27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Mon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr KIRWAN presented the following petition:
To: The Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament Assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Western Australia respectfully showeth:
That the recent increase in the interest rate on Government bonds has caused hardship to the thousands of home buyers through,it this State due to the subsequent increase in interest rates on mortgage contracts by home lending institutions.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will give earnest consideration to this most vital matter and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
Mr SCHOLES presented the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Victoria respectfully showeth:
That duc to the 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 the average weekly male earnings for all States, as ascertained by the Commonwealth Statistician, plus supplementary assistance and allowances in accordance with A.C.T.U. policy and adopted as the policy of the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners’ Federation, and by doing so give, a reasonably moderate pension.
Your pensioners most humbly pray 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.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
Mr HAMER presented the following petition:
To (he Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Victoria respectfully showeth:
That due to the higher cost of living, persons on Social Service Pensions are rinding it extremely difficult to live even in the most frugal way.
We therefore call upon the Commonwealth Government to increase the base pension rate to 30% of the average weekly male earnings for all States, as ascertained by the Commonwealth Statistician, plus supplementary assistance and allowances in accordance wilh A.C.T.U. policy and adopted as the policy of the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners’ Federation, and by doing so give a reasonably moderate pension.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will lake 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.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Mr KENNEDY presented the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representives in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Victoria respectfully showeth.
That due to the higher living cost, persons on social service pensions are rinding 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 the average weekly male earnings for all States, as ascertained by the Commonwealth Statistician, plus supplementary assistance and allowances in accordance with A.C.T.U. policy and adopted as the policy of the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners’ Federation, and by doing so give a reasonably moderate pension.
Your petitioners most humbly 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 social service pensions may live their lives in dignity.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Mr CROSS, on behalf of Mr Hansen, presented the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Queenslaud respectfully showeth:
That due to higher living cost, persons on social service pensions are finding it extremely difficult to live in even the most frugal way. A parity allow.ance should be paid to pensioners in remote areas.
We therefore call upon the Commonwealth Government to increase the base pension rate to 30% of the average weekly male earnings in all States plus supplementary assistance and allowances in accordance with the A.C.T.U. policy and adopted as the policy of the Australian Pensioners’ Federation and by so doing give a reasonably moderate pension.
Your petitioners most humbly 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 who are receiving social service pensions may live their lives in dignity.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Mr HOWSON presented the following petition:
To: The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of residents of Victoria, respectfully sheweth:
Australians, custodians of the world’s largest marsupial, the red kangaroo, have allowed it to be reduced so low numerically that even CSIRO research has had to be suspended in some areas and alternative means of research employed in others.
The kangaroo is being exploited whilst facts on populations and numbers of kangaroos are unknown - any day the numbers can be reduced below that level needed for survival of droughts and natural mortality. At this date neither the number needed for survival nor the number of kangaroos left is known.
Pending the outcome of investigations by the Select Committee, it can be logically assumed that shooters, fearing restrictive legislation in the future, will intensify their efforts to obtain as many animals as possible, while they can.
We, your petitioners, therefore humbly pray that you will:
And we your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
Mr FOX presented the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the residents of the State of New South Wales respectfully sheweth:
We, your petitioners, therefore humbly 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. And, your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question. It concerns the confidential memorandum on the technique to be adopted by sales officers of his Department in taping telephone conversations they were about to have with telephone subscribers or intending subscribers. I ask: How long has this practice been followed and on whose authority? What is the approximate number of recordings which have been taken of conversations by his officers or the subscribers? What action is being taken to make amends to the subscribers and to prevent a recurrence of such action in his Department?
– Section 16a of the telephone regulations does in fact cover to some degree the right of the Department, or authority to be given by the Department, in relation to the fitting of devices for the purpose of recording messages. I think that section 4 of the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act is to a layman in somewhat ambiguous terms. I am not trying to make excuses but I think I am right in mentioning these 2 things because an officer who reads those sections might be entitled to believe that in fact he could use either for a particular purpose.
About 6 o’clock last night I received some information in relation to this matter. lt was the first information I had received. 1 believe that this practice was adopted for a genuine purpose. It was authorised by the Director of Posts and Telegraphs in South Australia, The purpose was to ensure that proper selling techniques were used by officers of the Department in relation to inquiries regarding new telephone installations or variation of existing telephone installations. It was an endeavour by the Deparament to ensure that the people who were in fact answering this type of inquiry were answering it in proper terms and to the greatest benefit to the Department in selling services or giving advice in relation to telephones. I cannot inform the House or the Leader of the Opposition of the number of occasions on which recording was done. I understand that it was done over a period of only 3 or 4 days, lt applied only to the type of conversation which 1 have mentioned. I immediately instructed that this operation be cancelled. 1 assure the House that it will not happen again. I think there has been a misunderstanding by certain officers of the Department. If further information is required I will endeavour to obtain it. I feel sure that no damage has been done. However, I regret that any officer of the Department should have seen fit to indulge in this type of operation.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General, lt relates to the answer which he gave a few days ago to the honourable member for North Sydney on the Australian content of television programmes. I ask the Postmaster-General whether he will use his best endeavours to do several things: Firstly, will he obtain a report at the earliest possible opportunity from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on this matter; secondly, will be make a statement on this subject In the Parliament and table the report of the Broadcasting Control Board; thirdly, will he move that the paper he noted; and, fourthly, will he ensure that the matter is adequately debated before the next recess of the Parliament?
– In regard to the first part of the honourable member’s question. I will do as be has requested, but 1 would remind him and the House that the Broadcasting Control Board is also concerned with a number of other matters which are of public importance. During the past 2 weeks, and I think next week, it has been and will be engaged in an inquiry into the allocation of a broadcasting licence lo lbc Gosford area. It is involved in working out details in relation to 38 additional television stations throughout Australia. The Broadcasting Control Board is also engaged in the preparation of an annual report to this Parliament. I do not believe that I. would be justified in asking that the matter referred to by the honourable member receive higher priority than the other matters I have mentioned. As I indicated the other day, I think it may be another 6 or 6 weeks before a report of the nature requested by the honourable member can be prepared. The honourable member also asked whether this report would be tabled in the House. This will have to depend upon the content of the report. I really believe that the Broadcasting Control Board will indicate publicly what its new requirements are of television stations. Therefore, it will not be a report to me in a confidential way but virtually an instruction to the stations. If it is made public there will be no special need for the report to be tabled in the Parliament.
– My question is directed to the Prime. Minister. Has the Government done anything, even at this belated stage, to remove the acute disappointment of the Australian team to the Commonwealth Games at Edinburgh at being compelled to compete with a debt of $16,000 over its head? Why did the Commonwealth restrict its subsidy to the same rather paltry amount as it had given on a similar occasion about 12 years ago? Will the Government now give a more tangible expression of the nation’s thanks and congratulations to these eminently fine and successful young ambassadors for Australia by eliminating this debt?
– On the question of sporting activities in Australia, I have in another connection stated in this House that the
Government does not believe that it should enter into these matters but that the running of sporting activities should be done by the sporting bodies concerned. What the Government did on this occasion, if my recollection is correct, was to provide a giant of some SI 6,000 to the team. No evidence has been adduced to the Government to indicate that the organisers of the team are unable to make up the extra amount required with a reasonable kind of effort.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question. The Victorian Farmers Union is showing concern about the importation of potatoes from New Zealand. Will the Minister inform the House whether there is any cause for alarm on the part of growers in Australia and whether entry of New Zealand potatoes can be restricted by enforcement of quarantine regulations?
– This week a request was received for the importation from New Zealand of a consignment of 500 tons of potatoes for processing purposes. Imports are prohibited except with the permission of the Minister for Customs and Excise but before he can make a determinaion on a matter of this kind it goes before an interdepartmental committee consisting of officers of my Department, the Department of Health, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Treasury and the Department of Customs and Excise. I am told that the committee will meet tomorrow to consider the request. I should inform the honourable member that any matter relating to quarantine is examined thoroughly by the committee to ensure that there is no threat to the Australian potato industry.
– Has the Minister for the Interior conferred recently with representatives of the Vestey company regarding its offer of land rights to the Gurindji people? If so, when did he have the discussions? If no discussions took place, will the Minister confer with Vesteys, and when? If the Minister has conferred with representatives of Vesteys may we look forward to an early announcement in the House that land rights will be granted to the Gurindji people?
– Answering the last part of the honourable member’s question first, no, he cannot look forward to an early announcement that the Gurindji people will be granted land, because it is not Government policy to recognise traditional land rights. As for the first part of the question, the Vestey company has no jurisdiction over the allocation of land. It is the lessee of the land at Wattie Creek. Unfortunately the company seems to have become the meat in the sandwich. It is being used, quite unfairly, by Frank Hardy and other demonstrators. The Vestey company is the legal lessee of the land. The only way in which the land can be subdivided is for it to come back into Government hands. The Government alone can make a subdivision or an allocation of the land. Vesteys has no jursidiction to grant land directly to anybody. In other words control of the land lies with the Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Australian Wool Board factual information as to the individual membership of the International Wool Textile Organisation? If it has, will the Minister make this information available to the House, together with information showing the activity by which membership of the Organisation is claimed? For instance, are members genuine end users of wool for manufacturing purposes, or are they merchants or plain speculators? If the Wool Board does not possess this information, will the Minister request the Board to obtain it as a matter of urgency? Also, did the Minister this week receive a deputation from Western Australia which requested him to carry out a comprehensive investigation into the economics of using possibly 100 million bushels of wheat for the purpose of producing grain alcohol to be arbitrarily blended with petrol? If he did receive this deputation will he inform the House of all commitments given on behalf of the Government?
– Dealing first with membership of the International Wool Textile Organisation? I could not definitely state whether the Australian Wool Board has the information sought by the honourable member for Moore. I canot tell him whether the Board has a list of those members or whether they are users, merchants or, as he said, speculators, i will try to obtain the information and make it available.
The second question asked by the honourable member related to a commtitee called, [ think, the Western Australian Power Alcohol Committee, members of which came to Canberra last Tuesday to have consultations with officers of my Department, the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial and Research Organisation and the Bureau of Mineral Resources, on the feasibility of converting grain into power alcohol. I will tell honourable members how it happened that they came to Canberra. I have had contact with various organisations in Western Australia abou; this matter. 1 wrote to them explaining the great difficulties involved. When in Westera Australia recently, after having been badgered from all sides by many organisations, I made a fairly strong statement saying that this suggestion was not feasible. However, I still left the door open. I said that if these people would not take my word or accept the information I had conveyed to them I. would be willing to have senior officers of the CSIRO and my Department explain to them the practical, economic and technical difficulties. This deputation came to see me on Tuesday and 1 told its members that the scheme was not practical although it was technically feasible to run a car on power alcohol, which they had done. They ran a car from Western Australia to Canberra, adding 10% power alcohol to the fuel. I told them that there were other great difficulties. They are pursuing this matter in a very courageous way. I admire them for trying to find an answer to the problem of the surplus grain in Western Australia but the difficulties are so enormous that it will be a long time before this suggestion becomes a practical reality.
– The Treasurer, to whom I direct my question, will recall that last April his attention was drawn to the fact that there had been a decrease in the commencement of dwellings in the quarter ended March 1970 compared with the corresponding period in 1969, and that the decision of the Reserve Bank of Australia to increase interest rates would place a great hardship on the home building sector of the building industry. Has the Treasurer examined the latest details, released yesterday, which reveal that building approvals for all types of dwellings in July were 27% lower than for the corresponding period last year? Does the Treasurer agree that although the Reserve Bank has given instructions to the savings banks to release more finance for home building, due to the high interest burden of present building loans the overwhelming majority of young people seeking loans are now unable to meet the cost of loan repayments? Will the Treasurer give an assurance that special consideration will be given to reducing interest rates and making bigger loans available so that young married couples will be able to obtain a loan within their economic circumstances?
-Order! Before I call the Treasurer I would like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the honourable member for Moors asked 2 questions in one on what to my mind were unrelated subjects. This is a practice from which I think the House should desist, lt is not strictly in order. I would also draw the attention of the House to 2 very long questions which have been asked this morning. I ask honourable members to shorten their questions wherever possible.
– Perhaps I might rationalise the matter slightly by referring mainly to the second part of the honourable member’s speech. I have been following very closely developments in the field of dwelling construction. A short while ago we established special machinery so that we could watch this particularly closely and obtain the most up to date information. I did, of course, see the figures which have just been published concerning dwelling construction and other building construction. The honourable member may also have noticed that non-dwelling construction in July was about 29% above the figure for last year.
– I am well aware of that.
– I also pass on to the honourable member some confidential information which we have which indicates that in the first 3 weeks of August dwelling approvals have turned moderately upwards as we expected. This information is from numerous sources but it is not complete.
– What economic level have the people who are receiving these loans?
-Order! The honourable member for Reid has asked his question and I suggest that he cease interjecting.
– That is what I want to know.
-Order! If the honourable member for Reid offends again I will deal with him.
– The honourable member for Reid would make life simpler if he handed round a list of his numerous questions before he asked them. The information to which 1 have referred will not, of course, be merged with the full figures for some considerable time yet. But I thought, because the honourable member has shown some interest in this matter, that he would be interested to get the information, which is the best we have, although it is not complete, not official and a lot of it is based on confidential reports. The honourable member may have noticed a report in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald* of the upturn in loans by permanent building societies. I inform the honourable member that I expect the dwelling sector to increase from now on. Obviously it was running a few months ago at a greater pace than the capacity to produce the necessary houses and not avoiding excessive cost increases. But from now on the honourable member can expect dwelling approvals to increase.
– I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise a question. What is the procedure of commodity control in relation to wineries under the new excise to be applied to wine? Is it true that spirit already taxed by way of excise could be taxed again in terms of the new excise on fortified wines? Can the Minister move towards some method of allowing wineries time to collect money from their sales before excise is applied to them as the present requirements could break some small wineries in my State?
– The honourable member for Angas, my colleague the Minister for Health and the honourable members for Riverina and Sturt have made representations to me about this. There is some concern in the wine industry - why I do not know - about the method of collection of the new excise on wine. The industry is concerned that the system of commodity control which my department administers will add severely to their costs. This would not be so because the existing procedures have been observed for years with fortifying spirit and with brandy. It is simply a daily declaration of how much they have entered for home consumption. The calculation of excise is a simple one. If they release 1,000 gallons of wine at 50c a gallon, the amount payable will be $500. The declaration and the cheque are posted to my Department. I cannot understand how the concern that this will add to their clerical or administrative costs is founded.
As to the second part of the question, it is true that many wineries have in stock quantities of fortified spirit on which they have already paid 40c a proof gallon to my Department. Some of that spirit would be added to wine to make fortified wines such as muscat and sherry. That represents about 1.5c a bottle. That sum of 1.5c will be offset against the new tax of 8c a bottle on wine. So double taxation will be avoided.
The honourable member asked about time to pay. My Department is conscious of the fact that many small or expanding wineries might find that the sudden imposition of such an excise will affect their liquidity in the short run. My Department always administers these things temperately and with mercy. It is certainly not our wish to embarrass any winery in this way. If any winery has a genuine problem arising from the new tax, we will accommodate that winery as far as we can.
– I ask the Minister for Defence: How many Royal Australian Air Force pilots have resigned since the recent increases in flying pay were announced? Does the Minister expect more resignations because of dissatisfaction with the meagre nature of the increases? Would the Minister care to elaborate on his statement to the House last week that RAAF pilots incur less responsibility than do civil pilots? Tn particular, did the Minister intend to imply in his answer that RAAF pilots do not have to perform, maintain and police the rules and standards of civil flying?
– I have not the figures that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked for, but I would point out that the so-called meagre increase he mentioned was a 100% increase. A unanimous recommendation for the increase, with which the Secretary of the Department of Air agreed, was forwarded to me by the Pay and Conditions of Service Committee. Prior to the recommendation being made, the Chief of the Air Staff concurred in the increase. Quite obviously the Chief of the Air Staff has an acute concern for the morale and well-being of all members of the Royal Australian Air Force.
In relation to the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question, I make the point that I clarified this matter at question time on Tuesday. Complete correlation between the two groups that were mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is not possible because their functions and responsibilities are different. My earlier answer has been interpreted by some people as suggesting criticism of the standards and skill of RAAF pilots. As I said on Tuesday, nothing was further from my mind. The skills and standards of the RAAF pilots are, I believe, without equal amongst the Air Force pilots of the world and amongst pilots generally.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Industry been drawn to reports of the Australian Chemical Industry Council that sales and export earnings during 1969 increased by 12.6% and 27.1% respectively and that profits, after tax, based either on methods of calculation used by the Tariff Board or the industry, almost doubled during the same period? Does he agree that this indicates that the industry is experiencing vigorous growth and improving its competitive position?
– 1 can confirm the figures that the honourable member mentioned, but they do not necessarily indicate as highly prosperous a circumstance as they may seem to do. The Australian Chemical Industry Council has put forward some figures showing that in 1969 the total sales were valued at $287m, an increase of 12.6% on the previous year, and the export sales included in this figure were $16m. representing a rise of 27.1% on the previous year. Percentage-wise these figures indicate highly satisfactory growth but when one examines the profitability of the industry the figures show, on the calculations adopted by the Tariff Board to indicate profits, that the profits after tax in 1968 represented 3.2%, which is a highly unsatisfactory level of profitability. In the succeeding year, 1969, the profits rose to 6.6%, which is certainly not an extravagant level. On shareholders’ funds the profits, after tax, in 1968 represented 3.6% and, in 1969, 7%. There is a satisfactory indication of growth but certainly not an excessive level of profits. To the extent that the question is based upon the results of certain Tariff Board recommendations adopted by the Government I think there is no indication that these have resulted in excessive profits.
Questions that I have read that have been raised on other occasions, and not those raised by the honourable member, have related not to profits or proportional increases but to the quantity of chemicals produced. These chemicals have included fertilisers, which are not included in the figures I have quoted, and alumina, which is classified for statistical purposes as a chemical, but which is not included in these figures. Speaking quantitatively I point out that there has been an increase in the production of alumina by the created capacity of about 3 million tons per annum in Australia. To say that the Tariff Board recommendations adopted by the Government had produced a tremendous spurt in production of chemicals, as measured by the inclusion of alumina, would lead to a wrong conclusion altogether.
– The Minister for the Interior has already indicated in answer to a question by me that he is having the possibility of a cattle industry in the Arnhem Land Reserve investigated by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. Has he ordered similar investigations into the possibilities of cattle mustering or other similar enterprises for the Gurindji people at Wattie Creek and Wave Hill? If such a business is practicable will he consider making land available not on the principle of traditional land rights but to facilitate the setting up of an Aboriginal enterprise for a community which already exists?
– The Bureau of Agricultural Economics is making 2 studies for the Northern Territory Administration in respect of the establishment of cattle properties, one being at Roper River and the other further north in Arnhem Land. As to the proposition that the Gurindjis may establish cattle mustering teams, this has been considered. The facts are that in this modern age pastoral properties are doing more subdivisional fencing and, as time goes by, are using cattle mustering contractors to a lesser degree. So far as the Gurindjis are concerned, it is apparent that there are no opportuites available in the area for contract cattle mustering. The Government made it clear when this question was first decided that if cattle mustering were a practicable proposition help and consideration would be given to it.
– No doubt the AttorneyGeneral will be aware of the Queensland Government’s desire to establish a rural reconstruction board in that State. Has he considered the request made to him recently for an amendment of the Bankruptcy Act to enable the proposed board to operate effectively? In view of the desperate drought situation in Queensland will he treat this matter as being of the utmost urgency?
– Indeed I am aware of the very serious problem to which the honorable member referred in the preface to his question. I can inform him and the House that authority has been given by the Government for the drafting of legislation to preserve or revive the effective operation of rural debt adjustment schemes. This legislation will include provision for a stay of proceedings of any bankruptcy petition where there is a subsisting arrangement made under the authority of such a debt adjustment scheme. I expect that following a decision recently made by the Government along the lines I have mentioned instructions will soon be given to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to commence drafting the legislation which it is intended to introduce in this sessional perod
– -I ask the Minister for the Interior a question without notice. Why did it take so long for a senator to be appointed to succeed the late Senator McKellar? I point out that the Senate was short of a senator from New South Wales until it went into recess 10 weeks after Senator McKellar’s death and that the new senator was not appointed for some 4 months.
– I am not at all sure of the reasons for the delay. I rather suspect that it had something to do with the activities of the New South Wales Government which had to nominate a senator. I will look at the question and give the Leader of the Opposition a considered reply.
– 1 direct my question to the Minister for the Navy. What progress has been made in the development of naval facilities at Cockburn Sound in Western Australia?
– I am informed by my colleague, the Minister for Works, that all preliminary matters relating to the design and specification of the causeway have now been completed and that a reference of the project to the Public Works Committee can be made. That Committee, as we all know, is a hard working committee but, subject to its convenience, if (he submission can be considered by the Committee with its customary sense of dispatch, as I hope it will, tenders can be called and work commenced. This of course conforms to the Government’s undertaking to see what can be done to speed up construction of the facilities. If the expectation is fulfilled, this will represent a considerable saving of time.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration a question. Has there been an increase in the 1970-71 appropriation for the repatriation of migrants? What is the extent of that increase over the appropriation for the previous year? What is the number of persons repatriated in 1969-70? What are the reasons for these repatriations? Does the Minister consider those reasons to be justified? Has the honourable gentleman made a decision in the case of Mr SemoTordjman who has sought repatriation? If a decision has been made, what is the decision and what are the reasons for that decision? If a decision has not been made, when will it be made?
– There has been an increase in that section of the 1970-71 Estimates which covers repatriation of migrants. I recall that the increase is approximately $56,000. I am sure the honourable gentleman will appreciate that provision for repatriation has been a feature of Australia’s post-war immigration programme and that provision for repatriation is included in a number of bi-lateral agreements which have been signed since the early 1950s.
Every application for repatriation is very carefully and seriously considered under, as 1 recall it, 3 broad headings - essentially medical, socio-economic, and compassionate. Some criticism of this practice ha.’ appeared recently in the Press. Although undoubtedly this item is a financial debit to Australia’s immigration programme, I say quite deliberately that it is a debit generated from a sense of compassion and a realisation that, of the hundreds of thousands of people who come to Australia year in and year out, there will be some who for very good reasons will be quite able to conform to conditions here. I instance particularly cases of medical breakdown where, on medical advice, we are assured that the rehabilitation of the people concerned can be carried out effectively only in their homeland. As I recollect the figures for the financial year 1969-70, there were approximately 270 cases covering some 690 people.
The honourable gentleman rightly points to a case which has had considerable publicity in the Press throughout Australia. That is the case of Mr Semo-Tordjman and his family. This case has been carefully considered by senior officers within my Department who have made very close contact with the family, who have done so over the period since that family has been here, and who are continuing to do so. The advice tendered to me by these senior officers, who have had considerable experience in the handling of social welfare cases, is that at this stage the facts do not justify the repatriation of that family at Commonwealth expense. I have accepted that recommendation. So far as the reasons for that recommendation are concerned, I am sure that the House would agree that it would not be appropriate to disclose the personal affairs of the family. The Department has provided considerable assistance in the past and we will continue to provide that assistance in the future.
I realise, Mr Speaker, that my answer is a little long, but this matter has been extensively featured in the Press. May 1 respond finally in this way: Although we will be spending this year approximately $500,000 under this item which covers repatriation of migrants but also includes deportations. This is a very small expense indeed when measured against the tremendous advantages to Australia of the immigration programme since its inception.
– The Minister for External Affairs will be aware that, when a delegation from this Parliament was in Phnom Penh recently, we were informed by General Lon Nol that one of the most important things that Australia could <Jo for his country was to help improve communications, particularly radio communications. This information was conveyed to the Australian Government by cable. 1 ask the Minister: Has any consideration been given to this possibility by the Australian Government in order to assist the Government of Cambodia?
– I have been able to read the record of the discussions between General Lon Nol, the Prime Minister of the Cambodian Government, and the Australian delegation. He stated that he had 3 priorities - telecommunications, road and transport communications and housing. I can state that at the time of the aggression by the North Vietnamese against the Cambodians the Cambodians were totally unprepared for war. One of their greatest needs was that of radio communication between the central Government and the province chiefs, for both civil and military uses. We were asked by the Americans if we would co-operate in providing radio communication and broadcasting communication from Phnom Penh, but the cost was amazingly high. It was of the order of between $300,000 and $400,000. However, we had in the area at the time an expert from the Postmaster-General’s Department and we asked him if he would carry out investigations to see if there was some way in which we could help. He did so and he found that by upgrading various kinds of equipment we would be able to provide radio communication between the Phnom Penh Government and several of the provinces, and that with the assistance of the United States putting in facilities in Kompong Som very nearly a total coverage of Cambodia would be obtained. So the Government has now agreed that technical experts will install the changes necessary to upgrade the equipment. When that has been completed we will also provide technical experts to train the Cambodians to be able to maintain the Cambodian radio stations on their own behalf.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation because 1 have been misrepresented. In this morning’s ‘Canberra Times’ there is an article which I regard as a caricature of some guidelines which I recently compiled in an endeavour to be constructive and helpful and they have been transformed into what is a critical and polemical article which can be interpreted as criticism of individuals and particular programmes. May I correct 2 points. The article implies under the heading ‘Not Wrong to Criticise’ that it is not the role of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to criticise or comment. This is a completely unfair statement of what 1 said, lt omits the words: lt is not the role of the ABC per se to criticise or to comment, . . .
I went on to say:
The purpose of current affairs programmes is to inform and to encourage thought and criticism.
That indicates that the ABC’s job is to produce raw material in a form so that opposing viewpoints could be represented by experts or persons able to present them in a strong and polemic way. I concluded:
This is not to say that one side should not have a sweeping victory in an equal debating opportunity.
The final point I made was with regard to the programme ‘This Day Tonight’. Reading the newspaper article one would imagine that I was attacking this programme and in so doing the implication was that a careful audit should be imposed on the programme because of its political and other great powers. What was left out of my statement was the opening sentence, which reads:
It is vitally important not to spoil the immediacy and spontaneity of a programme like ‘This Day Tonight’.
I went on to say that the way in which this could be done was by having the producer backed up. I said:
As I was unable to present these guidelines during a debate on an amendment to the Broadcasting and Television Act and as 1 believe that they are something intended to be helpful and acceptable to ali sides of the political spectrum I incorporate them in Hansard with the concurrence of honourable members. They read:
THE A. B.C. CURRENT AFFAIRS PROGRAMMES
The prime requirement of the direction of these programmes is the building up of a group of persons who are able to select and present facts in a fair and balanced way so as to enable the viewers and listeners to be given a condensed version of the realities, or the ‘raw materials’, of the situation, lt is not the role of the A.B.C per se to criticise or to comment, nor is it to stage or magnify or distort presentations to campaign, criticise or over-emphasise any particular aspect. The professional skill of the personae! will be judged by their ability to show balanced condensations of actuality.
The A.B.C. is the Australian Broadcasting Commission and it must have as a pre-requisite an attitude of respect for and recognition of the broad institutional, traditional, moral and cultural bases of Australian life, lt is not an omni-critical organisation living in a vacuum. It is not called on to nullify or neutralise the ‘Australian way of life’ by treating its standards as a 50/50 matter of opinion, i.e., imagining that it can equally attack and support anything at all. It has to stand for certain norms and standards or it must inevitably be a party to their denigration. It is not possible to be neutral about great social or moral issues (like the sanctity of marriage) without making them appear unimportant or ambivalent, i.e., without destroying moral imperatives. The very nature of some attacks or criticisms can be such as to do real harm to certain things, no matter how they are defended at the same time, if they are not presented in perspective and proportion.
The purpose of current affairs programmes is to inform and to encourage thought and criticism. When criticism or comment is made, the Commission has an obligation to try to obtain the best possible exponents of opposing points of view. Persistent matching of weak representatives of any position against strong opponents can be a more devastating destruction of the former viewpoint than a total lack of its defence. This is not to say that one side should not have a sweeping victory in an equal debating opportunity.
The temptation to caricature, i.e.. to distort and present an unfair imbalance, should be curbed by the Commission not because of its being politically or morally this or that - but because it is bad journalism, bad television reporting, e.g., the
Duntroon charade by Four Corners was an attack, not a news item.
It is possible to ‘rig’ debates on T.V. or radio by techniques such as -
There should be a system of notation of the content of such programmes indicating the nature of the material and any cases of marked imbalance of opportunity to one side or another - for such must occur from time to time in the best regulated programmes.
Any man alive could be shown to be a scoundrel if a series of his ‘worst moments’ were quite factually and truthfully presented - out of proportion to the rest of his character and behaviour. Really first-class professional skill is needed to present such a balance.
The A.B.C. does not have to compete for ratings with commercial radio and T.V. The skill of its officers should be judged not by ratings but by accuracy.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) - by leave - Proposed:
That Mr Graham be discharged from attendance on the Standing Committee on Publications and that in his place Mr Erwin be appointed a member of the Committee.
– I think the House should be informed of the reason why the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) is being replaced. The honourable member took office as Chairman of the Standing Committee on Publications only recently. His chairmanship has been very forthright and strong. I hope no action is being taken against him because of the independent leadership he has shown. Whilst I must pay a tribute to him for the service he has given to the Committee, I should say that, as a member of the Committee, I am not adverse to the proposal that he be replaced. I understand that the honourable member’s successor will be a person who has served in a similar capacity on a previous occasion. Since the replacement of the honourable member for North Sydney is clouded with mystery, I feel that an explanation to the House of what has been embarked on up to this point of time would be most advantageous.
– in reply - I regret that the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) has. in seeking an explanation, implied that action may have been taken against the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) or anything of this nature. There is absolutely no basis for any such suggestion. I do not think that the honourable member for Hughes should have allowed what he had to say to have the implication it did. The fact of the matter is that the honourable member for North Sydney also serves on the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Public Accounts and he has found that his time is fully occupied serving on that committee as anybody who serves on it will know.
– lt is the best committee in the Parliament.
– The members of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works probably will disagree with the honourable member. There is no doubt that both committees perform a very valuable function and that the honourable members who serve on them are fully occupied. The situation is that the honourable member for North Sydney would like to be free of the responsibility of serving on 2 committees, especially as fits duties as Chairman of the one from which he is now to be discharged are onerous. We have the good fortune to have in the honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin) a man who was Chairman of the former Standing Committee on Printing and of the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary and Government Publications. All honourable members will recall that he performed a very fine job in those capacities. He was also responsible for the introduction of a uniform printing style manual throughout the Commonwealth. Indeed, the committees were responsible for many achievements under the chairmanship of the honourable member for Ballaarat, who will replace the honourable member for North Sydney on the Publications Committee. Because it has the advantage of having such a man who is willing to serve on the Publications Committee, I think the House should take the opportunity forthwith of making arrangements for his appointment to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-I ask for leave to comment upon the motion which the House has just passed.
-Does the honourable member wish to make a comment or a personal explanation?
– I wish to make a comment.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The new Publications Committee will be involved in a great deal more work than was the old Printing Committee. In my opinion the Publications Committee will become far more significant than the Printing Committee ever was. There will be a great deal of work for the Publications Committee of this House and the Publications Committee of the other place sitting together. It is obvious to me that one cannot properly discharge his responsibilities on the Public Accounts Committee while undertaking the duties of Chairman of the Publications Committee. This is why I suggested to the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) that I be discharged from the Publications Committee and that the honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin), who 4 years ago, in conjunction with the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnston), had a great deal to do with the select committee which inquired into government publications, be appointed in my stead. I assure the House that no pressure has been brought to bear on me to withdraw from the Committee. This is a voluntary act on my part.
Mr Snedden - Yes
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
The honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), who is Chairman of the Committee, has indicated to me that the Committee’s work volume is such that the Committee considers that it needs to sit on Friday, 4th September.I feel sure that the House will agree to the motion so that the Committee may discharge its duties.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Bury, and read a first lime.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the income tax law so that interest on borrowings convertible into share capital will be allowable tax deductions if the borrowings meet specified tests. Since amendments to the income tax law in 1960 interest on convertible borrowings has not been a deduction for income tax purposes. The deductions were withdrawn to protect the revenue against legal tax avoidance. On the terms on which most convertible issues were being made in Australia prior to1960 they amounted to no more than deferred equity
Issues. In effect, in the majority of cases tax deductible interest payments were simply being substituted for non-deductible dividend payments for the purpose of reducing tax payments by companies.
Last year the Government undertook a review of the income tax law on convertible borrowings with the objective of restoring tax deductions for interest in a way which would not provide the means of exploiting the conversion technique for tax saving purposes so commonly used before 1960, but would allow companies to use convertible securities where that class of security met the needs of borrowers and lenders and consequently enabled companies to raise finance on favourable terms. In making this review we took account of the fact that convertible borrowings that replace what would otherwise be straight fixed interest borrowings do not in any way prejudice the income tax revenue. We had in mind loo that the convertible type of security can be a particularly appropriate means of financing development and expansion of Australian resources. During periods of development or expansion a company is usually unable to declare attractive dividends and, while it may have bright prospects, it is often handicapped in seeking to raise equity capital and must, therefore, rely upon debt finance. If, by a judicious use of fixed interest borrowings carrying options to convert into equity capital, it can reduce the cost of servicing capital until it has reached a stage of profitability where it can pay attractive dividends, it might be able to obtain the capital more readily. If Australian investors are given the opportunity to invest in this way they could eventually acquire equity participation in the companies concerned rather than fixed interest investment.
From an investor’s standpoint, convertible borrowings combine the advantages of a fixed interest issue in terms of income and security with the opportunity of later conversion into share capital if the company performs successfully. They therefore provide an attractive means of investing in developing companies with good but, to some extent, uncertain prospects lor future growth. This feature of them could well provide an opportunity for Australians to acquire equity holdings in overseas owned ventures, for example, in the extractive industries.
Following the review of the matter in 1969 the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) announced on 16th September 1969 that income tax deductions would be restored for interest on convertible borrowings if the borrowings were made on terms which satisfied a series of tests that he then stated. These tests were designed with Australian convertible borrowings, rather than convertible borrowings raised overseas, principally in mind. Particularly in view of the establishment of the Australian Industry Development Corporation, the Government has reviewed the appropriateness of the tests so far as overseas convertible borrowings are concerned. Consistently with the necessary objective of protecting the income tax revenue from the results of use of convertible borrowings purely for tax saving purposes, we found it desirable to chang: some features of the original plan so as to cater more appropriately for convertible borrowings raised overseas rather than in Australia, lt was also found desirable, mainly as a consequence of the revised tests relating to overseas borrowings, to make some minor amendments to the tests as they affected Australian borrowings. 1 turn now to the basic conditions specified in the legislation as required to be met by a convertible borrowing if interest on it is to be tax deductible. One of these is that the option to take up shares in the borrowing company or another company must rest with the lenders and not wilh the company, lt is, of course, a normal characteristic of fixed interest borrowings that a lender has the right to receive repayment in cash. This condition recognises this fact and, at the same time, impedes attempts legally to avoid tax by schemes designed to give a deferred share issue the semblance and guise of a fixed interest borrowing.
Another basic condition is that any period of time in which the lender is precluded by the terms of an issue from exercising an op. ion to take up shares must not extend for longer than 2 years from the date on which the convertible securities are offered for subscription. While a 2 years no option period is thus permissible, once that period expires the option must be exercisable up to the 12 months period preceding the date of maturity of the borrowing, lt will not, however, affect the tax consequences if the option is exercisable at intervals of no more than 12 months, or at all times. These provisions seek to strike a balance between the financial needs and administrative convenience of borrowing companies and the interests of lenders to them. Allied with the option provisions I have been discussing is a condition that the last date for exercise of the option must be no later than 10 years after the date of offer of the convertible securities. It is considered that this span of time is wide enough to permit investment by a company in a development or expansion project to become profitable enough to justify a share issue.
A further basic condition - as to borrowings on the Australian market - is that the period for which the borrowing is made must not be less than 7 years. This condition is not directly associated with taxation considerations. Its purpose rather is to ensure that companies, particularly foreign-controlled companies, that raise money on the Australian market, do not close off a loan, and thus the conversion option, before a project’s development has reached the point where its future profitability is apparent to the Australian investor.
The minimum borrowing period will not be a test applicable to overseas raising in foreign currency. The considerations that have been judged to make it appropriate for local raisings have no relevance to overseas raisings and, therefore, failure of an overseas raising to conform to a minimum duration will have no adverse tax consequences. Another condition of a corresponding nature is that, for local borrowings, the terms and conditions of the issue must be fixed - as to interest rates and general conversion terms - and not subject to variation, throughout the period of the currency of the borrowing. This has been judged to be desirable so as not ;o permit, for example, changes in terms and conditions designed to induce the Australian lender to exercise his option to convert earlier or later than he might otherwise do. It has the purpose of making the lender’s option real and not merely illusory and. in this way, supports the purposes of the minimum borrowing period that I have already referred to.
