for members of the Opposition who may wish to have some drafting done before presentation for their own Party. An independent Parliamentary Counsel should establish a confidential relationship with his individual clients in the Parliament.
Let me remind the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) of his contribution to a grievance debate on 16th September 1965 which appears at page 961 of Hansard. It wilt be noticed that he stated that the inability of a member to obtain drafting assistance was ‘an utter and absolute scandal’. He went on to say that although he himself had no objection to the draftsman showing a proposed amendment to the relevant Minister, he accepted the necessity of a confidential relationship with the Opposition. He stated:
Members o£ the Opposition have some rights, and they should have available to them the services of a trained legal officer to put these complicated matters into proper legal form.
More recently my colleague in another place, Senator Murphy, has expressed the same view.
Not only are the volume, complexity and range of the work of the Parliamentary Draftsman increasing, but the importance of his role to the Parliament and the community is also affected by the increasing recognition of administrative law as a distinct branch of our law. Departmental officers, and even Ministers, who are responsible for the general policy of a Bill, are not always alive to the considerations relevant to maintaining the rule of law and the proper regal relationship between the government and the citizen. I refer to such matters as the extent of discretionary powers and regulation making powers; the provision of appeals in appropriate cases from administrative determinations; the observance of natural justice in administrative proceedings; the conferring of powers of entry, search and arrest; retrospective legislation; departures from the ordinary rules of evidence; and onus of proof. In these and the like matters, departments and Ministers are dependent on guidance from the draftsman, and the work of the Parliament itself is greatly affected by the knowledge, experience and integrity the draftsman brings to this task. We depend so much on the voluntary and spontaneous wisdom of the draftsman in all these matters. It is essential that the Office have on its staff men of the ability and the standing necessary to perform this role.
This Bill should be seen as only the first step in the reform of the legislative capacity of this Parliament. The new status of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel must be followed by further measures. I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that courses in .legislative drafting are offered in many law schools in the United States. To my knowledge no such course is available either at a post-graduate or undergraduate level at any Australian law school. I trust the Minister will consider the possibility of a Commonwealth initiative to encourage the establishment of such courses.
It may be that we will follow the introduction of a Parliamentary Counsel: Act by the introduction of a Parliamentary Commissioner Act to establish the office of an ombudsman, which is translated from Scandinavian to English in most legislatures as parliamentary commissioner. Needless to say, before I end by again complimenting the Attorney-General on his first Bill and assuring him of our support for it, it is proper for me to say that this Bill1 at least is impeccably drafted.
– There seems to be almost universal agreement in the House that this is a desirable measure and I would not be thought to depart from that agreement. There also seems to be almost universal agreement that the Bill is only a first step along a road leading to a more satisfactory state of affairs so far as the practice of the drafting of legislation in this Parliament is concerned. I entirely agree with that proposition also. I would have thought, however, that one could even go further and say perhaps that the whole system is - and the system in particular that is proposed by this legislation - itself a step to perhaps a more notable objective to which we in this House should contribute to the extent to which we are able. I refer to the very desirable state of affairs of making the law as a whole intelligible to the ordinary citizen. Perhaps lawyers would start off with the proposition that it would be desirable in the first place to make the laws intelligible to the lawyer. I for one would subscribe to that proposition. But it seems to me that this after all should be the basic function of a parliamentary draftsman and the basic function of a parliament to pass laws that are intelligible, and to pass laws that are clear.
There is - and this has become particularly noticeable over recent years - a very marked cleavage between the public as a whole and so many laws. I sometimes feel that this is due in no small measure to the fact that people feel divorced and alienated from the somewhat artificial language that is quite often adopted by lawyers not only in legislation but in the ordinary legal language that is used in documents and instruments between citizens as a whole. But 1 readily subscribe to the view, as I said at the outset, that the legislation is a first step along the road. It is a very desirable piece of legislation and it cannot but lead to an improvement in the standard of drafting of Commonwealth statutes. It is one that must set an example to the drafting of legislation in other bodies.
There are only a few particular aspects of the Bill to which I would draw attention. These are aspects of the Bill which 1 certainly commend myself. In the first place 1 refer to clauses S and 6 because I feel that by examining these clauses one can see in part the very substantial problems that the parliamentary drafting service in this country has had to overcome. I say that because those clauses relate to both the terms and conditions of employment of the Parliamentary Counsel, and the salaries and allowances subject to which the officers will be employed. The clauses, of course, provide that the terms and conditions of appointment and the salaries will be as determined by the Governor-General, it would seem to me - and I put it to the House for its consideration - that it is more likely than not that there will still be problems in attracting to the parliamentary drafting service able and capable men. I feel that in the proposals that are put in the 2 clauses to which I have referred those problems may to some extent be overcome.
There are - and I speak from my own experience and the experience of contemporaries of mine at a law school in Melbourne^ - very great problems placed in the way of someone who might otherwise consider going into some aspect of the civil service as a lawyer and particularly into that aspect which we have known generally as parliamentary drafting. These problems are the terms and conditions of employment and also the salaries. I know from my own experience and as I say from the experience of my contemporaries, that quite frequently people are put off by the salaries which are much, much lower than those they would obtain if they went into private practice. As the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) quite properly and quite rightly said in his second reading speech, it is not just a question of money; it is not solely a question of salaries. 1 would readily agree with that. But I feel that it is substantially a question of salary. As I say, I know from my experience of many cases where young graduates of law schools of this country have been deterred from going into the civil service as lawyers by reason of the salaries and by reason of the terms and conditions of employment that they would be offered.
Perhaps it goes even beyond the question of salaries and the terms and conditions of employment. Perhaps it goes to the general atmosphere that rightly or wrongly they imagine prevails in the civil service insofar as their work as lawyers in the civil service would be concerned. I feel that for that reason one of the advantages of this measure is that it will create an entirely different atmosphere. General circumstances will be improved so far as the work of the Parliamentary Counsel and the whole fabric of the drafting of legislation are concerned. I feel that the atmosphere will improve once the legislation is on foot and operating. 1 hope it will create generally much better circumstances - circumstances which will be much more attractive to young law graduates than the situation existing at present. So it is pleasing that the terms and conditions of employment of prospective parliamentary counsel and their salaries will be determined in the manner set out in the Bill. This improvement will enable the Government to make more attractive offers to potential parliamentary draftsmen than it has been able to offer in the past.
There is one particular aspect of the functions of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to which attention should be drawn. I refer to the provision in clause 3 (e) of the Bill which is to the effect that one of the functions of the office will be to make arrangements for the printing of the laws of the Commonwealth and the Territories of the
Commonwealth, including the reprinting of such laws with amendments. I trust that not only is this one of the functions given to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel but that it is a function that will be performed- and performed with some expedition. At the very least I hope it will be carried out with more expedition than is evident from an examination of the volumes and collections of statutes passed by this Parliament.
– The last consolidation was in 1950.
– In fact that is the next matter to which I intended to refer. As the Leader of the Opposition has stated, the last consolidation was in 1950. It was a consolidation that included all Commonwealth statutes up to that year. The plain simple fact of the matter is that there has not been a consolidation of Commonwealth statutes since that year. One obvious result of this - perhaps the most predominant result and the most obvious result - is that it makes it much more difficult for the mechanics of the law. the lawyers, to find the raw material with which we are supposed to work. It takes up additional time. It takes much more effort to find the statutes with which the lawyer wants to work. Again referring to the point I made at the outset, it makes it much more difficult for the citizen to find his way around the law as it stands so far as the Commonwealth statutes are concerned.
There is, for the period since 1950, a permanent supplement of amendments and annotations of statutes which has been produced by the Law Book Company of Australia. It is a valuable volume. But the point that could be made about it also is that it only takes the collection of statutes up to 1966, to the best of my knowledge. So far as the year 1967 and the subsequent years are concerned there is no supplementary volume to the permanent supplement. I have been informed - and I have no reason to doubt that this is true - that the manuscripts for the 1967 and 1968 volumes have been prepared, that they are in the hands of the publishers and that presumably they will be published in due course. But, of course, merely to state that information in that way indicates what an unsatisfactory position it is that there should be only a permanent supplement up to the year 1966, as I understand it, that the manuscripts for the 2 subsequent years have not yet been published, and that there is no suggestion at all, or at least no evidence that I have been able to come across, to suggest that there is even a volume in preparation for subsequent years.
That concisely, is the situation so far as the collection of statutes is concerned. There has not been a consolidation since 1950; there is a permanent supplement of amendments and annotations up to 1966; and there has not been a satisfactory volume since then. As I said, 1 hope that this being one of the functions of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel under this Bill, it will be a function that will be put into effect as soon as possible.
Even using the permanent supplement that is available is a quite unsatisfactory way of finding one’s way around the Commonwealth statutes, as they are, and of finding one’s way round the myriad collection of statutes and trying to use them in the lawyer’s work. So far as the statutes passed before 1951 are concerned, the use of the permanent supplement is briefly this: One uses the permanent supplement to find what amendments have been made to the Acts. But one must also go to the principal Act itself, it being an Act passed prior to 1950. So far as Acts which have been passed since 1950 are concerned, that is those from 1951 onwards, all one has in the volume of the permanent supplement is the name of the statute. The statute as a whole is not set out in the permanent supplement. One must go to the appropriate annual volume of statutes, if there is one - in most of the subsequent years there has not been such a volume - and then consult that Act. All that one has in the permanent supplement is an indication of the name of the statute. What I contend is for a further consolidation of Commonwealth statutes. But I submit - and others would express this view - that that is not the simple answer. Perhaps the answer is some system like that prevailing in Victoria where there is a reprinting of statutes, together with amendments, as soon as possible after the amendments have been made to the Act. Perhaps that is a system which is more attractive to the Government. However one or other of the systems should be put into practice as soon as possible.
As I say - and I do so sincerely - the present situation is thoroughly unsatisfactory. When one goes to the collection of Commonwealth statutes in the Parliamentary Library for recent years, in some cases one will not find even an index to them. One will not even be able to ascertain, except by following a course through every single statute, what Acts have been passed. To me this is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs. At the very least one would expect to find a bound volume of the statutes of each year very soon after the end of each parliamentary year, together with an index, so that one can find one’s way to what I have referred to as the raw material that the lawyer must use.
