27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr LES JOHNSON presented from certain citizens of the Commonwealth a petition showing that the recent increase in interest rates of housing loans has caused hardship to thousands of home buyers throughout the Commonwealth.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will give earnest consideration to the most vital matter of reducing the interest rate on Government bonds and the subsequent reduction of interest rates on housing loans, as the affected persons have already been notified and in most cases have only twenty one days in which to accept the increased interest rate on their housing loans, or extended payment terms, or face losing their homes.
Petition received and read.
Mr REID presented from certain resi dents of the Slate of Victoria a petition showing that because of uncontrolled shooting for commercial purposes, the population of kangaroos, particularly the big red species is now so low that they may become extinct; there are insufficient wardens in any State of the Commonwealth to delect or apprehend those who break the inadequate laws which exist; as a tourist attraction, the kangaroo is a permanent source of revenue to this country; and 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 the Commonwealth Government take the necessary steps to have all wildlife in Australia brought under its control. Only a complete cessation of killing for commercial purposes can save surviving kangaroos.
Petition received and read.
Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES presented from certain residents of the State of Victoria a petition showing that because of uncontrolled shooting for commercial purposes, the population of kangaroos, particularly the big red species, is now so low thatthey may become extinct: there are insufficient wardens in any Slate of the Commonwealth to detect or apprehend those who break the inadequate laws which exist; as a tourist attraction, the kangaroo is a permanent source of revenue to this country; 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 the Commonwealth Government take the necessary steps to have all wildlife in Australia, brought under its control. Only a complete cessation of killing for commercial purposes can save surviving kangaroos.
Mr FOX presented from certain residents of the Slate of New South Wales a petition showing that the red kangaroo and many other marsupials, through shooting for commercial purposes, have been reduced to a numerical level where their survival is in jepoardy; none of the Australian Slates have sufficient wardens to detect and apprehend people breaking the laws in existence in each State, and in such a vast country only uniform laws and a complete cessation of commercialisation can ensure the survival of our national emblem; it is an indisputable fact that no natural resource can withstand hunting on such a concentrated scale, unless some provision is made for its future.
The petitioners pray that the export of all kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the Commonwealth Government make a serious appraisal of its responsibility in the matter to ensure the survival of the kangaroo.
Mr IRWIN presented from certain residents of the State of New South Wales a petition showing that the red kangaroo and many other marsupials, through shooting for commercial purposes, have been reduced to a numerical level where their survival is in jeopardy; none of the Australian States has sufficient wardens to detect and apprehend people breaking the laws in existence in each State, and in such a vast country only uniform laws and a complete cessation of commercialisation can ensure the survival of our national emblem; it is an indisputable fact that no natural resource can withstand hunting on such a concentrated scale, unless some provision is made for its future.
The petitioners pray the export of all kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the Commonwealth Government make a serious appraisal of its responsibility in the matter to ensure the survival of the kangaroo.
Mr MacKELLAR presented from certain residents of the State of New South Wales a petition showing that the red kangaroo and many other marsupials, through shooting for commercial purposes, have been reduced to a numerical level where their survival is in jeopardy; none of the Australian States has sufficient wardens to detect and apprehend people breaking the laws in existence in each State, and in such a vast country only uniform laws and a complete cessation of commercialisation can ensure the survival of our national emblem, it is an indisputable fact that no natural resource can withstand hunting on such a concentrated scale, unless some provision is made for its future.
The petitioners pray that the export of all kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the Commonwealth Government make a serious appraisal of its responsibility in the matter to ensure the survival of the kangaroo.
Mr BARNARD presented from certain citizens on Flinders Island a petition showing that Flinders Island is a relatively isolated area because of the problem of transport to and from the island; that transport difficulties and freight costs have led to the high cost of living on Flinders Island; that residents of Flinders Island should be granted income tax concessions in recognition of the disadvantage to which they are subject.
The petitioner pray that the House of Representatives take suitable action to have the Income Tax Assessment Act amended so as to include Flinders Island in Zone B as defined in Part II of the Second Schedule to that Act.
Petition received and read.
Mr JACOBI presented from certain citizens of the Division of Hawker a petition showing that due to higher living cost, persons on social service pensions are finding it extremely difficult to live in even the most frugal way; the petitioners call upon the Commonwealth Government to increase the base pension rate to 30% of average weekly male earnings, plus supplementary assistance in accordance with Australian Council of Trade Unions policy and by so doing give a reasonably moderate pension; the average weekly earnings for adult male unit wage and salary earner means the figures issued from time to time by the Commonwealth Statistician and published quarterly.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to bring about the wishes expressed in our petition; so that our citizens receiving the social service pensions may live their lives in dignity.
Petition received and read.
Mr FitzPATRICK presented from certain citizens of New South Wales a petition showing that due to higher living cost, persons on social service pensions, are finding it extremely difficult to live in even the most frugal way; we therefore call upon the Commonwealth Government to increase the base pension rate to 30% of average weekly male earnings, plus supplementary assistance in accordance with Australian Council of Trade Unions policy and by so doing give a reasonably moderate pension. The average weekly earnings for adult male unit wage and salary earner means the figures issued from time to time by the Commonwealth Statistician and published quarterly.
The petitioners pray that the Senate and House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to bring about the wishes expressed in our petition, so that our citizens receiving the social service pensions may live their lives in dignity.
Mr BRYANT presented from certain citizens of the Commonwealth a petition showing that the Commonwealth Parliament has acted to remove some inadequacies in the Australian education system: a major inadequcy at present in Australian education is the lack of equal education opportunity for all; more than 500,000 children suffer from serious lack of equal opportunity; Australia cannot alford to waste the talents of one sixth of its. school children; only the Commonwealth has the financial resources for special programmes to remove inadequacies; and nations such as the United Kingdom and the United Stales have shown that the chief impetus for change and the finance for improvement come from the national government.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives make legal provision for a joint Commonwealth-State inquiry into inequalities in Australian education to obtain evidence on which to base long term national programmes for the elimination of inequalities; the immediate financing of special programmes for low income earners, migrants Aboriginal, rural and inner suburban dwellers and handicapped children; and the provision of pre-school opportunities for all children from culturally different or socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Mr GARRICK presented from certain citizens of the Commonwealth a petition showing that the Commonwealth Parliament has acted to remove some inadequacies in the Australian education system; a major inadequacy at present in Australian education is the lack of equal education opportunity for all; more than 500,000 children suffer from serious lack of equal opportunity; Australia cannot afford to waste the talents of one-sixth of its school children; only the Commonwealth has the financial resources for special programmes to remove inadequacies, and 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 of Representatives make legal provision for a joint Commonwealth-State inquiry into inequalities in Australian education to obtain evidence on which to base long term national programmes for the elimination of inequalities; the immediate financing of special programmes for low income earners, migrants, Aboriginals, rural and inner suburban dwellers and handicapped children; and the provision of pre-school opportunities for all children from culturally different or socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Petition received and read.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Three weeks ago (he right honourable gentleman told me that the Government would not proceed with the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill until after the discussion with the States on the complementary issues of royalties, fees and titles. As this discussion took place yesterday I ask him when the Government will proceed with the Bill.
– The Government will proceed with the Bill after the discussions which have taken place, to which the Leader of the Opposition referred, at a time of the Government’s choosing.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for National Development, is somewhat supplementary to that asked by the Leader of the Opposition. Did the Minister see a statement relating to some alleged information which was provided by Commonwealth Ministers to the meeting of the Australian Minerals Council in Adelaide yesterday referring to sharing of royalties for off-shore minerals and other matters? Will the Minister inform the House whether this statement is accurate in any way?
– The Minister for the Interior, the Attorney-General and I attended a meeting of the Australian Minerals Council in Adelaide yesterday. Unfortunately no joint communique was issued at the end of the meeting but the AttorneyGeneral and I issued a joint statement after our return to Canberra late last night. Perhaps because of the lateness and the fact that there was no official communique the reports of the meeting have been very garbled and, in some cases, quite misleading. During the meeting copies of the Adelaide ‘News’ were circulated to members and the newspaper contained an inaccurate report of a statement made by the Prime Minister to the Federal Council of the Liberal Party on Monday last. The Attorney-General and I corrected the Press report at the meeting. I quoted the actual words used by the Prime Minister. I will refer to them now. The Prime Minister, referring to the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill, said this:
It is hard for me to see why there should be objections to constitutional methods of clarifying the constitutional issue. It is certain that after clarification. Commonwealth and State cooperation in the granting of leases for minerals, and Commonwealth-State agreement for royalties and fees can be patterned1 on that Petroleum Agreement which is so often suggested to be followed.
Apparently the persons reporting this statement did not know the difference between-
– I take a point of order. This is supposed to be the time for questions without notice. But this is clearly a statement by the Minister. There is a procedure for making statements in the House. If there is an agreement between the Government and the Opposition, a statement can be made by the Minister at an appropriate time. This is an abuse of question time.
– There is no substance in the point of order. A question has been asked of the Minister and, as I have said before, Ministers may answer questions as they see fit.
– I could hardly have avoided anticipating a question being asked on this subject today after reading the newspapers this morning. But I do repeat that the persons-
– Further to my point of order, Mr Speaker, did the Minister anticipate a question from an honourable member in the Government ranks, or did he arrange that the question be asked?
– Order! There is no valid point of order. The matter raised by the honourable member is not within the province of the Chair at all.
– I repeat again that the persons reporting the comments of the Prime Minister at the time apparently did not know the difference between the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill, which refers to sovereignty, and the 2 proposed Bills which will cover the mining code and royalties. The Prime Minister had previously stated that there was a firm offer to the States for royalties for off-shore minerals which were to be shared in favour of the States on a 60/40 basis. This basis is similar to that for off-shore petroleum. This was stated by me again yesterday. Therefore the reports which have appeared in quite a number of newspapers today are quite inaccurate in that regard. The joint statement which was made last night by the Attorney-General and me was a clear one. In order that the record may be cleared and rather than take up the time of the House in reading it at this stage, I would ask that it be incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– He can make a statement afterwards which can be debated.
– Mr Speaker, I will read the statement.
– Order! I have on many occasions told the House that question time is being taken up by long questions and long answers that become statements. I would suggest to the Minister that if it is convenient he might be able to make this statement to the House by leave after question time. I take it leave will be granted.
– If it is suggested that I cannot read this statement now, I will certainly table it after question time. But I ask that all members of the Press Gallery and honourable members of the House read this statement because it conveys accurately an interpretation of the results of the meeting, as set out very clearly by the AttorneyGeneral and myself.
– I ask the Attorney-General whether he is aware that the Parliamentary Counsel Act comes into force on Friday of this week. Is he in a position to inform the House of the names of the officers who are to be appointed to the positions of First and Second Parliamentary Counsel? Can he also tell the House when the appointments will be made? If he is unable to give us this information, can he indicate when he will be in a position to do so?
– Yes, 1 certainly am aware that the Bill will become an Act this Friday. I am not yet in a position to announce the names of the 3 Parliamentary Counsel who in due course will be appointed under the Act. Of course, I have very clearly in mind the recommendations that I shall make to my colleagues in the Cabinet. But certain machinery steps have to be taken and are being taken expeditiously. I hope that those steps will be completed in time for me to make an announcement not later than some time next week or earlier if possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education and Science. The Minister will appreciate that a taxpayer who has a dependent child up to 21 years of age engaged in full time studies is allowed a $300 deduction from his income tax return, but immediately the student becomes 21 the deduction is disallowed. Is the Minister aware-
– I raise a point of order. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that I have a question on the notice paper dealing with this subject.
-Order! I have no time to go through every question on the notice paper at this stage.
– Is the Minister aware that since the introduction of the Wyndham scheme very few students graduate before they are 21 and that this is causing considerable hardship? Is he also aware that no tax deduction is allowed in the case of students who engage in part time work to pay for their own education? Will the Minister bring these anomalies to the attention of the Treasurer in the hope that the Government will give relief-
– i again rise to order. I draw attention to question 1 199. If a Government supporter wants the answer to the question why does not the Government give it when the question is on the notice paper?
-Order! The questions are not identical. I think that the question asked by the honourable member for Bennelong covers a wider range of subjects.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. Will the Minister bring these anomalies to the attention of the Treasurer in the hope that the Government will give relief and encouragement to these young people in the forthcoming Budget?
– The honourable member for Bennelong has put his finger on several areas of need of which I am aware. I have had representations on these matters. They are at present under con.sideration One question which arises is whether an income tax deduction is the appropriate way to deal with this matter in view of the fact that those who have the lowest income and may perhaps be said to have the greatest need would under that method get the least advantage. Furthermore the Treasury generally takes the view that an increase of deductions of this type tends to erode the tax base. Finally, I would say that there are many areas of need in relation to education. The difficulty is to allocate the priorities with which these claims should be met. This particular area of need will come under consideration along with very many others. Certainly I will see it is brought to the attention of the Treasurer.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the basic reasons for the introduction of Australia’s excellent immigration policy by the Chifley Labor Government in 1946 and continued by successive Liberal governments, are considered by many people to be no longer applicable to Australia in the 1970s? Does he realise that vast population increase, once considered highly desirable, is now being questioned due to the pressures it places on education, health and social welfare services, housing and land prices and the consequent diminution in the quality of life that over-crowded cities have on our environment? Will his Government bring down a white paper on immigration so that a cost-benefit evaluation of assisted immigration, now estimated at being between $500m and SI, 000m. can be made?
– 1 am not aware, and I have nor been aware, that members of this Parliament - the honourable member or other members - have reached the conclusion that the immigration programme is bad for Australia, as the honourable member appears to suggest. For our part, we have been conducting an immigration programme which, in terms of numbers, has been greatly successful. I would believe that the development of Australia depends upon the bringing of more people to Australia in order to develop it and that from that development will come those funds for schools and hospitals and anti-pollution measures to which the honourable member refers. I would not undertake to support for one moment his suggestion that we should become a static community, and I am surprised to hear it from a member of the Opposition.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister, lt concerns the forthcoming visit to Australia of His Holiness Pope Paul VI, who is not only the head of the largest congregation of faithful in the world bur is also a head of state. I ask: Firstly, would it not be fitting to take the opportunity of this unprecedented visit to invite His Holiness to a parliamentary function in his honour? Secondly, would protocol present any obstacles to such an invitation? Thirdly, in the light of the extraordinary circumstances involved and the totally unique standing and stature of His Holiness, regardless of whether protocol is an obstacle, will the Prime Minister avail himself of that world renowned trait of Australian character, friendliness and in formality, and invite His Holiness to Canberra so that members of the Parliament may have the privilege of meeting him in person?
- His Holiness would, of course, be most welcome in Canberra when he visits this country. Indeed, the Government would be glad to assist, as it does in the case of all visiting heads of state, in general visits to Australian areas. I do not believe that there would be any difficulties in protocol in regard to the matters which the honourable member has raised, but I do understand that the time available to the Pope to visit Australia, and the other commitments which he has during this tour - which is confined not to Australia but to other areas as well - would make it most unlikely that he would be able to visit any area of Australia other than Sydney. But this is a matter for him and his advisers in the Vatican. This is the position as. I understand it. He would, of course, be welcome.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. Members of this Parliament who represent the federal electorates of Leichhardt, Kalgoorlie, Northern Territory and others of a like nature have considerable difficulty in providing a personal service to their constituents because of the vast and isolated conformation of the districts they represent. Will the Minister give consideration to the making available of charter aircraft to these members of Parliament to enable the same personal contact to be had as other honourable members have with their electorates?
– 1 am pleased to see that some sympathy is being extended to those honourable members who represent large electorates. The matter raised by the honourable member has been discussed from time to time. It has been brought up at different times by backbenchers on both sides of the House. The Government has given consideration to it on occasions. I will make sure that the next time the emoluments of members of Parliament are being considered this will be one of the points considered.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development and relates to the meeting in Adelaide yesterday of the Australian Minerals Council. In answer to a previous question, the Minister quoted some words which were used by the Prime Minister the day before. I would like to draw the Minister’s attention to some of the other remarks of the Prime Minister in the same speech. The Prime Minister referred to: ‘. . . debate of a friendly and constructive kind, not debate designed as an . advocacy of previously determined positions … to discover whether the proposal fits properly into the co-operative federalism which we seek to retain’ I ask: Is that the atmosphere in which the Council meeting was held yesterday?
– I think this question more properly should have been directed to the Prime Minister. The point was that yesterday we provided the Minerals Council with the material that we had indicated previously we would supply for its consideration. The material included 2 draft Bills relating to a mining code and to royalties; information in relation to proposed heads of an agreement which we hope we will eventually reach with the States on these matters; and a list of alternative possibilities in the event of any litigation against the Commonwealth as a result of action taken on’ the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill not being in favour of the Commonwealth. Most of this material was made available a week prior to the meeting so that the State Ministers could have an opportunity to study it. It was our hope that these matters would be discussed on a co-operative basis. This did not eventuate yesterday because practically all of the discussion was around the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill. As was stated last night in our statement, the Attorney-General and I hope that after the States have had an opportunity to examine the matters again we will be able to get together in the co-operative spirit that we intend and finalise them in the interests of the nation as a whole.
– 1 ask the Minister for National Development a supplementary question. Why was no communique issued at the end of the Australian Minerals Council meeting yesterday, particularly in view of the fact, as we know from papers tabled in the House, that such joint communiques have always been issued after previous meetings of that Council?
– The simple answer is that the Chairman of the meeting, who is the new Premier of South Australia, suggested to the meeting that a communique would not be necessary and that was agreed to by the meeting.
– Can the Minister for the Army give an assurance to the House and to the public, which has paid for it, that he will table the report of the Fox Committee on the Royal Military College, Duntroon, before the forthcoming recess, that is, in the next day or two?
– The honourable member for Bradfield may recall that I previously was asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition whether 1 would take the action implicit in the question he put to me today. I indicated to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that not only had 1 received the report but that I wished my departmental officers to study it together with myself and that I would then talk with the Leader of the House about a mutually convenient time to members of the Parliament for me to make a statement in relation to the report. I have done this pursuant to my answer and, because I am aware that other honourable members would be as interested as is the honourable member for Bradfield, I hope to be able to make that statement, if not tomorrow, at least on Friday.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. Has there been an alarming drift of geologists away from the Bureau of Mineral Resources in recent months? Has this been caused by relatively low salaries, poor career prospects and dwindling professional status for geologists? Has an increasing rate of resignation from the Bureau impaired the effectiveness of its survey and assessment work? What is the Minister doing to curb further staff losses from the mineral resources expertise remaining to the Government?
– There has been no alarming drift of geologists from the Bureau of Mineral Resources although it has been drawn to my attention that there is some dissatisfaction with salary rates. But I cannot comment any further at this point of time on that subject because cases relating to these people are at present being considered by the Public Service Board.
– -I ask the Treasurer whether he has received details of resolutions carried unanimously at the 1970 annual tax conference together with annotations on each resolution. Will the Government consider at the earliest opportunity the simplification of tax laws as well as the correction of taxation anomalies?
– 1 have received various communications on this subject about this gathering, ail of which will be carefully considered. I have also received a delegation from this body, whose representations will he similarly considered in detail. At this stage, naturally, I can not predict the outcome.
– Has the Minister for the Interior or the Northern Territory Administration received a request by Aboriginals at Roper River for a title to 5,000 square miles of the Arnhem Land Reserve and assistance to establish a co operative? What is the present position with this request? Has any decision been made? Will the Minister give sympathetic consideration lo the wishes of the Aboriginal people?
– The situation is that I have received a request from the Aboriginals at Roper River for land on which to commence a cattle station. I have been in touch with my colleague the Minister for Primary Industry and have secured the services of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, which will make a study of the feasibility of this proposal. When that study is completed I will get in touch with my colleague the Minister for Social Services ind Minister in Charge of
Aboriginal Affairs about whether a capital grant is possible, and the matter will proceed for normal consideration.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. How long is the public of Australia to be inconvenienced by the go slow tactics and 24 hour stoppages by members of the Union of Postal Clerks and Telegraphists? Further, did the Minister meet the President and Secretary of the Union at any time last week? If so, what was the result of these discussions?
– In answer to the first part of the honourable member’s question I would say that I believe that every member of this House would regret (hat the public is being seriously inconvenienced by the actions of the Union of Postal Clerks and Telegraphists in stopping work on the last 2 Saturdays and by the decision of that’ union at its meeting of Saturday last to continue rolling stoppages during this week. A great deal of inconvenience has bien caused. Looking into the future, 1 believe that the number of telegrams that will be sent through the Post Office system will be substantially reduced. What effect that is likely to have on future employment in this area is impossible to say. I know that the Department and the Public Service Board have spent a tremendous amount of time in discussions with all the unions associated with the Post Office. They do their best to come to what agreements they can. But some of these matters of course come within the responsibility of the Public Service Arbitrator and even the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
In relation to the claim for an increase of 6.6%. I point out that when the Australian Postal Workers Union was appearing before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission the Union of Postal Clerks and Telegraphists sought leave to intervene in order to lodge a claim. The Arbitration Commission gave the union permission to produce oral or written evidence. This was done and the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission decided against the Union claim for an increase of 6.6%. I believe that the Union has had every consideration by the Public Service
Board, the Public Service Arbitrator and also the Commission. The result has been that since 1st January last year, in the minimum area of wage levels for this union there have been increases of between 12.6% and 17.2% and in the maximum levels, between 12.6% and 14.4%, excluding the 3% derived from the national wage case. I understand that this means in total a rise of $580 to $600 in the maximum area.
The other point of dispute - or so it is said to be - is the 5-day week. I would say to the House that confusion has been put into the minds of people in relation to what is a 5-day week. In some areas this means work from Monday to Friday inclusive, with no work on Saturday or Sunday. In this area it is intended to be a 5-day week within the concept of an essential service working .7 days a week. There has been a good deal of discussion about this arrangement. The Government determined that post offices in general must stay open on Saturday mornings to serve the Australian public. However, it was put to me by the Secretary and the President of the Union last week that indeed what should now happen is an extension of the hours on Fridays from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., with adjustments in relation to Saturday morning work. When I pressed this matter a little further, believing that they were putting a suggestion for an extra hour on Friday and an hour less on Saturday, I discovered that really they were asking for a reduction of hours Monday to Thursday so that postal employees would have the extra hour available to them on Friday, and in addition there would be a reduction of from 1 hour to H hours on Saturday morning. That would mean that all Post Offices that now close at 10 a.m. or 10.30 a.m.-
– I rise on a point of order which is further to my point of order earlier about your ruling in regard to Ministers keeping their replies short. This has been a continual abuse of question time and it is a reflection on the Chair.
– There is no point of order.
– When are we going to get a fair go from the Government?
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I would have thought that this was a matter of real interest to the Opposition as well as to all members of the Australian public. Indeed, I think that members of the public are interested in the inconvenience which has been occasioned to them. What I was putting to the House was that the case by the Union included a request that all Post Offices which now close on Saturdays at from 10 a.m. to 10.30 a.m. be closed on Saturday mornings and that those that now close at 11 a.m. close at 10 a.m. This is not in accordance with the decision that the Government has made. I hope that the public will understand that the desire of the Government is to give service where service is really needed - on Saturday mornings in postal services.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question. Has the Government at present under active consideration its position in relation to the Yennora Wool Village and similar complexes? Can he give me an assurance that the interests of Goulburn and other regional wool handling centres will be fully safeguarded? The Minister may take it that while I am concerned with the interests of all the regional wool handling centres, my particular concern is with Goulburn. Also, I ask: Can he make available to me the feasibility study on Yennora which must surely have been made by the Wool Board or on its behalf? On second thoughts I am not so sure. Finally I ask the Minister has a feasibility study of Yennora in fact been made at all?
– It is not the function of my Department to investigate integrated wool selling complexes such as the one at Yennora. This is a matter that the Australian Wool Board has taken upon itself to examine and to try to initiate with the co-operation of wool selling brokers. At the moment they are negotiating with the brokers to try to get a united approach to such a selling complex. There has been an investigation into the cost benefits and the practicality of such a centre. That information has been conveyed to my Department. I am not at the moment in a position to say whether I can make this information available to the honourable member or whether it is the property of the Australian Wool Board. Certainly if there is no restriction on it I will make it available.
– The Minister for Primary Industry will be aware of the concern of primary producers over the ban by the United States on mutton imported from Australia. Will he say what progress has been made towards having the ban lifted?
– There have been consultations between my Department and the Meat Industry Advisory Committee. As a result, a set of recommendations has been drawn up for the slaughtering and handling of meat and this has been conveyed to the industry. Last week the industry carried out an experiment at an abattoir using the improved processing methods. Consultations are now taking place with the American authorities to see whether the new procedure is acceptable to them. Generally speaking we are making every effort to meet requirements so that the ban may be lifted as soon as possible. While 1 am on my feet talking about the problems associated with the export of mutton I take the opportunity to notify the House or another very worrying issue that has cropped up this morning. I have been informed by the Canadian Minister for Agriculture that no further shipments of mutton from Australia will be permitted entry into Canada until inspection standards of carcasses infected with caseaus lymph adenitis have been brought up to the prescribed American standards. Mutton already on board ships will not be affected. The reasons given for the Canadian ban are similar to those given for the United States prohibition. In each case it has been made clear that when the Australian standards, dressing procedures and inspection methods have been corrected, imports of mutton will again be permitted. The combined ban by the two countries-
– I rise to order. I point out that the question was asked without notice but the Minister is obviously reading a prepared reply. As this is the third or fourth occasion this morning on which this has happened would you repeat to the Minister for Primary Industry the warning you gave earlier to the Minister for National Development?
– There is no substance in the point of order. The entire House is aware of the reasonable request of the Chair.
– If honourable members opposite had a little more concern for the problems of primary industry they would not raise these points.
– You are making a statement.
– I think I am very effectively making a statement.
– I rise to order. The Minister has given the show away by saying that he is making a statement. He may make a statement only by leave of the House, after question time.
– That is the correct procedure but I would suggest-
– Mr Speaker, if I may speak to the point of order, this is surely a rather childish semantic point that has been taken. An answer to a question is necessarily couched in words and is stated by the Minister, quite distinct from a formal statement.
-The practice in this House has been to enable Ministers at any stage to give an answer which is relevant to the question. The Chair has no authority in relation to the length of questions and their answers. I have requested on many occasions that the questions of honourable members, which are sometimes long and involved and necessarily require long and involved answers, and the answers by Ministers, should be made as short as possible. This is the position in which the Chair is at this stage. I call the Minister for Primary Industry.
– J have not very much more to say in answer to this question and what I am saying is very relevant to it. The combined ban by the United States of America and Canada means that approximately 40% of the exports of mutton from this country will be affected and this is something that gives great concern to all of us. Every effort is being made by my Department, with the industry, to try to improve the inspection standards laid down. We are making every effort to meet the very high standards they are imposing upon us.
– I ask the Minister for National Development why, if the minerals conference decided it was not necessary to issue a communique after its meeting yesterday, he and the Attorney-General issued a joint communique.
– The simple answer is that the separate statements were made by not only the Commonwealth but also every State.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry and follows a question addressed to him a few minutes ago. Is it possible in terms of export of mutton to Canada and the United States of America to draw a differential in terms of inspection between factories that do carry out killing under hygienic and proper conditions’ and which are properly inspected, and factories that do not conform or have not this degree of inspection?
– At the moment the Americans have placed a total ban on all mutton to the United States and Canadian markets. They have applied this ban because of the very high rejection rate that was involved in the first 4 months of this year when almost 1 million lb was rejected on the grounds that it did not conform with the Wholesome Meat Act of the United States, that it did not come up to the standard of cleanliness and that there were certain organisms in the meat which they did not allow but which we have always considered harmless. The organisms are cysticercus ovis and caseaus lymph adenitis, which is the one that is causing the Canadians most concern. The only way we can guarantee in many of these cases that the carcass has not been affected is by doing an examination of the viscera with the carcass as it proceeds along the line after being killed and cleaned and there are very few abattoirs where this takes place. It involves certain complications and we do not have many abattoirs that meet this standard. Until we can get a fair number of abattoirs meeting the requirements of these countries I think it is unlikely that they will lift the ban. But we are negotiating with them to1 try to enable those abattoirs which have improved their standards and which meet their requirements to export, though for the time being we cannot seem to get this out of them.
– I ask for your guidance, Mr Speaker. On the Daily Programme issued for the general guidance of honourable members there is a reference at the top of the second page indicating that the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) would be seeking leave to make a ministerial statement in connection with the National Health Bill 1970. As I understand it, the normal time to make ministerial statements is now, after the time when papers have been presented. Sir, it also appears from the Daily Programme that the statement which the Minister for Health will seek leave to make on the National Health Bill will be immediately followed by consideration of that Bill in Committee. I ask: Is it not possible to have this statement made at this stage so that honourable members will at least have the benefit of considering it before they have to deal with the Bill to which it refers?
-Order! This is not within the province of the Speaker. It is a matter for the Minister for Health and for the Leader of the House. I might also say that a ministerial statement can be made at any time.
– by leave - Mr Speaker, I wish to make a short explanation of the situation. When a piece of legislation is returned to this House from the Senate it may be returned with amendments or requests. If requests are passed by the Senate the Senate does not proceed to the third reading stage; it reports the requests without having disposed of the legislation. The consequence of this is that the Senate has reported to the House requests which the Senate has made, and order of the day No. 3 is Government business to consider those requests. However, as the Senate also passed amendments in the Committee stage, the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) proposes to make a statement which will put the whole matter in context and deal with the requests and amendments. Normally, if there were requests only, the Minister would make a statement when the matter was called on as to what this House would do with the requests. But for the sake of the convenience of the House he wants to have the overall picture in relation to the requests and amendments. Therefore he needs leave to make the statement, otherwise the consideration of the amendments would be irrelevant even though it is in the interests of the House to consider them together. That is the way in which this matter arose.
Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa- Leader of the Opposition)- by leave - Since I raised this matter the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) has been good enough to supply my colleague the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), who will represent the Opposition on this Bill, with a copy of the statement which the Minister will seek leave to make.
– by leave - I move:
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– I move:
Over very many years, at least sinceI have been a member of this House - and it certainly was true before I came into this place - it has been usual for the House to suspend the 1 1 o’clock rule towards the end of the session. The motion I moved to suspend the 1 1 o’clock rule is introduced later this year than is usual. Last week the 1 1 o’clock rule was suspended for a day, the Wednesday. Standing order 103 prevents the introduction of new business after the hour of 11 p.m. The purpose of my motion is to suspend that standing order so that new business can be introduced after that hour.
If honourable members look at the notice paper for today they will see about 30 items, in a legislative sense. Some of those items are Bills which are interrelated and the notice paper does not fully disclose the situation. At first glance it does appear to be a very heavy legislative programme but upon examination it will be seen that it is not as heavy as appears at first glance. However it is necessary, towards the end of the session, to bring forward for debate by the Parliament after 1 1 p.m. legislation which would not require long debate and which very likely would not be opposed by the Opposition. It is necessary also at this stage of the sittings for the House to be able to deal with amendments, if any are made, to legislation returned from the Senate.
The question of when the House will rise is in the mind of every honourable member. There is hardly anybody who does not say to me when I pass him. in the corridor: ‘When are we getting up?’ The staff of Parliament House also wishto know - the Clerks, the attendants, the Hansard staff, the people of the Joint House Department who arrange for the meals, cups of tea and so on.It is true to say that people representing the public media who report the proceedings of Parliament, another area of importance to the Parliament, are involved in this matter. They also wish to know when the House will rise in order that they can make their plans. One of the people in this place who does so much for all honourable members, Mr Gordon Pike, whose duty it is to arrange transport, also would like to know. I would like to be able to give a firm answer but I cannot do so. I can only say that by Friday the House could complete consideration of the legislation which needs to be passed in this session. It could complete it. Whether it does so remains to be seen. 1 cannot carry the matter beyond that.
– The Opposition opposes the suspension of standing order 103. the11 o’clock rule. As the Leader of the House, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden), said, this matter was the subject of discussion in this House last week when he decided to move the suspension of the 11 o’clock rule for 1 day only. Now, for the second time, he has moved for its suspension. I think that many of the reasons that the Minister has just put to the House would justify or support the argument that I put to the House last week when, on behalf of the Opposition, I opposed the suspension of standing order 103. It is no justification for this action to argue that the 11 o’clock rule should be suspended merely to meet the convenience of certain people in the House, although we do have sympathy for them. Members sit in this Parliament to debate the legislation which the Government brings forward or which we initiate ourselves.
As the Minister pointed out, today there are some 34 Bills and 2 reports listed on the notice paper. The Minister did not indicate whether the Government intends to deal with all those Bills. It may not do so. It may leave some of them standing over until the next session. But even if one halves that number, there are 17 Bills and 2 reports still to be debated. Surely the Minister is not going to suggest that the House can seriously consider that number of Bills and the 2 reports I mentioned, in the way they ought to be considered by honourable members in this Parliament, if the Government intends to conclude the session on Friday. It ought to be clearly understood by people outside the Parliament, as it is by those inside it, that the Government has moved for the suspension of standing order 103 merely to bring about the end of the session. There is no argument about the amount of legislation that remains on the notice paper to be dealt with.
I have referred to the number of Bills and the 2 reports. One of those reports almost certainly will have to be dealt with. The Government may decide to stand the other report over until the next session. But honourable members will recall that during question time today a question was directed to the Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock) about another very important matter that has to be considered by the Parliament. I refer to the report of the Fox Committee into various matters affecting the Royal Military College, Duntroon. Is this matter to be debated? Are honourable members to have the opportunity of considering that report? It relates to a very serious matter. I hope the report will not merely be introduced into the Parliament with a statement being made to the House by the Minister for the Army and a reply being made by one member of the Opposition.I hope it will not then go on to the notice paper with no opportunity for other honourable members on both sides of the House, who undoubtedly have an interest in it, to consider fully and to debate it and the recommendations of the Fox Committee. Therefore this is one further matter which the Minister for Labour and National Service ought to consider before it is suggested that this Parliament end its sittings on Friday.
I refer now to the legislation remaining on the notice paper. There are 3 immensely significant Bills still to he dealt with. I refer first to the Bills dealing with States receipts duties. There are 5 of these Bills. No doubt there will be a cognate debate but they are immensely important pieces of legislation which still have to be dealt with. When are we to deal with them? Are we to deal with them some time in the early hours of the morning on Friday just before the Parliament is due to adjourn, according to the timetable of the Government, or are we to have the opportunity to consider them properly? Those Bills are of very grave importance not only to honourable members in this House but to parliamentarians in the 6 State legislatures. These people will also want to consider the legislation that the Parliament will be debating in relation to this matter. But if the Government adheres to its timetable to end the session on Friday, what opportunity will there be for honourable members to consider this legislation?
Let me turn to 2 other important pieces of legislation. I refer to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. This legislation is of extreme importance. When is it to be considered. Today is Wednesday. We will be sitting tomorrow, Thursday, andthe session is to end on Friday. So the States Receipts Duty Bill the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill and the Wool Industry Bill, which is another extremely important piece of legislation, will have to be dealt with before Friday, together with the remaining Bills on the notice paper. Yet the Minister for Labour and National Service stands up today and tells this House that the Government’s programme is to end the session on Friday.
– I did not say that.
– He said the session could possibly end on Friday. But everyone knows that this is the Government’s intention. If finishing on Friday means gagging the debate on legislation in this Parliament the Minister will do it. He will gag the debate and important legislation can be introduced after 11 o’clock. This means in effect we will be debating the kind of legislation to which I have just referred after 11 o’clock at night, in the early hours of the morning, although it ought to be considered at a time when not only honourable members of this House can have an opportunity to debate and consider it fully, but also those who want to listen to the debate outside the Parliament can do so. The debates in this House are not broadcast after 11 o’clock, as the Minister well knows. So this opportunity is denied those people who should have the opportunity to listen to important debates.
All of the matters that I put forward last week on behalf of the Opposition when the Government moved to suspend the 11 o’clock rule apply again on this occasion. We of the Opposition quite seriously put it to the Minister that the aim of the Government should not be to end the session on Friday but rather to extend the session of the Parliament if necessary. There ought not to be any curtailment of the opportunities of honourable members to debate legislation which comes before them. For these and other reasons which I put forward last week, the Opposition opposes the proposal to suspend the 11 o’clock rule.
– In supporting the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) I would point out that it is now 228 days, or thereabouts, since the Federal election. We have met in this Parliament for 35 of them. Yet the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden), who is the Leader of this House, comes in here weeping tears about the failure to pass legislation. Never could a government have been more dilatory than this one has been in its approach to this Parliament. The effort to pass some of the legislation which is before us is making a mockery of the institution. Are the les sons of early April so easily forgotten? Is it a fact that the whole community supported the Labor Party at that time in its denunciation of the effort of the Government to use this Parliament simply as a rubber stamp for the Executive? Of course it is. Was there not a change of heart by the Ministry itself? Of course there was. Is it not clear that everybody in this House likes to discuss matters as fully as required? I believe that we have to so organise the affairs of this Parliament that every one of the 125 members has an equal opportunity to debate any issue. I know that there are those who say: ‘This has been going on for long enough. We have heard enough.’ I think apart from actually hearing one’s own viewpoint put in the chamber, various groups in the community are entitled to expect their representative to stand up and speak about the legislation under consideration. For instance, on the matter of migrant education, which will come before us shortly, I think it will be incumbent upon every honourable member who represents those people in this place to say something about the subject to show that he is giving it consideration.
Let me refer to this question of inconvenience to the staff. This is hypocrisy, if that is not unparliamentary. Let me put it this way: When will the members of the staff be more inconvenienced? Will they be more inconvenienced late at night, at 3 o’clock for the next 2 or 3 nights, or when they go off the payroll because the Parliament is not meeting over the next few weeks? What about the dining room staff? I believe the way we treated them over the last few weeks was an inconvenience, a discourtesy and inconsiderate behaviour beyond belief. No-one knows what time a sitting will finish. Then there are the people in the car pool. Fancy the Minister weeping about the inconvenience caused to people if we meet here. That is what the place is about. As far as I am concerned the Parliament should stay in session. I believe that the Government is retreating into recess because every hour it meets here it is under more constant fire and under more constant tension. But that is not what Parliament is about. Although it is desirable that the Opposition should try to reduce the Government, it is still more useful as a democratic exercise that matters should be discussed.
There has been a statement by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) on the notice paper since 16th April. When will we get around to that? When will we have an opportunity to discuss the miserable contribution made by the Government to the people of Peru? When will we talk about the notice of motion which is before us from the Minister for External Affairs about the guaranteed neutrality of Cambodia? When will we discuss the appointment of a select committee, which was promised yesterday, to inquire into the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund? When will we discuss the Standing Orders report which is now on the notice paper? How are we to consider these matters properly? The thing that baffles me about all this is that alt we need is for half a dozen of the honourable members opposite who are always broken hearted and grumble and grieve about the late hour, to show enough strength of character and independence of spirit to stay out of the vote. But they do not do it.
There is talk about machine politics in this country. There has never been any political group more easily mechanised than the Liberal-Country Party coalition. It is Australia’s first automated political group. One has only to work out whether it is run by transistors or clockwork. I would say from the attitudes it adopts that it would be as ancient as clockwork itself. All we ask is that honourable members opposite should show some sort of strength of character and refuse to let the Government treat the Parliament in this manner.
– I want to add a few words of protest to those that have already been launched from this side of the House. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden), who is the Leader of the House, whilst generally a very intelligent speaker, today uttered some of the most pathetic comments and views in support of the suspension of the 1 1 o’clock rule that we have heard in this Parliament. He said, for instance, that the Transport Officer wants to know when the session will end. f suppose the cook wants to know too. I suppose the doorkeeper and everybody around the place wants to know. But the Government, which is charged with the responsibility of running the affairs of this country, is bringing the staff into this argu ment and charging them in effect with being the reason why we have to rush into recess and sit in to the early hours of >he morning. Those reasons given by the Minister are specious in the extreme. The n.-al reason why the Government is rushing into recess at this stage is because it sat around for months, from October until the middle of March, and .refused to face the Parliament. Now, knowing full well that its political stocks are low, it seeks to debate in the middle of the night legislation which it knows will have a reaction with the general public.
Let us have a look at this legislation. The Minister a few weeks ago introduced a proposal which he said would give us a chance to debate matters in an orderly atmosphere, reasonably and well, and that the House would adjourn each night at 1 1 o’clock. Almost in a moment today, yesterday and the day before he destroyed his good intention by suspending the 1 1 o’clock rule, which he said was brought in so that wc could have reasonable debate. The real fact of the matter is now we will be expected to debate in the early hours of the morning ali these important matters in which the nation is so interested. Who is about in Canberra in the early hours of the morning? 1 suppose there are perverts, prostitutes and politicians. They are the only ones who will know that Parliament is meeting at this time. A few undesirables around the street will look at the lonely, weary looking Liberal Ministers going home and say: There they are. To escape their proper condemnation in the eyes of the public they sneak around the streets like us in the early hours of the morning, so ashamed of their policies that they will not debate them in the ordinary hours’.
Let us have a look at the effect of this on honourable members. Anybody who looks at the Ministers in daylight when they are debating matters in this Parliament can see that they are aging, worn out, worried, discontented and dissatisfied. Apart from that it displays remarkable incompetence even at question time and at this hour of the day. Imagine asking Government members to act intelligently in the early hours of the morning, as we are now expected to do. Imagine what Liberal members opposite, who ad J little to the debate at this hour of the day, will be doing in the early hours of the morning. I venture to suggest that the vast majority of Government backbenchers will be asleep and most of the Liberal Ministers will look that way in the early hours of the morning.