This condition has, however, been thought not to be an appropriate one to impose without modification for overseas raisings in foreign currency. Speaking broadly, it is a characteristic of certain types of overseas lendings that the loan contract provides that interest rates on the amounts lent are to be adjusted in relation to identifiable movements in particular international markets. The Bill provides that changes in interest rates on this basis will not have adverse taxation consequences in respect of overseas raisings in foreign currency. It also provides that any device incorporated in the terms of such an issue for the purpose of making the conversion terms less favourable the longer convertible securities are held will not affect tax deductions. From a revenue viewpoint, the sooner dividends become payable to overseas investors instead of interest the better. Australian tax collections from both the lender and the borrower increase when this happens.
I turn now to the final basic condition. This is common to both local and overseas raisings and relates to the price at which convertible borrowings may be converted into shares. The Bill provides that the conversion price must not be less than 90% of the market price of fully paid shares of the relevant class at the date of offer of the convertible securities, or the par value of such shares, whichever is the greater. It is to be noted that this is a floor price and, subject only to these prescribed minima, the actual conversion price is a matter for the company making the issue of the securities. The shares into which the securities may be converted may be fully paid shares of the company that issued the securities or of another company, for example, a subsidiary, parent or associate. It will be of no significance whether the shares into which conversion is to be made on exercise of an op’ ion are issued to. and owned by, a third party or are to be first allotted on the exercise of the option.
The Bill provides machinery for the valuation of shares for the purposes of the conversion price test - both for shares quoted on Australian capital city stock exchanges and those not so quoted. For quoted shares, the valuation period will ordinarily be the month that ends 2 weeks before the date of offer of the securities for subscription. If the shares were not traded in that month, but were traded in either of the 2 preceding months, the later of the months in which trading took place will be the valuation period. The value of the shares will be determined as their weighted average market price on all capital city exchanges in the valuation period. For unquoted shares and quoted shares which have not been traded, provision is made for a valuation to be made by a registered company auditor in accordance with criteria specified in the Bill.
The amendments proposed by the Bill will apply to convertible securities to which subscriptions are made after the legislation receives assent, whether the convertible borrowing is an entirely new one or one made to supplant an existing fixed-interest fixed-term borrowing.
I have arranged for a memorandum giving comprehensive explanations of the technical provisions of the Bill to be circulated to members before it is debated.I mention that the conditions proposed to be attached to deductibility of interest on convertible securities correspond to a large degree with the terms on which this type of security has in the recent past been issued overseas. The Government feels that the plan which has been devised will be of considerable help to developing companies and, at the same time, present a barrier to unwarranted tax savings through companies using convertible borrowings in lieu of share issues. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 26th August (vide page 563), on motion by Mr Bury:
That the Bill be now read a secondtime.
Upon which Mr Whitlam had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted wilh a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: This House condemns this deceptive and negative Budget because it fails to meet the real needs of the Australian people, especially with respect to (a) standards of social service and war pensioners, (b) assistance to school, hospital and urban authorities and (c) restructuring of stricken primary industries and because it introduces and increases taxes and charges of a regressive and inequitable nature’.
– On Tuesday night the House was subjected to a 65-minute speech by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) who once again reached into the depths of his bag of political tricks in a further desperate bid to reach his pinnacle of power. His resort to clever phrases and smart cliches will fail to woo the majority of the perceptive Australian people. His prime objective is to destroy this elected government of the people by using every device available - by using Mr Hawke and the left wing of the trade union movement and by using strike action for political purposes. I am told that inciting the unions to strike against the Budget cost the workers of this country about $5m. He is also inciting demonstrations which, of course, lead to disorders. Yet, in typical fashion, the Leader of the Opposition dismissed the great problems facing the primary industries and the rural community of this country in about 30 seconds with a simple phrase - the need to restructure the rural industries.
As usual we are heating and will continue to hear throughout the course of this debate a barrage against the Budget. This is traditional. No-one likes Budgets. No-one likes taxes but we like handouts so long as we do not have to pay for them. This Budget has been described rather limply and inaptly by the Press and other people as being a ‘give and take’ Budget. Of course, one could describe any budget this way. But let us face it: No-oneI am sure would have liked the job of the Treasurer (Mr Bury) of framing this Budget which had to restrain the inflationary pressures that were existent in the economy yet increase aid to rural industries by 55%, provide finance for the new health scheme which will bring tremendous benefits to the community throughout Australia, provide for an increase in education by 25% and yet relieve the lower and middle income groups of taxation to the extent of $280m in a full year.
Before proceeding with my own subject I would like to answer a criticism that I deplored from the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) who made an unwarranted, and I believe, personal attack upon the honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt) last night. I believe this attack displayed the degree to which the honourable member for Hume hurt honourable members oposite by stating the truth of the situation. The honourable member for Hume said that he was concerned by the politically motivated disorders, strikes and industrial action which were having an unbearable, harmful effect upon the farming community in his electorate and were contributing to some of the difficulties that were being experienced in the rural sector.
As one would expect, I intend to deal principally with the economic difficulties facing the rural community. I refer here not only to the farmers and graziers but to the townsfolk and the people who are directly dependent on wealth and prosperity in the farming industries. In coming to grips with the problem, one has to define the causes of the problem before applying measures to meet the needs of the ailing rural sector. What are the causes of the problem? Firstly, the problem has been caused by the widespread drought which has ravaged great parts of Australia since 1964. Secondly, there are the market difficulties for many of our products, for example wheat. Thirdly, we are faced with the low prices obtaining on world markets for many of our export products, principally wool. Fourthly, there is the high costs of production in relation to these prices.
The current drought, as I have said, has ravaged parts of Australia including practically the whole of Queensland for the last 7 years. This has been the case with Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and indeed all of the States at some stage or another since 1964. The drought has undoubtedly been one of the worst since the turn of the century, lt is more than coincidental that the net farm indebtedness in the rural sector of the economy has risen from $195m to $1037m between 1963 and 1969, an increase of 600% in 6 years. These seasonal adversities and droughts have reduced the cash flows of most farmers in the areas concerned and have added enormously to the cost of production in these regions.
One point worth mentioning about the enormous drought that has extended over such a wide area of Australia is that the losses in stock - sheep and cattle - has been surprisingly low. 1 think that this is due to the tremendous efforts that the Commonwealth and the State governments have made in trying to assist the farming community with freight concessions in moving sheep to and from agistment and bringing fodder to the farmer. So far I think the Commonwealth has allocated over $100m to the States to help them with their drought relief programmes. I believe that without this assistance we would have seen the stock population:; - the sheep and cattle populations - of Australia decimated and we would probably have had to wait 9 or 10 years, as has been the case in the past, for a recovery.
I want to congratulate the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) and all the State Ministers for Agriculture who met recently at an Australian Agricultural Council meeting for agreement to the establishment of a national drought advisory committee which will co-ordinate the allocation of the resources of the States and the Commonwealth to help ease the effect of drought. The ad hoc measures of the past have been wasteful in many cases and often ineffective. They have not always reached those in most need and have not always been in the best interests of the country. I believe that this advisory committee will be tremendously helpful in making a proper allocation of these resources to help mitigate the effects of future drought.
The second symptom of the problem is the market difficulties for many of our products. This, of course, has been dealt with at great length in this House. Whilst many of our products fall into this category for a variety of reasons, for example tariff and trade restrictions overseas, wheat is the product that is probably the most severely affected by falling overseas trade due to world over-production. There is no need for me to traverse the reasons for the responsible decisions made by the wheat industry and the Government in devising a formula to try to overcome this problem. This is a matter of history. Nevertheless the delivery quota system for wheat has reduced confidence and is creating limitations upon growers to obtain recompense for their financial losses that have arisen from drought. If Great Britain joins the Common Market without regard to our trade opportunities then other products will be severely affected. The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) has clearly warned us of the great dangers that exist in world trade. I hope the member nations of the General Agreement on
Tariffs and Trade listen to the responsible call that the Minister made to them to try to prevent a situation that haunted the world in the 1930s.
The third symptom of the problem facing the rural industry is one of low prices for many export products, especially for wool which has compounded the total rural problem and has given rise to a loss of confidence in the rural industries’ ability to recover when seasonal conditions improve. Whilst efforts have been made to improve the handling, presentation and marketing techniques for Australia’s most important export product to improve the net return to growers, one would be unduly over-optimistic to expect any of these measures dramatically to lift the world price for wool. This is not to say that we cannot improve the price. However, no further time can be lost in putting into effect measures to bring the marketing of the wool clip into the 20th century. I believe that today we sell or dispose of our wool clip. We do not actually market it. I believe that the establishment of an Australian wool marketing authority independent of the Australian Wool Board and under the management of top men chosen because of their proven commercial, technical and financial judgment will result in a new confidence and a higher level of prosperity in this industry. I was pleased when the Treasurer announced that this matter was receiving urgent consideration by the Government.
This body should have the power to arrange the sale rosters, to regulate the flow of wool onto the auction market, to negotiate big lot sales of wools not submitted for auction and to have some of the burry inferior types of wool semi-processed in Australia on behalf of the growers. The body should have power to supervise generally the operations of the wool selling complexes and to encourage labour saving methods in the marketing of the clip. It should ensure that any benefits derived as a result of research into core testing, objective measurement and other research are actually transferred to the Australian wool growers. However, I do believe that it is absolutely important that this board of management be run on a commercial basis and be given the degree of flexibility that will be needed to operate the authority. I would hate lo see this authority bound by rigid legislative controls. It will need legislative backing, but to tie it too tightly with legslative controls could render the board ineffective in the job that would be expected of it.
In association with the Wool Board and the International Wool Secretariat, the authority should encourage market research to find new markets for Australian wool in the Northern Hemisphere and in the developing countries. It appears that a disproportionate amount of attention is given to expanding our markets in the traditional areas - the United Kingdom, Europe and Japan. This applies to most of our products, but especially to wool. We are selling 77% of our wool to these areas. Because of higher standards of living in these areas and because people are inclined to use less warm clothing and have more air conditioning, we will probably see a reduction in the total usage of wool there. For these reasons it would appear that the potential growth for wool consumption will be in the Northern Hemisphere, in the Communist bloc countries and in the developing countries. These are the areas to which we must direct our attention as an outlet for wool.
The fourth symptom of the problem is cost. This has to be considered in relation to falling export prices, lt is a factor which adds to the burden on the rural producers. The Australian farmers, who are efficient by world standards, have performed remarkably well in increasing their productivity to counter rising costs. However, when costs exceed an annual rise of over 2% for a sustained period, associated with large falls in prices for the end product, the ingenuity of the farmer cannot be expected to cope with the situation. No other industry in this country is put to such a test. Over the last 10 years there has been a steady worsening in the terms of trade for the Australian farmer. The level of prices is no higher than it was in 1960-61 but farm costs have increased at an average rate of 2i% per annum, which is 25% compounded. The ratio of prices received to prices paid has fallen from 100 lo 84 since 1960. During the same period the consumer price index has increased from 100 to 120. Let us take wool prices. In May last year the price for wool averaged 40.96c per lb. In May this year it had fallen to 32.46c per lb and has fallen dramatically since then. I would say that the fall is over 30% in the period of IS months.
Let us consider the causes of the rising cost problem, bearing in mind that the level, of cost increases in this country is probably one of the lowest in the Western world. The cause of our problem is the sum total of the pressure of resources - heavy annual investments by the private and public sector and overseas expenditure. Public expenditure increased by 10% in the last 12 months. This was due to the demands that were placed on local governments, State governments and the Federal Government for more services, more schools, more hospitals and more housing, etc. The heavy capital inflow that has been surging at a rate of about $ 1,000m a year is another cause of rising costs. The other factors are the high levels of consumption generated by the high wages and salaries that are paid; the present rate of immigration which imposes further pressures and demands; the degree of protection accorded the secondary industries, protecting their costs of production from overseas competition and protecting the high levels of employment; and, another factor not often mentioned, the fixed exchange rate which is creating an unrealistic, insulated, high internal cost structure and inflation. I pose this question: Why do we not free our exchange rate as Canada has done, just to see where the Australian dollar actually rests?
In summary one could say that our cost structure is the result of the growth economy demanded and enjoyed by the overwhelming majority of the Australian people. Surely this justifies the Country Party and the Government in extending the policies that they have extended to help compensate the rural sector to some extent for these pressures, lt justifies the 55% increase that was allocated to the farm sector in this year’s Budget. What troubles me most in the current situation are the rural indebtedness and the difficulties facing farmers in trying to restore their financial position. It has been said that farm readjustment or farm amalgamation is the answer. Whilst there is a need for farm readjustment and whilst there are units of production too small to be regarded as viable, recons ruction of the unit of production does not provide the total answer. The family farm concept in Australia has tremendous merit. It has enormous economic and social advantages and lies at the base of the efficient structure of rural industry in Australia. I agree that a measure of reconstruction is necessary in every rural industry, but how advocates of this policy can accept the continued application of Federal probate duties and State death duties I will never quite understand. These duties strike at the very viability of the economic structure of the family farm unit. To attempt any policy of reconstruction in our rural sector and leave the probate and death duties in the statute book would be quite illogical, to say the least.
The most urgent requirement facing the Commonwealth and State governments is the reconstruction of the indebtedness of the rural producers. I believe that the banking structure with all its instrumentalities and departments - the Commonwealth Development Bank established in I960, the Term Loan Fund established in 1962, the Farm Development Loan Fund established in 1966, and the private trading banking system with its overdraft system of lending - does not really provide the rural industries with the machinery necessary to recover from the crisis that faces them at the present time. The most important requirement of the farmers and graziers, large and small, who have been slugged by drought, wheat quotas and low prices is the provision of long term low interest rate finance to enable them to rehabilitate and to recover. The length of terms for repayment and interest rates are the key considerations in any plan to rehabilitate the farming and grazing communities over a wide area of Australia.
In 1938 the Banking Commission pointed to the need for a mortgage bank to provide long term low interest rate finance with up to 35 years for repayment. This facility exists in the United Kingdom, in South Africa and in many other countries, but the notable absence of such a facility in Australia leaves an unaccountable vacuum in the lending structure, especially when large areas of Australia can be subjected to 6 or 7 consecutive years of drought. T believe as a matter of urgency that this needs to be studied in depth with a view to arriving at a formula that will help farmers and graziers who have the capacity to recover to consolidate their debts so as to rehabilitate them and to reorganise their investments - either to leave the industry or to diversify their activities to meet the fortunes of the changing market place. I note with pleasure that the Treasurer announced in his Budget Speech that the Government was considering this as a matter of urgency. Perhaps the medium for providing long term subsidised interest rate loans should be the Farm Development Loan Fund or the Development Bank. This, of course, may necessite the re-chartering of the Development Bank. What the present situation does point up is that a gap exists in the lending structure of this country.
In the long term, efforts must be made by the Commonwealth Government to provide an instrumentality such as an agricultural mortgage bank to ensure that better facilities exist for fixed and long term lending. In 1938 the then Treasurer, Lord Casey, introduced the Commonwealth Bank Bill to establish a mortgage bank to fill a gap in the banking structure which was found to exist as a result of the Royal Commission on Banking in the 1930s. The war years and subsequent events saw the demise of this facility. However I believe that the situation of the 1970s parallels in some way the situation of the 1930s in the rural sector and facilities must now be made available for fixed and long term lending to the rural sector or we will witness a great economic disaster among farmers and in the business sector. 1 say this because of the great difficulties facing rural industries and the great need for re-organisation, diversification and re-adjustment to re-structure the rural industries to meet future economic challenges. This will require great sums of long term low interest rate finance. The present lending facilities with high and variable interest rates available through the overdraft system from the private trading banks, pastoral finance houses and hire purchase companies give little hope to those small and substantial graziers and farmers who are already heavily in debt and facing long term difficulties in recovery. In 1938 Lord Casey, in his second reading speech on the Commonwealth Bank Bill, said:
Non-government instrumentalities showed some reluctance to lend money in rural areas. As the main reason for this reluctance Lord Casey said:
If a borrower fails to meet his obligations there may be difficulty in realising on the security.
Surely this situation must be worrying the banking system today. I quote further from Lord Casey’s speech because he pointed to a situation then that exists now. He said:
Many country borrowers on this account have had to resort to accommodation by way of overdraft from trading banks and from pastoral houses. Such overdrafts are nominally repayable on demand but in many cases they are granted with the knowledge that they may not be fully repaid for several years.
The Liberal-Country Party Government of the day uncovered this defect in the system and moved to fill the gap. But, of course, the facility then established has since disappeared. The mortgage bank was designed to remove hardships from the borrowers and to cheapen credit with a lending organisation which private institutional lenders could not be expected to provide. A mortgage bank would not duplicate the existing facilities but would supplement those that exist to provide fixed and long term lending. A mortgage bank could be created by private capital, subscribed by a consortium of lending institutions as a separate unit of business; by a new company with capital provided by the public; by an institution, the capital being provided by the Government, the Commonwealth Bank and Stale banking instrumentalities; or by capital provided partly by a combination of the institutions named and partly by private investors. 1 believe that the funds could be raised for the purpose of a mortgage bank by issuing debentures or stock secured on the general assets of the Commonwealth Bank. The payment of interest on the debentures and stock could be guaranteed by the Commonwealth Bank. Certain other measures, such as taxation concessions to exempt the interest on these securities from income tax. and exemptions from stamp duty and other taxes should encourage investment of capital into such an institution.
Provided sufficient incentive advantages were extended, securities issued for the purposes of a mortgage bank should find ready acceptance at reasonable rates of interest, enabling borrowers to borrow on long term at lower rates of interest. This bank could undertake the heavy task of rural reconstruction, rural re-organisation and rural rehabilitation on the security of a mortgage over land and capital assets. I believe that it could assist also in home building, in the purchase of land for housing and for other purposes approved either by the institution or by the bank. I bring this concept before the House not as an immediate solution to the great problem facing the rural industries but as one which, I believe, is worthy of immediate consideration by the Government. Such a bank was established and allowed to collapse but the situation is so serious today that these measures need to be looked at again with a view to finding the right answer.
Before concluding 1 want to comment on one defect that I believe exists in the Budget. This is the failure of the Commonwealth Government to recognise the great problem that is facing local government today. Unless a combined effort is made by the Commonwealth and State governments to assist the needs of local government, impossible pressures will fall on the shoulders of ratepayers throughout Australia. The rate burden falls disproportionately on a minority section of the community, rates having risen by 840% since 1947 while the consumer index has increased by 166%. The whole structure of local government will fail its purpose unless measures are taken to assist local government to play its part in the provision of the essential domestic services of the people. Whilst the Budget was framed to stabilise the inflationary pressures on the economy and to fulfil the election promises of the Government I believe that the matters I have raised demand the urgent consideration of the Government to restore confidence in the vast and productive rural areas of Australia which produce 93% of our food requirements and more than half of ou> export income.
– I am disappointed that the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), who touched upon a number of matters affecting the rural economy and the people on the land, seemed to avoid the question of the sale of Australia’s wool clip. If there is one question which is worrying people in Australia today - those on the land and those concerned with our economy - it is what price we will get for our wool clip and what are we to do about it. For 21 years coalition governments of the Country Part) and the Liberal Part)’ have had charge o! our Treasury bench. Perhaps it is true that the Liberal Party is disinterested in and opposed to the man on the land, lt would appear to be so as there is only one backbench member of the Liberal Party in the House at this moment. If the Liberal Party feels this way about rural questions I would ask members of the Country Party to stand up and declare themselves on the matter of the sale of Australia’s crops, including wool and wheat. What do they think should be done? They should make it clear to the Australian producers what they think should be done. I will say no more about it.
This Budget denies justice to the mass of the people of Australia as it disregards the basic facts of supreme importance to the economic life of the nation. A fair deal is denied the pensioners and the families while prices continue to spiral uncontrolled bringing hardship and chaos to local government and to industry. When one looks over this Budget one sees that the record sum of $7,887m is levied from the taxpayers of Australia. Expenditure will be $7,883m which represents an increase of 1 1 .4% on expenditure last year. Primary industry is to get a token subsidy but the problems of the man on the land will continue unaltered. No action will be taken to solve them. Not one word is mentioned about that although action should be taken to ensure that those who work on the land get a fair reward for their services. Pensioners are to receive the shocking and paltry sum of 50c a week. War widows will be given the same shocking, scandalous and disgraceful treatment.
There will be increases in taxes. The excise on petrol is to go up by 3c a gallon although by the time the petrol reaches the people the increase will be more than that. The price of wine will go up by Se a bottle as a result of the increase in excise of 50c a gallon. Duty on cigarettes and cigars has been increased by 50c a lb so cigarettes will be 3c a packet dearer. Tobacco will be dearer because the excise has been increased by 20c a lb. Postal charges also will increase. Stamps will go up from 5c to 6c and telegrams of 12 words will cost 48c, an increase of 12c. The telephone installation charge will increase from S30 to S40. Those who live in the country know how much greater the increase will be because they are required to erect telephone lines and to carry out quite a considerable amount of work. They have to face that cost as well as the proposed increased charges. Telephone rentals will increase.
These proposals emphasise the Government’s lack of concern for the people, the burden which will be placed on those in the country and the effect on the decentralisation of industry. These is no doubt that these steep increases in telephone charges and other costs will have an adverse effect on decentralisation which is one matter to which the Government should have given its attention. Instead of this upward sweep in charges there should have been a reduction for it is true that high telephone charges perhaps more than anything else are a deterrent to the decentralisation of industry. The motor vehicle industry will be affected by the increase in the price of petrol. Everyone in the country needs a motor vehicle of some kind. As well as the increase in the price of petrol there will be an increase in sales tax. According to one authority, our taxes will be the highest in the world.
The Government boasts of having carried out an election promise to reduce income tax by 10%. What does that reduction mean? To the average wage earner it means a reduction of 60c or 70c a week but to the person in more comfortable circumstances it means a reduction of $7 or $10 a week. A person earning $2,500 a year will receive a taxation reduction of $32.90 whereas a person earning $10,000 a year will receive a reduction of $348.50. All of this emphasises the manner in which the Government has tackled the matter of taxation. The poor people will remain poor. Their lot has not been improved despite the fact that the Government has honoured its promise to reduce income tax at the fixed rate of 10%.
I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) for I believe that it expresses not only the spirit of this House, although that will not be reflected in the vote* but also the spirit of the people of Australia. I believe that the shameful treatment of pensioners has caused a wave of bitter resentment throughout the land. The pitiful inadequate increase of 50c a week calls out for the strongest condemnation and censure. This is one of the great shames in the history of our Parliament. Is there no sense of justice in the Government? Surely the well of Government compassion must be dry if 50c is the most that can be made available. This is perhaps the blackest page in the history of this Government in this great affluent society at a time when record dividends are being struck. I have here a Stock Exchange document showing how company after company is earning record profits yet 50c is the best that can be done for the pensioners, the war widows and those who are in need.
There is unrest and discontent throughout the land. People want action to cope with the problems facing this country. They want effective government They want a government which will govern and deal with the basic problems of this nation. They want effective and just arbitration in the matter of wages and salaries, not the irksome delays in hearing cases and handing down judgments. I refer particularly to the engineers case which was before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for 2 years. These men comprise the managerial class. They are the heads of government departments, main roads authorities, power stations and factories. They are the leaders of men but for 2 years their case was before the Arbitration Commission. Then the Public Service Board made a recommendation to the Commission and within a couple of months the Commission handed down a judgment in keeping with the Public Service Board’s recommendation. The engineers, the men to whom we look to control industry, to give leadership and direction and to plan this country’s affairs were treated in a shocking and shameful way.
The people also insist on arbitration for the price of goods and services. Prices increase continually because they are uncontrolled. The system of arbitration which is recommended for the working people should also be applied to the fixing of the prices of goods and services required in this country. I believe that the trade practices legislation has failed in its purpose because manufacturers and wholesalers are acting in concert in the distribution of goods and in increasing prices in Australia. One classic case that came to my attention recently related to something which is used by every child and goes into every home - ice cream. All of the ice cream manufacturers increased their prices in concert. They all agreed to the same prices, not by accident of course but by sound planning. Action of that kind contravenes the very spirit of the trade practices legislation.
If we are to have peace in industry and if we are to overcome the chaotic conditions resulting from rising prices and increasing unrest, arbitration in regard to prices or price control is long overdue. Is there to be a repetition of what happened recently when the great BHP organisation increased the price of its iron and steel products by some 3% and then within 6 months or so declared a record profit of almost $60m? Surely that is an incitement to those in industry to believe that they too should be able to declare what they regard as a fair reward for their labours. This is one of the disturbing factors in our country at the present time. The law of the jungle prevails: The weakest go to the wall. It is the responsibility of governments to exercise control and to adjust these matters in the interests of all people.
Similarly, the oil companies dealt out their measure of justice to the Australian people by increasing their prices. There was an arbitration in respect of the recent lc per gallon increase, but over the years the oil companies have taken French leave in determining matters of this kind. Australians call for an end to this condition which inflicts great hardship on many citizens who must inevitably suffer because of these spiralling prices and costs. In many cases these charges are being imposed on people by foreign companies which are making record profits. The Australian people are the sufferers. How can it be said that while these companies make these record profits, it is fair to expect pensioners to be content with their additional 50c per week? We are told that there should be no complaint or protest about this.
Prices control is needed now. The massive profits which have been made are perhaps a sign of bouyancy and perhaps are good for those who are shareholders. But this state of affairs is disturbing for those who are finding it increasingly difficult to live. I think that base metals ought to be controlled. Let us take the case of copper. When the copper mining magnates found it difficult to balance their accounts some years ago Australian taxpayers were obliged to pay tax to ensure that a 10% dividend could be paid. Today when the price of copper, as recorded on the London Metal Exchange, is reaching record heights the whole of the Australian people who were taxed to maintain profits at 10% are called upon to pay the world’s highest prices for copper. If it is good enough for us to be taxed to see that a dividend of 10% is paid, then in times of great price increases Australians ought to be entitled to some special consideration. I am tired of the plunder of Australia, this treasure chest, by foreign companies which owe little or no allegiance to the men and women who have made this country.
The dear money policy is another matter which has caused great concern throughout the country. It has imposed increasing burdens on the Australian people. The increase in interest rates has been a grievous blow to home builders, lt has been a blow to people who require money for domesic purposes. This, coupled with the credit squeeze, has caused a downturn in home commencements. I have here a report compiled by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library Legislative Service. These figures are of special interest for they deal with the number of the house and flat commencements at the June quarter of this year. They show total commencements to be 29,276. The number of people requiring homes at the same quarter was 81.617. With the concurrence of honourable members, I incorporate the figures in Hansard.
Applications outstanding with State Housing Authorities for houses (and flats) built wilh advances received under the 1965-66 Housing Agreement and other moneys.
People who are saving to buy homes face great hardship. I believe that this debt load should not be imposed upon those who are doing the most important thing in this country - the making and building of homes. We have heard over and over again in this chamber of the difficulties associated with foreign ideas and foreign ideals. If this country is to survive, if we are to rise above these things, surely a good home life is necessary. The increase in interest rates leads to a crippling debt which must be met in monthly payments on loans for houses. If these debts cannot be met, people are obliged to have the periods of their loans extended. Some of my friends have had to ask for the period of repayment of their loans to be extended by 5 years. Those 5 years will extend into the period of their retirement when their earning capacity will have been diminished greatly.
Before interest rates were increased, many home purchasers had budgeted to the limit to try to make repayments. The increase in interest rates is utterly callous and cruel. If the Government has some idea about trying to restrain the economy, to cool it off and to cause a downturn in some way, let it do so through the luxury industries. But let it leave houses alone, because houses are important to all the people of our country. I have here a letter that I have received from one of my constituents. I will not read the name of my constituent. Here is in part the plea of the woman concerned:
Our living area is a garage 12ft x 23ft converted into two rooms with only a curtain to partition off the two rooms, for this, we pay $14 per week.
At the moment, we have only one child, the second is due any day now. The double bed, cot and enough cupboards for all our clothes and such only just fit in the bedroom now, when the new baby arrives, the bassinette will take up all the walking space that is left, then, when the baby is too big forthe bassinette, and coming on to summer, the weather will be too hot to keep it in the bassinette for very long. . . .
This is a sad and poignant story from an Australian mother about to give birth to another baby. Yet we increase interest rates to make it almost impossible for such people to get a home. These facts must be known to the Government. The’Sun’ newspaper on 25th May 1970 carried this article:
Where it really hurts
The million or more people who read the “Sun” every day are under no illusions now about Sydney’s homes crisis.
The ‘Australian’ of 29th July 1970 headed its editorial:
Fewer homes, higher costs.
The ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 20th May of this year stated:
Dearer home payments
Mr Bury said the other day that it was necessary to raise interest rates because the Consumer Index of living costs had been going up at an intolerable rate.
What a terrible thing this is. Fewer homes for more skyscrapers! The skyscrapers will go up because there are funds available for them. This is one of the great tragedies in Australia. We ought to be stimulating home building. There should be no curb on the building of homes in our land.
I wish to refer now to a matter that is of concern to every man, woman, and child in this country. I refer to local government and the burden of debt which is increasingly adding a load to ratepayers. The local government of our country provides an outstanding service. Through local government communal facilities, parks, playgrounds, sewerage, roads, footpaths, day nurseries and libraries are provided. What is the sad story of local government? Since 1947 the Commonwealth debt has continued to fall. The State debts have increased by 400% . Local government debts have increased by 900% and semigovernment debts have increased twelvefold. This staggering financial burden being borne by local government is being transferred to the men, women and children in our community and is expressed in increased rates. I put it to the Government that it is about time that local government, which takes such an important part in the affairs of government in our country, was given its rightful role.
In addition to having to meet the charges to which I have referred, local government authorities in New South Wales last year had to find $7.8m for the Department of Main Roads; $ 1,876m for the State Planning Authority and $ 1.48m for the Board of Fire Commissioners. In addition, the local authorities had to contend with unpaid rates on State and Commonwealth land. Added to their burdens they now have increased interest rates on their loans, further inflicting great hardship on all people who pay rates, those who are paying for their homes and those who pay rent. I believe that the work of local government in providing expanding services is something that should be considered by this Parliament. It is time that local government was given its rightful place in the trinity of government in this country. Local government should be treated as an equal. We hear complaints from the States about centralism. The States deal with local government in precisely the same way as the Commonwealth deals with the States. Local governments are the poor relatives who can get only the crumbs from the State and Commonwealth tables.
I believe that the time has long since passed when the Commonwealth and the States should join with local government in an appreciation of all the problems and difficulties affecting our local councils and the job that they are doing for our people. I am pleased to note that the Leader of the Opposition in his speech on the Appropriation Bill dealt with this matter and suggested that the Commonwealth Grants Commission - which was set up to advise the Commonwealth on the fairest way to help the smaller States to provide services equal to those in the larger States - should now be asked to recommend the amounts of Commonwealth assistance to be granted to local government to enable it to do the important jobs which local government is called upon to perform.
I should like to close my remarks in speaking to this Budget by referring to perhaps the most important people in Australia - ‘the families. One cannot consider the families unless one considers the broad questions with which we have already concerned ourselves. I refer to prices, government policy and immigration. It is interesting to note that between 1961 and 1966 the population of Australia increased by 1 million - 487,000 coming from immigration - while the rural population of Australia declined by 65,000. The cost of immigration for the year 1968-69 was $61,835,007; in 1969-70 it was $67,925,000. According to estimates the cost this year will be $71,274,000. That includes the cost of the administration of the Department of Immigration and the bringing of migrants to Australia, lt has been suggested that the cost of each migrant is about $10,000. The costs of the Department from its inception until last year amounted to $ 15,000m. This is quite a substantial sum. I am not one who opposes immigration; I support immigration. I believe in building up the population of this country. I believe that people and water are vital ingredients in the development of this nation. We must have education. We must have industry. We must have technical progression.
As we are aware, migrants have made a significant contribution to the growth of this country but it is time we looked at our own Australian families and did something more positive for them. The cost of rearing a child in this country until the child has reached working age is, according to the statistics, about $10,000 which includes the provision of food, clothing and education. However, child endowment, which is paid to mothers, is hopelessly, shockingly and scandalously inadequate. It does not meet the needs of today. The fact that the Government has been content to allow it to remain at an unsatisfactory level is sufficient reason for condemnation of the Government and of this Budget. In 1968-69 child endowment payments amounted to $l87.9m for 3.7 million children from 1.701 million families. The maternity allowance paid in 1968-69 amounted to $7. 96m. These sums might appear to be very large amounts but 1 say to the Parliament that the matter of rearing families is of vital concern to this nation.
Of all the people suffering from the uncontrolled price squeeze the hardest hit are perhaps the families who are struggling to live on one pay envelope. I pity the mother with a big family who is compelled to remain at home, unable to go out and get a job, and who tries with all her might and main, to send her children off to school as tidily dressed and as well cared for as are children from other homes. 1 plead with the Government to take a realistic view of the problems facing the family, because the families are the future of this country. If we neglect them we will certainly neglect them at our peril.
This Budget should be rejected. It denies justice to pensioners and families. It does nothing to halt rising prices and it adds to the crippling burden of costs, new taxes and charges, thus placing intolerable stresses on all sections of the Australian community. The poor people will be poorer because they will be compelled to pay more, while local government authorities will languish, crippled by the new taxes, costs and charges. 1 support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
Sitting suspended from 12.48 to 2.15 p.m.
– Regardless of what else this year’s Budget has done, it has at least highlighted the extent of the liaison between the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. To my mind the people of Australia should be told of this backstage relationship, which I predict will prove to be detrimental to the best interests of the country. The Leader of the Opposition may deny this relationship as much as he wishes, but I will never be convinced that he did not assist in engineering last Tuesday’s fiasco of Budget protest rallies and anti-Budget strikes to serve as a backdrop to his on-stage performance that night. But the people of Australia are not fools. It is my opinion that the Leader of the Opposition and his partner, Mr Hawke, will be called to account for the tremendous loss in wages and productivity caused by their selfish and irresponsible actions, which can only be described as a political stunt.
On Tuesday night last we heard the Leader of the Opposition - and since then we have heard other members of the Opposition - try to convince the people of Australia that the Opposition’s ideas of economic management are better than those of the Government. The Leader of the Opposition was even prepared to go to the people on the Budget issue. I have no doubt that he was hoping that the Opposition’s real ideas on economic management would be clouded or hidden in the confusion of an election campaign. I take this opportunity to remind the people of Australia of the hidden issues in the policy of the Australian Labor Party on the financial management of this country. I shall quote some of the planks of its platform. One of the Australian Labor Party’s major aims is to clothe the Commonwealth Parliament with unlimited powers and with the duty and authority to create States possessing delegated constitutional powers. Secondly, it seeks the nationalisation of banking, credit and insurance, monopolies, shipping and sugar refining. Thirdly, it seeks to introduce a capital gains tax which would be paid by those who benefit from the sale or revaluation of assets or issues of bonus shares. I have picked out those 3 planks of the Australian Labor Party’s platform to give an indication of its intentions. I could go on quoting items from the constitution and rules of the Australian Labor Party which are, in my opinion, all designed to destroy financial freedom, incentive and ambition of the individual. This Parliament would then become the supreme central power and when the Australian Labor Party said ‘give’ everybody would have to give and give heavily with no redress. This is the intentions of a Party which is trying to argue about economic management. This is our alternative government whose ideas on financial management appear to belong to the dream time.
I noticed in the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Bury) that there is to be an increase of $12m in drought relief to Queensland. This money will be most welcome. However, one aspect which worries me considerably is how the distribution of this finance is to be managed? I presume the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) will lay down certain conditions and then leave it to the State Government to implement them. I understand that this is the normal procedure. In his Budget Speech the Treasurer stated that the Commonwealth would make payments to wool growers based on the fall in their gross proceeds from wool between 1968-69 and 1969-70 beyond a certain percentage. Does this mean that a wool grower who lost all his stock because of the drought and had no clip in 1968-69 or 1969-70 would be entitled to some payment to assist him? I sincerely hope it does because there are properties in western Queensland which have had no relief from drought conditions for over 5 years. At the moment there are thousands and thousands of acres of land which are completely bare- not even a clump of grass is growing on them. There is no stock in these desolate areas. People have had to leave their properties in these areas. There is no bird life or wild life. Even the ants have gone. These have been my observations in the last 6 weeks.