There are a couple of other matters to which I want to refer briefly. As 1 said, as a whole the Bill is very commendable. When it becomes operative it will lead to a very positive improvement in the Commonwealth parliamentary drafting situation. I ask the Government to consider 2 other matters which might lead to an improvement in the system of parliamentary drafting. One of them is related to the problem that exists now and which wil’l continue to exist, I fear, even after this legislation is passed. That is the difficulty of attracting good able men into the service. I suggest that the Government could at least give consideration to offering scholarships to law students at the stage when they are pursuing their coarse, when they are undergraduates - scholarships which will tie them to the service of the Crown as lawyers. It would not automatically follow, of course, that they would go into the parliamentary drafting service but such positions could be held out to them, together with other incentives, as a possible place for them to practise, and to practise the talents they had acquired. They could be tied to the service although this idea is not very popular in many areas of activity as a system of attracting new material. There has been a lot of criticism in the States about this method of trying to attract teachers, by offering them tied scholarships principally through undergraduate courses. This is only a suggestion. I do not know whether the Government has considered this idea but it is one which I ask it to consider. It seems to me to be a possible way of attracting more men into the service.
In addition I ask the Government to consider the possibility of giving some Commonwealth assistance to a postgraduate training scheme which would itself improve the quality of parliamentary drafting. To my knowledge no such course is available at present. I think the Leader of the Opposition also made this point. There is no reason why an examination could not be made of this situation in order to determine whether such a postgraduate training scheme could be established, for the very reason that parliamentary drafting itself is such a fine art. It is an area of activity for highly trained experts in very difficult and exacting work. It is something that would lend itself very clearly to an area of post-graduate study. 1 ask the Government to consider that suggestion also, bearing in mind the possibility that that may attract more men to the service and may make the service more successful than it is at present.
As 1 said at the outset so 1 say at the conclusion of my remarks; the Bill is very desirable. It is very welcome. I feel that it will improve the system of parliamentary drafting that exists at present and must lead to an improvement in the quality of drafting. The present drafting is good but I believe that it can be improved. The Bill, when it is enacted, will be a positive step towards that improvement.
– 1 am pleased to support the second reading of this Bill. I should like to record a few thoughts about it. The Parliamentary Draftsman is, as we have heard from other honourable members tonight, one of the most important men in the country. Unfortunately, outside this House, very few people realise his importance. In many cases he is virtually the sole architect of legislation. The public can be put to much trouble and expense by legislation without ever realising that the trouble and expense have come about, not through Parliament, not through the Minister and not through the Department, but through a lack of skill and knowledge on the part of the Parliamentary Draftsman or through some strange notion that he may have entertained. I have heard it suggested that the Parliamentary Draftsman is far more important than a judge who, after all, decides particular cases only on the law as it stands. The Parliamentary Draftsman is in substance in a position to alter the law. lt is therefore vital that he be a person of great skill and integrity.
There is a feature of the Parliamentary Draftsman’s job which is worth mentioning, namely, that while he must be a loyal servant of the Government of the day he must also have such a personality that he can give disinterested assistance - I hope in future as possibly in the past, although as a new member I cannot attest to this - to back bench members. Such assistance is necessary so that, for example, a Bill is not amended inexpertly. I am hopeful that the forms of this House will change to the extent that the role of the back bencher, as I said in my maiden speech, will become more meaningful and so that we shall have an even closer co-operation between the Parliamentary Draftsman and the back benchers.
Undoubtedly the skill of a Parliamentary Draftsman is a special one. I quote a legal friend of mine who said: ‘It is a curious thing that every lawyer thinks that he can draft, in much the same way as every woman thinks that she can cook.’ Indeed many people other than lawyers, as has been my experience, think that they are pretty good draftsmen. In fact few people have the necessary ability or skill to draft legislation. All this means is that the job must be attractive in both status and remuneration. This is the result which we hope will flow from the Bill. I have learned, when applying myself to the clauses of the Bill, that one or two equivalent State positions are better remunerated than those of draftsmen of the Commonwealth Parliament. I have not been able to prove this but I understand it to be a fact. I would like the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes), when he closes the second reading debate, to apply himself to two comments that I make on two separate clauses. I note that the effect of clause 9 is that Parliamentary Counsel shall not engage in practice as a barrister or solicitor or engage in paid employment outside the duties of his office. I would like to hear the view of the Attorney-General on the proposition that this could lead to difficulties.
The Parliamentary Draftsman of South Australia has often been used for miscellaneous government jobs and he has been very valuable, for example, in dealing with teachers’ salaries and workers’ compensation. Offer his experience in outside fields can be helpful to him in his drafting function. I mention one eminent draftsman of the South Australian Parliament, Sir Edgar Bean, who periodically sat as a magistrate. I mention another personal friend of mine, an ex-draftsman, who used to prosecute. I would like to place the emphasis on the fact that the Draftsman should be employed on government business. I realise that Victoria has had its problems recently when somebody engaged in a similar position was engaged also in the private sector. Perhaps in many instances the remuneration of the Parliamentary Draftsman could be made even more attractive by his being able to take on appropriate government business of the sort that I have indicated.
The other clause which occurs to me as being worth mentioning in this context is clause 10. I would like to hear of the Minister’s thinking when he arranged for it to be drafted. The clause seems to me to provide unduly restrictive grounds on which a parliamentary counsel can be sacked. I reiterate that I am pleased to support the Bill, and I look forward with interest to noting the amendments which will be moved at the Committee stage.
– I rise to compliment the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) upon bringing the Bill forward so quickly. 1 should also like to congratulate the acting Head of the Attorney-General’s Department, Mr John Ewens. I know that for some time Mr Ewens has worked very hard on the concept and thoughts embodied in the Bill and on its development. I congratulate him upon the long hours of work and thought that he has given to this new move. The establishment of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel will give the drafting section a status and will bring this important section of government services closer to the Parliament. In support of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) I make this short comment: To make the Office of Parliamentary Counsel as successful as we all want it to be it will be necessary for the Public Service Board to co-operate to its fullest in obtaining officers of the necessary quality who will be working under the First Parliamentary Counsel and to see that satisfactory remuneration is given for their important skills.
The Attorney-General, in his second reading speech, quoted very briefly Professor Reed Dickerson, Professor of Law at Indiana University. I should like to enlarge on that quotation because I think it would be worthwhile. The Professor said: lt would be hard to exaggerate the importance of knowing how to prepare an adequate legal instrument. This is particularly true of statutes: Sound government depends upon legislation that says the right thing in the right way, in language that is as clear, simple, and accessible as possible. There must be draftsmen who can provide these things with the least friction and delay.
Good draftsmen are badly needed. This is not generally realised because the drafting skill is more subtle and copes with problems more difficult than surface appearances suggest. Legal drafting, like teaching, looks easy. But, as with teaching, the answers are rarely clear cut. The test of success is usually someone’s individual judgment.
Legal drafting is not for children, amateurs, or dabblers. It is a highly technical discipline, the most rigorous form of writing outside of mathematics. Few lawyers have the special combination of skills, aptitude and temperament necessary for a competent draftsman. This is due partly to inadequate training. More fundamental is the widespread misunderstanding of what adequate draftsmanship involved.
One of the most baffling aspects of the problem is the difficulty of convincing those in whose hands the solution lies that the problem is hard and, even more basic, that any problem exists. I have discussed the matter with many lawyers, government officials and law professors. I meet few who do not consider themselves well-trained, and even expert draftsmen. That the average lawyer or law professor senses little inadequacy either in himself or among bar members generally may explain the condescension they often show.
In the past, and here in this Parliament, there have been times when the parliamentary draftsmen have been blamed for the tardiness in their operation though, in fact, the fault has not been with them but with the haphazard way in which drafting instructions have been given by the various departments. I believe this has been improved of late and I am sure that the heads of departments will see that it continues to improve when they work in conjunction with the new Parliamentary Counsel. I once again compliment the Attorney-General on the Bill.
– I merely want to add a few brief 13667/70- lt- (S3 comments to those that have already been made and in a nutshell say that one welcomes this type of legislation. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has cogently and expertly indicated the reasons why this measure should have been introduced some years ago. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr Hughes) is to be congratulated on initiating this step. I do not want to delay the House, but I did want to make a couple of minor observations. Whilst it is often said that draftsmen are born and not made I think we should look at the practicalities of it. With respect to all those honourable members who have spoken, I think it is important that one should have experience in the field with which one is dealing and when the laws or amendments thereof are being dealt with one is really dealing with the needs of people. It does not necessarily follow that the best draftsmen are those who have not been anywhere else. I think it is important to bear in mind, as was obviously intended by clause 4, that those eligible should have had at least some experience but not less than 5 years experience. I think that what should be read into that is 5 years practical experience in all aspects of legal training, which would include practice itself.
It does not follow in my view that one would be a better draftsman merely because one might have spent 5 years in a draftsman’s office. The point I want to make is that the people of the nation elect a number of representatives to this place. They are all quite capable of forming views, whether they be in accordance with the legislation that has been submitted or a proposed amendment they would like to see introduced. They have had experience in the needs of the people and it may well be that they might be better versed in the aspect under consideration than the draftsman himself, who may not have had the opportunity to gain the experience. That brings me to clause 3b which concerns the drafting of amendments to proposed laws which are being considered. I think it would be helpful to members of Parliament - I do not know that the Attorney-General would disagree with this - if they had the opportunity of discussing a proposal before the House with the draftsman concerned in order to ascertain what amendments could be considered. Legislation would then not be just introduced here without honourable members having an opportunity of consulting with the draftsman concerned.
Perhaps if we could put it on a higher level we can imagine how much better the debates in this chamber may be if representatives of both sides had the opportunity of discussing the matter first with the draftsman concerned. I would not want it thought that I am suggesting the Opposition would try to tell the Government what should be in a Bill. I think it often helps the course of a debate if honourable members have had an opportunity to ascertain the Government’s intention when formulating a Bill. It has been the unhappy experience of a number of people in public life that once a Bill is printed the mere fact of its printing makes it virtually impossible to amend it. This may not happen here but I would like to think we are all considered capable of putting foward amendments, bearing in mind that we might have first had the opportunity of discussing this with the parliamentary counsel concerned.
The only other matter that 1 would like to mention would not be in complete disagreement with the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown). I would not necessarily think the fact that somebody was bonded virtually from the commencement of his career would mean that he would be prepared to stay with any parliamentary drafting institution. I would emphasise that in my view while draftsmen are scarce it is possibly because it is not an aptitude to which they readily adhere. 1 would think it is one that ought to be encouraged and I am happy to support the principles of this legislation.