In addition to that, Mr Speaker, have you ever thought of the effect of sitting into the early hours on a man in your position in the Chair? You sit there, day in and day out, listening to the tedious replies given by Government members and Ministers at this hour of the day. Now you will be expected, after long’ and tedious, hours in your responsible task which is mainly occupied by keeping Government members in order, to sit there until 2, 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning and make your life a real misery. Irrespective of the remuneration that you receive, I think it is unfair to you as the responsible officer of this Parliament to be expected to sit into the early hours of the morning and then front up here the next morning and be intelligent enough to carry out your responsibilities.
-Order! I thank the honourable member for Grayndler for his great personal concern but I want to assure him that the question of my position as Speaker of this House should not be the subject of debate on this occasion.
– 1 appreciate your point of view, Mr Speaker, but T would not like you to think for a moment that I did not feel for you. I now refer to other members of the Parliament. Sitting in front of me are the officers of the Parliament who take down the reports of the speeches of honourable members. Some of the speeches, of course, are not quite as good as the one that honourable members are listening to now. Those officers are expected to sit here all day and take down the proceedings of Parliament and yet they also are expected to go right through into the early hours of the morning and be here at 10 o’clock to commence another full day’s work. To say the very least, they are working nonunion hours. No worker should work overtime without a certain break and a certain period of time between the end of one shift and the start of another. Under the proposal the officers who are sitting in front of me here will have to sit in this Parliament until 5, 6 or 7 o’clock in the morning and to come back 3 hours later, having had no rest, and work for another day right around the clock. The attendants and other staff will be expected to do the same thing. I would not be surprised if they walked off the job under these circumstances. I feel that they would be justified in doing that.
The Government says that this proposal is necessary in order to put its legislation through. The Government is going to this extreme for one reason only. It knows that it is guilty for having had such a long recess and it does not want measures like the health legislation, matters relating to tariff reform and numerous other Bills on the business paper to be debated when the public can hear the debate. The Government seeks - if I might use that well worn phrase - by exhaustion to force honourable members to pass legislation in this Parliament. How many honourable members can debate intelligently in the early hours of the morning? Certainly no-one on the Government side can do that. I defy the most intelligent member of Parliament at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, after sitting from 10 o’clock the previous morning, to say that he adds a reasonably intelligent contribution to any form of debate. What is wrong with the Parliament sitting in the week that we have off, as it did in days gone by? Why do we have a week’s break from time to time? What is wrong with sitting from the time we get here until the session is finished? When I first came to this Parliament we sat from the middle of February right through until November, arid there was no break whatever. If the business of the nation is important enough, we should sit during that period. Why does the Minister not suggest sitting next Saturday and over the weekend if necessary? If there is important national business to be debated by the weekend why should we have a holiday at this time? What is wrong with Parliament sitting for another 2 or 3 weeks if necessary? Why is there this necessity to rush into recess?
The Minister talked about the transport officer wanting to know when he has to make plane bookings, and the cook wanting to know whether he has to cook meals next week or the week after. Nobody in his right senses could believe that they are the real reasons for the proposal. The Minister will have to give a better reason for extending the sitting hours than he has, because the reasons he gave today were spurious. I am grateful to the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) for bringing to my attention item 23 on the notice paper, which concerns the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill. I congratulate the Minister on wanting to get away from another debate on that issue. Recently the Government ran out of special planes to bring back members to save it from disaster. I think that there is a sinister purpose behind item 23 and. if the truth is known, that is the reason why we are expected to sit right through the night to debate these measures. I place on record my opposition to the proposal. The Government deserves to be condemned for forcing honourable members to sit into the early hours of the morning, and for the Minister’s going back on his statement and assurance that the Parliament would no: sit after 1 1 o’clock. I agree with the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) that evidently the effects of the sit-in have worn off and we might have to have another sit-in to bring the Government back to its senses on this issue.
In any case, Mr Speaker, when you are worn out and dejected in the early hours of the morning, when the health of the Clerks and other staff is affected, when the attendants are worn out and wearyand have not seen their wives and children for a few days, and whenthe other staff members are walking in a tranceI hope that honourable members will realise that it has been caused by the. Leader of the House and the Government by sitting into the early hours of the morning when another week’s sitting could have solved it all. I see the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) nodding and I thank him for agreeing with what I am saying. I excuse him; perhaps he was sleeping. 1 thought he was agreeing with what I said. I place on record my condemnation of the Government. I hope that the numerous honourable members opposite who see the importance of sitting at a reasonable hour of the day will rise in their places and register their protest. They need not even vote with the Opposition. If they stay out of the chamber during the next division the Parliament will have reasonable sitting hours.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) put:
Thatthe question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration of Senate’s amendments.
Clause 8. (1.) A member shall be paid such remuneration as the Governor-General determines. (2.) A member shall be paid such allowances for travelling expenses as the Minister determines.
Senate’s amendment No. 1.
In sub-clause (1.), leave out ‘as the GovernorGeneral determines’, insert ‘as the Parliament provides, but until the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and seventy-one, that remuneration shall be as is prescribed’.
Senate’s amendment No. 2.
In sub-clause (2.), leave out ‘as the Minister determines’, insert ‘as are prescribed’.
– I move:
When this Bill was before this chamber it provided for the fixing of salaries and allowances by determination, but when it went before the Senate this provision was replaced by a provisionwhich required that salaries be fixed at such an amount as the Parliament provides. The way in which this will be done will be by including the salaries in the appropriations. Allowances are to be as prescribed, which means that they will be fixed by regulation.
This provision has been included in a couple of other Bills. It was included in the Defence Bill which was debated recently because a regulation concerning allowances paid to Chiefs of Staff had been disallowed. The Senate also included this provision in the Parliamentary Counsel Bill. The Government will accept the amendment in relation to the Australian Film Development Corporation Bill. If I can be irrelevant for a moment, Mr Chairman, I would like to point out that the Government will also do so in relation to 2 other pieces of legislation which have yet to come in. I refer to the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Bill and the Metric Conversion Bill. Another Bill which is before the chamber at present, the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation Bill, also has a provision similar to the one which has been amended in the other place. I understand that the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) will be moving an amendment in terms of the amendment which was moved in relation to the Parliamentary Counsel Bill. His amendment will be accepted. So that the chamber has before it the Australian Film Development Corporation Bill, which will be followed shortly by the Metric Conversion Bill. An amendment in the Senate to the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Bill will be also reported. These 3 amendments will be accepted. When the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation Bill comes before the chamber the amendment moved by the honourable member for Lang will be accepted.
– I think a similar amendment will be moved in relation to the Wool Industry Bill.
– I am not aware of that. However, I shall certainly look at it.
– The Opposition is pleased that the Government is prepared to accept this amendment. The principle involved is a good one which should be followed consistently. It is most unwholesome in our system of parliamentary government to relinquish so much of our control of public affairs to administrative act. Had sub-clauses (1.) and (2.) of clause 8 been proclaimed in their present form the determination of remuneration, travelling expenses and so on would have been a matter of decision by regulation. This is a most unattractive trend which is occurring in parliamentary systems in many countries. It is the cause of a great deal of criticism and expressions of concern by people who are interested in parliamentary government and who are concerned to ensure that the system of parliamentary government works as much as it is possible to make it do so.
Many complaints have been made in this place about the way in which we handle our affairs. Frankly, I feel that we have a responsibility to be always acutely aware of the obligations we have and to ensure that we discharge them. It is our obligation to ensure that the remuneration of people who come within the provisions of clause 8 of this Bill is decided by this chamber. It should not be forfeited to some other body which perhaps tenuously, although 1 doubt this very much, has no answerability to this chamber. We ought to be making as many decisions as we can. otherwise the tendency is for decisions through regulations rapidly to proceed and become an established fact and be inflicted upon the person or the public, or both, for some time before it is discovered that there is an anomaly in the particular decisions made by regulation.
I am not suggesting that we are infallible. We have been known to make errors in this place, but given the opportunity to discuss these things openly and - this is more important - to have drawn to our attention by interested parties the problems that may arise from a particular aspect of legislation, we have the opportunity to act quickly where we have control over the legislation. I commendthe Government for accepting these amendments referred by the Senate. I hope that the Government will uphold the principle consistently henceforth.
– In responding to the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) I agree largely with what he has said but I should like to put in his mind, because he is in charge of this Bill for the Opposition, and other honourable members opposite will have charge of other Bills, that while I agree with the principle that the Senate is seeking to establish, namely, to provide for salaries as the Parliament determines, there are circumstances in which it would be a matter of trivia for the Parliament to be making such provisions in the Appropriation Bills. I am thinking of part-time members of a board who may be paid about $35 a sitting day and who may sit for a matter of 6, 8, 10 or 12 days a year. If the Parliament wanted to make provision for the remuneration for such people I believe that would be the other end of the scale. I would propose, during the recess period, to look to the possibility of achieving a formula which may be incorporated in legislation and be standard. That formula would take account of differing circumstances. There are some significant statutory officers as, for instance, the Parliamentary Counsel, but, without intending any disrespect whatever to the people who would constitute the governing body of the Australian Film Development Corporation, it may not be necessary for the Parliament to provide the salaries for those persons. It may be more- appropriate for this to be done by way of regulations.I just indicate to the honourable gentleman and generally that we would propose to look at this aspect during the recess.
Amendments agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Consideration of Senate’s amendments.
Clause 12. (1.) The members shall be paid such remuneration as the Governor-General determines. (2.) The members shall be paid such allowances as the Minister determines.
Clause 20. (1.) Where a member is, or is expected to be, absent, or there is a vacancy in the office of a member, the Governor-General may appoint ; a person (including another member)to act in the office of the member during the absence oruntil the filling of the vacancy. (2.) The Governor-General may at any time terminate an appointment under this section. (3.) Sections 10. 12, 14,16 and18 of this Act apply in relation to a person appointed under this sect ion in like manner as they apply in relation to the member in whose office he is acting. (4.) A person appointed to act in the office of a member has all the powers and functions under this Act of that member. (5.) For the purposes of this section, a member acting in the office of another member shall be deemed to be absent.
Senate’s amendment No. 1.
In clause 12, sub-clause (1.), leave out ‘as the Governor-General determines’, insert ‘as the Parliament provides, but until the- first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and seventy-one, that remuneration shall be as is prescribed’.
Senate’s amendment No. 2.
In clause 12, sub-clause (2.), leave out ‘allowances as the Minister determines’, insert ‘travelling or other allowances as are prescribed’.
Senate’s amendment No. 3.
In clause 20, at end of sub-clause (5.) add ‘with the consent of the Minister’.
– I move:
The remarks that I made in relation to the Australian Film Development Corporation Bill apply to this Bill, which, when it left this chamber provided that salaries would be paid ‘as the Governor-General determines’. The Senate deleted those words and inserted ‘as the Parliament provides, but until the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and seventy-one, that remuneration shall be as is prescribed’. This will mean that after 1st January 1971 the Parliament will have to make provision for such remuneration in the Appropriation Act. The amendment leaves a period of time during which the remuneration can be determined by prescription. The Bill, as it left this chamber, provided that allowance for the statutory officers were to be allowances as the Minister determines’. The Senate has deleted those words and substituted in their place ‘travelling or other allowances as are prescribed’. I explained the effect of similar amendments to the Australian Film Development Corporation Bill and I do not need to carry the explanation further.
– I do not wish to add anything to what was said by my colleague, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), when he was discussing amendments to the Australian Film Development Corporation Bill. The proposed amendments show that the Senate does have some use on occasions and that it is able to contemplate these matters perhaps in more detail than we can in the Committee stages. It would seem that amendments of this type will become standard in Bills and we will not have to amend legislation because such provisions will be included from the beginning.
– In reply to the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) I agree with what he has said except thatI point out that it may not be desirable for the Parliament to have to make provision in respect of some part time officers who are receiving daily allowances.
Amendments agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Consideration of Senate’s amendments.
Senate’s amendment No. 1.
After clause 3, insert the following new clause: “ 3a. Section 7 of the Principal Act is amended -
Senate’s amendment No. 2.
After clause 3, insert the following new clause: “ 3b. Section 10 of the Principal Act is amended -
– I move:
My remarks in relation to amendments to the Australian Film Development Corporation Bill and the Metric Conversion Bill apply to the amendments to this Bill.
Amendments agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
– by leave - Mr Speaker, I wish to make a statement concerning the National Health Bill before it is considered again in Committee. In particular, I desire to make some general comments regarding the 7 requests by the Senate for amendments to the Bill and the 12 amendments to the Bill made by the Senate. As honourable members are well aware, the parliamentary procedures for dealing with requests and amendments made by the Senate to a single Bill - as is the case with the National Health Bill - provide for the requests only to be dealt with by this House as a first step. The decisions of the House on the requests are then conveyed to the Senate which considers the decisions made by the House, before it refers the amendments to the Bill to this chamber for consideration. Because of this procedure, which prevents the requests and the amendments being dealt with in the one stage, it is important, I feel, for me to advise at this point of time of the attitude overall of the Government to the total of 19 requests and amendments that we have to consider.
The first point I wish to stress is the need to have these requests and amendments viewed in their proper perspective. It could be inferred that the relatively large number involved is a reflection of the unacceptability of the Bill - and therefore the new health benefits plan - to the Senate. However this is by no means the case. Firstly, the basic principles of the health benefits plan as framed by the Government and as contained in the Bill have remained unchanged. These include the legislative provisions for the common fee approach as a means of ensuring adequate benefit returns to patients, the proposals for differential benefits as between specialist and general practitioner services and the major changes in the Commonwealth’s relationship to the insurance organisations. No amendments have been proposed by the Senate in these areas. This must be taken as an indication that these fundamental principles are regarded as being sound and of course the Government is gratified to find that this is so.
The second point I wish to make regarding the requests and amendments is that only 7 of the total number of 19 are directed to the Bill itself. The remaining 12 - and I repeat 12 out of 19 - are directed not to the Bill but to the principal Act. One of the most important requests made by the Senate is for an amendment to the Act to provide the Commonwealth benefit of $2 a day for all patients, whether or not the individual patient is insured. As honourable members are aware, the Bill is aimed basically at authorising the new medical benefits plan and touches on hospital benefits in only a consequential way. As I advised the House on 4th March last, the recommendations of the Nimmo Committee regarding hospital benefits had implications of such a far reaching nature that the Government is not in a position to make decisions on them at this stage and will not be able to until the States’ attitudes have been clarified. I advised at that time that negotiations with the States would be actively pursued. Despite the vigorous pursuit of these negotiations, they have not reached a stage where the Government can formulate and bring forward its proposals in the hospital benefits area. Notwithstanding this, the Government is agreeable to dealing with the matter which is the subject of the amendment to which I have referred - to pay the commonwealth hospital benefit of $2 a day for all patients - in advance of a number of related matters.
Briefly the Senate request No. 5 in the schedule of requests is to substitute the word ‘person’ for the word ‘contributor’ in section 46 of the principal Act with the intention of making every patient in hospital automatically eligible for the Commonwealth hospital benefit of $2 a day. Membership of a hospital benefits fund would no longer be a requirement. Speakers to this amendment in the Senate directed their comments mainly to the situation in Queensland where no charge is made on public ward patients. It was claimed that Queensland is disadvantaged as compared with other States due to its adherence over the years to a policy of free public hospitalisation. The Government is sympathetic to this argument and has been ever since the Nimmo Committee submitted its view that Queensland’s policy gives full effect to the Commonwealth objective of affording the community adequate financial protection against the cost of hospital treatment. This view was strongly endorsed by the Wedgewood Committee.
The specific terms of the amendment requested by the Senate were clearly directed to the Queensland situation but the amendment went further and proposed the payment of the Commonwealth $2 a day benefit irrespective of whether the patient was insured and irrespective of whether a hospital charge was made. The Government is not prepared to accept an amendment in the wide terms requested by the Senate. However the Government is prepared to sponsor a further amendment to the Bill to provide for the payment of the Commonwealth benefit of $2 a day to hospitals in ali cases in which no charge is made to patients. Under this amended proposal the benefit would be payable in respect of each such patient, irrespective of whether or not the patient is insured, lt is proposed that this benefit will replace, where relevant,, the present Commonwealth benefits paid in respect of such patients. At present these patients are eligible for the Commonwealth $2 a day benefit if insured - and there will be no increased payment for these patients - or the 80c a day benefit if uninsured. The proposal is that in future the patients will not be classified separately in this way but will all attract the Commonwealth hospital benefit of $2 a day for patients where no charge is made.
The Commonwealth benefit of $5 a day paid to hospitals on behalf of pensioner patients where no charge is made would not be affected under the proposal. The mechanics of the payment of the new benefit will be that it is paid direct to the hospitals concerned in the same manner as the 80c benefit is paid now and not through hospital benefit funds. The proposed arrangement will apply of course in respect of any hospital in any State, for example, an infectious diseases hospital, which follows a practice of treating patients without charge. The procedures of the Parliament do not permit a motion for this amendment being moved in this House and arrangements are being made for a request for an amendment along the lines 1 have mentioned to be moved when the Bill is returned to the Senate.
I wish to return now to the other requests for amendments and amendments made to the Bill by the Senate. Generally, these are directed to particular questions and do not involve wide ramifications. The objectives of the amendments are beyond question and my one regret is that each is being brought forward in isolation and not as part of a complete review of the legislative provisions contained in the Act with which the Government will be perservering.
The Government is prepared to accept request for amendment No. 4 relating, to the provisional payment of Commonwealth medical benefit in third party and workers’ compensation cases and amendments I, 3, 4 and S relating to the specialist recognition advisory committees, No. 6 relating to the agreement with the Australian Medical Association for the pensioner medical service and No. 9 relating to the furnishing of information by applicant medical and hospital benefits organisations. No. 8, which is connected with request No. 5 dealing with eligibility for hospital benefits, is acceptable in a modified form, as is No. 10 relating to the registration of insurance organisations. In addition, the Government is prepared partially to accept amendments numbered II and 12 dealing respectively with the annual returns of insurance organisations and the pharmaceutical benefits advisory committee. The remaining requests for amendments and amendments are not acceptable to the Government.
In summary, the Government is prepared to accept 9 of the 19 requests and amendments in the form presented by the Senate or in a modified form, lt will present an alternative proposal for I of them and is prepared partially to accept a further 2. The Government is unable to agree to 7 of the amendments. The decisions of the Government are evidence of its determination to improve the health benefits plan in all its aspects as well as its wish to have this Bill passed speedily and given royal assent so that needless delay does not occur before increased benefits are payable to those in the community who incur expenses on medical treatment. As I emphasised earlier, none of the amendments is directed to the new basic principles of the medical benefits plan and I ask the House to give speedy passage to the Bill. I will be speaking to the detail of various requests for amendments and amendments as they arise in Committee.
– by leave- The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) commenced his statement by talking with some satisfaction about what the requests and amendments represent as an endorsement of the principles of the National Health Bill. I hasten to disabuse his mind if he thinks that what transpires here in any way, as far as the Opposition is concerned, upholds the principles implicit in the National
Health Bill as presentedby the Government. It is a misnomer to talk about a national health bill when in fact the Bill almost exclusively refers to health insurance and ignores the wide range of ancillary services which must be part of a national health plan as distinct from health insurance. Given the opportunity, which we expect fairly soon, to legislate on health insurance in this country the Opposition will certainly be adopting a different approach from that which the Government makes. I am certain that this is clear by now. Our scheme will give universal coverage at a cheaper cost to 4 contributors out of 5.
I shall now direct my attention to the matters which have been brought up by the Government following the action taken on the Bill by the Senate. We on this side of the House are pleased that the Government endorses our view - partially, admittedly, but it is still a big step forward for the Government - in relation to the Commonwealth bed subsidy being made available in respect of free hospital services. Quite clearly, this will cover the State of Queensland alone. The Australian Labor Party feels a great deal of pride that it has been successful in achieving this improvement for the people of Queensland. I would ask honourable members to recollect that when proposed amendments to the National Health Bill were being discussed in this House the Minister applied the guillotine. As a result of this quite a number of amendments which the Opposition wanted to bring forward and debate were not discussed. The amendment which we proposed in this House in relation to the Commonwealth hospital bed subsidy was one of those amendments. I believe that the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds) moved this amendment but he was not given the opportunity to debate it. It is a remarkable situation that discussion in this House should be curtailed in this manner because here we are, rather paradoxically, discussing the very thing which we were prevented from raising earlier. Indeed, not only are we discussing this matter but the Government is prepared to go part of the way towards accepting the amendment.
I would like to raise some queries about the cost of this proposal. The Minister for Health has been rather reticent in discussing this aspect. The Commonwealth hospital bed subsidy will be a fairly cheap innova tion for the Government. The only State, I repeat, which will benefit will be Queensland where free hospitalisation in public wards has been retained.
– It is given in some other hospitals in other States.
– Is it really?
– This is without a means test. Some hospitals give services without charge.
– Perhaps I ought to ask the Minister at this stage whether the Government’s proposed amendment will cover treatment in other States where there is a charge but where the charge is waived because of a means test? Can the Minister tell me whether the proposal applies only to Queensland?
– It applies to any individual case where a charge is not made.
– Where it is waived?
– Where it is not made.
– There is a difference. The Minister is playing around with words. If the charge is waived because of a means test - that is, it is not made on the patient but would have been made except for the means test - will that patient attract $2 a day bed subsidy?
– That is very good.
– The cost will be $1.2m.
– The cost for Queensland will be $1.3m. For the financial year ended 30th June 1969 the additional cost of providing $2 a day instead of the 80c a day bed subsidy in Queensland will be $1.3m. The total increase in the cost if the $2 a day were provided for all uninsured patients in Australia as proposed by the Opposition would be $3. 36m. So about 40% of the total increase that Australia would have been involved in if all the nation had been covered goes to Queensland. It seems somewhat incomprehensible then that the Government should shrink from giving full protection to all public ward patients where there is no fee charged.
The interesting fact of course is that in upholding partially the proposition of the Opposition the Government goes back to a situation which it attempted to destroy in 1952. In 1946 the Labor Party introduced free hospitalisation by providing an 80c a day bed subsidy for public ward treatment where no charge was made. In 1 952 the then recently elected Liberal-Country Party Government set about destroying free hospitalisation and did not renew the agreement which had operated under the Labor Government. It provided that there would be a 40c a day additional bed subsidy - additional to the 80c established by the Labor Party - but that the 40c would be paid only if the patient were insured with an approved insurance scheme. So free hospitalisation was dismantled in every Stale except Queensland, lt is remarkable that the Government should have persevered for so long with a quite inadequate 80c a day subsidy set in 1946 by a Federal Labor Government. This was 80c a day for uninsured patients and this scheme applied especially in Queensland.
But we now find that the Government acknowledges that Queensland’s free hospitals are entitled to a $2 a day bed subsidy - the same as is available for insured patients. To be consistent the Government ought to reinstate the free hospital legislation which the Labor Party federally established in 1946. I repeat that, according to figures for the financial year ended June 1969, if all the uninsured patients in Australia - not only Queensland - were given $2 a day instead of 80c a day the total extra cost would be only S3.36m. This is a remarkably small amount measured alongside some of the other expenses which the Government involves itself in so easily. Perhaps I should mention here the case of the celebrated non-flying Fill aircraft. By comparison this is an extremely small obligation for the Government to accept. One finds it hard to understand why such a proposal has been refused for so long.
I feel that the Government exposes itself to serious censure by acting at this stage. I repeat that the Opposition tried to move its amendment in this chamber but was prevented from doing so by the guillotine. In earlier discussions on health Bills the Minister rejected any suggestion that the S2 a day could be provided for Queensland, despite recommendations by the Nimmo Committee and subsequently by the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs known as the Wedgwood Committee. He based his objection on the argument that the negotiations between his Government and the Queensland Government would necessarily be protracted. It shows how realism can be faced when a little urgent pressure is applied to the Government, lt was quite apparent to anyone that the Queensland Government would have been very happy to obtain an extra Si. 3m for the public hospitals of that State.
To sustain public hospitals the Queensland Government operates a lottery system. This system raises about $14ni a year out of which only about $2m goes to the free hospital scheme. The Government now, by accepting partially this recommendation of the Opposition, is covering nearly this amount of money. Apart from any sense of personal values which are involved, I. think it is quite inefficient that a State government has to operate a lottery from which it receives only %2m out of a total of JI4m raised. We ought to be having a close look at the way in which funds are provided for health services and indeed at public responsibility generally to ensure that more efficient use is made of people’s energy, time and resourcefulness instead of trying to raise money in such a round about uneconomic manner.
The amendment in relation to workers’ compensation where a claim is ponding and where a person wishes to obtain medical benefits and hospital benefits has been accepted by the Government in spite of the objection of the Minister in this House when the matter was first raised. This seems to be a mutter of clear moral justice. It is quite cruel, especially for a low income earner - most of the people who are seeking workers compensation would be in this category - to be laid off work as a result of injury in the course of his employment and to have this protracted wait which is so much part of the compensation system in our society before his claim is completed an J he receives his first payment. Not only does such a person have to endure a fair bit of inconvenience but so, too, do hospitals. One of the bugbears of the public hospital system in Australia is that hospitals have to bear a fairly substantial outstanding debt burden which has developed as a result of pending compensation claims. This also relates to third party insurance claims.
Several important requests from the Senate have been neglected. The first relates to ophthalmologists. At present any person who obtains medical treatment from a medical practitioner will obtain the benefits of the medical health insurance scheme except when he goes to an ophthalmologist and in the course of that consultation spectacles are prescribed. Until 1953 this was not the case. Patients obtained these benefits. But in 1953 Sir Robert Menzies torpedoed this benefit and so people had no advantage where spectacles were prescribed by an ophthalmologist in the course of a consultation. This seems grossly unfair. It may be argued, as has been put forward, that it was also unfair to the optometrists that patients of ophthalmologists should gain this benefit when the patients of optometrists did not. But you do not improve a situation by making it more difficult for the patient or the consumer. Surely our obligation in this society is to the consumers, whether they are patients, people buying motor cars or furniture or people building houses. These are the people to whom we have the commitment - the great unorganised mass of people in our society who, unlike the established interests, have not formed powerful pressure groups, whether they are labour or capital, pastoral interest groups or other special interest groups. Unlike those established groups, people generally have great difficulty in establishing their rights and gaining entitlements to which they should justifiably have an opening. This right should not have been taken from them. What should have occurred was an extension of the medical benefits scheme to cover optometrists. This, raises the other amendment proposed by the Senate which has been sent to this House.
– You will be able to speak to this in the Committee stages of the Bill. Do you realise that?
– -I do, but the Committee stages will be divided amongst our members, so I have to spread the glory now. Optometrists provide 60% of the spectacles prescribed; ophthalmologists 40%. This seems the fairest way out and that is why we advance our proposal. We cannot understand why the Government is discriminating against ophthalmologists and optometrists. Even more we cannot tolerate the discrimination against patients in the community who have to have spectacles prescribed. This leads to all sorts of devices and artifices to get around this requirement by ophthalmologists. This has been referred to by the Nimmo Committee.
Ophthalmologists have put forward a case and. it raises an important principle connected with the overall philosophy of the Government’s amended National Health Bill. The ophthalmologists have submitted a documented case in which they have costed their proposal that their patients should be covered. Their estimate of the cost is Sim. This is under the amended charges. They estimate further that the current cost before the amendments would be §662,500. That is, as a result of the changes which the Government has proposed to this health insurance scheme, the cost will be almost twice as great as it is currently. Clearly all of this money will go to the medical practitioners. There is no inclusion in this for increased cost for spectacles and that sort of thing because they are not covered. This seems to be clear and convincing evidence that this substantial increase that has developed as a result of the amendments to the health insurance scheme - more than $50m for medical insurance alone without concerning ourselves with the extra Slim as subsidy for the low income earners - has come about because of the increased charges by doctors.
It would seem to substantiate the argument of Mr Richard Scotton at the recent Australian Council of Social Services seminar held in this city that most of the increase that has to be borne by taxpayers and contributors to this scheme as a result of these amendments will in fact be income for doctors and overwhelmingly for specialists. Here is the evidence. I ask the Minister to have a careful investigation of this and to see what justification there is for what appears to be an increase of twice the level of cost for services by a doctor. It would appear on the basis of this information that medical practitioners have taken the opportunity to increase substantially their rate of fees to the public. Of course, I have already asked the Minister, as a result of a statement he made in the House, what are the improvements and additions he has included in the health insurance scheme to those which he outlined at the last election. which incurred a Si 3.5m cost increase on the $16m that he estimated at election time. That $13.5 cost increase is approaching a 70% increase on the election assessment. Did the Australian public get a 70% increase in coverage and benefits under the health insurance scheme?
There should have been no delay in supplying this information because it would have been something which would have been based on additional benefits built into the scheme after the election. The Minister said this in the House. His statement is in Hansard. It is several weeks since I placed a question on the notice paper. To date he has not answered it. If I were a suspicious type of person, which I am not, I am afraid I would be fairly critical and perhaps somewhat questioning of the Minister’s integrity on this point. There is no reason for the delay. Perhaps the Minister will now indicate when I might expect a detailed answer to the question.
– I do not know.
– This is regrettable because the Australian public has certain rights and we are here to represent the public.
– If the honourable member gives priority to this question I will get something done. 1 have about 1 00 questions waiting to be answered.
– I will let the Minister know. He is waiting for his Department to tell him what happens. I move on to oral surgery. This proposal has been rejected again by the Government. This is rather remarkable because the Minister does not know what it is all about. In the House on 13th May last he said:
The emphasis in this matter is on the question of what services are prescribed. We- have not yet reached the point of actually prescribing these services. They are certainly not prescribed in the Schedule.
So we are flying blind on this matter. If it were the Labor Party which acted in this way we would be shot down in Barnes by the Government. It seems that there is always a high degree of precision demanded of the Opposition whenever it puts forward a proposition in any field, particularly health, but the greatest degree of waffle and inaccuracy appears to be fair average per formance for the Government - $ 1 3.5m out in election promises. Even then the Government is unable to cost Labor’s programme. In the first couple of lines of calculation the Government left out $50m which would have been revenue from the levy on third party and workers compensation insurance and it grossly undercalculated our proposal for contributions of 1±% of income. This is another matter and I am still awaiting a comprehensive statement from the Minister on it. He is somewhat reticent about answering these queries when they are directed to him. Another request from the Senate which the Government has rejected - I cannot establish the rationale for this - relates to the means test for the purpose of a subsidy for low income earners.
– If the honourable member waits until the Committee stages I will tell him about this. I have not yet had an opportunity to do that.
– The Minister says he has not had an opportunity to be briefed.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)I suggest that the honourable member direct his remarks through the Chair.
– 1 will conclude with a couple of quick points and forewarn the Minister because he always requires a fair bit of forewarning before he can answer these simple questions. We cannot understand why be has decided to make the means test under this Act for low income earners more difficult than it is under the Social Services Act. Under the Social Services Act income does not include income under Part 7a which covers sheltered employment allowance or Part 8 which covers rehabilitation allowance, or under sub-section (h) of section 18 which deals with a payment under section 9 of the Tuberculosis Act 1948, or sub-section (j) which deals with a service pension under the Repatriation Act 1920-1954 received by the spouse of a claimant or pensioner where that claimant or pensioner is not in receipt of a service pension under that Act and that spouse is not in receipt of a pension under this Bill.
Under the Social Services Act these things are not included as income when the time comes to calculate the means of a person. Yet they will be included as income under the National Health Act. The Minister should explain why he has this conflicting principle in public policy. To propitiate him I will quickly conclude by saying that the amendments which the Government will accept are fairly largely machinery recommendations. It is remarkable that the Government should have seen fit to object to them when they were originally proposed by the Opposition. However, it is disappointing that there will be no right of appeal against the Minister’s decision in relation to compensation cases where he determines what amount of a total amount of compensation would be a reasonable amount to cover medical and hospital expenses where no such determination has been made by the court and where the Government is seeking a recoupment as a result of medical benefits payments.
In relation to section 7, the Government does not propose to allow an appeal against the decision of the Minister where a doctor has been found guilty of abusing the pensioner medical service. This case has been put quite cogently by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman). It is a glaring anomaly and it shows further how disenchanted the doctors have become at the hands of this Government and how alienated the medical profession has justifiably become because of the autocratic way in which it has been treated by the Government. There is no justification for the Minister to think that because we restricted ourselves to 33 amendments of which 19 have come back to this House from the Senate this in some way indicates that we uphold the principle of the Bill. In fact, in the health committee we did give serious consideration to opposing the whole Bill. The only benefit we could see was that there would be some advantage to low income earners because of the subsidy arrangements which were being proposed. We could not see the argument that this was an improvement for the general population when what was proposed was to make health insurance tremendously more expensive to the public purse and considerably more expensive to the contributor without in any way radically affecting in a positive sense the efficiency of health insurance in the community.
– I take a point of order. I see that the next order of the day is ‘No. 3 - National Health Bill - Consideration, in
Committee, of Senate’s requests. Adoption of Report’. The Minister has made a statement with the permission of the House and he has dealt with 7 requests and 12 amendments received from another place. I ask whether it is in order for the House to proceed in this way when the Minister has not done the House the courtesy of making his statement available. It is impossible for honourable members to follow what he is putting forward when he refers to the amendments and requests by way of numbers. To me this is typical of the same arrogance as characterised the earlier debate on this legislation. I feel we are heading for trouble again unless the House knows what is being debated.
Order! The honourable member is going beyond the point of order. He cannot make a statement without the leave of the House.
– Is it possible to ascertain whether the Minister intends to extend to the House the courtesy of making his statement available before we proceed with the debate?
– I received my statement only half an hour before I spoke. That seems unreasonable.
– I had not given consideration to the point that was made and in fact the statement was finalised only just before the debate commenced. The proceedings which are now going on relate specifically to the requests. Because of the form in which we had to deal with this I felt it was desirable for the House to know the Government’s view on the matter as a whole, which led to my making the statement. We could have left it where it was and dealt with the Government’s attitude on the requests but I felt it was a courtesy to the House to take the opportunity to make a statement which I could not have done in the Committee stage of the Bill because of the relevant provisions. It would be impossible for me to meet the honourable gentleman’s request to provide a statement before we go on with the debate .on these requests. I will certainly undertake to provide honourable members with a copy of my statement as soon as possible, certainly before we go on with the debate on the amendments. I feel that the Government’s attitude would have more relevance to the amendments than it would to these requests.
– ] think wc should have something more precise. Could not the Minister give an undertaking that he would have these out-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! The honourable member for Oxley will resume his seat.
– I have said to the House that T will provide this as quickly as possible, that is. as quickly as the mechanical details of having it duplicated will allow. The honourable gentleman should be prepared to accept that undertaking.
– T rise to order. Could the statement which the Minister intends circulating be’ more detailed? When making his statement the Minister referred, if I remember correctly, to amendment No. 10 as being accepted with certain further amendments. This is meaningless because we do not know what those further amendments are. Can the Minister put the exact proposals into that statement so that we know what will in fact be moved? Otherwise we do not know what our attitude should be.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! The honourable member is not entitled to proceed beyond the point of order.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation for the purposes of amendments to the National Health Bill 1970 announced.
Consideration of Senate’s requests for amendments.
Section 4 of the Principal Act is amended -
Section 13 of the Principal Act is amended -
*’ ‘medical service’ means a service that is specified in an item in the First Schedule to this Act; professional service’ means -
Section 21 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-sections (1.) and (2.) and inserting in their stead the following sub-sections:
“(I.) . . .
“(2.) . . .
Section of Principal Act proposed to be amended:
– (!.> . . .
(3.) Where, at the time at which payment of Commonwealth benefit is claimed, it appears to the Director-General that the contributor may be entitled lo receive a payment of the kind referred to in sub-section (1.) of this section, but he has not established bis right to that payment. Commonwealth benefit is not payable, but the DirectorGeneral may, in bis discretion, authorise provisional payment of an amount of Commonwealth benefit not exceeding the amount that but for this section would be payable and, if and when the entitlement or otherwise of the contributor to a payment of the kind referred to in subsection (1.) of this section has been determined, the contributor is liable to repay to the Commonwealth any amount by which die amount of the benefit provisionally paid exceeds such amount (if any) as is payable under the preceding provisions of this section.
Section 82q of the Principal Act is amended:
Senate’s request No. 1.
In clause 5, at end of the clause add the following paragraph: “(c) by omitting from sub-section (4.) the words other than an attendance at which an examination of the patient’s eyes is made in consequence of which spectacle lenses are prescribed’.”.
Senate’s request No. 2.
In clause 8, paragraph (b). in paragraph (b) of the definition ‘professional service’, leave out ‘in an operating theatre of an approved hospital’.
Senate’s request No. 3.
In clause 8, paragraph (b), in paragraph (b) of the definition’professional service’, leave out approved by the Director-General for the purposes of this definition’.
Senate’s request No. 4.
In clause 16, at end of clause add the following paragraph: “(b) by omitting from sub-section (3.) the words may, in his discretion,’ and inserting in their stead the word ‘shall’: and”.
Senate’s request No. 5.
After clause 20, insert the following new clause: “20a, Section 46 of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead:
Senate’s request No. 6.
In clause 41. after paragraph (b), insert the following paragraph: (ba) by omitting from paragraph (e) of subsection (2.) all words after “Social Services Act 1947-1969”; and’.
Senate’s request No. 7.
In the proposed Schedules, First Schedule, after Division 13, insert the following new Division:
Division 14 8289 Refraction performed by a registered optometrist 1.10’.
Second to Seventh Schedules (inclusive), at end of each Schedule insert in the first column the number ‘8289’ and in the second column the amounts ‘1.60’, ‘1.30’. ‘0.95’, ‘0.09’, ‘0.90’ and ‘1.10’. respectively.
– Mr Chairman,I move:
That the requested amendments1, 2, 3,5, 6 and 7 be not made.
If I might briefly refer to the remark made by the honourable member-
MrHayden -I rise to order. This is not the amendment to Schedule B which the Minister is talking about.
– It is Schedule A, the request by the Senate for amendments.
– I do not know whether or not I am a little dense but the words were clear enough when 1 spoke to the Minister, and the understanding of the Deputy Leader of the Opposi tion (Mr Barnard) also was clear enough after speaking to the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden), that after the Minister had made his statement I would reply to him and then there would be no more debate and the matter would be referred to the Senate. It is on this assumption that we are conducting this debate. This was clearly stated to me, but the Minister is proceeding at the Committee stage to debate these particular sections. He ought to be clear in explaining what he intends to do. He is as fuddled in his explanations as he is in his handling of the affairs of the country.
– Order! I point out to the honourable member for Oxley that we are at this moment considering a message from the Senate which includes certain requests. These are the ones in Schedule A that are being discussed by the Minister at this moment. I might say that if the Committee did not consider these requests then there would be nothing further to send back to the Senate because the position would be exactly the same as it was prior to the House having received the message.
– AsI understand it there are available to honourable members - this is just to clear up the point made by the honourable member for Prospect - copies of this document.
– I have that.
– The honourable member has that document. Any numbers that I have used in this debate this afternoon or will use subsequently are related to the numbering in that document.
– The point I made was this: The Minister referred to, I think for example, No. 10 and he said that he would accept that with certain alterations. What does he mean by ‘certain alterations’?
– The reason I made the statement was that, as I have already explained, under the procedures governing these debates we can deal only with the requests at this stage. It would not be appropriate, and no doubt the Chairman of Committees would rule me out of order, if I referred to the amendments without speaking to the requests.
– I had in mind the. statement that you intend to circulate.
– I will be very happy to give the . honourable member any elucidation of my statement that he may desire.
– Order! I point out to the honourable member for Prospect that the statement made by the Minister was made in the House in order to assist it in an appreciation of the Bill in general terms. However, in a strict sense in this Committee debate the statement of the Minister in the House has no relevance to what the Committee is considering at the moment. When the requests of the Senate are sent back to the Senate from this Committee and after the Senate has finally decided what to do with the Bill and what amendments it wants inserted and returns the Bill again to this Committee, then at that stage the Committee will be considering the amendments which it will finally make.
– Well, as soon as the Minister completes what he is proposing to say at this stage I will move that progress be reported at least until we have this statement circulated to members of the Opposition. This is very important because much of what the Minister says refers only to clause numbers and he does not detail the matter being dealt with. I would say that we have been deceived by an artifice. I was told certain things which I repeated a minute ago. Had I known that the Minister was going to operate in the way in which he is-
– Order! If the honourable member for Oxley wants to join in the debate at this moment I remind him that he is interrupting the Minister. He should seek leave to speak, but he cannot seek leave until the Minister has finished speaking. I point out again that the state ment by the Minister to the House has strictly no relevance to the requests that the Committee is discussing at this moment.
– We would not have given him this opportunity if we had known that he was going to operate in this way. He said nothing about the matters in Schedule B. He made only vague references to proposed amendments.
– Order! I point out to the honourable member for Oxley for the fourth time that we are not at this moment considering Schedule B.
– I am well aware of that. I am talking about the deceit he practised in this House so that he could get a statement into the House.
– Order! The honourable member for Oxley will resume his seat and he will withdraw the remark he made about deceit by the Minister.
– I said that the Minister practised deceit, which is true.
– Order! The honourable member for Oxley will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw.
– The honourable member will withdraw without any qualification.
– I withdraw.
– As I understand it we have before us requests by the Senate for this House to accept certain amendments to the National Health Bill 1970, and they are set out in Schedule A of this proposal which has come from the Senate. I have already moved that the requested amendments as set out in Schedule A, that is, No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 5, No. 6 and No. 7 be not made - that is to say, all the requests except No. 4. I now propose to inform the Committee why the Government believes that the requested amendments be not made, in the normal procedure of dealing with any Bill before the House where the Government is not prepared to accept amendments. I will first say something about the requested amendments numbers 1 and 7, which 1 think honourable members will agree are complementary to each other. Request No. 1 refers to the payment of benefits for a refraction test by an ophthalmologist and the payment of a benefit also for a refraction test by an optometrist. Request No. I is for the deletion of the long-standing provision that Commonwealth benefits are not payable for a consultation at which an eye specialist prescribes spectacle lenses, while request No. 7 proposes the payment of Commonwealth and fund benefits at the rate applicable lo a general practitioner consultation for refraction tests carried out by optometrists.