There have been instances where growers, including elderly people, have spent their life savings to hand feed their stock in the hope that there will be a change in conditions and have borrowed from banks and pastoral firms, such as the Australian Mercantile Land and Finance Co. Ltd, to continue hand feeding until these 2 sources of borrowing have had to call a halt also. lt is to the credit of the banks and the pastoral agencies that they have lent as much as possible to help the grower, but he has still had to watch his stock die. A lot of growers have left their properties; they have had to walk off them. These people are now working in the coastal towns. We have some in Townsville and there are some in the Burdekin area. They are working as taxi drivers, labourers or in any work they can get. A number of business people in the inland towns have also been badly affected and have had to close down. For example, half of the shops in Winton have closed. The future is not bright for these people and for this once important and thriving industry. This is not fantasy; it is hard cold fact. I sincerely hope that the people who have been through this experience will be seriously considered when the conditions of drought relief are discussed. 1 mention these things because I also feel that an industry rehabilitation or reconstruction programme should be commenced now. I have heard some reference to such a programme in speeches which have been made by the Minister for Primary Industry. I have also heard references to a reconstruction programme in the speeches of some of the supporters of the Australian Country Party. A lot of the properties which have been affected by drought will have to be reseeded and restocked when conditions change. This will be no easy task. A lot of people are under the impression that Australia’s mineral wealth will take up any economic slack caused by the drought. I can assure those people that we will still be depending on our primary industries for quite a while to come. All . that is needed is for another country to discover the minerals which we have and produce them at less cost than we can produce them, which would not be very difficult, and we have lost our minerals market. With our wool industry in the state in which it is in at present we could be in serious trouble economically if this were to happen. So again 1 ask that a rehabilitation programme be commenced at once to rebuild the once great wool industry in our drought affected areas. If I had my way 1 would make it compulsory for every member of this House to visit these areas and see the conditions for themselves. I do not have the words to describe the desolation which is in these areas at the moment.
Speaking of primary industry prompts me to mention another section of the industry which could become a problem in the very near future. I speak of the cattle industry. I understand that our cattle population is greater now than it has ever been although a number of cattle properties have been as seriously affected by drought, as have some sheep properties. This leads me to believe that a large number of cattle are being raised by people other than graziers. Farmers with land to spare could purchase store cattle and fatten them for sale to either pastoral firms or meat works. There is nothing wrong with doing this. What bothers me is what will happen when conditions change and the properties which are drought stricken at present are producing cattle again. 1 hope we have learned from the problems of overproduction in the last few years when, for one reason or another, demand for our products on the world’s markets has eased. I hope we have learned from the economic strife that is caused in sections of rural industry when this happens. At present the meat industry looks as though it will remain stable for some time but I would again pose the question: What happens when present drought conditions change and the western properties are again in full production? So I suggest that the executive of the cattle industry keep the situation under close scrutiny. If control of the industry becomes necessary, let it be controlled to avoid any economic upheaval and to preserve the industry’s stability.
I have no doubt that the Budget is designed to combat inflationary trends in the economy. I am confident that it will achieve this purpose. But there is one aspect of the Budget that 1 must question. Since I made my maiden speech in this House I have advocated the provision of a higher standard of living for our senior citizens. I will not cease campaigning on behalf of these people. As most honourable members know, I have taken it upon myself to establish an aged persons nursing home in my electorate, where such accommodation is badly needed.
– Where is that?
– In the electorate of Herbert in northern Queensland. This was not an easy task and T was not overjoyed when I heard that pensioners were to receive an increase of only 50c per week in the Budget. No doubt 50c is better than no increase, but the people who depend on their pensions for survival will have to spend the 50c on food, clothing and shelter and I am afraid that the increase soon will be swallowed by the next adjustment to the cost of living. These people, who helped to build Australia into the great affluent country it is today, deserve to be treated with respect, dignity and compassion. I appeal to the Government to review the whole pension scheme. Even if it is at the cost of some other section of the community, let us place our senior citizens on a standard of living which will allow them to live without worrying whether they can afford enough food to eat and enough clothes for their body or whether they can meet increased commitments for rent and rates.
I am confident that the Budget will meet the requirements it is designed to meet - that is, to keep the economy stable. Regardless of how the Opposition may attack the Budget, which is its job as an Opposition, the overall economic situation of the country will the better for this Budget. I believe that a Budget is compiled to balance the nation’s economy for the ensuing 12 months. A study of our economic development in the last 20 years proves that this has been done by successive Liberal-Country Party governments. It will continue to be done as long as those Parties occupy the Treasury bench. But it is becoming more and more apparent each year that members of the Opposition are trying to create the impression that a Treasurer should be cast in the role of Santa Claus and that Budget time each year is gift time. They perform like disappointed children if they do not get the expensive presents to which they think they are entitled. I am afraid that a rude shock awaits them if ever by some unfortunate mischance those who sit opposite are able to form the government.
I commend the Treasurer for the overall job he has done on the Budget. I will have no part of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I conclude my remarks this afternoon by looking in retrospect at the protest rallies and strikes of last Tuesday. If the Leader of the Opposition will accept a warning from one such as I, I would say to him: Take care my dove or the hawk will get you.
– 1 cannot help but comment on the endeavour of the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) to have two bob each way. For the benefit of his electorate he has expressed sympathy for the pensioners, but he will oppose the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). In supporting the amendment I wish to make a few observations on behalf of the people who sent me to this place. The electorate of Robertson contains a higher proportion of people more than 60 years of age than any other electorate in Australia. Approximately 25,000 voters in Robertson are 60 years of age or older. More than one-third of that number are in receipt of full pensions This week they are participating in a wild spending spree in anticipation of the extra 50c a week they will get in October. They have asked me to pass on to the Treasurer (Mr Bury) their heartfelt thanks for his extravagant gesture last week. Low income earners and young working class families - they constitute a large proportion of the balance of my constituents - who are forced to live 40 or 50 miles from Sydney by the rising price of land near Sydney also have been deeply moved by the Treasurer’s generosity in granting them tax concessions amounting to 75c or $1 a week. Many are planning world tours on the amount they will save.
Some may be confused as to what to do with what is left after they pay the higher charges for cigarettes, petrol and telephones. I hope that 1 get an opportunity in the debate on the Estimates to expand those messages.
I wish to concentrate in these remarks on an area of the Government’s activity which in recent years I have questioned privately and in recent months publicly. 1 have always been struck by the contradictions between the policy of this Government and its predecessors, which showed complete inability and unwillingness to provide an adequate standard of living and quality of life for the less fortunate in the community and those on lower and middle incomes, and its enthusiasm for our policy of assisting large numbers of people from Europe to migrate to Australia to share these inadequacies. During the last days of the previous session I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) whether he would call for a re-evaluation of our immigration policy in the light of doubts expressed across the broad spectrum of public opinion as to its efficacy. Naturally when 1 asked the question I realised that I would leave myself open to criticism, misinterpretation and misrepresentation. I had a very real fear that my question would be interpreted as anti-immigrant. 1 am greatly relieved to find that the vast majority of comments have been favourable and that most people with whom I have been in contact have not reacted adversely to the questions I asked or the answers I sought.
However, one extraordinary response came from an unexpected quarter in an article which appeared in the ‘Bulletin’ of 8th August under the heading The Great Immigration Cave-in’. This incredibly illinformed, unresearched, deliberately misleading and mischievous article, the author of which not surprisingly preferred to remain anonymous, referred to questioners of the sacred cow of immigration as ‘a melange of academics, commentators and low ranking politicians’. The article implied that there is something subversive, sinister or tin-Australian in such questioning by referring to the ‘low ranking politicians’ as a ‘kind of underground movement’. This unknown author dismissed our fears of overcrowded cities, pollution, lack of conservation, inadequate social services and shortage of schools and hospitals as just a matter of planning and priorities, entirely ignoring the fact that had there been this sort of planning and priorities the debate about immigration may never have commenced.
The most despicable part of the article, however, was the implication that all the talk about environment is really a front for old fashioned racism and a desire to return to ‘Australian dreams of isolation and primitivism’. The article concluded by quoting representatives of migrant organisations who publicly welcome the inquiry announced recently by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Lynch) but who in private are said to be ‘incredulous, scornful, angry and disgusted’ by what they regard as an attack on immigrants. Having by now spoken to some dozens of these ‘underground’ critics, I can assure this apology for a journalist that he could not be further from the mark. 1 hope that what I have to say now will assuage his fears. 1 have been greatly heartened by the announcement by the Minister for Immigration that he proposes a comprehensive investigation into the effects of immigration, ils aims and objects. This happened since the last session after I had asked a question and spoken to the Minister. This is precisely what I asked for. I understand that the survey proposed by the Department will include a cost benefit analysis of immigration, desirable populations levels for Australia and the effect that increased immigration will have on our environment and urban problems. The Minister is to be complimented on his response to recent public disquiet over the effect of immigration, lt is a measure of his flexibility and sensitivity that he has been prepared to initiate such a comprehensive inquiry. I would also like to thank him for the courtesy he has shown me by inviting me to discuss with him privately my reservations about immigration. Some of his more senior colleagues would do well to take a leaf out of his book. This is particularly true of the Prime Minister, whose arrogant dismissal of my question showed a complete lack of awareness of the issues involved. One wonders why the Press has not picked up this obvious about-face. 1 have reservations about the survey in that it will primarily be done by the Department. 1 have a strong suspicion that it may be not as objective an analysis as it should be but an attempt to prove that increased immigration is desirable, lt would have been better, in my view, if the analysis were done by a body of experts outside the Department. Ardent advocates of increased immigration have been quick to rush to the defence of the present policy and have actually called for the Government to up the ante. Organisations such as the Chambers of Manufactures, which have never been known for their humanitarian concern for the plight of the under-priviliged, nor for that matter for anything but their own profits, have been in the forefront of those urging increased immigration. One could easily gain the impression that they see a continual flow of unskilled migrant workers as a means of providing their factories with a never ending supply of industrial fodder.
I also think that they are not exactly adverse to the continual increase in their domestic consumer market that nearly 200,000 extra migrants per annum provide. Without this guaranteed increase they would have to get off their ‘proverbials’ to make the same sales and subsequent profits. The hysterica] outbursts of late by the traditional supporters of the Liberal Party - the employers’ organisations - against unions, blaming them, together with over-full employment, for the inflationary spiral, is hardly conducive to an objective assessment of our immigration policy.
Nevertheless, I have great faith in the personal integrity of the Minister and 1 am confident that he will overcome any pressures that may be exerted by outside organisations such as those I have just mentioned. I hope that this survey will allow us lo examine more closely the cost of immigration. Estimates, outside the direct cost of $77m that the Department of Immigration has budgeted for, are so varied as to make any effective analysis or final evaluation little more than guesswork. They vary from S400m per year to SI. 000m per year in hidden costs, as the Minister said in his announcement, because they cannot be readily dissected from total community spending on facilities such as education, social welfare, provision of water, sewerage, roads, hospitals, etc. lt is probable that this cost benefit analysis will be the basis on which future governments will assess the value of immi gration. It should ascertain whether or not we are spending many hundreds of millions of dollars per annum to create an even greater demand for already overstrained facilities. With the exception of Israel, Australia and Canada the rest of the world believes that its present population has almost reached its optimum and in some cases has already passed it. It took us millions of years to reach the first 1 billion people by 1850; the second billion was reached by 1930 - a period of SO years. In the 40 years since then we have passed the 3i billion mark. The world population is snowballing at an ever increasing rate.
Australia is one of the few countries that lacks this problem of over population. I need more convincing reasons than have presently been advanced to support our present policy. In 1945 there were humanitarian reasons apart from the economic and cultural advantages to Australia. Europe was in a mess. Millions of people were in a desperate plight and we had an obligation to share in helping to alleviate the suffering and the misery. Today, however, the standard of living in most of Europe is as high or higher than it is in Australia. Our reasons for bringing immigrants from Europe are said to be for Australia’s economic self interest. Let us be sure that they are accurate reasons.
I believe most Australians would be prepared to make sacrifices in their standard of living on humanitarian grounds if there was suffering in any part of the world - in Europe, Asia, Africa or the Americas - whether it be by famine, war or an act of God. I take the view that Australia should do its share by taking a proportion of the people who need to be re-settled. At this moment many Kenyan Indians are desirous of settling in Australia. If ever there was peace in Vietnam it may well be that many South Vietnamese would want to migrate to Australia. In view of our role in (he Vietnam war wc of all nations should be prepared to accept a sizeable proportion of these unfortunate people. These are valid reasons for making sacrifices; many of the others are not.
In 1945 when the then Minister for Immigration, the Honourable Arthur Calwell, introduced a programme to bring migrants to Australia in vast numbers the population of Australia was a little over 7 million. Today our population is approximately 12.5 million - almost double what it was in 1945. Demographers have estimated that by the turn of the century it will approach 25 million or 30 million. On the past rate of growth these figures seem a reasonable estimate.
To fully understand my reasons for seeking a review of the immigration policy 1 think we need to examine the basic philosophies behind the present policies to see if they are still valid for Australia of the 1970s. Let me say at the outset that I believe that in the light of the circumstances and the information available in 1945, the decision made by the Labor Government of the day, implemented by the then Minister and continued by successive Liberal governments, was the right one.
As a small boy of 10 in 1945 I can recall the insular, arrogant and bigoted attitudes prevalent amongst a sizeable section of the Australian community. 1 can recall the intolerance of those who referred to anyone who spoke in a foreign tongue as a ‘bloody Reffo’ and similar distasteful terms. From personal experience I can remember the hurt that can be inflicted by the unthinking and the prejudiced who, through their fear and ignorance of other people’s customs, culture and religion, can make life unbearable for those whose origins and backgrounds are different from their own.
Today, through the influence and impact of over 2 million migrants, Australia has become a mini melting pot. Today, the prejudices that existed 25 years ago have been greatly dissipated. As one whose prime motivation in entering politics was to try to break down the prejudices between peoples of different race, religion, class, colour, culture and nationalities, 1 regard the new broadening of the Australian’s attitude towards people who are different as the greatest single contribution by the immigration policy. One need hardly add - for it has been said so often - that the migrant population has made an enormous contribution to Australia through the influx of their culture, music, food and literature.
Mr Arthur Calwell was never Prime Minister of this country but he may well be remembered as the man who had the greatest single influence on its development and its prosperity. Mr Deputy Speaker, you may well ask: If I am so enamoured of our past programme of immigration why then am 1 now questioning that same policy? As 1 said earlier, we should return to the original premises upon which the policy was based and upon which the programme was introduced and continued to this day. We should ask ourselves whether they are still as valid for the next 25 years as they were for the past 25 years. There were 3 basic reasons.
Australia had just been involved in a terrifying land war in South East Asia with Japan. Australians had experienced for the first time something they had believed would eventually occur - a war with an Asian power in which they would be vastly outnumbered in manpower. It was felt then, and not without some justification, that Australia could best cope with any future threats from an Asian power by building up her population. This, it was felt, would assist in stopping ‘the Asian hordes’ from over-running Australia. I do not think anyone seriously holds this view today. The changing pattern of modern warfare, terrifying as it is, has shown that countries depend no longer on large standing armies but on the sophisticated quality of their logistics brought about by advances in science and technology. One could also add the morale, education and determination of the people themselves.
Past a certain point manpower is irrelevant. No better evidence of this is needed than the history of the Middle East during the past 25 years. Two and a half million Israelies have adequately defended themselves against 100.000.000 Arabs. Certainly, if we are looking to numbers of people as a measure of our ability to defend ourselves against military expansionism of any Asian power, we are beaten before we start. The population of Asia is near 2,000,000,000 and that of the largest Asian power, China, in excess of 700 million. Indonesia and Japan are nearing 150 million. At best Australia would be outnumbered by at least 10 to 1 and at worst by approximately 70 to I. The population growth that would be essential to bridge that gap would cause such poverty, misery and dislocation as to weaken rather than strengthen this country. The Minister for
Immigration would probably argue that the Government no longer puts forward this theory as one of the reasons for continued and expanded immigration. But I am sure that he would concede that it was and still is one of the shibboleths that sustains acceptance by the Australian people of the present policies.
The second myth that sustains our policy is that increased population will help fill our vast open spaces, increase growth in the rural areas and give us some justifica tion for holding on to such a large continent while the rest of the world struggles with problems of overpopulation. In 1947 the urban population constituted 68.86% and the rural population 31.14% of total population. Mr Deputy Speaker, ( have a table prepared by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library which sets out statistics of urban and rural population from 1947 to 1966. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate this table in Hansard.
Today the urban population has increased to 84% and the rural population has declined to 16%. So much for the myth of ‘filling up our open spaces’. People are coming to the cities in ever increasing numbers. They come for obvious reasons. Cities offer employment. The rural sector through declining demand for its products is suffering a recession, possibly a permanent depression. Present indications are that this is likely to continue. While Australia’s mineral resources will create a new pattern of rural growth and new towns and cities will spring up in areas never before considered, it is unlikely that this will significantly alter the continual pattern of urbanisation.
While employment is the major factor in determining the demographic shape of our nation, there are many others. With the exception of Canberra, all of Australia’s capital cities are on or near the coast. Australians like living near the sea - and who can blame them? Areas near the sea offer excellent climatic conditions and the lush coastal vegetation creates pleasant surroundings and first class recreational facilities. In a society that is one of the most highly mobile in the world, there is an ever increasing usage of these available recreational attractions. Invariably the cities also have better educational, employment, cultural and sporting opportunities for a wide variety of people.
Migrant communities are following the same pattern as in the United Stales, that is, in the early years in a new and foreign environment they tend to gather together and live in close proximity of people of their own nationalities. This is a natural result of their low economic status, home sickness, yearning for a cultural affinity and identity of their own and a general lack of confidence when commencing such a profound change in their life style. Second, third and subsequent generations of Italians, Greeks, Germans, Yugoslavs and so on will merge into the Australian main stream in the same way as their American cousins have done during the past 100 years in the biggest melting pot of them all. In the meantime, however, continuing waves of immigrants will nurture these European cultural communities in the major capital cities of Australia for the reasons I have just stated.
There are many who say: ‘We can disperse the population by decentralisation,’ but there are few throughout the 5 Liberal State governments and the Liberal Federal Government who seem to be able to offer an effective programme that can contain the drift to the city. The recent plan of selective decentralisation outlined by the New South Wales Government in 1968-69 has yet to be put into effect and is bogged down by the parochialism of various country politicians who are in favour of selective decentralisation provided their bailiwick is the one selected. As Labor’s proposals to build new cities has been poo-pooed by the Liberals it is unlikely that any effective decentralisation will occur inside 5 to 10 years. This, of course, excludes the few mineral townships such as Nhullumby on the Gove Peninsular that are likely to spring up.
In the meantime, what is the situation in the present cities, the areas where most Australians choose to live? Despite the vastness of the Australian continent, a small eastern coastal strip from Brisbane to Adelaide contains over 80% of the Australian population. Almost half of Australia’s population live in the NewcastleSydneyWollongong complex or in the Melbourne-Geelong area. Many town planning experts consider that Melbourne and Sydney have almost reached their optimum size and that the 5 million predicted by the demographers as the Sydney population by the year 2,000 would be a disaster, recreating the enormous urban problems now facing the burgeoning metropolises of the United States such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and others. The problems of over crowded cities are numerous and well documented. We know of the problems of pollution, urban sprawl, traffic chaos, shortage of open space and recreational facilities, the high cost of urban renewal, etc.
It would certainly be a disaster if these figures are reached while we continue to ignore the necessity for providing effective town planning. It would certainly be a disaster until we have found proper ways of controlling and combating air and water pollution. It would certainly be a disaster if the present urban sprawl were allowed to continue and the next 2i million people in each of these major cities of Sydney and Melbourne took up an equivalent amount of space to the present population. One can imagine driving 100 miles in any direction out of Sydney or Melbourne before one could see a glimpse of a tree or a green field. One need hardly add the present deficiencies that exist in the field of education, social welfare and health, coupled with the spiralling cost of land and housing - and we have just had an example of how little is being done for people such as pensioners - to know that a continually increasing population has created a gap for many millions of Australians between the myth of the affluent society and the reality of the deficiencies they are facing in almost: every facet of their day to day existence.
The final argument against any slowdown or cut back in immigration is based on the ‘economies of scale of production theory’. Put simply this means the larger domestic market produces a lower unit cost of production creating lower prices for Australians and a more competitive market for Australia’s export. Many economists argue that for the great majority of industries we have already reached the point where a larger domestic consumption will not radically reduce the cost of production and that most of the remaining very large industries such as the aircraft building industry, computer manufacturing, chemical and very heavy engineering industries need far larger markets than Australia’s migrant boosted population is ever likely to supply. What those who ask for a re-examination want is not necessarily an end to immigration but an end to open ended programmes without goals or objectives. We want an answer to a whole series of questions and problems that have never been denned or sought in the past. We want to know how many people Australia needs to create a prosperous, secure and happy nation with an acceptable minimum standard of living and a quality of life available to all. We want to know not only how many but by when. We all know that if we follow unthinkingly the present programme we will reach almost any figure that one cares to name - 25 million, 50 million, 100 million, 200 million and so on. But the question is when? Will it be by the year 2000, 2050, 2100, 2200, or 2300? We want to be convinced with indisputable facts and not with politicians’ rhetoric that there are concrete advantages to Australia and Australians, including those we have already brought here, in aiming at a particular goal by a particular date. I am not convinced that, past a certain point, population for the sake of population is a tremendously desirable objective. The wealth of a country should be the total sum of the happiness and prosperity of each individual.
– During two recent visits to the University of Queensland I had discussions with the President of the Staff Association and other University authorities. I promised to bring to the notice of this Parliament the difficult financial and other conditions and the mounting problems at the University and to present as soon as I could a case for supplementary financial assistance. In doing so, I have no desire to trespass on the preserves of the Queensland Government or of the University Senate. In a review of the fourth report of the Australian Universities Commission, 1969, the University of Queensland Staff Association submitted that the time had come for a wide ranging inquiry into tertiary education similar to that conducted by Sir Keith Murray in 1957. It is suggested that this would need to take into account the functions and development of Colleges of Advanced Education and the financial embarrassment of the State governments under the present formula for matching grants.
I am convinced that on the present basis the staff-student ratio of 1:11 recommended in the Australian Universities Commission’s report cannot possibly be achieved by the University of Queensland by 1972. Its recurrent grant per equivalent full time student is the lowest of all Australian universities. The unfavourable treatment meted out to Queensland in the past is, unfortunately, continuing in the present triennium. Although the extremes in relation to recurrent grants per equivalent full time student will be lower by 1972 than has previously been the case, an urgent need exists to make up lost ground in relation to other universities. An analysis shows that the University of Queensland has had to finance a disproportionately high percentage of its expenditure from fees. The percentage is higher than in all other Australian universities except Sydney and Melbourne, both of which were established earlier and ate fairly static. This is not the case in Queensland, where student numbers have increased in the last decade at more than twice the rate of any other university with the exception of Monash University.
It was submitted by the Staff Association that Queensland’s enrolment increase warrants different treatment from that accorded to the older, static universities. Total enrolments are so large that, for instance, in 1969 the difference of Si 14 in the recurrent grant between Queensland and Melbourne meant that Queensland would have gained $1,320,000 if it had been financed at the Melbourne rate, thus raising the year’s recurrent funds from $14,443,000 to $15,763,000. It is claimed that this would have had very beneficial effects on the quality of teaching in terms of the staff-student ratio, library facilities, equipment and so on. The only Australian university whose growth in enrolments compares wilh Queensland is Monash. A growing university such as we have at St Lucia needs a high level of recurrent grant because of expenses connected with the appointment of new staff including in many cases transport from overseas, extra equipment which is required for practical work, and the quantity and variety of library materials needed for new courses which are established to break up very large classes.
The Staff Association points out that, in the current inflationary period, the present annual increase is insufficient to cover rising costs. The figures show this. Two comparable universities - New South Wales and Monash - have both been allocated larger increases. The city of Brisbane as yet has no second university. The 1960s were years of steady and, at times, dynamic growth at St Lucia. Enrolments for 1970 exceeded the Commission’s estimate by 1,229. This trend is almost certain to continue in 1971 and 1972. The President of the Staff Association has said that, on the projected enrolments, an increase of 195 staff would be needed to reach the required ratio. For 1970 a sum of $210,000 was set aside to appoint 65 new staff, but that figure had to be cut to $160,000 for 46 staff because of other needs. Even to achieve this modest increase in academic staff, cuts had to be made elsewhere. I am informed that the equipment vote to teaching departments at
St Lucia has been cut by $136,817 compared to i969. After meeting rising costs in the form of new salary awards, extra staff to meet the demand for service, and spiralling costs of periodical subscriptions, the University library has been forced to cut book purchases by 20% in comparison with 1969. This surely is not good enough.
Assistance is urgently needed to cope with the problem created by sharp increases in . non-academic salaries and wages, which are estimated by University authorities to cost the University an additional sum of well over $lm during the current triennium. The University authorities claim that this is an impossible burden to carry. For a long time now the universities have been pressing for additional funds to meet wholly unanticipated rises in non-academic salaries and wages.
Due to severe and prolonged drought conditions in Queensland the State Government is in some difficulty financially; so it is clear that the initiative must come from the Commonwealth. In a nutshell the position is that in a fast moving wage situation the University of Queensland will find itself in an increasingly serious plight unless it receives supplementary financial assistance. The University authorities in Queensland have informed me that they will have to carry through to 1971 a deficit of at least $250,000. Additional wage burdens will arise from the national wage case. Next year the burden of supporting the deficit plus an additional $500,000 or more will be intolerable. Without a supplementary grant it is clear that the University of Queensland will not go forward in the 1970-72 triennium. On the other hand, I am sorry to say, it appears to be in grave danger of sliding backwards. Surely this is a crazy situation when we have regard to the extent of the operations of the University and the importance of those operations to the State and to the nation.
I submit there is compelling evidence that the recurrent grant for Queensland is completely inadequate for the purposes suggested by the Australian Universities Commission. In spite of some recent re-arrangements and improvements, the University of Queensland Staff Association fears a further decline in facilities and working conditions during the 1970-72 triennium. Conditions of service as well as salaries must, needless to say, be adequate to attract and retain staff of the calibre required to maintain satisfactory standards. Accommodation problems are acute. I am informed that repeatedly teaching staffs have to move from one temporary location to another. The overcrowding of staff in some departments makes personal discussion with students extremely difficult or even impossible at times. The University is unable to provide some staff with offices at all, so they must work elsehwere. With no prospect of adequate accommodation before 1972, the implications of the situation for the housing of the additional staff who are to be appointed to improve the staff-student ratio can only be a worsening of the present conditions. University facilities are unable to meet the legitimate requirements of students for places in which to study. I have noticed myself that on occasions when the libraries are full some students have to sit on the floor. Lecture rooms are in short supply and seminar rooms are gradually disappearing as they are divided up to make unsatisfactory studies for teaching staff. There is serious overcrowding in the faculties of arts, architecture, chemical engineering and law. The law students have to work in unsatisfactory conditions and are appealing for a new law school in the coming triennium as the present law school in Queensland has the poorest facilities of any law school in Australia. Having studied the position myself, I strongly support the students’ plea. A leading university authority has said:
The provision of a decent university education depends on decent working conditions.
Surely no-one would disagree with this. The Staff Association has pointed out that university maintenance and equipment services will have to be cut and that the overall situation is causing considerable unrest amongst staff and students. It is submitted that, in these circumstances, the recommended capital grant of $7,965,000 for 1970-72 should have been much greater. 1 believe that in Brisbane’s subtropical climate there is a strong case foi air conditioning throughout the University and not only in the library. I hope that this suggestion will be considered favourably.
Grants for computer equipment are needed to enable the computer centre to meet the growing demands on its services.
I understand that, owing to delays in dealing with submissions made by the University of Queensland, an amount of $2.4m unspent in the 1967-69 triennium was carried forward into the current triennium. As against this it is highly probable that the State Government will find itself unable to match the full Commonwealth capital grant for 1970-72. Inflation and increased building costs have eroded very considerably the real value of this capital money. In absolute size of capital grants since 19S8 the University of Queensland has received less than either the Sydney or Melbourne universities, both of which were well established on their present sites by that time. In terms of amount of capital grant per increase in student numbers, the figures show a gross injustice to Queensland. Continuing large capital grants to the University of Queensland will be needed to bring accommodation and facilities up to a standard comparable with those in other universities. In terms of buildings, the University of Queensland has been grossly undercapitalised. The Staff Association submits that it will take some considerable time to remedy the deficiencies even if funds are made available on a more realistic basis. The great fear is that there will be no opportunity to catch up if the financing of a new university at Mount Gravatt in the 1973-75 triennium prevents justice being done to the needs of St Lucia. I sincerely trust that this fear will prove to be unfounded.
To sum up, the University of Queensland Staff Association submits, first, that recurrent grants for 1970-72 are completely inadequate to enable the University to meet the legitimate needs of study and research; secondly, that the claim that the recurrent grants are sufficient to improve the staff-student ratio to 1 to 11 is totally unrealistic; thirdly, that there is a need for flexibility and that a substantial supplementary grant should be made to remedy the situation and to meet the constantly growing needs resulting from the unexpectedly large increase in enrolments as well as the extremely steep increases in cost. I urge that prompt and favourable consideration be given to these submissions.
– It is true that a Budget is primarily an instrument of economic policy but it is also our most important instrument of social policy and it is on the latter level that the present Budget has failed most conspicuously. The effects of its failure, of course, will not be felt uniformly. Some sections of the community have, in fact, done very well. I suppose that there must be at least 1.21% of taxpayers who are perfectly happy, they being the group with the double good fortune of earning between $10,000 and $20,000 on the one hand and of receiving maximum tax reduction benefits on the other. There must be others again who will be counting themselves lucky to have had a further year’s reprieve from the inevitable introduction of measures such as capital gains tax and graduated company tax.
But compare the position of these groups with the position of pensioners and other low fixed income recipients, with low income families and with large families, at almost any wage level. In other words, compare their position with (he position of those groups which are most vulnerable to present economic conditions and most in need of assistance. What is the Government doing for them? What is it doing for pensioners? On the basis of the statements of the Treasurer (Mr Bury) as to past and anticipated rates of inflation, the Government is acting so as to provide that by this time next year pensioners will be at least 75c worse off in terms of purchasing power compared with their position this time last year. That, moreover, is without even taking into account the effects of the Budget’s indirect imposts. What is the Government doing to help low income families? lt is doing one thing only; it is providing a 10% reduction in income tax. Big deal! Look at what that means in practice.
In Western Australia the minimum weekly wage is something under $47 a week. Even ignoring the question of deductions, which makes the position even worse, the proposed tax savings for a worker on that wage will be $28 a year. This compares with a tax saving on a taxable income of $16,000 per annum of $500. This is unconscionable. To say so is not to deny that those on the higher income bear an extremely heavy tax load. What it is to say is that having neglected to reform the tax scale for so long it is now necessary to approach its reform with a proper sense of priorities. To the taxpayer on $16,000 a year the extra $10 a week will be very welcome, but it can hardly be said to be likely to make a significant difference to his way of life. He will either save the difference, or, if he spends it, be will spend it on some additional luxury. His basic needs were already well met under the old tax scale which left him with over $9,000 a year net. Not so the taxpayer on the minimum wage. Unless he is in State housing accommodation his rent alone will mean that he cannot support his family on anything approaching a decent standard. That is where the greatest need is; that is where the least assistance has been given. 1 make only one other comment on the adjustments to income tax. In his Budget Speech the Treasurer said:
There is a clear case for ensuring that most of the relief will go to lower and middle income earners.
He then proceeded to give details of relief for incomes up to $30,000 a year. I believe that under present conditions no case for tax relief exists above the $10,000 a year level. The Treasurer’s statistics accompanying the Budget show that only 2.54% of taxpayers earn more than $10,000 a year. In the Australian context that must surely mean that incomes above that level are high incomes, not medium incomes and certainly not low incomes, in which case the Government’s own professed aims would appear to be better met by a cut-off at that point than at $30,000 above which, for completeness, it might be noted that only 6 in 10,000 of the taxpayer population need apply. I restrict myself to these brief comments on these very important matters in deference to the comprehensive analysis of the Budget by the Leader of The Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and later commented on by other Labor colleagues.
I turn now to a different matter which, while not relevant to what the Government has done in the Budget, is, I believe, relevant to what it might have done. In my brief experience in the Parliament I have found myself continuously impressed at the proportion of the Parliament’s time and concern which is devoted to matters of specific rural interest. This occupation with rural problems is very marked, even considered in isolation, but it becomes quite remarkable when contrasted against the virtual absence of any Commonwealth Interest in specifically urban matters. If one looks at the summary of our business during the autumn session this year one finds that the following Bills were dealt with: The Loan (Australian Wheat Board) Bill, the Canned Fruits Export Marketing Bill, a group of 5 Bills related to the dairying industry headed by the Dairying Industry Bill, the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill, the Wool Industry Bill, the Marginal Dairy Farms Agreements Bill, the Processed Milk Products Bounty Bill and the Queensland Grant (Bundaberg Irrigation Works) Bill. Now look for 1 single Bill devoted to specific city interests and you will not find it. lt is not my present concern to argue against rural assistance but I believe that the least one is entitled, and even obliged, to do is to ask the Parliament to pause and consider the rationale of our rural assistance policies with a view to judging whether the present imbalance of concern as between city and rural problems is justified. One of the curious features of rural debates in this House is that the justification for existing or proposed measures of rural aid almost invariably begin with an economic argument but end with an abstract claim for the inherent virtues of country life. This approach is well exemplified, I think, by an address which the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) delivered to Melbourne Rotary Club on 8th July this year. At one point he put the economic argument in this way:
I believe the farmer and the things he produces are important to this nation. His contribution to our capacity to earn foreign exchange has been in past years of vital importance, and today is still of very great, though diminished, importance. Wool is still our biggest single export earner. This capacity is of significance to every Australian.
That, if I may say so, is a view which demands respect and consideration, but I find it significant that later in his speech after some passing and unsubstantiated references to decentralisation the Minister virtually ended his argument for consideration to the rural sector in this very interesting way:
I might mention that last week in New Guinea it was a striking fact that the further one got away from the towns, the happier were the smiles and the waves along the road. Perhaps there is a lesson there for all of us.
Indeed there is because I believe that in that small aside the Minister crystallises many of the expressed and unexpressed views on which the supporters of our rural policy have actually acted, that is, that there is something inherently good in country life which should be preserved and safeguarded for its own sake.
– That is obvious.
– You may well be correct, yet might not one be entitled to ask whether the preservation of this desirable way of life should be at the expense of those unable to share it, namely, the 80% of Australians who live in the cities? I pursue that question no further at this stage except to say that we have to recognise that the economic and social reasons for rural aid are not necessarily 2 parts of the same argument. They are 2 separate arguments, and much though we may wish it to be otherwise, they are often incompatible.
If our rural policies were based on grounds of economic justification we would expect a great deal of assistance to be given to our most vital rural industry - wool - and very little assistance to that rural industry which is least economically justifiable - dairying. The actual position, of course, is the reverse of that. The only conclusion to be drawn from that fact is that social considerations still rank high, in fact are predominant, in our approach to rural problems. Again, it is not my present purpose to argue against that. What I do argue for, however, is some evidence of a similar concern at the Commonwealth level for the style of life of our city population. None has been shown yet so far as I am aware.
Even in the purely quantitative areas, such as the number of houses, the price of land and the availability of services, the Government has refused to accept that it has any independent responsibility. We are forever being referred to the powers of the States as a reason for Commonwealth inaction in every aspect of urban life. The strange thing is that this sensitivity to State rights does not appear to hinder us in our contributions to the rural community, very many of which are provided in areas of exclusive State powers. Why do not we plead State rights when we pass $25m through the States for marginal dairy farms or when we pass $ 12.8m through the States for irrigation works in Queensland? Why do we have this double standard? We should be looking, and be anxious, to play a part in the development of urban life instead of seeking ways to avoid it. Nor should we be content with the merely quantitative aspects of this problem. There are questions of quality as well.
Let me give a simple example. In Perth the railway runs through the centre of the city. On the one hand, it is an eyesore and, on the other hand, it chokes off the proper development of the central city area. There has been a longstanding proposal to sink this railway. That would concurrently overcome both problems as well as affording a magnificent and unrivalled opportunity to provide the city with 374- acres of land for a city square and other public purposes. From the time the proposal was first seriously considered it is estimated that the cost has risen from $2m to $10m, and it will continue to rise as we delay further.
In response to a question in the State Parliament the Minister for Railways in Western Australia has indicated that he has not sought any financial assistance from the Commonwealth for this project. On the Government’s record he was undoubtedly right in believing that any such approach would have been a waste of time. It would not be a waste of time to a government which cared about the quality of urban life. The development of which I have referred would be used and enjoyed by more people every week than are engaged in the whole Australian dairying industry. It could be achieved for less than onequarter of the amount of this year’s butter subsidy alone. If we can find the funds for one, we can and should find the funds for the other. It is not a question of financial capacity; it is a question of interest and will. In this area the Government has demonstrated - indeed it has claimed - that it has neither.