– 1 concur with most of what is included in the Bill but I am of the opinion that the difficulty in getting the personnel for these positions arises from the fact that the junior members of the drafting service still come under the Public Service Board. We are removing the heads of the Department from it and calling them counsellors but we do not go far enough. We will still have these expert people associated with the Public Service Board. I do not think we can expect to attract people of the calibre that we require, people who are dedicated and who have to work at odd times - each and every honourable member who has spoken has paid tribute to them tonight and, so do 1 - at the salaries presently offered. 1 can see that their being associated with and under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Board it will not be easy to raise their status and give them that satisfaction of employment that people of their ability would like to have. Other than that, I congratulate the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) but 1 hope that the members of the drafting staff will be dissociated from the Public Service Board.
– I have very much pleasure in joining other honourable members in offering congratulations to the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) for what 1 think is his first Bill in his capacity as Attorney-General. I can think of no more illustrious way for a Minister to make his debut in this place than by the introduction of the Bill we now have before us. I have been in this place a long time and one thing that I have felt to be lacking more than anything else is the availability of draftsmen to honourable members other than Ministers. But let me be fair to Ministers. Ministers often come under criticism not because they are personally dilatory in getting legislation prepared but because the draftsmen are not available for the preparation of legislation. So really the position is that in the past we just have not had enough draftsmen to attend to ministerial drafting much less attend to the needs of private members who want drafting done for them as well.
The Opposition has a right to introduce a Bill in the Parliament. It certainly has the same right as a Minister to have amendments drafted to a Minister’s Bill. After all, the Opposition is Her Majesty’s Opposition and represents the people who vote against the Government. I do not want to go into the figures of the last election but there have been occasions when the Opposition Party, whether Liberal or Labor, has represented about the same number of voters as the government has. Therefore, members of the Opposition Party have a constitutional right and a moral right - a right in every way - to be able to call upon the services of the draftsmen. This they have not been able to do in the past.
One of the reasons for the Ministry finding that it is unable to get its legislation drafted is that once a shortage of draftsmen occurs a draftsman must be taken away from a job in order to commence another job that is deemed to be more urgent than the one he was working upon previously. This only compounds the difficulties associated with shortages of draftsmen. I do not know how many honourable members other than lawyers here - indeed, I do not know how many lawyers in the Parliament have ever sat down and attempted to draft a Bill. I do not suppose that any of them have ever had to draft a Bill. They have looked at a Bill that has been drafted by somebody else and have interpreted it or have sought to interpret it. But how many honourable members have ever sat down and from nothing have built up a very complex piece of legislation.
To illustrate my point, I invite honourable members to look at the Trade Practices Act, the Copyright Act, the Social Services Act, the taxation laws, the arbitration laws or, indeed, the new Bill relating to compensation, if honourable members like to consider a Bill smaller in volume than some of the Bills that I have mentioned. I ask honourable members to realise that at some stage, somewhere, some person, starting from nothing, had to begin to construct what was to become a quite voluminous document. When honourable members think about that, they are thinking about the work of draftsmen.
I want people, who, I think, do not fully understand the problems of the draftsman to try to comprehend this situation. A Minister says to a draftsman: ‘I want you to draft a new Bill dealing with matrimonial causes. We have never had such a Bill before. There are at the moment at least 6 Acts in the 6 States dealing with this subject. I want you to marry into the Commonwealth Bill various sections of all the State Acts. I do not want you to offend this political group on which our Government depends. I do not want you to offend this other group. I want you to be very careful in this field and to watch that you do not do something that will cause offence somewhere else’. The draftsman is expected to be simultaneously a lawyer, a politician and a reliable gauge of public sensitivity.
Those are sometimes the kinds of instructions that a draftsman gets. He is requested to draft a Bill that is perfect in legal terms and at the same time one that will not get the Minister for whom it was drafted into trouble politically. The Minister requires a Bill that ‘will not get me into trouble; that will let me do what I want to do without anybody waking up’. Sometimes, that becomes the instruction, if not overtly given, then covertly given. The Minister says: T want to do this, but will you try to draft it in such a way that nobody will detect its extent. Smother it up’. The draftsman, not wishing to do it but being obliged to do it because these are his instructions and it is his duty as a loyal public servant to carry out his instructions, does what is requested of him. He sets about doing a job that is made ever so much more difficult by the fact that the whims of a politician had to be catered for.
When the draftsman is half way through this task, and has oriented his thinking along the legal requirements of the task and the political side issues that have been thrown in for good measure, then just to make his already difficult task more difficult, he may suddenly receive a phone call saying: ‘We have something else to do. We must bring in a Bill now to deal with pelagic fishing. Drop what you are working on and get into this new business’. So, the draftsman drops it. He gets into this business of pelagic fisheries. He must find out what it is; what the laws are of other countries concerning this subject; whether there are any international conventions which must be dealt with; whether it is constitutional; and what the High Court has said about the various aspects of the matter. Another question is: ‘How do I meet the desire of the Minister to fool somebody? How can I do this and, at the same time, fool the High Court?’ All these things become the task of the poor Parliamentary Draftsman.
There are some people sitting on the sidelines - namely, members of the judiciary - waiting to try to show that the draftsman does not know how to draft a Bill. As an example of this fact, I refer to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act and specifically to section 5. The draftsman knew what was wanted. Parliament thought that it knew what it had done when it agreed to that section. The section states that it shall be an offence for an employer to threaten with dismissal a person who becomes or desires to become a member of a trade union. This provision stood the test of time for years. Why should it not? It is simple enough. It stood the test of time until one judge, in order to show his superiority over the Parliament which had indicated what its policy was, and in order also to show his superiority over the draftsman - in many cases, judges seem to regard draftsmen with lofty contempt - decide that the law permits the dismissal of a bloke if he joins a union but that an employer must not threaten to sack such a person.
The judge interpreted the law to mean that an employer can sack a person after he joins a trade union. The only thing that the Act stops the employer from doing is threatening to sack that person. The judge in effect said: ‘If an employer says that he will sack an employee if he joins a union that is a breach of the law. But if the employer waits until the man joins a union and then sacks him, that is all right’. Here is the case of the draftsman doing what he and commonsense people thought was the requirement of the law, what the Parliament told him to do and what the Minister told him to do. Yet, a judge in one fell swoop nullified everything that Parliament thought it was doing and everything the draftsman thought he was doing. 1 think that, if society could get a little more common sense and fewer technicalities from the judiciary, we would get on a lot better and the job of the parliamentary draftsman would be made a lot easier.
We will not overcome the problem of obtaining sufficient draftsmen simply by changing the name of the position and doing nothing about salaries why must the Parliamentary Counsel go cap in hand to the Public Service Board? Unless the Board behaves a little differently from what it did in the professional engineers case, the architects and surveyors case and many other cases that I could mention, I think that it certainly is infra dig for a Counsellor of the Parliament to be required to go to the Board at all. I agree with the remarks made on this subject by an honourable member on the Government side.
I regret that 1 have not had the opportunity to read the Bill in as much detail as I ought. It is a short Bill. I hope that it does more than what the number of clauses or pages indicate that it does. I have been so busy during the last 3 or 4 weeks trying to cope with a drafting problem with the assistance of Mr Kolts of the parliamentary drafting section of the Attorney-General’s Department that I have not been able to give detailed study to other Bills at least now I am in a position where I can start to see over the top of the job that is in front of me. I learnt from my experience with this extremely capable draftsman just what a draftsman must know and what he must be able to do. Unless a member of this Parliament, whether he be a Minister or a backbencher, has had the advantage of silting with a parliamentary draftsman and being able to see a man who, on the other side of the table, can tell a member in a flash what it is that he wants to know and who seems to know all that is to be known about every subject at hand and also knows what the High Court has said about that subject in years gone by, that member does not appreciate just what remarkable and extremely experienced men these draftsmen are.
Many draftsmen - most of them, perhaps one could say - have records similar to that of the man whose name I have mentioned. According to my information, supplied by a man who went to university with him, he was easily the most brilliant student of his class at the university. He topped his law examinations and received a special award or medal for his brilliance as a lawyer. We are lucky enough to get this sort of man into the services of the Parliament as a parliamentary draftsman. How on earth we get people like that on the kinds of salaries we offer is completely beyond me. We are offering the Senior Assistant Parliamentary Draftsman $13,000; we offer the First Assistant Parliamentary Draftsman $14,000 and we offer the Parliamentary Draftsman $17,000, which Ls the highest rate in the Second Division. How we expect to hold them on those salaries I just cannot say. I do not know how we get them. Why it is that the senior draftsman ought not to be in the First Division is completely beyond me. I think we have to do something in the way of increasing. salaries. Changing the name will not get them. They want more than a change of name. 1 do not know of any more illustrious term than to be called a ‘parliamentary draftsman’ now.
– What about arbitration court judges?
– Do not tempt me. I could say plenty about that. I think some arbitration court judges would make excellent draftsmen. I really think that some of them know enough about the law even to qualify for the positron. But we will not get them for this salary. They would rather stay where they are. I conclude on that note. As a member who has been here a long time, it pleases me to know that the Government has at last recognised the importance of these people. They are the most important people in the law-making processes of the country. These gentlemen sitting in front of the Speaker’s chair are the most important people in the running of the Parliament. Without the Clerk and the Deputy Clerk the Speaker would be completely lost and we would be lost with him. Without the parliamentary draftsmen the Ministers would be lost and so would we all be lost with them.
– We would be better off if they were lost
– Probably. That is quite a sage remark. The fact is that we would be lost without the draftsmen. I therefore not only support the Bill but I again repeat that I hope that we will not merely change the name of the position but that the senior man will be put into the First Division - I see no reason why that should not be done - and that the others will be taken out of the clutches of the Public Service Board.
Mr CONNOR (Cunningham) [10.52)- I do not propose either to butter up the parliamentary draftsmen or to slap them down, but rather to tender them my sympathy for the circumscribed area in which the Commonwealth Constitution allows them to operate. No matter what status we give to these gentlemen, no matter what salary we offer, no matter what their terms of employment may be, the hard fact is that the office of Parliamentary Draftsman or, as it is to be called, Parliamentary Counsel, in this Commonwealth is the most difficult of that in any national parliament in the English speaking world. The main product of Parliament of course is laws, but it would be an exercise in self-deception to suppose that, having given everything we can think of and having got the most competent draftsmen that are available in this country, we can still get down to the real business of discharging the full functions and responsibilities of a truly national Parliament.