The provision not to pay benefits for eye specialists in these cases, as the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) pointed out when he made his statement, was first included in the National Health Act in 1953 as a result of strong objections by the optometrical profession to the proposal to pay Commonwealth benefits for sight-testing examinations if they were carried out by medical practitioners. As the Act now stands, therefore, optometrists are placed on the same footing as ophthalmologists so far as Commonwealth benefits are concerned. In other words. Commonwealth benefits are not paid for any attendance at which spectacles are prescribed either by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist. This is regarded as an equitable situation for the 2 professional groups involved. However, ii request No. 1 relating to ophthalmologists, were agreed to in isolation, ophthalmologists would be placed in an advantageous position as compared to optometrists and it would be, of course, a logical extension to extend the payment of benefits to eye refractions carried out by optometrists. - At first glance it would seem that request No 7. would bring about parity between the professions and provide a solution to the problem. But I would point out to honourable members that one has only to look at the proposals in more detail to see that that is not the case. Taking New South Wales as an example, the position would be that patients who visited an ophthalmologist would receive Commonwealth benefit of $4.25 and fund benefit of $4.25, a total of $8.50 from a common fee of $11, while optometrists patients would receive $2.70 - that is, $1.10 Commonwealth and $1.60 fund benefit - towards the the usual charge of $8.50. Thus a per son visiting a ophthalmologist would pay only $2.50 while a person visiting an optometrist would pay $5.80.
Sizable expenditure is involved in the proposed amendments. On a point of principle the Government is concerned at the effect on budgeting which is involved in proposals of this nature. The estimated cost to the Commonwealth of paying the benefits for these services by both doctors and optometrists is expected to be $2m, but, as 1 have explained already the 2 professions would still not be in equal position. To provide Commonwealth benefits to optometrists equal to those proposed for ophthalmologist would cost the Commonwealth some $4m. Insofar as fund benefits are concerned, the payment of fund benefits for optometrists services - they are paid already for opthalmologists - would necessitate an increase in the rates of contribution’s to most funds if not immediately then after a short time.
As 1 indicated in the statement I made to the House, the Government is not prepared, nor is it reasonable to expect it to do so, to change a long standing policy of this kind without having an opportunity for investigation of the proposed change in detail, along with questions of a similar nature, such as the provision generally of ancillary medical services under the health benefits plan. As I advised honourable members in this House, a full scale review of ancillary services is proposed by the Government. Such an overhaul review is essential before ad hoc decisions can be taken in specific areas of ancillary services. We must determine priorities in this area. Who can decide objectively at this point of time whether benefits for patients who have had spectacles prescribed should be provided before benefits for patients receiving other costly health services such as physiotherapy and home nursing? For these reasons the Government is not prepared to accept those 2 amendments.
I now move on to discuss the reasons for amendment No. 2 dealing with oral surgeons. The request for amendment is directed to the definition of ‘professional service’ in the Bill. This is available to honourable members. This definition varies from that in the principal Act in that it recognises for the purposes of paying medical benefits prescribed services rendered by dentists in an operating theatre of a hospital. The amendment requested by the Senate is for the deletion of the words in an operating theatre of’ an approved hospital’ from the definition. The effect of this amendment would be that medical benefits would become payable for the prescribed services irrespective of where they are carried out. For instance, benefits would be payable for services carried out in private dental surgeries. The Government, in recognising some services provided by dentists for benefit purposes in the manner proposed, sponsored an important addition to the medical benefits plan. It arose from the recommendation of the Nimmo Committee that medical benefits be paid when a specialist oral surgeon carries out a procedure for which an operating theatre at a public hospital is required and used.
During its consideration of this recommendation the Government extended the proposal so that services performed in an operating theatre in an approved hospital, whether public or private, would attract medical benefits. The essence of the Government’s intention in this matter is that in a situation where Commonwealth benefits are not payable in respect of dental services generally, the concession ought to apply only to those procedures which can be and are undertaken by both medical practitioners and oral surgeons. It is anomalous that patients receiving identical services could be recognised for benefits in one situation and not the other, depending on the professional status of the person rendering the service.
– But why does it have to be done in an operating theatre?
– I will come to that point later. The Nimmo Committee, in paragraph 15.3 of its report, considered it was not practicable to bring all services rendered by oral surgeons into the medical benefits scheme and the Government accepted this view. In sponsoring this amendment to the Bill in the Senate, it was claimed that the services in question are equally as well performed in a dental surgeon’s surgery as in a hospital. However, on the basis of the experience in Canada, which influenced the Nimmo Committee in relation to this matter, the view was taken by the Government that it is desirable in this new area of benefits, initially at least, to limit the benefits to services which can be clearly identified as being quasi-medical in nature. These services can be identified in this way if they are actually carried out in a hospital. It is for these reasons that the Government is not prepared to accept the request for amendment made of this House by the Senate.
I move now to request No. 3 which again deals with oral surgeons. The proposed amendment also is directed to the definition of ‘professional service’ in the Bill. As I explained in speaking to the previous request for an amendment, the definition of professional service’ varies from that in the principal Act in that it recognises for the purposes of paying medical benefits certain services rendered in operating theatres of hospitals by dentists or dental practitioners approved by the Director-General of Health. The amendment requested by the Senate is for deletion of the words ‘approved by the Director-General for the purpose of this definition’. The effect of this amendment would be that the benefits would be payable for any of the prescribed services rendered by any registered dentist or dental practitioner.
The Government’s policy in relation to the proposed amendment is that benefits should be restricted to the patients of oral surgeons who are competent by experience, qualification and status to carry out any of the procedures prescribed. The difficulty the Government faces in this area is that not all States have registers of oral surgeons with higher degrees. In any case it is known that a number of dental practitioners without higher degrees would properly be recognisable for the purposes of this proposal - for example, by virtue of holding hospital appointments. In these circumstances it is impracticable at this stage to include in the Bill1 specific criteria for the recognition of dental practitioners for this purpose. This and other matters affecting the provision of these services are being negotiated with the Australian Dental Association with a view to developing an agreed procedure for identifying oral surgeons and the Government therefore is not disposed to accept an amendment of the nature proposed at this time.
Turning now to proposed amendment No. 5, relating to the payment of a medical benefit of $2 per day in circumstances which have been mentioned already, this is directed to section 46 (1.) of the principal Act which states:
Where a contributor -
That is a person who is insured with a registered hospital benefit fund - receives hospital treatment in an approved hospital, there is payable, subject to this Part, Commonwealth benefit of two dollars for each day on which that contributor is a qualified hospital patient.
The Senate s request for amendment is for the substitution of the word person’ for the word ‘contributor’ with the intention of making every patient in hospital automatically eligible for the Commonwealth hospital benefit of $2 per day. Membership of a hospital benefits fund would no longer be a requirement. Speakers to this amendment in the Senate directed their comments mainly to the situation in Queensland where no charge is made on public ward patients. lt was alleged that Queensland is disadvantaged as compared with other States due to its adherence over the years to a policy of free public hospitalisation At this point, the Government is sympathetic to this argument and has been ever since the Nimmo Committee submitted its view that Queensland’s policy gives full effect to the Commonwealth objective of affording the community adequate financial protection aganst the cost of hospital treatment. This view was strongly endorsed by the Wedgwood Committee. I can appreciate that to a person who has not followed the debate on this Bill, the immediate reaction will be: Then why has the Government not acted? Indeed, this was the point made by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayde.nl when he made his statement a little while ago. The reason was given in my statement, and that is that the Government wished to complete its negotiations with the State governments before formulating its proposals on the hospital benefits arrangments and introducing amending legislation.
I now return to the specific terms of the amendment requested by the Senate. Although clearly directed to the Queensland situation, it went further and proposed the payment of the Commonwealth s2 benefit irrespective of whether the patient was insured and irrespective of whether a hospital charge was made or not. The amendment therefore goes further than the Government is prepared to accept. However, the Government is prepared to include an amendment in the Bill. As I indicated earlier in my statement when I outlined the terms of this amendment, owing to the procedures of the House th:s particular amendment, (hat the Commonwealth benefit of s2 a day be paid to hospitals in all cases in which no charge is made to patients, will be requested by the Government in the Senate.
Finally, I move to the request for amendment No. 6, assessing eligibility of low income families. The honourable member for Oxley has specifically asked me why the Government felt that it could not accept this request. I might add that I gave my reasons when the matter was debated in this House. Perhaps I could point mit the Government’s attitude by saying that the Act at present provides for low income families to be assisted with the cost of contributing for medical and hospital benefits and, as honourable members ure aware, the Natonal Health Bill proposes extensions to this assistance. The relevant provisions are set out in the new section 82 r in clause 42 of the Bill.
The bases of assessing eligibility are weekly income for families below pensionable age and ‘means as assessed’ for families of pensionable age. in explanation of section 82Q (2) (e), 1 advise that the Social Services Act provides for certain forms of income to be ‘exempt income’, that is, not included, when calculating the means as assessed’ of a person for pension purposes. The forms of income specified in the Social Services Act to which section 82q (2) (e) relates are: (a) sheltered employment assistance; (b) rehabilitation allowances; (c) tuberculosis allowances; (d) certain service pensions paid under the Repatriation Acf; and (e) age or invalid pensions. The National Health Act, however, provides for these forms of income to be included when calculating the ‘means as assessed’ for low income families. The amendment would have the effect of providing that, for families over pensionable age, eligibility would be based on means as assessed identical with that applied under the Social Services Act. Means as assessed for the purposes of the National Health Act would then not include any income falling within the categories I have mentioned.
Families with means as assessed under the Social Services Act equivalent to $47 or less a week are eligible for age pensions, plus enrolment in the pensioner medical service. Families with means assessed under the Social Services Act equivalent to between $47 and $70 per week are eligible for what we have come to term tapered pensions, but are not eligible for enrolment in the pensioner medical service. The figures I have just given are by way of illustration and are based on a family of husband and wife and would vary if the family included one or more dependent children, or consisted of one parent and a child A further relevant provision is in section 82u (1.) (b) of the National Health Act which excludes pensioners enrolled in the pensioner medical service from low income family assistance.
It follows, if honourable members have been able to trace these provisions through, that the amendment would affect only a very small number of applicants whose means as assessed are equivalent to between $47 a week, which is the eligibility ceiling for the pensioner medical service, and $48.50 a week which is the eligibility ceiling for low income family assistance under the Bill. The real point at issue is that the amendment would create anomalies by providing assistance with the cost of health insurance for some applicants whilst other applicants in similar financial situations would be denied assistance. To assist honourable members appreciate this point, I have circulated a table setting out comparisons between 3 typical families. If the income falling within the categories I have listed above were excluded when assessing eligibility, then it would place the recipient of the income in an advantageous position as compared with other families.
A further anomaly affecting the position of applicants above pensionable age compared with applicants under pensionable age would arise from the amendment. Eligibility for assistance is to be determined for applicants under pensionable age on the basis of total weekly income which includes any pension and other allowances. It would be anomalous to have pensions, etc., taken into account in making determinations for applicants under pensionable age, but not to have these sources of income taken into account when determining eligibility of applicants over pensionable age. Although the amendment would involve only a small increase in the cost of providing assistance to low income families, the Government rejects the amendment on the grounds that it would introduce a number of anomalies as between families in similar financial circumstances. With the concurrence of honourable members, I incorporate in Hansard the table to which I have referred.
REQUEST FOR AMENDMENT No. 6 (Table as referred to by Minister for Health)
The table below illustrates the effect of the amendment on three families, A, B and C.
Family A is of pension age and receives a pension.
Family B is of pension age but is not entitled to any pension (e.g., because residential qualifications under the Social Services Act are not satisfied).
Family C is under pensionable age.
That completes the reasons why the Government feels that it cannot accept the requested amendments Nos 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7. We ask the Committee that these amendments be not made.
– Now that the squall has passed, I would like to revert to the situation which prevailed earlier. I did say that the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) was deceitful. J withdraw that statement, and I do so unreservedly.I should prefer to say that There has been a misunderstanding between us. Perhaps I could put this straight. I was advised that the procedure would be that the Minister would speak, then I would speak, that this would fulfil the requirement under our Standing Orders, and that the matter would be referred to the Senate. Accordingly my colleagues on the Health Committee, all of whom want to speak on this matter, are not prepared to do so. Their lack of preparation is aggravated by the fact that I am the only person on this side of the House who has been given a copy of the Minister’s statement. I received it probably less than half an hour before he spoke. No great problem would seem to be involved in having this statement circulated among honourable members. Had I known that the procedure was not as I imaginedI would not have given leave to the Minister to make the statement. The statement contains reference to schedule A and schedule B. The Minister’s justification for making the statement is the foreshadowing of action that he has in mind in relation to amendments under schedule B. In fact he has told us nothing except that certain things may be vaguely accepted in some sort of amended, diluted or modified form. We are no better informed as a result. What the Minister had to say could have been as effectively said as it was when he spoke at the Committee stage. I would not have spoken as lengthily asI did.I did not quite apprehend what the Minister was alluding to when he interjected on several occasions while I was replying to his statement.
That progress be reported.
I do that so that the Minister’s statement can be circulated and we can have an informed discussion on this matter. The Minister will be aware that in the Committee stage of the Bill various honourable members who were members of the Health Committee moved different amendments. This was to save time. They all had an interest in the matter and had worked quite hard to develop the amendments which were presented in this House. I am moving that progress be reported so that we can adjourn the discussion until the statement is circulated and honourable members on this side of the House can discuss the matter.
– Can this motion be debated?
– No. It is similar to the motion that the question be now put.
– I do not make the arrangements for the House.I cannot agree to progress being reported, in the absence of some arrangement being made. I thought that the procedure was fully understood. The honourable member for Oxley spoke on this matter as though he was speaking during the Committee stage. I am prevented from doing that. I do not think that the statement I made earlier to the House makes any difference to the situation.
– In the circumstances I ask for leave to withdraw my motion until the Leader of the House can be consulted on the matter.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I shall reply to the Minister on the matters he has discussed. I regret that earlierI discussed them extensively, through a misunderstanding. I shall deal first with requests Nos1 and 7 which relate to ophthalmic and optometrical services. The Minister said in the course of his statement that he regarded the present situation, where no benefits are available for the public, as equitable between the two professions. I question the principle that the Minister is enunciating here. I raised this question earlier in the course of my discussion: Whom are we serving in the community? Are we going to continue to serve the vested or established pressure groups in the society - whether they be labour or capital, city or rural interests, optometrists or ophthalmologists or any other group which is established, organised and able to articulate effectively in presenting its case and in influencing decision making? Or do we accept as a fundamental principle that we are here to serve individuals; that basically, the purpose in our life is to create a consumer society where we try to increase the degree of satisfaction available to the consumer and the degree of happiness we can give him by improving the quality of life? This question goes beyond the material benefits which we can provide for him. I believe our mission in life is to seek to serve people. Unfortunately, the established groups in society are altogether too successful in pressing home their views. I regret this because they are mostly minority groups compared to the great mass of consumers. They may be patients with bad eyes, bad feet or bad hearts or they may be people buying goods and services in some other category of the economy.
There would be no problem for the Government to be equitable in its treatment of the 2 professions and of the consumer, or the patient, by providing the benefits for the ophthalmologists and also for the optometrists. The Minister’s estimated cost of doing this was$2m, which is an extremely small amount of money when one considers that the Government’s Budget allocations amount to about $7,000m a year and that the total amount of wealth created in the community stands at about $27,000m. We can afford this sort of cost. The Bill is referred to as a National Health Bill but it ignores all the ancillary services such as para-medical services, including optometry, and medical services such as ophthalmology, and tries to perpetuate some sort of myth in the community. In relation to oral surgery it seems as though the Minister has a particularly suspicious mind towards some professional people. If I understand him correctly, he stated that the only way in which the Government felt it could be certain that the treatment provided was of a quasi-surgical nature was for it to be done in the operating theatre of a hospital. That was why the Government would not agree to the Opposition’s amendment that oral surgery treatment should be available in the surgery of an oral surgeon as well as in the operating theatre of a haspital. We do not believe that people are going to have operations on their mouths unnecessarily and that the benefits are going to be exploited and abused. We have trust in the professional people in our society.
I put the proposition again to the Government that it ought to be moving in a gradual way to try to expand the coverage of the health services into ophthalmic, optometrical and dental treatment. As the strength of the economy gathers, as it does because of natural growth factors and so on, it will be possible for more and more of these services to be absorbed by the economy and by this scheme. The National Health Bill will develop towards something that can really be said to provide for a national health service. As the Bill stands at present such a thing could not be said. I shall not go over the same grounds to which I referred earlier in relation to the bed subsidy.
I conclude on the low income subsidy. I have not been completely convinced by the Minister’s argument, although he may have a point. I would like to read his comments. There was a fair bit of hubbub in some parts of the chamber at the time he was speaking. If a person earning $49 a week or less is in receipt of some of these other means we have been talking about and he wanted to have them excluded for income assessment purposes it may be that under the Opposition’s amendment he would receive the benefit of the low income subsidy, but if these other means are not excluded such a person may be just over the limit. I would appreciate an opportunity to have a look at the Minister’s comments. I would wish to do so not because I will be speaking on this aspect, but because some of my colleagues will be.
Consideration resumed from 9 June (vide page 3191).
Clauses1 to 9 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Subject to this Act, the Director and each Assistant Director shall be paid salary at such rates, and such allowances, if any, as the GovernorGeneral determines.
– I move:
Omit the clause, insert the following clause: 10.- (1.) Subject to this Act, the Director and each Assistant Director shall be paid salary at such respective rates, and annual allowances tit any) at such respective rates, as the Parliament provides, but until the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and seventy-one, those salaries and allowances shall be as are prescribed. (2.) The Director and each Assistant Director shall be paid such other allowances as are prescribed.’.
Earlier this afternoon the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) indicated that the Government accepted a similar amendment to 3 other Bills. The argument was then advanced as to why this amendment should be accepted. The previous amendments were accepted by the Government and I understand that this amendment will be also accepted. There docs not seem to be any good reason why I should continue talking on this amendment when argument has been advanced in relation to it earlier this afternoon. I commend the Government for indicating that it intends to accept this amendment. 1 feel that the principle involved is a good one in certain instances. The provision relates to the statutory body of a commercial undertaking. I think the Parliament should have the authority to fix the salaries and allowances which are paid to the Director and other senior officers of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation.
– The Government is prepared to accept this amendment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 11 to 15 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 16 (Consultative Committee)
– On behalf of the Austral an Labor Party, I move:
The Australian Labor Party believes that the functions of the consultative committee, which is the subject of clause 16 of the Bill, could be fulfilled by the Director of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation. Perhaps I should quote clause 16 for the benefit of those people who are sufficiently interested to read Hansard. Clause 16 states: (1.) For the purposes of this Act, there shall be a Consultative Committee, consisting of six mein bers, namely:
The Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation should be free to operate anywhere in the Commonwealth as a statutory corporation. Clause 16 has been included in the Bill because the Liberal Party is afraid that the Corporation will operate too efficiently and too competitively for private enterprise. Why should it not be able to operate in competition with private enterprise? I refer to clause 24 of the Bill, which states:
In the exercise of its functions the Corporation shall pursue a policy directed towards securing, in each financial year, revenue sufficient -
to meet the expenditure of the Corporation properly chargeable to revenue of thai year;
to enable the Corporation to make provision for income lax; and
to permit the paymentto the Commonwealth of a reasonable return on the capital of the Corporation.
In other words, the Corporation must meet its own costs, must pay income tax and must make a reasonable profit. If the Corporation is to operate commercially at a profit why should it be hamstrung by a provision that it can take on only those jobs which the consultative committee recommends to the Minister it should do. Honourable members may have noticed that clause 16 of the Bill provides that 2 members of the consultative committee shall be representatives of the engineering profession. The clause does not state that the consultative committee must consist of 2 members who are professional engineers; it states that it must consist of 2 members who are representatives of the engineering profession. So that a representative of a consultative firm which is in competition with the Corporation may be sitting on the consultative committee and he may say to the Minister: Do not let the Snowy Mountains Corporation come in on this one’. This is an iniquitous proposition. This clause should not be included in the Bill.
Another requirement is that the other members of the consultative committee shall be public servants. I have never known a public servant who has been able to make a quid in his life. I would not like to see members of the Commonwealth Public Service in this organisation because its object is to make a profit. If this corporation is to make a profit it has to operate along commercial lines. The Director of the Corporation should be given complete discretion over the way in which the organisation is run. He should not have to seek the opinion of a committee which consists of representatives of private enterprises which refers propositions to the Minister. If the consultative committee holds up its deliberations on the merit of a proposition and the Minister holds up any decision the Snowy Mountains Corporation could miss out on aquiring the consulting job which it wishes to apply for because of the time factor involved.
I do not think I need to say very much more about this amendment because it is self-explanatory. This provision in relation to a consultative committee is included in the Bill so that the committee can be made to operate as an agent of private enterprise in the engineering consultative field in Australia. This ties in with the general Liberal approach to statutory corporations because the Liberal Party believes that this statutory corporation once set up will operate far more efficiently under a Labor Party administration. If the Corporation is to operate as a commercial undertaking as the Government intends, the Government must be consistent and at least allow the Director of the Corporation the right to direct its affairs in the way he sees fit. The Government should agree to the deletion of this stupid clause relating to the consultative committee. I ask the Committee to support the amendment.
– I am glad that the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) referred to the question of efficiency because efficiency has been the very foundation of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority and I am sure it will be the foundation of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation. All honourable members on the Government side and I am sure all honourable members of the Opposition appreciate the tremendous service that has been provided by the Authority and the skills that it has acquired, to the benefit of the nation as a whole. We believe that the skills, knowledge and high standard of efficiency will be carried by the Corporation into its new sphere of activity. The Government, of course, cannot accept the proposed amendment moved by the Opposition and insists that the clause remain in the Bill.
As has been mentioned, clause 16 sets up a consultative committee. I do not think that the Committee would happily accept the criticism of some membership of the committee by the honourable member for Blaxland who referred in a disparaging way to the Commonwealth Public Service. I have more faith in the Commonwealth Public Service, as I am sure my friend the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) has, and we all believe that the dedication of the senior officers of the Public Service who would be appointed to this committee would make sure that the committee operated in accordance with the intentions of the Government and would be of assistance to the Corporation. As has been outlined, it is intended that the committee membership will comprise 2 major government users of the consultants. This is quite significant because the consultative committee will include representatives of the Commonwealth Department of Works and the Department of National Development. In addition 2 persons nominated by the Australian Institution of Engineers will be representative of the wide body of private consultants throughout Australia. For overseas work it is intended that there will be added to the committee representatives of the Department of External Affairs and the Department of Trade and Industry. If we look broadly at this, I am sure that honourable members will see that it will be a balanced committee capable of providing the best possible advice which will be in the best interests of the Corporation and of the country, in association with work that will be undertaken by the Corporation in future.
In contradiction to the honourable member for Blaxland, I would have complete faith in the personnel that eventually will be appointed to the consultative committee. I know that the Corporation will welcome working with this committee and being able to accept its advice particularly on many matters which would concern overseas operations. For the various reasons that were mentioned in my second reading speech, the Government wishes to see this clause retained in the Bill.
– The main reason why the Opposition moved the amendment for the deletion of clause 16 was because it is such a wide provision.
We believe that the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority has shown its efficiency and has been able to manage if own affairs. It has, to paraphrase the word of the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz), operated very satisfactorily. His predecessor, the honourable member foi Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), has said on numerous occasions how pleased he has been with its efficiency in costing, construction and design and in estimating the time of completing works in the Snowy area. Yet when the Government proposes to set up a commercial undertaking which will compete with private enterprise, particularly overseas, which will be asked by private enterprise to do work in Australia and which will be asked to do work by Commonwealth, State and local government authorities, the Government hedges the Corporation with a consultative committee. Nowhere in the clause is it suggested who the representatives on that committee will be. The clause states that the committee shall consist of 6 members. Four members will be appointed in relation to engineering works in Australia and elsewhere, of whom 2 shall be representative of the engineering profession. Those 2 representatives could come from private consultants - from one of the big engineering construction firms. There is no mention of whether the other 2 members are to be Government appointees or whether they are to be representatives from outside the Commonwealth Public Service or outside the Corporation itself. Two members of the committee are to be appointed in relation to engineering works outside Australia. No mention is made of who they shall be. All these members will bc appointed by the Minister for National Development. The present Minister is an honourable man and can be trusted, but his successor might not be able to be trusted. He might be even more violently opposed to governmental instrumentalities than the present Minister and this clause would give him the right to fetter the Corporation with a consultative committee that could prevent it from undertaking any work at all. Sub-clause (3.) of clause 1 6 states:
The manner in which the Consultative Committee shall conduct its business (including the manner in which it is to reach decisions) shall be as determined by the Minister in writing.
What does that mean? What is the Government’s intention? What is the Minister’s intention with respect to the consultative committee? Sub-clause (4.) states:
The Minister may request the Consultative Committee to advise him whether a function of the Corporation under the next succeeding section should be exercised by the Corporation in respect of a particular engineering work-
I can assure you, Mr Chairman, that if 1 were the Minister in charge of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation 1 would take advantage of the word ‘may’ in that sub-clause. I would never request the consultative committee to meet. 1 would make certain that the Director or Acting Director of the Corporation exercised his own judgment as to whether the Corporation would perform a function under the provisions of the Bill. Sub-clause (S.) states:
Where a member of the Committee disagrees wilh the advice that the Committee proposes lo furnish lo the Minister on a matter that member may furnish his separate advice to the Minister on that mailer.
If it is going to be a strong consultative committee - and 1 have the idea that many members on the Government side want it to be a consultative committee that will hamstring the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation - is the Minister going to agree with the advice of 1 member of that committee or is he going to accept the majority decision? Why give 1 member of the committee the right to give advice when the purpose of the whole committee is lo advise the Minister? Why give 1 man the right to put in a minority report? Why not work in the way that we work in this Parliament, on a majority decision? This is the way we work in our caucuses. Why allow in a private committee of this type - a committee under the direct control of the Minister - I member of the right to submit a separate report? There is no indication in this clause whether the Minister shall or shall not take that advice. Doe; he take the minority advice? Does he take the majority advice? Or does he take no notice of the advice at all? The clause is not necessary. No similar provision was in the legislation relating to the Snowy Mountains Authority. The Snowy Mountains Authority was not a commercial undertaking. I am reasonably certain that the Minister has been connected with outside business enterprises. No firm sets up a consultative committee that can advise its general manager. But that is the kind of procedure that this clause seeks to implement. 1 cannot help but feel that the insertion of this clause is a knee bending exercise to the private engineering organisations in Australia and also a knee bending exercise to the consultants, foreign and Australian, that operate in Australia. 1 said last night in my speech at the second reading stage that if the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation is to be a commercial undertaking it has to be given freedom to act on its own initiative. They are the reasons, added to the ones already given by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), why we believe this clause should not be in the Bill.
– I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) and I commend it to the Committee. lt will be extremely difficult to make the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation an organisation which will be able to play its part as an equal of other organisations in the wide world of business after the dismemberment of the Snowy Mountains Authority, lt forms just a part, a segment, just a small piece of what was once a great and wonderful organisation. Today we consider what is to become of it. how it is to function and whether there is to be a consultative committee. I think it is the responsibility of the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) to bring to the attention of honourable members just how this consultative committee, can render useful service, how it can obtain business, how it can promote the Corporation and how it can do a better job than the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority has been able to do in the past.
If we read the reports of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority we will find chapter after chapter on the outstanding work that has been performed by this wonderful organisation not only in many parts of Australia but throughout the world. Will this consultative committee preserve the dynamic features of the Snowy Mountain Authority? From what the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating^ and the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) have said. I am convinced it will not. It must hamstring, restrict and tie up the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation so it will be less effective than the Snowy Mountains Authority has been in the past.
I believe that the Government consciously and deliberately wants this to be so. It wants to put the brakes on the Corporation. It does not want the Corporation to be an effective organisation building its empire and eventually becoming, as we would like it to become, a great project designer and builder of water conservation schemes. This clause will indeed apply the brakes because a consultative committee has all the questionable features that should not be accepted.
The honourable member for Blaxland pointed out the types of people who may be engaged on the consultative committee. I refer to people not concerned about the development of the committee, people with an eye on big business in other fields and people who perhaps have some ties with other commercial activities or engineering firms. They could be accountants or business advisers. Surely this is not what we want. If the Corporation is to be able to succeed in the way in which the Snowy Mountains Authority has been able to succeed in the past - it has been able to pay its way - it will return great dividends to this country in terms of dollars and cents. The Snowy Mountains Authority is bringing great wealth to this country from the water that it is making available freely to people in the areas served by the Snowy Mountains scheme. As its financial affairs in respect of the generation and sale of electricity have proved so eminently satisfactory, I can see no reason to depart from the basic structure which has characterised the activities of the Snowy Mountains Authority in the past.
The proposed Corporation will be no more nor less than a prop for big business, an aid for big business, to be associated with big business so that big business, when involved in some situation, will be able to call on the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation to assist it to do a job of work to earn dividends for it. The work will not advance this nation’s development projects but will merely provide gain for people who have vested interests. From my point of view, I find it extremely difficult to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. I believe that the Snowy Mountains Authority is doomed, despite our efforts and the constructive, creative thoughts we have directed towards making something out of this
Authority. We are doomed to failure, and the Government has made up its mind that this will be so.
Clause agreed to.
Clause1 7. (1.) Subject to this section, the functions of the Corporation are -
– I move:
This amendment relates to the clause which denies the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation the right to engage in the construction of engineering works within Australia. We on this side of the House believe that this destroys the very spirit of the Corporation. For many years now those thousands of Australians who take pride in their country’s achievements and triumphs have found satisfaction and inspiration in the successes of the Snowy Mountains Authority. Our overseas visitors, newspaper editors, and particularly our engineers - in fact everyone - recognises that the Snowy Mountains scheme epitomises all that is to be admired in Australia and that it is our best example of Australian getupandgo. Even the former Minister for National Development, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), a man dedicated, it would seem, to presiding over the death of the Snowy Mountains Authority, was unstinting in his praise of the Snowy Mountains scheme. On 28th August 1969 he is reported as having told the nation:
In this regard I would remind members that although we may be approaching the stage of taking the Snowy Mountains scheme for granted, it is still the largest development project ever undertaken in Australia, and will possibly remain the largest ever undertaken.
He must have expected that, with such limited vision, he would have remained in office forever. He continued:
Its basic concepts and the skill, drive and imagination with which they have been carried out have received world acclaim. The hard won skills acquired in such an undertaking would not be dissipated.
Of course, despite his words on that occasion, it is well known and well documented that he had been actively engaged in dissipating the hard won skills for some years past. Now our worst fears have been confirmed, not to our surprise, by the successor to this former Minister. The Bill introduced by the present Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) completely emasculates the Snowy Mountains Authority by the simple device of denying it the right to continue in the fields of construction activities in Australia. The Minister’s second reading speech brought to my mind some lines written by the South African poet, Roy Campbell. He wrote:
You have to praise their firm restraint I’m with you there of course: They use the snaffle and the curb But where’s the bloody horse?
We may well ask: Where is the scope to use the hard won skills and services of the Snowy Mountains Authority under this Bill? For in denying the Corporation the right to the construction of, or the performance of any work in relation to, engineering works in Australia the Government is removing from the Corporation the very element which gave to the Corporation, or the Authority, its essential character. Sir William Hudson expressed concern that the team spirit of the Authority would disappear if the Authority switched to design and consulting work. In short, Sir William was convinced that the vital nexus between design and construction was the source from which the special character of the Authority emanated. Sir William also expressed the view that he had always hoped that the Authority would be used in the same way as the United States Bureau of Reclamation, which had engaged in construction projects all over America. And who better than Sir William to express an authoritative view - a view worthy not only of consideration but also of acceptance?
There is no doubt that the Authority’s success is derived in no small measure from its esprit de corps and it is this esprit de corps which this Government, through the agency of the Minister for National Development and his precedessor is determined to destroy. It is demonstrably true that men are by their very nature creative beings who derive satisfaction from the willing performance of productive activities and there is no doubt that work on the Snowy Mountains scheme, by virtue of its national importance, by virtue of the magnitude of the tasks undertaken and by virtue of the inherent challenge to those in both higher and lower echelons, inspired the work force, just as their success inspired the Australian people. It is little wonder then that within the Authority there existed an esprit de corps that was without parallel in this nation’s history. It is little wonder then that this Government quickly recognised, as even the meanest talent would, that the dismemberment of this great
Authority would best be done, even if not quickly, by attacking that esprit de corps, by demoralising the Authority’s work force, and this was, and is, the ignoble job to which the Minister and his predecessor addressed themselves.
The Government and the then Minister must have been encouraged by a report in the ‘Australian’ newspaper of 10th June 1967 by Mr Anthony Curtis who found unrest and apathy as the men from the Snowy faded away. Mr Curtis wrote that the men of the Snowy: . . were washed up as a construction force, but ‘elements’ of their investigation, design and scientific services staff, plus a few administrators, would still have a job.
According to Mr Curtis the questions the men from the Snowy were asking were: Who will form the elements?’ ‘What work will they undertake?’ These questions, 3 years later almost to the day, have still not been answered. The situation as it existed then is the situation that exists today.
Mr Dann, the Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Authority, is still respected but is still referred to privately as ‘the undertaker’ because he still has the invidious task of having to attend to the Authority’s final dismemberment and even demise. The hypocrisy of this Bill as it stands is evidenced by the fact that the Government is prepared to allow the Snowy Mountains Authority to compete with foreign enterprise in foreign lands. This indicates that the Government agrees with the Australian Labor Party and the people of Australia that the Snowy Mountains Authority is a magnificent construction authority, capable of holding its own in any land. Why then is the Government prepared to allow foreigners to reap the benefit of this world class construction authority and yet deny these same benefits to the people of Australia? Can the Government give us an assurance that it has nol made some deal with foreign corporations to give them unrestricted access to Australian resources for no other reasons than their own private profit? Why is the Government giving such an open cheque to foreign enterprise when the records show that in this field we have one of the finest construction authorities in the world? Is the Government afraid that the Snowy Mountains Corporation will be too efficient and effective for these foreign interests to compete with within Australia? ls the Government afraid of competition in Australia? It obviously does not care about competition in foreign lands since the Bill allows the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation to compete as a construction authority anywhere except in Australia.
Labor initiated the Snowy River project and Labor, in consultation with the States, would carry through without interruption a programme of planned development, or further irrigation, electrification, road building and so on. This clause of the Bill is merely further evidence of the Government’s determination to put the riches of our country at the mercy of foreign enterprise and comes as no surprise from the Liberal Party which sees any national effort, be it the Snowy Mountains Authority or the Australian Industry Development Corporation, as a threat to its friends who could not care less about the welfare of the Australian people. I hope that the Government will give due regard to this amendment.
– The Government does not accept this amendment. At a later stage I will move an amendment to this clause. However, I shall refer to that later. The purpose of clause 17 is to set out the functions and powers of the Corporation. The reason for the establishment of the Corporation has been explained in my second reading speech and in statements to the House by my predecessor. The Corporation is a means - and a very satisfactory means - of retaining for use in Australia an organisation which has played a very important part in our development. After the conclusion of major construction work on what has been the largest engineering programme in Australia we will be retaining for use in a variety of ways a very substantial number of very skilled personnel who will carry into a new field the skills which they have shown under the previous authority. Clause 17 sets out the functions which, briefly, are to carry out investigations and furnish advice on materials used in engineering works, the siting and design of engineering works and the supervision of contracts for such works.
The amendment moved on behalf of the Opposition by the honourable member for Batman (Mr Garrick) relates to overseas work or work outside Australia. The clause as it stands allows the Corporation to engage in construction activities or to supervise construction. We feel that this gives to the Corporation an opportunity to pursue in a very substantial way the excellent work which it has shown it was capable of undertaking in Australia in the past. On these grounds we feel that the clause should remain as it is and we therefore will not accept the amendment.
– The contribution made by the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) was, as one would expect, disappointing. But we are certainly nol disillusioned. We expected the Minister to make such a statement because there is a watershed of fundamental difference between (he attitudes of the Australian Labor Party and the Government on this matter. The amendment moved by the honourable member for Batman (Mr Garrick) clearly puts this matter into its correct perspective for the Labor Party believes in the establishment of a construction authority. We are not satisfied that there should be only a consultative body to gather information and furnish it to people who ask for it. This nation has immense problems: great jobs need to be undertaken for development. Just as the visionaries in years gone by saw the great problems of the Snowy and agitated for work to commence on this wonderful undertaking - work which was begun during the period of a Labor Government - so too today we on this side of the House see the challenges that exist in this country and the need to employ the skills of the work force of the Snowy Mountains Authority, the great team that has won world acclaim for its efforts, in the development of this country.
The Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation Bill establishes a restricted technical consultative Corporation. But this is not enough. This kind of organisation cannot achieve the goals that we feel should be sought at this time in the development of our continent. The Opposition is firmly committed to the formation of a national conservation authority. Without any doubt, in office we would establish such an authority. We would do this by retaining the skills that are at present available in the Snowy Mountains Authority. We would build this organisation to meet the great tasks that lie ahead. Our attitude is supported by people in all walks of life. Perhaps the greatest witness in support of a construction authority that we could bring to the attention of this Committee is none other than Sir William Hudson, the former head of the Snowy Mountains Authority, who did so much in the great physical development of this work and who, in addition, was able to sell this project to the people of Australia. On 28th March 1968 the ‘Canberra Times’ headed its editorial with the words “The Death of a Giant’. We do not want to see the death of this giant. We want the Snowy Mountains organisation to be kept intact as a construction authority so that public works in this country may proceed. An article in the ‘Australian’ on 19th October 1967 was headed ‘We are too Smug, says Snowy Man’. That was a reference to Sir William Hudson. An article in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on 6th January 1967 was headed ‘Engineers warn of Snowy Team’s Break-up.’
Those headings are true. Since the Government indicated that it intended to vacate this important developmental field the number of skilled personnel employed by the Authority has fallen each year. In 1966- 67 there were 71 fewer such employees than in the preceding year. In 1967-68 the number had fallen by a further 149 and in 1968-69 by a further 144. lt is circumstances such as these that irk and worry me. Members of the Country Party, including the former honourable member for Gwydir, Mr Ian Allan, have advocated the use of an authority such as the Snowy Mountains Authority. A newspaper article of 29th June 1967 under the heading ‘CP Hopes for Federal Aid on River Plan’ reads:
Country Party backbenchers hope the Federal Government will provide some financial assistance in the Budget lo be brought down in August to help establish a Darling River Conservation Authority.
I ask the Minister and the Government: Are there no great works we might undertake on the Murray and Darling systems? Think of the water that now pours into the sea from the Tweed, the Richmond, the Clarence and the Macleay Rivers on the north coast of New South Wales, devastating the countryside as it does, causing havoc whenever it rains and involving large expenditures of money in flood mitigation work. How wonderful it would be if this surplus water could be diverted to the western side of the Great Dividing Range, ls this not a challenge to be accepted by this Parliament? Surely this is one of the great tasks facing us. The Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ on 10th July 1962 contained an editorial headed ‘Need for a National Water Plan’. Of course there is need for a national water plan. There is need for co-ordination of State and Commonwealth activity in this field. There is a responsibility on everybody in this country to harness our water resources for the development of this country. In its report dated 1 1 th December 1 945 on irrigation, water conservation and land drainage the Rural Reconstruction Commission referred to the need to harvest the waters of our southern rivers if our population is to grow to about 25 million. The report was submitted to the Honourable J. J. Dedman, who was then Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. Of course our population will grow, as will the populations of our neighbouring countries. There will be a hungry world to feed in the future just as there is today. Perhaps some enlightened government in the future will be prepared to do a little more than has this parsimonious Government, which gave a paltry $15,000 for the relief of devastated Peru, where 40,000 or 50,000 people lost their lives and where whole communities were wiped out. The Government’s miserable attitude is reflected in its approach to the cause that we are now considering. The Rural Reconstruction Commission reported:
In view of the vital importance of irrigation in the future of Australia’s rural development, the Commission recommends -
that the maximum economic development of irrigation should be regarded as a national objective;
that an all-Australian co-ordinated plan for irrigation development should be drawn up in which the long-term needs should be carefully considered;
that the survey of river catchments and the recording of river gaugings should be encouraged so as lo supply the fundamental data on which future satisfactory irrigation schemes may be based:
that the methods of distributing and using water in existing irrigation schemes should be Mud icd so as to devise means whereby water may be more effectively used in the future than it has been in the past:
Those recommendations have fallen on deaf ears since this Government came to power. i make this final plea at this requiem for the great Snowy Mountains Authority - at these death rites of the Authority - to the Government or at least to some Government supporters who will allow their consciences to be aroused, for this is no small matter. This is a major matter. Such people as Professor C. H. Munro have argued a case for the establishment of a Darling basin authority as a national undertaking. The Darling River gets its water from Queensland and New South Wales. There is a need for a national undertaking to examine these matters. An article in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ on 27th October 1967 was headed ‘Snowy-size Plans needed on SMA.’ An article in the same newspaper on 27th September 1967 was headed ‘Retain Snowy Skills - Hudson’. An article on 26th September 1967 was headed ‘Sir William Hits Snowy Loss’. Those articles in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ support the arguments that we on this side of the chamber have advanced this afternoon. i can only hope (hat an annoyed community will take up the case that has been put to the Parliament by members of the Opposition.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
Consideration resumed (vide page 3240).
– I know the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) is anxious to say a few words in regard to these requests from the Senate. I understand that the requests before the Committee at the moment are 1 to 7.