Let me cite another example. During the recess I had the opportunity to look at a very small town planning scheme which is being implemented by the Perth City Council. The scheme involves only the reorganisation of an area within 3 parallel roads yet within that narrow scope 8 crossroads have been eliminated and with attendant safety advantages, and 1 walkway has been provided which was not available before. The scheme is a very modest one. It costs practically nothing but it achieves a great deal. The point is, however, that it would not have been instituted - in all probability it would not have been thought of - except for the fact that the Perth City Council is one of the few local councils to engage professional town planners on its staff. How many local government bodies have scope for this kind of development? There must be very many. How many of them are actually engaged in it? Very few. How much of the difference lies in the sheer financial inability of local government to think beyond next year’s allocation for footpaths, let alone provide for town planning in its wider aspects? No-one but the Commonwealth has the financial capacity to make local government work better. The Commonwealth must enter the field. Our towns and cities will never realise their potential until we do.
Time will noi permit me to deal in detail with the many other matters relevant to this question. We should be looking at the part we can play in the town planning of new suburbs, in urban renewal as related both to slum clearance and to the proper use of other older inner city areas, in pollution, in the abatement of noise, in overcoming the sociological problems associated with modern large scale flat development and in overcoming the enormous difficulties in providing cheap efficient public transport in the metropolitan areas. I know very well that we cannot do all of these things at once but we cannot ignore them all either. Most Australians live in the cities. Even allowing for the gerrymandering of federal electorates, most of us in this House represent Australians who live in the cities, lt is time that we represented them better.
– I wish to make a few comments on some of the matters that have been spoken of in this debate. 1 refer first to the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) when he led for the Opposition at the commencement of the Budget debate. His contribution was well taken care of by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), who really put it on the line. I do not intend to reiterate the matters about which he spoke. I wish to add one reference to that speech. I refer to the blithe way in which the Leader of the Opposition wrote off Australian rural industry. He made but a very brief reference to rural industry, although, he did mention that the wool industry was still one of the most important industries in the Commonwealth. While admitting the great need for and value of this industry, the Leader of the Opposition was prepared almost to ignore it completely. One honourable member suggested that the Leader of the Opposition spent about 30 seconds in a speech of 65 minutes on that subject. I know that the honourable gentleman made the very briefest of references to that subject. This indicates in no uncertain fashion that the Labor Party has no real interest in the rural affairs of the Commonwealth. It is completely dominated by its desire to promote the urban interests. This fact was clearly shown in the speech made by the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson). He did not argue about assistance for rural industry, but he concentrated on the need for more benefit for urban interests.
– He was talking about people. The honourable member is concentrating on cows.
– There are some cows 1 would like to concentrate on a bit more. I hope to do so at some other time. The interests of rural industry as against urban interests have to be looked at in their proper light. Many people are spokesmen for urban interests and are pressing constantly for further benefits for urban interests. If honourable members opposite think that urban interests have been neglected. I. would like them to have a look at what happened in the recent distribution of the increased finance provided under the Commonwealth aid roads legislation. 1 would like the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), who interjected earlier, to look at where the greater part of that increase went. Urban areas have not been neglected by this Government.
There is a tremendous need for more consideration to be given to rural industry. Rural industry is going through the kind of period that it has been through before. Perhaps those periods were not quite as bad as this one: perhaps they were as bad. Conditions in rural industry will improve. Rural industry will revive. The wheat industry already is showing signs of reviving on the world market. On past history, we can expect an improvement. Australian rural industry is so vitally important to the Commonwealth and, consequently, to every citizen of the Commonwealth that it behoves the Government at this stags to give full consideration to its needs.
I emphasise that this Budget has been brought down at a time of great disparity between the levels of prosperity in various sections of our community. I refer to primary industry and those who are dependent upon primary industry on the one hand, and to secondary industry including the mining industry, and indeed the community generally, on the other hand. It is against this background that the Budget for 1970-71 has been introduced. I do not suppose that anyone would question the degree of national prosperity that is being enjoyed by Australia as a nation. But let me quote a few figures to demonstrate that what I have said is so. I will deal with the Australian gross national product. In 1965-66 the gross national product stood at $20,777m. In the financial year 1969-70 it had risen to $30, 162m. Perhaps this information would be more easily absorbed if I were to give the House the percentage increases over the financial years since 1965- 66. In 1965-66 the increase in the gross national product was 4.9%; in 1966- 67 it was 9.7%: in 1967-68 it was 6.7%; it stood at 12.3% in 1968-69; and in 1969-70 it was 10.6%. These increases have taken place in spite of some of the greatest depression years in the history of primary industry, upon which previously Australia was almost totally dependent for its prosperity. So the national prosperity must be regarded as being beyond all question. I have plenty of figures to substantiate that statement.I have in my hand a series of figures which show the unemployment position in Australia. The number of vacancies registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service increased from 29,335 as at June 1967 to 39,865 in June 1970. One could continue using such figures to show that the urban areas about which the honourable member for Perth was so concerned are prospering and thriving. Yet the honourable member wishes to do more and more for those areas to the detriment of great rural areas which are suffering their hour of greatest need.
This high degree of prosperity that 1 have justified very briefly is accompanied, as a high degree of prosperity usually is, by a very real danger of inflation. Inflation menaces the welfare of every Australian citizen. The Government, as an honest government, was conscious of this in framing its Budget. It is determined to control inflation as far as it is possible, as far as it is practicable, and as far as it is reasonable to do so. At the same time, the Government is conscious of the need to maintain a satisfactory rate of national growth. It has achieved this. The attitude of the Government is reflected in the balanced Budget that it has introduced. A government of lesser calibre certainly would have succumbed to the temptation to bring down a more popular but a more inflationary Budget to the ultimate detriment of the Australian people. This Government stood up to its responsibilities as an honest and responsible government and has balanced the Budget in this a Senate election year.
One of the outstanding features of this Budget is the honouring by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) of his election promise to reduce taxation for the lower and middle income groups. A lot of criticism has come from the other side of the House about where this money has gone. Some have said that the amount of the reduction could have been distributed in a different way. Speaking from memory, a 10% reduction is to be granted on all incomes up to $10,000 per year. This is a pretty satisfactory proposal. The higher one goes in the taxation scale the fewer taxpayers one finds. I point out that the Prime Minister promised to reduce income tax by $200m this year. The value of the reductions in a full year will be $289m. I daresay that $89m of that sum would represent a good deal of the taxation which is phased out. Phasing out is an accepted feature of taxation. Taxation has been phased out even if it is being phased out at levels higher than some of my friends opposite would like it to be.
The criticism from the Opposition on this subject has been pretty constant throughout this debate. I repeat that I have received letters from unions and individuals urging the Prime Minister to implement his income tax proposal this year. It has been implemented in this Budget. What reward did the Government receive for its action? That reward took the form of the first political strike in the history of this nation - a forerunner of things to come. If a government honours its promises and satisfies the demands that are made upon it and then it runs into a political strike, I am moved to ask: What sort of a position will we get into if we ever have the disadvantage or the disaster of a government which panders to these people? If we had, for example, a Hawke dominated Labor government in this country, what sort of political position would we be in? What sort of encouragement is given to those people who engage in this type of political blackmail? There is a lot more that I could say on this subject but I have not sufficient time in this debate.
I stress again the inflation which could have resulted if the type of budget which the Opposition recommended had been brought down. Such a budget would have reacted more savagely against the people whom that Party purports to represent - the worker, the family man and the low income earner. The type of budget that the Labor Party wanted to introduce would certainly have reacted against that section of the community, lt is this section of the community that this balanced Budget is particularly designed to protect. I shudder to think what would have happened to the low income group if a Labor budget had been brought down and the type of policy about which honourable members on the Opposition side have spoken in this debate had been implemented.
I want to talk again about rural industry. I cannot do so without referring to the gratuitous insult conferred upon the rural community by the meagre mention of the rural industry in the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition. I can understand his dilemma. The Labor Party does not have a rural policy and therefore it has nothing much to talk about. There are notable differences in the approaches to the rural industry by honourable members on the Opposition side, lt is almost impossible to credit. Honourable members opposite show a divergence of attitude unparalleled in Australia’s political history by a major political party on a subject of great national importance. If one examines the statements that have been made by members of the Labor Party one finds that this is so. To take an example, we have heard advocated from members on the Opposition side of the House a payment of SI. 10 for every bushel of wheat produced in Australia last year. 1 ask the Opposition whether it is prepared to support that proposal. 1 ask the shadow Minister for Primary Industry - and I challenge him to give me his reply in this debate whether he supports that proposition which has constantly been repeated by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby). If the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) does not support such a proposition then this will prove what I have said. However, if he does support it it will be the first time that I have heard him say so.
– What does the honourable member for Moore think about it?
– The honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) has a right to speak for himself. I do not have sufficient time to speak for everybody. In contrast the Government’s sympathetic attitude to rural industry is emphasised by. among many other features, the provision for rural industry in this Budget which is an increase of more than 55% on last year’s figure. In other words it has been increased from $77m to $2 15m. Despite this understanding of rural needs one of the most important features of the Budget is the decision to examine ways in which the restructuring of farmers’ debts can most effectively be implemented. This is a vital part of the Budget although it has not been given the attention it deserves. This will be extremely important in the future for our rural industries.
Direct assistance to the wool industry will amount to $62m, of which S30m is to be used to assist those in greatest need. This is a principle that is prominent in the Budget. Under the terms of the stabilisation plan the wheat industry will receive S30m. There are those who scoff at stabilisation, orderly marketing and the quota system which is designed by the wheat growers themselves through their own organisation to support their objectives. In concluding my remarks on the rural section I point out that the essential difference between the Government’s policy and the Opposition’s policy is that the Government endeavours to implement the policy of the primary producers expressed through their elected representatives, while the Opposition in a blatant vote catching exercise supports generally the dissentient minority without regard to the welfare of the industry and those engaged in it. That is the real difference between the Government’s attitude and the Opposition’s attitude to primary industry.
I realise that the difficulties of primary industry are great and that what has been done is no more than is needed. At least it is a step in the right direction. It is of the utmost importance to farmers that every effort be made to control cost of production, so it is pleasing that agricultural distillate has been exempted from the increase in excise on fuel. I want to refer to a journal which cannot be called ‘a primary producer organisation’ publication. We are often accused of being one-eyed. The August 1970 journal of the ‘Australian Industries Development Association’, under the heading ‘Policy-making for Primary Industry’, states:
Continuous consultation between the Government and primary industry is the basis of policymaking for that sector of the economy - a policymaking machinery that is regarded with envy by other sectors.
This surely cannot be called a primary producer organisation. Surely this is an impartial judgment on the manner in which the Government has approached policy making for primary industry. The article goes on to state:
The Minister for Primary Industry showed how well developed this policy-making machinery is when he addressed the New South Wales Annual Conference of the Country Party at Griffith on 24th June.
In the bulletin there are a number of extracts from the speech of the Minister for Primary Industry. I will read a couple of them for the benefit of those who do not hear this type of thing often enough. They read:
Now, in. all this interchange of ideals, the private talks, the discussions behind the scenes, there must be, and there is, a lot of development and polishing of policy ideas. We do it this way because our aim is that, say in my own case, when a firm proposal is officially put before me, I can take it to the Government knowing that it is a sound, practical policy; it has the support of the industry; it has my support, based on my own knowledge and opinion and the expert advice of my officers, and that it is likely to be acceptable to the Government. To me, this approach makes sense.
This is how the policy-making system for the rural industries works at the moment. And I do not need to go back over many years to demonstrate just how effectively it has worked.
I hope that those comments will not be condemned as being inspired by self-interest or self-benefit.
One of the great benefits contained in this Budget relates to the provision of telephone lines for rural dwellers. It would not be possible for me to over-emphasise the vital necessity and the value of this change of policy to the rural dwellers. The need to upgrade the standards of telephone lines to allow automatic telephone exchanges to operate efficiently was undoubted and was never questioned by the Australian Country Party, which argued constantly that the cost involved was beyond the financial capacity of many rural dwellers. The Government listened to the arguments so constantly put to it, with the result that no-one in the rural areas will be unable to have a telephone installed on a property. If there had not been a change in policy many of these people would not have been able to afford the huge expense involved.
The Postmaster-General’s Department will provide IS miles of telephone line free of cost to these people. This is only right because the urban dwellers that we hear so much about have always had this free of cost. After the first 15 miles the rate to be charged is $40 per quarter mile. The Department will maintain the facilities. I have received many letters which show that thousands of dollars are involved in telephone installations. I know of a person who suffered a stroke and had to have a telephone for which he had to find $1,300. As this provision is retrospective to January 1969 this deserving person will receive a refund. This is something which shows that the Government appreciates the problems which confront those living in rural areas.
There has been some discussion about the increase in the age pension. I can honestly say that I join with those people who believe that the situation would have been much better if there had been a greater increase. Pensioners have a problem to make ends meet. I would have liked to see them get something more than they are getting out of the Budget. However, I appreciate that the Government was faced with the problem of trying to balance the Budget in the interests of the community generally as well as in the interests of pensioners. I believe that the Government would have had a problem coping with the difficulties which it faced. Despite the fact that I recognise that the Government was faced with certain problems, I believe that a larger increase in the age pension would have been better received by the majority of the people of Australia. I believe that the Government would have liked to grant a larger increase. I also believe that the situation will be rectified as time goes on.
Despite the fact that I was disappointed about the increase in the age pension, 1 wish to commend the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) for providing some of the assistance which has been given this year to people who have been in great need of it. This is something which has been forgotten during the course of the debate on the Budget. I refer in particular to the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill and the Handicapped Children (Assistance) Bill. The Minister for Social Services is always endeavouring to assist those people who are in need of assistance. For my part, I will always support moves to help the people who are in need of assistance, including pensioners.
Another matter in the field of social services to which I wish to refer is the effort which is being made by the Queensland Grain Growers Association to have social service benefits applied to needy farmers and others who have suffered severely as a result of the drought. Many of these people have very little equity in their properties as a result of the drought. It is hard to determine the value of their properties because there is no defined level of values, but there is not a great deal of value left in their properties. These people are unable to get assistance in the form of social services because they are to some extent tied to their properties. I believe that the proposal of the Queensland Grain Growers Association should be given serious consideration. Assistance should be given to these people because it is desirable to keep them on the land. Not many people want to go on to the land, lt is necessary to keep on the land those people who are there at present.
The drought relief which has been given to Queensland by the Commonwealth Government has been very much appreciated. I do not have the time to go into it fully, but it is something which has been very necessary. Queenslanders appreciate what has been done for them. I wish to refer also to the relief in the form of a reduction in rates which has been provided to land holders in badly drought stricken areas. People who have been drought stricken for 2 of the last 5 years, who are drought stricken at present and who are demonstrably in need of such assistance are eligible for a reduction of 50% in their rates. The assistance which is provided by the Commonwealth Government in this respect is of twofold benefit, lt provides much needed assistance to those land owners who need it and at the same time enables the shire councils to collect much more in rates than they would otherwise have been able to collect and thereby keep their employees. I -have received many requests in recent times - in fact, I received one only today - for a more equitable means of raising finance for local government. I was impressed by the scheme which is in operation in New South Wales. I trust that the other States will give consideration to an examination of this matter so that a scheme can be evolved which is acceptable to all States. If such a scheme were evolved I would certainly urge Commonwealth assistance at, say, a $1 for $1 basis, which would be a great help to the local authorities. I am sure the Government would be sympathetic to this.
There are many aspects of the Budget which I have not dealt with. Education is one area in which great strides have been made. No less than 61,000 students are now in receipt of Commonwealth scholarships. Many other aspects of the field of education have been assisted by the Commonwealth Government. The debts of the States will be reduced as a result of the assistance provided by the Budget. Substantial relief has been given in regard to the payment of interest. Water conservation projects will be undertaken with Commonwealth assistance. Water conservation is of vital importance to rural industries. I look forward to a decision by the Government to proceed with the Pike Creek scheme, which will serve not only the farmers of the area but also the town dwellers of Goondiwindi as it will make their water supply more secure.
In conclusion, I wish to say that this is an honest Budget. There are one or two things which I would have liked to see changed. I suppose this is the same with everybody. I have already mentioned that one of the things I would have liked to see is a greater increase in the age pension. The other thing with which I disagree is the increased tax on petrol. I believe that this tax could have been changed to greater advantage. However, all in all it is an honest Budget and one which is designed to keep the economy of the country on a sound footing. I support the motion and oppose the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I trust that the Government will be given every opportunity to carry on in the future in the interests of the people of Australia in the same way as it has done so effectively over so many years. Australia is one of the most envied nations in the world today. [Quorum formed.]
– The Treasurer (Mr Bury) has introduced his first Budget; it could well be his last. As Shakespeare said: ‘Though this be madness, yet there is method in it’. The Budget is a perfect reflection - indeed, it is an accurate mirror - of the paucity of policy which has emerged from a government which is a Waste land of imagination and a master of the mediocre. But let us not place all the blame on the Treasurer. He was, of course, the main character in the drama - and it is a drama as far as the people of Australia are concerned. But the stage manager of this disaster, the real hand behind this disaster, was that master of compassion, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) - the man who is so sensitive to the needs of the elderly and pensioned peoples of our so-called affluent society; the man who made that now famous or . infamous remark to pensioners who had gathered outside this Parliament to request an increase in their miserable pittance: ‘I suppose you want more dough?’ Could any remark - it is an offensive and insensitive observation even for him - highlight in greater detail the contempt with which this man and his entire coterie of collaborators hold the people of Australia? Age, invalid and widow pensions are to be increased by 50c a week. This surely is an example of Liberalism gone mad. In the June quarter of this year the cost of living increased by almost $1. The national average increase in the cost of living for the year was 5%.
The increase in pensions amounts to a little more than 3%. This is the reward meted out to people who have contributed so much to this so-called affluent society. We give 50c a week to these people who have helped to develop this nation - 50c a week to the people who, in the twilight of their years, deserve some consideration from the nation they have served so well. This is a disgrace. The Prime Minister and all other members of the coalition parties should hang their heads in shame.
Let me read a quotation:
Our aim is that those who have no other means are provided with enough to live on in a modest self-respecting way without requiring any other assistance from outside the pension.
That statement was made in this house on 27th August 1968. The author was the Prime Minister. How soon he forgets. But it is heart-warming to read that the central committee of the Young Liberals in Victoria - an extraordinarily radical group - passed a motion urging the Commonwealth Government to give greater Budget relief to age pensioners. Here is direct confrontation between two divisions of the Liberal Party.
What else emerges from this doomsday book of Liberal humanism? The tax on petrol will be increased by 3c a gallon. The tax on cigarettes will be increased by 3c a packet. Sales tax on cars and station wagons will be increased. Of course, as the Prime Minister has said, you do not always want to buy motor cars. Sales tax will be increased on television sets, radios and clothing. Here are high priority items singled out for an increase in sales tax - toilet and beauty preparations. How the women will love you for that. Postal and telephone charges will be increased. A tax will be imposed on wine. Again the Prime Minister has said: ‘Do not drink wine’. Heady stuff! Radio licence fees have been increased. I could refer to many other items of increased charges but I will not condemn the house and the nation to a repetition of all of them. In regard to child endowment, that dark corner into which this Government refuses to shed any light, there has been no improvement. What distresses the Opposition is that all of the charges imposed in this Budget have a direct effect on the average working person and particularly the housewife. The. cost of her food and other commodities for everyday existence has spiralled upwards still further with no attempt to control it. The Government talks blithely about arbitration. I believe in arbitration but I also believe that the time has arrived when the people of this nation must be protected by some form of prices control.
I turn now to the greatest feat of illusion yet performed by these magicians who sit opposite. There is to be a concession of 10% in personal income tax. What will be the real material benefit to those people who earn between $3,500 and $6,000 a year? These are the people whom the Budget is supposed to help. Does it help them? The answer must be in the negative. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) so eloquently illustrated on Tuesday night, the average wage earner with a taxable income of $3,000 will receive a reduction of $46 - less than $.1 a week. A man with an income of $10,000 will receive a reduction of $348 - almost $7 a week. Now we come to the cruncher - the Prime Minister’s version of the middle income earner. That was his election phrase, not mine. A man on $16,000 will receive a reduction of $500 or $10 a week under this so-called equitable scheme. The mind boggles at the logic of this. Could there be any greater absurdity? As the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) so rightly pointed out, as usual you have started at the wrong end. Service pensions: What an illustrious record you have here. What humanity is revealed towards the men who have served so well. The whole field of social welfare is a monumental failure. Perhaps one cannot but feel some sympathy for the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) who saw and heard his aspirations in this Budget torn to tatters, but who philosophically accepted what was happening in his inimitable style by removing himself to a state of soporific torpor during the whole dreary recital of the Budget. Who can blame him?
– He slept.
– He slept. So did the nation. But it is waking up now. The Budget has been put together by a group of men who are dispirited and disillusioned, desperate and defeated, lacking in purpose and totally devoid of humanity. The whole sorry document reveals their anaemic approach to social services and social welfare. Indeed, the very words ‘social welfare’ are anathema to most members of the coalition. In this Budget they have done nothing to remove that impression.
I want now to make some observations on other points of the Budget. The defence allocation is 3.1% greater than last year. Members of the Government cry out with regular monotony about their concern for the defence of this country. What have they done? One of the key items in their expenditure in this Budget ls $13m for the lease - I repeat, for the lease - of 24 Phantom aircraft. The Opposition was ridiculed when it suggested obtaining the Phantom in preference to that other mystical machine with its extraordinary capabilities, which has so far cost the Australian taxpayer $300m. It is the most expensive piece of equipment the parking stations have ever seen. After $300m, 3 Prime Ministers and almost a decade we are now to lease 24 substitute aircraft to protect us from that invisible enemy which threatened to over-run us so many years ago - on the eve of a Federal election. Such threats come only at election time. Is it any wonder the Government presents to the electors an almost Gilbertian image? The Government stands discredited - a government in retreat, a government in disorder.
Let us now turn to this question of disorder - or rather, to be more specific, law and order, lt is notable that the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), and his heir apparent, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), have time and time again concerned themselves not with the tottering primary industry of Australia but with propping up their discredited and outworn policies by suddenly becoming the champions of foreign policy and defence. The Deputy Prime Minister has spoken on at least 2 occasions - the last time in this House on Tuesday afternoon - but did he speak on the crisis in rural industry? He did not. He spoke on defence and foreign affairs - this master of the world. But what of primary industry in which, one assumes, the Leader of the Country Party would have some interest? It is a reasonable assumption that he ought to be interested in farmers, their welfare and their future, although primary producers in my own State of Tasmania have formed other opinions.
The welfare of primary industry has for too long been ignored by this Government and primary producers are to stage a protest march in Canberra. This is law and order. Mark that: Primary producers are going to stage a march in Canberra in order to protest against the policies of this coalition and its failure. Law and order. One can now visualise the scene in this hallowed capital, this sanctified ground of Parliament. One can visualise the Deputy Prime Minister, the Leader of the Country Party, the champion of primary industries, and the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon), complete with police photographers, recording a dossier on their traditional supporters outside this Parliament. What double standards these men have. Law and order has become their theme. The incredible paranoia, this almost psychopathic pre-occupation with law and order and Communism is a disgrace to the Deputy Prime Minister and his woolly minded followers.
It is interesting to note that this self same gentleman, this disciple of law and order, has in fact sat down with Communists and negotiated trade agreements with them. What fatuous humbug for this man to protest and tilt at windmills. He openly promotes and fosters trade with Communist countries and has the temerity to incite this nation and this Parliament with speeches which would have done Lenin proud, lt would be interesting to note, Mr Deputy Speaker, just how many times that right honourable gentleman and his colleagues refer to mainland China - and 1 underline the word ‘mainland’ - where trade matters are concerned. But when they don the mantle of law and order and respectability it becomes Communist China. This is a devious and deceitful exercise in semantics which is being foisted on the Australian people. It is true that the devil can cite scripture for his purpose.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to turn now to one or two points on primary industry because this is one of the great industries that is suffering at this time. What is going to happen to the proposition for a single wool selling authority? Will the procrastination continue and will the pressure pre vail? It is high time that this Government made some positive statement and showed some signs of activity before that industry as well goes to the wall. The apple and pear industry has been delivered a body blow. Where are the provisions in the Budget for this mystical and proposed stabilisation scheme? I certainly could not find any and neither could anybody else. My own State of Tasmania, my own electors of Franklin, have demonstrated a remarkable patience with this indolent Government on this particular question. In the grievance debate on 21st May this year I asked the Minister for Primary Industry to make an announcement. I now ask him again - and I will keep on asking: When is a stabilisation scheme to be introduced? Do we have to wait until this time next year when more families are bankrupt and when an industry that has served my people so well, and indeed the whole of this nation is finally finished?
What we want to know now is this: ls this Government so drunk with continuity of office for 20 years that not even disaster will stir it? Disaster will not stir it; nothing will stir it except the people. The people might have that opportunity sooner than they expect and sooner than this Government wants. So far as the stabilisation scheme is concerned I. have been led to believe that the Minister for Primary Industry has to make some recommendation to the Australian Agricultural Council. Then the proposal has to go to the States. Has this in fact occurred? I pose the question again although that august gentleman, the Minister for Primary Industry, is absent from the chamber. I asked that question in May and I ask it again now. What is the real situation? The industry wants to know and it is entitled to know.
I have spoken in this chamber on the need to preserve the complete independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and all other mass media. 1 have spoken on this question on 2 or 3 occasions and I intend to touch on it again. I repeat: There is no room in a democracy for political interference in any shape or form with the mass media. I have always been, and will remain, totally opposed to those honourable members on the Government side who seek to bring this about. The honourable member for Evans (Dr
Mackay) has indicated his views and has circulated what he terms - and oh, what a pleasant term this is - guidelines for the ABC. What an ill conceived presumption - guidelines for the ABC. . He and I know - and this Government knows, or should know - that this is only the beginning of the thin edge of the wedge. This was the Dr Goebbels technique in Germany in the mid-1930s. It was Lenin’s technique in the Soviet Union.
I remind the honourable member for Evans that I do not question his right to put his point of view but I seriously question its value. It pre-supposes that he and someone else are the high priests of what should or should not be said on television, radio or in the newspapers. I remind the honourable member and any other honourable members on the Government side of the House that they are following the footsteps of monstrous masters. Let me remind them that these are the essentials of free society: freedom of the Press; freedom of the radio; and freedom of television. Do not let us pay lip service to it. I have been a practitioner in this industry for more than 22 years, both in Australia and in the United Kingdom. I have been engaged in all forms of the media, as a writer and a broadcaster. I myself have felt the political pressure in this country when I stood as a Labor candidate for this House. But that does not matter to me. What I want to say is this: I am proud to have worked with my colleagues both in the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the commercial stations whose standards of integrity are unimpeachable and cannot be questioned. I will not now or ever be a party to putting any sort of muzzle on them. Guidelines indeed. What arrogance. What fear must beat in the breasts of honourable members even to contemplate such a move. I am sick and tired in this chamber of hearing a cascade of bias and vituperation against the public affairs programmes of the ABC because they dare to criticise someone in this chamber. If we can do our job as the elected representatives of this country none of us at any time ought to be hesitant or unable to acquit ourselves in this medium. We certainly ought not ever place demands upon producers and interviewers of these programmes to submit to a set of questions from people like ourselves, saying: T want you to answer this and answer that’.
– It does not happen on the BBC.
– It does not happen on the BBC, I can assure the honourable member. My suggestion to all honourable members on this score is to leave the producers and interviewers of these programmes alone and let them get on with their own business. The business of this Parliament and the members of this Parliament is the welfare of the Australian people. I remind honourable members - certainly those honourable members on the other side of the House - that they would be far better served by working for the improvement of opportunities for Australian actors, writers and producers in the television industry rather than setting themselves up as watchdogs of public affairs programmes. These are the sort of things we ought to be doing.
This Government has failed the people. On all fronts this Government is a monumental disaster. It is a government of mediocrity. Under this Government Australia has no place in the 1970s. Australia does not have the time for mediocrity. The nation will no longer tolerate indolence and ineptitude. This coalition Government is a rudderless ship awash in a political sea and the swell of public opinion will sweep the Government and its tawdry policies from office, and the sooner the better.
– Employment and productivity aTe part of the dynamics of every modern society. The impact of economic policy upon employment and productivity is matched by the mirror impact those factors have on economic policy. They can no more be separated than can the worker be separated from the community of which he is’ part. The advancement of one is the advancement of the other. Australia’s economic performance over tha last 20 years and particularly over the last 5 years has been good. We do not need statistics to show the gains we have made. We can sense progress. We live with it. But, because complacency is the enemy of progress, I will concentrate today on the special problems of our full employment economy - inflationary pressure, industrial unrest, and structural imbalance - and on the ways in which my Department is trying to relieve these problems.
The 1970-71 Budget is, I believe, well shaped to our economic requirements. Last year there was a net increase of 10.7% in Government domestic outlay, with insignificant increases in tax rates. This year’s Budget also provides for an increase of some 11% in domestic outlay, while the new tax measures introduced will largely offset each other in their effects on economic activity, taking the year as a whole. The surplus of domestic receipts over domestic expenditure proposed for 1970-71 is roughly the same as last year’s. In my view, this indicates that the economic impact of this year’s Budget will be of the same order of magnitude as last year’s Budget. At this time last year we had about 1% of the labour force unemployed. Today we again have 1% unemployed and productive capacity is likely to grow in the year ahead at about the same rate as last year. However, there is one important difference: Labour demand pressures have recently been tending to ease, whereas at the same time last year they were tending to increase. It follows that whilst this year’s Budget will have roughly the same impact on the economy as the last one, I am confident the Budget is a sound and responsible one and will ensure vigorous and balanced growth.
Our record in recent years justifies confidence. Over 5 of the past 7 years we have been able to. maintain a rate of economic growth of 5£% or better: the only 2 years when we failed to do this - 1965-66 and 1967-68 - were years of severe drought. Over this same period, the proportion of the labour force registered as unemployed has averaged 1.2% and has never moved outside the range of about 1% to 1.5% - seasonal influences apart. In spite of this high rate of growth and low rate of unemployment, our international reserves have held steady - thanks partly to our great mineral discoveries which have generated exports, import replacement and capital inflow and partly to the growing competitiveness, export orientation and self-confidence of our manufacturing industry. Unfortunately we have not solved all our economic problems. One might say: Which country has?’ Inflationary pressures are still with us. Over the decade 1959-60 to 1969-70 the consumer price index rose at an annual rate of nearly 2i%. Over the last 5 years the average annual increase has been a little over 3%. Last year the increase was nearly 4%. And in the June quarter of 1970 it was at an annual rate in excess of 5%.
It is true that prices have risen even faster in many other countries, but whereas the inflationary rate is tending to slow down overseas it is tending to rise in Australia. When these pressures are running high you need high interest rates to induce people to save and lend. Nobody likes high interest rates expecially not the man who is buying a home or who is relying on consumer credit. But if we want moderate interest rates we must first arrest the rate of increase of inflation. This is what our economic policy aims to do. Many factors have operated to raise domestic prices. Some of these are independent of the level of demand: for example award wages have tended to rise faster than productivity. But there is no doubt that excess demand contributed in a major degree to last year’s inflationary growth. To begin with, shortages of labour in many areas of the economy caused overtime work to increase and put pressure on over-award payments, both of which add to cost structure.
The buoyant state of demand for goods and services may also have contributed in other ways. Faced with a sellers’ market, some firms discover a facility to more readily pass on cost increases to their customers without concern for efficiency, and some firms take advantage of the situation to improve their profit margins. Of course, demand pressures in 1969-70 were not evenly distributed in terms of location, occupation, skills and industries. Had they been more evenly distributed pressures would have been less severe. In other words, the structural imbalance in the labour market was a contributing factor in the inflationary trend. I am confident that the Budget will work towards internal balance. There is however a limit to what generalised monetary and fiscal policies can do to achieve balanced economic growth. Such policies operate mainly by influencing aggregate demand. Beyond a point we cannot increase real production to match demand and reduce unemployment of the 1% registered by means of increases in aggregate demand for goods. This would only intensify competition for labour, diminish concern for efficiency and raise costs, prices and imports. Monetary and fiscal policies must therefore be complemented by action which will contain cost-push inflation, improve the structural balance in the labour market, and increase the effectiveness with which resources are used.
There is a clear trend for wages to rise a great deal faster than productivity. The Commonwealth intervenes regularly in national wage cases to emphasise that the growth in real wages cannot in any permanent sense exceed the underlying growth in productive capacity and that to push up money wages beyond capacity yields no lasting gain in real wages but only causes inflation. It is not sufficient that this argument be accepted by the Arbitration Commission alone. It needs also to be accepted by employers and unions alike. Employers must realise that to bow to naked force and accede to wage increases in excess of productivity, simply because it is easy for them to raise prices, is not in the best interests of the community. Unions must understand that the exploitation of full employment to make unreasonable demands on employers is self-defeating in the long run.
There is, however, another facet to the problem of wage-push inflation. If wage rates are rising faster than productivity, the answer is not simply to restrain the growth of money wages: it is equally important to look for ways of increasing the growth of productivity. The statistical gatherers say that over the last 15 years or so, the gross national product at constant prices per employed worker, which is the conventional measure of national productivity, increased at an average annual rate of about 2i% in Australia. The same statistical gatherers say that over the period 1950 to 1968, the gross national product per employed worker increased by over 3% per annum in Sweden, Norway, Netherlands and Denmark; bv over 4% per annum in France and Germany; and by over 5% per annum in Italy and Japan. International comparisons of this sort can be very misleading, but the evidence cannot be completely discounted.
It is true that in Australia in recent years the growth in productivity and living standards has tended to pick up momentum. This is due mainly, I think, to structural changes in the economy arising from the dramatic growth in our mineral industries, and to the change in orientation of our manufacturing industries. There are some reasons why one might have expected productivity to grow faster in Australia than in other countries. For example, our smaller size should have given us relatively greater scope for achieving economies of scale; we have been largely successful in avoiding severe economic fluctuations with bouts of excess capacity; and our rate of investment has been very high by world standards. In the 5 years ended 1967-68, for example, fixed capital formation in Australia represented 26% of the gross national product at market prices. Of all the major industrialised countries, only Japan had a higher ratio.
It is true that we have one of the fastest rates of population growth in the world. This requires heavy investment in social overhead capital - housing, services, roads, schools and hospitals - although it is often overlooked that immigration also increases the total resources available for investment. Many economists argue that we could improve our standard of living by cutting back the immigration intake. Their argument runs that cut back would enable us to live better. This could be true for a short period. But I believe that in the long term we would be worse off. Not only does immigration make possible technical and financial economies of scale; it also provides us with a more flexible, mobile and adaptable work force; it generates new skills, know-how and entrepreneurship; and it acts as a spur to technological innovation. In the long-run all this spells higher - not lower - productivity with higher living standards. Even if as much as 2% of our gross national product is required to meet the social capital needs of our new migrants - surely an upper limit - our rate of investment remains quite high by comparison with most other countries.
Some of our past investment, especially in minerals, has yet to yield its product fully and as it does our comparative productivity growth will improve. Technological change is of course a major source of productivity growth. Some critics have questioned whether Australians spend enough on basic research. We cannot hope to match the bigger economies, such as the United States, in this, but we should at least ensure that we are always applying and developing the best known techniques. I remember talking to some United States manufacturers who said that when they have a problem they put 100 scientists on the job and trample the problem to death. We cannot do that. But to apply the known techniques is a function of managerial entrepreneurship, with its capacity, initiative, willingness to take risks, etc. - not merely for the Government research grant stimulus which is being given. It is for managerial entrepreneurship.
But it is also a function of the speed and ease with which known technology is diffused throughout industry. Some analysts estimate that only 15% to 30% of potentially useful technology is actually taken advantage of. Much of the rest atrophies because industry does not search it out. This is why my Department gives full support to the work being done by the Productivity Promotion Council of Australia and the productivity groups throughout this country. 1 should mention that today in Sydney is being held the conference of the Productivity Promotion Council of Australia. The Department of Trade and Industry has also been providing an important service to industry through its inter-firm comparisons.
Another problem which requires new policies - social and economic - is the Structural imbalance in the labour market. By structural imbalance 1 mean a situation where overall there are as many jobs offering as there are job seekers but the job seekers cannot fill the jobs available. There are 4 reasons for this problem in Australia. They are firstly the skill and occupational pattern of the unemployed does nol match the skill and occupational requirements of industry; secondly, there is a relative concentration of employment opportunities in the metropolitan areas of Sydney and Melbourne; thirdly, labour, especially female labour, is not always mobile; and fourthly many of the unemployed have personal employment disabilities such as physical handicap, unsatisfactory work attitudes and records, or age coupled with limited education.
My own Department, in co-operation with other departments, is examining what are the most effective ways of improving work opportunities, especially for young women, in country areas. New initiatives are needed here, although, as the House knows, there are constitutional difficulties. Other ways of easing the problem - for example, by measures to facilitate greater geographical mobility - are also being studied. At the same time I have asked my Department to see what scope there is for improved counselling and rehabilitation facilities to assist persons with employment disabilities of one kind or another. To increase our understanding of the problems facing these people, a new section was recently created within my Department to carry out research into the effects of social, cultural and environmental factors on employment and employee welfare. Particular attention will be paid to problems of disadvantaged persons in urban and non-urban areas.