As a matter of fact the difficulties are so great that in many respects a parliamentary draftsman, functioning under our present Constitution, is required to be a cartoonist rather than a portrait painter. In fact he can only sketch out certain limitations and hope to God that the High Court of Australia will deal with the best .that he has been able to do within the limits that are imposed upon him by prior decisions of the High Court on one hand and the whims, caprice or political motivations of the Government on the other. We have to realise that we are functioning under a limited Constitution. The national parliament is not a sovereign parliament; it is a parliament with limited powers. It has major national responsibilities but its powers are distinctly limited. Unless and until we get a truly national constitution we can expect as we pass into the 1970s and beyond that the difficulties of draftsmanship will intensify and the relevance of our Constitution to the new age into which we have now entered will become more in doubt.
Let us take in particular some of the more outstanding and more crass examples of the irrelevance of our Constitution to present day conditions. Let us take, for instance, section 92 and all that it means or has been interpreted by the High Court to mean. I have heard prior speakers tonight refer to the need for clarity and the need to put it into ordinary layman’s language. The little bit of a mortal layman’s language in this case has been literally responsible for the perversion and frustration of the whole of major sections of the Commonwealth Constitution. The Constitution provides for the imposition of uniform customs duties and states that trade and commerce between the States should be absolutely free. That has been interpreted to mean something entirely different and there is nothing that can be done about it. We have an arbitration system today which is really the economic dictator of Australia because Parliament cannot legislate in that respect.
Let us get down to the fundamentals and instead of congratulating ourselves that we will achieve the millennium by the enactment of this legislation realise that we are still bumping our heads against a brick wall. That brick wall is the limitations of the fathers of the Constitution, their lack of perspective and their inability to foresee some 80 years ago the needs of a modern national state in an age of science, in an age of technology, and 1 hope in an age of enlightenment.
I do not want to delay the House unduly, but I would particularly cite one instance of the absurdities we can reach in terms of constitutional arrangements. Our Constitution today is productive of subterfuge. We have reached the ultimate impasse. If honourable members want to see it in all its pristine glory, they should have a look at the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act and the violence that had to be done there not merely to conventional legal phrasing but also to common sense. We have attached to that a contract that is stated to be nonjusticiable, where the States and the Commonwealth inter se would not litigate their respective claims. That 1 would say is the reductio ad absurdum, the reduction to absurdity, of legal draftsmanship. I do not blame the Parliamentary Draftsman for it. Unless and until we can get to a point where our draftsmen can do no more than help governments to subvert or to get around the Constitution this Parliament will be an exercise in legal frustration.
– in reply - If I may say so, this has been a good night for Parliament because it is one of the relatively rare occasions - and they are quite happy events when they occur - upon which members on both sides have been able to agree in substance upon a legislative measure. But while agreeing with it in substance they have at the same time, in thoughtful and carefully prepared speeches, made a number of constructive suggestions which will not go unnoticed as far as 1 am concerned.
I want to be relatively brief, indeed, very brief, in my reply on this Bill because the hour is late. But there are a few points with which I think I ought to deal. Firstly, I want to thank those honourable members who have been kind enough - and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) was the first one - to compliment me on this my first Bill. If I may reply to that I would do so in this way: While I thank them very deeply for the nice things they have said this evening I should say that the compliment is in truth due to the Government, because when I was asked to take office by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) he impressed upon me that one of his first concerns-
-Order! It being 11 o’clock, in accordance with Order of the
House of 16th April, I propose t’.ie question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I request that the House continue to sit.
– That has to be moved as a motion.
– As I remember the motion when I made the request, the question is put.
-The question is: That the question be now put.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I was saying that I do not want to take all, or even the major part, of the credit for this measure because when I assumed this office the Prime Minister impressed upon me that one of his first concerns in the field of parliamentary reform was that something be done to improve the situation in regard to parliamentary drafting. [ have taken note of the various constructive points raised by the Leader of the Opposition. He will forgive me if I do not reply to them in detail. I will bear them in mind and 1 will give them due consideration.
– 1 take a point of order. I do not really want to ‘ interrupt the Attorney-General, but the motion which we passed said:
– There is no substance in the point of order. The question that the House do now adjourn was resolved in the negative.
– The question that you put to the House, which was resolved in the negative, was not that the House do now adjourn but that the question be now put.
– The operative decision that was made by the House the other day says this:
– Was not the question you put that the question be now put?
– No. I proposed, in accordance with Standing Orders, that the House do now adjourn. The Leader of the House requested that the question be now put, and the question was negatived.
– The question that the question be now put was negatived, but not the question that the House do now adjourn.
– The point of order is not upheld.
– I think 1 judge the temper of the House correctly when I say thatI shall spend little more time in replying to this debate. I assure honourable members who have spoken that I will bear in mind the very constructive points that have been raised in all the speeches made tonight. I will not emulate the man who escaped from the lion’s den, although it has been a very kindly den tonight, and went back to get his hat. I will conclude by saying that I understand the Leader of the Opposition proposes to move some amendments in Committee. The Committee will not be kept long at work because I can indicate in advance now that the Government proposes to accept his amendments.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I wish to move 2 amendments, one to replace clause 6 and one to insert a new clause 17. Clause 6 as it stands reads:
The First Parliamentary Counsel and the Second Parliamentary Counsel shall be paid such remuneration and allowances as the GovernorGeneral determines.
This leaves it to the Governor-General to determine the remuneration and allowances of the First and Second Parliamentary Counsel. The view that my Party takes is that such remuneration and allowances should be a matter of public record as are the remuneration and allowances of all officers of equivalent status. Just as remuneration and allowances of officers of equivalent status are subject to rejection or disallowance by the House, we feel that the same should apply in respect to the First and Second Parliamentary Counsel. Accordingly I move:
– The amendments proposed by the Leader of the Opposition are acceptable to the Government.
Amendments agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hughes) - by leave - read a third time.
– I move:
In doing so, I mention that the House will not be sitting on Thursday night. I understand that some honourable members have indicated a desire to speak on the adjournment tonight. It is a long standing practice of this House that there be no adjournment debate on a Tuesday night, but on this occasion 1 think it is agreeable to the House that the debate continue tonight, having regard to the fact that there will be no adjournment debate on Thursday night.
– 1 would like to refer to a remark made by the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) on 15th April in this House. He said:
Today we on this side of the House asked a series of questions which were at times, I. felt, considered to be rather frivolous by some honourable members on the other side of the House. However they were quite frankly related to the question of the quality of hospital care. I would like to read to honourable members some comments made on this very question, which highlights the points we were attempting to bring up. Firstly, 1 would like to read from the ‘Medical Journal of Australia’ of 7th March 1959 an article in which a surgeon discussed the problem of surgical audit. He commenced by quoting an article from an American journal called ‘Hospitals’, and then said this:
If the financial records of any hospital were audited as casually and as ineffectively as is the quality of its patient care, the Administrator and the Governing Board would probably land in gaol. Or barring such an unfortunate happening, the least they could hope for would be financial chaos, unpaid bills, and a richly deserved reputation for business incompetence.
Actually there is much more reason to do a continuing and adequate medical audit in a hospital than there is to keep meticulous and informative financial records. The medical audit deals with the life and health of people: The financial audit is concerned only with money.
Further on in this article the surgeon quotes from the handbook issued by the American College of Surgeons - hardly a Communist front organisation. From that publication he quotes as follows:
The medical audit is the definitive tool of the medical staff in carrying out its most important function - maintenance of standards of practice. Contrary to common opinion, it is not a device for catching rascals. Its real purpose is to systematically review hospital medical practice through medical record, in order to learn from the experience therein recorded.
The surgeon concluded this article by saying:
Surgical audit is possible, easy and essential for proper surgical care. It is the handmaiden of the philosophy of ‘the search for perfection’.
In a subsequent article he discusses the technique of surgical audit and he produces graphs and those sorts of things to show frequency of operations, frequency of complications and the various ways whereby these things can be analysed. He concludes with this remark:
Diagnostic inaccuracy, superfluous, unnecessary, useless and even harmful operations, will never be eliminated. Infected wounds, post-operative chest complications and post-operative deaths will always present a challenge to the surgeon. Nevertheless, many of the hazards of operation, both technical and intellectual, can be counted, and improvement often follows counting and constant review.
I should like to emphasise that that is the main point we were trying to make in our questioning of the Minister, lt is not enough to say - because of I am not sure what - that this country’s hospital standards are as good as anywhere else in the world. How docs the Minister know? On what basis does he make such a judgment?
However, there is practically no attempt made-
And this is in Australia - to assess the results being obtained by individual members of the staff in the management of their patients, or to lay down what procedures any individual member may or may not undertake in patient care.
The next quote is crucial. He said:
In fact, in hospitals, both large and small, the board of governors has no assurance whatever that the medical staff is securing results which conform to approved standards, or that each patient is being treated with a degree of efficiency and safely that the patient has a right to expect. This is a weakness-
And this is not me talking, but the New South Wales President of the British Medical Association not so long ago - in our system which, in my opinion, the profession must attempt to correct if we wish to avoid more direct government interference in the practice of medicine within ihe hospitals, lt is quite unrealistic for the profession to expect to avoid nationalisation of hospital services if it is unwilling to assume its obligation to the community in this respect.
I suggest that that obligation by the medical profession has not yet been undertaken.
Perhaps in a way what I am saying is that the questions we asked were not really a criticism of the Minister but a criticism of the advice he has been given which has lulled him into the complacent feeling that the standards in our. hospitals are adequate enough. Here I am quoting experts in the field, recognised within the medical community in this country, who quite readily admit that the standards within our hospitals are not good enough. The article is relevant in making a comparison of our standards with the standards of other countries. It is based on standards which should be attainable by the medical profession and indicates the way we are falling down in attaining these standards. ) will conclude with another quote from the same gentleman who indicates, perhaps in an oblique way, a comparison wilh other countries. He states:
In the United States of America there are many variations in methods of hospital staffing; but it is probably true to state that in all except small country district hospitals, the ‘continental’ system of staffing is the pattern.