– Except 4.
– Firstly i would like to say that i am grateful for the acquiescence of the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) in making available the copies of the statement about which there was discussion prior to dinner this evening. One of the matters which is before the Committee at the present time concerns the proposal to make available to all persons who are hospitalised the Commonwealth benefit of S2 per day. i know this matter would be to the gratification of honourable members who represent Queensland electorates. I think it is to the credit of those who have been responsible for these amendments that this anomaly which has been outstanding for such a long time has now, probably without the enthusiasm of the Government, been overcome. The fact of the matter is that for a long time in Queensland free hospitalisation has been available and as a result of this provision the Commonwealth has declined to make benefits available. As I understand it, if the request of the Senate is conceded - and I believe it is to be conceded though probably not in the precise form in which the request is made but in a general way - it is intended that all patients who undergo hospitalisation in that State will now receive this benefit. There is some speculation and I believe it is important for the Minister to clarify this point in connection with public hospitals in other States which under the provisions of a means test make free hospitalisation available to certain people. I know that honourable members from New South Wales will be aware of these provisions.
It is a provision which places very onerous financial obligations on the States concerned and the effect of it is that the States, in recognition of the fact that people who are not members of hospital funds but require hospitalisation and are unable to pay for it just have to be provided with hospitalisation. These people are admitted to hospitals and to public wards provided they measure up to a certain criterion as far as a means test is concerned. The general effect of the means test in New South Wales is to take the income of the person concerned and then, having deducted from it an amount which represents the payments on the person’s home and making allowances for each dependant, in circumstances where there is an amount less than the basic wage remaining that person is admitted to a public hospital. It seems to me it is now beyond doubt that the Queensland public hospital system will be included in the provisions to which I have referred; that is to say, S2 per day will be made available to persons hospitalised in Queensland in all circumstances. But what I would be very anxious to know from the Minister is whether this provision is to apply to other States and especially to the hospitals to which I have referred.
This is an important breakthrough. One wonders what the total cost to the Queensland Government has been through the Commonwealth’s failure to be more sympathetic about this matter over the years. It must amount to some millions of dollars. I understand that every person who goes into a public ward in Queensland will now benefit by way of a direct payment, to the hospital rather than to the patient, of $2 per day. Is the same provision to apply to other States where persons are admitted to public hospitals in consideration of their inadequate means? There are other provisions which are before the Committee at the present time. I confess I have not had the opportunity to go through them w:th care but I may possibly be able to speak again later.
One matter concerns the proposal that benefits should be made available for persons who receive treatment from ophthalmologists, particularly refraction treatment. I am given to understand it is not the intention of the Government to accept this amendment which was moved in this House, was subsequently supported in another place and has come back here by way of a message from another place. The Minister has said that if persons who avail themselves of the services of ophthalmologists are assisted in every way it would be to the disadvantage of optometrists who engage in a sim:lar practice, the practice of providing refraction treatment. It seems to me to be an alarming situation when patients over the country and doctors in many circumstances are contending that refraction treatment should be the subject of benefit by way of the national health scheme, when the Opposition has favoured this proposal as have some Government supporters in this House and when, in addition, a favourable response has come from senators in another place about the matter, that the Minister finally says ‘No, we are not going to give effect to this suggestion because we have not yet contrived the means by which we give equal treatment to the 2 professions which engage in the provision of refraction treatment’.
I think one of the Minister’s problems is that there is an inadequacy of legislative provisions in the various States. In fact, if my memory serves me correctly, he has made specific mention of those. In other words, because of the inadequacy of the Government in this matter and because it has failed to apply itself to the need to register people to demonstrate their capacity so that the public at large can be protected, and because there has been a lack of uniformity in training requirements and matters of this kind, the Government is now saying ‘We are not prepared to include refraction treatment in the benefits system under the national health scheme’. There is little doubt that many people who go in the first place to general practitioners and who are then referred to ophthalmologists have a genuine and fundamental medical need and are involved in very considerable cost in undergoing this treatment. I believe it is to the discredit of the Government that it is not prepared to accept this proposal which has come from another place and which has the support of many honourable members here simply because it has been unable to contrive the means by which some kind of equitable treatment can be given to 2 sections of the profession. It is well known that the Opposition has for many years in this House supported proposals to give benefits to patients of ophthalmologists and optometrists. I believe it is now necessary for the Government to apply itself to this matter more earnestly than it has in the past in order to provide registration arrangements so that in the not too far distant future the message which has come from the Senate on this occasion can be given effect to and by this means the national health scheme can be made more effective in regard to optometrical and ophthalmological treatment.
Mr REYNOLDS (Barton) [8.10J- 1 would like to say a few words about the requests numbered 1 and 7 received from the Senate in respect to services rendered by optometrists and ophthalmologists. First of all, I do not go back at all on anything that I said in the debate on the second reading when 1 accused the Government of being guilty of a clear breach of faith in depriving patients of protection from high fees by a particular group of specialists. The specialists I refer to are the ophthalmologists. I understand that the cost in New South Wales - and it is much the same in other States - of a first and second consultation adds up to about $15. This means that the Government’s promise that where a common fee is charged no medical service will cost a patient more than $5 is not going to be adhered to in this sphere. 1 was sorry to hear that the reason given for this breach of faith was because of the relationship with optometrists and the like service which they provide as far as refraction tests are concerned. The optometrist service has been described as an ancillary service and apparently the Government is not at this stage prepared to bring in a comprehensive coverage of such service within the national health scheme.
In describing the optometrist service as an ancillary service I remind the Minister for Health and the Government that even in this Bill the services of an optometrist are given professional recognition. For the first time the optometrist will receive under this legislation the right of referral. That right carries with it the implication that the Government recognises that optometrists, apart from measuring eyesight, are professionally capable of detecting diseases of the eye. Optometrists have never made the claim that they are capable of treating diseases of the eye. They have always regarded it as their professional responsibility to refer such persons to ophthalmologists or, as some people may call them, eye specialists who. because of their medical training, are capable of carrying out proper treatment. Ophthalmologists have reminded us on several occasions that besides securing a medical degree which incurred 6 years of university training they have also had to undergo 4 years of post-graduate training to fit them for their task. I do not want anything that I say to be construed as a suggestion that patients attending ophthalmologists ought not to be getting the protection of the national health scheme. But I see no reason whatsoever why the Government should use this business of the relationhip of optometrists to ophthalmologists as the reason for depriving many thousands of patients of the benefits promised by this Government during the last election campaign.
Besides the recognition of the right of referral given in this Bill to optometrists there are other indicators of the professional status of optometrists, and there is no reason why they should not have been included in this scheme. The health schemes in overseas countries do give widespread recognition to the services rendered by optometrists. This is so in the United Kingdom where up to 90% of persons receiving eye care ultimately receive that care from an optometrist. In the United States of America, Canada and in various parts of Europe, optometrists have professional service to render under the health care schemes operating in those countries. A further point I want to make is that in every State of Australia the services of optometrists are recognised in State Acts. In at least 3 States optometrists receive university training. This training is recognised by many universities. In New South Wales there is recognition in the Faculty of Optometry which involves a professional course of 4 years training. In Victoria the training covers a period of 5 years.
A point which will interest every patient who seeks eye care is that 60% of the Australian public still go to optometrists to receive treatment for eyes. Therefore, by debarring patients who attend either the ophthalmologist or optometrist we are in fact depriving many thousands of people of Commonwealth benefits in respect to a very important service. I think that none of us needs to be reminded just how important eye care is. If any of us here contemplates what it would be like to lose the sense of sight he will have a very strong appreciation of the importance of eye care and eye protection. As I said before, this service is professionally offered by 2 groups of people - the ophthalmologists and the optometrists. I think it is a poor show on the part of the Government to use the difference of professional regard in respect to these 2 groups of people to debar Australians of the benefit of their services.
The Minister in his speech did say - and I particularly draw his attention to this - that one of the reasons why the Government was not prepared to grant this benefit was that to accept the 2 relevant amendments as requested by the Senate would be to the financial disadvantage of the patients who attend optometrists. This may simply be because the amendments had to be constructed in somewhat of a hurry. In my view the whole circumstances in which this Bill was originally discussed in this chamber was a downright shame. Honourable members will recall that a guillotine was imposed and we had to try to discuss the amendments in a very limited time, so limited in fact that some amendments were not even moved. I think that this is a standing disgrace to the operation of the parliamentary procedures of this House. It had to be left to the Senate to deal in an extensive way with the various amendments which the Australian Labor Party wanted to move.
Coming back to the pointI was making, I want to suggest to the Minister that he has not taken into account our intention in moving those amendments, and that was that we expected that the patients attending optometrists would attract the benefits in respect of 2 professional services, namely refraction tests and the prescription of spectacles. In that regard I suggest that optometrists charging about $8.50 for the 2 services would not, if they attracted benefits for both attendances, be disadvantaged. In fact it may be that patients of optometrists will in the overall picture be charged 20c less for the services that they receive. I will not argue that point to any length but I challenge the Minister on his estimate of the relative cost to the patient in the 2 different professional groups.
Another important point which we should realise is that even though the Government has denied Commonwealth benefits to the patients of either ophthalmologists or optometrists there is still operating a discrimination against optometrists, particularly in New South Wales. This discrimination does not exist in every State but in New South Wales the major open funds, the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia and the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia, do provide fund benefits to patients of ophthalmologists but not to patients of optometrists. I think it is unfair. After all, these funds operate within the province of the National health scheme. I do not think they have any right to make this discrimination. It particularly penalises patients in outback areas. They have no access to ophthalmologists even if they choose to attend such persons. Therefore the ophthalmologists are discriminated against too. It is not a case of discrimination against one profession or another; it is a case of discrimination against one patient who chooses freely to go to an ophthalmologist rather than to an optometrist. Time is running out on me. I might take time later, if it is afforded me, to speak on the other matter 1 am concerned about which is the $2 Commonwealth benefit in respect of hospitalisation.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. [Quorum formed.] ‘
Mr MAISEY (Moore) 1.8.21]- I am supporting the course of action proposed by the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) in respect of these proposed amendments. However 1 want to make some observations about 2 of the proposals. They are proposed amendments No. I and No. 7. I refer first lo proposed amendment No. 1. I want to make these observations because I believe they clearly indicate that there is a need at some future time for the Minister lo give this position some attention. An anomaly definitely exists. Since 1953, when the national health scheme began, there has been the peculiar exclusion of the patients of eye specialists from receiving benefits for consultations with their doctor. Consider the cases of 2 patients sent to a specialist by a general practitioner for the investigation of headaches. After a complete medical examination of their eyes I patient is found to have nothing wrong. He receives a full rebate. This “s also the case if he is found to have some disease which is treated. But the other patient is found simply to need glasses for the relief of his symptoms. They are ordered by the doctor but the patient loses the benefit of his rebate.
Obviously th is is a ludicrous situation. The original intent of the National Health Act was to have the consultations of all doctors covered by medical benefits. However, when optometrists claimed that they would lose clients if doctors fees were partly paid by the Commonwealth and applied for benefits to cover their own sight testing, the Government refused to pay these paramedical benefits but rescinded the benefit that rightly should have been paid to the patients of doctors. 1-hs seems lo me to be a completely unfair method of solving the problem. I have been told that Sim a year is a conservative estimate of the amount lost to patients in this manner. Whether optometrists are in need of economic assistance is beside the point. In the
Sydney ‘Sun’ of 25th August 1969, in an article discussing vocations open to young people leaving school, members of the Australian Optometrical Association were quoted as saying that optometrists upon graduation could expect a salary of $6,000 to $8,000 a year and, when they became established, an income of SI 2.000 to $14,000 a year, and that there was a shortage of 200 optometrists in Australia. lt seems to me therefore that optometrists certainly fare rather better than some Ministers of the Crown. Be that as it may, the first duty of the Government must be to supply the best type of medical service, whether it involves the treatment of the heart, blood pressure, kidney disease or the eyes.
I am told by friends who are medical specialists that there are many eve diseases which, by their symptoms, lead the patient to think that he simply needs glasses. If these diseases are detected when the patient seeks glasses then a very great deal can be done to reduce the incidence of blindness in the Australian community. However, as only doctors are qualified to detect such diseases it is obvious that people should bc encouraged and not discouraged to seek medical examination at an early lime and at regular intervals. For 16 years the Government, in the admitted economic interests of optometrists, has discouraged people from seeking such attention and has made it impossible for people who cannot afford medical fees to attend specialists because they might not get their rebate.
The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) promised that no medical service would cost more than S5. But unless this proposed amendment is attended to at some future time the withdrawal of the Commonwealth benefit in such cases will leave more than $5 for the patient to pay, when the common fee is charged by an eye specialist, for a visit at which glasses are ordered. I believe that the Government should honour its financial promises at some future date. Further, the Government has a moral obligation to the Australian taxpayers to pay for an ophthalmologist’s consultation in exactly the same way as it does for any other medical specialist whether or not glasses are prescribed. Failure to do this would be admitting that the Government is failing to support a vital medical service to an estimated 300,000 health scheme contributors a year for the purpose of supporting the economic interests of optometrists who are unqualified to supply the best and a complete service. I would like at some future time tonight to continue my remarks about proposed amendment No. 7.
–In declining to recognise the need to provide a benefit for the prescription of glasses, the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) may be underrating the importance of this to patients. The Opposition sees this as an ancillary but not directly a medical service. After all’, people who need glasses need them every bit as much as many people who have all sorts of minor operative and plastic procedures performed on them for which they are given the benefit of the Government’s aid in the form of medical benefit. In other words, whilst the provision of glasses does not happen to be a traditional medical service in the way in which one might view a surgical procedure, the need for glasses often can be more vital for the welfare of the patient than many other medical services. However, that is probably whipping a dead horse.
I refer now to the issue of the second proposed amendment. This relates to the omission of the words ‘in an operating theatre of an approved hospital’ so that dentists providing various dental services also come within the ambit of the legislation allowing such patients to receive a medical benefit. In refusing to accept this amendment the Government is hinting to dentists that they might more often treat their patients in operating theatres at hospitals rather than in their dental surgeries. Treatment in the dental surgery would be perfectly adequate, assuming that general anaesthesia is not necessary. I certainly subscribe to the view that if a patient requires a general anaesthetic it ought to be provided in an operating theatre. It should not be done by the dentist in the surgery. However there are many procedures which constitute surgical procedures which can be done quite adequately under local anaesthetic in a dentist’s consulting room and which also can be done in an operating theatre. If the dentists are wide awake I am quite sure that is what they will do. So I think the Government is defeating itself by not recognising this. After all, the pro cedures can still be defined, but the Government will1 not be able to argue about whether they should best be done in an operating theatre or a dentist’s surgery. If the dentist claims that an abscess is of such a dimension that he feels it would be better done in an operating theatre - in addition the patient gets a rebate - the Government will not be able to argue against that. I would like to suggest that there are other procedures also which come into the same category. I do not believe the Government would be laying itself open to huge expense by allowing a dentist to perform these procedures in his own surgery. 1 do not think there is any need to whip this subject very much further. In conclusion, I would like to quote something the Minister for Health said earlier today. He said:
The objectives of the amendments are beyond question and my one regret is that each is being brought forward in isolation and not as pan of a complete review of the legislative provisions contained in the Act with which the Government will be persevering.
Of course, that is quite legitimate. I am not really abusing the Minister or the Government at this stage, but I regret that our parliamentary procedures are quite inadequate for this sort of legislation. It is a justification of some of the speeches made recently on the need for committees of the Parliament to look into things like this. I feel sure that if the Government had in fact conceded the justice of many of the amendments, which quite frankly do not do the sort of things I would like them to do because they are bolstering up a basic scheme with which I disagree, it would have made the situation much better than it is at the moment. But the machinery of Parliament is such that it is not possible, regretfully, for the Government to consider these things properly. I concede that the amendments cannot be accepted despite the Government’s acknowledging that they ate worthwhile. If a lesson may be drawn from this, I hope that more of us will be encouraged to consider the need for more standing or select committees to consider Bills of a highly technical nature, such as this one. With a small committee able to draw on expert witnesses and even able to utilise some of the experts within the House, better legislation would be available without necessarily detracting from the Government’s efforts.
– I would not have intruded into this debate except for the fact that the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) is pushing for the establishments of select committees on all sort of things. This Parliament would bc completely disrupted and its business would be entirely put out of perspective if we gave way to these sudden demands of the 25 or 26 new members in the Labor Party who want to re-organise the whole business of running a country. They just do not understand the way in which a Parliament is operated. I give full marks to the honourable member for Maribyrnong. He has a genuine interest in the subject under discussion, but he is deluded into believing that special committees of this Parliament can be appointed to look at specific subjects. That just is not on. I just wanted to remind the Parliament that this place has been operating for a very long time and all these new boys who come here with a lot of new ideas cannot reorganise it in 5 minutes.
– I agree with my colleague, the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass), that the machinery of the Parliament proves to be deficient when we have to handle requests of the kind that are coming from the Senate. As I understand it - I may be wrong - we are faced with the position where we cannot examine each request upon its merits but are required to vote yea or nay against the Minister’s decision as to which requests the Government accepts and which it rejects.
This, however, from my own point of view, has in this case one advantage, although as a general matter of parliamentary procedure I think it is defective and needs alteration. The advantage for me in this case is that I do not have to vote for or against refraction benefits for consultations with ophthalmologists without any assurance of similar benefits for the patients of optometrists.
I listened with great attention to the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey). If the notes from which he spoke so carefully had been prepared for him by a propapandist of the ophthalmologists, he could not have presented a better case for them or displayed a more narrow minded failure to recognise any merit whatever in the case for the optometrists. 1 have been in this Parliament for a good many years, and, 1 would not agree that it is desirable to appoint a separate select committee for each individual Bill of this kind that comes before the Parliament. To that extent I sympathise with the view put forward by the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan). Yet 1 believe that the procedures of this Parliament might well provide that before a Bill enters the Committee stage - I think we have an illustration of this need tonight - there should be an opportunity for those honourable members who are particularly interested in the measure to meet with the Minister and with the Departmental experts to examine it and then make a report to the Committee of the whole.
– 1 agree with you.
– Thank you. As Chairman of the Labor Party’s Health Committee long years ago 1 see around me tonight many colleagues, with whom I have always opposed the decision of the Government nol to provide a benefit for refraction because of a difference of opinion between the optometrist and the ophthalmologist.
– That may be so.
– Yes. So far so good, but now 1 part company with the honourable member. I could never agree that the remedy for this situation would be to provide benefits for refraction carried out by ophthalmologists and not benefits for refraction carried out by optometrists. Tn my view both these bodies of professional men are equally trained in the task of refraction. The honourable member shakes his head. Perhaps I have not stated it quite correctly. In my view, the optometrist is better trained than the ophthalmologist in the task of refraction. The ophthalmologist is a specialist in the recognition and treatment of eyes diseases. Here of course he is in a different and superior field to the optometrist. But it has to be recognised that the optometrist as part of his studies is also trained to notice the signs of what may possibly be eye conditions requiring medical treatment and either advise the patient to consent to see an eye specialist or be himself in touch with an ophthalmologist to arrange for him to have a look at that condition.
However, the point I rose to make was that while national health benefit should undoubtedly be provided for refraction, and while I believe the Government made a very serious mistake way back in 1952 in deciding that no benefit should be paid for refraction either to ophthalmologists or optometrists, 1 also believe that the only proper remedy is for an equal provision to be made for both groups of professional men in this respect. Therefore I am glad to have heard the Minister say tonight that there is to be a review of this and other ancillary services. I am prepared to support the requests that have come from the Senate in this respect because they would establish for the first time, if they were accepted, that benefits would be payable to the patients of both optometrists and ophthalmologists in respect of refraction. I am very concerned at the statement by the Minister, that even if the Senate’s requests in this respect were effected there would still be financial discrimination against the patients of optometrists. This leads me to hope that in the review of the ancillary services that the Minister has promised to make he will bring to the Parliament a proposal which will grant equal financial benefits without discrimination as between the patients of ophthalmologists and optometrists in the matter of refraction. If this comes about it will be a very happy ending to what has been a long drawn out argument. As 1 look around I see many colleagues in the Labor Party who over the years have fought in this House for recognition of the claims of optometrists and to ensure that there is no discrimination between ophthalmologists and optometrists in the refraction task.
– 1 would like to make a couple of general comments. First of all 1 remind honourable members that this discussion comes back to this chamber at the initiative of the Senate. We will have to look at this matter constitutionally before very long. Because of the rules of the game the Opposition was unable even to submit an amendment of this kind before the Committee. Such an amendment was ruled out of order because this was a money Bill and it involved an increase of finance to meet the measure. Yet it is quite possible in another chamber, the Senate, to initiate revised thinking on the matter. The second comment I want to make is in respect of the suggestion made by my colleague, the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass), for the setting up of a committee. The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) decried the suggestion. I ask: What kind of debate have we had ;n this Committee on the National Health Bill? As 1 recall it, we have heard from 2 members of the Liberal Party, the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) and the honourable member for McMillan. They were the only speakers not only in the present discussion but, as I recall it, in the Committee stages of the Bill when it was last before us. What participation has there been :n this debate by Government members? Here is a National Health Bill which one would have thought would interest every honourable member in this chamber.
– Order! I remind the honourable member lor Barton that one of the comments made in this chamber a moment ago was thai the Committee stages of the Bill were tor detailed discussion of t. I point out to the honourable member that I do not want his speech to develop into a discussion about the power of the Senate or ot this House in relation to Bills and to amendments by the Senate.
– I was just following a few comments that had already been tolerated in this discussion. I will leave it at that. I think I have made my point quite adequately. The Minister did promise during his speech earlier today that there is in being a review of paramedical or ancillary medical services. I ask the Minister whether he would be good enough when he rises to speak to tell us when we may expect the review to be completed. Can we expect action in the forthcoming Budget session in respect of the provision for ancillary services?
The only other matter 1 want to raise is in respect of request No. 5 from the Senate. It deals with the proposed payment of $2 a day for patients in hospitals where no charge is made. This will now cover up the problem we have had in Queensland where the previous State Labor Government’s provision of free public hospitals without means test still survives. It is the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party’s policy for the whole of Australia. As soon as a Labor government comes into power one of the first things it will do wil be to reinstitute free public ward treatment in hospitals throughout Australia. I would like to attract the Minister’s attention. It is pretty hard to carry on if one cannot get the Minister to listen. Is the Minister interested or not? T am prepared to wait if he is.
– I am listening.
– I am seeking clarification
– Order! Whether the Minister Ls listening or not has no relevance to the Bill. I suggest that the honourable member for Barton continue with his remarks.
– I suggest that courtesy is demanded from a Minister when somebody is asking for clarification of a Bill.
– I raise a point of order. Mr Chairman. Did I understand von to say that there is no relevance in the Bill?
– Older! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– 1 will try again. I want to ask the Minister in respect of the payment of $2 for patients in hospitals where no charge is made, whether that means that where charges are made and where the person is not insured the $2 will not be paid. That is the way 1 understand it. 1 would like to have the Minister’s confirmation of that if it is so. If a State government as in Queensland provides free public ward hospitalisation then the Commonwealth will pay $2 but in another State where no such benefit is made and where the patient has to pay, will he not receive the $2 Commonwealth benefit in those circumstances? I am wondering what is the logic of this. Is it just a political decision because the Labor Party raised the issue last year that Queensland was being deprived of a substantial sum of money because the Commonwealth was not paying $2 for its patients? Is that the reason why this decision is being made?
I am reminded that even in respect of what are called nursing homes patients receive S2 a day without insurance and without a means test, but if they go into the public ward of, say, St George Hospital in my electorate and they have not insured themselves - maybe they have not been able to afford it - they do not get the S2 a day. What is the logic of this?
– Why is it S5 a day in respect of pensioners and only $2 a day for ordinary patients in public hospitals?
– 1 am asked by my friend, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), why it is S5 a day in respect of pensioners but $2 a day for ordinary patients in such a public hospital. I want to know the Minister’s line of thought as to why this provision has come about. One of the results of it is that by the Commonwealth’s default in not paying a contribution to pensioners who are not insured the Stale Government is left to carry the whole burden. Most people are aware of the escalating pile of debts of State hospital authorities. At least until now the Commonwealth has paid 80c a day. Of course the cost of hospital upkeep might be anything up to $20 a day. The Commonwealth pays 80c a day for hospitalisation of a non-insured patient in all States except Queensland. The State Government has to bear the burden. All those patients in State hospitals have to pay so much extra to defray the bad debts of those who are not able to pay or who do not pay.
– It is disappointing that the Government has taken the attitude that it has to these amendments. The National Health Bill, as t was presented to the Parliament, was inadequate enough, but the fact that this House because of the guillotine provision was prevented from dealing with the Bill clause by clause is an insult to the Parliament. I believe that the Government should be ashamed of the fact that the Senate is able to amend the Bill and send requests back to this House. Some of the requests which have been made by the Senate and which the Government quite obviously is not going to accept would provide worthwhile benefits and in at least one or two cases real economies in the cost of medical treatment. If request No. 1 by the Senate for an amendment of the Bill and request No. 7, which relates to amending the Schedules, were accepted by the Government the present lottery system in relation to the treatment of one’s eyes would be discontinued. At present if glasses are prescribed one receives nothing in the form of Commonwealth benefit. This is a totally unsatisfactory situation and one which should have been corrected by the Government by way of accepting the request for an amendment in relation to the services of ophthalmologists and optometrists. I do not think that this would have been unreasonable. I believe that it would have taken away the element of risk which exists at present in relation to the cost of treatment.I believe that it would have also removed what is quite obviously a tendency towards improper practices in order to obtain the Commonwealth benefit.
I wish to deal also with request for amendment No. 2. It is quite obvious that the Government, by refusing to accept this request for amendment, is quite content to force dental surgeons into a situation where they must adopt a practice in relation to oral surgery which is more expensive than need be in order to give their patients an opportunity to obtain the Commonwealth benefit. The Government’s policy is that procedures adopted by dental surgeons which are more simple and less costly because they can be carried out in a surgeon’s own surgery are not worthy of attracting the Commonwealth benefit. I think that the 2 points which I have made are worthy of further consideration by the Government. 1 think it is a bad practice for a government to adopt to say to a profession: ‘If you use a more expensive means of treatment we will provide some subsidy, but if you use a cheaper means of treatment, although it may be more efficient, we will not provide any insurance cover at our level for your patient, I think that that is a bad practice to adopt and one which the Government should be condemned for encouraging.
That the requested amendments Nos 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 be not made.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Dr Forbes) agreed to:
That requested amendment No. 4 be made.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Consideration resumed (vide page 3249).
– I move:
There is a further amendment thatI wished to move but I know that procedures will not allow me to move it now. However as it is related to this clause I shall cover it in my remarks. Sub-clause (3.) sets out the functions which may be carried out by the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation but before any of the functions can be carried out they must be approved by the Minister for National Development. The Corporation can, with the Minister’s approval, undertake the carrying out of an investigation; the furnishing of any advice; the designing of an engineering works; the supervision of a contract; or the construction of. or the performance of any work in relation to the construction of, an engineering work. If the Corporation is going to perform any of these functions the Minister must give his approval, but he can put conditions on his approval. Sub-clause (4.) limits the type of engineering work which can be performed in Australia. It reads:
The Minister shall not, for the purposes of the last preceding sub-section, give his approval in relation to the exercise by the Corporation of a function referred to in paragraph (c), (d) or (e) of sub-section (1.) of this section in respect of an engineering work in Australia unless the work is -
a work for the measurement of the flow of water;
a work for the collection, storage, diversion, conveyance or supply of water;
a work for the generation, transmission or supply of electricity;
a work which, or a substantial part of which, is underground; or
a work (including a road) incidental to a work referred to in any of the preceding paragraphs of this sub-section.
Again the Minister cannot give approval unless the work that the Corporation is going to perform comes within those categories. Sub-clause (5.) prevents the Corporation from performing any of the work under sub-clauses (3.) or (4.) inside Australia for private companies unless a private engineering consultant has commissioned the Corporation to do that work. The Corporation is restricted to certain functions that it can perform under the legislation. It is also restricted to certain types of work that it can perform. It cannot perform work for private companies unless it is commissioned by a private consultant. In all those instances the Minister has the right to veto a request that might be made by a State government authority, a local government authority or a private company. In his second reading speech the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) said:
The principal engineering fields in which it will operate may be broadly described as those relating to the development of water and power resources and for underground works.
Earlier in that speech he said:
Within these fields-
He was referring to consultative activities in the engineering field - it will not be permitted to act as a constructing authority in its own right as it has in the Snowy area.
He also said:
It is expected also that it will continue to work for private organisations such as the large mining companies: In work for private organisations, however, it will only be able to act when commissioned by private consultants.
Later, when he was referring to work outside Australia, the Minister said:
So far as overseas work is concerned, the Snowy will be authorised to work in a somewhat wider field. It will be able to act as a constructing authority and supervise construction of projects in the fullest sense of this term. The categories of projects it may undertake will be those in which it will engage in Australia, plus works of a type previously undertaken by the Snowy and such additional types which I consider to be appropriate to its specific skills. We would also expect the Snowy to continue to use and collaborate with Australian consultants in appropriate circumstances.
The Corporation will be able to perform construction work overseas. It will be able to take jobs from the United Nations or from the Commonwealth Government under the Colombo Plan. It can undertake such work without operating through a private consultant. If it is good enough for the Corporation to work overseas without first having to be commissioned by a private consultant and to engage in other types of engineering works additional to those that it is allowed to undertake in Australia, it seems to me to be a case of preventing it from accepting opportunities that exist in Australia where there is a lucrative field of such work and sending it to do work in under-developed countries. Special considerations perhaps could be granted to those countries by Australia either under the Colombo Plan or at the request of the governments of those countries.
The Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, which is a governmental instrumentality, is expected to work overseas in less lucrative areas and carry out far more extensive work there than it is allowed to undertake in Australia. In other words, the Corporation is expected to get a good name for Australia in those underdeveloped countries by working at a lower profit rate and at lower costs whereas in Australia it cannot participate and compete in those fields, lt would be much more lucrative and profitable for the Corporation to carry out similar works in Australia as well as overseas, ft appears that the major engineering projects in Australia are lo be kept for the friends of the Government - the private engineering firms. The Corporation, a government authority which is expected to pay its own way, to pay income tax, to return a profit to the Government and to repay the capital that might be advanced by the Treasury for its setting up, will undertake work overseas. Subclauses (3.), (4.) and (5.) are weighed heavily against the Corporation. The Opposition believes that any government instrumentality that is operating as a commercial undertaking must be efficient and economical. As a socialised industry, as the Government is prone to call it, we believe it should be an efficient body and able to compete with private enterprise in any of the engineer ng fields and should be able to pay its income tax. We believe that the Corporation should be able to pay its way and return a dividend to the taxpayer. Not only are the private engineering firms in Australia protected by this legislation but private consultants in Australia are also protected.
Under clause 24 of the Bill the Corporation is tied tightly in regard to its finances, lt has to receive ministerial approval before it can do its job. Also, it is restricted in the work that it can do in Australia. The
Corporation cannot operate as a constructing authority for private companies in Australia unless private consultants are available. The Snowy Mountains Authority over the past few years has been operating as a consulting authority to private enterprise and has been able to return something in the vicinity of $3m a year in fees. An estimate I have from the Department of National Development is that foreign and Australian consultants operating in Australia receive fees in the vicinity of $40m per year. The Corporation will be prevented from going into the open market in Australia and competing as a commercial undertaking, as it is supposed to be, against private enterprise unless it is commissioner by private consultants. This is unjust and unfair. If any private mining company wants certain work carried out surely it should be able to come straight to the Corporation and have it done, if a company wants the Corporation lo investigate design and carry out certain works or contract and sub-contract for works and supervise construction the Corporation should be able to undertake such work.
In his second reading speech the Minister for National Development said that by the Corporation operating overseas there could be a return of foreign currency to Australia. But $40m of Australian money is going overseas to foreign consultants.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment proposed by the Opposition. Our attitude is based principally on the objection which we raised to the earlier amendment to this clause. I must repeat that very careful consideration was given to the future of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority and because of its special work and special skills and the part it has played in the national economy the Government felt there was a part for the Authority to continue to play in the field once the major construction work had been completed in the Snowy area. It was around this philosophy that there emerged this proposal for the establishment of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation. Again, careful consideration was given to the terms of reference and the Bill is based on the belief that the Corporation can fit very effectively into the present structure and can carry out a very useful task in the community with the same high standard of efficiency that has been exercised in the past.
The sub-clauses referred to by the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) relate to the question of ministerial approval that the Corporation must seek when work is to be undertaken. From what the honourable member for Lang said it would appear that this was something entirely new. But the situation is, of course, that most of the major work at present undertaken by the Authority has to be submitted for ministerial approval. This is a normal practice as far as these types of instrumentalities are concerned. Therefore, there is no basic change in principle as far as sub-clause (3.) is concerned. Sub-clause (4.) confines the ministerial approval for work within Australia to certain categories. These are broadly associated with water, electricity, underground works and works incidental to these fields. Of course, these categories cover a broad scope. They cover the field in which the Authority has been working and in which the skills of the Authority can be applied to the best possible extent. Therefore, we do not agree that the amendment to sub-clause (4.) should be accepted.
Sub-clause (5.) refers to work in respect of private organisations in Australia. This sub-clause sets out that the Minister shall not give his approval until the Corporation acts on commissions received from private consultants. This, of course, is an arrangement that was decided on as one of the best means of fitting the organisation into the community activity in which it will have to function. This is necessary because the Corporation will be moving in quite a different field from the previous major construction work in the Snowy area. 1 would like to say something about the categories of work which can be undertaken by the Corporation overseas. Some guide lines are laid down which will be observed by the Minister for National Development when considering approval for submissions made in this field. For the reasons I outlined in my second reading speech and in view of the points which I mentioned previously in this Committee debate, we cannot agree to the amendments which are proposed by the Opposition. The Government asks that clause 17, with the exception of 1 amendment which I will refer to shortly, should stand.
– The Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) has failed to say why the Corporation is not allowed to act as a construction authority in Australia but is allowed to act as a construction authority outside Australia. In his second reading speech the Minister said:
Within these fields it will not be permitted to act as a construction authority in its own right as it is in the Snowy area.
The Minister said that the Snowy Mountains Authority was an efficient organisation which had constructed and supervised all of the Snowy scheme. We are also told that when the scheme is completed something like $800m will have been spent over a period of IS to 20 years and that between $35m and $56m has been spent per year on the scheme. Everyone recognises the Authority as a constructing authority as well as a design and investigation authority. The Government will allow the Corporation to carry out all of its work overseas but it will not allow the Corporation to carry out construct:on work in Australia. The Government has placed no restriction on the Corporation carrying out work for private companies overseas. The Corporation can operate of its own free will. The Government has not asked private consultants to commission the Corporation when work .s undertaken overseas. As I have said, the Corporation is a free body outside Australia once it receives the Minister’s approval. But inside Australia where there are lucrative fields for development, where contracts are being allowed out regularly to overseas companies and where S40m per year is being paid to overseas consultants, the Corporation is not to be allowed to enter into the open market. It is to be restricted. 1 will not be satisfied that the Government is treating the new Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation fairly until such time as the Minister gives further and far better reasons than he has given beyond his blunt statement that the Corporation will not be allowed to operate as a constructing authority in Australia but will be allowed to operate as a constructing authority outside Australia. The Snowy Mountains Authority has been able to do all these works, and it has done them well. There is no doubt about its efficiency. It is recognised throughout the world, lt is now being turned from an authority getting its money from the Government to perform specific tasks into a commercial undertaking. Part V of the Bill, which deals with finances, lays down quite clearly that the Corporation must make enough money each year to meet its expenditure, to enable it to make provision for income tax and also to permit the payment to the Commonwealth of a reasonable return on the capital of the Corporation. Clause 26 (2.) states:
The capita) of the Corporation is repayable lo the Commonwealth at such times and in such amounts as the Minister, with the concurrence of the Treasurer, determines.
The Government has tied down the Snowy Mountains Authority completely and made it a private undertaking under Government control. The Government is not allowing it to operate in Australia as a private undertaking but is allowing it to operate outside Australia as a private undertaking because the Government knows that there will be less profit to be made by helping the underdeveloped nations than there will be by building dams, bridges, roads and power stations in Australia. The Government is using the taxpayers money to subsidise its contribution under the Colombo plan. It is not giving recognition to the Snowy Mountains Authority, which will be broken down into the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation. The Government is not giving this Corporation the right to do the same thing in Australia as it will be permitted to do overseas.
To me and to the Opposition, what is needed in Australia is a national water conservation and construction authority that can operate on half a dozen projects at the same time. I have never suggested that there should be one general homogenous scheme to take over the full operations of the Snowy Mountains Authority. There are schemes in northern Queensland and Victoria to which the Corporation could apply itself. We are almost in the age when we will have our own nuclear power stations. According to Sir Philip Baxter, something like 3500m is to be spent on nuclear power stations before the end of this century, but the Corporation will not be allowed to act as a constructing authority in Australia. It may design these power stations and it may supervise the work on them, but it may not call for tenders. The construction side will be passed over to private enterprise which will add its 25% to the cost and make a profit out of it. Private enterprise may perhaps even commission the Corporation to supervise the work. These clauses are not good clauses. The Bill is not a good Bill. The reason we have moved our amendment is to try to give the new Corporation the opportunity to act as a commercial undertaking, to be able to repay to the Government the capital that will be advanced to it in the first instance, to be able to pay income tax, to be able to make a profit and to be able to meet its requirements. All we are asking for is a fair go for the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation.
– One of the most iniquitous aspects of the clause with which the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) has been dealing is that the Government refuses the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation the right to construct not only in the States of Australia but in the Australian Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory. What could be more retrograde or more negative than this? The Government has foreshadowed the introduction into the Parliament of a Bill relating to off-shore areas. If this Bill goes through the Parliament, it will mean that the Commonwealth will have control over these off-shore areas and will be responsible for all works off the Australian coast. Science is showing throughout the world the tremendous engineering aspects that are involved in the developing of our oceans in the field of ocean engineering. Under this Bill the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation will be refused the right to do any construction work in the Commonwealth Territories. I object strongly. This is a retrograde and negative step. 1 believe that any Commonwealth Government which refuses to allow this world famous authority to construct in its own Territories or in its own off-shore areas is to be condemned.
Mr SWARTZ (Darling Downs- Minister for National Development) [9.25! - I am sure that the Opposition will agree with the amendment that I will move because it is intended to extend the power of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation. I move:
We believe that this amendment is required because clause 17 (5.), as it stands at present, states that no functions, including those that have been outlined in the previous part of the clause, will be exercised by the Corporation for private organisations unless a middle man contract is made with a consulting engineer. The restrictions with regard to carrying out work for private organisations can give rise to problems in the future operation of the engineering laboratories. In particular, there could be a problem in connection with the involvement with the National Association of Testing Authorities. This Association was set up in 1946 with the object of coordinating testing services available to the Government and industry, to ensure common validity of measurements, methods of testing and qualifications of staff. These objectives could be attained by encouraging laboratories to register on a purely voluntary basis. The laboratory could retain its autonomy and continue to perform its existing functions, but in addition would be licensed to endorse certificates for tests which would have Commonwealth wide recognition, provided that such tests had been carried out in accordance with the standards and procedures agreed upon by the Association. I think this is sufficient reason alone, apart from the other work in private fields, to extend the Corporation’s authority and to allow, without the inhibitions of the first part of clause 17, the engineering laboratories to carry out this work in the private field. I commend the amendment to the Committee.
– 1 was going to move another amendment but it depended upon the deletion of sub-clauses (3), (4) and (5). When I was speaking previously I mentioned the building of nuclear power stations by the year 2000. I do not know whether I said the cost of these power stations would be $500m or $5,000m, but the figure is $5,000m. The
Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation will not be able to participate in the construction of those power stations.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 18 to 20 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 21 (Terms and conditions of employment).
– On behalf of the Opposition I move:
The clause wilt then read:
The terms and conditions of employment of officers and employees are such as are determined by the Corporation.
Clause 21 obviously is to give powers to the Corporation in the fixation of salaries and conditions of employment of officers and employees. It has been repeated time after time at both the second reading stage and this stage of the Bill that the intent of the Government’s policy is that the Corporation is to function as a commercial undertaking. If one looks at the Bill as a whole it wilt be seen that it is completely strangled by Public Service regulations and I think there is no more depressing influence on the Corporation in this area than for it to be subject to the dictates and determinations of the Public Service Board. If this Corporation is to operate as a commercial organisation and if it is to compete in the market of engineering consultant work one factor essential to any venture will emerge. It wil’l find that it has to attract the highest expertise, the highest standards and the highest quality possible. To inflict upon this Corporation the fixation of its salaries and conditions of employment by the Public Service Board cuts right across the whole concept of its being a commercial undertaking. If one looks at it broadly on the question of rates of pay or salaries and conditions of employment there is no problem insofar as contracts for work affect Commonwealth, State, local or semi governmental authorities because the salaries and conditions of employment are on a parity at these levels. But surely the Government has taken into consideration that when we go from these areas into the areas outside of government we find in the fields of private enterprise and particularly in the field of private consultants in this country that they are not inhibited by rates of pay or conditions of employment to attract the highest professional men. Does any honourable member contend that engineers throughout this country have any faith at all1 left in the determinations brought down by the Commonwealth Public Service Board? In the May 1970 edition of the ‘Commonwealth Professional’ the following appears:
Those charged with recruiting engineers to the Commonwealth Public Service today must have an uneasy conscience, lt is their duly to convince graduates that they should join the CPS when they know that the graduate would have a much more rewarding career elsewhere, lt is the responsibility of all of tis to make the community aware of the true situation so that young people are not misled. This will at least ensure the Commonwealth does not receive services for which it is not prepared to pay.