Another important way of attacking structural imbalance is through training. To help the unemployed it is not always necessary to direct the training at them. If workers already in employment can upgrade their skills, new jobs can be released for the relatively unskilled who form such a high proportion of our unemployed. This would represent an important social gain. However, the benefits of training extend much more widely. By easing shortages in those skills and occupations which tend to be in chronically short supply we can reduce the pressure on wages, costs and prices at any given rate of employment, and at the same time raise national productivity.
In April this year. I released the report of the Tripartite Mission which studies the methods of training skilled workers in Europe. This report has acted as a catalyst to stimulate activity towards a major reappraisal of Australia’s vocational training policies. In this present age of rapid technological development, I believe that the need for a complete rethinking of these policies is a matter of great urgency. This will be achieved by the co-operation of the Commonwealth and State governments and authorities, unions and employers. I propose to hold a national conference early next year at which I hope that guidelines for industrial training arrangements will emerge which will meet our needs of future decades.
I turn now to the vexed question of industrial relations. Earlier I emphasised the importance of productivity. Let there be no doubt about it: Productivity growth can be impeded by an unfavourable climate of industrial relations. Statistics of industrial disputes for the period 1967-1969 show a disturbing upward trend both in the number of disputes and in the losses they caused. The number of disputes in 1969 was -2,014 compared with only 1,340 in 1967; working days lost in 1969 were 1,957,957 compared with 705,315 in 1967; and the loss in wages in 1969 was $22,986,000 compared with $7,263,000 in 1967. Figures for the March quarter of this year, the latest available, show that the upward trend has continued into 1970. These losses in time and wages are disquieting, the more so since they appear to be getting worse.
Full employment places high demands of responsibility on employers and unions. Some unions have not been accepting this responsibility. They have used the economic bargaining power which full employment gives them for their own purposes without regard for the effects of their actions on their fellow workers and fellow citizens. The modern industrial community cannot afford irresponsible action of this kind, lt is a threat to our living standards, while the inflationary effects of unrestrained wage demands could undermine the Government’s full employment policy - a policy which is not confined to the Government but which is adopted by all political parties in Australia. We have evolved new dispute settlement principles and procedures and these were recently agreed upon by my colleague the AttorneyGeneral and myself, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the National Employers Policy Committee. They provide the opportunity for the universal adoption of a formal set of dispute settling procedures. Previously only some awards and agreements had clauses providing procedures of this kind. They cannot operate overnight for they have to be translated into an award or industry or plant procedure throughout Australia. But the pinnacle policy bodies, the NEPC and the ACTU, have negotiated and endorsed them and will now influence their adoption by employers and unions. While not a panacea, they do offer the prospect of great improvement.
Budgetary policy is the major arm of economic policy making. This Budget will play a crucial role in maintaining vigorous and balanced economic growth. But manpower policies and policies in regard to wage fixation, productivity and industrial relations will also have a major part to play. Equally, the attitudes and performance of the working population, from shop floor to board room, and the leadership given by enterprises and unions will be crucial to our future.
In recent times there has been constant use of the terms ‘environment’, ‘pollution* and ‘quality of life’. It is very difficult for anybody to set a definition for any of those terms which would be agreed to by all listeners. It would probably be folly for persons today to assess what will be the quality of life requirements of a community living 2 decades from now. Two factors are constant and can be seen to be constant. The achievement of all these things depends on those 2 constants. One is community attitudes and the other is community wealth. To achieve these things we must have better community attitudes. They are building up. But to translate community attitudes into fact we must have community wealth.
With a fully employed economy, growing as it is at the present time, the way to achieve greater community wealth is by the single method of increased productivity. Productivity affects every single individual, whatever his level in the work force. Throughout any day a great number of people in the work force are taking decisions. We can multiply by many thousands the number who are taking those decisions. If their minds are efficient, if their experience and training suit them for it, the quality of the decision taking will be improved and the productivity performance will be improved. As the numbers in the work force are better trained and as they have a feeling of satisfaction, a feeling of self fulfilment - the fulfilment of their manipulative and intellectual skills - so will our productivity growth in Australia increase. The problems we struggle with are those of affluence and growth, and for that we can be thankful.
Mr STEWART (Lang) 14.401-1 must express my amazement at the speech we have just heard from the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden), who is one of the senior men in the
Liberal-Country Party Government. In his speech on the Budget he spent about 20 minutes talking about productivity and industrial relationships - an economic thesis, perhaps, on why this Budget was brought down. But he made not one attempt to protect the Government’s Budget. He gave no answer to any of the criticism that has been levelled at the Budget, not only by honourable members on this side of the House whom most will accuse of being biased, but by members of the Australian Country Party, Government supporters, newspaper editors, chambers of manufactures, chambers of commerce and primary industry organisations. He made no attempt at all to answer the criticism of the unfairness of the tax reductions that have been announced. He glossed over the whole situation and settled down to blaming the ordinary people of Australia, the workers in industry, for the trouble that confronts this nation at the moment.
The Minister spoke about the need to increase productivity. All of us on this side of the House appreciate the need to increase productivity but we also appreciate the fact that it is the hands and minds of the workers that help to increase this productivity. We also appreciate the fact, and we have done so since 1891, that on very few occasions has any employer organisation offered to share the results of increased productivity amongst the members of its staff. Not one government of the complexion of the Government in office at the moment has ever gone before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission or any other conciliation court to say they believed that the case being put before that court or commission by the employees’ representatives was a case that could be supported. It is no wonder that there is industrial strife when, day in and day out, one can read in the financial pages of the newspapers that companies are making exorbitant profits, that companies have returned capital in bonus shares to their shareholders, and that companies are still making increasingly large profits. Not once- or rarely - have those companies or the people in that industry ever offered to the representatives of the employees a wage or salary increase. The initiative has to be taken by the labour movement and quite often the initiative of the labour movement is rejected by the employers and those people in industry who control the finances. 1 and most of the members on this side of the House would like to see cooperation between the employer and employee, but it is about time the initiative for improved working conditions, increased pay, better compensation allowances, shorter hours and increased annual leave came from the people who run industry, lt should not have to be fought for on every occasion by the representatives of the employees. We have almost reached the stage where, unless the unions use their bargaining power by means of industrial stoppages, they will not get far. particularly when the Government is prepared to enter into national cases and rarely support - it generally opposes - an application put before that court by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. I have said enough about that. 1 think that the people of Australia now realise that without demonstrations and without industrial strife the unions cannot get far. lt is a great pity that these kinds of things have to happen. I would like to see some change in the people that are opposed to the political Labor Party and to the industrial Labor Party; I would like to see those people hold out their hands in friendship towards us. We have been doing that for a long time. We have had to do it. Every worker has to do it. He cannot afford to be too abrupt in bis dealings with management even in times of full employment. lt is up to the Government to ensure that it aims for co-operation between the employers organisations and the employees organisations. If the Government can get co-operation between the employers and the employees, I think it will get sufficient co-operation from the employees to keep increasing our productivity and our wealth.
I turn now to the Budget proper. After listening to the Budget Speech. I am certain that it is not fame but infamy that the Treasurer (Mr Bury) has achieved by this Budget. This document will be remembered for its subterfuges rather than its positive aspects. I am afraid that the Treasurer has missed his golden opportunity; he cannot be regarded now as anything but an unimaginative, stodgy, timid and unimpressive Treasurer. The Budget has failed the pensioners, the low and middle income groups, the farmers, the motor cnr companies, the oil companies and the mothers and fathers of our families. The miserable increase of 50c per week to age, invalid, widow and service pensioners has almost every pensioner and pensioner organisation up in arms. The unfairness of the 10% reduction in income tax for income earners up to $10,000 a year has displeased everybody. The paltry assistance to primary producers has cost untold votes for the Government in country areas. It has not yet dawned on our bucolic friends from the Australian Country Party just how deep the animosity towards this Budget is running. The increase in company tax, sales tax, and excise on petrol has annoyed the management of companies throughout Australia. The failure to increase child endowment payments has been taken by the parents of our children as an indication of the complete and utter disregard of the Government for their problems. It is no wonder that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) was forced to move an amendment to the Budget. I support the amendment, which reads:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘this House condemns this deceptive and negative Budget because it fails to meet the real needs of the Australian people, especially with respect to (a) standards of social service and war pensioners, (b) assistance to schools, hospital and urban authorities and (c) restructuring of stricken primary industries and because it introduces and increases taxes and charges of a regressive and inequitable nature’.
My colleagues on this side of the House, who have spoken or who are to speak in this debate, have pinpointed or will pinpoint the failure of the Government in the matters I have named. I will leave that job to them, whilst I devote my time to highlighting the propensity of the Government to regard itself as being completely above the people. It makes no difference whether the people concerned are scientists, doctors, Opposition members, journalists or ecologists. Once the Government or one of its instrumentalities has made a decision, the Government adopts a ‘holier than thou’ attitude.
The topic I wish to discuss concerns Australia’s use of nuclear power. In his Budget Speech the Treasurer said:
An amount of $2.4 m is provided for expenditure by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission in connection with the proposed nuclear power station at Jervis Bay. A further amount may be required later in the year should there be expen diture under major construction contracts.
The nuclear reactor to be constructed at Jervis Bay is to be the first in Australia. Estimates given by Sir Phillip Baxter, Chairman of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, anticipate the expenditure of at least $5, 000m on atomic power stations by the turn of the century. This range of expenditure cannot be regarded lightly, but the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) is most reluctant to give detailed information on the choice of the site, the investigations carried out, the safety standards laid down, the comparative cost of nuclear generated electricity and thermal generated electricity and many other factors which should be taken into account before a decision of this magnitude is made.
The Government and the Atomic Energy Commission may have this information, but this 1 am inclined to doubt. If they have the information, it should be made available for public scrutiny and discussion. After all, the money to be expended does not belong to the Minister or to any officer of the Commission but to the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. They are entitled to know whether every single factor was considered carefully before the decision was taken. Several scientists, various newspapers, Senator Willesee and I have been endeavouring, during the past few months, to obtain some information from the Government, but we have had little success. We are being treated as if it is none of our business, that we could not possibly know whether the decision was correct. I am prepared to agree that I would not know, but there are many other qualified people in the community who are capable of assessing the information and giving an informed opinion. I therefore expect far greater frankness from the Minister than I have received.
Today I intend to give some examples of evasiveness on the part of the Minister and to pose some specific questions on this matter. I would greatly appreciate a detailed statement from the Minister as soon as posible. Before doing this, I make it quite clear that I am not opposed to Australia using nuclear power. I can see many advantages. I do not begrudge the enormous amount of money involved so long as it can be shown that the decision has been taken after due and proper consideration and not just to satisfy the whim or ambition of an individual.
The decision to construct Australia’s first nuclear reactor was announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in October 1969. The site was to be Jervis Bay, the cost SI 30m and the station would be of 500 megawatt capacity; it would be owned and financed by the Commonwealth and operated by the New South Wales Electricity Commission; the electricity generated would be fed into the New South Wales grid and the long term power requirements of the Australian Capital Territory would be guaranteed; the station was to be in operation in 1975. 1 want the House to remember that the official announcement was made in October 1969. Many of the other details that I have given were released subsequently. From October to June specifications were prepared and issued and tenders returned. The volume of tenders and tender documents, according to the Minister for National Development, was such that they weighed approximately 7 tons. By 23rd August the 7 tenderers had been reduced to 4 - a mighty swift operation for a project originally estimated to cost $130m. This has been done by an organisation which was formed in 1953 and which has not been noted for its speed of action in the past. To add to the mystery of this inordinate haste, preparations on the site at Jervis Bay have commenced already.
The first question I pose is this: Why has this project become so urgent and what has caused this sudden burst of activity on the part of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission? No information as to whether the tenders received were anywhere near the estimate of cost has been given and I believe that the Parliament and the people are entitled to know. On 12th June 1970 I received a reply to a question I put on notice. The question was:
In his reply, the Minister for National Development said:
On 19th August I received an answer to another question on notice. That question was as follows:
What are the comparative (a) capital (b) operating and (c) maintenance costs of SOO MW (i) CANDU and (ii) SGHWR type reactors?
They are the 2 reactors that are at present under consideration, or were favoured before tenders were called. The Minister replied to that question:
Tenders for the Jervis Bay nuclear power station closed on 15th June 1970. They included tenders for the CANDU and SGHWR types but it will not be possible to give accurate up-to-date relative costs for these 2 types until the tenders have been fully evaluated.
Australia is entering on to a project that is likely to cost $5,000m before the year 2000 and contracts are being evaluated, yet the Minister cannot give me specific information on comparative costs between nuclear power stations and conventional power stations. He cannot give me comparative costs for the 2 favoured reactor types- the CANDU and the SGHWR. If I cannot get the information from the Minister I have to look elsewhere for it. I have before me a paper that was prepared by Mr Bruce Ross of the Wollongong University College of New South Wales and which was presented to a conference of Australian and New Zealand economists in Melbourne in May 1970. His paper is entitled ‘Costs of Nuclear Power Stations and Coal-Fired Power Stations in New South Wales’. In it is set forth in a fully documented manner a comparison of costs. Mr Ross was careful to point out that he had to make certain assumptions to reach his figures. He quotes as an example of a coalfired station the Munmorah power station in New South Wales and he gives official figures for the costs of construction, fuel, operating and maintenance. Mr Ross has to rely on estimated figures for the cost of operating a nuclear power station, but in all instances he has taken a conservative figure. For instance, he has estimated the construction cost at $125m which is $5m below the cost estimated by the Government. For the Munmorah power station - the coal-fired station - the capital cost is 122c per kilowatt hour, the fuel cost is 159c per kilowatt hour and the operating and maintenance costs are .100c per kilowatt hour, making a total of .381c per kilowatt hour. He makes a comparison with the CANDU-type reactor and he relies on official statements by authorities and experts in this field for bis figures. The capital cost is .385c per kilowatt hour, the interest on fuel inventory is .008c, the cost of fuel replacement is .091c, the cost of heavy water replacement is .010c and the operating and maintenance costs are .100c, making a total of .594c per kilowatt hour. This is a difference of .213c per kilowatt hour or 55.9% higher than for a conventional coal-fired power station.
Mr Ross also queries the size of the reactor chosen by the Government and quotes a table showing the details of the first power reactor installed by member countries of the International Atomic Energy Agency. His source is the International Atomic Energy Agency ‘Bulletin’ of 1 1th January 1969. With the concurrence of honourable .members I incorporate the table in Hansard:
Mr Ross concludes his paper by saying:
There is probably a good deal of logic, however, in constructing a nuclear power station in Australia to enable local scientists and technicians to obtain familiarity with nuclear techniques. However it Ls doubtful whether a station of 500 MW would be most suitable for this purpose. Table 4 gives details of the first power reactor constructed by member countries of the International Atomic Energy Commission. It is significant that no other country has commenced the nuclear generation of electricity with a station as large as that planned for Jervis Bay.
The justification for choosing a 500 MW unit is. presumably, because this is the mimimum sized nuclear station which can compete economically with coal in most countries, (t has been demonstrated, however, such a station is not competitive in New South Wales.
Under these circumstances the economic criterion should not be the minimisation of unit costs of nuclear generation. Rather it should be the minimisation of the total additional costs of generating electricity following the introduction of a power reactor.
Using this criterion it is likely that the most economic way of introducing nuclear power to Australia would be to construct a smaller nuclear power station in a State with higher conventional generating costs than New South Wales. lt will be appreciated mat I am not in a position to confirm or deny the figures provided by Mr Ross, but the Australian Atomic Energy Commission should be, and I think it is up to the Minister to provide the House with similar estimates prepared by the Commission.
There is one further point that I want to make on the subject of costs, and it is that the Commonwealth is to provide power from the nuclear reactor to New South Wales at no more than the cost of thermal generated power. At .213c per kilowatt hour above the generating costs of thermal power, this means that the Commonwealth will be subsidising electricity users in New South Wales. I have no doubt that when nuclear reactors are installed in the other States the Commonwealth will have to subsidise electricity wherever costs are higher than in thermal generated units. The estimate is that most States will be capable of taking nuclear power by the mid-1980s. The power station at Jervis Bay is expected to come into operation by 1975 so it seems that the Commonwealth will be up for quite an amount in subsidising electricity charges if Mr Ross’s figures are correct. I have not been able to get the information I have been seeking from the Minister through questions so I hope he will supply that information in response to this speech.
In an official document that I have there is mention of the selection of the site at Jervis Bay for the nuclear power station. The selection of the site at Jervis Bay has caused a great deal of anxiety and criticism. According to a paper I have a preliminary survey was made of 15 sites in all. Eight were selected for more detailed investigation. Two of these were in the Australian Capital Territory, 4 in New South Wales - including 1 in the Snowy Mountains - and 2 on Commonwealth Territory at Jervis Bay. On 19th August I asked the Minister for National Development in a question upon notice whether any other sites in the Jervis Bay area were considered and, if so, where. The Minister replied:
Yes. Bristol Point and Scottish Inlet were considered in addition to Murray’s Beach, but were found to be unsuitable on several grounds.
I have had other questions on the notice paper about what sites were investigated and why they were considered to be not as suitable as the Jervis Bay site. I have still not received replies to those questions.
I have asked the Minister for National Development whether he will make available reports on such things as tha geological, hydrological, hydrographical, meteorological, ecological and environmental investigations carried out at each of the sites considered and he told me that these were confidential studies made by the Department. But in answer to a subsequent question he said that these detailed studies were being made. If honourable members look at the notice paper they will see that I have on it a question asking which answer is correct.
Sir Philip Baxter estimates that S5,000m will be spent on nuclear work before the year 2000. There has been much criticism of nuclear power itself and much doubt about safety standards and about whether Jervis Bay is the correct site for a nuclear power station. I have read articles suggesting that our first nuclear power station should be built in South Australia and should be a combined generating and desalination plant. I have here an answer to a question that was asked by Senator Willesee. It states that while the reactors we are looking at now will use natural uranium, certain countries which have used such reactors have now made a change and will not use natural uranium in their nuclear reactors in the future.
So many questions are still to be answered. The only body in Australia which seems to know those answers - and I again query whether it knows them all - is the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Grave doubts have been expressed about this project at Jervis Bay because not sufficient information has been given out by the Commission or by the Government. Surely we have people in the community who can evaluate the information. I do not suggest that I can evaluate it but I think an evaluation should be made available. I suggest to the Minister that consideration be given to referring either to a select committee of this Parliament or a standing committee of the Senate the consideration of such matters as the comparative cost of nuclear and thermal stations, the siting of the power stations, the relation of the first station to planning for the future power needs of Australia, constitutional limitations on the utilisation of nuclear power, the environmental effects of nuclear power stations and Australia’s preparedness for the advent of nuclear technology. All these matters need to be investigated.
Establishment of a nuclear power station is a very big project; it is a project new to Australia; it is a project that not many other countries in the world have undertaken. I am in favour of the introduction of nuclear generated power into Australia and I would say that most members of the Australian Labor Party are in favour of it. But we would like to be assured that the Government has given more consideration to this decision than it gave to the decision to purchase the FIJI or that the New South Wales Government gave to the decision to erect the Opera House.
– During extensive travel of the electorate of Calare during the winter recess it became readily apparent that the 2 things which were concerning the minds of the people most were, firstly, the lack of maintenance of law and order and, secondly, the state of the rural economy. On the first subject I have made my representations directly to the Government. It is to the second subject, the state of the rural economy, that 1 will address my remarks in this Budget debate. I accept and support this Budget only because I accept the assurance categorically given by the Government that it is urgently examining wool growers’ indebtedness and is at the present time trying to find the most effective ways of assisting farmers with their financial problems. lt was apparent from an answer given by the Treasurer (Mr Bury) to a question asked by my colleague the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) in this House last week that he is quite aware of the effect of the present rural recession upon the business community in country areas. Because of that reply by the Treasurer I feel certain that he is looking at this latter problem in an effort to assist if at all possible.
The decrease in personal income tax announced in the Budget fulfils an election promise. In fact it more than fulfils that promise, as was pointed out by the honourable member for Maranoa in his speech on the Budget today. There has been an increase in taxation in other fields. This has been necessitated, no doubt - we have to face it - by the need to find additional funds to pay increased amounts to the States as general revenue and the need for further large sums to meet the bill for education, health services and national welfare generally. 1 know that the Government has been exhorted by a wide field of the population to play its part in curbing inflation. We all know that deficit budgeting fosters inflation. I do not think the Government has ever received appropriate credit for budgeting for a balance or for a small surplus. The Government in this respect has played its part in curbing inflation.
One of the major sources of pressure which is contantly with us in modern Australia is the migration programme. The Government believes, and I am quite sure that the great majority of Australian people believes, that our national birth rate is insufficient to give us a population close to the optimum, whatever that figure may prove to be. It will certainly be a long time before we reach that optimum figure. One beneficial effect of our past migration policies is that our home markets for both primary products and secondary goods in general have been significantly increased and 1 am quite sure that the man on the land realises this. One Minister has stated that these markets have increased by 20%, and this increase is not to be written down in its importance. We know that the home market is our best market nol only for our primary products but for our manufactured goods too.
Although there will always be differences of opinion as to the intensity of the migration programme, there is general agreement in this country on the need for the programme. With a large number of migrants coming into the country every year there has been a great need for work to be found for them. Even when the rural sector of the economy is in good heart and flourishing there is not sufficient call from that source for labour, nor are the skills required for farm and station work in Australia readily available amongst the migrants who have come to this country. I have always supported the Government in the past in its policies arising from the fact that jobs must be found for migrants in the secondary and tertiary sectors. But of course vast industrial growth has been achieved only with the aid of protection for manufacturing industries. 1 have heard reference in the House to-day to the pressures on the provision of services - the millions of dollars required for education, the provision of water supply facilities, the National Health Bill and the provision of power, housing and many other like facilities for the migrants as they come in. These have accelerated a substantial lift in the general cost levels with which the farmer and grazier has to compete in his effort to produce foodstuffs and fibres which he has to sell to buyers outside our own economy.
No one is asked to contemplate a future Australian community composed predominantly of farmers, nor can anyone be asked to accept the concept of a future Australia collecting its foreign exchange from the export of manufactured goods alone. I think we should not be content - there is no sign amongst thinking people of their being content - with another extreme position of an economy based on the frenzied export of the very ground beneath us in the form of mineral wealth. We know full well that for every shovelfull of mineral ore that comes out of the land a vacuum is left. At least the man engaged in primary industry knows that if he does not replenish the original soil he soon goes down. I think that the farmer is doing mighty little to accelerate the rush but between us all we have turned this country into what might be termed a ‘high cost country’. The Australian farmer and grazier with his world acknowledged efficiency - not always acknowledged in Australia - can still look after himself and compete in world trade if he can produce on some real basis rather than on the present kind of hothouse engendered cost basis.
At this point I should like to recall to the House the threat to the very existence of large sections of Australian primary industry as depicted in the statement of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) to the House last week on the consequences for Australian trade of British entry to the European Economic Community.
– You have had 8 years warning.
– And we are still warning. Our high cost structure makes both primary and secondary commodities difficult to sell overseas for the purpose of gaining export income. I say that we should let them both compete from a far more equitable starting point. I know that in the long run we will never assist primary industry by trying to wreck secondary or manufacturing industry which has proved to be successful, but if our policies of protection have provided an unequal opportunity in export markets favouring secondary industry then those policies should be reviewed, not so much as to principle as to degree. There has been agitation and we have heard talk of wage levels and a member of the Opposition asked us to give a friendly hand in lifting wages. I say that you cannot look at the wage level as a cost factor in isolation. The wage level must be balanced against production per man hour or per machine hour. That is the criterion. That is the method which will give us a truer guide to results.
When considering all the demands being made every day for more pay and less work it appears to me to be necessary to remind honourable members that all wealth comes from production. You have to produce it before you can divide it. The cost pressures to which I have referred do not apply only to one sector of the community; they apply to all export industries whether primary or secondary. Over the years the Government, by what it termed compensating policies, has done a tremendous job in counteracting the pressures which have built up. I think that now is an opportune time to remind people of the various features of those compensating policies. In the field of taxation there were concessions, depreciation allowances, investment allowances, zone allowances, sales tax exemptions, various forms of deductions as applying to primary industry, estate duty relief, the averaging provisions, and provisions relating to the carrying forward of losses and the treatment of forced sales. Then there have been bounties and subsidies on superphosphate, nitrogenous fertilisers, dairy products, cotton and on tractors. In addition there was the scheme for the equalisation of petrol prices. All of those things are part of the compensating policies which the Government has implemented over the years to try to level the balance.
Millions of dollars have been spent in research, extension and marketing stabilisation schemes as well as on various forms of drought assistance, the construction of beef roads, the brigalow land development scheme and so on. In the field of trade there have been commodity arrangements, trade agreements and the building Up of the Trade Commissioner Service. But even before this year’s disastrous crash in world wool prices it was seen that the funds allocated in their millions for the implementation of the Government’s compensating policies were not closing the gap and that the primary producer was existing only because of his ability to build up his own efficiency over the years and to turn out more saleable produce. But the odds, as we see now as a result of the drastic wool prices, are too heavily against him. The whole thing has come to a head. The primary producer has responded - magnificently, I think - to the continued calls from experts of all kinds, and plenty of pseudo experts, for increased production. Primary producers are entitled to ask just how much longer they can be expected to continue their efforts without being allowed to retain a larger share of the product of their labours.
I think we have to get back to the concept of the fruits of productive labour, in whatever industry is concerned, going to the maximum extent to those who produce them. Despite the extent of the complementary policies that I enumerated in a small way a moment ago, the gap has not been bridged and we have reached the position in which not even the provisions of an extraordinary Budget, as this one is, with a 55% increase in provisions for rural industry can close the gap. So the Treasurer in his Budget Speech announced a completely new principle which seems to have been lost sight of by a lot of those who rushed in quickly with their criticism of the Budget. The Government has undertaken to examine immediately the matter of the indebtedness of wool growers. I feel sure that the Government is working on it now. The Government will consider ways in which it can most effectively help farmers restructure their debts. Whatever attack we make on this problem we will need not only to hold the present position but also to eliminate increases in costs and to make a concerted drive towards a reduction in costs. After fully acquainting myself with the position of primary industry in my own electorate in particular, and in Aus tralia in general, and after studying the statement of the Minister for Trade and Industry last week on the Common Market, the conclusion which I do not seem to be able to escape- -I do not want to sound too much like the prophet Jeremiah - is that there are rough times ahead for Australia. I said: ‘For Australia’, but the first impact falls as it so often does on the primary industries. This will be only the beginning. If present treads and agitations continue - and apparently only adversity and tough times will stop them - the high cost factor will dampen down still further Australia’s ability to export progressively more costly manufactured goods to progressively shrinking markets eaten away by the impending growth of influence of the European Economic Community.
In the speech of the Minister for Trade and Industry, I think he estimated that eventually up to 70 countries would be influenced to some degree by that group. We all know that there is no future for any country - I include this country - if it fails to earn sufficient foreign exchange. If, as I said, there are troublous times ahead Australian industry as a whole should bear the weight. In all equity and in all fairness the primary industries should not be left to take the full onslaught. Even if we allow for the $30m assistance to wool growers provided in the Budget and all the other provisions such as the devaluation payments, payments for research, promotion and so on, and even if we assume that the impending legislation will have the effect of satisfactorily restructuring the farmers’ debt - whatever that means - and of streamlining marketing procedures and the handling of produce, I think we have only reached a position where a reduced number of farmers will still hold an equity in their properties and remain on them ready to produce and ready to do business. I am quite sure from observation that some commercial enterprises which rely on the prosperity of the rural producer will already have been squeezed out by the time the restructuring takes effect.
The Australian farmer, despite his efficiency - I am speaking quite generally - will still not be in a position to compete in export markets with our present cost position. I say this after hearing, reading and re-reading the statement made by the Minister for Trade and Industry. I think that the Australian public should not underestimate the effect of a collapse of the rural employment situation on both the country and the city. I think that the farm machinery industry is an example of what will come. Not only have skilled workers been retrenched in the country areas and not only have many of these skilled workers gone to compete on the employment market in the city but we also now see skilled operatives put off in their hundreds by major farm implement manufacturers in industrial areas. There is no short term prospect of them coming back into the industry.
I would like to mention here the results of a survey. I mention this only because I know the man who was responsible for collating the material and because I know the circumstances .in which it was collected. It relates to the town of Forbes. It is a typical wheat-sheep town in the Lachlan Valley with a population of between 7,800 and 7,900. These figures have already been made public so I can use them here. In the machinery and car sales field, sales of new farm machinery for the first 6 months of this year compared with the first 6 months of last year were down by 58%. The gross profits from sales of farm machinery were down by 73%. As honourable members know, if there is not much new machinery being sold normally more spare parts will be sold, but even sales of spare parts were down by 24%. Net profits for the first 6 months of this year as against last year were down by 47% and total car sales were down by 25%. Figures supplied by the New South Wales Department of Government Transport show that over the last 5 years the average number of registrations in the town was 40 units a month. In the first 6 months of this year it was down to 27 units a month. In May the figure was 18, in June 20 and in July 18 against the average of 40. I know that the general stores are carrying tremendous sums in book debts. I will not mention them here. These stores in the country have always done this and they have played a remarkable part in the development of the country. Of course, the banks are calling on them for a reduction of their overdrafts too. I know that there are good regular payers in these areas who are now unable to meet their payments and in Forbes they are going to the Rural Reconstruction Board at the rate of 10 to 15 a month.
The Mayor of Parkes, which is a bigger town with a population of about 8,500, points out that it is a large farm machinery distribution centre and yet sales are down there by up to 75%. There is a serious retrenchment of skilled personnel in that town. The building industry is slowing down and this, of course, accelerates the drift to the city. Honourable members should not fall for the trap of looking at the unemployment figures in a country town because as soon as a man loses his job there he leaves. He has to go because there is nothing else for him to do. This is the position in the Lachlan Valley, which had a drought a few years ago but seasonally is not badly off. Its poor position arises from circumstances in the economy. If this is the position in the Lachlan Valley just what must the business sectors of towns and provincial cities in a drought area in Queensland look like?
Much is being said nowadays both inside and outside the Parliament about restructuring the primary industries and I want to make one or two comments on this subject. The term ‘restructuring of debts’ is used but nobody knows the details of this and just what it will mean. Whatever it means, at the best it will provide answers for only some of the people engaged in primary industries and the effects will not be seen quickly. The dairy industry reconstruction plan applying to the Commonwealth and Western Australia is not long on the statute book. There is already a call for something similar to apply to other primary industries. I have heard this call from some people engaged in both the wheat and the wool industries, and the harder hit the area is the more one hears the call. But I take it that the aim is to work towards a size of property which will permit of the optimum output being obtained from an accepted unit of land, plant and machinery. A lot of use is made of the catch phrase: ‘Get big or get out’. To my mind, nothing could be sillier. I have never used the term myself and I do not think that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), to whom this is credited by some people, has ever used it either. I think we will find that it is now coming from the economists.
Anyone who has a reasonable knowledge of rural affairs will quickly bring to mind a number of properties, particularly big properties, in the medium and high rainfall areas which would be a lot more efficient if they were broken down in size still further. Of course, some properties are too small for a living area. We know that. There are a number of factors which govern the size of a living area. They include climate, rainfall, the type of land and the type of production most appropriate to it. I am sure that the amount of labour involved has a very direct bearing on this optimum size because it is one of our greatest problems in the country, ft would be hard to find, in my estimation, a more efficient working group than the single family unit. The Australian Government - whichever government it is - should be warned against any precipitate move which would make it harder for the family unit to continue as the traditional, efficient labour unit in the pastoral and agricultural industries.
– We will take that warning because we will be the next Government.
– The point of view expressed in the interjection coincides with that of Mr Hawke, and the further Mr Hawke proceeds with some of the things he is doing the more my warning will apply. There is quite an amount of talk about long term finance at low rates of interest and I support this objective quite solidly. But for many this will not be enough even to persuade them to start again. I think of the people in Queensland because I feel it is the people in such places who have been hardest hit. Their efforts over the years have helped to put Australia into its present position. What about those who through continuing drought have no income earning asset left except property in the form of a dustbowl. These people will need to be offered a standstill on loan and interest repayments. It will be impossible otherwise for them to service their debts.
The provision of long term finance and the fixing of low interest rates when the finance comes from the Government requires only the will of the Parliament to legislate for it. This sort of finance cannot be expected to come from the private banking sector without Government backing in the form of interest subsidisation. So the task is ahead on all the fronts on which the Government has been fighting. The task is to develop not only our home markets and our export markets but also to proceed with our compensation payments and to carry out the job that we undertook to carry out in the Budget. That job is to look actively at the whole question of the indebtedness of the rural community. As well as the measures included in the Budget, as well as the further financial assistance promised in the Budget and with all the reconstruction that we have promised for primary industry, primary industry itself and the Government must strive not only to hold costs at their present level but to reduce them.
I support the Budget, particularly as lt plans for a small surplus. This is a Budget which has been compiled by the Treasury at a most difficult time in Australia’s economic history. I reject the amendment. I look forward to endeavouring to assist the Government to formulate in detail the further policies promised in the Budget Speech.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I draw your attention to the state of the House because only 1 member of the Liberal Party was present during the course of the last speech and-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member will not continue speaking after drawing attention to the state of the House.
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The point taken by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro is well taken.
-Order! No point of order arises. When the attention of the occupant of the chair is drawn to the state of the House, no comment or speech may be made on that matter. Both the honourable member for Eden-Monaro and the honourable member for Grayndler have been in the House long enough to know that.
– What wa3 the point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker? Was it related to only 1 member of the Liberal Party being in the House?
-Order! The honourable member for Sturt will resume his seat. [Quorum formed]
– The honourable member for Calare (Mr England) said that he supported the Government’s Budget. I reject it wholeheartedly. ] throw all my support behind the amendment that was moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). That amendment reads:
That all words after ‘That’ bc omitted wilh a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘This House condemns this deceptive and negative Budget because it fails lo meet the real needs of the Australian people, expecially with respect to (a) standards of social service and war pensioners, (b) assistance to school, hospital and urban authorities and (c) restructuring of stricken primary industries and because it introduces and increases taxes and charges of a regressive and inequitable nature’.
Just how far this Government has moved away from the needs and the aspirations of the Australian people can best be seen by looking at what has been happening recently concerning the joint report by the States and the Commonwealth on the needs of Australian education. This has been a disgusting situation. The Australian Labor Party for more than 10 years has called for an open and independent inquiry into all aspects of Australian education. We have not had that inquiry. The Government finally did concede that a survey would be taken by State governments, and by itself on behalf of the Australian Territories.
What has come out of that survey? Nothing! it has been regarded as a secret document, lt has not been collated by independent surveyors. The survey has been carried out by the Stale education departments themselves with little assistance from independent authorities outside. lt is disgraceful that so much money is being spent on education these days without any clear understanding on the part of the Australian Government and the State governments as to exactly where that money is going and where it should go. When one considers the amount of money that is being spent on education and when one realises just how inadequate that expenditure is, one comes to the conclusion that the Government deserves the strongest condemnation for not being prepared to reveal to the Australian people and the experts whose business is education just where we are heading in education.
What do we spend on education? We spend 4.2% of our gross national product or a sum of more than SI, 010m per year. How do we know how this money is being spent? Is it being spent in the best interests of the Australian people? We do not know and we will never know, because no report has come from this survey of Australian education needs by the State governments and the Commonwealth Government. It is deplorable that the only information that we will receive from this survey is a summary. What the exact arguments are and what the exact evidence is will be kept concealed from the Australian people, lt is equally deplorable that the State governments have been prepared to act in collusion with the Commonwealth Government in the suppression of this information, lt serves the State governments right, if they are at all sincere about education, that no action has been taken so far as a result of this survey.
If I were to have my say, J would strongly urge every person who is interested in education in Australia, every teacher and the State governments themselves to seek the -release of this report and lo put pressure on the Commonwealth Government to take immediate action. The State governments have received none of the emergency grants which they expected to flow from this survey of Australian education needs. In my opinion, the negative response that they have received from the Commonwealth Government serves them right. Far stronger pressure should be brought to bear upon the Commonwealth Government for the release of this information and for action upon it.
One very fundamental question is involved, I think, in a survey of our educational needs, lt is this: Whose responsibility is education? lt is purely and solely a matter which concerns only the department responsible for education in each State and only the government of each Stale, or is it something which concerns the interests and the welfare of the whole of the Australian people? As far as I am concerned, the latter is the correct argument.
The ancient Romans used to have a very interesting phrase for ‘government’. It was *res publica’, which means ‘that matter which refers to the public’ or ‘that matter which belongs to the public’. That is what government should be. It should be a reflection of what the people want and what the people need. We are not seeing this sort of government in Australia. Government in Australia is the suppression of opinion in the interests of existing governments. Until the Australian people are given full details of what is in this survey of the needs of Australian education, I will continue to protest and the Australian Labor Party will continue to protest in this House.