That is the pattern of staffing practised in European countries. He continues:
In this system there is a chief of staff, and a chief of each main service, such as general medicine, general surgery, radiology . . . Furthermore, the performance of each member, in regard to the end results of this treatment, is subject to the critical review of his peers and discussed when necessary at staff meetings. Continued appointment or promotion depends on satisfactory performance and ethical conduct.
I hope these remarks have helped to clarify some of the points we were attempting to elucidate in the questions we asked this morning. We have not been trying to pour scorn on the Minister but have been trying to make the community outside as well as the members of (he Parliament aware of the shortcomings within the hospital service and the things which medical authorities everywhere in the world - on both sides of the Iron Curtain if we want to worry about that, too - now recognise as requiring steps to be taken to ensure the best possible standards in the functioning of hospitals. I do not believe that we can continue to parrot the statement that the standards in this country are as good as any anywhere else in the world. There is a lol of evidence to suggest that as good as we might like to think them they are not as good as they should be.
– I wish to answer some of the wild and emotional criticism and charges made by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) in what was a most theatrical and hysterical display last Thursday night. Among other things he challenged the Government for not having announced the individual farmers’ wheat quotas. He said:
The growers have not been told what they are expected to plant.
He should know that the Commonwealth Government is not responsible for the allocation of individual wheat quotas. Surely he knows this. I am sure that he knows the truth, yet he attempted to use the forms of the House to confuse and to misrepresent the situation to the growers of his electorate. The honourable member’s rantings and other doings have served to confuse the wheat growers and to cause confusion and despair among the wheat growers nol only in the Riverina but over a wide area of eastern Australia.
We all know that the going is tough. We know that we are to expect a reduction in wheat quotas on this occasion. In my own electorate the wheal growers know that the delivery quota system was devised by the wheat industry in the face of a very serious drop in world trade, huge world wheat stockpiles and escalating plantings since 1964. They know that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has worked hard with the industry to obtain the best possible deal for them in what is a very difficult situation. They know that the Australian Government has guaranteed and financially backed every quota scheme with an enormous amount of money. Last year $440m was guaranteed by the Commonwealth to cover the first payment of SI. 10 a bushel. The honourable member for Riverina knows, I know and most of the wheat growers in my electorate realise that the application of the delivery quota system insofar as the individual growers are concerned is a responsibility of the State governments.
In my electorate of Gwydir the growers also know that the honourable member for Riverina has tried to capitalise on the problems of wheat farmers. In September last the honourable member for Riverina came to my home town, Moree, and tried to stir up trouble whilst the second reading of the wheat industry legislation was being debated in the New South Wales House of Assembly but the then member for Mumimbidgee was apparently not the spokesman for the Opposition on that occasion.
– I was there.
– I am told that he was not there for the debate and that he missed the second reading debate, in which the Opposition was led by the member for Castlereagh. I believe that the Moree farmers were not very impressed by the performance of the then honourable member for Murrumbidgee, now the honourable member for Riverina. The political humbug did not go down in my area and 1 am sure that this political humbug will not go down throughout the length and breadth of the wheat growing areas of Australia. Let mc say this: God help the wheat, growers of this country if the honourable member for Riverina ever becomes the shadow Minister for Primary Industry because not once have we had a constructive suggestion from him as far as the wheat industry is concerned. Sir, either he does not know or he tries to confuse or to make cheap political capital out of a very difficult situation. I am told that he is running to form because last year he was involved in a long harangue with the State Minister for Agriculture, Mr Crawford, over charges that the honourable member made about venereal disease in stallions at the Hawkesbury Agricultural College and the Wagga Agricultural College. But of course when the honourable member could not prove this he later watered it down and switched to venereal infections. This went on for some months.
Then there was the spectacle of Wren wheat. The honourable member for Riverina encouraged growers to accept Wren wheat when the Australian Wheat Board and the Bread Research Institute rejected it as a recommended variety. In another theatrical display the honourable member even offered to serve a gaol sentence if the Minister for Primary Industry could identify a variety of wheat. In spite of its poor quality and its poor sales prospect and potential the honourable member tried to make political capital out of promoting Wren wheat. What about your Wren wheat today? Did it stand up to rust? Are you still trying to sell it to growers. Of course you are not. It is another heap of political humbug. What about your 50 million bushels of black market wheat? How do you estimate that there are 50 million bushels? You rush to the Press and say that there are.
– What is your estimate?
-Order! The House will come to order.
– Where is it stored?
– I suggest to the honourable member for Gwydir that he direct his remarks to the Chair and not to the honourable member for Riverina. I also suggest to the honourable member for Riverina that he cease interjecting.
– I apologise to you, Mr Speaker. How does the honourable member for Riverina estimate this figure of 50 million bushels? Yet he makes the statement and gets wide publicity. But there is a serious side to this. The actions of the honourable member for Riverina helped to create panic in the coarse grains industry and helped to collapse the prices of coarse grains until recently they lifted upon the establishment of the Australian Coarse Grains Growers Co-operative. This panic in itself caused a lot of difficulties for coarse grain growers. Let us not confuse the issue. Let us be constructive. If the honourable member for Riverina has a constructive suggestion to make he should make it but he should not try to confuse and capitalise and dramatise the matter by continuing to do what I regard as great damage to a very great industry and to a lot of people dependent on that industry.
– Tonight I want to make the suggestion that there ought to be a more effective policy for the sponsorship of Australian art in displays overseas. At the present time there is a display of Australian art which is on tour in South East Asia - Singapore, Bangkok, Malaysia and Indonesia. The Australian Art Board is responsible for the promotion of this display which on reports is apparently a quite successful one. The fact that it is quite successful indicates a departure from the previous experience of not all but most displays of Australian art which have been sent overseas. Indeed, because of the way in which Australian art on display overseas has been handled by the Department of External Affairs, with no qualified persons to promote the displays the result has been that the exhibitions were pretty much a shambles. This is quite apart from the question of selection. There have been exceptions. At some displays in London and Japan trained men were in charge of the exhibitions and there was a fair degree of success.
I do suggest that this is a vital matter although it is not one which receives a great deal of public interest and support. The standards of a society are pretty much measured especially by future generations according to achievements and the standards of excellence of artistic works within that society. We are becoming a wealthier society and are therefore able to develop finer tastes. Therefore we have an obligation to do what we can in the interests of improvement of the cultural values of our society and to assist wherever we reasonably can in the promotion of Australian art.
As to problems encountered overseas I am much indebted to an article in the ‘Australian’ of 23rd March this year by the well known and highly qualified art critic, Laurie Thomas. One of the problems with exhibitions of Australian art overseas has been that we have tried to give the overseas public a little bit of everything and a hotchpotch of a whole range of different types of work by different painters has been presented to overseas audiences. The result is that there is some sort of vague impression of a suffering of what is termed ‘Australian art’ but there is no sharp, valuable, visual impact on the viewers. This is most unfortunate because the effectiveness of our displays and indeed of the money we have invested in the promotion of this sort of art is considerably lost. More importantly, an appreciation of Australian artistic standards, what our Australian artists are trying to do and how they are trying to express our society, is being lost to the overseas viewers of these exhibitions.
In the past there has been a fairly casual approach on the part of the Government to promoting most Australian exhibitions of art overseas. The Department of External
Affairs without any cultural attaches skilled in the field of arts has been left with the responsibility of displaying these works. The upshot of it is that Australia is not regarded internationally as a country of great artistic achievement. For instance, in 1969 Australia was not invited to display Australian sculpture at the Hakone biennial in Japan. It is significant that we were ignored at that important art event. One of the first things which I suggest ought to be seriously considered to help struggling Australian artists is to allow the Art Advisory Board much more rein in the promotion of Australian art overseas. Also, I believe that the Board ought to be encouraged to give a narrower presentation of Australian works overseas. Instead of presenting the works of a number of artists of different skills, the Board should present a wide range of the works of 1 or 2 artists.
The key to international art shows is the Venice Biennale which is held in every even year. In the early 1950s Daryl Lindsay, who is well known to most of us, pressed the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, to have Australia exhibit at this very important international art festival. Some 10 years later the Government finally acceded to the request. Imagine, it was 10 years between the initial representations of Daryl Lindsay and the final acquiescence of the Government in this request to have Australian art works presented at the most important international art exhibition in the world. The usual experience in relation to this exhibition is that many countries struggle to present the works of their artists. Contemporary works by Streeton and Boyd were presented by the Australian Government. lt was fair enough for the work of Boyd to be presented but although Streeton is well known and highly regarded his work can scarcely be called contemporary. Every major country has a permanent pavilion at this exhibition. Most minor countries seek to exhibit and many also have permanent pavilions. Australia ought to have such a pavilion. In fact, the Italians offered Australia pavilion space for $20,000. The Menzies Government ignored this offer and last year the final block available for a permanent pavilion was released to another country. So we are prevented from having a permanent pavilion at this important exhibition. In any event, we could at least try to rent regular space from some of the holders of permanent space so that we could make a practice every second year of presenting Austraiian contemporary art at the Venice Biennale. This is the only way in which Australia can develop a reputation in the world as a country whose works of art are highly regarded and are of a high quality.
If we are prepared to put $6m into the Trade fair at Osaka for Expo, much of which will be lost money after the fair is over and will be written off, surely to goodness we can afford $50,000 to establish a permanent pavilion at a few of the more important international art exhibitions. The show at Sao Paulo is an example. Last year our exhibit there was a flop. The Australian works were left lying about on the floor. Little effort was made to exhibit them properly and to advantage for the viewers and to the benefit of Australia’s reputation as an art country. We ought to try to present Australian works at the Kassel Documenta. By participating in this great international art exhibition we would show people of other countries our great artistic quality - and I believe we have every justification for believing that we have great artistic quality - and we also would open up opportunities to display at other international exhibitions.
The objective at which we ought to be aiming is a Canberra Biennale. Why not seek to have one of the great international art exhibitions held every second year in the Australian Capital Territory? It would seem to be a fitting sort of achievement for this country. We have proceeded beyond the stage - we should have proceeded beyond it - where we regarded Australian artists as poor relations who should be starving in a garret and, out of the rigours of adversity, producing great works of art. This is utter rubbish. Most countries have proceeded past this. The United States of America provides generous tax concessions for those people who purchase works of art an’d bequeath them to public institutions or use works of art in building developments. The American Government is developing artists’ colonies so that artists may live with decent living standards and engage in the creative work that is of so much value in interpreting the society in which they live. These are the achievements for which we should be striving, things relating to the quality of life, the life in which we are participating.