Likewise, a recent meeting of Public Service and Commonwealth instrumentality engineers in which some 500 took part resolved:
That this meeting calls for a public inquiry into the workings of lnc Commonwealth Public Service Board in view of the treatment which the Board has meted out to engineers.
Quite frankly, if the Government has set out to strangle this Corporation and make sure it does not function efficiently it has done so by saddling it with the dictates of the Public Service Board in this area. Why is it that the Government should think fit on this occasion to saddle the Corporation with these provisions? lt has not done this to other statutory authorities and I suggest quite bluntly that it has done it for one reason and that is to protect 2 interests involved in the field of engineering consultants. They are foreign investors and private investors. The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority was established in 1949. Section 22 of its Act reads as follows: 22- (1.) The Authority may appoint such officers as it thinks necessary for the purposes of this Act. (2.) The selection of persons for appointment as officers tinder this section shall be made in accordance with such requirements as the Public Service Board determines. (7.) Officers shall not be subject to the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1948 but shall hold office under such terms and conditions as are subject to the approval of the Public Service Board, determined by the Authority.
In a book entitled ‘Principles of Australian Administrative Law’, by D. G. Benjafield and H. Whitmore, the following appears at page 325: lt can hardly be claimed that a satisfactory solution has been worked out to the problem of controlling statutory corporations in the public interest. The corporations arc quite free to disregard the interest of citizens and cannot effectively be restrained either by the parliaments or the courts, lt might be worthwhile to reverse the trend towards freeing the corporations of the Public Service Board control. If this would place too great a burden on the boards then there is again a case for an ombudsman. The mere presence of such a reviewing authority might do much lo curb abuses of power.
While this comment was made in a discusion concerning relative merits of ombudsmen in the control of statutory corporations the fact that the point was made that there is a trend towards Public Service Board control of corporation is relevant. An academic authority in the field has informed me that such a trend is by no means a necessary adjunct of the present legislation concerning statutory authorities. He was of the opinion that several statutory authorities in the commercial fields did not employ officers with the approval of the Public Service Board with respect to terms and conditions of employment. Subsequent research has revealed that precedents of statutory authorities which do not need the approval of the Public Service Board with respect to the terms and conditions of employment which they offer include the Reserve Bank, the Commonwealth Bank, the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, the Australian National Airways Commission, and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. To instance this. I will quote from section 66 - (1.) of Part VII of the Act relating to the Reserve Bank of Australia, lt states: 66 - (I.) The Bank may appoint such officers as are necessary for the purposes of this Act. (2.) The officers appointed under this Part shall constitute the Reserve Bank service. (3.) Subject to this Part and to the regulations. officers hold office on such term and conditions as the Bank determines. lt goes on to say that the Bank in effect nas the power to fix terms and rates of pay and conditions of employment. Why is if that on this occasion the Corporation has to be saddled with these provisions? I ask the Minister whether he would reconsider the position, put the Corporation on exactly the same basis and give it the right to exercise its power to act as it should act if it is a commercial undertaking. If it was a Government undertaking I could understand the logic of the provision as it stands at the moment. But if the Government is sincere in its attitude that the Corporation will enter the field in free and open competition with outside interests, foreign or private, it has a complete right to do so and it must be free and unshackled from the provisions of the Public Service Act and the Public Service Board and allowed to fix its own terms of rates of pay and conditions of employment.
– I appreciate the comments of the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) and his references to a number of other instrumentalities, and there is a certain amount of logic in what he has said. He has certainly given some thought to the points he has raised. However, the Government cannot accept the amendment which he proposes. It is quite clearly set out in the clause that the provision gives the Corporation power to engage staff on any basis it determines. As has been stated the amendment proposes to delete provision for the general oversight and approval of the Public Service Board. In this case this is continuing a practice that has been in existence as far as the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority is concerned, lt has worked well for a period of 20 years for the Authority and we hope that it will continue to operate in exactly the same way for the future, lt has not been unduly restrictive where the Authority has been operating in fields of a nature similar to those in which the Corporalion will be operating in the future.
At the same time it means that the salaries, agreed to by the Commonwealth Public Service Board and recommended by the Corporation will not be out of line with those of the public service, both Commonwealth and State. So on a number of grounds we do not accept the amendment. This matter was given very careful consideration before a final decision was made and the Government wishes to see this clause remain as it is.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 22 agreed to.
Clause 23 (Limitation on staff).
– On behalf of the Opposition I oppose clause 23 in its entirety. I would like to make a few remarks in regard to the Bill itself in condemnation of the attitude of the Government. Why does this Government persist in such wilful destruction of a Commonwealth instrumentality? This Government has seen fit completely to destroy a Commonwealth shipping line and also the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to mention only two instrumentalities. We are about to witness in this chamber the legislative death throes of the remarkable giant, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. This organisation has been responsible for achieving a task of immense magnitude when measured in terms of organisational capability in the fields of construction, of investigation and survey, and of design and supervision. In addition, it has achieved a sound constructional contracting capability, and at so much less than estimated costs that it virtually should be the delight of any government - but unfortunately not of this Liberal Government. The Authority has achieved efficiency in all of these and many other fields. Why is this Government bringing down this legislation?
In anticipation that I will be asked by the Chairman to come back to the terms of this Bill, clause 23 restricts the number of employees and in fact gives complete control and complete dictatorial powers to the Minister for National Development. When this Bill comes into force and the Corporation is engaged in some project the Minister, if he gets a bleat from some section of private enterprise and is prevailed upon to do what he can to protect private enterprise, may well slash by 50% the number of employees within the Corporation. How can any corporation function efficiently in that event? The Snowy Authority has efficiently and effectively spent $40m a year and in so doing it has carried out its responsibility to the Australian Government, and, what is more important, it has achieved in the eyes of the Australian public, and almost completed, vast undertakings and numerous projects of which we as citizens of ‘he Commonwealth can be extremely proud.
The Authority has lifted the mask from the thinking of the mental morass and submerged Sir Robert Menzies and his political lackeys in their attitudes to the setting up of the Authority in 1949. 1 refer to their childish boycott of the ceremony to mark the commencement of the undertaking. Later, those who condemned and damned the project hastened, almost indecently, to have their names inscribed on the numerous commemoration plaques that marked the stages of the project from time to time. Having heard the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) in his speech last night 1 suggest that he should hasten to the Snowy and have his name taken off the commemorative plaque in one of the power stations where it can be seen today. If one were to read a speech made by a previous Minister for National Development and relate it to what he had to say in this chamber only a few hours ago in support of the setting up of this Corporation, one phrase and one phrase only describes that person - an absolute hypocrite. His title is such that-
– Order! 1 heard the honourable member for Sturt use the word hypocrite’. I am afraid that I was reading the legislation and as he had been referring to a Minister I must ask him whether he was referring to the Minister for National Development in that phraseology.
– I did, yes, but if 1 may go on, perhaps he is not a hypocrite; he may in fact believe what he has said.
– 1 ask the honourable member to withdraw the word ‘hypocrite’.
– I withdraw it. Clause 23 in restricting the number of employees has another distasteful aspect to it inasmuch as the head of the Corporation will not know from day to day if and when the axe will drop in regard to the number of personnel be may have on his staff. It could be that the Minister may intrude to such an extent that he might have to sack some key personnel such as engineers, consultative engineers and what have you. This would never do. This is one of the reasons why we oppose this Bill. The Authority, as we have known it has, when measured in terms of global comparison, ranked with the best, and in some respects, the finest in the world.
Yet another indication of the Government’s attitude was the intrusion - quite unnecessarily - of a previous Minister for National Development to curtail the public relations activities of the Snowy Mountains Authority by discontinuing conducted tours of the Snowy scheme. I dealt with this matter briefly last night in the debate on the adjournment. The number of people who inspect the Snowy project today with the public relations section of the Authority has dropped from some scores of thousands of people a year down to about 900. The figures, like the standing of the previous Minister for National Development, have dropped considerably. No doubt action was taken because those in the community who were afforded the opportunity of inspecting the project were high in their praise of the scheme. The Liberals were concerned at such public admiration and with a feeling of frustration and in defence of their timehonoured and somewhat misguided protection of the false god of private enterprise, and having in mind the Bill now before the House, curtailed and thereby restricted public inspection of the Snowy scheme. At least that was what was intended.
So much for the attitude of those on the Government side of this House, which attitude has not changed over the years. Government supporters have seen fit from time to time to insist that they have the nation’s interest at heart as far as water conservation is concerned, and so far as national development is concerned, but this claim is difficult to sustain. This is the feeling that one would have after seeing what has happened to the Snowy Authority. I did hear the Minister for National Development, or perhaps it was an exMinister or some back-bench supporter of the Government, saying last night: ‘What possible project could the Authority now undertake?’ He does not have to go any further than the Great Dividing Range to find another project. There is no need to go anywhere else than that. I remind honourable members that it is in the interests of the Government, the Minister for National Development and the country generally for the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority to be retained after completion of the Talbingo Dam project with only those changes necessary to permit it to go to the northern rivers area of New
South Wales. The rainfall is greater there, the catchment is greater and millions of dollars are being spent to assist the flow of water into the Pacific Ocean. Only fragmented work is be:ng done in that area, such as building a weir here and a weir there, a dam here and a dam there.
This does not mean anything in the overall concept of water conservation. At least there ought to be a feasibility study undertaken in that area for the very reasons 1 have mentioned to the House. An abundance of water is permitted to go to waste. What is wrong with the concept of retaining an organisation such as the Snowy Mountains Authority and using it to carry out this feasibility study? After it has made all the studies necessary and after it has deduced that the scheme is worth while, then what is wrong with allowing the Authority to construct it and achieve what should be the desire of every Australian and what is in the interests of every Australian - the assurance that development is carried on. If this work was done on the northern rivers then the water could be diverted into the Darling River. What is wrong with the idea of the Darling River running with a decent head of water all year round? Is there anything wrong with this concept? Are we going to see this type of activity as a result of the passage of this mauling Bill, which the Government has had almost the effrontery to put before this House tonight and which insults every decent and intelligent Australian? I cannot describe this Bill in any other manner.
I think I have made by opposition to the Bill abundantly clear. I only wish that the Government had not applied the gag on this debate last night; I could have had a go at the Government for 30 minutes instead of 10 minutes. Nothing in the world would make the Government shift in regard to this Bill because it is not a government of change. I do not know what turned the Government off, if it was ever turned on. But the Government certainly is turning off one of the greatest organisations in Australia. It is not retaining it in the national interests. Never mind about the hypocrisy we heard last night from some honourable members on the Government side of the chamber who said that the Labor Party used its defence powers to begin the Snowy scheme and who pointed out that the Stales had certain powers. I nor;ce that the honourable member tor Angas (Mr Giles) is not in the chamber at present. In regard to the Engineering and Water Supply Department that he mentioned, South Australia has to get overseas contractors to fulfil its obligations.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I had not intended to speak in this debate but I do support what the Government is doing. When I listened to the speech made by the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Poster) 1 realised the abundance of his want of knowledge. Therefore I thought it time that someone who was in this House at the time that the Snowy Mountains scheme was first mooted said something on this subject. The remarks of the honourable member for Sturt were related to a general debate.
– Why should I not do that?
– Why should I not do it also? I have written out some of my remarks in order to make sure that they are accurate. The Liberal-Country Party Government spent more money on water conservation in its first 3 years in office than the Labor Party had spent on water conservation since federation. It may have been the first 2 years of office but I say 3 in order to be sure. The honourable member for Sturt spoke about what the Government had done and had not done and what should be done. When I first came into this House there was some talk about the Snowy Mountains scheme but Labor was not doing much about it. It was my personal lot - if any honourable member challenges this I will show him the report of my remarks in Hansard - to jog members of the Labor Party along in this House by saying: ‘Why don’t you get on with the job?’ This appears in Hansard. I am not talking airy-fairy stuff. I asked members of the Labor Party why they did not get moving on this project. They were talking about it but nothing was happening. What did happen then? Members of the Labor Party went to the Snowy. They say that members of the Government Parties boycotted the opening of the scheme but that is not true.
– It is true.
– Does the honourable member for Wilmot say that General Rankin was not there? He was there. The first sod was turned just before the election of 1949, and, of course, a representative of the Labor Party officiated. But what happened after that? All the money spent on the Snowy scheme was collected by this Government. It was this Government which spent the money on this great project in the Snowy Mountains and the Labor Party can claim practically nothing from its success. The Labor Party may have had some experts along to tell it that the project was a good thing. Labor thought it was a great election stunt. Everybody knew this at the time. The honourable member for Sturt has just come to this place and he does not know anything of the history of this great scheme.
– He knows more than you will ever know.
– The honourable member for Dawson probably knows less about it. I am telling honourable members exactly what happened. When speaking in this House 1 never refer to personalities. Everybody knows this. However I do speak against people who make outrageous statements which cannot be substantiated by facts. The position is that the Government has gone into all the pros and cons of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority and has introduced this Bill after much thought. Now the Labor Party is trying to find some way of getting off the toboggan. For a few months after the last election it appeared that the Labor Party was ascending. But I have been looking very closely at what has been happening since then and it is apparent that Labor has run its race. The Labor Party is like a horse in a 2-mile race which goes to the front for a while. But now Labor is falling back into the field. By the time the next election is held Labor will be only entering the straight when the Government is passing the winning post. That is what is happening.
I do not like to criticise people and have never done so unless they have made an unjustifiable attack on me.
– What have you been doing for the last 5 minutes?
– I have not done so unless they have attacked me unjustifiably, in which case I am quite entitled to stick up for myself, as I am able to do and as I have done on so many occasion in this House. Irrigation has been referred to in this debate. The honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) spoke last night about building all sorts of things. He said that we would have so many people in Australia in 20 or 30 years time that we would have to build an additional 8 Eucumbene dams. He mentioned some huge figures. I interjected very quietly and said that by that time we would have pipelining. I remind honourable members that in some parts of Australia, including the Mallee electorate which I represent, about 90% of the water is lost. It is said that 97% of the water is lost but I always leave a margin in order to be correct. It is said that 90% ot t.ie water is lost on the way from the storage to the consumer in certain areas, and 50% is lost generally. Pipelining would cost a fair amount of money but not as much as 8 big reservoirs.
In terms of water conservation, pipelining would be equal to duplicating all the water storages in Australia. I am not saying that pipelining is required all over Australia but it is wanted in areas where seepage and evaporation is responsible for the waste of water that is very costly to conserve. Pipelining is a project of the future but I have been advocating it for years. I have been saying that we should make more use of the water rather than build a lot more storages.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock)Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Mallee that he should not advocate pipelining while speaking during this stage of the debate on this Bill
– I will finish on this point. I support this Bill. I did not intend to make a speech and would not have spoken except that I heard the errors that the honourable member for Sturt had fallen into. With pipelining we will have sufficient water in the future. After all, in the very best of years we can store only a certain amount of water in reservoirs and we must make the best use of the water that we can conserve.
– I want to say one or two things at this stage of the debate on this Bill in order to place on the record the objectives of the Opposition. I refer first to the facts associated with the birth of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric scheme. This subject has been referred to by the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) and I want to mention it briefly. Acknowledgement of the inspiration to launch the Snowy Mountains scheme has been made on several occasions by Sir William Hudson who was the first Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. Sir William Hudson paid a very warm tribute to a body which has not been mentioned in this debate. I want, to mention it briefly. The body 1 refer to is the Murrumbidgee Valley Water Users Association, lt included men of all parties, lt included men of great vision. It included Australians who deserve a page in the history of the nation and a mention in the records of this Parliament. The Murrumbidgee Valley Water Users Association conceived the idea. They pushed it and fought for it. They look it eventually to a very great- Australian, Joseph Benedict Chifley. He made the key decision which in fact launched this great venture.
The detail of that history, as I have said just now, has been set forth on many occasions by Sir William Hudson. Recently when he was accorded an his retirement :i valedictory by the Mumimbidgee Valley Water Users Association, he paid tribute to the inspiration that came from that valley giving birth to this great scheme. 1 think thai it is regrettable to have the travesties of history that have been attempted tonight. The men who conceived this scheme were great men indeed. They were drawn from a very wide political spectrum. They took the idea to a very great Prime Minister. That was how the decision was made and that was haw the scheme came into being. I might say (hat this and the other amendments are merely attempts by the Opposition at this time to patch up what is regarded as a very unwholesome measure marking the end of one of the greatest national enterprises that we have had. In conclusion I would just say that on the change of Government the amendments we are moving tonight will not be needed because the great authority will be reconstructed as the major water development authority of this nation to take us into the new century.
– The Government cannot accept this amendment. I clearly pointed out in my second reading speech, and 1 have subsequently referred to the matter, that clause 23 gives the Minister the authority to determine the number of persons that will be employed by the Corporation at any one time. There have been a number of interpretations placed on this; some of them have been slightly misrepresented. But this is not an authority that is not found in many other circumstances where a board, a Minister or the head of a department has to determine the number of staff within the organisation or the department. It is not simply a matter of the Minister making an individual judgment in relation to it. He, of course, will have the advice of the Corporation and also of the consultative committee. When the determination is made as lo the strength of the Corporation in the first case, it is not final that that will remain as the strength indefinitely. The clause slates:
The Minister may, by instrument in writing, determine that the number of persons employed by the Corporation at any time shall not exceed the number specified in the instrument.
In other words, if within 12 months or 2 years it is found necessary to change the number of staff employed, the Minister can on the advice of his advisers - particularly on the advice of the Corporation - consider the matter and implement what would be a normal practice. We feel that the situation is well covered and that in this particular system the Corporation will function well and will effectively carry out its duties in accordance with the requirements and, as I said before, in the same efficient way as it has in the past. So for the various reasons which I have previously mentioned and referred to again now, the Government cannot accept this amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Swum; - by leave - read a third time.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate:
Without Amendment -
Parliamentary Allowances Bill 1970.
Without Requests -
Dried Fruits Export Charges Bill 1970.
– I move:
That the report of the Standing Orders Committee brought up on 4lh June 1970 be adopted and that the Standing Orders of the House be amended as recommended by that Committee to come into operation at the next sitting. lt will be recalled that on 8th April the House referred a resolution to the Standing Orders Committee asking it to recommend a suitable amendment to standing order 28, which relates to the Printing Committee’s powers when conferring with a similar Committee of the Senate to give effect to a recommendation of the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary and Government Publications. The report under consideration records the decision of the Committee made at its meeting of 11th May when the proposed new standing order 28 was recommended. A similar proposal is in the process of being given effect to by the Senate. The motion I have moved is purely formal and will enable the new standing order to come into operation tomorrow.
– While we are dealing with the question of Standing Orders, if I may I would like to refer to the document that you, Mr Speaker, tabled last week in respect to the amendment to the amendment. If 1 may say so with all respect, as I read the conclusions from May most of them dealt with an amendment to a mot on but none of them dealt with an amendment to an amendment, which 1 suggest was the matter that came before the House on the recent occasion. You certainly delved pretty deeply into history when you went back to what Pitt said in 1802. After all, political parties were somewhat different sorts of animals in 1802 than they are in 1970. I still submit that the Opposition in a Parliament has very few rights. Two of the rights that seem to me to remain still are, firstly, the adjournment of the House to discuss a matter of public importance where the Opposition literally takes the initiative as against the Government. The other matter that in my view is still fundamental to a parliamentary system is the censure motion or the motion of no confidence. With all respect I suggest that it ought to be referred as a matter of some importance to the Standing Orders Committee. I have suggested that a House ought to have recourse not only to its own Standing Orders and the invocation of Erskine May; occasionally it ought also to have recourse to common sense. On that bas s consideration should be given to amending the Standing Orders in such a way that what is accepted as a censure motion should be incapable of amendment. As I indicated the other evening, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was prepared to accept the motion as a censure motion. 1 say that with all respect to you, Mr Speaker, and I think you understand the reverence I have for your role. I have great respect also for pari amentary institutions as a form of government. There has been a lot of criticism in recent times about the Executive taking the initiative. Candidly, I do not think that in a democratic system we can do other than let the Executive take the initiative, but the Executive has to exercise its initiative with tolerance and without tyranny. In my view the events of recent times have come pretty close to being tyrannical. For what were pretty cheap motives, in my view, an attempt was made quite successfully to do certain things on the basis of rulings. I am not arguing about the rulings. I think that the references were pretty flimsy. I am sorry that I have not your document here with me at the moment, Mr Speaker, but this matter came up rather suddenly. With all respect, if you read the references to Mr Howson’s motion you will see that it was an amendment to an amendment. You quoted May and cited the fact that if it is an amendment to a motion the House has the choice of deciding in favour of the motion or the amendment. I think that you get into pretty curious circumstances. The incidents of the other night began with a simple resolution that the paper be noted. My colleague, the honourable member for
Dawson (Dr Patterson), moved an amendment to that, and then there was a further amendment.
At that point 3 propositions were being considered. All I am saying, Mr Speaker, is that whatever his wit and sagacity nobody can resolve 3 questions simultaneously in a sensible way. You can resolve 2, by voting for 1 or supporting another but you cannot resolve 3 questions at the one time. I read your document rather carefully. I find that you are arguing about a motion and an amendment whereas the proposition before the House was a motion, an amendment to a motion and a further amendment. I hope, with all respect, that you will consider that matter again. 1 urge this on behalf of the Opposition. Honourable members opposite may be the Opposition tomorrow. lt is a fundamental right that an opposition should be able to challenge a government.
As I see it, essentially the two grounds remaining to the Opposition are the motion for adjournment to discuss a matter of urgent public importance and the censure motion. If one is able to pervert or convert a censure motion by moving something else one is denying a fundamental right in the accepted history of British parliamentary institutions. I do not want to argue the point any further except to suggest that this matter, including your documentation, Mr Speaker, should be referred to a further meeting of the Standing Orders Committee. If there is any doubt about the ability to move an amendment to what is essentially a censure motion and if you invoke May to support it, the Standing Orders should be amended to make it impossible to do so. The Government chooses to stand on its numbers if it has them. When it has not the numbers to defeat the Opposition it chooses a pretty tawdry device, knowing that some of its members are wavering, to give them a third choice. I submit that 3 questions cannot be decided simultaneously. Sometimes it is difficult even to sustain 2 questions, but certainly you cannot sustain 3. I would suggest, Mr Speaker, with all respect to you, that you re-read your document. In it you talk about a motion and an amendment; you do not talk about a motion and 2 amendments which I submit is a pretty difficult proposition to resolve.
Mr STEWART (Lang) [10.I6J- I agree with practically all the comments that have just been made by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). Honourable members will recall that both he and I took part in the discussions on the censure motion and want of confidence motion and took an attitude similar to the one that the honourable member has taken tonight. I, too, read your document, Mr Speaker, and found that I still could not agree with the document or your ruling. I rise to speak about the amendment to the Standing Orders that has been moved by the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz). The amendment comes from a recommendation made by the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary and Government Publications which brought up its report on 13th May 1964. I congratulate the Government on the rapidity of its action in bringing down this request to the Standing Orders Committee of the House to amend the Standing Orders.
The reason that the Joint Select Committee gave for recommending that the Printing Committee, as it has been known - apparently it will now be known as the Publications Committee - inquire into and report on the printing, publication and distribution of parliamentary and government publications and all such matters as are referred to it by the Treasury, and send for persons, papers and records, was that during the course of the Joint Committee’s inquiry we found that Government departments were doing virtually what they liked in the printing of their departmental publications. There was no overriding authority. The Treasury Publications Committee was supposed to look at the publications of Government departments, but the Committee found that quite often when the Treasury Publications Committee tried to do anything about it they were told by the senior Ministers to go and jump in the lake.
The Printing Committee, as it has existed until now, is entitled to look only al the papers that have been tabled and referred to it for a decision as to whether they should be printed or not. The distribution of most of the publications is out of the hands of the Printing Committee. I still do not know who authorises the distribution of Government publications. The new amendment to the Standing Orders will allow the Publications Committee to inquire into and report on printing, publication and distribution. I think that it will have a salutary effect on the standard of publications by Government departments and statutory bodies. I think all honourable members will agree that since the size of the paper which is used has been altered, the format of a lot of the documents has been changed and more attractive covers have been placed on publications, there has been an immense improvement in the standard of parliamentary and government publications.
For the sake of the recordI would like to name the members of the Committee which made this recommendation. The honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin), was the Chairman and I was the Vice-Chairman. The other members were Ex-Senator Marie Breen, Senator Marriott, Senator Lionel Murphy, Senator Toohey, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) and the former honourable member for Sturt, Mr Keith Wilson. I think the recommendations which the Committee made were, in most instances, good ones. A lot of them have been applied already. I repeat that this matter was in the hands of the Government from 13th May 1964 until being referred to the Committee on 8th April 1970. I must commend the Standing Orders Committee for the fact that it took only from 8th April 1970 to 1st June 1970 to bring down its recommendation.
– Before putting the question on this motion, I think I should clarify a point on which there seems to be some confusion. In regard to the matter which was raised by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), I would like to say that the same principle applies irrespective of whether the amendment is to a motion or an amendment to an amendment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 21st May (vide page 2535), on motion by Mr Anthony:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The principal object of the Bill which is before the House is to amend the Wool Industry Act in certain respects. The wool industry is without doubt the most efficient major export industry in Australia, but it is in serious economic trouble at present. In his second reading speech the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has set out in quite elaborate terras the various amendments which are proposed. The Opposition supports in general the Government’s proposals. This Bill is a move in the right direction in that it will clear up some of the anomalies which have crept in over the years, particularly in respect to the allocation of funds to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics for research purposes.
The Bill has 3 main objectives. The first objective is to provide a greater amount of money for research and promotion purposes. At the same time there will be a reduction in the contribution which wool growers make to the research fund. The reduction will be from 2% of the gross proceeds of the clip to 1%. The second objective of the Bill is to change the procedure adopted in relation to the appointment of the Chairman of the Australian Wool Board and the 3 members of the Board with special qualifications. The third objective is a widening of the borrowing powers of the Wool Board itself in the field of the reconstruction of wool stores and the construction of integrated wool complexes.
I shall specifically deal with certain aspects of the proposals in the Committee stage. I shall be moving a minor amendment in the Committee stage with respect to salaries and travelling allowances being determined by the Parliament and not by the Governor-General. This amendment is consistent with other amendments which have been moved and accepted in this House recently. I shall move this amendment because I believe that the Parliament and not the Governor-General should decide the level of travelling expenses and salaries of people employed by statutory authorities.
One of the provisions of the Bill is for the actual determination of the apportionment of money contributed by the wool growers and the Government for wool research and promotion purposes. The Bill provides that the apportionment will be determined by the Minister for Primary Industry after consultation with the Australian Wool Industry Conference. At present the apportionment of the money is made by the Minister on the recommendation of the Conference. Another aspect of the Bill is that the Minister for Primary Industry will appoint the Chairman of the Wool Board after consultation with the Board itself. I do not know what the term after consultation with the Board’ means in terms of the legislation and the application of it. I submit that this expression is almost meaningless. I suppose it means that the Minister for Primary Industry will have to consult the Board before deciding who will be the Chairman. It would seem that the Board has no influence whatsoever - no legal influence, anyhow - as regards the appointment of the Chairman.
The same argument applies in regard to the appointment of the 3 members with special qualifications to the Board because these 3 members with special qualifications will be appointed in the future by the Minister for Primary Industry after consultation with the Wool Industry Conference. Really all this provision means is that the Minister for Primary Industry will have to consult with the AWIC before appointing the 3 members with special qualifications. Once again I do not think that the AWIC will have any legal right in this matter.
Another provision of the Bill is that the allocation of research funds to the CSIRO will be determined by the Minister for Primary Industry in consultation with the Minister for Education and Science. The Minister for Primary Industry will determine the level of grants to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. This is, of course, desirable because what it means is that the officers employed in the CSIRO and in the Bureau of Agricultural Economics are responsible to the Minister for Primary Industry through their respective divisional chiefs and permanent heads. They are, in practice, responsible at present but really the master who decides whether or not this type of research will continue fa the Australian Wool Board. It has almost complete say as to the amount of money to be allocated to the CSIRO and the BAE. However this particular provision in the Bill gives the Minister for Primary Industry the right to allocate funds to the CSIRO and the BAE; in the first instance in consultation with the Minister for Science and Education and in his own right in respect of the BAE. This is to be applauded because not only does it give security of tenure to the employers in both organisations but it also gives them greater freedom. They do not have to set out deliberately, as one might say, to be careful that they do not offend the Wool Board or certain members of the Wool Board. I am not suggesting that this would have any influence on the allocation of funds, but it is implicit in this type of legislation.
Earlier I said that the Wool Industry is the most efficient large-scale exporting industry in Australia. It also is the industry which, in terms of paramount importance, is the one which is in the most economic trouble today. The importance of the wool industry is hard to measure in terms of the economy. It is difficult to explain simply how important it is. One of the best criteria for illustrating its importance is the contribution it makes to our export income which is the economic lifeblood so important to the health of our society. Approximately 25% of the total of export earnings from all sources originates from the wool industry. Last year the value of its exports totalled $853m. This, in itself, is not the end of the road because in arguing why it is essential that the Commonwealth Government must support to the hilt the wool industry one could ask what would happen if the wool industry collapsed. One of the best ways to answer the critics of the wool industry is to take an extreme and absurd case and ask if we abolished all tariffs and subsidies which industries in Australia would survive in their own right. Not too many would survive. The wool, grains, beef and mining industries would survive, but not too many other industries would survive. I doubt whether I could instance one major manufacturing industry that could survive. Manufacturing industries just cannot compete with the large through-put industries of other countries. If we abolished all subsidies and tariffs the beef and wool industries would survive and the people of Australia would have to become wool or cattle farmers or else leave the country because they would not bc able to secure jobs. There would be no major manufacturing industries. However, no-one expects this type of situation. We accept the principle of tariffs and we must accept, therefore, the equivalent of tariffs as they apply to primary industries. We should accept the principle of subsidies whether they be on inputs or direct subsidies, ft is essential that this be put in perspective. One of the most difficult things is to convince the critics of the wool industry the importance of that industry to the economy of Australia. We can forget about the influence of local consumption on the wool industry, because this is negligible. 1 want to deal with some of the issues in this debate. I take first the Australian situation. Let us have a quick look at it. In recent years wc have seen a remarkable expansion in wool production, but if there had not been this remarkable expansion the wool industry would have been sunk long ago. One only has to look at the increase in costs in the post-war years and relate them to the increase in prices or the decrease in prices - the so-called cost price squeeze - to realise that if it had not been for the remarkable and magnificent increase in productivity the wool industry could have been sunk long ago. Wool production is still increasing. The latest estimates show that production is now around the 2,000 million lb greasy wool level. This has been due, as many have pointed out. to higher lambing, the increased cut of wool per head or per acre and lower mortality. The importance of this industry to Australia is its contribution to export income. This is something which no critic can take away from the wool industry, no matter how they try. If it were not for the $80Om worth of exports there would be a recession in our major manufacturing industries today and there is nothing we could do about it, except devaluate or credit restrictions.
The increased production has been disposed of and this is the most important difference between the wool industry and the foodstuffs industry. We can sell all the wool we produce, certainly at a price, but it does not necessarily follow that we can sell all the wheat or dairy products we produce, even at a price, because there is a limit to what a person can eat. Statistics relating to standards of living today have shown with respect to elasticities that even if we increased significantly our wool production there would be a market for quality wool at a price. This is a most important point in support of expansion of the wool industry and in support of financial assistance for the industry. We are assisting an industry whose product can be sold on the world market. If these criteria are adopted the arguments against assisting the industry fall to the ground.
Australian prices are rather mysterious. They defy the laws of logic, as I see them, because if one looks at supply and demand and inflation in other parts of the world there should be a lift in prices in real terms well in advance of what the wool grower is getting today. To me there is no economic logic in the prices they are getting today. Certainly it can be argued that a lot of rubbish or poor quality wool is being sold, but this only cannot camouflage the position in terms of the total clip. There is something mysterious about world wool prices and how they affect Australia. There are some indicators which one can look to for a reason for the fall in the price of wool, but these are only short term indicators.
If we look at the world situation we find that in the last 2 years world production of wool has increased at a greater rate than world consumption. It can be argued therefore that there may be a case for a slight reduction in the price of wool but not to today’s level of prices. As I have said, the low price of wool in Australia defies the law of logic. The total level of world production has increased approximately 6,000 million lb of greasy wool. Production is up in Australia, Russia, South Africa and New Zealand. However, production in the United States of America, Argentina and Uruguay is slightly down. But while world production of wool is up, stocks of raw wool have shown a substantial decline.
There has been a substantial decline in the stocks of the New Zealand Wool Commission. These stocks are mainly cross bred wools. As I have said, world consumption is up but consumption has not increased at the same rate as wool production. At least, this has been the case in the last few years. On studying this situation it is apparent that one economic influence which appears to be depressing wool prices is a noticeable slowing down in the rate of expansion of the textile industry in the face of substantial increases in production. This is what the figures show and I suppose it is all we can go on. There is a slowing down in the rate of expansion - not in absolute terms but in relative terms - to the degree that the rate of increase in expansion of the textile industry is less than the rate of increase in wool production. So, if the statistics are right this is 1 indicator which could suggest a reason for a slight decline in prices.
Another influence which has operated, at least in the last 12 months, has been the uncertainty of the value of currency, particularly currency in Europe. Where one has high interest rates and a level of uncertainty wilh respect to currency the tendency is to dispose of all stocks pretty smartly. It could be that this type of exchange adjustment is having some influence also on wool prices. But there is no evidence to show that this is so - it is only a surmise. There is no reason to suggest that there is any slackening off in the demand for wool in key importing countries. There is no reason to suggest that there is a recess:on in these countries, particularly Japan. In fact, evidence to hand suggests that the Japanese economy is booming. I suppose it could be compared to the Australian economy. Japan is looking more and more to exports of textiles to earn export income just as Australia is looking more and more to wool exports to gain export income. There are satisfactory economic conditions in Japan and Germany and also, to a degree, in the United States. The value of raw wool exports from Australia in 1966-67 was $869m; in 1967-68, $762m; and in 1968-69, approximately $850m. Those figures illustrate the importance of wool exports.
One matter I want to refer to which concerns me and which I hope worries the Minister for Primary Industry is the attitude of the tin ted States to Australia’s primary producers. We were informed in the House today by the Minister for Primary Industry that there is a ban on the export of mutton to Canada. I do not know to what degree the Canadians are following the practice of the United States in this matter. It would seem that America is adopting a hardening attitude on all fronts against imports not only from Australia but from other countries. We could be in an unknown area here which could have serious consequences for Australia. Australia’s best customer for wool is Japan. If anything happens to the export of Japanese textiles not only will Japan suffer but so too will Australia. We know that America is the only country that places a tax on imports of Australian wool. I lived in America for several years and I know the force of the farm lobby in Congress. I know how important and how powerful it is against imports. This lobby is working all the time on behalf of vested interests in America to try to minimise the level of primary products into that country. We see these pressures working constantly in the field of beef. We now see them in respect of mutton. We have seen this policy implemented in the form of a tax on wool.
From reading it would now seem there is a hardening attitude by America towards the importation of textiles from Japan. I can see a dangerous situation here because 30% of our total exports of wool go to Japan. Australia relies on Japan as its main customer. If there is a hardening of attitude by the American Government towards Japan on wool textiles, Australia also will suffer. It would teem therefore that 2 main points arise from what I have said about the world scene and the Australian scene. The first point is that we can sell all the wool we produce provided we improve quality. Secondly, we can sell this wool at a price. I have made a comparison with foodstuffs, particularly wheat and dairy products. There is quite a different set of circumstances for those who argue that we should have tremendous stocks of wool on hand. We cannot sell this wool so I do not think this is a realistic argument. I just do not believe this argument is realistic unless it is related to certain prices. There is an increasing demand in the world for wool.
I turn to the local scene. Of course reference has been made in this Bill to the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The basic difference between the Government’s policy and the policy of the Australian Labor Party on the AWIC is an important one. We on this side of the House, along with many influential sections of the wool industry, believe that the AWIC would be a much better organisation if it were elected democratically by the wool growers, in the same way as the Parliament is elected by the people, rather than being appointed in the way it is. I have not moved any amendments to this Bill to that effect because it is such an important decision and there would be no sense in moving amendments out of context.
In the last few years, because of the deteriorating conditions of the wool industry, all types of proposals have been put up. I do not suppose there is another industry in Australia in which there is greater division of opinion and a greater lot of urgers, pressure groups and experts, lt does not matter what one does in the wool industry. The next day there always seems lo be a tremendous argument from somewhere against it. lt is an amazing thing. We seem to be able to argue rationally in other industries, whether it be the beef, dairy or honey industries, lt does not matter what one puts forward in the wool industry or how much support there is for it, the next day there will be an equal amount of opposition from all over the country from wool growers and wool brokers. It is a hotch-potch of a shemozzle to try to bring forward any scheme with any degree of unanimity. I must admit that I have never struck anything like it before l became involved with the wool industry.
– Even in your own Party?
– 1 will not comment on that. At one time a price reserve scheme was put up. After a lot of deliberation a committee was appointed by the Australian Wool Board to inquire into this matter. Lt met frequently and came out in support of the reserve price scheme. The Minister then went to the Government and the Government of course, in characteristic fashion, decided not to act on the recommendations . of the Committee, lt said it would do 2 things, lt said it would appoint an interdepartmental committee. This is what I call the ‘favourite stalling tactic’ of the Government. It said that when the inter-departmental committee had made its deliberations it would put the matter to a referendum. I have little faith in referendums.
– What are you saying?
– I am talking about the reserve price scheme.
– The honourable member wanted a referendum on the lifting of the embargo on the export of merino rams.
– Yes. I wanted one on that matter because that is a practical matter. The wool grower can work out whether he wants the rams to go or not, but we have all the pressure groups under the sun opposing the reserve price scheme. The whole matter became a pantomine. Sir William Gunn was stamping around the country hotly pursued by his opponents. Every move he made was countermanded. This was at a time when he was standing for a plebiscite in Maranoa. The whole thing was a farce. 1 think that if the wool grower had sat down and had carefully and rationally digested the elements on the reserve price scheme in 1965 he would have agreed to it. It is one of the worst things that has happened in this nation that the wool industry did not - I suppose it is all right to say this with the advantage of hindsight - agree by a majority to the reserve price scheme. Much progress would have been made in relation to quality, core testing and pre-sale sampling if the scheme had been accepted but it was not accepted.
The Opposition has been considering this matter for a long time and finalised its policy today. It is a flexible policy in the sense that it recognises that dynamic changes have taken place in the wool industry. Our present policy is to establish a statutory authority to acquire, appraise and market the Australian wool clip on behalf of the wool growers. That was the decision taken today. At the same time we propose a reconstruction scheme to assist in the problems of production and the streamlining of selling methods. We also have under consideration at this time a proposal for tariff compensation which recognises the direct and indirect disability being imposed on the wool industry by high tariffs on manufacturing industry. It recognises that something has to be done to an export industry which is being penalised. The last plank of our policy was a fully elected AWIC. The statutory authority will be responsible for the acquisition, appraisal, marketing and distribution of the Australian wool clip and would be conducted on sound business principles.
– This has nothing to do with the Bill.
– Yes, it does, because the Bill seeks an amendment to the wool Industry Act. The authority would be conducted on the sound business principles applicable to co-operatives. The authority would arrange for the acquisition and for the appraisal of the wool clip to be made in decentralised modern wool marketing complexes. In the interim period, wool would be appraised and catalogued by competent appraisers under the jurisdiction of the authority, in the short term, with the ready progression to pre-sale testing by objective measurement and equivalent scientific techniques designed to improve, standardise and streamline the preparation and sale of the clip. Inbuilt in the statutory authority is the minimum or reserve price plan. The only difference between this scheme and the reserve price scheme is one of degree. In the scheme that has been approved by my Party there will be provision, if necessary, for auction, private treaty, tender and for bilateral agreements between Australia and some other country, for example, Japan.
– How is it all to be financed?
– I will tell the Minister that. Financing will be basically the same as for the reserve price scheme. A revolving fund will be financed in the end by the wool grower but in the interim period by the Commonwealth. It could be argued that there should be no Commonwealth finance backing it and that the authority should operate under a reserve price scheme until the industry itself can finance the authority. This would take 5, 6 or 7 years. My Party believes that the urgency is such that it is essential that a statutory authority be appointed for acquisition purposes as soon .as possible so that it can commence operations for the acquisition and marketing of wool. Wool that was not sold because it did not attract the reserve price would be taken over by the authority at flexible prices. In some circum stances it would be equal to the reserve price: in other circumstances it would be a percentage of the reserve price. So it is flexible in that respect. The capital fund would be guaranteed initially by the Commonwealth Government by loan until all the authority’s funds were fully subscribed. It would then have to be repaid. All profits after working expenditures and the provision for normal reserves would be returned to wool growers each year. That is the basis of the proposal. It would be a statutory authority to acquire, to appraise, to market and to distribute the wool clip, a single marketing authority incorporating the basic elements of the reserve price scheme which was rejected by referendum. That is the basis of it.
– To be approved by referendum?
– Not as far as the Opposition is concerned. The Government, if it believes this scheme is good, should have implemented the scheme in 1965. If it had done this the wool industry would have been in a far superior position today. As far as I and my Party are concerned it was made clear in the policy speech in 1 966 that the scheme would be implemented without delay because the tremendous power in this country of the wool brokers and the textile industry is such that there seems to be unlimited money to oppose anything that anyone puts forward by way of statutory authority or anything which would weaken the control which the wool selling brokers and a section of the textile industry have over the wool producers.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hallett)It being 11 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 16th April, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr J. M. Hallett)
Majority . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed (vide page 3277).