– What about South Australia? Has it released the report?
– I beg your pardon?
– Is South Australia joining in this conspiracy?
– I shall certainly ask it. If the honourable member for Diamond Valley is concerned as his interjection would indicate, perhaps he will write to South Australia and perhaps he will write also to Sir Henry Bolte and Mr Thompson, the Minister for Education in Victoria. If everybody in this House is concerned with education and where we are going pressure will be put upon the State governments. The members of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party in this House could do their job by putting pressure upon the Minister for Education and Science (Mr N. H. Bowen) and the Prime Minisiter (Mr Gorton) to ensure that this information is made available and that action is taken. Until something very serious is done in the field of education we will see continuing crises, as we have seen for the last 20 years. As far as I can see there is no sign that any of the great problems in education can be solved. Of course, the whole point about the survey of Australian needs is that nobody even knows where we are going and what the problems are. The Australian Labor Party condemns this Government for its refusal to give the necessary assistance to Australian schools. It also condemns the Government for its lack of interest and apathy towards social welfare.
I am not going to traverse the field of pensions again. I think enough has been said about pensions. The honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown) raises his hand to his head and says: ‘Thank God.’ But I think that the Opposition’s case has been put very strongly in this House. We were not disappointed with the pension increase because we knew exactly what it was going to be. On the basis of past actions by the Liberal Government we could predict just how miserly and meagre the Government would be in its social welfare policy. The question of aged people in general does not relate purely to the pension alone. Aged people have a lot of other needs which are still not being given due consideration by this Government. I refer in particular to housing for the aged ill. I have the pleasure to represent an electorate which has one of the largest concentrations of pensioners in Victoria and, indeed; in Australia. It is natural that I should take this interest in the welfare of aged people. Just 2 years ago the waiting list for aged people who wanted to obtain subsidised State housing was a minimum of 5 years for a single unit and a minimum of 6 months for a double or married unit. The situation has not changed very much. The Commonwealth Government has been trying to do some things but as always it is a matter of the Commonwealth coming in and plastering gaps instead of trying to show any real imagination, foresight and understanding of the problem. There is no point in stressing that city councils, shire councils and municipalities can provide housing for the aged if the councils themselves are already going through financial crises, as indeed they are in Australia.
It is not unnatural that the hope the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) has placed in councils to provide housing for the aged since 1967 has been entirely pointless. In 1967 the aged persons homes scheme was amended in such a way that it was possible for city councils to provide housing for the aged. The Commonwealth subsidised on a $2 for $1 basis city councils and shire councils which were prepared to provide accommodation for the aged. Just how futile this policy has been can be quickly seen from the small number of councils which have responded to it. Over the last 3 years a total of 9 councils throughout Australia have contributed to accommodation for the aged. The total number of people accommodated in housing provided by city councils has been 65. This is a mark of just how irrelevant some of the policies of the Liberal Party are when they are based on foundations with are not secure. Since 1967 accommodation has been provided for 65 people by 9 councils. lt is interesting to see this situation against the background of the number of councils in Australia. For example in Victoria only 2 councils have responded to the offer of assistance by the Commonwealth to subsidise them in providing accommodation for the aged. They are the Moorabbin City Council and the Oakleigh City Council. The total number of councils in Victoria is 210. In New South Wales only 2 councils have joined in this scheme. They are the Gloucester Shire Council and the Manilla Shire Council. The number of councils in New South Wales is 224. In South Australia no local government body has yet participated. In Queensland 4 city councils have joined in and in Western Australia the shire of Koorda is the only one to have joined in. So far in Tasmania no local government body has participated. This is a mark of just how futile it is to rely upon city councils when they are in such desperate financial straits, ft is a mark also of the senselessness and the inequity of Liberal policy which relies upon city councils. Some city councils are well off. These are the ones which may be able to afford to join the scheme, but obviously they have not done so either. Some city councils arc poorly off and they could not join in, unless there were progressive representatives on the councils. My own view is that council government is one of the ideal areas in which an active role can be played in social welfare. But obviously something has gone disastrously wrong in this situation over the last 3 years.
One other aspect of the problems of the aged is the crisis that is facing government nursing homes in the States. A very deplorable situation is developing in the care of the aged, the ill and the infirm, particularly in Victoria. The future looks very grim when one considers that it is most unlikely that people on the growing waiting lists for accommodation in State nursing homes can be accommodated. The relationships between the State govern ments and the Commonwealth Government over recent years have been so bad that it is not possible to hope that sufficient moneys will be provided for State governments to provide the nursing home accommodation that aged and ill people require. At present in the State of Victoria 7,992 beds are provided for aged, ill and infirm people. This figure breaks down to a ratio of 3 beds provided by the State Government, 3 beds provided by business enterprise nursing homes and 1 bed provided by charitable and religious organisations. One thing is very worrying about all this. Not enough money is being provided for State governments to provide State nursing attention for the aged, ill and infirm. A part of the problem is, of course, the poverty of State governments and the whole pattern of subsidy which has grown up over recent years for the accommodation provided by State governments. Until the Commonwealth Government is prepared to pay greater amounts of money in direct grants to the State of Victoria and until it is prepared to change its system of subsidy to a more liberal form the waiting lists in Victoria will continue to grow and aged people will be forced to rely on private nursing homes whose main motive in providing this accommodation is their own profit. This is very worrying to me because in my electorate where there are 2 of Australia’s best nursing homes and hospitals, already the total number of people on the waiting list is over 500 and this number is growing each year.
– There is a 3-year waiting list at the Mount Royal in Victoria.
– That is right. In my own electorate there is a waiting list of 18 months to 2 years, and this is the normal thing in Victoria. While these people are on the waiting list their mental and physical health is deteriorating. Many of them - it is tragic to say - are dying simply because the Government refuses to recognise ils responsibility and simply because those requiring accommodation have become victims of conflict between the State of Victoria and the Commonwealth Government.
I would like lo mention once again - and this is a subject which I have brought up on a number of occasions in this House - the breakdown in relations between Victoria and the Commonwealth
Government over assistance for State nursing homes and institutions, paramedical services and home care services. I have been looking at the Budget estimates of expenditure this year and the amount that has already been spent in accordance with legislation introduced last year to provide Commonwealth participation in a comprehensive plan of welfare for the aged and infirm. Honourable members will recall the States Grants (Paramedical Services) Act 1969, the States Grants (Home Care) Act 1969 and the States Grants (Nursing Homes) Act 1969. My information is that the Victorian Government has still not agreed to participate in this programme. This is despite the fact that there are thousands of aged persons in Victoria desperately in need of accommodation, desperately in need of home nursing assistance, desperately in need of assistance from physiotherapists and chiropodists and other paramedical assistance. As far as I know Victoria still refuses to co-operate in this scheme.
The scheme was actually brought in early last year. It was discussed by the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) in February. It should have come into operation from June 1969 but when one looks at the figures to see exactly what has been spent so far over the past year one sees a most disappointing and dismal picture because only a very tiny amount has been spent on home care services in Queensland and on senior citizen centres in South Australia. There has been a whole year in which the Government could have given this assistance - limited though it may be - to the States. When one looks at the estimates of expenditure for next year - and I advise honourable members to do this - one will see that the assistance offered by the Commonwealth is insignificant. This is amazing because part of the Commonwealth plan, whilst it is certainly good in intention and good in philosophy, is aimed at taking notice of current changes in the philosophy of care of the aged. One of the most important things that thinkers on this subject are beginning to realise is that it is very important for aged people to be able to remain in their own homes rather than be placed in institutions. On a comparison of the amount to be spent next year on such things as paramedical services in the home, senior citizen centres and the provi sion of welfare officers one will see that the Government has still really not gone very far beyond the old philosophy of putting aged people into institutions and keeping them there.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was criticising the Government’s policy towards the provision of care for the aged, ill and infirm. I was describing what I regarded as an abdication of responsibility in this field. I said that I thought it was disgusting that the Government was giving such small support to the provision of State nursing home attention to the aged, ill and infirm. In fact, the Government’s whole policy has been to provide minimal assistance in this field, and to allow private enterprise to come in on the basis of profit motive. The effect of this policy can be only to provide inferior services in many cases. In fact the service is so regarded by officials concerned with the problem.
If an aged, ill or infirm person is forced, due to the lack of State nursing home facilities, to go into a private nursing home, in many cases that person will find that the essential paramedical services, such as occupational therapy, speech therapy and chiropody are just not available. So far as I am concerned there is something fundamentally wrong with the Government’s order of priorities. If it is prepared to allow the extension of private intervention in this field in coming years, people who are in need of medical assistance will find in many cases that the services are inferior. In my view no institution can provide nursing home assistance as good as that which is provided by State nursing homes or many of the religious, charitable and voluntary organisations.
Another thing which is very disturbing is the fact that private nursing home attention is very expensive. It is disturbing to me that private organisations are now being listed on the stock exchange and are bringing in quite good profits. In many cases it is being stated that private nursing home businesses can expect a return of from 12% to 15%, which is a good return in any man’s language. It is not surprising that even beer companies are financing private nursing homes. A person requiring attention in a private nursing home can expect to pay at least $50 a week these days and the price can be as high as $80, $90 or $100. When we consider the pensioner whose sole income is the pension, it becomes quite obvious that many of the aged people of Australia are simply debarred from getting the attention that is their right.
I do not see a bright future for State nursing homes. I have 2 nursing homes in my electorate. They are the best in Victoria and among the best in Australia. But I cannot see much possibility of an extension of these services in other areas because the Commonwealth’s policy simply will not allow it. The Commonwealth will offer assistance for capital expenditure, but the real problem in providing nursing homes is the maintenance costs - the cost of running the homes, lt is all very well to offer the money to put up a building, but it is necessary also to finance the continued running of that building. These costs are extremely high. At present a nursing home can expect a minimum - originally from Commonwealth sources - of about $52 per week. This amount includes the pension of $15, but very few State nursing homes with to take the whole of the pension. In addition, if an intensive nursing care benefit of $5 per day is provided an additional $35 per week is available bringing the total to $52 per week. Sometimes a supplementary allowance of $2 per day is provided. If the intensive nursing care benefit of $5 is provided, in many cases the benefit of $2 for ambulatory cases is provided also. But that is by no means enough. The sad fact about this system of subsidies is that, as a maximum, only onethird of the people receiving attention in State nursing homes are receiving the intensive care benefit of $5.
What are the costs of running a State nursing home? I have looked at some figures for the hospital in my home town of Bendigo for 1968-69 and I have found that the average weekly cost of maintaining a patient was $58.66. These costs have been rising and will no doubt rise again this year. Tn Castlemaine the cost of maintaining a patient was $51.94 a week during 1968-69. So one can see that even if a nursing home receives the maximum benefit of $5 per day for an intensive care patient, this is not enough. I remind honourable members that at a maximum only one-third of the people receiving attention in State nursing homes are receiving this benefit. The Victorian Minister for Health has said that about 80% of people in nursing homes are not getting the maximum benefit of $5 but in fact are getting $2, so it becomes impossible to run the Slate nursing homes.
The alternative means of providing attention for aged, ill and infirm people are the city councils, voluntary bodies or the organisations which are run with profit as their principal motive. I was speaking earlier about how little response there hud been over the last 3 years to the Commonwealth’s offer of assistance to city councils to provide attention of this kind. I think I said that about 65 people had received accommodation as a result of the Commonwealth’s policy in this area over the last 3 years. In other words, about 2 people per month are receiving accommodation from councils. But the voluntary, charitable and religious bodies are in exactly the same sort of position. Indeed, in some cases they are in a worse position than the State-run nursing homes because they have the same sorts of problems but cannot expect the same generosity from a State government. So I do not see much future there. The sad and tragic fact is that there will be a continued increase of investment by private organisations in the field of nursing home care. So far as I am concerned, this in itself is a clear indication of what Liberalism stands for.
The interest of the Liberal Party is not primarily in the welfare of the people: it is not primarily in the aim of providing the Government assistance to which we in the Australian Labor Party believe the people are entitled. Its concern - I cannot see any other explanation for it - is to allow private investment organisations to come into the field of nursing home assistance with the aim of increasing their profits. It is all very well for Government supporters to look at the situation and to say that it is a problem of relations between the Commonwealth and the States, that the Government does not really wish to abdicate this field, but the plain and simple fact is that the Government is abdicating the field. 1 remind honourable members opposite that it is their responsibility as they are in government in Australia. The majority of States also have Liberal governments. You are the people who have let the aged people down. On this ground alone the Government deserves rejection and, if the Government has confidence in itself and the confidence that it says it has in public opinion, I challenge it to take up the Opposition’s request to test public opinion. I support the amendment condemning the Budget.
– I intend tonight to take a somewhat broader view of the Budget than was taken by the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy). I should like to begin by referring to a statement by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in opening this debate for the Opposition last Tuesday night. He said: ‘We reject the philosophy behind the Budget.’ This does not surprise me in the slightest because, as I am sure everybody in the Australian community would know, the Leader of the Opposition is a Socialist. He and his party believe in nationalisation. In fact, if we were to examine the platform of the Australian Labor Party we could only come to the conclusion that it reeks of Socialism and nationalisation. Therefore, one would expect that it would reject the philosophy behind the Budget which was brought down by the Treasurer (Mr Bury) last week.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Am I to take it from the recent remarks of the PostmasterGeneral that he should not in fact be the head of a national organisation?
– The honourable member for Sturt has taken 3 points of order during the debate which have had no relevance to the debate. I warn the honourable member for Sturt not to take any more irrelevant points of order.
– I should not have thought that I would have been able to get under the skin of the honourable member for Sturt so early in my remarks this evening, Mr Deputy Speaker. The remarks of the Leader of the Opposition on Tuesday night were destructive and not constructive criticism. I do not know of any honourable member on this side of the House who has rejected the idea of constructive criticism of measures brought forward by the Government in the form of a budget or in legislation. The Leader of the Opposition and the Leaders of the Opposition before him during the last 20 years have had many an opportunity of testing their philosophies before the people. Twenty or 21 budgets have been brought down in this House since I first became a member of Parliament and many general elections have been held, and on every occasion that the Australian Labor Party has been before the people in that time the people have rejected its philosophies, if you can call them that.
I think it is a rather ridiculous suggestion to make that there should be another general election. I have known of occasions when the Opposition has adopted the attitude that it is a waste of money to hold a general election before the 3-year term of the Parliament has expired and that the Government should not contemplate doing so. We now find that 8 months after the last general election the Leader of the Opposition is suggesting something of this nature. However, the electors of Australia are quite used to the Opposition holding out all sorts of baits to them on the occasions I have mentioned, namely, during an election campaign and after the bringing down of a Budget by the Government. This was the case last Tuesday night. Those people who were able to understand the gabble that the Leader of the Opposition indulged in for approximately an hour would appreciate that it was nothing more than an indication of the Socialistic type of policy which he and his Party would in fact introduce in this House if they were to occupy the Treasury bench.
Those people who listened to what the Leader of the Opposition had to say on Tuesday night would be entitled to ask what is the Budget philosophy of the Labor Party and, what is more important, what is the economic policy of the Labor Party. The Labor Party has been in Opposition for 20 years. It has in the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) a person who has concentrated on economic matters during the whole of that period. I would have thought that in those circumstances the Labor Party would have had a policy which it could put before the Parliament and the people of Australia, but its policy has never been evident in the speeches which I have heard.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke about his belief - as he did in the last election campaign - in the nationalisation of health services in the country. He indicated the broad attitude of the Labor Party to education, regardless of the fact that education is basically the responsibility of the States. He also gave us his views in regard to defence, housing, local government authorities and matters concerning rural industry. 1 have in front of me the policy speech of the Leader of the Opposition in the last general election campaign. It is interesting to refer to it to see what he had to say about primary industry. His remarks occupy less than 2 pages. In relation to wool - and this is something on which he was critical of the Government because it had included $3 Om in the Budget to assist the wool industry - he said:
After consultation with the industry, it would be-
That is, the Australian Labor Party - prepared to implement an effective minimum plan to safeguard this group.
Those words are underlined in his policy speech. If the Leader of the Opposition can prove to the people of Australia that that is in fact an acceptable statement of policy I will eat my hat. lt is not an acceptable statement of policy. I do not believe that the Leader of the Opposition had any justification for criticising the Government for its actions after it had consulted with the wool industry. This is a first measure towards meeting the problems which the industry is facing at present.
The Leader of the Opposition said that there should be a re-allocation of the moneys which the Government will receive by way of taxation. He asked: ‘Where is trie money coming from?’ lt is fairly obvious that the Leader of the Opposition had in mind expenditures greater than those contained in the present Budget, but he did not indicate exactly what they were. He has never mentioned publicly what are his real policies. He has never stated what is the cost of this, that or the other proposal which he has put forward in his policy speeches. He is not game to mention it because the cost would be so astronomical that the people of Australia would react violently against his proposals. 1 am prepared to have a look at the Budget in the broad for a moment or two. t shall examine it in the broad because it would be impossible for me to go through all the details in the time available. An examination of the Budget will reveal that 36% of the proposed expenditure will go to the States; 14% has been allocated to defence purposes; 23% to expenditure on national welfare and repatriation measures; and 2% to external aid. This represents 75% of the proposed total Budget expenditure. Is it in the mind of the Leader of the Opposition that there should be some re-allocation within those areas? If it is. I think he should have indicated what sort of re-allocations he has in mind. By how much would he reduce defence expenditure to provide money for something else? How much would he provide in Other areas? Would be reduce the amount which has been allocated to the States? It would be interesting to know whether he would do so because he has been saying for years that the Commonwealth Government does not make sufficient money available lo the State governments for their purposes. He said exactly the same thing on Tuesday night.
The additional areas of assistance to industry and expenditure on the Territories, education, the Austraiian Broadcasting Commission, Aboriginals, research and immigration - all of which I believe are essential items of expenditure which the Government must undertake - represent 10% of the proposed total Budget expenditure. The proposed expenditure on capital works and advances is 9% of the Budget and departmental administration expenses are 6%. The total represents 100% of the proposed Budget expenditure of $7, 882m. No-one on the Opposition side of the House has indicated to any degree whatsoever what sort of reallocation should be made and what additional expenditure the Opposition would incur over and above a balanced budget, which this Budget is - and of course that additional expenditure would require increased taxation. The very reason why the Leader of the Opposition is not prepared to indicate what the additional costs would he is because he is not prepared to stand up to public examination in relation to the additional taxation which would be required.
Having introduced my remarks in that way, 1 turn to what I regard as the role of the Budget and. in conjunction with it. the economic growth of the Australian community in recent times. Some people see the Budget from the point of view of the cargo cult. This point of view is invariably linked with calls for more and more spending in all directions and less taxation. Where the money is to come from is someone else’s problem. I would suggest that the Leader of the Opposition indicated quite clearly on Tuesday night that he is a member of the cargo cult. However, the Government cannot embrace this philosophy or look at things from such an irresponsible viewpoint. As well as being a vehicle for achieving major social and developmental aims, the Budget must be attuned to what is possible in terms of the available resources. Disregard of that essential criterion of Budget framing can only lead to raging inflation of an unprecedented order. The Government therefore must act responsibly. It must judge by how much each year Commonwealth spending should rise and by how much the level of taxation should be varied in consequence. Basic to that judgment must be an assessment of the overall impact of the Budget on the economy. In brief, the Budget must blend in with other forces at work in the economy so as to produce conditions most favourable to Australia’s long term growth and development.
Within that framework the role of the Budget each year is to direct a reasonable allocation of the nation’s resources towards meeting social, developmental, defence and other aims. The Budget subventions these days are massive, and concentration on the increase in any particular year can give a distorted view. The fact is that in 1970-71 Commonwealth expenditures are estimated to total $7,833m - equivalent to nearly one-quarter of gross national expenditure. The Budget therefore has a major allocational role within the public sector as well as between the public and private sectors. In different years the emphasis might differ. In 1970-71, for example, the really big increase in spending is in payments to the States, but with large increases also in other main areas of spending. But, as always, the necessary funds have to be secured, and here the Government has to act responsibly. The fact that some commentators have labelled the Budget as slightly deflationary and others have labelled it as inflationary suggests that on balance the Government’s judgment of the appropriate overall Budget framework is one with which reasonable and well informed people would not seriously quarrel.
This Budget is one in a continuing series. It carries on the work of its predecessors in setting the stage for strong, sound, balanced growth in conditions of full employment. The extent to which Australia’s economic performance in recent years has outrun earlier expectations is not fully appreciated everywhere. We have come to accept that a high standard of economic management is to be expected from the Government. One example of the way earlier expectations have been bettered might be cited. In 1965 the Vernon Committee, in its report, suggested that the Government should aim for a rate of growth of 5% per annum. But the Committee said: . . a rate of growth of 5% per annum will not be easy to achieve. We therefore regard it as a ‘high’ rate of economic growth for Australia, but not too high a rate to be a reasonable goal for policies designed to achieve the stated economic objectives.
I place on record what has actually happened. I merely give the percentage increases in gross national product at constant prices from the year ended 30th June 1963 through to the year ended 30th June 1970. The figures for those years are 6.9%, 6.7%, 7%, 1.7%, 6.1%, 3.9%, 8.6% and 5.5%. For the 8 year period the average annual increase was 5.8% as against what was suggested by the Vernon Committee, namely, 5% as representing a high rate of growth.
So, since the downturn in the early 1960s the economy has outperformed not only its record in the 1950s but also the high’ rate of growth suggested as an objective by the Vernon Committee. What is more, this occurred despite the extremely serious droughts in 1965-66 and 1967-68 and the setback to rural industry in 1969-70. The effects of the downturn in the farm sector in those 3 years are obvious from the figures I have read out. However, the non-farm sector grew strongly year by year and virtually without pause throughout the period covered by those figures. Of particular significance is the fact that the economy grew by 5.5% in 1969-70, despite the rural industry setback. It is exepcted to grow by about 5.5% again in 1970-71; but a better performance would have been predicted had it not been for the spread of drought conditions again.
Throughout this period of growth the economy remained reasonably well balanced. Despite rapid growth in the labour force, unemployment remained low and tendencies for the economy to veer off in an unwanted direction were corrected by minor and non-disrupting fiscal and monetary policy measures - not a severe credit restriction, as was suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. There has been, it is true, some tendency for inflationary pressures to persit. These are difficult to eradicate entirely in a situation in which pressures for increases in wages and other incomes are intense. Looking ahead, we can expect the labour force to grow by some 2.5% per annum in the next decade, and provided we continue to manage our affairs responsibly - that is a vital proviso -productivity should continue to rise at 2.5% to 3% annually. Continued good growth of the order seen in the 1960s - that is 5% to 6% annually - is thus very much on the cards. But growth could be jeopardised by irresponsibility on the part of those framing the Budget.
The domestic economy’s excellent past performance and outlook are parallelled on the external front, where Australia’s balance of payments has been strong and promises to continue to be strong. Exports have increased at an annual rate of 8% during the past decade to a level of almost $4,000m in 1969-70, while imports have grown at an annual rate of 7% to reach about$3,600m in 1969-70. This improvement in our trading position, which has become much more noticeable in the past 2 years, owes a good deal to the success of economic policy in maintaining a relatively high degree of domestic cost and price stability.
An important counterpart of the improvement in the overall trading position has been the significant change in the composition of Australia’s trade. Exports of minerals and manufactures, which represented less than 25% of total exports only 5 years ago, accounted for about 45% of the total in 1969-70. Over the same period rural exports, which with a few exceptions - notably meat - have faced steadily deteriorating marketing conditions, have declined from almost three-quarters to one-half of total exports. Meanwhile, the largest single item in our import bill - petroleum - is about to be substantially reduced by increasing domestic crude oil production. These structural changes will increase the strength of the balance of payments.
The opportunities opened up by widespread natural resource discoveries, together with the relative stability of the domes tic economy, havegivenadded impetus to the inflow of capitalto Australia. In the second half of the 1960s capital inflow amounted to $4,700m, compared with $2,400m in the previous 5 years. The continuance of rapid economic growth will require further increases in the flow of overseas capital to Ausatralia. Over the 1960s as a whole, net apparent capital inflow has more than covered the deficit on the current account of the balance of payments. Australia has added more than $500m to its official reserve assets over this period. The growing strength of the trading position and the attractiveness of Australia to overseas investors point tobrighter balance of payments prospects at the beginning of the 1970s than was the case 10 years ago.
Now I would like to make a few comments in relation to one or two aspects of the Budget which particularly concern taxation in the first place. 1 use as a backdrop to my comments in regard to taxation the Budget of 1964, when the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) was the Leader of the Opposition. That was a Budget in which a 5% reduction in direct taxation which had been given in 1952 was removed. The right honourable member for Melbourne made this comment in 1964:
Because there has been no change in the tax schedule the impact and incidence of taxation has changed vastly … It has changed constantly and consistently to the detriment of those on lower incomes … He has not attempted–
He was speaking of the then Treasurer- to make any radical change which would obtain equity for the great majority of Australian taxpayers.
The right honourable member for Melbourne said something similar in 1965 when there was a 21/2% addition to taxation in that Budget. What he said then was something similar to these words uttered by the Leader of the Opposition on Tuesday night: we are no nearer . . . justice and equity in personal taxation, no nearer that fairer redistribution of wealth and fairer distribution of burdens which should be one of the prime objects of taxation in an enlightened community.
What happened in relation to taxation in this Budget? I remind the public and honourable members that the reduction is 10% up to a taxable income of $10,000. It then tapers to reach 4.4% at $20,000 and, continuing the taper, it becomes nil at $32,000. The Government had undertaken to amend personal income tax so as to give significant relief from this form of taxation which had been growing more rapidly than other forms. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) stated in his policy speech last year that we would aim: so to reduce personal tax, over the three year period beginning with the next Budget-
That is this Budget now before the Parliament - that at the end of that time we will be providing relief, lo lower and middle income earners, of $200m as compared wilh the amounts which would be payable by them under the present income tax structure. it was mentioned that a reduction of $228m is made in the Budget but with adjustments this will reach $289m. This was confirmed by the Leader of the Opposition. But that is not the end of the matter .There are 2 other points I would like to mention. Firstly, the promise was for relief of $200m a year by the end of 3 years from now. Allowing for growth in incomes in the next 3 years, whether from growth in the number of income earners or growth in average incomes, there is no doubt that the difference in annual yield from the old and the new scales will greatly exceed S289m. If trends in employment and earnings continue, in 3 years time the annual cost of the new scale could well have grown from $289m to over $400m. On that basis of escalation it is expected that within the 3-year period there will be a reduction of taxation to these people under the $32,000 taxable income amounting in total to $l,000m. If in fact we had carried out the policy, as newspapers expected us to do, of a third each year over the 3-year period this would not have amounted to more than $400m. So there is great benefit to the Australian people because we have implemented in this first Budget the policy which the Prime Minister announced last year.
The Leader of the Opposition took objection to what we have done in this regard. I will remind honourable members of what the Leader of the Opposition said in his Budget speech 12 months ago. He said:
Why should it be beyond the wit of the Government to devise modifications which redistribute the burden without loss of revenue?
In other words, he believes that we should increase other taxes so as to permit reductions of personal income tax rates. That, of course, is what we have done. The new impositions are on what one might regard as items which can be selected by individuals and for which they are entirely responsible.
I move on now to social welfare. I know that the Government is being criticised because the addition to the pension is only 50c. Sir, I point out to the House that over the last 5 years the increases have been $3.50 for a single pensioner and $5,50 for a married pensioner couple. If increases in the consumer price index had been applied the increase over that 5-year period would have been $2 and $3.70 respectively for a single pensioner and a married pensioner couple. If we go back to 1949 and 1950 when we came into office and formed a Government we note that by merely following the consumer price index the pension today would be $10.25 for a single person and $20.50 for a married couple. Today it is $5.25 and $7 more respectively for those groups than the consumer price index would suggest.
But we have to take other factors into consideration because this Government has introduced a number of social service measures which I believe have been of tremendous value to the pensioner group within the community and tremendously costly to the Australian public. These arc, if I might briefly mention them, aged peoples’ homes, free medical benefits, free hospital benefits, mother and guardians allowances for widows, single age or invalid pensioners with dependent children, supplementary assistance for single pensioners paying rent or board, subsidies for Meals on Wheels, a comprehensive home care programme, allowances for education for pensioners’ children up to 21 years, and telephone rental and radio and television concessions. Pensioners receive for the concession rate of $4 a combined viewing licence which costs ordinary people $20 a year. The total cost of all the items I mentioned is in the vicinity of $140m to S150m per annum and that is approximately 20% of the total cash payment to pensioners. If we were to calculate 20% of the total cost of approximately $800m, it represents, on average, for a married couple, an additional $5.50 per week and for a single person an additional $3.10 per week.
Therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, I suggest that the Government, in presenting this Budget to the Parliament and to the people of Australia, has shown a very high degree of responsibility. 1 believe that the people of this country will reject what the Leader of the Opposition said on Tuesday night and which was given great prominence in the Press. It is not to be expected that, in a developing community such as Australia, with 12.5 million people spread over 3 million square miles of country, with 54% of our population living in 6 capital cities, high expenditure on the development of Australia’s natural resources is avoidable. I believe it is essential that the Government take from the people, by way of taxation, sufficient resources to carry out, with due economy being applied, the essential things which should be done. We should leave in the hands of the taxpaying public of Australia the maximum that is possible for them to use in the way in which they believe they should use it. We should not adopt the policy which the Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party adopt, which is to take the maximum from the taxpayer, let governments spend it and then let the people have an absolute minimum of their own.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, we have listened to the usual dreary speech from our Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme). Not only was it a dreary speech but also it was not a factual speech. I want to take the PostmasterGeneral to task one one particular point. He said that this Government had a mandate from the people of Australia because it was elected by the majority of the people. Let us look at the facts. The Liberal Party polled 2,126.987 votes in the last election. Cockies Corner polled-
– Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Newcastle reframe that term.
– If the term Cockies Corner’ is objectionable to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will refer to the Country Party. The Country Party polled 523,242 votes, making a total of 2,750,229 votes for the Government parties. The Australian Labor Party polled 2,870,792 votes. 1 ask honourable members to work out who received the most votes. It is obvious that the Labor Party polled more votes than the Government parties. The majority of the people in Australia voted for us. More people in Australia vote for the Australian Labor Party than for any other party in this Parliament. These facts can be checked with the Chief Electoral Officer’s report for the last election. So much for that.
I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) to the motion for the second reading of the Appropriation Bill (No. 1). Not only do I support the proposed amendment. I go further and congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on the excellent speech he delivered here last Tuesday night. It was a clear analysis of the phoney Budget which has been presented by this Government. I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on the way in which he has gone about his task as Leader in the last 3i or 4 years. He has continually caused the Government great concern. Supporters of the Government have spent a great deal of time trying to deride him. They have set out in every possible way to undermine him. The sum total of their efforts was shown in the last election results. The Government went to the people with a record majority, but just scrambled home.
The voting figures I cited a moment ago clearly establish that the people of Australia would prefer an Australian Labor Party government to be in control in the Federal Parliament. It was only as a result of the gerrymandering of electorates by the Country Party so that country members represent about 10,000 to 15,000 people fewer than members in city electorates that the Government was able to hold ils position. Another aiding factor was the donkey vote, as was clearly shown in Mr Speaker’s electorate. Late preferences in absentee and postal votes enabled Mr Speaker to defeat our candidate in the last couple of days of counting. A similar position applied in the electorates of Lilley, Griffiths, Evans and Lowe. A study of these facts and figures reveals a clear picture. The Government was fortunate to survive. We had the numbers; unfortunately the Government won the seats. That is the situation that faces us today.
The Budget has been referred to by the majority of the Press as a give and take Budget. I would reverse the description and call it a take and give Budget; the Government takes much and gives very little. In particular it gives very little to those people who really need it. In recent years I have not said much about pensioners, but 1 want to say a few words now about the miserly pension paid to aged people. widows, invalids and recipients of service and repatriation pensions. For some years now in this place I have listened to various Ministers for Social Services, various Treasurers and Government supporters talk about the great amount of money paid by this Government for social services. But they overlook the fact that the number of pensioners today is much greater than it was in 1949 when the Labor Government was defeated. They have also failed to take into consideration the serious inflation which the Government has permitted and encouraged in this country. There are more pensioners today because there are more people in this country. The Government is paying more in pensions today for the simple reason that we have had serious inflation for the past 20 years.
Let us get back to facts and figures and compare like with like. The Chifley Government was defeated in 1949. That Government was paying to pensioners a pension equal to 24% of the average weekly earnings of that time. If pensioners were to receive today the same percentage of the present average weekly earnings, which at last review was $74.70, they would be receiving $1.8 a week as against the miserable $15.50 which will be paid to them in October after the appropriate legislation is passed by the Parliament. On the same basis, married pensioners would be receiving $36 a week as against the miserly S27.50 they will be paid in October. When Government supporters refer to the great sums of money that are being paid in social service and repatriation pensions I ask them to take that calculation into consideration.
If the Government wishes to maintain the purchasing power of pensioners at the level established by a Labor Government it will immediately grant an increase to single pensioners to bring their pension to $18 a week, and will increase the pension payable to married pensioner couples to $36 a week. That calculation takes no account of increased productivity which has taken place. I concede that productivity has increased in this country. Why are the social service and repatriation pensioners not entitled to some benefits from increased productivity?
The cost of living has greatly increased since the last increase in pensions was granted in October last year. It has increased by approximately 3i%. The nig gardly 50c increase which the Treasurer (Mr Bury) has granted in pensions in this Budget accounts only for the increase of 3i% in the cost of living. No attention has been paid to expected price increases in the next 12 months. This Government has never been prepared to bring down supplementary Budgets to give pensioners anything. All it is prepared to do is to bring down supplementary Budgets which take money away from people through increases in taxation and excise and charges of that nature. As I said, this increase in pensions will simply keep pace with the increase of 3i% in the cost of living which has taken place in the period of 8 months since the last increase in pensions.
The minimum increase in pensions that should have been granted is $1 a week. I think pensioners would have been satisfied to receive an increase of $1 a week, but even that would not properly keep pace with increasing costs. I would not know how the statisticians arrive at that figure of 3J-% as the increase in the cost of living in the last 8 months. If you talk to any woman in the community she will tell you that prices are increasing alarmingly. Name any commodity, and you will find that its cost has increased.
There are other matters in the social services field which need serious and immediate attention. I refer for example lo the miserly sum of $7 a week paid as a wife’s allowance. I ask any honourable member opposite to indicate how he would keep himself and a wife on a pension of $15.50, which is the amount to be paid each week to a single pensioner, plus S7 as an allowance for his wife. If any honourable member opposite can demonstrate to me how a couple can live today on $22.50 a week I will go quietly. That is the best I can say. Why does not the Government bring down this week legislation to improve social service benefits? Why should a woman, just because she is not of pensionable age, be deprived of a reasonable income? I do not consider the pension paid today as reasonable. I do not want to be led astray or misunderstood. The Treasurer is in the chamber at the moment and I ask him to do something urgently about the anomaly that exists in the Social Services Act.
Another bad feature of the social service system is that if a husband is 65 years of age and is not classified as permanently incapacitated for work, his wife does not receive the weekly supplementary assistance of S7. She has to wait until her husband reaches 70 years of age before she qualifies automatically for the supplementary assistance, unless a doctor is prepared to certify that her husband would be entitled in normal circumstances to an invalid pension during the period from his 65th to his 70th birthday.
We have heard a lot of talk about relaxing and abolishing the means test. What we should be working for is a much greater increase in the base rate of pension and the elimination of anomalies such as that to which I have just referred. Another awkward facet of social service legislation is the supplementary assistance paid to single pensioners providing they have separate income of less than $3 a week or, under the merged means test, have a commensurate amount of assets. No consideration is given to married pensioner couples who must pay rent or single pensioners who own their own homes. I challenge Government supporters to name one municipality in Australia where combined council and water rates are less than $100 a year. 1 will be very surprised if any honourable member opposite can name a municipality where the charges for water, sewerage and so on amount to less than $100 a year. It is time that this question was looked at
I would now like to deal with insurance on homes. There are very few insurance policies that will permit the full insurance of an average type home for less than from $15 to $20 a week. Also, the houses need maintenance such as painting and the other things that are necessary. If we work it out we come up with the decision that it costs the average person about $150 or $160 a year to live in his own home. I should be surprised if anyone outside this place would disagree with me that these people are entitled to some supplementary assistance. I am pleased to see that the Minister for Social Services has just walked into the House. I hope he has noted the points that I have raised in respect of the wife’s allowance and supplementary assistance.