– I will not bother to answer the very vicious attack made by the the honourable member jr Gwydir (Mr Hunt) upon my friend the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) for suggesting that he would go up to Moree and stir things up. I find that difficult to believe. What I suppose the honourable member for Gwydir wants to be careful about is that the honourable member for Riverina does not undertake to stand for Gwydir at the next election because this seems to bring very unfortunate results for Country Party candidates. However, this evening I want to draw to the attention of honourable members what I call an act of vandalism going on on Capital Hill. About 18 months ago this Parliament considered at great length the site of the new and permanent parliament house. In fact, a majority of this Parliament decided - I think it was by 83 votes to 64 - that the site should be Capital Hill. In the meantime the National Capital Development Commission had designed what it called a ‘ring road’. To most of us, I would think, it was presumed that this would be a road decently and discreetly set inside Capital Hill in such a way that it would not destroy the natural environment of Canberra. I believe that Capital Hill is part of the precious visual environment of Canberra and at the present moment the operation that is going on there is road making run mad. Nobody could possibly justify the kind of quarrying and destruction that is taking place on that site. There must be countless other ways in which roads could have been put round that Capital Hill site. I can see no reason why State. Circle could not have been widened on either the outside or the inside. Just this evening - I do it with brevity just so it is on the record - I express my dismay at what I consider an act of vandalism by the planners and by the engineers. I hope that we in the Parliament will do something to protect that part of our environment. I hope that those members who are new to the Parliament will take some steps to make themselves familiar with the total area and that those who have been here for a long time but are not really aware of the geography of Canberra will make some study of it. I cannot express too strongly what I believe to be the view of many people who come to Canberra that the NCDC has destroyed part of the visual environment of Canberra which was part of the total planning and attraction of this city.
– 1 direct the attention of the House and of the Government to an apparent complete breach of faith by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority in dealings with its staff and I trust that the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) will take note of what I now bring to attention. On 27th November 1962 members of the staff of the Snowy Mountains Authority were advised that the approval of the Commonwealth had been obtained to make houses available to them when they retired because of invalidity or age. The agreement has now been revoked. For 8 years members of the Snowy Mountains Authority staff have continued in their employment in the confident belief - in the knowledge - that when they retired houses would continue to be available to them. The statement made by the Authority in the form of a memorandum to” all staff was made with the full approval of the Commonwealth Government, lt was an incentive to people to continue in the employment of the Authority. In my view the Government cannot now allow that undertaking to be set aside in the way that it has been set aside. In a further memorandum to staff, dated 2nd October 1969, the Authority, referring to its previous undertaking, stated: - . . The Authority considers that the circumstances which existed in 1962 and which led to the adoption of the policy for the provision of houses for retired personnel have changed. Accordingly as from this date the Authority has decided that the Scheme will be discontinued and no further applications will be considered for the provision of housing for retired personnel.
I could quote from many examples of injustice to members of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority staff who are now approaching the retiring age. One nian had made an application in 1962 for a Housing Commission house but his application was denied because he occupied an Authority cottage. That is fair enough. But in accordance with the terms of the Authority’s undertaking to him and to other staff in October 1962, he knew that his future housing was assured. He knew that when he retired he would be able to continue to live in an Authority house in accordance with the terms of that undertaking. Therefore he continued to give confident service to the Authority as a faithful member of its staff. He did so only to find that the agreement, which had been reaffirmed by the Authority, both in 1963 and 1968, had been revoked by this further document dated 2nd October 1969. This man asked that in view of the special and difficult circumstances in which he found himself an exception be made in his case and that the undertaking given to him and his family should be honoured. That request was refused.
Therefore, Mr Speaker, in the few minutes left to me 1 want to place on record the terms of the undertaking given and the terms by which it has been revoked. First I quote the memorandum of the Authority headed ‘Houses for Retired Personnel’ which is dated 27th November 1962. It states:
The Authority has obtained the approval of the Commonwealth Government to making houses available to staff when they are retired from the service of [he Authority because of invalidity or age. This approval was given, however, on the understanding that it would apply only to those staff, irrespective of classification, who had made a valuable contribution to the progress of the scheme.
The arrangement is that retired staff will be able to purchase Authority houses at the current market valuation obtaining when and if they elect to purchase. This election does not have to bc made immediately on retirement. If they so desire it staff will be given a long term lease expiring in 1977 which will contain the following provisions:
The rent will be on the same subsidised basis as would apply if the lessee had continued to be employed by the Authority. In other words, if a person wished to stay on in the house he occupied in Cooma at the date of his retirement he would continue to pay the same rental.
The lessee will have the option to purchase the house at current market value at the termination of lease in 1977 or at any time during the currency of the lease, as he so desires. The lessee will be able to terminate the lease on 3 months notice in writing.
The lease will not be transferable except with the Authority’s approval.
Then it goes on to give further details of the way in which the undertaking will operate, making only one proviso, that the applications will be dealt with on the merits of applicants as demonstrated by their past service to the Commission. As’ I have said, this undertaking was amplified in a further memorandum of 18th February 1963, was further confirmed and amplified by a memorandum in 1968 and then revoked by the memorandum of 2nd October 1969, which states:
On 27th November 1962, staff were advised that the approval of the Commonwealth had been obtained to make houses available to staff when they retired from the service of the Authority because of invalidity or age. Supplementary advices were issued on 18th February 1963, 11th October 1967 and 21st February 1968.
The Scheme was introduced at a lime when the Authority considered that ultimately it would be able to meet all requirements of retired officers without prejudicing interests of staff still in employment. However, the present known housing requirements of the Snowy Mountains Council, together with those of the new Corporation, indicate that there will be a greater demand for bousing, particularly of the better types, than was formerly contemplated.
In view of the above, the Authority considers that the circumstances which existed in 1962 and which led to the adoption of the policy for the provision of houses for retired personnel have changed. Accordingly as from this date the Authority has decided that the Scheme will be discontinued and no further applications will be considered for the provision of housing for retired personnel. However, this does not mean that employees will be unable, in due course, to purchase Authority houses in certain areas as and when they become surplus to requirements. As soon as any developments occur in this matter appropriate advice will be given.
Those retired staff already living in houses in Cooma will be permitted to stay on under generally the same terms of occupancy as apply to employed staff. No long term leases expiring in 1977 containing an option to purchase have been issued by the Authority, as envisaged by the 1962 notice, and it is not now the intention to proceed on this basis in respect of houses already occupied by retired staff. It is intended that in due course the existing occupancies will be regularised by a monthly tenancy agreement with conditions applicable to rental, maintenance, etc., generally similar to those applicable to employed staff. The Authority will honour any existing undertakings to employed staff who have applied to be housed after retirement and whose applications have already been approved.
Mr Speaker, you will see that the Authority gave a firm and definite undertaking to its staff. Its staff continued to serve the Authority on the basis that the undertaking would be honoured. Now the Authority, merely stating that circumstances have changed, has taken it upon itself to revoke the agreement. I ask that the Government, and the Minister for National Development particularly, investigate this matter to ensure that the undertaking given in the name of the Government to the people in this country on the basis of their continued employment for the Government with the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority will not be allowed to become a by-word but will be honoured in full.
– During the debate on the adjournment of the House this evening the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) quite surprisingly, and I thought disappointingly, devoted most of the time available to him to an attack on the honourable member for Murrumbidgee in the New South Wales Parliament, who he said is a terrible man. Then he went on to deal with the honourable member for the Riverina in this Parliament, he said is even worse. The interesting point is that he charged me with stirring up the countryside and with being dramatic about the problems of the countryside. I plead guilty to both charges. I do so in very good company because it was my privilege to march with about 10,000 people who were just as upset as I was. I hope to march with many more people and 1 hope they will be equally stirred up and equally as dramatic.
What was the next charge made by the honourable member for Gwydir? He said that I had criticised the present quota scheme, that I had described it as operating against the best interests of the farmers and of the community as a whole. Again I want to plead guilty to the charge. I think the scheme is iniquitous, ill-conceived and hasty and is operating against the best interests of all concerned. Of course, if the honourable member wishes to defend the quota system he may do so. In his local newspaper, the ‘Northern Daily Leader’, published in his own area, we read: ‘Bigger wheat quotas by dishonesty’. This is a quote from Mr L. M. Ridd, a grower member of the Grain Elevators Board and someone who is well known to the honourable member for Gwydir. He said that wheat growers who were the most dishonest received the biggest quotas in the State. He also said that there had been 6,000 appeals against them and that there were many anomalies.
The honourable member for Gwydir defended this scheme this afternoon and criticised me for opposing it, as he said, dramatically. I do oppose it dramatically, with some drama and heat on some occasions. I make no apology for that. In a newspaper from the south west, ‘The Riverina Daily News’, we read on the front page the heading: ‘Going, going, gone. Victims of the quotas.’ I will read only the first paragraph:
Three Weethalle families-
It is not a big community but I have the honour to represent it - yesterday put all their possessions up for sale by public auction and prepared to move to other parts of the State.
The families . . . said yesterday they had been forced to leave the Weethalle district and their share farming interests because they could not afford to live on the wheat quotas as set by the Federal Government.
The argument as to who is responsible for the introduction of wheat rationing in the middle of the season should be dealt with now. The decision was made here in Canberra. It was forced on the States. In the debates in the New South Wales Parliament that 1 took part in it was made quite clear to every member both in Government and Opposition that the Commonwealth waved the big stick. The Commonwealth had the decision to make. The Commonwealth made the decision and said: ‘You will do this’. The implementation in detail was left to the colleagues of members of this Government who are in government in the States. Let us be quite clear that the decision began here. It was conceived here and was implemented from here.
The honourable member went on to talk about the Wren wheat. I am delighted to think that he inquired about Wren. 1 do not know why he inquired about it particularly and not about the majority of other varieties which are not recommended. For his information I must tell him that some of the Wren crops were not much good because of rust, and others attracted a premium.
– From the Wheat Board?
– Under the authority of the Wheat Board. After all, let us not forget that low protein wheat under the authority of the Board, as you would know-
-Order! To those members who have recently come into the House I would say that when the honourable member for Gwydir was speaking I requested the honourable member for Riverina to cease interjecting. This he did. I suggest to other honourable members who are now interjecting that the honourable member for Riverina should be heard in silence.