– I was dealing with a proposal for the establishment of a statutory authority with an inbuilt minimum reserve price plan. I was giving details of the workings of it. I said that the Labor Party had under active consideration proposals for a tariff bounty. The wool industry is Australia’s most important export industry. It is recognised as the classic example of an unprotected export industry. The economic stranglehold which is being applied on the viability of wool production, particularly in the case of the small wool producer, is due in large measure to rising costs in association with low or unsatisfactory wool prices. It is recognised that the wool industry is adversely affected economically by tariffs. Some economists have measured the degree of disability at 8% on cash costs and up to 20% on total costs including imputed costs.
– The Labor Party is against tariffs, is it not?
– No. It is recognised that the wool industry receives assistance in respect of imports. In the determination of the cost disability these concessions, in the form of bounties on farm imports and the like, would have to be taken into account in order to determine the total liability or total disability. Let us remember that the wool grower sells practically all his product at world prices. He earns $800m or 25% of Australia’s total export income. That export income is vital to Australia’s growth, particularly as it allows for the imports of capital and consumer goods which are essential to the economic welfare of the labour intensive manufacturing sections which are highly protected by tariffs. Although the wool grower has to accept world prices for his product he is forced to purchase his essential imports at domestic prices which are affected by economic growth in Australia, by inflation and by tariffs. To put the matter simply, how do we answer the wool grower who comes to you or to me and asks the simple question: I have to sell my wool to Japan but I have to buy my spare parts, my chemicals, my urea and so on at the domestic price. How do I overcome this problem?’ This is the essence of a disability being suffered by the exporter and it is time that something was done about it.
– It is appropriate that the wool industry should be debated at this time, but before I make my own contribution to this debate I should like to refer to a matter raised by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and that is the question of the protective lobby in the United States of America and Japanese exports to that country. We need to get this in perspective. The Japanese domestic market absorbs 80% of her wool purchases. Only 20% is exported, and only a portion of that 20% goes to the United Slates. Japan exports large quantities of yarn and wool products to Russia and other countries. So while I agree that any increase in protection which might be applied in the United States is detrimental to Australia, we should keep in mind its relative importance. The wool industry is facing formidable problems but I agree with the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) who said in his second reading speech:
That phrase ‘the application of modern business techniques and management’ holds the key to the future of wool, and this legislation will go at least a part of the way to encourage and facilitate the adoption of these practices in the industry. It is this approach which will determine the ability of wool to survive in a modern industrial society; not the subsidy hand-out approach.
The honourable member for Dawson referred to the need for tariff protection for secondary industry on the one hand and subsidies for primary industries on the other. I would hope that the honourable member is not implying that our tariff structure is perfect and presents an ideal model for our primary industries to follow. I hope to be saying something on this subject in the near future in this House. The fact is that the policy of subsidies for primary products has in the long term been unsuccessful whenever and wherever it has been applied. I admit that subsidies on outputs have been introduced with the best intentions of helping industries, but it is a matter of established fact that they have ended up harming the industries they were designed to help and making eventual solutions to the industries’ problems even more difficult. The experience of the last 20 years proves that they just do not work. With these historical examples to guide us, for goodness sake do not let us think that wool will be an exception. In the present critical economic situation facing the wool industry, there is a greater danger than usual that short term political considerations may override sound long term economic arguments.
Over the last few years the Minister has invariably displayed a courageous and responsible attitude to the many and pressing problems confronting him, and I have no doubt that he will continue to do so in the case of the wool industry. But there is no doubt that the wool industry operates under severe disabilities in Australia today, buying many of its inputs on a protected home market, facing steep cost rises due in large part to Government policies of rapid national economic development, and selling its outputs at the lowest price for 20 years on the open world market. It is reasonable that under such conditions the wool industry should look for and expect to receive some special consideration. As I have just explained, the great fallacy would be to believe that a subsidy would solve the problem. It would not. It would merely compound the problem and make the solution more difficult.
There is no doubt in my mind that the best, and indeed the only approach which will allow the wool growers to retain their independence and at the same time avoid the very real dangers of an open ended commitment for the taxpayer, is a reconstruction scheme on the lines broadly similar to the dairy industry reconstruction scheme recently passed by this House. That is, growers of proven managerial ability who wish to extend their scale of operations should have access to long term finance at reasonable interest rates, and I feel that provision should also be made for vocational re-training for those who wish to leave the industry. Certainly this will cost the taxpayer money, but the result will be a decline in dependence on the public purse rather than the inevitable increase in dependence which would be the result of the subsidy or cost compensation alternative approach.
I ask the Government as a matter of urgency to consider the introduction of a scheme such as I have outlined. It would restore confidence in the industry, provide some degree of stability for declining land values and prove of immense value in safeguarding the future of our towns and communities in wool growing areas.
I congratulate the Government on its generous and realistic offer to increase the Commonwealth’s contribution to research and promotion by about $13m to $27m. This measure alone will relieve the grower of an average of about $1.20 per bale. I do not intend to refer in detail to the excellent work done by the various research organisations associated with the wool industry individually but 1 must mention a particularly outstanding example of cooperative effort. This was the invention and development of an entirely new technique and machine for wool spinning, or rather, wool twisting. The initial research and development work was done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Textile Research Laboratories at Belmont and the subsequent translation of its basic work into commercial practical hardware was done by Repco Ltd. As a result of that project Australia leads the world in this field of textile engineering and the competitive position of wool in the multi-textile battle has been improved.
I note from the Bill and the Minister’s second reading speech that the allocation of research funds in the future will be rather more under the control of the Minister. This seems reasonable as the Government will be greatly increasing its contribution. 1 now ask the Minister whether the question of research into shearing, or perhaps more accurately research into getting wool off the sheep, will receive a high priority in research. In my opinion the threat posed to the wool industry by shearing costs is comparable to that posed by synthetic fibres. The percentage of the total wool clip represented by shearing costs is 4 times greater than it was 20 years ago and at the present rate could double again in 7 years. It is very doubtful whether the wool industry can survive this colossal burden. One of the largest components of the cost of shearing is wages and clearly it is unrealistic to expect that shearing industry wages will increase at a slower rate than that of the rest of the economy.
Indeed, having spent many hours at the wrong end of a down tube I have first hand appreciation of the hard work involved in the shearing operation. It seems to me that if shearing costs are to be significantly reduced there will have to be some fundamental re-thinking on the whole subject of getting wool off sheep. Certainly such innovations as the Tally Hi method of shearing, coated combs and cutters and improved hand pieces have been of some help but. they do not attack the tremendous problem of the labour cost. We have spent an enormous amount of money and research effort over the years in getting wool onto sheep; we now have reached a stage where it has become an urgent necessity to mount an equivalent programme of research into getting it off.
I am sure that all those interested in the industry will welcome the proposal to enable the Australian Wool Board to borrow funds to build wool complexes should present investigations show this to be desirable. I am convinced that integrated wool centres where wool can be received, objectively tested, stored, sold, dumped and prepared for shipping are an essential requirement for future cost savings in the industry.
The next question which arises is: What sort of organisation will be responsible for selling the wool clip in these complexes or centres? We have heard a great deal in recent times about the support from wool growers for a single selling or marketing authority. There are many opinions on what is meant by such an authority and what its powers should be. I do not intend to go into the subject tonight but what I would like to say is that while I appreciate the many potential advantages of such an authority if all the potential benefits are to be realised the management of the authority wil’l have to be of the very highest standard. I hope that if such an authority is formed every possible effort will be made to get the most able men in Australia to run it. It will need men with a wide knowledge of business and marketing techniques and, as a wool grower myself, it would not worry me if they came from outside the industry.
I want to make one final point. Monopolies of any kind are not conducive to the taking of dynamic initiatives, nor to quick reaction to a situation indicating the need for change. Therefore I feel it would be a considerable advantage if a private enterprise marketing organisation could be given the opportunity to operate in competition with any authority which might be established. If the private organisation could not show advantages for those who dealt with it, like any other business in similar circumstances, it would lose clients and probably its backers would lose their money. However if successful it would provide the eminently desirable element of competition in the marketing of our wool and a most valuable stimulus to innovation and efficiency in all aspects of the industry. I support the Bill and trust that my suggestions will receive consideration by the Government.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable members question is as follows:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
In view of his reply to my question No. 858 (Hansard, 5 May 1970, pages 1639-40) does he confirm that a professed member of the Communist Party, subject to appropriate qualifications and experience, would not be prejudiced when considering appointments as judges and magistrates.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Should it fall to me, as Attorney-General, to make a recommendation for the appointment of a judge or magistrate, I shall take into account all matters that I consider relevant.
Party names on ballot papers (Question No. 141)
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
Can he state in respect of which national, State or provincial legislatures the names of political parties are permitted or required to be placed beside the names of candidates on ballot-papers at elections.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The required information is nol held by my Department, but the following particulars have been furnished by courtesy of the National Librarian.
There is great variety in types of ballot-papers, candidates’ lists associated with the voting procedures, and the manner of voting. However, the following list includes those countries where the arrangement of lists or ballot-papers, or the method of voting, involve identification of the candidate by party. It should be noted that the information for several countries does not indicate clearly whether symbols allotted to candidates are those representing a party or whether they are symbols peculiar to that candidate. These countries are: Ghana (Gold Coast), Jamaica, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sudan and Uganda.
Northern Territory Legislative Council: Absence of Quorum (Question No. 949)
asked the Minister for the
Interior, upon notice:
What action does he intend to take regarding the political and constitutional position in the Northern Territory which led to the absence of a quorum in the Legislative Council on the morning of 6th May 1970.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Legislative Council was informed on 26th May of the Government’s response to the Council’s resolution requesting the appointment of an independent person to inquire into the administrative and political arrangements for the Northern Territory.
Northern Territory Legislative Council: Grievances (Question No. 993)
asked the Minister for the
Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Army Food Science Establishment (Question No. 953)
asked the Minister for the
Army, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Note that these figures include expenditure on major new equipments as follows:
The Home Ration Scale. Selected components are under long term storage and shelf life trials, at any one point in time, with a view to improvement of product shelf lives and quality.
Pacific Islands Regiment (PIR) Patrol Ration. New and improved components have been developed, trialled and introduced.
Combat Ration (One Man). Shelf life, caloric content and nutrient level trials conducted after each year’s packing programme, for both statistical reasons, and to allow areas for improvement or adjustment to be isolated. Some additional and changed components are under current consideration.
These trials are also carried out on the Combat Rations (Ten Man), the Combat Rations (One Man) Lightweight, the Emergency Ration and the Small Ships Ration.
Combat Rations (one Man) Lightweight have been developed, trialled, accepted and introduced into the Service during this period. Further varieties of this ration are currently under development.
Combat Rations (10 Man) Lightweight currently under development and trial.
There is a continuing investigation into hot-air dried foods and ways and means of improving their quality and storage life.
Freeze dried foods. Progress has been made in extending the range of foodstuffs that can be preserved by this process, and this work continues, together with research into ways of reducing process costs.
Explosive puffed foods. This involves investigations into the production, storage qualities and acceptability of puffed fruit and vegetable products.
Compressed Foods. Investigation into the thermoplasticity of air-dried, freeze dried and pulled foods with a view to compressing these so as to reduce weight and bulk in ration packs.
Overseas Ration Scale. This study involves the development and testing of new dehydrated and compressed foods that can be used as alternatives to fresh and canned foods in an overseas station.
Storage tests of canned water.
Development, design and packaging of RAAF air-survival rations.
Storage life of canned foods, aimed at investigating the relationship between head space and vacuum in cans, and their keeping qualities in tropical and sub-tropical climates.
Alternative food containers. Investigation into the use of aluminium and plastic containers for foodstuffs.
Microbiological studies on dehydrated carrot during storage.
Investigations into the chemical deterioration which occurs in potato powder in storage.
Investigations into the effect of selected antioxidants on the storage properties of freezedried meat and fish products.
Development of an acceptable compressed ready-mix bread for inclusion in ration packs.
Development of improved Service Ration Scales and Hospital Diet Scales.
Trials and investigations into the caloric requirements of soldiers in operational conditions and participation in and assistance with British Army trials with similar aims in Malaysia.
Storage trials of instant potato flakes. Investigations into the loss of pungency in dehydrated onions during storage.
The effects of temperature and humidity on the physical performance of a person by measurement with a cycle ergometer.
Trials of onion and carrot varieties, and their suitability for dehydration.
Investigation into the feasibility of producing high energy synthetic foods for use in ration packs.
Acceptability trials of pre-cooked freeze-dried beef.
A study of the effect of pre-cooking on freezedried lamb with special reference to histological changes.
A critical review of methods used in thiamine estimation in foods.
Acceptability of curried beef and green beans compressed blocks.
The use of butter powder in the compression of instant dehydrated potato.
Methods of organoleptic evaluation of foodstuffs for Service use.
Dehydration and rehydration of vegetables with special reference to carrots.
The influence of cooking method on the storage characteristics of freeze-dried beef.
Survival of micro-organisms during freezedrying and during storage of the freezedried product.
Introduction of a complete range of operational ration packs and special ration packs for use by the Australian Army and the other Services.
Acceptance and development of dehydration and compression in foodstuffs as a means of giving the soldier a highly acceptable ration, with savings in bulk and weight.
Determinations on the shelf-lives and storage properties of a wide range of service foods, with a resultant savings in expenditure and extensions to manufacturers warranties.
Many minor recommendations which have affected such matters as Service ration scales, the packaging and storage of rations and Commonwealth Food Specifications.
In addition, Rosella Foods of Melbourne have developed a range of hot air-dried meals for possible inclusion in Combat Ration (One-man) Lightweight, at no cost. These meals are at present under trial at the Establishment
A number of academics from Australian universities and the CSIRO met recently in Canberra to consider the problem which the Establishment has in engaging in fundamental food research which affects other disciplines than that of nutrition and to determine the desirability and capacity of directing some of their research effort into defence food areas. It is hoped that a coordinated programme of such defence food research between a number of Universities may be arranged covering an expected S-year period.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
Is he able to supply particulars of the salaries and conditions applying to (a) pilots and (b) flight engineers flying (i) Boeing 727 (ii) DC9 and (iii) Boeing 707 aircraft in (A) Australia, (B) the United States of America, (C) the United Kingdom, (D) West Germany and (E) Sweden.
– The Minister has supplied the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The minimum guaranteed pay (M.G.P.) for domestic airline pilots in Australia is compiled on the basis of 65 hours flight time composed of three-quarter day and one-quarter night flying.
The M.G.P. scale of salaries applicable to DC9 and Boeing 727 aircraft is as follows:
lt has been found that generally, the stage at which a pilot graduates to DC9 and Boeing 727 type aircraft occurs during the 7th or 8th year of his experience as a pilot. Because of this, it would be more realistic to consider the range of salaries (M.G.P.) for DC9 and Boeing 727 pilots as being from $8,897-$ 14,361 and $9,398-$15,288. The first figure in these ranges being the M.G.P. for’ DC9 and Boeing 727 pilots during their 7th year of aeronautical experience, and the last figure is the M.G.P. for a Captain in receipt of the final incremental increase.
The progress of a pilot throughout his flying career is governed by his seniority which is strictly protected and can only be over-ridden by an unfavourable operational assessment.
An opportunity for pilots to obtain additional flying time is provided by the ‘bidding’ system. In accordance with this scheme a pilot, depending on his seniority and the types of aircraft for which his licence is endorsed, may bid for and be credited with additional hours up to 85 hours per month in the case of piston engine and turbopropeller type aircraft, and 80 hours per month in respect of turbo-jet aircraft. Pay for the additional hours flown is computed on a pro-rata basis of the appropriate annual equivalent of the M.G.P.
The M.G.P. for a Qantas eight-year Captain operating Boeing 707 aircraft on international airline operations is $18,738. This amount includes an overseas pay allowance of $1,238.
This salary is based on 832 hours flying per year. As in the case of the domestic airline pilots, Qantas pilots may also engage in additional flying. The maximum number of hours which may be credited, however, is presently under review.
Australian international and domestic airline pilots are granted 35 days leave (inclusive of Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays) for each completed year of service.
The salaries of flight engineers employed by Australian domestic operators on Boeing 727 or Elect ra aircraft commence at $5,798 and are increased by increments of $210 per annum to a maximum of $7,688 in the tenth year.
Until he is fully qualified, however, and is able to perform line operations without supervision, a flight engineer is regarded as probationary and during this period is paid at the rate of $4,150 per annum.
The salaries of flight engineers employed by Qantas (international operators) are as follows:
The above rales applicable to Qantas flight engineers became effective on12th September 1969. Negotiations concerning a further increase are proceeding.
In the United Kingdom the position is:
Leave: 4 weeks per annum (2 weeks in Summer and 2 weeks in Winter).
In the United States, pilot pay rates vary from airline to airline us the Airline Pilots Association negotiates separate contracts with each company on behalf of the pilots employed by the operator concerned.
Current monthly gross pay rates for an American Boeing 707 pilot are:
This is based on 75 hours per month, half day and half night.
T.W.A. pay rates for Boeing 727 on the same basis are:
Second Officers flying Boeing 707 and 727 aircraft are qualified pilots holding Commercial Licence and a currently effective flight engineer certificate.
Delta Airlines pay rates for DC9-32 on the same basis are:
Annual leave is provided in accordance with the following schedule:
The leave entitlements and salaries mentioned above represent the standard for all negotiations of this nature in the coming 6-8 months.
I have been unable to obtain at this stage details requested in respect of pilots’ salaries and conditions for Sweden and West Germany.
Australian Capital Territory: Building Societies (Question No. 943)
asked the Minister for the
Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
To 13.8.68- $7,500 or 80% of the property valuation whichever is the lower
From 14.8.68- $8,500 or 80% of the property valuation whichever is the lower
Under the provisions of the Co-operative Societies Ordinance 1939-1966 the maximum loan which a society is permitted to make is 90% of the valuation of the property.
Since 1963 permanent societies have obtained funds from the Commonwealth and these are used to provide first mortgage loans only.
The maximum amounts that may be loaned with Commonwealth funds have varied as follows: 1963 to 13.8.68- $7,500 or 80% of valuation whichever is the lower
From 14.8.68-58,500 or 80% of valuation whichever is the lower
There is no provision for a minimum deposit except that societies are restricted by the Cooperative Societies Ordinance 1939-1966 to loans of not more than 90% of the valuation of the property.
When Commonwealth funds or Commonwealth guaranteed funds are used the Commonwealth requires that a loan does not exceed 80% of the valuation of the property.
Changes in interest rates charged by ter minating building societies are set out below: Commonwealth Financed Societies (20 societies)
From 1 1.4.63- 4¾%
Note: No Government financed societies have been formed since 1963.
Bank Financed Societies (7 societies financed by 4 banks)
From 1.4.65- 5½%
From 1.3.61 - 5¼%
From 1.8.68- 5½%
In addition societies make an administrative charge of 3.3 cents per $100 share per month.
Permanent societies in the Australian Capital Territory have charged interest rates from 5¼% to 9½% depending on the society and the source of the funds from which each loan has been made.
First mortgage Commonwealth funds have been loaned by societies at interest rates shown below:
Increases in interest rates applied only to new loans.
Terminatingsocieties - 32 years;Permanent societies-31years.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question: (l), (2) and (4) The following table shows the services jointly provided and fares charged by both Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia:
Trans-Australia Airlines provides the following additional services:
The following additional service is provided by Ansett Airlines of Australia:
Education: Assistance to Northern Territory (Question No. 146)
asked the Minister for the
Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (The Minister for Education and Science has provided information in respect of community and private schools in the Northern Territory. Persons of part-Aboriginal descent only are not included in the figures for Aborigines except where these people normally live in Aboriginal communities. The information provided relates to the 1970 school and academic year.)
(2) Number attending schools in the Northern Territory (31 March 1970):
The nature and estimated cost of assistance is as follows:
The above statements of cost for university and other’ relate to special provisions for the Northern Territory, and do not include the Commonwealth wide provision of University and Advanced Education Scholarships.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission has supplied the following information.
Yes. Mr Willesee referred also to the crime rate in Australia, the enquiry into illegal abortions in Victoria, a book published in Western Australia about police killings in Australia, a survey about public confidence in the police in Queensland, and press comment about the N.S.W. Police.
No. Mr Willesee was asked to identify one person. He could not give this information, because he did not know it. Only the producer of the film had the information.
Mr Willesee is employed on contract by the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
to (9) Following the telecast of 2nd May, the A.B.C. made available to the N.S.W. Commissioner of Police a copy of the film seen on Four Corners’. I am informed that all journalists and comperes employed by the A.B.C. are fully aware of their obligations as employees of the A.B.C. and their responsibility as members of the Australian Journalists’ Association to abide by the Association’s code of ethics.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
How many days have been taken up by Full Bench hearings of (a) appeals from Conciliation Commissioners and (b) references from a Commissioner since 1952.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am advised by the Industrial Registrar that over the period from 1952 to 22nd May 1970 Full Benches of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration (until 13th August 1956) and of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission (since 14th August 1956) have sat on 593 days to hear appeals from Conciliation Commissioners and from Commissioners. Over the same period, 742 sitting days were taken up with references.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Moreover, the Commonwealth Public Service Act enables female officers to be granted up to 20 weeks’ leave after confinement. In these circumstances, and since the prevailing practices regarding nursing mothers engaging in employment in Aus.rtalia are different from the circumstances envisaged by the Convention, the need for providing for daily absences for the purpose mentioned has not arisen.
There have been few ratifications of this Convention in recent years.
Trade Unions: Actions in Tort (Question No. 845)
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Arbitration Act does not include a similar provision. Nor does the legislation of the Slates other than Queensland.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
Did the Government disapprove of the action of the Public Service Board in appearing as a party in the joint Bench hearing of the Australian Postal Workers’ Union’s case for equal pay.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In answer to part (1) of question No. 710 I said: “The Public Service Board’s appearance in this case arose out of it being a respondent to the matters before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission involving the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union and other unions.’
I do not wish to add to that.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable members question is as follows:
Hospital accommodation is available only in public and intermediate wards. The fees which apply are as follows:
Public ward charges are made in all major regional and district hospitals. No charges are madeat rural hospitals.
Where family income is $4,000 a year or more hospitalisation rate is $8.40 a day. This rate includes drugs and dressings and nursing attention but does not include other scheduled medical services such as X-ray and surgical attention.
A surcharge of 50% applies where a person is entitled to a benefit under the National Health Act of the Commonwealth. However, as an interim measure, the maximum amount charged for hospitalisation has been fixed at $10.40 a day. These changes will shortly be incorporated in regulations under the Public Hospitals (Charges) Ordinance.
Papua and New Guinea: Typists’ Efficiency Allowances (Question No. 1064)
asked the Minister for
External Territories, upon notice:
What (a) number and (b) percentage of (i) indigene and (ii) expatriate Administration typists qualify for each of the efficiency allowances mentioned in his answer to me (Hansard, 8 May 1970, page 1940).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
– As I was saying just before the quite pleasant interruption of the sitting, the Deputy Prime Minister has been particularly consistent in his approach to the problems of the wool industry. I was referring to the fact that when he was speaking to a meeting of Federal and Queensland Country Party Ministers and members of parliament at Surfers Paradise in February he hinted very strongly that he would press the Commonwealth Government to help the wool industry, and that was interpreted as a move to seek a cost compensation scheme.
I move from the Deputy Prime Minister to the Minister for Primary Industry who, in an address to the Australian Wool Board advisory committee, took quite a different view - at least an apparently different view. 1 do not want to do him any injustice in this respect. If 1 quote the words he used on that occasion, that might suffice to indicate that there seems to be some difference of view. He said:
Direct subsidies may also be looked upon as mere palliatives which treat the symptoms of the problem but not its cause. 1 move from him to the Prime Minister who, at a Press conference in March, said very definitely that a direct subsidy was not the long term solution to the problems oil the wool industry. So, if we sum up the situation and the background against which this Bill comes to the Parliament, we find that the Prime Minister and the Minister for Primary Industry are at one in being violently against any subsidy for wool, but the Deputy Prime Minister is in favour of it.
But I have nol quite finished the picture. In an answer to a question that I asked in the Parliament the Minister for Primary Industry indicated that he would proceed by administrative measures and not by parliamentary action with the marketing authority. This is regrettable. I understand that the power to do this resides with the Minister, but surely it would have been more desirable to have all of these questions resolved at the one time and in a cohesive and cogent way. If the scheme is to proceed as the Minister has indicated, again there is some regret because there has been very serious questioning of the financial basis of the marketing plan and again most of the questions that have been raised have remained unanswered. This adds to the confusion that exists in the Government at the present time. But perhaps 1 do members of the Government an injustice. Perhaps, in fact, they are merely thinking aloud of what might be done. I hope that the Government comes to a resolution in the interests of this great industry, in the interests of Australia and in the interests of the many growers who are in considerable trouble at the present time.
On the other han(, Mr Speaker, as you have heard tonight from the honourable member for Dawson, who led for the Opposition, we have made quite clear our position as to what we believe can be done to assist the wool industry. The various highlights of the scheme, if I may put it that way, were enunciated. I refer to the statutory authority, the authority to acquire and scientifically to appraise and organise the best selling possible, the reserve price, the fact that unsold wool will be taken over by the authority at flexible prices, and a capital fund backed by the Commonwealth Government and with grower contributions. 1 would hope that this entire new structure that we propose would do more than just those things. 1 would hope that it would give its attention to the fact that, although we are the greatest wool producing nation in the world, we use or process 6% of our own clip and that is all. 1 have talked with the people who are involved in the trade, and they say, with the right sort of climate and with the right sort of encouragement, they could perhaps raise that 6% to 25%. They did not specify over what period, but at least they had their eyes set on doing something more with our own product than is done at the present time. I would hope that not only would farm problems be looked at, as is proposed in the continuing research grants, but that scientific handling would be examined. Marketing, of course, is implicit in our proposal, lt would be drastically re-organised but we would go a step further and have a look at the future of wool processing at all levels in our country.
I think we have made it quite clear that there is reason and cause for our confusion at this time as to why the measure has come in as it has. We examine it and find that the Bill gives greater power to the Federal Government over research and promotional funds which it contributes for these purposes. So it means in effect that the Commonwealth Government will give some additional money and that it will take some additional money, particularly for its own agencies such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. It is a new principle in some ways because the Board previously had the power to make the recommendations on this matter. Now the Government will do it. I think the Minister’s words were that the Board would have a meaningful role in determining what would happen to these funds.
Then we come to the other provision in this Bill which gives the Minister the power to select and nominate the Chairman of the Authority. This again is a change. I find it a strange change in a Bill of this nature at this time with all the other great changes that have been projected by the leaders of the Government. I wonder why the change has been made. Does it suggest that Sir William Gunn is leaving the Australian Wool Board or that he is staying, or that it is desirable that this position be re-examined? It would seem to indicate that that is so; otherwise what is the point in making the change at this time? Certainly the one thing I find myself completely in agreement about is the need for more basic research, particularly in relation to wool industry problems. I know that the Bill does create an anomaly. What it does is it says that the Commonwealth agencies in future - that is, the CSIRO and BAE - will be able to be allocated their funds by the Government without relying on the allocations or the direct apportionment of the Wool Board. But, of course, State departments and universities will still have to go through that drill. This seems to me to be drawing a distinction, although I realise the Commonwealth has contributed the funds and the Commonwealth is taking the funds; but it does seem to be a somewhat clumsy way of applying funds for research. Perhaps the Minister in his reply, if he makes one, might explain why this is done in that way.
Certainly in supporting the fact that funds should be made available for research, and more funds are proposed, I would hope not only that consideration might be given to the 2 Commonwealth agencies involved, the State department and the universities, but also that some attention might bc paid to the regional research and extension organisations which have played such a key role in many parts of the country. I might mention some of these organisations. One of them which is not too far from here is the Yass Valley Authority, lt has done some particularly valuable work under its project officer, Mr David V. Walters. The Yass Valley Authority for some years now has been investigating a whole series of problems connected with the farms and wool properties which have been in the Yass Valley for nearly 100 years. There are similar bodies to this one. There is the joint Commonwealth State industry organisation in the Murray Valley, which is called the Murray Research and Extension Committee. There is also the Victorian Irrigation Research and Promo:ion Organisation, which also has a vital interest in the problems of the wool industry. Finally, there is the Irrigation Research and Extension Committee which operates in New South Wales and with which 1 had the honour to be associated for some 12 years. These are bodies that operate at a regional level. The Commonwealth Government agencies are represented on them and participate in their activities. The Stale government agencies are represented on them and the industry organisations themselves are represented on them. They are very close to the needs, particularly of the producers. I hope that perhaps consideration might be given under this measure to using the expertise which those bodies have developed at a regional level by supporting the work that they are doing and perhaps by initialing some new lines of study at that level.
It is undoubted that funds which could be applied to either the Commonwealth or State agencies could flow down to these organisations, but 1 would suggest that a study be made of them because research is necessary at all levels of the industry and in my experience there is no more effective approach to research and extension problems than at the regional level through organisations such as these. 1 would commend the examination of them. In summation, the measure contains, of course, one good point in that it will mean, I hope, additional research work.
On the subject of wool promotion, I think that at this hour and in this debate the whole ramifications of wool promotion are a little large to tackle but I would say that there arc some very grave reservations held about wool promotion, how it should be tackled and how in fact the funds have been applied. Some very grave comments have been made, particularly within the industry, and it would seem to mc that the time is fast approaching for a reassessment of wool promotion generally. 1 know that there are many efficient operatives in the wool industry, but like every major effort that is made in any situation there is a need to reappraise from time to time and 1 think that the time has come for a reappraisal there. All of these things surely hang together or surely should come together because we have been told, as I say, by the leaders of the Government - the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Primary Industry - that the indications are that there are great changes under way. I find it puzzling that we have what I describe as a bit measure coming before us at the present time, but it does give us the opportunity to review these problems and to stress them. I join honourable members on all sides of the Parliament in saying that there is an urgent need for remedial action at the grower level at this time.
– Who said that?
– Mr Hawke, the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. That statement must come as a shock to honourable members on the other side of the House who in this debate have shown some sympathy for the problems confronting the wool industry in Australia. It does not help the wool grower or the farming community at this time to hear such statements, which I regard as completely irresponsible. Of course, a cost price squeeze is affecting the industry. But the emphasis is on price. Rising costs have been a problem. But the main problem is a price problem.
To demonstrate this point, I point out that the average price for wool in Australia in the year 1963-64 was 58.08c per lb realising a gross value for the clip of Sl,023m. In 1968-69 the price had fallen to 44.76c per lb, realising a gross value for the clip of S832m. So, we received on that occasion $200m less for our clip - for 200 million lb more wool. In the 1 1 months to the end of May 1970 the average price for the season was 38.32c per lb. The average price for the month of May 1969 was 41.09c per lb and the average price for May this year was 32.46c per lb. This demonstrates the price problem. It is the major problem confronting the industry.
Let us look now at the cost side. Costs have affected all the major export industries. We find that costs rose during the 1959-64 period at a reasonable rate of 1.4% per annum. But from 1964 to 1968 costs rose at the rate of nearly 4% per annum. But because of the superphosphate bounty last year the increase in costs to the farming community dropped back to 1.9% per annum. But this does not help every wool grower because so many of our wool growers in the marginal areas and in the pastoral regions do not receive a benefit from the superphosphate bounty.
This picture is an alarming one. I think that the downward price trend since 1963-64- a fall of 42.5% associated with costs having risen by 20% - really shows that the wool industry is in dire trouble. We are back to wool prices that arc lower than the prices in 1948-49. As the honourable member for Dawson so rightly said, the wool industry is an efficient industry. It is an unprotected industry. No other export industry in Australia has been put to the test of increasing its productivity as the wool industry has done. How long it can continue without assistance as an industry standing the strains of all sorts of policies that generate growth I do not know.
The problem has been one not only of a price decline and an increase in costs. Since 1964-65, widespread drought has been experienced throughout Australia. This has led to a record indebtedness of wool growers. The net indebtedness to the major trading banks of farmers generally increased by 71% between 1964 and 1969, wool growers being responsible for nearly 50% of this increased indebtedness to the major trading banks. The net rural indebtedness to major institutional lenders increased from $195m to $l,037m, an increase of 600%, between 1963 and 1969. The gross indebtedness to all lending institutions of the farming community now amounts to $2,000m. Because of this situation, I find it hard to believe that a wool selling plan with a floor price operation being financed by the wool growers themselves as advocated by the honourable member for Dawson could be instituted. In this sort of situation, 1 do not know how our wool growers could rise to this sort of expenditure.
These figures, as 1 said earlier, demonstrate the seriousness and the urgency of the problem facing wool growers, the Government, the economy and, in fact, the whole of Australia. No-one can deny that a great measure of credit is due to the wool industry for having earned $17,000m of foreign exchange since 1949, representing 40% of the total of Australia’s export earnings since 1949. which has enabled remarkable growth and development to take place throughout Australia in the manufacturing sector as well as providing jobs and creating an affluence the country has not known before. Wool earnings have provided the foreign exchange which has been necessary to enable secondary industries to import the capital equipment needed to bring about this industrial growth. In spite of the large growth which is expected in our mineral earnings and in the earnings of our manufacturing industries, there will still be a great need for the continuance of a viable wool industry in the future to help maintain our balance of payments situation. Another consideration which has to be taken into account is the fact that vast areas of Australia are unsuited to any other form of rural production. The wool growers in the vast arid areas of western Queensland, western New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia do not have the potential to diversify into other forms of production.
The wool industry is, as has been said, the largest single industry in Australia. It has an estimated capital investment of $8,000m, which equals 85% of the book value of the combined secondary industries in Australia. Perhaps the industry is too capital intensive, because the value of wool production represents only about 5% of all factory production. There are many aspects of the handling and marketing of the products which are antiquated and backward by modern standards. This Bill provides for a substantia] savings potential in this area of costs.
Studies indicate that significant savings are possible in the handling and processing of wool for sale, by the construction of a national scale of fully integrated wool selling complexes such as the one which is being planned at Yennora. At present a bale of wool is handled on an average of 80 to 90 times from the time it leaves the property until the time it is loaded on a ship going overseas. This is not good enough in these days. I understand that a saving of about $4 on each bale of wool could be effected by adopting the modern handling techniques which will be provided under the terms of the Bill. This will represent a saving to the growers of approximately $20m, or more. Nearly all sections of the wool trade recognise the need for the establishment of wool selling centres with modern handling equipment for the joint use by brokers, providing for the speedy movement of wool into the complexes and out on to the ships in order to enable a cutting of costs. The complexes will provide the basis for core testing, the presampling and testing of wool or objective measurement and bulk classing and the selling of larger bulk lines. The Bill will also, as I said earlier, provide the necessary funds to enable the Australian Wool Board to build these complexes and lease them to the brokers.
I support the moves for the establishment of a single selling authority with the necessary powers to administer the marketing and distribution of the entire Australian wool clip. At a mass meeting in Moree on 21st March of the wool growers of New South Wales, which has been the key State over the years so far as the wool marketing controversy is concerned, it was decided to recommend this system of selling to the various primary producer organisations in New South Wales. We have seen great progress in this regard since then. The Australian Wool Industry Conference has adopted this recommendation. I want to make one point clear: In the process of establishing a single selling authority, I would not like to see us cast aside the wool brokers who at the complexes must still act as agents on the growers’ behalf. A very good relationship has existed between the brokers and growers over the years. Many brokers have had to assist wool growers financially through their periods of adver sity. I suggest that this authority must appoint a board of management consisting of the best business brains available, whether they be from this country or outside it. They need not necessarily be wool growers, but they must bc men whose business judgment and management have been proved. This board of management must be responsible for the day to day disposal of our wool clip.
It is envisaged that some of our wool will be sold at auction, by negotiation, by tender or at quoted prices. Of course, I have heard it suggested within the circles of the industry organisation that those engaged in the wool industry support the principle, of supply management. But we would need to be careful that we do nol get caught holding back great reserves of wool in Australia and landing ourselves with a stockpiling problem which could have a depressing effect on world wool prices. The whole point is that we must ensure that the growers and the Government adopt the best policy in order to guarantee that the growers get a fairer price for their product. I am told that there is evidence to indicate that the spinners and manufacturers were prepared to pay as much this year as they did last year for wool, but the market fell from 47c to 32c. Yet the price of woollen fabrics and competitive synthetic fabrics has risen. So to me there appears to be no reason for this price drop for wool. We have heard all sorts of excuses for it, such as high overseas interest rates, exchange problems, etc.
Why should our wool growers be subjected to the so-called free auction system, with no reserve and no protection? Why should they be exposed to every economic breeze and blast that blows from one part of the world or the other? Why should they be exposed to speculators, manipulators, pie buyers, and the countless number of middle men and hangers-on? I can assure honourable members that if this practice continues the Australian wool industry is doomed. We need a firm single seller, not 105,000 fragmented wool growers buckling under huge overdrafts and having to take for their wool what they are offered on their sale day. We must put wool growers into the position where they can in fact use their collective strength to negotiate low shipping freight rates and a higher price for their wool. I believe that if world trade wants wool it should be prepared to pay a price consistent with wool’s quality and the present day prices of commodities, not the prices that prevailed in 1948-49.
The next important feature of the Bill provides for an increased contribution for wool promotion and research. The Commonwealth’s contribution will increase from SI 4m to an average of S27m, thus reducing the wool tax on the growers from 2% to I % of the gross proceeds of their clip. This will save growers SI. 20 per bale. The Minister in his second reading speech indicated that the Government quite rightly will have a greater say in the direction of the expenditure of funds. I believe that some consideration should be given to market research for our wool. I think the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) made the point that in the past we have spent a lot of money on research into putting more woo! on the sheep and producing more wool per acre, but very little money has been spent on research into getting the wool off the sheep in the most economical way and handling and disposing of the clip.
In conclusion I commend the Bill. I believe this is further evidence of the Government’s determination to help the industry and to work wilh the wool industry which has been divided far too long over loo many years, lt is a matter of relief for those grass roots members of the wool industry to find that their leaders are now coming together to try to work out a policy which will be to the general advantage of the wool grower. Since the industry is in this serious economic position it will be necessary for the Government and the industry to work with a sense of urgency to establish a statutory single marketing authority. Some immediate cash assistance or bridging finance will have to be extended to the wool industry to tide it over this difficult period. I think we have lo look at the possibility of assisting the industry with input subsidies such as assistance with freight and local government rating. Unless financial aid and extended loan arrangements are made to the wool growers of Australia I think there will be serious economic repercussions not only to the wool growers but to the country areas and to the nation as a whole. 1 support the Bill.
– That is not right.
– It is right. The Government made it more difficult for the Japanese to get their cars into Australia. The Minister cannot deny that. Imports of Japanese cars have been rigidly controlled since this decision was made by this Government. At the next wool sale after this decision the price of wool was down by at least 4c a lb because Japan is our biggest buyer. Any government that deliberately or unthinkingly without proper examination levies tariffs on Japanese goods is striking a blow at our wool industry. There is no doubt about that.
– Then tell me why fewer Japanese cars came into Australia after the Government increased the tariff on them. Tell me what this Government did to limit the number of motor cars coming in from Japan. If what it imposed was not a tariff it was still a duty of some kind. The honourable member can call it what he likes. The Australian car manufacturers agreed to what the Government did and went on increasing their production. That point too has to be borne in mind. The growers I have recently talked to in the wool growing districts of Victoria and in my own State blame the slide in wool prices on this event. The Japanese would be prepared to pay more for our wool now but they say: ‘Why should we pay more when we can get it at a lower price?’
There is no doubt that some collusion has taken place between buyers. Several years ago, after a minute examination of the reports of 2 royal commissions that inquired into pies, I made a speech and detailed the facts of the collusion that had taken place. I think Mr Justice Cook was the chairman of one of the royal commissions. He estimated how much the growers were losing as a result of pie buying. It is no use saying that this sort of buying is not going on. In many abattoirs one or two butchers are buying for half a dozen or even a dozen butchers. Competition has been gradually stifled and the price that the grower receives has been kept down.
This is happening on a bigger scale, with far more devastating effect, with wool buying because the Japanese are buying in the same way as the Italians and the British are buying. We are hoping that the scheme we have put forward tonight will reduce this wretched collusive buying that is depressing the price which the wool grower receives for his product. Why should a few men benefit at the expense of thousands? There are approximately 100,000 wool growers in Australia. Why should their livelihood be threatened and depressed because a handful of moguls who are called buyers are deliberately agreeing to keep prices down. This makes an absolute farce of auctions.
The time will come when Australia will have for wool a similar stabilisation scheme to that which it has for wheat. The system of selling wool will have to be changed to save the growers from being forced off their land. I have figures from the Minister for Primary Industry and the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) indicating, in one instance, the gradual decline of our rural exports when compared with the gross national product and indicating, in another instance, tariffs and import restrictions on wool and woollen products exported to the United States, and imports and exports to the United States and Japan. I shall inform the House of what these figures reveal. Early in May, I asked the Minister for Primary Industry:
What percentage of the gross national product was represented by the output of rural Industries in each of the years 1929, 1939, 1949, 1959 and 1969?
The answer to the question, in summary, was that in 1928-29 rural industry production, as a percentage of the gross national product, was 21.4%. In the 40 years to 1969 that percentage dropped to 9.3%. I emphasise this. In the space of 40 years rural production as a proportion of the gross national product, fell from 21.4% to the disastrous level of 9.3% last year. The second question I asked was:
What percentage of Australia’s export income came from rural exports in each of those years?
The Minister’s reply was that in 1928-29 exports of rural origin represented 90% of total exports. That was a fantastic figure. In the 40 years to last year that percentage dropped to 58%. Those 2 sets of figures indicate what is going on in our rural industries in respect of total exports as a percentage of the gross national product. The second series of questions I asked were these:
What is the current rate of import tariff levied by the United States on Australian wool?