The last matter on which I want to appeal to the Minister is in regard to the conditions under which people are permitted to occupy aged persons homes. At the moment a person must be classified as an aged person before he may do so. A woman must be over 60 years of age and a man over 65 years of age. What I am asking the Minister to do is to extend the provisions of this Act so that it provides for pensioners to occupy these homes. We need not call them aged persons homes. If the Minister wishes, we can call them pensioners homes. At least this would allow the widows and the invalid pensioners to take advantage of this benefit. I consider that the worst off pensioner in this community is the invalid pensioner. At least the age pensioner may have the opportunity to save money and to put some of it aside to purchase his own home. But many invalids are people who have been disabled in their youth or ha%’e been bom with various disabilities. I do not want to mention the disabilities now. These people have never had the opportunity to save money or to acquire a home of their own. I ask the Minister to make provision for a person who is classified as a pensioner to be permitted to occupy a pensioner’s home. The homes should not be reserved only for age pensioners.
So much for social services. The next point I want to deal with relates to taxation. The Government has placed great stress on the concessions which have been granted in this Budget. I congratulate the Government for granting these concessions and for at least being prepared to look at this question. But once again the people who need the greatest assistance have received the least assistance from the Government. 1 want to deal, by way of example, with the position of a tradesman who received about $1,500 a year in 1954-55, which was the last time that the tax schedules were amended, and who today would receive about $3,000 a year. In 1954-55 such a man would have paid $123 tax on his earnings of $1,500. The average earnings of the tradesman would have doubled in the period between 1954-55 and 1968-69, the period to which I am referring. Working on that basis and that factual position, such a tradesman would today receive about $3,000 a year. In 1968-69 he would have paid tax of $463 a year, or an increase of 277%. Under the Budget proposal he will be paying $426 a year tax, or an increase over and above his 1954-55 tax of 246%. So we can see that while this man has received some relief he has not received as much relief as the taxpayer in the next category. In 1954-55, that taxpayer, with an income of $6,000 a year, paid $1,507 in tax. Once again, because of the increase of average weekly earnings he would today be earning about $12,000 a year and would be paying $4,615 in tax, an increase of 206%.
As a result of the new schedule proposed in the Budget he will be paying $4,280 in tax or 184% more than he was paying in 1954-55. When we take the taxpayer who was classified by this Government as being in the higher income group - the man in recept of $16,000 in 1954-55 and who today would be earning about $32,000 a year - he is paying $17,251 in tax which represents an increase of 153% over and above his 1954-55 tax. So we can see that the man in the low income group - the tradesman - has had an increase of tax, even under this new schedule, of 246% over and above the amount he paid in 1954-55. The taxpayer in the $6,000 to $12,000 a year bracket has had his tax increased by 1 84% and the taxpayer in the $16,000 to $32,000 a year bracket is still paying only 153% more than he was paying back in 1954-55. The taxpayers in the higher income groups have been receiving the advantage of a lower rate of taxation than the taxpayers in the lower income groups. My one regret is that greater assistance was not given to men and women in the much lower income brackets. They are the people who need it. We should have regard to the fact that a man who receives $50 a week receives by way of taxation relief a saving of only 70c a week. The man on $60 a week receives relief of only $1 a week; the man on $70 a week, $1.20 a week; the man on $80 a week, $1.50 a week; the man on $100 a week, $2.30 a week; and the man on $200 a week or near enough to $10,000 a year, $7.10 a week. Therefore, we can see the inequities that have arisen even under the new tax schedule. Yet the Government has been boasting about it and saying what it has done for the people.
Let us have a look at the concessional allowances for dependants and see the way in which this Government has been working. In 1954-55 a taxpayer received an allowance of $260 for his spouse. In 1970-71 the allowance is $312, an increase of 20%. In 1954-55 the allowance for the first child was $156. Today the allowance is $208, an increase of 33%. The allowance for the second and all subsequent children in 1954-55 was $104: today it is $156, an increase of 50%. Let us have a look at those people who are concerned with superannuation and insurance. This is a field in which there are some savings for people in the higher income bracket. Can honourable members imagine a worker on $50 a week contributing $1,200 a year to an insurance policy or a superannuation fund? We can see why the insurance and superannuation allowance was increased from $400 to $1,200 a year. Why were not similar concessions extended to people in the lower income groups? This concession is there for people on high incomes, lt is only people in receipt of $7,000 or $10,000 a year or more who can afford to contribute $1,200 a year to an insurance policy or to a superannuation fund, lt is time that the Government really had a look at these questions.
I turn now to other matters that I want to discuss in the limited time available to me. We have listened in recent days to a campaign being built up by this Government to create the impression that there is a need for legislation on law and order in this country. Admittedly there have been a few ratbag demonstrations by students who represent a very very small minority of people in this country. The vast majority of people are responsible citizens, as are the average trade unionists. We have listened in this place this week to the vilification of one of the best men in the trade union movement. I refer to Bob Hawke. We have heard statements about the kind of individual he is. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said that Bob Hawke is a potential dictator. All I want to say is that the trade union movement is fortunate that it has as the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions a person of the calibre of Bob Hawke. I give him my maximum support and wish him luck in what he is doing. Some people wonder why trade unions are on the move today, why they are agitating and striking for more money. All I ask honourable members to do is to have a look at the profits that are being made today by companies, by industry, by commerce, by financiers and by the banks.
I have a list of information here which would open your eyes, Mr Deputy Speaker. I want very quickly to go through this list. I refer to the month of August of last year. The reason I have not taken August of this year is that firstly the list is not complete and secondly, it has been in the last 12 months that all of this real agitation has been taking place for a real increase in wages. I am citing the figures which have sparked off this agitation for more money for the trade unionists, for the workers of this country. These are only figures relating to company profits which were announced in August 1969. In the transport field 1 company showed a profit earning rate of 9.6%: 7 showed a profit earning rate between 10% and 20%; and 3 showed a profit earning rate between 20% and 30%. These are all companies with a minimum paid up capital of Sim, so they are not minor backyard factories.
In the textile and clothing field, 1 company made a loss between 1% and 10%; 1 company showed a profit earning rate between 10% and 20%, 2 showed a profit earning rate between 20% and 30%; 2 showed a profit earning rate between 30% and 40% and I showed a profit earning rate between 40% and 50%, and it did not have a bad sort of a profit earning rate - 43.1%. In the steel and engineering field, 1 company showed a loss; no companies showed a profit earning rate between 1% and 10%; 8 showed a profit earning rate between 10% and 20%; 11 showed a profit earning rate between 20% and 30%; and 4 showed a profit earning rate between 30% and 40%.
In the food field, 1 1 companies showed a profit earning rate between 10% and 20%: 7 showed a profit earning rate between 20% and 30%: 2 showed a profit earning rate between 30% and 40%; and I showed a profit earning rate between 40% and 50%. I can assure honourable members that some of the profits made in this field were quite substantial. In the motor vehicle, manufacturing and distribution field, 1 company showed a profit earning rate between 10% and 20%; 6 showed a profit earning rate between 20% and 30%; 2 showed a profit earning rate between 30% and 40%; I showed a profit earning rate between 40% and 50%; 1 showed a profit earning rate between 50% and 60%; and 1 showed a profit earning rate between 80% and 90%. Those figures do not take into consideration the exorbitant inflated profits which are made each year by General Motors-Holdens Pty Ltd.
Last year that company made a profit of $30,800,000. In the manufacturing, household, electrical, hardware and furniture field, I company showed a loss; 1 showed a profit earning rate between 1% and 10%; 7 showed a profit earning rate between 10% and 20%; 6 showed a profit earning rate between 20% and 30%; and 1 showed a profit earning rate between 40% and 50% .
I turn to the mining and oil field. This is the field about which people are really becoming agitated in this country, particularly when they take into account the huge profits that are being made and the paltry amount of 50c per week which pensioners have been told they will receive. In August of last year in the mining and oil field, 2 companies showed a profit earning rate between 10% and 20%; 3 showed a profit earning rate between 20% and 30%; 3 showed a profit earning rate between 30% and 40%; and 1 showed a profit earning rate between 40% and 50%. That does not take into consideration the profit of $46,610,000 earned by Hamersley Iron, or $26,500,000 earned by the Shell company, or $24,400,000 earned by Mount Isa Mines Ltd in the first 6 months of this taxation year.
I have not time to go through the figures relating to the profits of ali the other companies, but Peko-Wallsend earned a profit of $7,152,000, which represented an earning rate of 99.8%. Hamersley Iron had an earning rate of 93.2%. New Broken Hill Consolidated had an earning rate of 64%. Renison Ltd showed a profit of $1,921,000 and an earning rate of 104.5%. They are not bad earning rates. I wonder how many honourable members opposite have shares in those companies. In the construction and building field, 4 companies showed a profit earning rate between 10% and 20%; 6 showed a profit earning rate between 20% and 30%; 1 showed a profit earning rate between 30% and 40%, and 1 showed a profit earning rate between 40% and 50% .
When one looks at the Press and radio field, there is no wonder that the Press and radio support this Government, particularly when one takes into consideration that Consolidated Press had a profit earning rate of 160.5%; Macquarie Broadcasting had a profit earning rate of 32.4%; Television Corporation had a profit earning rate of 65.7%; the Victorian Broadcasting
Network had a profit earning rate of 38.8%; Newcastle Broadcasting and TV Corporation had a profit earning rate of 57.7%; and News Ltd had a profit earning rate of 58.8%. Those are the profit earning rates of only some of these companies. Honourable members opposite stand in this place and condemn the workers for having the audacity to go on strike or to demonstrate in order to demand more money at a time when profits such as those to which I have referred are being made in the community.
I turn to the rural field. Our poor old friends in their rabbit warrens on the other side of the chamber refer to the exploitation of people in rural districts. One company exploiting the rural producer had a profit earning rate between 10% and 30%; 3 showed a profit earning rate between 20% and 30%; and 1 showed a profit earning rate between 30% and 40% . Let me now look at the profits that are being made by companies in the retailing field. Myers Emporium showed a profit earning rate of 49.3%; Grace Brothers showed a profit earning rate of 33.5%; and Georges (Aust.) showed a profit earning rate of 34.7%. ICIANZ earned a profit of $l5m; British Tobacco earned a profit of $12m; Australian Paper Manufacturers earned a profit of $10m; and Dunlop (Australia) earned a profit of $17m.
I now turn to the real estate and finance field, which is the field in which people are really being exploited today. Let me refer to the daddy of them all - the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard a table relating to this company.
Anyone who in 1950 held 100 shares in the BHP Company would today have 527 shares. That is not a bad capital growth. By taking up all of the offers - 1 for 5, 1 for 6, 1 for 7 and all the rest - those shares would have cost that person $549 in the last 20 years. The market value of those 100 shares in 1950 would have been $565. If that person had taken up all the options in the period, today he would have 527 shares and their market value on today’s valuation would be $7,825.75. Honourable members can see the way in which this company has really exploited the Australian people. Is it any wonder that tradesmen employed by the BHP Company go on strike and demand more money, when they see the company making these profits? In 1950 the profit of the company was $3,306,000, and for the year ended 31st May 1970 the profit was $59,796,000.
The company has said that it is paying a dividend of 11%. I ask honourable members to multiply that dividend by 5± because anyone who held 100 shares in the company in 1950 would hold 527 shares today. That dividend of 11% represents, in reality, a dividend of approximately 50% to 55% to anyone who has taken up all the share options in the period between 1950 and 1970. f ask honourable members to compare these facts and tell me why trade unionists in Australia should not go on strike in protest against this Budget, why the trade unions in Australia should not be demanding more wages, and why Bob Hawke, the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, should not be going into the arbitration court and demanding from the court or from industry increased wages for the workers and an improvement in their standard of living.
It must be remembered that in 1950 the price of steel plates from BHP was $37.50 per ton, and today the price is $99.68 per ton, yet not on any occasion did this company go to any arbitration court or lo this Government to seek permission to increase the price of steel. What effect did the latest increase in the price of steel have on the ordinary man in the street? When he went to buy a new Holden motor car - the most popular car on the road today - after BHP decided in February of this year to increase the price of steel by S3 per ton, he found that it would cost him another $24 for a standard Holden, another S25 for a special Holden and another $30 for a Premier Holden. This is what happens when BHP increased the price of its steel. When a person went to buy a washing machine or a refrigerator or any appliance in which BHP steel was used, he found that the price had been automatically increased because of this company’s action. It has no consideration for this country. All it is concerned about is profit, and as far as I am concerned, I support the ACTU.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The constructive approach is always to be preferred to the destructive approach, but I should like to spend some of my time this evening in examining what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said in his attack on the Budget. I have what amounts to a very simple view on matters such as budgets. Basically speaking, the pluses and the minuses should cancel out. The Leader of the Opposition gave us a positive catalogue of expenditure pluses. He gave us also a catalogue of what purported to be Government errors, lt is the prerogative of the Leader of the Opposition to avoid, if he wishes, putting forward constructive proposals, but if he is talking of destroying the Government on the basis of its Budget he has a duty to put forward viable substitutes for the proposals of the Treasurer (Mr Bury). We look in vain for where the Leader of the Opposition has suggested that cuts might be made to make up for those pluses. Not even in regard to defence does he have the courage of his convictions and suggest a cut. He even goes so far as to say that the Government is making inadequate provision for defence.
The Leader of the Opposition made much of the larger absolute savings, through tax concessions, by higher income earners and taxpayers than savings by those on the lower scales. We have heard this argument before and we will probably hear it again. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) very capably pointed out at an earlier stage of this debate that only regressive taxation will solve the situation. The Leader of the
Opposition spoke of injustice and inequity when referring to a man on a salary of $10,000 who receives tax relief of about $350 while a man on a salary of $3,000 receives tax relief of about $50. Presumably, his justice and his equity demand that each of those persons receives the same absolute relief. How then does he relate relief to what is paid? To me this is, if nothing else, a decidedly specious argument. His table 8 which is printed in Hansard shows that 22% of households were in the $3,000 to $4,000 income bracket in 1968. The Commonwealth Income Tax Statistics for the assessment year 1968-69 show the number of taxpayers in that bracket to have been just over 1 million out of a total of 5 million taxpayers - that is a little over 20% - in that area of income. This suggests, although it does not prove, that, with the increasing number of working wives, a considerable increase in the proportion of people in those categories and higher categories is indicated than is provided in the table submitted by the Leader of the Opposition.
I might make an aside here to suggest that the tabulations to which I have referred are to some extent misleading in that the intervals jump from $200 to $1,000 at the S4.000 level. Unless one is alert or attuned to reading tabulations and statistics one could easily be misled as to the distribution of income earners. One of the very few analytical Press comments which were directed at the attack of the Leader of the Opposition on the Budget drew his attention to what appears to be the highest incidence of taxation - probably in the world and certainly in comparable countries - in the income bracket from $8,000 to $16,000. That might sound a lot to some people, but because the Leader of the Opposition is proposing a great number of expenditure pluses then we imagine that this is the area from which he will draw some of the receipts with which to offset some of those expenditure pluses. Will the Leader of the Opposition collect extra tax from his often affluent legal friends? He has not mentioned it, or them, and I look forward to the time when he lays that on the line.
The Leader of the Opposition throws up his hands at indirect taxation. The honourable member for Lilley has already drawn attention to British Labour attitudes to indirect taxation. 1 should like to add one thing to what he had to say so effectively. One of the things that was added in the British context of indirect taxation was a thing called the selective employment tax. If one is looking for inequity, there is inequity. The selective employment tax put a levy on service industries, including people in hotels, offices and elsewhere and paid an incentive to people in manufacturing industry on the incredible assumption that the manufacturers who produced things that could be dropped on the toe were the only people contributing to the economy. This happened in Britain, it is true. But I pose the question: What can we expect of that kind of thing under a Socialist budgeting programme? It would be well for us to consider the possibilities. I recognise that Socialism is no longer a dirty word but I should like to draw attention very briefly to some of the things that it implies. Is the public aware that by Socialism, dirty word or otherwise, we should expect controls, increasing controls, and many of them? That is implicit in any suggestion of the kind of thing which the Leader of the Opposition wishes to impose on the Australian public. It is essentially anti-incentive. If it ever comes to pass it will show many people just what they should have understood by the words ‘lucky country’, because they will then realise that what they had before was indeed a lucky country.
The Leader of the Opposition permitted himself another round of hand-raising and condemnation when he described tax cuts of $289m, or 10%, as being socio-political rather than economic decisions. Are we seriously to believe that he would or could produce a purely economic budget, untrammelled by the pressures of the trade unions, the pensioners or his own social priorities? 1 am saying in other words that such assertions by the Leader of the Opposition are pure hypocrisy and cant.
– I raise a point of order. Ls it in order for the honourable member to refer to the assertions of the Leader of the Opposition as pure hypocrisy and cant?
– Order! I suggest that if the honourable member referred to the remarks of the
Leader of the Opposition in that way he might withdraw them.
– It is immaterial to me, Mr Deputy Speaker. I withdraw the remarks if the word ‘hypocrisy’ is offensive. I have heard more offensive words in this chamber.
– 1 raise a point of order, ls the honourable member permitted to use the word ‘immaterial’ when withdrawing his remarks?
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– For the record I submit that a word such as ‘hypocrisy’ is purely a matter of private assessment. I might make such an assessment; somebody else might not. I believe that I am still entitled to make an assessment. Let me take up the matter of pensions. It would be agreed by everyone here in this House, and elsewhere perhaps, that no-one here would choose to live on the pension unsupplemented by any other source of income. I think it is only fair to ask, in view of all that has been said by honourable members opposite, what is understood by the philosophy of the pension. This question was bypassed in all the recent discussions which I have heard. As 1 understand it, the pension was instigated as a supplement to a lifetime of earning and thrift, lt implied that people of a certain age at a certain level of existence would be receiving help from their families and relatives. In this country it appears that that is not considered to be an obligation any more, although it is still very much an obligation in other countries, particularly those countries to which we are increasingly directing our attention. I refer to the countries of the East. In such countries there is a considerable obligation of offspring to take some part in the welfare of their parents.
– They are out on the town themselves.
– That is quite so. It appears that in this affluent society young marrieds regard collecting of cars, radios, washing machines, floor polishers and the like as a substitute for parental care, leaving the Government to pick up the tab for the care of the aged. If this is the generally held view we must concede that the philosophy of the pension has changed. I, no doubt like many people in this chamber and outside, have talked with many pensioners. 1 regret that I have not had the time or the inclination to keep statistics. Of the hundreds or perhaps thousands of people to whom I talked, more expressed resentment of bludgers - I think that is a permitted word these days - than of the amount of the pension.
In effect, this is an argument in favour of compulsory national insurance. A system of compulsory national insurance would overcome the problem of those who do not during their working lives provide for their retirement. No longer would we have the improvident depending on the provident, lt must be admitted that a national insurance scheme, which in my view is inevitable, would overcome the problem to which I have referred. I have a feeling that we are moving in this direction. If such a scheme were introduced by this Government or by any other government, we should not forget that current wage earners will have to pay for it. Honourable members should not advocate national insurance and at the same time ask for lower taxes so as to offset payments that wage earners are currently making. In other words, the off-spring to whom I referred who, in the main, are no longer prepared to look after their parents, will be paying for their future and for the future of those who have not as yet been provided for. We should bear in mind at the same time that roughly $3,000m of the almost $8,000m that the Government receives comes from personal income tax.
Without appearing to be unsympathetic to the cause of people on fixed incomes, particularly the pension, I think it is less than fair to assume that the pensioners have suddenly arrived, penniless, from outer space. By definition, they have been with our society for at least 60 years. It is totally unfair to suggest that they have suddenly appeared and that they should fend for themselves. From one viewpoint, they have fended for themselves for 60 or 65 years. We should not forget also the fringe benefits attached to the pension. It is true that they are not vast, but it is also true that they are hardly ever mentioned. We toss off $15 or $15.50 or $26.50, whatever the figure might be, but we do not talk about the cheaper bus rides and the reduced electricity charges. Those benefits are significant even if they are not vast. We should not forget, as the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) appeared to do - he did not forget the topic, but he took another viewpoint altogether - that payments on an insurance policy, however small and if not too large, are tax deductible. This is another small incentive to people to look after themselves.
Among several social areas which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) designated as low in the Liberal order of priorities because, he alleged, they are regarded only as a cost, is education. Irrelevant’ and ‘inconsequential’ were the words which he applied to the increased Commonwealth scholarships and research funds. It is true that the Leader of the Opposition is a man of words, but he is not the only man of words in this place, as will be well known. I suggest that his comments were both irrational and immature. A 25% increase in direct educational expenditure, a 29% increase in specific education payments to the States, and greatly increased general revenue to the States to service education and other matters of choice by the States are largely glossed over by our friends on the opposite side of the House.
This week the Government Members Education Committee met a delegation from the New South Wales Teachers Federation. The sincerity of the people we met was not doubted. The importance of education was not in issue with us or with the people who met us. It was certainly not an issue with me because I have spent the whole of my working life in education. In asking for a number 1 priority for education, which in itself is a reasonable request, we were assured that the great majority of people were in favour of it. But no mention was made of the fact that the same people, with perhaps some few exceptions, were clamouring for tax relief. Which way do the people want the chips to fait? They cannot have it all ways at all times.
Another phrase from the Leader of the Opposition’s castigation of the Government’s Budget was ‘misallocation of resources’. This, I believe, and ‘inequality’ were his 2 main themes. As far as I know, there is no long term comprehensive national blueprint for development, but how would the States like such a blueprint? We deal essentially with their priorities and we are told frequently and at length that the States are best suited to order those priorities. I believe that we need better proof than we have been given that our 5th ranking in average investment to gross national product in the years 1958 to 1967 compared with our 14th ranking in average annual growth rate of gross domestic product per capita for the years 1960 to 1967 tends to show that there is a misallocation of resources. Not only are different years and different measures compared - one absolute and the other per capita - but also these figures, while useful guidelines, are notoriously undependable on an international basis.
It is a pity that the Leader of the Opposition was not here in 1788 or in 1901 - for 2 main reasons; because if he had been the whole show could have been planned from the beginning and, secondly, he would not be here now. Of more immediate interest than that is the honourable gentleman’s riding the bandwagon of environmental deterioration in pursuit of this moving platform of increased growth. Which does he want - growth, conservation or both? He can have one or both, if he wants, but I look forward to ascertaining how he proposes to do it. Has he investigated the realities of the urban congestion, the rundown transport and the road chaos to which he referred? For example I instance the $600,000 spent by the Queensland Government on an industrial estate outside Townsville in an endeavour to get some of the capital city’s industry to that area. This expenditure is currently providing for 1 tile factory with 8 workers. That is pretty costly decentralisation. I instance the recent report of the New South Wales Department of Decentralisation on its study of the problems associated with decentralisation. A perusal of that report will show that metropolitan conditions are still overwhelmingly attractive, rather than the reverse, for industrial location. In fact, only in Tasmania is significant industrial decentralisation to be found, based on an unusual, for Australia, decentralisation of population, on a partly fortunate distribution of natural resources and also on the greater availability of port access and waterways than is general in the other States.
I Suggest, without any great intrepidity, that it will be some time before the diseconomies that drive industries from New York and some of the other large cities of the world operate in our cities. That is not to say that we should not be mindful of the situation and that more studies should not be carried out. But it is, in fact, a good deal different from casting a wide net of urban turmoil, congestion and chaos. I suggest, further, that there will never be one-twelfth of our people below the poverty line. We know that everything is relative, but at the same time there are absolutes and I regard something like poverty as absolute. Anybody who has been to India, or has seen the Favellas outside the major cities of South America, the Gorbals of Glasgow or the back streets of Dublin is talking nonsense when he talks of poverty in the absolute sense.
I turn now to the question of inequalities. Of course, we could say much about and draw many examples of inequality. That will be the day when this world is full of equal people. I hope I am not here. But in terms of inequality - and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) drew some attention to this in a parallel sense - I should like to point up the questions which have not been pointed up by the Opposition - questions such as low labour effort, short hours and high wages. Let us compare ourselves with the Japanese and Germans in the post-wai period or with the Dutch in their rehabilitation. Compare ourselves if we will - and we are not being honest if we do not - with the new Australians who come to this country and work themselves into the ground, in fact work in the other direction well above the ground in most cases, whereas many of the old Australians sit on their b-t-m’s. If I were paid by the hour at wharfie’s rates 1 would make a fortune in this place, and I would have made a fortune before I came here. If a fraction of the work force were on the job as much as the much-maligned members of this chamber are - and I do not want to strain public credulity too far - productivity would increase and we would solve our lax problems practically overnight. We know that some tasks - to quote one of our cultural figures, and 1 am not sure whether it was G. B. Shaw or Chips Rafferty - are b….. boring, but the fact is that nearly everybody runs into that sort of problem. To me it is little excuse for wanting to work oneself totally out of a job. We might ask ourselves at this stage why, if this is not tenable or even if it is tenable, is there disruption in the labour sphere. Why this labour disruption? I make a simple suggestion which I am sure will be unpalatable to members opposite. I suggest that the left wing is being taken into the Labor Party to show a superficial unity for electoral and perhaps other purposes and that that is the reason why we are getting the labour disruption which is all too prevalent at present. 1 come now to a couple of final and fundamental questions. Why do we tax ourselves so heavily across the board? Again, the answers may seem to be unduly simple to some people, but they are not often talked about. In Australia we have low population densities, both rural and urban. In fact they are the lowest population densities of any comparable area if not any area in the world. Even our urban densities are far less than those of comparable areas. In only a few cities of the United States of America can we find comparably low urban densities. What is the result of this? The consequences are that services are very expensive. The cost of miles of piping, road, telephone lines and other services is much greater per capita than in any other comparable urban area of the world. However we always compare what we have - our standard of living, our rates of income and the rest - with the United States, with Great Britain and with Sweden. The United Stales has roughly the same area but about twenty times our population; Great Britain has about one-thirtieth of our area and five times our population; and Sweden has had a long standing policy of isolationism with no problem of having been knocked to heck in 2 world wars. If this is our standard of comparison we should be comparing also the disadvantages of what has been called, in a book of some consequence, the tyranny of distance, lt is here; it is with us; it will not go away and it is absolutely basic to the high costs of providing comparable services, and even better services in some cases, in Australia than in other developed nations. In other words, if we want comparable services on all fronts and at once we will have to pay heavily.
Wc will probably have to pay more heavily for defence, for local government services and right across the board.
The Australian Labor Party’s opposition to taxation in almost any form except way up the scales is often based, in terms of the specific example, on the low wage large family complex, as it were. Most people assume that the ability to have children is a God-given right. I would equally assume that the intelligence of homo sapiens is a God-given right and I would further assume that there is no compulsion on somebody on $3,000, $2,000, $1,000 or any number of thousands of dollars a year to have 10 children if he cannot afford them, and facilities are available these days to eliminate any necessity to have them.
The Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues would have us believe that this country is in turmoil. I would suggest that saying so does not make it so, although it is worth a try politically, I suppose. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) yesterday said that we ought to have the courage of our convictions and face an early election. What absolute bunkum! lt is less than one year since we had a Federal election from which we gained a mandate, no matter how gallingly small it was to the Labor Party. Now we are asked to have an election on a balanced Budget. This is utter nonsense. At least the Leader of the Opposition himself was candid enough to say that there was thrust and direction in our Budget. Perhaps he does not like the direction, and he says so, but at least it was a positive acknowledgment. It is better than the carping criticism to which we are so often subjected. I may have forgottan someone but I think that the only opposition members who have admitted to any good works done by the Government have been the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) and, I might add, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) who did so this evening.
Not a word do we hear from the Leader of the Opposition and his followers about incentives which are basic to Liberal philosophy. The lack of it was, I submit, al the base of the decline of the British economy. We have, finally, the implication that if the Leader of the Opposition took over the wheel of government - if I may divert from the old ‘reins of government’ cliche - the country would be run practically by management consultants. Do not let us make any mistake about this; it would be run by the front bench opposite, and if we think the deficiencies in our leaders and their policies are real I can only suggest that a well known American literary comment would apply to the advent of the Opposition front bench - ‘You ain’t seen nothin’ yet’. I suggest that not only would the front bench opposite be running the country, and its budgets and its economy per se, but it would be doing the Cairns dance to a Hawkish tune.
– I have been interested to note how much time members of the Government Parties have devoted to attacking the criticism by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) of the Budget. The last speaker, the honourable member for Denison (Dr Solomon), spent some time seeking the Leader of the Opposition’s guidance on how to bring down a better budget. 1 suggest that he peruse the Labor Party’s policy and perhaps have a private audience with the Leader of the Opposition and our shadow Treasurer who may assist him. At least 1 am glad that some notice has been taken by Government members of the electorate as represented by the Leader of the Opposition. I support the motion of the Leader of the Opposition in condemning the Budget. The constant attack in this House on Australian workers who, as I have said previously, are mostly ex-servicemen who fought for this country in world wars under Labor Governments for the freedom of election which we now enjoy, is repugnant to me as it must be to the workers and citizens of Australia generally. No wonder they are in revolt against this type of constant, unprecedented and unwarranted attack.
This Budget as it applies to pensioners and the aged generally leaves the people of the electorate of Swan appalled. I have had numerous letters, telegrams and personal calls to my office protesting at the inadequacy of the 5()c a week increase in pensions. T was at a loss to explain the contempt with which the pensioner had been treated by a Government which must be well aware that the pensions it had provided after 3 decades of prosperous conditions are totally inadequate. They are not even as much as the minimum wage or the benefits the Government provides under the health insurance scheme for other citizens of this country. Why the Government thinks that aged persons can exist - exist only - on a lower income than other people in the community I will never comprehend.
This Parliament had petition after petition presented to it prior to the Budget asking that the Commonwealth Government increase the base pension to 30% of the average weekly male earnings plus supplementary assistance in accordance with the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ policy formulated by those people of whom I spoke before, with whom I am so proud to be associated, and by so doing give a reasonably modest pension. These petitions signed by thousands of pensioners throughout Australia have been completely ignored. The only possible explanation for the Government’s disregard of these petitions is that it is aware that it has lost and will never regain the vote of the pensioners and the community by its duplicity. I do not doubt that if this is the case the pensioner is in for still further rough treatment.
Let us face it: The cost of living must spiral as a result of the new taxes imposed in this Budget and the increases in telephone charges, postal charges and even the excise on cigarettes, their last joy and something they could afford. A comparatively cheap drink, wine, is on the way out for them. Perhaps the Government thinks it will do away with plonkos - I do not know. The tax on these items has been increased and is being reflected in increased prices already. Out of existing pensions pensioners must pay these increased costs and they must wait until Parliament gets around to passing legislation to increase their pensions before they can expect any relief.
After the Parliament has spent so much time discussing matters such as what hours it is to sit surely legislation to increase pensions, by no matter how small an amount, could be brought on as a matter of urgency. Why put the burden of increased costs on these people without offering them some immediate relief? Even if they do not vote for the Government let it not be vindictive towards them. I ask the Government to treat this as a matter of urgency and to give these people immediate relief and to be just as keen in this matter as it was to apply immediate increases in sales tax and excise duty.
In addition to looking at the effect on the aged of this Budget let us look at the total lack of relief it offers to people who are retired on superannuation and other forms of fixed retirement incomes. The tampered means test, or the tapered means test as some people like to call it, has been completely ignored. The people to whom the means test applies will be as hard hit by the Budget increases as anyone. The inflationary spiral has already robbed many of them of the advantage of a life of careful provision for old age at no cost to the Government, in fact often to the advantage of the Government. I quote the case of the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, a fund which can find money to lend to multi-million dollar developments but will not or cannot find money to lend to contributors for the purchase or development of their own homes. So these people have been used to the maximum by the Government even though they are good and faithful servants without whom it could not function as a government. lt is ironical that the Government is assisting the middle income darner with tax relief. Although it may not be all we hoped, it is some relief and it means more to me or any other politician and no doubt more to Ministers per week than a pensioner could ever hope to obtain in rises. But the selfsame middle income earner still finds himself hit by the tapered means test when he retires, for there has been no attempt by this Government, in all the years that he has been campaigning, to ease it, nor has the Government prepared a programme to abolish it such as was outlined by the Australian Labor Party at the last general election.
So it would appear that once again the policy that once you are aged you are forgotten has reared its head, and once again I call on the Government to endeavour to do something urgent and definite to ease the situation of these people on fixed incomes who have been hit by the Government’s inflationary policy. One would expect that the Government has a vested interest in inflation because there is no doubt it is in the Government’s interest to have spiralling production costs because taxes, including the payroll tax, are all based on a gross amount. So the higher costs go, so does the return in revenue to the Government increase. This is a disastrous manner in which to balance the Budget. Let Government supporters deny it if they will, but those people who bought Government bonds in good faith many years ago and who compare their purchasing power today would not believe it for a large number of them who are on fixed incomes today are caught up in the iniquitous foils of the tapered or tampered means test.
The young home owner must indeed be giving a hollow laugh for there is no hint of relief from the vicious increased interest rates that he had so recently suffered at the hands of this Government which has ignored petitioners from all walks of life and political beliefs who have recently petitioned this Parliament for relief. The proposed tax cuts will not offset the increased interest rates which have been passed on to home purchasers and tenants. Surely it would have been more honest to have told these people that they were being so heavily hit in the home purchase field to help balance the Budget in order to give reductions in income tax and perhaps miserable increase in pensions. If this is nol so let the Government do something urgently to ease the interest burden on the home owner now so that he will in fact obtain some benefit from the tax reduction. All the reduction will do now is to help him meet his increased interest charges on the home he is purchasing or help tenants to meet the increased cost of rent.
Let us not be hoodwinked. Let us start to tell the people the truth. These young people who because of high home costs and shortage of housing must have a working wife and put off having our most valuable migrants, a family born here, are going to pay more for their family planning. The tax has even been increased on the pill. Some poverty stricken countries can afford to provide it free, but not Australia. The only pill we can give is the Budget, bitter as it may be. Speaking of interest rates, these have been reflected in the charges to shire councils by a decision of the Treasury and the Australian Loan
Council which caused interest rates to shire councils to be increased to in excess of 7% from 1st May 1970. The Budget offers no relief in this field, so while we talk of tax cuts lel us be honest about this.
Every householder will be faced with increased rates. In some cases increases of from 20% to 50% have occurred in Western Australia because of the Government policy of indirect taxation which is hidden in such a way that people are not supposed to suspect that our Federal Government is at fault. But the local authorities must pass on these loan repayment increases to someone and the only place to go for them is the ratepayer who is the same person as the taxpayer, who this Government seems to consider has an inexhaustible supply of funds.
This Government continues to disappoint us time and time again by avoiding its obligations to local Government authorities, lt has a way of granting subsidies for aged persons homes and for other community activities. But the fact of the matter is that it is passing on its obligations to the community through the hard pressed local authorities who must first find the initial costs before they can obtain the subsidy. In fact, some people look at it not as a $1 to S2 subsidy by the Federal Government but as a S2 to SI subsidy by local government to the Federal Government to meet the obligations of the Federal Government towards aged persons in the community, for it is to this Government that these people have paid a lifetime of taxes. This is the Government which should be ensuring that all loans to the third arm of government - that is, local government - are at a low rate of interest and in fact should be making major grants of Commonwealth money towards major development projects by shire councils and service boards undertaking projects such as sewerage, drainage and other major works of benefit to the community. lt is no good denying an obligation to the community in this respect, for as I understand it the Government, has not met these obligations in the various States but has met them in Canberra itself and, at the expense of all the taxpayers of Australia, has gone ahead with major projects. I might add that 1 suspect that if a major project was needed in the Northern Territory the money would be found at national expense. Whilst not denying these people the right to have these benefits I ask that similar privileges be extended to the rest of the community and to the electorate which I represent in Western Australia. City development in Western Australia is being delayed because of a lack of sewerage and drainage works. Only the Commonwealth has the funds available to pay the large amounts involved.
This Budget totally ignores this question as it ignores another matter which affects people in my electorate and, in fact, in all Western Australia, and in other States.
For some time now the impression had been given by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) that he was sympathetic towards the question of the sealing of the east-west highway, the Eyre Highway; yet this does not rate a mention in the Budget. No provision was made to meet the estimated cost of sealing the highway, which is $9m, but, of course, with spiralling costs, by the time the Commonwealth recognises its obligations, no-one can imagine what it will cost. I can only hope that some Government supporters will take up the cry to ensure that a special Commonwealth grant is made so that the section of the highway in South Australia connecting Western Australia with the eastern States will be completed in this financial year. As I mentioned in my maiden speech earlier this year this is a vital defence link. Australia would be one of the few modern countries in the world where one would have to wait for the rain to stop and the road to become trafficable before ground units could be moved interstate in defence of the country. I can appreciate that the Government has cut its defence spending in this Budget but if it does not want to consider this as a defence item then we should consider it as an item for trade and tourist development.