– The Minister for Primary Industry, by interjection, indicated that no Wren growers had received a premium. If he is interested, I should be glad to see him in my office after the debate. I might say, in relation to the Moree meeting, that I was invited to Moree, in the electorate of the honourable member for Gwydir by farmer representatives and by the Chamber of Commerce. I was invited there by responsible people in his own electorate who were most concerned and upset at the whole situation there. I was told in Moree on the public platform and by representatives of the Chamber of Commerce there that business in that town was down by 40%. The honourable member for Gwydir says that this is not a matter to get dramatic about; that this is not a matter to go from one end of the countryside to the other to preach about. I hope that he earns bis money while he is here. He very nearly was not here. The honourable member also raised the matter of sales outside the Austraiian Wheat Board. It has been predicted that the sales outside the Wheat Board this year will be greater than those inside the Board’s system.
– What rot!
Mr Cope - I take a point of order. Two Ministers who are not sitting in their seats are continually interjecting. That is quite out of order.
-Order! I uphold the point of order and suggest to honourable members that they cease interjecting.
– I want to say quite bluntly that I was delighted with the last interjection by the Minister for Primary Industry who said ‘What rot* to my comments about black market wheat sales. The Minister is saying for the very first time in this chamber that he has some interest in the quantities of wheat that are being sold outside the Board. This is the first time that we have heard from him on this subject. I am delighted that he has come into the chamber at this time of the night -at 11.55 p.m. - to tell us this. Still, it is never too late to make amends. I hope that he will come into the Chamber tomorrow-
– Stop being a comic.
-Order! I suggest to the Minister for Primary Industry that he cease interjecting.
– Again I accept the interjection by the Minister for Primary Industry, but I challenge him to come into the House tomorrow and to give us a comprehensive statement on wheat, including details of receivals and the extent of trading outside the Board. I should like him to give that information to us precisely and definitely so that we will know exactly what the position it. I challenge him to do it. If he comes in here tomorrow and does that I shall be the first to rise in my place and say: ‘Thank you, this was a very fine effort - late, but welcome.’ To make this statement is his duty and responsibility, but he has not faced up to it. There has been a whole range of price quotations for wheat.
I have mentioned in this place the range and possible extent of trading outside the Board. 1 have mentioned figures compiled from various sources. 1 and the whole countryside will be quite happy to be corrected on this matter. There is only 1 other thing that the Minister shoul’d make quite clear, that is, that when he set in train the whole of this quota system he accepted that there would be great trading outside the Board. The Minister did accept that this would be the situation and he knows it. Let him get up and defend his action and let us have a precise statement on exactly what has happened. I think he owes that to the Parliament and to the people. In the State sphere the honourable member who in the State House was the honourable member for Upper Hunter will remember the debates clearly. Unlike the honourable member for Gwydir, I went to Moree in response to an invitation to discharge my responsibility by stating our policy clearly and definitely. I then returned to the House, took part in the debate, and was privileged to oppose the legislation on 13 consecutive occasions.
It has been suggested that we have never said in this place what our various policies are or spelt them out. 1 remind honourable members that Government supporters gagged the debate on the matter of primary industry which had been raised as a matter of public importance on the first occasion that I spoke. On that occasion I was allowed to speak for 10 minutes only. No-one was permitted to speak after that because the gag was applied. That was in the days when the gag ruled supreme; it was before Government supporters recognised the error of their ways. I suggest to honourable members opposite that they get away from this business of trying to cover up massive mistakes. They should stand up and apologise to the whole countryside because by their deeds we shall know them. What is happening at present is a tragedy. It is based on policies which were hasty, ill-conceived and even badly implemented.
– When the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) spoke on the adjournment about a week ago I. followed him, not immediately but after 1 or 2 other speakers had been heard. On that occasion the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) spoke on certain matters. I was very concerned about what the honourable member for Riverina said with regard to wheat quotas. We know that the quota system has not been accepted thoroughly or unanimously by wheat growers, but generally speaking the wheat growers think that the quota system is the best available under all the conditions in which wheat is being grown in Australia and overseas in such great quantities at present. I thought I should find out exactly where I. stood on this matter, so I addressed a question to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony). I should like to refer to that question now for the simple reason that it appeared to me that the honourable member for Riverina tried to give the impression that the Federal Government was responsible in every way for the quota system. On 16th April last I asked a question in this House in the following terms:
My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. On several occasions recently questions have been addressed to me regarding the wheat quota system now in operation. Will the Minister state what part, if any, the Commonwealth Government took in establishing these quotas and in allocating them to wheat growers?
The Minister for Primary Industry is in a position of great responsibility. He gave the following answer:
I almost get sick and tired of saying this, but the Commonwealth has no rights at all in imposing production controls. This Is a sovereign right of the States and the Commonwealth does not play any part at all in it. If there is a feeling that there are injustices, inequities or anomalies in the way quotas are apportioned to individual growers, they should take up their grievences with their own State Government. The State Government determines what the policy is in that State, generally in conjunction with the wheat Industry organisations. As far as the Commonwealth’s role in this whole problem of surplus production of wheat is concerned, for 18 months before the Australian Wheat growers Federation made its decision I had been pointing out the problems that were confronting the industry and were likely to arise if we continued to have an escalation of production and difficult marketing circumstances. As a result of this the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation made a decision that there needed to be some restraints put on production. It determined a national quota and how this should be divided between the States. The Federation did this itself. It required that the Commonwealth guarantee a first advance payment of $1.10 on that amount of wheat, but then it was up to each individual State to apportion its quota to individual growers. So I say again that if growers feel there is any injustice or anomaly, this is a matter which should be taken up with their own State Government; the Commonwealth has no hand in it whatsoever.
I put the question to the Minister for Primary Industry and I have read the question and the answer. I want to put beyond doubt what the real position is. I do not want to be rowing with the honourable member for Riverina but it appears to me that in this House he has tried to give the impression that the Commonwealth Government is or has been responsible for the quota system. This is absolutely untrue. My question has been answered very clearly by the Minister for Primary Industry and I would suggest that the honourable member for Riverina cease trying to create a wrong impression.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12,4 a.m. (Wednesday).
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
What capita] advances are expected to be made to the Snowy Mountains Hyro-electric Authority in each year till the completion of the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
– The answer to the honourable members question is as follows:
The amount of capital advances that will actually be made to the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority in each year will depend on appropriations made by Parliament. However, the following capital advances would be required each year in order to complete the scheme by 1974/5.
In addition to the above, the Authority is required to contribute to the River Murray Commission an amount equal to one half the cost of increasing the capacity of the Hume Reservoir from 2,000,000 to 2,500,000 acre feet of water within five years after the completion of the diversion of the Snowy River to the River Murray. This contribution, estimated at $3.7- million, will be required to be paid not later than January 1974.
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice -
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Fees are charged by the Administration for education provided at Territory primary and secondary schools, technical colleges, postsecondary training institutions and for adult education in Papua and New Guinea.
In relation to fees charged at Territory primary and secondary schools the position is:
(i) an annual school equipment charge in respect of students attending Administration and mission primary and secondary schools,
a fee in respect of boarders attending Administration secondary schools. This fee is used to defray pan of the cost of maintenance of boarding school students.
(i) The annual school equipment fees were introduced in 1967; they have remained at the rate of $1 per child at primary schools and $3 per child for pupils at secondary schools. Where more than1 child from a family attend a school, the total fee payable is $1 at primary and S3 at secondary schools,
The annual boarding school fee was introduced in 1970 after consultation with and with the support of the Administrator’s Executive Council. On the Council’s advice the fee varies from sub-district to sub-district from $10 per child a year to a maximum of $30 depending upon the level of economic development.
Provision is made for both the school equipment and boarding school fees for individual students to be lowered or waived in cases of hardship.
Estimated revenue for 1970 from school fees is as follows:
School equipment fees - $176,000
Board school fees- $138,000
Information on fees charged at the other educational institutions in the Territory, including over 30 post-secondary training institutions, will be communicated to the honourable member when available.
Gascoyne River Irrigation Potential (Question No. 231)
asked the Minister for
National Development the following question, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Flood Mitigation (Question No. 336)
asked the Minister for
National Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
Can a War Service Homes loan be made available for the building of a workshed beside a house to enable the owner to use the building for home carpentry or a similar hobby.
– The Minister for Housing has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The purposes for which a War Service Homes loan may be granted are set out in the War Service Homes Act and include the erection, completion or enlargement of a dwelling-house subject to the directions of the Minister as to matters of general policy. A loan for the building of a workshop to be used for home carpentry or a similar hobby could not be granted unless the work came within 1 of these categories. This question could only be answered following an examination of a particular proposal.
National Superannuation Schemes (Question No. 130)
asked the Minister for Social
Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The most recent available document which surveys the types of social security schemes operating overseas is the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare’s publication ‘Social Security Programmes Throughout the World 1967’, which gives the principal features of schemes inthe following countries: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burma, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Ceylon, Chad, Chile, China (Nationalist), China (Communist), Colombia, Congo (Brazzaville), Congo (Kinshasa), Costa Rica, Cuba, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Dahomey, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Germany (Federal Republic), Germany (East), Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Korea (South), Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Luxembourg, Malagasy Republic, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Rumania, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Arab Republic, United Kingdom, United States of America, Upper Volta, Uruguay, Venezuela, Vietnam (South), Vietnam (North), Yugoslavia, Zambia.
The publication is at present being revised, but it is understood that a copy of the 1967 issue is available in the Parliamentary Library. The complexity and diversity of the schemes operating in the countries surveyed by the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare are such that it is not possible to provide a concise and accurate summary, and hence the publication mentioned above is recommended to the honourable member.
Meteorological Bureau: Spotter Aircraft (Question No. 258)
asked the Minister for the
Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There are no aircraft available in Australia either military or civil which are appropriately instrumented for the accurate measurement of pressure and wind in tropical cyclones or which could withstand the stresses in the extreme turbulences which they would encounter in Penetrating the cyclones.
Meteorological Report on Cyclone ‘Ada’ (Question No. 262)
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
Will he table in Parliament the official report given to him by the Bureau of Meteorology on Cyclone ‘Ada’ from which he produced his public statement that North Queensland received adequate warning of the intensity of the cyclone.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
My public statement on the North Queensland cyclone made on 27th January resulted from very long discussions with the Commonwealth Director of Meteorology, the Secretary of my Department and the Queensland Regional Director of Meteorology when the latter became available after Cyclone ‘Ada’ was spent.