The figures are startling. They indicate that today America imposes a duty of 37c per lb on Australian wool. That puts the barrier so high that we cannot get the wool over it, around it or under it. Honourable members opposite will be pleased to know that America is importing some wool. It imported $40m worth last year. I asked the Minister if he was able to say whether the United States imposed import restrictions on Japanese textiles made from Australian wool. His answer was:
The United Slates imposes no discriminatory import restrictions on Japanese textiles made from Australian wool.
The third question was:
What was the value of trade both ways between Australia and America and between Australia and Japan during the years 1968 and 1969?
The answer includes some fantastic figures in which I think the House will be interested. The Minister replied that Australia’s total exports to America last year totalled $480m. Greasy wool made up $35m of that total and other wools $l4m. Exports to Japan totalled $822m. Our total imports amounted to $883m. That is 2 to 1 against Australia as far as America is concerned. With Japan it ;s exactly the reverse, with $822m in exports to Japan and $4 14m in imports from Japan in 1969. In view of the way we are being treated by the United States, not only with wool but also with mutton and the barriers they have put up against other commodities, some farmers have written to me and said: ‘Why does the Australian Government not boost its trade with the countries that treat us well?’ One man who is a Liberal voter named China, the USSR and Japan. He said these were the countries without tariff barriers on our products and he suggested we should boost our trade to these countries when America was prepared to put up these high walls against us. Other honourable members have mentioned the Bill in detail; I do not intend to do that. I think it is a step in the right direction. We give it our wholehearted support and hope the programme it sponsors and the changes it undertakes will be of ultimate benefit to our great wool industry which nets for us $800m a year in export income.
– We can sit next week too.
Mr CREAN- Nobody on this side is objecting to sitting next week. It is the Government which sets the programme.
– The Government is not trying to keep to it at all. All it is trying to do is to get through the business this week. There is no commitment for the sessionto end this week. The Government might like tofinish this week. Probably a lot of other people would like us to finish this week. The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) is to speak next but 1 have no doubt that his cunning contrivance is to have what he says appear in some newspaper that is published on Thursday or Friday.
– If the honourable member thinks to the contrary then that is fair enough but I am sure in all honesty that that is all he wishes to do. But do honourable members think that the world is taking notice of what we say at 1.25 a.m.? Do they think that we are making a very brilliant spectacle of ourselves by debating at this hour such a fundamental matter as the wool industry? My colleague the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has made the speech on behalf of our side, but we are not short of speakers. If the Government wants it that waywe will match it speaker for speaker. But itis the Government which wants to have this legislation passed. If all of us have to be here at this hour merely so that the honourable member for Kennedy can have something reported in–
– The ‘Burketown Times’, the ‘Best of the West’, or whatever the newspaper is called. If that is the position, I believe that some of us are entitled to protest about it. If the Government wants to hear a speech about the future of the wool industry, that is fair enough, andI am prepared to make it. I agree that this is the most fundamental industry as far as Australia’s export earnings are concerned. We on this side of the House are not denying that. What we are suggesting is that members of the Government parties are not as concerned as they ought to be because the product is still something that the world wants to buy. Apparently people are still buying it at a lesser price despite the fact that all costs are rising.
But that is not the matter that honourable members opposite seem to be raising this evening. They are just trying to score points in a pretty obscure way.If the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) wants to keep this debate going, I point out to him that at the moment the speakers on the list are all from his side but, although honourable members opposite may think that they are making additional points, I have listened for the last hour or so–
– Mr Deputy Speaker, that is for you to decide.I thought I was talking about the wool industry. The honourable member for Kennedy has decided that what he wants to say is important–
– And that what I want to say is unimportant.
– Toss him out.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER-Order! Interjections will cease. The honourable member for Sturt will remain silent.
-Order! The honourable member for Sturt will resume his seat and remain silent; otherwise the Chair will take action.
Mr CREAN - If what the honourable member for Kennedy wants to say is so important, does he not think that saying it at this time of night negates to some extent the importance of what he says? If he wants only to fill his local newspaper, that is fair enough. All I am suggesting is that that is not the purpose of a debate in the national Parliament. Surely the purpose of a debate in the national Parliament is to argue, as my friend the honourable member for Kennedy did earlier, the importance of the wool industry. I do not deny the significance of the wool industry. I think anybody would be foolish to do so. But this Bill has to do with research and the promotion of the industry. If my friend, the honourable member for Kennedy, can explain why a product that the world still wants and in relation to which the costs of production have increased is attracting a lower price this year than in previous years I will be interested to hear him. I think this surely is something that concerns all of us. I move:
– It is all right for the Minister to say that we have suspended the Standing Orders to permit business to bc introduced after 1 1 o’clock, but I am saying that we have had enough of this debate at this stage. I wish to move, in whatever form I have to do it, that the debate be now adjourned. I should have thought that 1 could move that motion. Why cannot I move that the debate be now adjourned?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)I point out that under standing order 87 an honourable member who has not spoken to the question or who has the right of reply may move the adjournment of the debate. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports has spoken in the debate. Therefore under standing order 87 he does not have the right to move that the debate be adjourned.
– May 1 move, as has been suggested by the experts at the table, that I be given leave to continue my remarks tomorrow?
– Well, this is still the same day in a parliamentary session. Perhaps the sitting could be adjourned, as was done on a previous occasion, and you could start another day. But this is still the same parliamentary day. All I am asking is that I have leave to continue my remarks tomorrow.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– 1 rise to a point of order.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)-
Order! The honourable member for Kennedy will resume his seat.
-Order! 1 did not hear the expression. There was a lot of noise in the chamber.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. I said that I did not hear the term, but if it was used in respect of an individual member I would ask for its withdrawal. If it was used generally I would not see th«? need to ask for a withdrawal.
-Order. When the Deputy Speaker is on his feet the honourable member is supposed to be seated. It has been the long standing practice of this House to recognise that a term referring to a group of members is in order even though it may not be acceptable to one side of the House or the other, but if some unacceptable term is used in relation to a particular member then a withdrawal will be asked for.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
-Order! 1 have already said that 1 did not hear the remark. If it was made in reference to a particular person I would ask the honourable member for Kennedy to withdraw.
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley will resume his seat. I have already given a ruling on this matter. If any honourable member wishes to dissent from the ruling of the Chair he may do so, but 1 have already given the ruling. I have outlined the procedures of the House in relation to this circumstance. There is not. to my knowledge, any accusation in relation to a particular member. If there is an accusation of hypocrisy in relation to a particular member I ask the honourable member for Kennedy to withdraw it.
– If I referred to any individual member as a hypocrite I would most certainly withdraw. My impression was that when the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage)-
– No, not at all. If the honourable member for Chifley called a quorum with the best of good intentions to try to fill his own benches and the result is that they are utterly empty, one would have to conclude that, speaking en masse, this was a fairly hypocritical sort of an operation. But. however, in relation to this Bill-
– There has been so much noise in the chamber that it has been impossible for me in the Chair to hear everything that has been said. I am trying to listen- to the honourable member for Kennedy. I call the honourable member for Kennedy.
– In relation to this Bill, 1 would, first of all, like to commend the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) and the Government for bringing forward a Bill which can do nothing but good for an industry which is certainly in trouble at the present time. My comments will be very brief. But for the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) they would have been very much briefer. I want to make one or two points, and, if when I deal with my first point I appear to be parochial, well, my intention is to be utterly parochial. I can say with absolute conviction that the area I represent, the outback area of Kennedy, consists of the most productive-
- Mr Deputy Speaker, when the people on the other side refer to the ‘Burketown News’ and galahs and trees and so on, obviously they are only reflecting the comments of their Leader who has said in very clear and precise terms-
) - Order! The honourable member for Sturt will resume his seat. In regard to the point of order raised by the honourable member a decision has already been made on it. I suggest to honourable members that as the hour is late they should concentrate on the Bill, speak to the Bill and make their remarks relevant to the Bill. There should be no more comments by honourable members which are not relevant to the Bill.
– I shall do precisely as you say, Mr Deputy Speaker. 1 was saying that if I am parochial I am being so intenttially. The wool producers in my area cannot diversify. The only thing they know and the only thing on which they depend is the production of wool. In addition to the catastrophic drought that has afflicted them more or less for the last 10 years they have a market condition which is, to say the least, calamitous. At the moment very significant moves are afoot which should produce some alleviation of this problem of the price that is being paid for the product. If the Government and the industry leaders do not produce a solution which is going to give a much more encouraging price to the people who are producing wool then all of these operations will be completely and utterly abortive. i must again stress the fact that the people in my area cannot diversify. They are utterly dependent on the price they receive for their product, which is amongst the finest merino wool produced in this country. In addition not only the people who are the actual producers of wool but most of the people in towns of the inland, the central western and the north western parts of Queensland are utterly dependent on the growth and prosperity of this industry. If it is to languish and fade away entirely these people and the industry on which they depend will become something of the past. So I have on my shoulders a very heavy responsibility which I accept with pleasure. The great turning point for the whole of this operation was the meeting in Moree at which the producers were unanimous that they wanted a single selling authority. How that is to be implemented is up to people who are far more conversant with the clinical aspects of the industry than I am. Unless the authority produces a price which gives a reasonable profit to the producers the whole operation will be abortive.
When we discuss this matter we must immediately bring to mind the fact that over the years there has been something drastically wrong with the operations of the industry. Let us face facts and be realistic about them. If on the one hand the primary element of the industry, the producer, is not making a go of it and the secondary and tertiary operations of the industry are showing very considerable profits then there is something drastically wrong.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I do not propose to speak for more than another few minutes. But I would like to read to the House a description which I have received from one of the wool growers in my electorate regarding the technique that he used recently in selling his wool. I will read it without comment. If reads:
A test or pilot sample comprising a clip of Merino Wool in Western Queensland has been handled through a registered wool dealer directly to wool buying organisations from various overseas countries. On this pilot test, the wool dealer paid Wool Tax, Stamp Duty, Sheeps Back into Store Insurance, plus administration charges; total charges amounted to a little over lc per lb, some additional charges were paid at delivery at port of shipment -
) - Order! I consider that what we are seeing tonight constitutes an abuse of Standing Orders. Members are deliberately leaving the chamber and then quorums are being called. 1 appreciate that it is within the province of members to call quorums.
Order! The honourable member for Si George must remain in the chamber. He has been here long enough’ to have an understanding of the Standing Orders.
-The honourable member for Bendigo has called a quorum. On the calling of a quorum no member is allowed to leave the chamber.
– Well, in that case-
-Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will resume his .seat. Ring the bells!
-Order! The honourable member for Dawson will resume his seat.
-Order! If the honourable member for Sydney had listened, he would have appreciated that a quorum has been called. The bells are being rung.
-Order! The honourable member for Sydney will resume his scat. [Quorum formed.]
-I call the honourable member for Kennedy.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I must go back a tittle now. This description reads:
On this pilot test, the wool dealer paid Wool Tax, gamp Duty, Sheeps Back into Store Insurance, plus administration charges; total charges amounted to a tittle over lc per lb, some additional charges were paid at delivery at port of shipment.
If the same clip had been sold in auction, charges from shed to sale through normal channels would have amounted to 4ic per lb.
Price benefits in the above pilot or test sale resulted in considerable price advantages for the producer, as all costs were kept to a minimum. Now. here is a very important point:
Payment was made immediately upon receipt of wool into store, so saving Bank Interest.
Briefly, the wool dealer arranged for the clip to be classed to the specification of the overseas countries, and the samples during shearing were taken and the wool dealer submitted price indications which were (hen substantiated by official weights into store, and confirmation of types through bulk inspection in store at the port of loading. lt would appear therefore (hat this pilot lest was successful in presenting the producers* wool classed and prepared against the requirements of the actual market at that time. lt is felt that wool producers should look at lbc merits of this type of merchandising whilst the industry itself is in a quandary regarding the saving of costs and a better return to the grazier simultaneously allowing our wool markets to receive the actual type of wool they require.
Some statistics were supplied by this wool grower. Usually I do not like quoting statistics, but I shall do so on this occasion in winding up my case. The test clip was classed as follows: Fleece wool, 48.53%; broken, 11.29%; pieces, 27.33%; and bellies, locks and stains, 12.85%. The price averages at the shed are rather interesting in view of the sick market situation at present. Fleece wool was 41.07c per lb; broken was 35.97c per lb; pieces were 25.05c per lb; and bellies, locks and stains were 9.8c per lb. The top price was 56c per lb. Another rather interesting aspect is the fact that the clip represented 184,458 lb net in the grease. I have given these figures to indicate that there are other methods of clearing the Wool from one’s property. The stage has been reached in the drought and market stricken area of my electorate where the growers are grasping at any straw in an endeavour to obtain a few extra cents per lb.
The last point 1 wish to make is that there is a -great emergency in this matter. 1 would most earnestly appeal to the committee which has been established to make recommendations to the Minister for Primary Industry and the Government to recognise the fact, as I am sure it does, that a real emergency exists. Admittedly a solution cannot be worked out in a matter of a few days but a real emergency exists because many people, particularly those in my electorate in central Queensland, are hanging on by a very slim thread. I reiterate that many people who live in the communities which are the focal point of the merino wool producing areas are dependent on wool producers for their livelihood. Tomorrow may be too late for many of them. There is a great emergency at present. I would appeal to the committee and to the various producer organisations to recognise this extreme sense of emergency.
) - The Standing Orders were not abused by asking for a quorum; they were abused, in my opinion, by most honourable members on one side of the House vacating the chamber, which happened on 3 occasions during the sitting this evening, leaving one or two honourable members sitting in the House on that side of the chamber to call for a quorum. At that stage I said that in my opinion it was an abuse of the Standing Orders to call for a quorum having regard to the circumstances in which such a quorum had been called.
) - In regard to the point of order raised by the honourable member for Wills, I point out to the honourable member that there was a previous ruling given From the Chair that a space of time should be allowed between a quorum being formed and another quorum being accepted. I would point out to the honourable member for Wills that I did not give a ruling. I ordered that the bells be. rung for the quorum, as is required, and it was only an observation from the Chair that I made in regard to the action taken relating to the calling for a quorum. I call the honourable member for Canning.
– Do we not get a speaker on this side? On a point of order, I wish to say that I rose to speak. The last speaker in the debate was from the other side of the House. You, Mr Deputy Speaker, did. not call me; you called another speaker from the other side of the House.
– Order! If the honourable member for Chifley desires to speak on the Bill, I call the honourable member for Chifley.
– I call the honourable member for Canning.
– Get back on to the Bill.
– I am on the Bill. All Australians have benefited from the wool industry over the many years in which the industry has produced wool. Had it nol been for the wool industry the standard of living in this country would be nowhere near as high as it is today. That is an indisputable fact. It does not really worry mc one iota if I have to debate this legislation at 2.5 a.m. What does worry me is the state in which we find the industry.
This Bill makes provision for certain monies to be made available by the Government for research and promotion and takes off some of the burden now being applied to the industry in these two areas. The Government has made possible assistance to these areas to a maximum of $27m a year. When mentioning research and promotion may I say firstly in relation to research that it is noted that a Minister of the Crown in this case will have more say on how these monies will be spent. In fact, I think the Bill spells out as to where these monies will be spent or who will spend them in relation to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. I would perhaps go a little further and say that there should be a closer look not only at who spends their monies but how they are spent. I do not know whether the Minister of the day in fact has in mind the need to study very closely and precisely how the research monies will in fact be spent and where they will be spent. 1 believe that such a study is important.
I would now like to say something about promotion. Of course, we have seen millions of dollars of the wool growers’ money as well as other money spent over the years on the promotion of the end product. This promotion, as good and as expensive as it may have been, may have assisted the wool industry in many ways. However, it is quite obvious from the returns now being received and the position the wool growers find themselves in, that from the point of view of economics this promotion has not assisted the wool industry as such. As I have said, promotion cannot be used effectively until such time as the other leg is put in order. I refer here to the marketing leg. However, the establishment of marketing arrangements has been refused by the growers on two occasions since 1951. Altogether, this has not been the fault of the wool growers themselves. They have been confused by outside interests. I would go as far as to say that these interests are not only in Australia but are also overseas interests. Each time a proposition has been put to the wool growers no-one really knows how much money has been spent on propaganda against such organised marketing. However, this has been a tremendous figure. On each occasion the wool growers have been talked out of the proposal and confused. 1 sincerely hope that the latest move by the wool growers will not have the same result as it has had in the past. The wool industry has been asked by tens of thousands of growers all over Australia for a single wool selling authority. We have already seen some lobbying and some pressures which have been brought about to try to upset this scheme. It is an absolute tragedy that the wool industry today should find itself in this position.
– The wool belongs lo the industry. The Government is assisting and has been assisting this industry. I do not intend lo be sidetracked by anybody. I have never been sidetracked by anybody who may come in on the side. I say to the wool growers, as I have said in this House before, that I sincerely hope they are not sidetracked. On 2 occasions the Government has offered almost unlimited finance to back the industry, but it was the industry vote - the result of outside pressures - which refused that assistance. This is occurring again. It is not the hour which is important, it is the industry which is important. Perhaps honourable members have not caught up with what is happening at the moment. At the Sydney wool sales this week - on 8th June - a total catalogue of 1 1,000 bales averaged 27c a lb and $88 a bale. Al the previous sales in Sydney a similar catalogue averaged 27c a lb and $86 a bale. That is the position up to date in this industry. It is an impossible position. Therefore this is the most important debate in this country. The hour is not important.
What are we to do about the position? I think the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) said tonight that nothing new would bs said in this debate. That information is something new which has not been said before. What can we do? The industry itself is looking at’ this situation. We hope and expect it to come to this Government and to the State governments because the State governments are involved more than is this Government. Any legislation which this Government may pass to bring in a single statutory wool selling authority would not be worth anything unless complementary legislation was passed by the States. To honourable members on the other side of the House who talk about these things I say: ‘Do not lose sight of the fact that we have a Constitution in the Commonwealth. We have 6 State constitutions in relation to marketing. This is the province of the States, not of the Commonwealth’. Let us not forget the Constitution. This Government cannot do what it wants to do. Anything it does has to be in line with the Commonwealth Constitution. The States have full power. I say to the industry: ‘Do not look only to the Commonwealth; look to the States because they have to pass legislation which is complementary to any legislation which the Commonwealth may pass about marketing’.
When wool has reached this low price in the economic environment we find in the world today I have no hesitation in saying that it cannot be justified. Very serious consideration should be given to not allowing wool to move out of this country at that price. Wool has a place in the world. It is, a wonderful fibre which can demand a price in the world if it is given a chance. It has not been given a chance mainly because of the pressures from outside and from the wool growers themselves. One hundred thousand wool growers have great difficulty in coming to agreement. If one were to put 6 blokes in a room they would have great difficulty in coming to agreement. But 100,000 wool growers scattered all over Australia are subject to organised pressure from outside, from the big cities like Mel-‘ bourne and Sydney and even from overseas. They are subject also to pressure from newspapers. Of course they become confused. I will not be confused by anybody. I have never been confused.
Australia’s wool clip is worth good money. Nobody can bring forward evidence to show that it is not. Not only members of this Parliament but also the Australian people as a whole are concerned about the economics of this industry today because of its importance. The 11,000 bales of wool which averaged 27c a lb at the Sydney sales this week is a fair kind of parcel. If honourable members are not concerned about the wool industry regardless of the hour, I am. We cannot let the present situation in the wool industry continue. It is an impossible situation. It cannot be justified. All the evidence that anybody likes to produce of what has happened over the past 40 years will substantiate what I have said tonight. Nobody can deny that. If honourable members opposite want to debate the matter for several hours at some other time, I am willing to do so.
This Bill also gives power to the Australian Wool Board to raise moneys for expenditure on wool stores. This is part of what we hope will be an improvement in wool marketing. The Bill gives power to the Board to borrow money for the financing of the construction and equipping of certain complexes referred to in the Bill. Of course, over the years very little has been done in this sense in relation to marketing, and it will take some time to organise this side of it. But this should not prevent any moves that may be made to do something about marketing. It has been proved over th : years that something can be done. At present the wool industry has 280 stores which it has had since the last world war.
The Bill gives power to the industry to borrow through the Australian Wool Board money to renovate these buildings if necessary. These buildings have been a tremendous asset to Australia. They have been put in many places. In many cases the sheds cover an area of 1 acre. They were put up as temporary sheds during the Second World War, some are on freehold property and some on leasehold property, and they have brought in considerable revenue since that time. They will play an important part in future marketing. Many years ago there was a fight to retain these stores. What went on at that time is never spoken of today. There were a lot more stores, but 280 were retained because we hoped that wool marketing as we knew it after the last world war would be continued. These stores were retained so they would be available for holding stocks of wool. In fact they belong to the wool industry. I am interested to see that under this Bill these stores are to be renovated and maintained. I have no doubt that in peace or in war, if we are unfortunate enough to be involved in war, these wool stores throughout Australia will be of tremendous benefit.
I make no apology for speaking on this Bill at this hour. The hour does not worry me very much. What is worrying me is the wool industry. Australians, and wool growers in particular, cannot sit around and wait for something to happen, because something will not happen unless we make it happen. There is no evidence in this world that wool is not worth a reasonable price today on world markets. This is not the 1930s, when everything was Hat. The way in which wool is marketed today is the only reason for its low price. There is no evidence to dispute this.
Mr FOSTER (Sturt) [2.19 a.m.- I desire to enter this debate tonight because the Government has seen fit to keep us here until this ungodly hour of the day, which I suppose is being referred to as Thursday. I have been forced to my feet because of a couple of speeches that have been made by members of the Government. What they purport to govern, I do not know. In whose interests they claim to be acting seems to be .somewhat obscure. We have before the House tonight a Bill which makes provision for the expenditure of a considerable sum of money in the interest, we are told, of the wool grower. Nobody objects to money being used in the industry to promote and protect the interests of the wool growers. But wool growers should be placed in brackets and some attention should bc paid to the interests of the national economy. Nobody on this side of the House wants to see the wool industry run down because everybody on this side of the House recognises the value of the wool industry lo the national economy generally.
In my short rime in this chamber I have become sick and tired of hearing honourable members opposite, particularly Country Party members, continually casting asides at people who live in the cities and suburbs, as if those people were a race apart and foreign to the Commonwealth.
I remind honourable members opposite that the people who bleed the wool growers - the brokers, whether they be Bagot’s Executor and Trustee Co. Ltd or Dalgetys and New Zealand Loan Ltd - are reaping huge profits. These should be measured in terms of what the return to the growers ought to be. A percentage is deducted from the take-home pay of the wool growers, if I may use that parlance. So much for the rubbish one hears about this matter. Continually tonight honourable members opposite have interjected - they have almost insulted me tonight with their cross Gre from that side of the House - quietly but not audibly to the occupant of the Chair asking what I know about wool. I think the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) kept muttering something about King William Street. Do not tell me that the banks do not touch the wool growers from time to lime and thai the great financial institutions do not get on their backs from rime to time as a result of the interest rates they charge. Honourable members opposite do not do their best for the people whom they purport lo represent, hut the electors of Victoria most certainly did not give them much support at the recent election. I think they told members of the Country Party where they could go because of their rural policies.
I now deal with an aspect of wool about which I know more than any honourable member opposite, including the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp), who indulged in a great search of the waterfront some years ago in regard to what ought to be done in the transport industry in particular and in industries of the Commonwealth in general. 1 commend him for the fact thai his activity in that narrow field has brought him to the front bench of the Government. The point I make is this: The grower is entitled to a bigger return than he is getting today. He is entitled to a bigger return than the people who purport to represent him have been able to achieve on his behalf. I have not heard one honourable member opposite say thai the grower ought to be entitled to many more dollars per bale. The honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) referred to the small amount that growers were getting per hale. This is so despite containerisation, unitisation and mechanisation. Honourable mem- bers opposite have gone out into the industry, met the people whom they say they represent and told them their just rights. Honourable members opposite have been a tremendous failure.
– How do I know? I can tell you this much: The container vessels and unitised vessels that are putting into our ports today are carting 30% more wool than conventional ships carted. The look of stunned silence on the faces of honourable members opposite indicates their absolute ignorance.
Mr SPEAKER-Order! Honourable members who have spoken in the debate will cease interjecting. I suggest to the honourable member for Sturt that he direct his remarks to the Chair.
– You can go to the Parliamentary Library and pick out these facts if you want to. I said in my. first speech in this House that I had addressed a gathering of farmers on one occasion in the electorate of the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) and I had told them in very blunt fashion that it was time they., got off their posteriors and helped themselves. They are regarded by the Country Party like the farmer regards the strainer post in the top paddock. He put it there or grandfather put it there and it is taken for granted, and that is how the people whom the Country Party is supposed to represent have taken that Party until a few weeks ago in Victoria. I say seriously on behalf of the wool growers today that there stand for the taking the 100,000 wool growers who honourable members opposite say cannot make up their minds. They have not been given any leadership. Honourable members opposite have not gone to the wool growers and told them that their wool is handled on only a very few occasions compared with the number of times it used to be handled a few years ago. The ships today take sufficient in deck cargo to meet the whole of the costs. Their holds could take 30% more wool, and the grower is paying.
If we were to take all the dirt and foreign matter out of wool tomorrow and we could effect a better system of baling and high density dumping of wool whereby we could get 3 times as much into a ship’s hold the farmer would still be paying his high freight rates because honourable members opposite have tied themselves to a system of what the traffic will bear. This gives a tremendous return to the shipowners. They started as pirates in the 17th century and the Government permits them to continue to be pirates. Make no error about this. I say it seriously though some of my colleagues may burst into mirth. If you took all the dirt and all the impurities out of wool they would still get more than their share of the cake. Why is it that honourable members opposite do not tell this to the people they represent? They had a golden opportunity with the advent of containerisation and they will rue the day that they ever supported it because studies have been made since that will be very convincing to those who want to read them. These studies show that in fact the unitised ship is a darned sight more efficient and more economical, measured in terms of the types of ships that are required to transport our produce abroad, than the heavy capital outlay that has been wasted and squandered on this project of containerisation. The Government followed Westerman; it followed a previous head of the Department. It will wish in due course that it had not done that.
In regard to other aspects, what is being done about high density? The Government is permitting a concentration in wool dumping centres which will mean that the broker will continue to get more than his fair share of the product. The grower has little say. The Country Party has denied him a say by its lack of leadership. It is no good honourable members from that Party sitting in this chamber and thinking they will cure the ills of the wool industry by patting themselves on the back, kidding themselves and conning the wool grower into thinking they are working like hell for him when they are again laying a foundation for the industry as they did for the wheat industry. It is no good saying, as the honourable member for Canning said a short time ago, that there is power in the Bill to resurrect all sorts of wool stores and wool complexes and build all sorts of wool villages. We will only have a situation similar to that in regard to wheat where we have a string of silos right across the country instead of sales of wheat. The only difference is that wheat today is almost an unsaleable rural product, but wool is not. Honourable members opposite have allowed, a system of collusion at buying level to be created and to grow and fester within the wool industry over a number of years and they have stood idly by and let this happen because they have tied themselves - and have ignored the people they represent - to a wool selling system that has been grossly abused by the buyers. No honourable member in this chamber can deny that; 1 challenge anyone to deny it. Honourable members opposite can call any meeting of wool growers they like and I will be prepared to go along and put up an argument against any argument they put up that this has not been done. They can say that I know nothing about wool, but perhaps I know a little more about it than they think. lt is of no use for members ot the Country Party to say that they will cure the ills of the industry by erecting buildings with thousands and thousands of cubic feet of storage capacity. The old style of single bundling of wool for transport from shed to shed and from rail truck to rail truck has gone. I wonder whether members nl the Country Party have ever worked out how many times wool used to be shifted from the area adjacent to Central Station in Sydney down to the wharves? Have you ever made a calculation, on behalf of the wool growers that you claim you represent, of how many times wool is carried? Have you ever appreciated that wool used to be loaded at the hourly rate - then considered to be a good rate - of 100 bales, on a Commonwealth average? The figures today show a loading rate 3 times as fast through unitisation alone. Wool cargoes are nor loaded into the hold at the rate of 6 or X bales at a time. Hundreds of bales are loaded in half an hour.
Did you ever pay attention to the offer made in 1967 or 1968 to the wool grower.-, by the Russian shipping line that was prepared to operate from Australia? The Russians were prepared to carry our wool to Continental and United Kingdom markets at a rate reduced by 15%. But what happened? It was quite an interesting exercise. Nobody wanted to play ball with the Communists. I am not having a shot at the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), just because he appeared with men from Russia on a television programme last night. If we can sell our goods vo Russia in our national interest, well and good. We should trade with any country in the world, so long as it is in our national interest. There should be no argument on that score. Honourable members opposite have tied the Government to the Conference Line. Two or three years ago the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) went overseas with S40m in a black bag to lake the pressure off the Australian .shippers. I do not know whether that money went into a Swiss bank, but the fact is that the pressure has not been shifted from the Australian shippers. Nobody should quarrel with that statement.
The Russians offered competition to the Conference Line. What then happened? An attempt was made by the Conference Line through its stevedores to prevent the Russian shipping line from getting agencies, services, wharf facilities, stevedore handling equipment, and so on. The Russians approached a prominent stevedoring company in Sydney, lt expressed some alarm that its brother stevedores might jack up if it co-operated with the Russians. The union had something to say about that. In the end those shocking people, the Russians, were admitted into the exalted hall of fame of the shipping conference and were guaranteed a percentage of space for cargo being moved from Australia to the Continental and United Kingdom markets. They still retain that position.
The Minister for Trade and Industry ought to be asking himself whether it would be worth while to take a serious journey overseas in an endeavour again to interest the eastern European countries in shipping the wool of Australian growers. It is the wool of the growers and not of the brokers or shipowners. The growers should be entitled to a say in how it is handled. They should not be told claptrap about the Conference Line and the type of thing we heard yesterday from the Minister for Trade and Industry when answering a question of the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grasshy). I suggest to honourable members opposite that they read the Minister’s answer in Hansard and analyse it on the basis of benefits to the national interest and benefits to wool growers.
Another interesting feature of the exercise involving the Russian shipping line to which
I have referred was a noble gesture of the Conference Line and its interests scattered throughout Australia. It said that if any shipper, in the early stages of the offer by the Russians, dared to ship with them - and the Russians could not carry all the clip - a surcharge of 30% would be charged by the Conference Line on the balance of any wool that could not be carried by the Russians. Did I hear the honourable member for Kennedy interject ‘Highway robbery’? It is more than that.
Mr SPEAKER-Order! The honourable member for Kennedy will cease interjecting.
– As a result of the situation which prevails today within a very short space of time there will be 170 conventional ships going off the United KingdomAustralia run. They will .enter the tramp service of the seaways of the world. They are not the old decrepit vessels which one might see depicted as tramps on a television programme. They are vessels that have high capacities for the transport of wool. They would represent a saving in shipping costs and other undisclosed costs of at least 25%. Is not this worth pursuing in the interests of the wool grower instead of standing here and talking about making available $27m for research purposes? There ought to be research within the industry to improve the clip. We can make it better in a number of areas, in regard to classification, dumping and what have you. Nobody will argue about that at all. What we on this side of the House point out to the Government is that it is not curing the ills of the industry and it is riot doing anything for the grower. I repeat this for about the 16th time; if I stood here and repeated it for 2 hours it would still be very hard to get the message across to honourable members opposite. However, I do not want honourable members to accept my contribution just as one that is taking up the time of this House at this late hour. I am serious in my suggestion that a number of very important avenues ought to be explored and they should be explored in the interests of woo] growers.
As to high density dumps, consideration should be given to the suggestion that all of these should not necessarily be in the one centralised area, because this is not in the best interests of the industry. There is not one aspect of the handling of wool that has not improved to such an extent that all of the growers area should receive benefits. In addition to that, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is continuing to improve even upon the high density bale. If the Government is to continue to tie Australia to the Conference Line, and if Australia has an interest in a container vessel operating between here and the United States, between here and the United Kingdom and between here and Japan we should have some say in regard to the freight rates we pay. Honourable members can check in the library on our freight bill but those who have been here many more years than I should be able to remember it, particularly those honourable members who have been here as many years as I have been here for months or weeks.
I ask honourable members to have a look at the tremendous bill that this country has had to meet for transportation of its products. If they do they will then wonder why they have sat so complacently in their seats in this place for so long. The Government has said that it would not go for a national line overseas. I put it as simply as this: If we on this side of the House said tomorrow we will not permit any farmer or rural producer to own his own means of transporting his livestock and the goods which he produces; he is not to own a truck at all’, honourable members opposite would rightfully condemn us for that attitude. But at the same time the Government denies this country the same thing as far as the transportation of its products is concerned. As to a question asked in relation to the New Zealand shipment of apples and pears, if I may leave the Bill for a moment-
Mr SPEAKER-Order! I suggest to the honourable member that although the Minister dealt in his second reading speech with marketing, modern business techniques and other matters relating to the wool industry, any further reference to shipping outside the context of the wool industry would be out of order, unless the honourable member makes only passing reference to it.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker; I desire to make only a passing reference, to sustain the points I have already made, to what has happened in regard to the ship* ment of certain rural products from New
Zealand. That country went outside the Conference Line and as a result it was able to sell the balance of its crop. Fears have been expressed by Government supporters that if the Australian shipper were to insist on availing himself of lower freight rates that might be available to him he would be doing himself a disservice. Some honourable members opposite have said that he would be at risk because the conference lines would gang up. The honourable member for Canning even suggested that the growers should adopt a more militant attitude and should refuse to sell their wool. I do not accept that that would achieve anything of great value.
The honourable member said that the industry was confused and remained confused, that much money was being spent on propaganda and that the wool growers had been talked out of many a proposition that had been designed to assist them, as a result of which many a good scheme had been upset. He said that the wool belongs to the industry. I strongly disagree with the suggestion that the wool belongs to the industry if the honourable member includes in the term ‘industry’ the brokers, the financiers and the ship owners. So far as I am concerned the wool belongs to the growers. Today too small a percentage of the return from wool is finding its way back into the farming community, because of which the farming community is depressed and its purchasing power is extremely reduced. In addition business interests within the farming community are also affected. The chain reaction of this influence is widespread and others throughout the community begin to suffer. That is what we on this side of the House are concerned about. We do not attempt to draw up a policy which will sidetrack the wool grower, as was suggested by the honourable member for Canning. He said that the wool grower had been sidetracked and had been kept in absolute ignorance, which I suppose is another way of saying that he has been sidetracked.
No honourable member in this place will deny that the Australian wool clip is not saleable. The thing that should concern all of us, irrespective of the Party to which we belong, is the fact that the country is not getting a fair return for wool. While the country is not getting a fair return from wool it follows that the grower is getting something less than a fair return for his product. That should be of concern to all honourable members. It is no earthly good members of the Country Party continuing throughout the length and breadth of Australia to tell the rural community that it is in dire straits or that the wool industry should do this or that about its problems. Members of this Parliament on the opposite side have the responsibility and the capability - or should have the capability - to solve some areas of the problem. They must recognise in their more honest moments that if they conscientiously represent the rural community they are in a far better position to remove some of the unfair burdens that those in the rural community are now expected to carry.
If honourable members opposite get the type of reaction which we saw recently in Victoria and which is about to happen in South Australia in the next month it may spur them into some activity in regard to some of the matters I have raised here tonight. In that event honourable members opposite will realise that they have an important role to play in the short time for which they continue to occupy the Treasury benches throughout this country. As a last ditch stand honourable members on the Government side might give some serious thought to this matter and take some serious action in the last few months that they are in office in order to help the people they represent in this chamber. They should do that rather than hurl abuse at honourable members on this side of the House and at urban dwellers. I would hate to see a division between the rural community in Australia on the one hand and the urban and city community on the other. It might manifest itself to the extent that the urban and city dwellers believe, perhaps falsely, that they are being asked to carry a failing wool industry. 1 come to my final point. Honourable members on the Government side have accused members of the Opposition of using propaganda in the wool industry. If we had wanted to use propaganda in the industry relating to the attitude of honourable members on the Government side of the House, then in our political leaflets circulated last October there would have been something aimed at whipping up the urban and city dwellers, antagonising them against country interests. But not one honourable member opposite can say that we adopted this tactic.
– That is correct. 1 thank the honourable member for his interjection. The fact is that the Government has been somewhat dishonest in its attitude to wool, whether it be on the sheep’s- back or shorn. The Government has wrongly accused the Opposition of inciting the trade union movement over the export of merino rams. In my office in Adelaide I have letters about this subject even from people 1 do nor know. They have written to me asking that I do all in my power to ensure that the merinos remain in this country and that the attitude of the Labor Party on this question remains as it is. One of these letters is from a gentleman by the name of Killen but 1 do not think it is from the Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen).
Government supporters are wrong in believing that they can solve their problems by casting innuendoes about people on this side of the House and suggesting that merely by waving the magic wand in front of the Australian Council of Trade Unions the ban on the movement of merino ramswill be lifted and all will be well. There are different attitudes prevailing about the ACTU ban. The fact is that the original appeal to the trade union movement came from certain wool growing interests. Certain wool growers were alarmed at the undemocratic manner in which the ban on the export of merinos was lifted at the suggestion of the Minister who said in this place that that was what the wool industry required. If the Government believes that there is a right to dissent it must realise that today there is a dissenting group within the wool industry. Government supporters will not overcome the problem by standing in this place at question time and hurling abuse and innuendoes at honourable members on this side. Government supporters will have to pull their socks up and do their hair much better if they are to achieve their desired aim. The Government should arrange a proper democratic debate on this matter. So far it has dodged such a debate.
Members of the Government have a serious role to play in regard to the wool industry. They must do not only what is in the interests of the Country Party and Liberal Party and those people in Australia who still support them. They must not create a clash within the community. They must do what is in the best interests of the national economy.
Mr KELLY (Wakefield) L2.49 a.m.]Mr Speaker, I have often told you that South Australia is indeed a . remarkable State. ] think you could see confirmation of that opinion tonight after listening to the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster), ft is true that the wool industry is in trouble. I do not want to keep people up at night telling them that. The question is: What should we try to do about it? a quite frequently suggested panacea is that we should subsidise it or give it cost compensation. I am glad to see that no one on either side of the House has seriously advanced that suggestion in this debate. 1 did not hear the Australian Labor Party policy in the detail that I would have liked, hut I do not think members of that Party put it forward. For those who do so, it is worth remembering that a subsidy of 5c per lb of wool would cost the exchequer SI 00m and that 75% of it would go to 25% of the growers. That is the arithmetic that we have to keep in mind.
The Government is helping and is helping in another way. That is the way that is mentioned in this Bill. An amount of $27m is going into research and promotion. This may be looked upon by some people as a generous contribution, as indeed it is; but it is worth while to get these matters into focus or into proportion. 1 remember a long while ago - in 1963 - doing a rather careful measurement of the consumer subsidy that I large paper company was receiving at that stage, namely, $14m a year. I say quite definitely that I believe that the chemical industry in Australia is receiving a consumer subsidy of at least $100m a year. So we would be justified in saying that the $27m that the wool industry is receiving in this form is a proper return for having carried a large section of the economy on its back for some time.
Another point that I was glad to hear the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr
Hunt) mention particularly is that subsidies on inputs into the industry are never as serious or as dangerous as subsidies on the output. The Government, with its superphosphate subsidy, its nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy and its taxation subsidies, is helping in the right way. But there arc other things that we could do. I agree with the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) that it is our duty, as Government backbenchers and, indeed, as members of the House,- to point out to the Government ways in which we believe the industry can be helped without hurting it.
I believe that it is time we started to have a careful look at the effect of helping the tobacco industry in the way we do. It is commonly said - I do not know whether it is true, but I have heard it said on many occasions by many people from overseas as well as in Australia - that one of the reasons, perhaps the chief reason, why we cannot achieve the abolition of the duty on imports of our wool into the United States of America is our determination to assist the Australian tobacco industry, lt is worth pointing out that we support the Australian tobacco industry at the rate of $400 for every acre of tobacco grown. If we were not determined to have this Australian tobacco industry - I am not saying that we should not be - maybe we could pay people $300 an acre not to grow tobacco if that would help us to get our wool into the United States without duty.
However, there are other matters. I was interested to hear the honourable member for Sturt mention the shipping problem. We could do a great deal more in the field of shipping. Just to give 1 example, I have often heard it said - I believe that it is true . - that the wool industry carries a proportion of the freight on Tasmanian apples. If the Tasmanian apple growers have to be helped, in my view it is not proper that they should be helped by the wool growers. I am not saying that the Tasmanian apple growers should not be helped; but I repeat that it is not the function of the Australian wool growers - to help them in the urgent crisis in which the wool industry finds itself today.
It is true that we can do more - I believe that we will be able to in the future as we streamline our handling procedures - in the bulk handling of wool in tankers. One of the real problems of the industry is that the wool has to be loaded in certain ways, marked and dumped, some at Antwerp, some at London and so on, and that certain wool comes out of certain places. This increases freight costs gravely. When we become more confident about core testing we should be able to handle it in other ways. These are the main problems of the industry to which I think we should direct our attention.
I congratulate the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) who took part in the debate on this matter and mentioned particularly this question of restructuring. Restructuring’ is becoming the fashionable word, the in phrase, to use nowadays when talking about rural industries. It has an air of erudition about it which is attractive. It is worth remembering that it presents fundamental problems in deciding how big is an economic unit. It is easy enough to make speeches about it but it is very difficult to decide what will be an economic unit. In the end the decision should not be made by the Government. It must be made by a bank, a development bank or an institution, but not by the Government. No government should ever tell a farmer what his economic unit is. If the Government said: This is the way to make money on a property of this size* the Government then would be held to ransom when things went wrong. It is a fundamental fact that any government which tells an industry to produce more - wheat, for example - always runs into difficulties in the end. The decision has to be made by someone but not by the Government. I want the House to realise that there will be resolutions urging the Government to tell the industry what to do, but the Government should never do it. (Quorum formed.)
The other part of the restructuring problem that 1 think we should examine briefly is how it will be financed. 1 suggest the establishment of a rural loans insurance corporation. Such a corporation, development bank or whatever it might be would give us the kind of flexibility that is needed to finance the inevitable reconstruction. The most important point is that we need for the wool industry, and indeed for all rural industries, a rural industries board, an equivalent of the Tariff Board, to advise the Government on what action it should take in relation to rural industries. The Tariff
Board was instituted many years ago because the Government had to have some shelter from having to take decisions as to what duties ought to be placed on particular goods produced in particular districts. A government does need public evidence on industry problems and then a public report on which it can take the political decision. Indeed, a government needs the economic answers and it then lakes the political decisions. One of our problems iri the rural industries is that we have done too many things that are uneconomic. One of the reasons why we have done the wrong thing is that we have not received clear public economic advice. I urge the Government to have a careful look at a rural industries board so that we shall receive public economic advice on which it may then take political decisions.
The other matter that 1 want to mention briefly is the acquisition scheme. J was surprised to hear the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) - if 1 heard him correctly - say when putting forward Labor policy on wool that the Labor Party did not recommend a referendum on the acquisition scheme. 1 find it almost impossible to believe, that the Labor Party would come out and say that it was going to take the growers’ wool and would sell it in a certain way without asking them. ] hope that I misheard the honourable member, 1 would like, by way of interjection, to hear now from Labor Party supporters whether they propose to take the grower’s wool from him without asking him whether he wants it or not.
– I am glad to hear it, because it would have sat rather queerly on the Labor Part)’, having demanded previously a referendum on the export of merino rams.
– 1 think a referendum on that would be quite out of place. The rams happen to belong to the people who grow them and there are only a few of those people. I quite agree, and I think honourable members all agree, that the export of merino rams would be no disad vantage to the Australian wool market but would free the channels of world trade and give to a few people in other countries the .kind of blood that they need. To pretend that we in Australia have an option on the fine wool of the world is ridiculous. 1 have seen Rambouillet sheep and Russian merino sheep in Nepal and India that have as fine a wool as any sheep we have in Australia. 1 want to conclude by making a few remarks as a member of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Advisory Council. i notice that in the Bill there is to be a change in the method of financing CSIRO research into wool. I would like to congratulate the Government on the step it has taken, lt is a step that needed to be taken; it is a wise step. I would like to pay a tribute to the quality of CSIRO research and the direction it has taken up till now. I would agree, however, with the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street! that we need a different emphasis on research in the future, particularly on getting the wool off, as he says. A lot of effort has gone into packing more wool on to the sheep, but it is now very important that we spend a lot more effort in getting the wool off. i am glad that the honourable member for Corangamite mentioned it, and I think it is something we ought to concentrate on from the research side.
– Surely I can answer the relevant point.
– The matter is quite irrelevant.
– I move:
That the debate be now adjourned.
-Order! The honourable member has spoken in the debate.
– When was that? Can ] not move that the debate be adjourned?
– No, not when you have spoken in the debate.
– Can I ask for leave to continue my remarks?
– No. It is too late. Mr Barnard - I will move that the debate be adjourned.
– I have already called the honourable member for Mitchell.
– Order!I have not called the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.I have called the honourable member for Mitchell.
– Order! You did not even give me an opportunity to finish. I said that I have called the honourable mem-, ber for Mitchell. I have not called the Deputy Leader of the Opposition at any stage during the course of this debate. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition rises I will call him.
– Order! MightI say this: Before an honourable member can move that the debate be adjourned he must get the call in the course of the debate. I have called the honourable member for Wills in the debate. In accordance with practice I now call the honourable member for Mitchell. If when the honourable member for Mitchell is finished I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has the right to move.
– No; I am sorry. I called the honourable member for Mitchell then.
– They have not moved the adjournment of the debate. This is different from the closure of a debate or a motion that a member be not heard.
– I rise to a point of order.
– I completed my .remarks in 12 minutes, Mr Speaker.
-Order! There is no valid point of order.
– You could move for the amendment to be effective from January 1971.
– In view of what has happened in the Senate I ask the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) for his opinion on this matter. I also would like to know whether in fact this is only a machinery measure and whether the amendment would be accepted at a later stage.
– You do agree, I take it, that the Government is of the opinion that it should be the Parliament and not the Governor-General?
– No. With a number of statutory offices I can understand the strength of the argument that it should be Parliament. I do not think that argument would be resisted. But with a number of other offices which are created by statute I think it is unnecessary for Parliament to make a provision in this way. What I do not accept is that all offices created under statute ought to have their remuneration provided by Parliament. 1 think there are many places in which it ought clearly to be done by prescription. It is a matter of determining the level at which Parliament ought to provide it and the level at which it ought to be done by prescription. That is the formula I will be seeking during the recess.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
– I join with the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) in drawing the attention of honourable members to the present problems of the wool growers, particularly the problems dealt with in this Bill. They face great hardship. There is a growing demand throughout the eastern part of Australia - I cannot speak for the west - for some remedial action and there is no doubt that it is required urgently. The Australian Labor Party’s programme for the wool industry has been very well set out in the course of this debate by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). He spelt out precisely what our proposals are. The honourable member for Corangamite said that he did not offer any firm answers to the problems but he made a plea - I hope I am not misquoting him - that whatever is done with the statutory authority there should also be some private marketing organisation to operate concurrently with that authority. Undoubtedly the honourable member has been applying himself to the problems of the wool industry and that is the contribution and suggestion he has made.
I have tried very hard to understand how this Bill has come before the House at the present time. It is puzzling to me because it has been indicated by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) that major changes in the wool industry are under consideration. Much has been made of the fact that a report of a special committee of the Australian Wool Board is expected. That special committee was set up to make recommendations to the Government in connection with these major changes. I should have thought that it would be logical and proper to wait for that report if there is need for a major change in Government policy on wool and a major reconsideration of the organisation of the industry. It would have been logical to have delayed this Bill and considered everything together. Therefore 1 must admit I am puzzled as to how this Bill comes before us at the present time.
I have looked into the background of what Government spokesmen have said. The Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Primary Industry have been consistent on this matter. The consistency of the Deputy Prime Minister goes back to, I think, May 1969 when he made a visit to the electorate of the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) who is to follow me in this debate. I think the Deputy Prime Minister made a firm promise on that occasion to support a wool industry subsidy. Nearly a year later, on 4th February 1970, at the Sydney Sheep Show, he said that the Government would give financial aid to the wool industry. It might be just as well to tell honourable members exactly what the Deputy Prime Minister said at the Sydney Sheep Show. He said:
Again this leads me to wonder why this Bill is merely a fragment of an important change. Later, on 18th February, when speaking to a meeting of Federal and Queensland Country Party Ministers and members of Parliament at Surfers Paradise, the Deputy Prime Minister indicated that he would press the Commonwealth Government to help the wool industry from what he called its present desperate position.
Sitting suspended from 11.30 p.m. to 12 midnight
Thursday, 11 June 1970
Firstly, I want to say that I support the broad objectives of the Bill. It provides for new arrangements for the financing of wool research and promotion, the granting of greater powers to the Minister for Primary Industry to control wool research funds and to widen the borrowing powers of the Australian Wool Board to enable it to renovate and to rebuild wool stores under its control. (Quorum formed.) The broad objectives of the Bill, as I outlined earlier, are to provide new arrangements for the financing of wool research and promotion, for the granting of greater powers to the Minister to control wool research funds and widen the borrowing powers of the Australian Wool Board, to renovate and rebuild the 280 wool stores under its control, to construct, equip integrated wool selling complexes and also to effect changes in the manner of selection of the chairman of the Australian Wool Board and the 3 members with special qualifications.
Before proceeding I would like to reply to the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) who felt that it was a strange time for the Government to be introducing this Bill, when the wool industry is in the process of negotiating with the Government the establishment of a single wool selling authority. Those negotiations are under way. Certain provisions of the Bill will fall in with the general concept as outlined by the industry. Whilst the wool industry is in a desperate economic situation, with the lowest wool prices for over 20 years, never before has the Australian Government Worked more closely or shown more incli nation to assist the wool industry. It is to the credit of the Minister that he has endeavoured to meet representatives of the industry to resolve these problems. No responsible government should allow this great industry, the greatest export industry in Australia, to become a peasant industry.
I agree with other speakers that action has to be taken urgently in consultation with the industry to ensure that the maximum number of wool growers survive. The industry is caught up in a cost - price squeeze. It grieves me to read statements such as that reported to have been made by Mr Hawke in the ‘Financial Review’ of 19th February. The article reads:
Mr Hawke said that he did not deny that some farmers were in financial trouble, but these were almost solely small and inefficient marginal producers.
To assist these farmers the Government had to rid itself of its ‘grab bag’ rural support measures, and tackle the problem of adjustment.
He was critical of the rural policies of all the major parties, including the ALP. Mr Hawke said he was not sure to what extent the whinge about the cost-price squeeze affected wage judgments, but the state of agriculture was still afforded considerable emphasis by the Arbitration Commission.
He went on to contend:
The cost price squeeze argument ‘amounted to little more than a plea for maintenance of a rural production structure which includes a substantial number of inefficient marginal producers without whom we would all be beter off’.
Any legislation to help rural industries brought down at a time of crisis within those industries must receive the earnest consideration of all members of the Parliament, including the Opposition. Members of the Opposition, in their thinking, have given the wool industry the greatest doing over it has ever had. A tremendous amount of work has been put in by our Party rural committee and economic committee as well as by individual members. We certainly appreciate what is being tried in this Bill, firstly, to relieve the industry of the cost of financing research and promotion in its battle to combat synthetic fibres and, secondly, to help the industry make savings in the cost of wool handling through integrated wool selling complexes or wool selling centres.
On the matter of quality of wool, which the handling section is devised to improve, we cannot overstress the importance of quality in wool products. 1 suppose that of all primary products there has been less concentration on quality in wool than on any other form of production for the simple reason that we have always been able to sell our wool clip. This is the only industry that is not over-produced. lt may seem amazing that legislation must be brought down to help stabilise an industry the entire production of which is sold on local and world markets, yet this is the naked fact in respect of the industry because the price being received, as has been said, is the lowest probably sines the depression years in actual percentage value. That we have been able to sell all of our wool production is no reason why the growers should do nothing more in respect of quality. Overseas prices have taken a tailspin, apparently because the quality of our export wool has been neglected. If honourable members talk to Japanese buyers they will realise how truthful is that statement. They have become very selective in buying our wool, and unless we can put on the market an almost perfect product free of dust, burrs and the other ingredients that get into wool wc will be in real trouble getting rid of it. We must not be lulled into a sense of false security. Just because we are selling all of our wool at the present does not mean necessarily that we will be doing thai for the next 12 months, 2 years or 3 years. This measure is to be commended because it is an endeavour to assist in three or tour very important ways.
I now turn to the testing of wool. The Minister in his second reading speech said that we were to try to make savings in the handling of wool. He went on to say:
Studies conducted by the Australian Wool Board show that very significant cost reductions are possible in the handling and processing of wool by the establishment, on a national scale, of integrated wool selling complexes.
Later the Minister said:
I think it can be said that all sections of the wool trade agree that the establishment of well laid out wool complexes incorporating modern mechanised handling equipment for common use by wool selling brokers for the speedy movement of wool into store, within store and out of store to the ship can introduce great efficiency into the wool selling and handling procedure. Further, such complexes could also provide a vehicle for the early introduction of other beneficial innovations such as the pre-sale sampling and testing of wool, that is, objective measurement, and the streamlining of bulk-classing operations.
I want to say something in detail about presale sampling, testing and objective measurement. I refer to an article on objective measurement written by Mr H. M. McKenzie, Chairman of the Australian Wool Board’s policy committee. Mr McKenzie was careful to point out in the article that unless this scheme when introduced was carried through with the utmost care it could have later disastrous effects on the industry. The Launceston ‘Examiner’ of 10th June carried the following item:
Mr McKenzie said speakers at woolgrower meetings and seminars had stressed the need for any change in the present wool marketing system to include pre-sale objective measurement.
The Labor Party has put forward tonight its plan for the handling and marketing of the Australian wool clip in the future. That must be a prerequisite of this marketing idea. The report goes on to state:
I am confident that scientific research and development being done will lead to pre-sale objective measurement on behalf of growers, but premature introduction of this as a condition of sale without sound or sufficient tested methods, could be disastrous.
Any failure could result in international acceptance of sale by objective measurement being delayed for many years’.
To get this, it was essential that the validity of all measurement techniques receive international acceptance.
He said that in any change in marketing, it was necessary to examine the costs of the existing method and estimate the savings or additional costs resulting from change.
The most desirable method of handling wellclassed wools for sale was believed to be: Weigh on arrival in store, core test, appraise or sample, dump and stack awaiting auction and shipment.
With this method, wool would be handled only once in and once out of store.
However, to get sale by this method, it would be necessary to:
Be able to guarantee within acceptable limits the accuracy of the scientific measurements and secure international acceptance of the methods used.
Develop methods for which the cost of these measurements justified their commercial acceptance.
Ensure that the purchasers were satisfied with an independent appraisal or the production of a representative wool sample of sufficient size to permit subjective or visual assessment of the non-measurable qualities such as character, strength, soundness, softness, etc. Ensure that the handling problems, including the stacking of dumped bales, were satisfactorily resolved.
With the assistance of scientific research and experimentation eliminate completely or reduce to a minimum the number of qualities requiring visual assessment.
The two factors vital to the introduction of presale objective measurement are that it would permit the marketing of the clip at reduced costs and that the objective measurement certificate and appraisements (or samples) would be reliable, accurate and comprehensive enough for buyers to assess the value of the wool for the particular end use for which it was being bought.’ Mr McKenzie said.
Two other areas in which objective measurement offers prospect of direct or indirect benefit to woolgrowers are:
Reduction in the claims made on wool buyers by their principals, arising from alleged shortfall in wool performance specifications; and research by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics saying that objective measurement can reduce wool manufacturing costs.
Experiments with pre-sale sampling, pre-sale testing and selling by sample are being investigated.
However, 1 must stress that we are striving to achieve commercial acceptability rather than academic perfection,’ Mr McKenzie said.
He said, ‘I urge the Government and the wool industry to see that changes in wool marketing involving objective measurement are not adopted until it is clear that their introduction will produce both short and long term net benefits to the woolgrowers.’
He said the wool characteristics were being measured scientifically for commercial purposes.
Measurement of yield in ‘shipping lots’ is widely practised and the methods of tests are laid down in specifications which have international acceptance.
In general the accuracies of testing appears to be good.
Vegetable matter is also measured.
The only method of measuring greasy wool fineness, for which an international standard exists, is based on the use of a microscope.
Mr McKenzie points out various methods of testing. He said that today’s costs and handling charges based on post-sale testing operations were as follows:
Yield: $1 per bale for sampling, plus $9 to $10 a lot for a certificate.
Fibre diameter: Airflow method, $4 a lot; microscopic method, $11.50 a lot. (If fibre diameter measurements were done in conjunction with yield, there was no additional charge of sampling).
The article continues:
It is important to realise that the introduction of pre-sale sampling and testing could result in a substantial reduction in these charges,’ he added.
I have quoted most of what he said because it relates to a vital part of the Bill which is before us. This system must not be rushed into headlong. It will have to be tested, experimented with, and assessed perfectly accurately so that it can become an international standard accepted by buyers from the countries which purchase our wool.
Another point I mention is promotion. Is too much being spent on promoting only fine wool and so limiting the impact of Australian wool in manufacturing? Some criticism has been levelled against the amount spent on promotion by the Australian Wool Board. It has been said we have over-stressed the fine wool qualities and have not sufficiently promoted our other wool. There is some truth in this. I think promotion should include all types of wool so that we can tell the world and show the world that we can do a lot with wools other than fine wools in clothing manufacture and the like. The low prices that now exist in the industry - they are possibly15c a lb less than they were at this time last year - had a beginning. A very significant event took place a couple of years ago. It might have been less than 2 years ago. I can remember the scream that came from our motor car industry that too many Japanese cars were coming into Australia and that these imports must be stabilised - not increased. The 2 giant companies which manufacture Ford and Holden motor cars and earn a profit of about $30m a year between them screamed to this
Government to do something about the tariff on Japanese motor cars. The Government lifted the wall of tariffs against these cars.
– Tariffs promote sales.
– It is a pity the hour is so late because I would have liked to spend quite a considerable amount of my allotted time in answering some of the questions raised tonight, firstly by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), secondly by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) and finally by the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie). Time is not on our side so I will not go into a lot of detail. I was surprised to hear the honourable member for Wilmot indicate to the House that the honourable member for Dawson had explained in detail the Opposition’s policy on the wool situation. I listened fairly intently to the honourable member for Dawson and I was amazed at that statement by the honourable member for Wilmot because I could not detect a great deal of Opposition policy that we did not already know about. The honourable member for Wilmot made great play of the Japanese car problem we had some 2 years ago and that the price of wool dropped by 4c. A little later he went on to indicate that we had a 2 to 1 favourable balance of trade with the Japanese and that the reverse was the situation with the United States of America. 1 am not too sure what he wants. On the one hand he does not want to see motor cars coming in and on the other hand it appears to me that he does want to see motor cars coming in. I suggest before he makes speeches along those lines he should sort himself out on his subject.
I must say, in fairness to the honourable member for Dawson, that whenever a change in the wool industry is suggested someone always comes along and throws a spanner in the works. I cannot remember the verbiage he used, but it meant that there were people outside the industry interfering with the growers’ interests. I agree with him on that point. It is a pity these do-gooders do not keep their thoughts to themselves and let the industry make up its own mind. We see plenty of reports in the Press from individuals, who perhaps are in no way concerned with the industry, trying to persuade growers what they should do in such matters as referendums. I agree with the honourable member. (Quorum formed.) 16521/70- ft R-
I am amazed at the response of members of the Opposition to the call for a quorum by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage). A quorum has been formed by the entry of honourable members on the Government side of the chamber. On the opposite side of the chamber are only the honourable member for Dawson who is at the table, and the honourable member for Chifley. They are the only 2 members of the Opposition in the chamber. I think the Opposition is showing great discourtesy and the colleagues of the honourable member for Chifley should be ashamed of their failure to respond to his call for a quorum.
It is very clear to me, and no doubt to my colleagues on this side of the chamber, that members of the Opposition have not the slightest interest in the wool industry. I said earlier that I could not understand the Opposition’s new policy for the wool industry. It seems that there just is not one. There is certainly no support on the Opposition benches at this time. If it is good enough for supporters of the Government to be present, it should be good enough for members of the Opposition also to be present. It appears that they are deliberately trying to count out the House this evening. This should be remembered by people outside this place. I realise that it is early in the morning. Nevertheless, we have business to do and the Opposition should take part in it. The response of the Opposition is a matter of great shame for the honourable member for Chifley.
I have no doubt that in the minds of many people this is a relatively minor piece of legislation, but it is of great importance to the wool industry. It is further evidence of assistance by the Government to an industry which is in trouble. The Government is carrying out what we call election promises, but this measure is not intended to be the be-all and end-all which will completely solve the troubles of the wool industry. It is certainly a move in the right direction. The Government is to provide a greater share of funds needed for wool research and promotion. The contribution by growers to those funds will be reduced by 50%; that is from 2% of gross returns to 1%. The Government is increasing its contribution from $I4m to $27m a year, to be averaged over a 3-year period.
As the Minister indicated in his second reading speech, this Bill deals with a num- ber of minor matters. It will give the Minister and the Government more say in dealing with wool research and promotion. The Bill will also change the position as to the appointment of the chairman of the Australian Wool Board. The chairman will in future be appointed by the Minister for PrimaryIndustry after consultation with the Board. At present the chairman is appointed by the Minister on the nomination of the Board. There will not be a great deal of difference in the manner of appointing the chairman but when one considers that the Government will contribute much more finance it is natural for it to have more say in the industry.
With the price of wool at its lowest since perhaps the 1930s it has never been more important to look closely at research and promotion than it is today - research not necessarily on the production side but rather into the use of wool. Only a few days ago mention was made of the possibility of wool being used in the filter tips of cigarettes. If this idea were successfully implemented no doubt it would mean a huge contribution to the consumption of wool. Honourable members have heard it said that if we could sell a pair of socks to every person in mainland China the wool industry would certainly not be in trouble.
Despite comments to the contrary it is my belief that wool promotion by the Australian Wool Board and the International Wool Secretariat has had a great beneficial effect on our sales of wool, but unfortunately it has not affected the price. However, we hope that continued promotion will assist wool prices. It is obvious that because of the present low prices being obtained for wool the wool growers are certainly in difficulties.I do not propose this evening to give a full solution to their problems. To be honest, I personally have not a complete answer to the problems facing the wool industry at the present time. For that matter I do not think that the industry knows what its real trouble is, nor does it know how it can get out of its present difficulties. It is absurd for members on the Opposition benches to say that the trouble which the industry is in at the present time is the fault of this Government. The honourable member for Wilmot referred a few minutes ago to the duty on wool entering the United States of America.
I wonder what the honourable member would think if an outside source wanted to dictate to us what duty we should apply on goods coming into this country. To my mind this completely cuts across the views of members of the Opposition.
We have heard many suggestions about what the short term answer should be, but I believe that whatever we do to assist the industry must be considered in the long term, because we must be very, very careful of anything done in the short term that will affect the long term result. It could be a very dangerous decision to make. This is something which the Government and the Minister in particular must look at very closely.I now turn to some of the reasons why I believe that the government should take some action in regard to the wool industry. Under our selling arrangements - the free auction system - the returns to wool growers certainly have not been very bright at all. In recent times we have seen some of the lowest prices for many, many years and they could perhaps be equivalent to the prices paid in the pre-war days. A few weeks ago it was equivalent to the 1949 values.I believe that the price today is coming back to the pre-war values. In those days industry costs were not anything like they are today. It could be said quite rightly that the gap between the costs, returns and profits has so altered that growers cannot keep ahead of their costs.
Profits have turned into losses. The overdrafts held by many primary producers and wool growers have reached a maximum so far as the banking fraternity is concerned. In many instances the banks are refusing extended credit. When it comes to private lending, which is perhaps the main source of finance, interest rates are higher. We have heard of many cases where people have borrowed so much that their equity in their property has disappeared completely because of reduced land values. Because primary producers are paying through high interest rates on properties with an equity they no longer have, they are not able to service their overdrafts. 1 know of some instances where private loans have become due for repayment and the lenders have sought to call the money in. The wool growers have been unable to arrange finance and consequently have had no alternative but to renegotiate a loan at a very much higher rate of interest.
In some instances wool growers are paying up to 9% interest on money borrowed. No wool grower today can afford to pay 9% interest. I assure honourable members that many people in my part of the Commonwealth arc well and truly in trouble with their loans. The price of land is dropping at a catastrophic rate. Many of these people have no equity at all and some owe more than the value of their property. I shall mention the value of some properties and the loans that have been made on them. I have details here of a property which today is reliably valued at $39,000 but in respect of which an overdraft and borrowings amount to §45,000. Another one is a property valued at §44,000 in respect of which there is an overdraft and loans, including private loans, of $46,000. People such as these have no equity in their property. Another property is valued at $43,000 with borrowings of $63,000. The people on these properties cannot go on.
As I said earlier, this legislation will make only a contribution to the wool industry. It will fulfil one of the promises made during the election campaign a few months ago. But what will be the effect of the legislation? Based on some of the earlier prices the reduced levy will result in a saving of about $1.20 a bale to the. wool grower. I think it is well that we should consider some of these prices. Wool as a percentage of our total exports had fallen from 67% at the peak in 1950-51 to 25% in 1968-69. If we take into account the prices that we are receiving today for wool the percentage would no doubt be lower than 25%.
To show how prices have fallen, in 1968-69 the average price was 44.67c per lb whereas today it is about 38c or 39c per lb as an average over the 12 months. In the months of April and May the price was closer to 32c or even 31c per lb. These are shocking prices. Naturally enough, one would not expect any industry to survive for very long in those conditions. The question must be asked: Where do we go from here? If we ask whether the Bill goes far enough the answer must be no, but that it is not intended to. We hope that the Government at some future date will take further action to try to assist the wool industry. I realise that I must not go too far from the subject of the Bill but I suggest that despite all the things that have been said in the past the Government must do something. I am not so sure what it should do. I do not know whether the industry really knows what it wants.
I have suggested to the Minister for Primary Industry and the Treasurer (Mr Bury) that we must look very closely at interest rates. I have heard many comments about the wool industry wanting a subsidy but I have spoken to people in it and according to my observations they do not want a subsidy. They realise that a subsidy is not the long term answer. It might be handy to have it in their pockets for the time being in order to overcome some of the financial commitments of wool growers but in the long term it will not do the industry any good at all. The industry is looking for something permanent. I suggest that in the meantime, because of the huge borrowings in the industry in recent times and the huge interest rates being paid to banks and private enterprise, the Commonwealth certainly should look into some form of rebate to these people.
This is a very important industry. There are something like 100,000 holdings and naturally there are more than 100,000 people directly concerned with the industry. It has been said repeatedly around the track that some 60% of the wool is produced by 20% of the growers. Those figures might be correct but it is also correct to say that 62% of the holdings also supply 50% of the actual wool grown. That is a slightly different setup to 60% owned by 20% of the growers. These figures can be borne out in statistics from the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics.
I support this legislation. I agree with those honourable members who have spoken tonight about a single marketing authority but in view of the time I will not enlarge on that subject. I realise that we cannot implement such an authority immediately but I appreciate the importance of doing something on an industrial level. 1 am sure that if the Government can assist the industry in implementing any of these proposals it has put forward at a very early date then wool growers will appreciate it.
Mr CREAN (Melbourne Ports) [1.24 a. m. - With all respect, I point out that it is now near enough to i 30 a.m. We are talking about the most fundamental industry in Australia so far as export earnings are concerned. I ask, the Government: Do you really believe that this time of the morning is the right time to be discussing this Bill? This Bill relates to the wool industry which, I understand, in the worst of years, supplies something like a quarter of Australia’s export earnings. Over 90% of our wool is sold outside Australia. The main issue is the price we receive overseas and this surely is a significant matter. All I am suggesting is that it is 1.25 a.m. Opposition members are not rising to speak at this stage with the exception that I am making this point. Why do we not call a halt and start again tomorrow?
– We also try to keep to it.
– The ‘Burketown News’.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, 1 raise . a point of order. We are all very patient people. We have been waiting for the honourable member for Melbourne Ports to get around to the Bill. Actually he is making a statement: he is not referring to the Bill at all. I respectfully submit that he is not speaking to the Bill.
– Extremely important.
– I have extremely important
– Can you not get them to keep quiet?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)I point out to the honourable member for Melbourne Ports that such a motion is not in order.
Mr CREAN - All I am moving at this stage is that this debate be adjourned. Surely I am entitled se to move. If I should seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date, I will put it in that form. Here we are at half past 1 in the morning talking about-
– We suspended the Standing Orders.
– Later today.
– I am utterly amazed at the performance of the Opposition. We had the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) in all good faith calling for a quorum, thus occupying another 10 minutes of our time. We filled our benches fairly significantly, but I found that the honourable member for Chifley was still sitting over on the other side on his own, apart from the hard working honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) who was sitting at the table. With the exception of those 2 people the Labor benches were absolutely empty. Does this reflect any great interest? With all this sanctimonious crying out that this industry is worth so much to this nation and so on, one begins to wonder whether the Opposition is really fair dinkum. I think the conclusion we would come to in regard to matters affecting our rural areas is that at all times honourable members opposite are utterly and completely hypocritical politically.
– I still take the point of order. My point of order is that 1 was forced to withdraw’ the self-same expression in this chamber tonight. Why should not the honourable member for Kennedy do the same?
– 1 rise to order. The honourable member for Kennedy referred to this side of the House as being hypocritical. 1 sought the advice of the Deputy Speaker on this very thing only a few moments ago.
– I rise to order. Does this mean that, if 1 say that they are all a mob of bastards over there, the expression is not objectionable? But if I say someone in particular on the other side is, it is objectionable. This is an important point. Foi instance, if 1 pick on the Minister foi Defence-
– Is not the call for the honourable member for Kennedy to withdraw?
– The honourable member for Kennedy made the remark without any doubt. You, perhaps being engrossed in some of the affairs that may occupy your mind while you are in the Chair from time to time, may not have heard it. However, it was made, and he should withdraw it.
– I wish to take an important point of order in relation to semantics. If I say that they are all a mob of bastards over there I must mean every individual member. This is an important point. How do you distinguish between the individual member in all - 1 -
– Were you talking about me?
– I rise to a further point of order. Does the Chair now consider that the honourable member for Kennedy has withdrawn? In addition to that, during the course of what was going on a few minutes ago another member of the Country Party described the honourable member for Oxley as being ‘a low thing’. How far do they go?
– Where is that?
– I rise to a point of order. It appears that the honourable member for Kennedy did not withdraw his statement. In view of the conversation I had with you, Mr Deputy Speaker, when you occupied the Chair during the time when I addressed this chamber this evening and in view of your remarks to me recently while I was sitting on the front bench seeking clarity on a similar ruling, that when a statement is made and refers to all the members on this side of the House or the other side of the House-
– Mr Deputy Speaker, 1 direct your attention to the state of the House.
– I beg your pardon?
– I apologise; 1 did not understand that.
– I take a point of order-
– 1 am taking a point of order.
– The honourable member for Bendigo is justified by the Standing Orders. You must abide by the Standing Orders, Mr Deputy Speaker. A quorum can be called every 10 minutes, and you cannot do anything about it.
– You have no right to rebuke an honourable member for calling a quorum.
– I rise lo a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. With respect, I think you should clarify your ruling in relation to the calling of a quorum because it would appear from the ruling which you gave that there was, in your opinion, an abuse of the procedures of the House. I do not know under what standing order you gave your ruling. Mr Deputy Speaker, but standing order 45 is quite clear in this respect, lt stales:
If any member takes notice that a quorum of members is not present, the Speaker shall count the House; and, ii a quorum be not present within 2 minutes, he shall adjourn the House till the next sitting day.
Mr Deputy Speaker, where does it say in the Standing Orders that it is an abuse of the Standing Orders to ask for a quorum?
– Mr Deputy Speaker, speaking to your ruling on that point of order, personally I regard it as a reflection on every member on this side of the House. As far as I am concerned, there was no suggestion from anybody thai I should stay out of the House. I believe that you ought to withdraw the imputation that we were attempting to interfere with the forms of the House. On the second question about calling a quorum, the Australian Constitution lays down that a quorum of (he House shall he one-third of the number of members of the House unless the Parliament otherwise determines. The provision has been there for 70 years. In my 15 years service in this House I have never heard anybody in the chair say that it is incorrect to call for the presence of a quorum. If the provision has been a pan of the Constitution for 70 years, and if it is the established practice of the House to call for the presence of a quorum, I believe you, Mr Deputy Speaker, have insulted the House by your remark.
– -Mr Deputy. Speaker–
The Bill before the House is to amend the Wool Industry Act.
In view of the lateness of the hour and the importance of the subject which is not receiving consideration, I move:
Question put. The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P: E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
The Bill before the House is to amend the Wool Industry Act. It does not matter whether it is 5 minutes past 2 in the morning or 5 minutes past 2 in the afternoon, what is important is the position of the wool industry today. This is the only opportunity that we will have of debating this important Bill before the House goes into recess. That is the important point. In Australia today there are 100,000 wool growers who have almost come to the end of their tether, and that is what is so important about this debate. I intend to speak in this debate for at least a few minutes. Not only should we in this Parliament be concerned with this legislation, not only are the wool growers concerned as they have indicated in their thousands throughout Australia but every person in Australia should indeed be concerned. As a matter of fact, all Australians who have had advantages–
– The honourable member supports the Government which has been in office for 20 years.
– How does the honourable member know?
– We do not . practise economic apartheid either.
– That is not the proposition. ] think you should study our policy more carefully.
– Where do you stand on that one?
– One only had to listen to the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) for 5 minutes to learn that this is not the time to be debating anything. He was talking about the failure of the Labor Party to support the idea of a referendum on wool and sheep, yet he has no hesitation whatsoever in taking young Australians off to Vietnam.
– I can move at any time that the debate be adjourned.
– I rise to a point of order. I put it to you that–
– I move:
That the debate be now adjourned.
– On a point of order, I maintain that I rose to move that the debate be adjourned as soon as the honourable member for Wills had resumed his seat. I maintain thatI am in order.
– I rise to a point of order. Standing order 87 is very clear. It provides:
A Member who has not spoken to the question, or who has the right of reply, may move the adjournment of the debate, which question shall be put forthwith and determined without amendment or debate. If the question is resolved in the affirmative, the Speaker shall then put a question to fix the time for the resumption of the debate.
There is nothing here to preclude any honourable member, providing he has not spoken in the debate or has the right of reply, from moving that at any stage. There is nothing in the Standing Orders which does that. My recollection is that when honourable members on this side of the House have had the floor during an adjournment debate the Leader of the House has moved the adjournment of the debate. Not only has the Leader of the House done this but I know that the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) has done it.
– No. On previous occasions the question has been put that the debate be now adjourned.
Motion (by Dr Patterson) agreed to:
That the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) be heard.
Motion (by Mr Barnard) put:
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I have received many, letters from various parts of Australia, as well as one from New Zealand, congratulating me on the strong protest which 1 have been making against the injustice of foisting the proposed wool marketing authority on the producers. These letters form the basis of what I am going to say. I have even received a letter from Sir Ewen Waterman, who is present in the gallery. At a later stage I shall refer to a copy of a speech which he made in Paris. The Bill which is before the House has 3 specific purposes. An extra $30m is to be allocated to research. The structure of the Australian Wool Board is to be altered. The Bill will also provide funds for renovating some of the 280 buildings which are owned by the Wool- Board. I shall endeavour to get through my speech as quickly as possible. I repeat that my remarks have been compiled from the letters which I have received from famous names in the wool industry, including some big producers.
The economic problems of the wool growing industry are multilateral and no simple solution to them is possible. A multi-pronged attack is needed in which all problem areas are involved and in which the Government, wool growers and the wool trade generally collaborate in an adaptive relationship to ensure the long term effectiveness of the industry. The adaptive approach seeks the means for adjustment to economic reality by the introduction of policies which would promote reorganisation with the least hurtful impact on persons or property.
Positive proposals for the beneficial restructuring of the wool growing industry will be possible only when all available research capabilities are harnessed to the task of preparing a complete basis from which conclusions and policies can be confidently drawn. The research work done by the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia, though comprehensive, has revealed substantial gaps. Research is at present dispersed and uncoordinated. Funds for research work seem not to be related to priorities nor directed to the most urgent problems. At a time of dynamic growth in the economy generally the wool grower has been caught in a vice-like squeeze of falling prices and inflating costs.- Solutions to his problems will not be found by chance. Temporising, or working by hunch, wIll aggravate the imbalance. The expedients of price subsidies, which are merely temporary palliatives, inevitably defeat themselves and divert research and action from the fundamental issues.
Australia’s rural industries are now sharing the experience of their counterparts in other countries with developed and powerful industrial complexes. Price support schemes have been proved inappropriate as the means for maintaining a balance between the primary and secondary sectors. In the United Kingdom, United States of America, and Europe rural policy has followed the protectionist line. The history of farm policy in these countries is evidence of the inadequacy of this approach. Protective measures do nothing to assist, and in the longer term retard the adjustments which would permit those remaining in rural industry to approximate returns on resources, labour and capital earned in the economy generally. The experience of others should not be discounted when considering the present problems of Australia’s wool growers.
CEDA, in its policy statement on the wool industry, has urged Government and the industry to recognise the real causes of current problems, and the justification for structural changes implicit in them. Treating the symptoms instead of diagnosing the disease will deny opportunities for policy formation in the interests of the wool industry and the economy in general. For these reasons CEDA has proposed that the Federal Government should take the initiative in establishing a standing advisory committee on the wool industry. This committee would assume responsibility for the direction of production and economic research; co-ordinate research into the practical and economical problems of the industry; arrange for particular research projects to be undertaken; and evaluate research findings. In these responsibilities the standing advisory committee would utilise all existing research capabilities and would collaborate with wool grower organisations. The standing advisory committee would advise the Federal Government of its findings and assist in the formulation of future plans for the industry. CEDA considers that well based, long term policies for the wool growing industry cannot be established unless these research processes are instituted.
Re-structuring of the wool growing industry does not mean simply the creating of larger units of production. All factors which may influence the economic production of good quality wool must be critically reviewed, both those over which the grower exercises no control and those which relate to the growers’ management. Among those factors requiring review and outside the direct influence of the grower, CEDA has included the following: rationalisation of transport costs and taxes to reduce external cost pressures; reduction of the disruptive impact of death duties to prevent the breakup of properties of efficient size; and amendment of State land laws to permit ready sale and transfer of land by the elimination of restrictive land titles. CEDA is proposing that the barriers to structural change be removed and that the processes of adjustment be promoted by a greater emphasis on applied economic research; more effective extension work and industry education; measures to speed up mobility into and out of the industry, with part of the adjustment costs to be borne by the Government; selective taxation incentives; and long term project loans. CEDA emphasises also that growers can contribute directly to the continuing effectiveness of the wool industry by adopting modern management techniques and improved methods of sheep husbandry.
A restructuring plan would take time for effective implementation, but action could be initiated immediately in some of the areas nominated by CEDA. Any immediate action on specific aspects should be consistent with a longer term policy for the industry in which uneconomic units of production would be merged into sound practical and economic aggregations. CEDA considers that immediate steps should be initiated to lift the industry from its state of despondency and to encourage active participation in the adaptive approach to problems. The question to be resolved is what action is necessary and equitable to ensure that the profit margin in the production of good quality wool, assuming competent management, will be adequate to attract investment to the wool growing industry. The answers will be found in complete and independent research, in consequential policy formation and in education. Sir Ewen Waterman, in an address to the International Wool Textile Organisation in Paris, said:
What kind of wool will be grown? Growers are seeking guidance on this most critical point. We are encouraging the production of the best possible quality wool in all types presently grown and we are seeking to improve standards of .preparation - but we look for guidance (on types needed) to the joint efforts of IWTO and IWS in forecasting shifts in demand. Some coarsening of the Australian clip has been noted in recent years, at the same time that demand for the finer types has emerged. Wool growers need expert confirmation of trends in demand before committing themselves to substantial change in both feeding and breeding policies.
What is wool’s future? Wool can survive as a textile fibre of importance provided the consumer cap, through the price structure, influence the types that are grown. New methods can be developed and implemented to enable the thinking wool grower to survive in an affluent society. This does not mean that all wool growers will survive nor does it mean that the types of wool produced in Australia at present will continue in use. For example, at the moment wools containing over about 5% vegetable 011 are at a considerable discount. Unless there is a major change in the supply and demand situation this discount is more likely to increase than decrease. This is because labour is needed to process these wools and the cost of labour in all industrialised countries is rising faster than in other countries. Japan has experienced one of the fastest rates, 17% per annum.
– If the honourable member has finished bis speech the suggestion I was about to make is not necessary. I would have suggested that the Minister might move that the honourable member have leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard, lt was not his statement.
– In reply - I do not want to detain the House. All honourable members have supported the Bill, which is basically to provide more finance for and to reduce the levy on wool growers. I think that the most interesting feature of the debate has been that the Australian Labor Party has declared a policy on the marketing of wool. Although I do not want to canvass the question now it sounded to me to be a hotchpotch of almost every idea that has been proposed. It was put together without spelling out clearly how these things are to be done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– It was my intention to move an amendment to clause 18, inserting the word Parliament’ instead of ‘Governor-General’. The Opposition believes that the Parliament should decide the level of salaries and allowances. However, 1 am informed that if the amendment were accepted it would mean that the salaries of members of the Australian Wool Board, for example, would cease until the next budget. There is no alternative under those circumstances but to withdraw the amendment.
– 1 showed the terms of the proposed amendment to Mr Comans, the Acting Parliamentary Draftsman. He is well known to all honourable members. Honourable members will remember that the Government accepted amendments to three Bills earlier today. They were the Australian Film Development Corporation Bill, the Metric Conversion Bill and the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Bill. The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) said that he believed that this was a principle that ought to be accepted. In reply I said that there were a lot of things that the honourable member for Oxley had put forward with which T agreed. But on the other hand I thought it was necessary not to .accept as a general principle the proposal embodied in amendments because we could well have a situation where Parliament would be committed to minutiae. For example, some officers created under statute in fact may be paid only a sitting allowance on a day and how many days they sit may be a matter to be determined over the course of a year, having regard to the number of meetings necessary. Whether this is what the Senate would want or what this House would want is a matter to be considered. I have indicated that during the recess period, in consultation with the Draftsman, I will try to draw up a form which would be constant in all Bills. I envisage that there would be discussion about the proper form that should be used. In the meantime I said that we would accept these amendments and wc would carry out this process.
Later on in the day the Senate had a Bill before it - I apologise for not being able to remember the name of the Bill - and a similar sort of amendment was put. The other place divided on the issue and the amendment failed. Some of the arguments put at that time were the type of argument which I had mentioned earlier in the day. Therefore, I think we must regard this proposal at this stage as not firm. It was not firm earlier in the day and I would not think it is firm now. 1 would think that what I said earlier was appropriate. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) asked specifically whether acceptance of the proposed amendment would mean there would be no pay. I discussed this with the Draftsman and he indicated to me that this was his belief. I then spoke to the honourable member for Dawson about it briefly, giving an outline of the situation. The honourable member indicated that under the circumstances he would not proceed with his amendment. If 1 may say so, I thought this was the proper course. I hope that over the recess we can have the matter properly considered and in consultation we might get a proper formula.
Bill (on motion by Mr Anthony) - by leave - read a third time.
House adjourned at 3.37 a.m. (Thursday)
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 June 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19700610_reps_27_hor68/>.