Commonwealth Departments in Bunbury, Western Australia (Question No. 409)
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
National Service, Postmaster-General’s Department and Department of Social Services.
Three - Commonwealth Parliament Offices, Postmaster-General’s Department and Department of Social Services.
Bougainville: Leasing of Land (Question No. 443)
asked the Minister for
External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There has been no uprising in any part of Bougainville. If the question refers to settlements before the leasing of land at Rorovana (near Kieta) last August the position is -
Ltd at issue price; other forms of compensation for loss of economic crops and trees to be assessed by the Mining Warden.
As a result of decisions made by the Mining Warden the Mining Company is required to undertake the following:
The Mining Warden has awarded compensation to be payable by the Company for the resettlement of the village of Moroni within the Special Mining Lease but away from the planned concentrator site. The villagers have been paid $22,000 for destruction of houses and economic crops, cost of native-materials houses, loss of rights of way, severance of land, consequential damages, together with the following benefits:
Assistance in the village pig-breeding pro gramme, including the building of a pigyard.
Clearing and preparing of village gardens for planting,
Replacement of village houses with permanent-materials houses and a chapel at the new village site.
Provision of full rations for all villagers for the first 6 months and of one-third rations for the second 6 months.
Compensation will also be decided upon by the Mining Warden for the villagers of Dapera, within the Special Mining Lease.
Payment of compensation to Martin Benggong, a plantation owner on the alignment of the East Coast Road, of $3,850 for loss of 110 cocoa trees, $50 for severance of land, $50 for loss of surface rights of way. $384 for fencing and nuisance from dust and noises.
Relocate copra driers on Rorovana land,
Replace houses on the land with houses constructed with European materials,
Prior to the end of the lease place any part of the land not covered by improvements in an arable state,
The improvements on the land at the expiration of the lease to become the property of the native landowners.
Pensions (Question No. 545)
asked the Minister for Social
Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Papua and New Guinea: Allowances to Members of the House of Assembly (Question No. 622)
asked the Minister for
External Territories, upon notice:
What (a) salary, (b) electorate allowance and (c) travel facilities are extended to Members of the House of Assembly for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Members of the House of Assembly are paid the following fees and allowances -
Speaker- $5,000 per annum plus an allowance of $300 per annum.
Ministerial Members- $5,000 per annum.
Assistant Ministerial Members - $3,750 per annum.
Elected Member nominated to Administrator’s Executive Council - $3,750 per annum.
Chairman of Committees- $3,000 per annum plus an allowance of $300 per annum.
Official Members - no fee, but are paid an allowance of $400 per annum for their duties connected with the House.
Other Members - $3,000 per annum.
Open Electorates- $400 to $1,200 per annum.
Regional Electorates- $750 to $3,000 per annum.
Members also receive a postage and telephone allowance of $50 per annum.
All Members are provided with fares to and from meetings of the House or its Committees and on approved business of the House.
In addition Ministerial Members and Assistant Ministerial Members are eligible for fares between their homes and Port Moresby up to 12 times a year. Ministerial Members, Assistant Ministerial Members, and Members of Standing and Select Committees of the House are provided with fares for travel on official business outside Port Moresby.
Ministerial Members and Assistant Ministerial Members resident outside Port Moresby receive allowances of $850 per annum and $700 per annum respectively in lieu of travelling allowance for periods spent in Port Moresby and in travelling to and from Port Moresby on official business.
Ministerial Members, Assistant Ministerial Members, and Members of Standing and Select Committees of the House receive the cost of accommodation and meals plus $2 per day when travelling outside Port Moresby on official business.
Official Members resident outside Port Moresby receive $13 per day when obliged to stay in private accommodation during meetings of the House or its Committees. When otherwise required to travel on official business of the
House they receive the travelling allowance appropriate to their Public Service or Statutory office.
Other Members receive $13 per day during travel to and from meetings of the House or its Committees and while attending sittings of the House.
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Expatriate personnel of the Public Service may be eligible for retirement benefits under either the Superannuation (Papua and New Guinea) Ordinance 1951-1969 or the Retirement Benefits (Contract Officers) Ordinance 1967-1969. Personnel who are not eligible for benefits are:
A contributor who retires or resigns after reaching age 50 (45 for females) but who is not entitled to full pension is eligible for a pension which is certified by the Commonwealth Actuary to be four and one-fifth times the actuarial equivalent of the net amount of the contributions actually paid by him.
A contributor who resigns before reaching age 50 (45 for females) is entitled to refund of contributions.
Full benefits are payable under the Superannuation Ordinance to a Provident Account contributor on retirement on or after 50 years of age (45 for females). A Provident Account contributor who resigns before age 50 (45 for females) is entitled to an amount equal to the contributions paid by him with compound interest on those contributions to the prescribed rate.
Social Services: Reciprocal Agreement with Malta (Question No. 625)
asked the Minister for
Social Services, upon notice -
What consideration has been extended to the proposal that a reciprocal agreement should be negotiated between Australia and Malta which would have the effect of extending to migrants from Malta of British nationality the same social service benefits which accrue to migrants from Britain and New Zealand.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Consideration is being given to the question of a reciprocal social security agreement with Malta. It is not possible to forecast the outcome of these discussions.
HMAS ‘Hobart’ (Question No. 754)
asked the Minister for the
Navy, upon notice -
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Essential repairs necessary to enable ‘Hobart’ to return to operational service were carried out by the United States Navy at Subic Bay in the Philippines. These were estimated to cost $US0.250m. No further details of the actual cost of these repairs have been received.
On return of the ship to Australia the RAN replaced one of the Tartar control systems which had been damaged in the incident. The replacement was effected in conjunction with a planned up-dating of ‘Hobart’s’ Tartar systems. The cost to the RAN of the replacement equipment was $A0.758m, but a considerable proportion of the replaced equipment is repairable and will be retained in spares holdings. The value of damaged items found to be unserviceable and beyond repair was $A50,314.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is:
On 30th July 1964, I invited the Director, Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, Commonwealth Department of Works, to my Canberra Office to discuss ways and means of compiling uniform building regulations throughout the Commonwealth and for the formation of a Commonwealth Secretariat to undertake the many matters which would arise from such an assignment. Following these discussions a Conference of interested States was held on 12th August 1964, and arising from this and subsequent conferences the Interstate Standing Committee on Uniform Building Regulations was established.
I am advised by my colleague, the Minister for Works, that with a view to promulgating new regulations at the earliest possible time an Australian Model Uniform Building Code, which is to form the basis for new building regulations to be issued by the States, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, is being issued as each major section of its contents is completed. The first of these sections has been issued to the several State and Commonwealth administrations concerned, and it is now being processed by them as a prelude to promulgation in due course. The Committee’s work on the second section is well advanced, and the Committee is working also on portions of the third section. All told, the work of preparing the code is near the halfway mark.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
What progress has been made in rectifying the 1878 boundary between Papua and Queensland which for some 60 miles proceeds within 3 miles of the Papuan coast.
– I have been advised by the Minister for External Territories as follows:
The situation remains as set out in the answer to Question No. 1773 (Hansard, 9th September 1969, page 1017).
In August 1969 a motion was introduced in the House of Assembly of Papua and New Guinea to call on the Administration of the Territory to take whatever steps may be practicable to have the boundary adjusted to a reasonable and equitable line having regard to the proper needs and aspirations of Papua and New Guinea, both now and in the future.
This motion was defeated on the voices.
Also in August 1969, the Queensland MinisterinCharge of Aboriginal and Island Affairs in answer to a question in the Queensland Legislative Assembly, said that the 900 or so people on the islands of Saibai, Dauan and Boigu (which would be affected by an adjustment of the boundary) regarded themselves as Queenslanders and would oppose any suggestion that they be transferred to the Papua and New Guinea Administration and that the Queensland Government supported their opposition to any change in their status. The Queensland Government again stated its position of support for the inhabitants of the islands concerned in a Press statement issued on 9th December 1969.
The Government is keeping all aspects of the matter under review including the wishes of the inhabitants of the islands.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
What Department of Civil Aviation Hegulations are designed to:
Did the fatality involving a stowaway youth who fell from a Japan Air Lines DC8 at Sydney on 22nd February 1970 result from any departure from regular precautionary measures; if not, are these measures inadequate.
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
A major deterrent to acts of sabotage or stowing away in aircraft is the fact that such acts are offences against the Crimes (Aircraft) Act and certain Air Navigation Regulations, which offences carry severe penalties.
Ownership of Mineral Industries (Question No. 503)
asked the Minister for
National Development the following question, on notice:
Government actively discourages Australian ownership of mineral industries, that the Commonwealth should provide ports, roads and housing to correct this trend, and should thus enter a development partnership with industry, as States and local capital cannot afford to do so, and that dredging and port housing costs of companies should at least be tax deductible.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
– On 1 5th April the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) asked me how many meetings of the Commonwealth/State Officials’ Committee on Decentralisation have been held and when the report of the Committee will be made available.
The Committee has met three times and 1 invite the honourable member to refer to my detailed answers to questions on notice appearing in Hansard on 17th April 1.969 (page 1274), 9th September 1969 (page 1014) and finally on 14th April 1970 (page 1 109). It. is clear from these answers that the studies being co-ordinated by the Committee are progressing but they are complex. The point is also made that those studies which are unfinished are being arranged by State authorities. As the work of the Committee is a State as well as a Commonwealth activity it is not possible to say when the Committee will report.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
What steps have been taken to ascertain the number of applications received by building societies for loans to purchase or build houses from advances made available to them under the Housing Agreement (Hansard. 11th September 1969, page 1263).
– The Minister for Housing has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Building societies do not. as a general practice, accept applications for bousing loans unless finance is available or in sight. They do not maintain waiting lists. Accordingly, the State authorities administering the Home Builders’ Account provisions of the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement are unable to furnish the information sought. The number of loans approved by building societies during 1968-69 from Home Builders’ Account funds in the various States was approximately 5,300.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
Will he bring up to date the tables on Northern Territory ordinances which he gave in his answer to me on 6th June 1968 (Mansard, page 2183).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 April 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19700421_reps_27_hor67/>.