This is 1970 when man has been to the moon twice: yet this Government cannot find even half the money needed to complete even half the project this year. Even though I do not disagree with our efforts regarding overseas aid 1 feel it is about time that the Government gave full and proper consideration to the needs of its own people whom it purports to represent. It is all right for the politicians who jet far above the road - and I am one of them - and look down and say: ‘Something should be done.’ I suggest that the quickest way to have proper provision made is to have them driven across this road or, better still, to have them drive across it themselves. It is a ludicrous situation that this project should be postponed from year to year and budget to budget. But who is the main user of this road? It is the middle and lower income earner who cannot afford other modes of transport. A lot of these people come from my electorate and I am constantly asked: ‘When is the Government going to do something about it?’ For this Budget to impose an increased tax on petrol and cars but not to provide properly for this overtaxed section of the community is a glaring avoidance of responsibility.
Once again I challenge honourable members on the benches opposite to have a really good look at this situation. [ appeal to them to act, for it is not too late to do something about it this year. Although they may think that they have taxed people away from the idea of travel, with the increase in the price of petrol, let those who wish to travel have a road to travel on. At least that is reasonable even if the Government is not concerned with this road as a defence item.
However, the major concern of the people of Swan has been the toss of value of their income as a result of increases of indirect taxation and the lack- of relief for those people on pensions and fixed incomes. They are not deceived by the machinations of the Treasurer (Mr Bury) who has given no guarantee that he will not attempt another interest rate rise at a later date under the pretext of controlling inflation. That is the method which the Government is using to balance this Budget and it is doing so at the expense of the person on a fixed income or a pension. The honourable member for Denison, who was the last speaker on the Government side of the House, implied that pensioners were reasonably well off because of fringe benefits. But how hard is it to get these fringe or other benefits because of the means test? I suggest that people in his electorate should inform him.
This much vaunted increase of spending on education and so on in the Budget will barely cope with increases from inflation. What people have failed to realise is just how far behind we are nationally in tha field of education. By ‘people’ J mean honourable members on the Government side of the House. So in fact a static situation still exists; what has been granted will only meet additional inflationary costs. 1 have schools in my electorate screaming out for amenities - schools such as the Bentley Senior High School and the Cannington Senior High School, which have since they were built years ago lacked assembly halls, gymnasiums and the like. 1 hope that this much vaunted increase in expenditure on education will enable these schools, which have been waiting for so many years, to be completed. All the pupils who have left will no doubt remember this when they cast their votes in future. So if the matter is not rectified this year perhaps at some future date with a change of government we will have the problem solved.
– We have just listened to a rather varied contribution from the honourable member for Swan (Mr Bennett). Listening to the debate in this House tonight one would think that Mr Hawke had written the speeches that all honourable members opposite are reading. Two or three times during their speeches they all paid allegiance to the Australian Council of Trade Unions. We recall that only a couple of days ago a national catastrophe occurred. The ACTU was behind a so-called national strike and protest against this Budget which is presently being debated. It was a big fizz, a big flop, lt was drawn to my attention that earlier in the piece this strike was proposed as a protest against the Government’s taxation measures. Then, lo and behold, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in honouring the promise he made in his 1969 policy speech took the wind out of the sails of the ACTU and the Australian Labor Party by introducing taxation measures of an even more generous nature than those which he had promised.
So what did the ACTU do? It turned on the strike as a big act of sympathy for the pensioners because the machinery was already under way for this big strike. But it had lost its cause. So out of shallowness it looked to the pensioners and said: ‘They will do. All out.’ That is the history of last Tuesday’s strike. I think things are getting into a pretty poor state when we see the ACTU working in close liaison with the
Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) on such an occasion of industrial unrest. We recall his remarks on Tuesday when he said there were telephone conversations between himself and Mr Hawke trying to motivate this industrial strike and obtain political reactions. This is a rather sad time.
I recall the days of Mr Chifley years ago. He was a man so many honourable members of the Opposition respect and a man for whom I have respect. He is the man they look to so often and say: ‘Remember Old Chif.’ Let us remember Old Chif and let us hear what he had to say on industrial problems. Firstly, he said:
If Communists, or any other members of the community, engage in subversive activities, illegal activities, activities calculated to destory order and good government, they will be dealt with in accordance with the law.
He also said:
The Communist Party is endeavouring to destory the arbitration system which is a foremost plank of Labor policy.
Oh, for those days of old Chif, oh for those days of responsibility. Twenty years out of office has turned the Australian Labor Party, the Opposition Party, into a snarling creature resorting to any means to whip up the masses and attain office. 1 refer to the situation in Australia today. We have heard very many comments from members of the Opposition to the effect that this nation is going backwards, that we are on Skid Row and that people everywhere are crying out for a change in government because of the economic chaos which has supposedly existed under Liberal Party-Country Party governments. During the 20-year period from 1949 to 1969, the registered unemployment rate in Australia has not exceeded 3.1%. Over the last 6 years to 7 years the registered unemployment rate has never moved outside the range of 0.9% to 1.4%, seasonal influences apart. In the past 15 years industrialised countries like the United States of America, Italy, Canada, France and the United Kingdom have had a much less favourable employment experience than Australia. Even so, no reason exists to be complacent about the present levels of employment or inflation in Australia.
Any persistent inflationary price trends of the sort experienced sometimes in Australia has socially undesirable effects which the Government is bound to try to minimise. By international standards, Australia has been more successful than most other countries in achieving rapid growth while keeping inflation and the balance of payments position under reasonable control. Australia has maintained a vigorous economic growth. The gross national product at constant prices has increased at an average rate of 5±% over the last 6 years and by more than 6% in each of the last 2 years. Last year we saw a record increase of nearly 3i% in the work force compared with approximately 3% in the year before and an average rate of increase of 2*% in the 1960s.
This increase has occurred because of the rise in migration and the rate at which married women are entering the work force, in 1961 only 17.3% of married women were at work. In February of this year approximately 33% of married women were in our work force, [n spite of this fact, the high demand for labour caused the number of registered unemployed as a percentage of the labour force to fall from 1.07% to 0.9% in the 12 months to June 1970. The Australian labour force is projected to increase from 5.1 million in the base year 1968 to 5.6 million in 1971 and to 7.2 million by June 1981. This projection is based on the assumption that the rate of net migration during this period will be 1% per annum of the population. An alternative projection, based on a net migration rate of 0.75% per annum, is shown as yielding in June 1981 a result lower by 0.3 million, f should indicate to honourable members that these figures are taken from a publication recently produced under the auspices of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden).
The low level of unemployment in what is virtually a full employment economy has created a situation in which the trade union movement can hold the gun at the employers’ heads. I for one state here and now for the sake of the record that I am not opposed to the worker resorting to strike action in support of a just cause. But I wonder whether or not our definition of what is a just cause is being eroded by examples of irresponsible unionism. I recently spoke to the managing director of a national company. I asked him: ‘Why in the world do you give in every time you are tested? Why do you not take a stand?’ His simple answer was: ‘We have to. It would break us financially to take a stand’. This is an indication of how at times unions make gains for the members of their organisations at the expense of the general community.
There is no doubt that irresponsible increases or gains obtained by this method break down the general economic situation in which each and every Australian has to live. I refer to Qantas Airways Ltd and Trans-Australia Airlines. This Government has an interest in those 2 companies. Every time that the pilots threaten a strike their request is met immediately. There is no question about it. The air hostesses only recently won their increase, after many years without an increase, after they had threatened strike action. Where a cause is just 1 believe that employers have a responsibility to meet that cause. But where a cause is unjust they have an equal responsibility to take a firm stand. It is no use employers complaining that the unions are getting the better of them if they are not prepared to stand firm. We all realise that just as members of Parliament have to face elections so do union officials. By displaying to their members their ability to win better wages and conditions they ensure their re-election. But there again the companies must make the stand when they feel that it is an unjust strike or an unjust threat.
When we recapitulate on the remarks of the last few minutes it is well to recall the words of the late Ben Chifley. I wonder where the Labor Party which Ben Chifley led is today. I wonder where it has been for the last 20 years? In well over 50 years it has won only 3 Federal elections and it has contested the last 9 Federal elections in a row without success. The other night my friend the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) drew the attention of the House to the fact that the Leader of the Opposition feels he is within an ace of victory. Within the last few years two other Labor leaders felt they were within an ace of victory but the Australian people have not been hoodwinked by some of the catchcries and the irresponsible attitudes of those who back the ALP. We see the Leader of the Opposition working so closely with those he described only one or two years ago as the witless men. But now those witless mea have the Leader of the Opposition well in hand.
I return again to industrial chaos and to the rapid increase in wages. Who suffers the most? It is the pensioner. Tonight we have heard honourable members opposite condemning the Government for granting certain increases and for its treatment of the pensioners. But every time that a union wins an unjust increase it is the little man and the pensioners who get screwed right into the ground.
I refer to social services. This year we have seen an increase in the social service allotment of $157m which brings the total expenditure in this area to $l,820m. Earlier tonight we heard a speech by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme). I intend to disagree slightly, in a very kind way, with him. We heard him refer to the added benefits which the pensioner today receives. If my memory serves me correctly he said that for a married couple the added benefit of the pensioner services, with cut television rates and a number of other things, would be worth $5.50 a week and $3.10 a week for a single pensioner. I draw the Government’s attention to the fact that if we combine these benefits and the pension paid today and consider as a percentage of average weekly earnings, in the case of a single pensioner it is only 23%. Shortly after the Government came to office the percentage was 24%. In the case of a married couple the figure, taking into account the benefits which the Minister mentioned - and we must remember that 1 speak only of the average pensioner and this does not apply in every case - is $16.50 each which comes to 20.4% of average weekly earnings - again compared to 24%.
T do believe that we on the Government side have a definite responsibility to ensure that the position of the pensioners is maintained and not eroded because they are the people who have no-one else to turn to but the Government. I am not referring now to those who have a part pension and who are also in receipt of superannuation benefits. I am speaking about those people who depend entirely upon their weekly pension payments. 1 hope that the Government in framing the next Budget will bear these facts in mind because we cannot afford to allow these people to continue feeing worse off.
I shall refer now to defence. If I were to use the word ‘briefly’ I would be following the example of the Leader of the Opposition. He spoke the other day on the basis of having unlimited time. He could speak for as long as he wished and he chose to speak for some 64 minutes. At the 53rd minute he set aside 1 minute 12 seconds to the subject of this nation’s defence. Yet here we have under the heading of defence a total expenditure of $1,1 37m out of a total Budget of $7,883m.
– Forty-eight seconds.
– The honourable member for Boothby says it was 48 seconds but perhaps as he comes from South Australia his time may have been half an hour behind mine. I thought it was 1 minute 12 seconds. Nevertheless, putting all this to one side, one has only to pick up this wonder book, the manifesto of the Australian Labor Party, the ‘Platform, Constitution and Rules of the ALP’ as approved by the 28th Commonwealth Conference.
– It is very good.
– The honourable member for Wills, one of the greatest stirrers in this nation, says it is very good. The Leader of the Opposition, the alternative Prime Minister, was prepared to devote only some 70 seconds to this important subject, and this is very much in keeping with his Party’s policy. If we look at the Platform of the ALP we will see that there are some 29 issues. Defence is No. 23 and Foreign Affairs No. 24. If we look at the resolutions adopted by the 1969 ALP conference we see that the subject of Vietnam is No. 55 and Defence Forces No. 56 out of a total of 61.
So much for the ALP’s care for the defence of this nation. In the mind of a great man on the other side it is a matter of: ‘get it over with as quickly as possible. It is an unpleasant moment in the last 10 minutes of my speech, so if I devote 1 minute 12 seconds to this aspect I am doing well and I am in keeping with the full requirements of my Party, the Party that only a few years ago I tried to change so completely. But today I realise that if I am to get on in my Party T have to sell my soul and become part of the witless group.’ This is a fact and it explains so clearly the attitude of the ALP today. The ALP rings up Mr Hawke every time it is going to do something these days because it recognises its true master.
I might say that defence was lucky to even get a mention by the Leader of the Opposition because it must have been a most difficult and unpleasant moment when he had to face this reality, the defence of this nation. Without a strong defence and without our allies we may as well forget about everybody - let alone the pensioners - because there will be no Australia to look after.
I turn now to the subject of taxation, the greatest disappointment for the ALP because the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) very carefully and very quietly in one Budget kept a promise on a matter which the ALP thought it could beat as a big drum and use to the maximum as a political issue. The Leader of the Opposition said during his remarks in this debate that in 1954 the average worker worked for 5 weeks to pay his tax whereas today he works for 9i weeks to pay his tax. I have no reason to doubt the truth of that statement, but there is an important point to which we should give consideration. I refer to the advances which have been made under this Liberal-Country Party Government since 1954. I shall not even return to 1949 because the Leader of the Opposition chose 1954 as the base year. I shall use that year and mention some of the improvements which have been introduced.
Through specific purpose payments of a revenue nature we have entered the university field and have increased our payments from $8m in 1954 to $57m now. We have entered the field of colleges of advanced education, made research grants, given assistance to independent schools, tuberculosis hospitals, blood transfusion services, housekeeper services, home care services, senior citizens centres, paramedical services, and to deserted wives and have provided for Aboriginal advancement. With specific purpose payments of a capital nature we have provided finance for teachers colleges, pre-school teachers colleges, science laboratories, technical training, school libraries, senior citizens centres, nursing homes and dwellings for aged pensioners. I could go on and on to men tion other areas of assistance, f refer to social services and supplementary assistance to aged and invalid pensioners.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! I ask the honourable member to resume his seat for a moment. I remind honourable members that interjections are definitely out of order. Honourable members are asked to obey the Standing Orders. The honourable member for Griffith is entitled to be heard in silence.
-It is a pity that honourable members do not decide to listen because they have sat on the Opposition side of the chamber for so long that they have forgotten so much. I have mentioned some of the things that have been introduced by this Government, There has been supplementary assistance for widowed pensioners, sheltered employment allowances, funeral benefits and so many other benefits. One could spend the full 30 minutes, allotted to each member in this debate, speaking on the subject of what this Government has done. But I. for one, do not believe that any Government can go to the people and talk about what it did yesterday; the important thing is what the Government is doing today and what it intends to do tomorrow. The point I am making is that even if the average person’s contribution to taxation has increased over the last 15 years or so, this has been because government services also have increased. It is a fact of life, no matter what the Opposition promises at Budget time each year, that no matter what a government promises, it is the people of the nation who have to provide the money. I know that the Opposition - says that it will nationalise the banking industry, the shipping industry-
– It does not say that at all.
– The honourable member for Port Adelaide said that the Opposition does not say that, yet the report of the 28th Commonwealth Conference of the Australian Labor Party says at page 10 under ‘Methods’ that the nationalisation of banking, credit and insurance, monopolies, shipping and sugar refineries is part of the policy of the ALP, yet honourable members opposite jump and squirm like worms in a can when I mention this to the Australian public. No wonder it is so difficult to buy this book. It is because the ALP does not want people to know that this is its policy.
– I rise to order. Honourable members of the Opposition do not squirm and squeal like worms. What the honourable member has read is the policy Of the Australian Labor Party and we are proud of it. We do not hide behind anyone.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– J would say, let the worm wiggle if it fits in the hole. I now ask the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) for leave to incorporate in Hansard a short table which I have prepared. With the concurrence of honourable members 1 now incorporate in Hansard a table relating to income tax.
For the purpose of this exercise I took the States of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Honourable members will recall that only a couple of nights ago the
Leader of the Opposition referred to the fact that only 30% of the people of Australia would benefit from the taxation cuts which were announced by the Treasurer (Mr Bury) a few days earlier. 1 have gone to some trouble to work out the number of taxpayers who receive less than $10,000 a year. The Leader of the Opposition said that 70% of the taxpayers would be worse off. He referred also to the giving of thousands of dollars to those people who earn over $10,000. Only 1.4% of the taxpayers in my own State of Queensland earn more than $10,000 and only 1.35% of the taxpayers in New South Wales and 1.45% of the taxpayers in Victoria earn over $10,000. In other words, as the table shows, 98.6% of the taxpayers in Queensland earn less than $10,000 a year; 97.65% of the taxpayers in New South Wales and 98.55% of the taxpayers in Victoria earn less than $10,000. The Leader of the Opposition placed great emphasis on the benefits which would accrue to the taxpayers in the $32,000 a year bracket. This table indicates that his remarks are comparatively meaningless because there are very few people in that bracket. Honourable members should remember that the percentage reduction in taxation becomes lower as one moves from the $1.0,000 bracket towards the $32,000 bracket. Reference has been made to elimination of the means test. The fact is that the great bulk of taxpayers earn less than $10,000 a year.
Having taken the eastern States of the mainland as an example, I am a little concerned about the fact that 98.6% of the population of Queensland earns less than $10,000 compared to 97.65% of the population of New South Wales and 98.55% of the population of Victoria. Even though the difference is only small, I think that this is an indication of the fact that more people in Queensland are attempting to live on a lower income. I hope that the Government will continue to give consideration to the needs of Queensland because I know that the platform of the Liberal Party of Australia states that it believes in a system whereby there is no inequality in a State and that no matter where a person lives within Australia he should share the same economic standing as a person in another part of Australia. Apparently this is not the situation at present. I notice that the Treasurer is nodding his head in acknowledgment of the fact that 1 have just stated. I hope he takes the matter to heart and remembers it when he is making his next allocation.
Unfortunately, time is fast running out on me. There are a number of other subjects 1 would like to discuss. 1 shall have to discuss them in the future. However, one thing which has left me rather disappointed is the fact that for just over a year 1 have fought with the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) - although he is a friend - for a better deal for widowers with children. 1 will not let this opportunity pass without mentioning once again their plight. 1 also think that families in which twins and triplets are born should be given a better deal. J think some adjustment should be made to the maternity allowance. 1 am tired of talking about this subject, but something should be done. 1 frankly admit that 1 am nol married and do not have any children. But 1 cannot accept the statement that it is just as cheap to have I baby as it is to have 2 or 3.
In conclusion I make brief reference - the subject deserves more than brief reference - to the receipts duty, to which the Leader of the Opposition seemed to devote so much of his time in order that he might guin a political advantage. The truth is that there should be no question about this matter because if the Queensland Government carried out its earlier promise or undertaking it would compensate for the extra tax collected by taking tax off other areas. I have here a file that is just over an inch thick. In the last couple of months f have done a considerable amount of work on this subject.
I have sorted out those items on which the State Government is still able to use its own discretion in the application of taxation and those items on which, under the receipts duty legislation, it will have to fall into line with the other States. For the other States there is no change; the status quo is maintained. But for my State of Queensland there is a change. The Deputy Premier has come out and said that Queensland cannot afford not to take advantage of this situation. I make a plea that he do something about it because the people of Queensland are carrying taxation that they have become used to and nobody looks forward to new taxation just to conform with the rest of Australia.
I thank the House for listening so intently. 1 hope that the Treasurer will note carefully the points I have raised tonight, because they are just. Furthermore, 1 hope that the Opposition will take a very close look at itself because many of the things members of the Opposition say are so shallow and devoid of any true meaning. Any Opposition worth its salt has to repeat things every year. The Leader of the Opposition has said: ‘We will do that and we will do this’. This is the fourth Budget debate at which I have been present, and I have heard those words repeated every time. But I know that the people of Australia will not be fooled, that they will realise that this country has advanced in the last 20 years under the Liberal-Country Party Government and that when we go to the people at the end of 1972 they will support us again.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Having heard the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) say that he is unmarried, I think I. should tell him that when I was a young boy my mother tried to convince me that babies came from under cabbages and gooseberry bushes. Having heard him and knowing his ancestry, 1 would say that he came from a curdled haggis when a lament was being played on the bagpipes. The stuff that he has dished up here tonight is the very stuff that is mixed up and put in a haggis, namely, ground up liver, tripe and heart - offal from animals.
The honourable gentleman showed us the level of his intelligence when he said that the reason for the difference between his estimate of the time for which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) spoke on one subject and that of one of his colleagues was that his colleague comes from South Ausatralia where the time is half an hour different from that in the eastern States. Apparently he does not realise that watches move at the same pace no matter where one lives in the world. If that is the level of the man’s ability, I do not think we need to argue with him very much further. 1 would like to take up one of the points mentioned by the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) when he spoke here this evening. He said that the Australian Labor Party was inclined to involve the people in extra costs, that it was inclined to want to bring in certain measures that must cost more. One of bis illustrations of our desire to involve the people in extra costs was that we wished to cause an election to be held over this Budget. The reverse is the case. The Government, by taking the elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate out of tandem, involved the Australian people in a cost of about $500,000 each 3 years. So, if we were to cause the holding of an election on this Budget and bring the elections back into tandem again, we would be saving the people of this country at least $500,000 every 3 years.
Those are not the only arguments, by far, that can be used against this Government. I think the most telling of all could be used against the honourable member for Griffith, who last spoke in this debate and who, because he was moving about the House, 1 thought had left. The two-faced attitude of this Government is amply demonstrated in the area of defence, especially in relation to the war in Vietnam. Perhaps 75% of honourable members on the Government side of the chamber would not have to show their birth certificates if they applied for entry to Sunset Lodge or some other oid persons’ home but there is about 25% of them who would. Most of the honourable members comprising that 25% would be of an age which would allow them, particularly if they put on the pressure and in 1 or 2 cases lowered their age, to go and fight in Vietnam, the country which they say is threatened by a war in which they say we should be involved.
My remarks in this regard apply not only to those who have sought the comfort and protection of this House in spite of their policies; they are directed also to those people I see at the polling booths at election time who hand out cards supporting the Democratic Labor Party, the Liberal Party and the Country Party. When 1 travelled through my electorate on the day of the last election f took with me some recruiting pamphlets which 1 had received from Captain George whom I know and who is with the Army’s recruiting section. I gave those pamphlets out to the gentlemen I referred to and told them to tell Captain George that I sent them. I found from inquiries later that not one of them had taken up the offer; yet they had been claiming, seriously, that Australia was being threatened and that we had to have mcn of military age fighting in Vietnam. Their own actions are a refutation of the things that they say.
– What unit were you with?
– I am here because I believe that we ought not to be involved in Vietnam. I defeated the former Minister for External Affairs on this question at the election. 1 opposed him in a seat which f believed 1 could not hope to win. I did so at my own inconvenience and cost. Yet 1 beat him on this very issue. 1 trailed him by 10,000 votes at the election in 1966 but after taking more time to argue the point 1 defeated him at the last election by 1.054 votes. I think the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) ought to take cognizance of that fact. Enough for the redbaiters and our mock fighters. I strongly support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I believe it deserves the support of the Parliament. I hope honourable members on the Government side of the chamber will show their strong feeling against the Budget, their wisdom and their perspicacity by crossing the floor and voting with the Opposition. Then we can test at the polling booths the real feeling of the Australian people.
I wish to refer to three main areas of the Budget - social services, primary industry and defence. I hope to show where this country can make savings and where money can be redirected from one area to another - money which has been badly spent by this Government. Like all honourable members, including those on the Government side, I know the plight of people in receipt of social services - the people on low incomes, people with families who. because of sickness or adversity, through invalidity or age, are forced to live on social services only or with social service assistance. It is time the Government took a closer look at the workings of the means test as it affects people with very low incomes or very low savings which prejudice them or disqualify them from obtaining a pension.
To illustrate ray argument I will refer to three cases out of many, each of them involving people in my own electorate. In Mount Barker, Western Australia, there is the widow of an ex-serviceman who served this country throughout World War II. She receives a pension of $13.25 per week. She has to pay rent of $5 a week. She has been fortunate enough to obtain a Housing Commission home. If her daughter receives an increase in income, although she is only a teenager the widow must inform the Department of Social Services of the increase and may find that there is a reduction in her income. The total income in the house would probably be less than $30 a week, but if there is some slight adjustment in that income it is necessary to notify the Department of Social Services. J am not saying that the pension would be reduced. I am saying that people on such a low level of income and with such small savings accumulated during a lifetime ought not to be subject to a means test, lt should not operate at its present levels.
I have been contacted by a pensioner couple living in Augusta. The husband was in a government job and is paid superannuation. Recently the Western Australian Superannuation Board examined the payments it had been making in comparison with increases in the cost of living since the previous adjustment was made to superannuation payments. As a result the Board granted an increase of $1.25 a fortnight. Immediately this adjustment was made, 40c a fortnight was taken from the pension of each partner of the married couple, so that they lost 80c of the $1.25 which was estimated to be the adjustment required to compensate for the increased cost of living.
A similar thing has occurred to a family in Collie. The man concerned has been a soldier and fought for us in a previous World War. He worked consistently as a miner and contributed to a superannuation fund. Recently the Coal Miners Tribunal paid an extra $1.50 a week to miners. When the adjustment was made the State Housing Commission increased the rent of his home by 90c a week, the Repatriation Department reduced his 10% allowance by 32c a week and the Department of Social Services decreased his wife’s pension by 50c a week. The result was that he and his wife gained $1.50 a week and lost $1.72 a week. These people are not wealthy. The means test should not operate against them. I believe that the Government should seriously examine the whole social service set up and should remove that sort of penalty from people on low incomes.
The next matter 1 wish to raise concerns an anomaly which in some respects is understandable. We do not pay social service benefits, except the sickness benefit, to migrants who are not naturalised. This law was enacted having in mind people who choose to come here to live and decide not to become naturalised citizens. I have knowledge of a case of a man who has been in hospital for some time. He may be permanently injured, but while his condition is not considered to be permanent his wife and family can receive the sickness benefit. If it is found tomorrow that he is permanently disabled the sickness benefit will cease and he will have no income at all. Of course, the members of his family are deeply distressed. They have been involved in considerable costs through his sickness and have had no income for some weeks until recently when they obtained the sickness benefit. They are certainly in a state of poverty. f turn to the next subject I wish to raise in the social service field. I believe that something ought to have been done long before this about adjustments in endowment and maternity allowances. Research has been conducted in this country - not of course by the Government - (o estimate the level of poverty. It has been found that about 1 million people are living at an established level of poverty. There arc perhaps two or three million more people who are just above the poverty line. I believe more people are moving into the area of poverty, because in my State, for instance, the State Housing Commission does not try to compete with private owners of homes and there is growing up a far greater demand for State Housing Commission homes than will be met for many years. For instance, in the city one has to have one’s name on the list for ‘5 to 6 years before a Housing Commission home is allocated. In Bunbury, which is a country town, a person has to be on the list for at least 17 months. In Albany, which is another country town, the waiting period is about 2 years. People waiting for Housing Commission accommodation are often forced to live in sub-standard homes. 1 have had people come to mc who were living in places where slugs crept up between the floorboards and the skirting boards, where draughts blew through unrepaired windows and walls and where the landlord had not to carry out other than major repairs but yet could claim the highest rents. A person is very fortunate in country towns in Western Australia to be able to find a house for $20 a week rent. If such a person were on an income of $45 a week and had a child or two I do not know how he could live. The number of people living in these sorts of conditions has increased tremendously in the last few years and is Still increasing. It is time that a very close examination was made of the whole social services setup. Indeed it is time that more was paid to recipients of maternity allowances and endowment.
I turn from social services to primary industries in rural areas. One of the interesting things which can be compared with the Government’s attitude to the war in Vietnam is its attitude to primary industry. Only 2 or 3 years ago Australian Country Party and Liberal Party members used to parade up and down this country claiming thai they were responsible for the progress, the increased productivity, the increased wealth and the affluence of Australia. The reason they gave for this state of affairs was not that we had lived through 20 years of peace; it was not that the ground work had been done after the war; and it was not world conditions that existed during that period. They said it was because of the action they had taken, though action seems to have been the thing most lacking.
Now, with a sudden turn to adverse conditions, the Country Party says that it is not responsible for the wheat quotas, that it is not responsible for this and that in rural areas. The Country Party says that this is a problem for the industry to sort out. It maintains that what has happened in primary industry is the result of what has happened on world markets and of world conditions, that these things could not be foreseen. Yet the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has said in this place that anyone who had anything to do with wheat at all could have foreseen this crisis developing 5 years ago and therefore, 1 should say, could have acted. But we find, as only one example, that the Western Australian Government opened up a million acres of land every year well into that 5-year period. The Country Party says that it is not responsible, that the position has nothing at all to do with it and that it is for the industry to decide what to do.
Conditions in the rural industries of Western Australia are almost unbelieveable. They do not. bear comparison with the conditions that existed 3 years ago. In fact, people in rural areas in Western Australia are distressed. People who are third generation or second generation farmers, whose grandfathers settled the land after the First World War or whose fathers settled the land during the depression or after the depression, now find themselves faced with the decision whether to get off the land and cut their losses - they will not be able to get anything like a reasonable price for their farms - and go into something else. Only this week I was in the wheat areas of Western Australia and I was told by people whom I know very well that whereas they were well and truly established in 1949 they have since seen a gradual decline and now find themselves with a $50,000 debt. It is all right for members of the Country Party to titter. It is all right for them. They sit here and draw their parliamentary salaries. They are here safe and sound from the conditions in rural areas, as they are safe and sound from the Vietnam war. They are protected from it and they take no cognisance of it.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. T am being accused by honourable member opposite of interfering with the speaker. I have not opened my mouth or made any sound.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! Interjections are out of order.
– There is an urgent need for the Government to act to make debt adjustment for farmers. I know that honourable members opposite are talking about this, but it gives me no comfort at all, because 1 remember that for 4 years they talked about the dairy reconstruction scheme which is going to run for only 4 years. If they talk for 4 years about debt adjustment for farmers, it will be too late - all the farmers will be forced off the land. Another point that was brought home to me was that people who have been breeding stud stock - breeding a line which would give Australia some of the best stock in this country - now find that they can get a better price for their stock by selling to the butcher than to their neighbours or to others who want breeding pigs, cattle or sheep.
– You had better get out into the country and have a look.
– One has only to look at the register for stud pigs in Australia from 1966-67 to the present time to find that it is now about one-third of its original size.
– You are not a farmer.
– 1 may not be a farmer, but if the honourable member came to my electorate and saw farmers who have been labouring under 20 years of LiberalCountry Party Government, he would not want to elect a farmer to this Parliament, either. One of the other things (hat is necessary, 1 believe, is the provision of better educational opportunities for people in country areas - perhaps a higher standard of schools set in the country - although, of course, I am reminded that a farmer, who is Minister for Education in Western Australia, recently tried to downgrade country high schools, and it was only because of the resistance which he met from people in rural areas that he did not take that step.
It is only by educating farmers’ children to lake their places somewhere else in the community that they will be saved from being forced to follow in their fathers’ footsteps, like it or not, and reap the result of the mismanagement that we have had here in Canberra in the past. I have seen people on dairy farms whose children have had to get up in the morning to milk the cows because their families could not afford to hire labour. In many cases the children also had to milk the cows at night. They went to school but they were unable to make progress and they had to leave school at 14 years of age. They were forced to leave school at 14 years of age because they made no progress, not having been given the opportunity to make it. Australia has lost untapped, unrealised potential. This is because of the lack of foresight that we have had in Western
Australia. The Country Party Minister for Education in Western Australia only recently spent $15,000 on building 2 classrooms which were to last a year in an area where it was decided that those classrooms were needed 2 years ago. These people might be all right at farming, but they certainly do not do to well in government. 1 had hoped to have more time to deal with a third matter which I believe is of the utmost importance to this country, and that is the matter of defence. Entering into the subject now, I want to read some words which will tickle the ears and warm the hearts of honourable members opposite because they come from their greatest mentor. When he delivered his policy speech in 1963 the great deceiver said:
And now wc have arranged, on most favourable terms of cost and delivery, to obtain me American TFX reconnaissance bomber, which our Air Force experts, after extended investigations overseas, declared to be ‘the ideal choice for the RAAF’, i.e. the best for our purposes, our security- and note the last part - and the mcn who will fly them.
– Who said that?
– It was Mr Menzies. There we saw considered Government action at its best. That action was taken on good advice at election time to protect Australia because it was going to be invaded by Indonesia the next week. As I said, that was in 1963. It is 1970 now. It is just as well the Indonesians did not come, if they were to constitute a serious threat to us. What about the Fill bomber? Honourable members opposite ask us where the money is to come from. One is tempted to ask: Where has it gone? We have not received the FU J aircraft yet but we have the spares for them. The spares cost us $US56m until 28th February this year. Payments to that stage - they have been made at monthly intervals since - amounted to $US220.406m. One wonders what could have been done with that money, for which we have received nothing’. It would be unfair of me not to add that we might not lose the whole amount. The Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) told us that we might lose only $150m if we did not proceed with the contract. That means that the 1963 election cost us not only $500,000. lt cost us $150,500,000 to save the Government in its time of peril.
Let us look at that other mistake - it is difficult to find a word to describe the magnitude of the error. The Vietnam war has cost Australia $162. 170m in military spending over and above what would have been our normal military spending even with the numbers in the Army being as they are at the present time. Of course, money does not give us the true cost. We have lost 238 regular soldiers and 168 national servicemen, a total of 406 men whose lives will never be restored and whose place in the work force and in the community can never be replaced. Other casualties until 3rd April this year were: battle casualties, 1,134 regular soldiers and 827 national servicemen: non-battle casualties; 400 regulars and 200 national servicemen; a total of 2,560 men. At 31st December 1969 2,112 servicemen from Vietnam were on pensions. Twelve were on special rate TPI pensions, 217 were on the maximum general rate and 947 were on lesser rates. An amount of $100,000 a year is to be paid in pensions to men whose lives have been ruined or who will suffer from some form of disability throughout their lives. That will be a recurring expense. It wm not decrease, but increase. If the war stopped immediately, in 10 years it will have cost Australia $165m, quite apart from the loss to the work force, the loss in human life and the effect it has had upon the families that are left. I contend that this is something which the Liberal Party Government has entered into purely for domestic reasons.
– Do not forget about the Country Party.
– The Libera) and Country Party Government entered into this war purely for election purposes. The cost of it has been tremendous. Yet we find honourable members in this place saying that they believe in the war, even when they are of military age and could impress upon the Minister their desire to be enlisted even if they were turned down at the base as psychologically unfit. Let us look at the effect of the Vietnam war and conscription upon the Army and upon the Services. In 1964 we were told that we had to have national service training, which has been so costly to us. We had to have it because we could not get sufficient volun teers. Yet the average rate of volunteers for each year from 1961 to 1964 was 11,930 and the average rate at which volunteers were accepted was 3,200. One wonders what has happened to Australian manhood when people who are willing to join the forces are turned down at the rate of about two out of every three. 1 know from personal experience that people who were turned down before national service training was introduced were called up for national service. They were willing to enlist as volunteers but were turned down, but when the system of national service training was introduced they were conscripted. The cost of national service to this country has been $3m per year - a total cost to the present of $18m - plus the loss to the labour force of those men who have been conscripted into the Army. One must take into account that these men were trained, at universities for professions and for trades and were taken out of them just when they were ready to put into practice the things they had been taught. Their careers and lives were interrupted and they had to try to pick up the threads 2 years later. This must be of tremendous cost to Australia and it demonstrates the need for a new approach.
I have cited figures to show that people were willing to join the forces. What has been the effect of the Vietnam war upon morale? In 1963-64 some 68% of Navy men re-enlisted. In 1968-69 the figure was down to 18%. One does not wonder when one sees the fall of Mr Chaney, Mr Kelly and Mr Chipp as former Ministers for the Navy, and now the present Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen) who gets up here and dances on the poop deck and carries on like a jolly tar - which leads one to ask what we should do with him early in the morning. In 1963-64 the Army had a reenlistment rate of 60%. In 1968-69 it had fallen to 47%. In 1963-64 the Air Force had a re-enlistment rate of 61%. In 1968-69 it was 57%. Recruiting costs us $1,836,000 a year or $1,250 per head for everybody who enlists. I believe that that is a misspending of money and that something needs to be done to ensure that we get better value for it than that. Not only have I shown, that the Government has mismanaged this country but that there has been flagrant misspending of funds.
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr King) adjourned.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Anglo - Austraiian Telescope Agreement Bill 1970.
Book Bounty Bill 1970.
Motion (by Mr Killen) proposed:
That the House tlo now adjourn.
Mr KEOGH (Bowman) r 10.59] - During the course of the Budget debate this afternoon the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury)-
– Order! The honourable member will be out of order if he alludes to a debate in the current session.
– This evening I desire to refer to a matter with which I have been concerned for a great deal of time and to which I now find coming to support me concern from the ranks of Government members. I did not intend to deal with this matter, but I believe that the time is opportune for it to be raised on the occasion of the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House, f believe that the sudden interest of Queensland Liberal members in the grave problem to which 1 wish to refer was singularly significant, and sufficiently so, to warrant a short submission from this side of the House. The time at my disposal tonight will allow brief reference only to the scandalous neglect by this Government which, I believe, is the main reason for the development of the crisis in university facilities in Queensland.
The failure of this Government to appreciate the need for urgent attention to the finalisation of St Lucia University’s development and the actual commencement of a second Brisbane university at Mount Gravatt is highlighted by the unjust allocations to university education in Queensland in the 1970-1972 triennium. During this current triennium a miserable sum of S250.000 has been recommended by the Australian Universities Commission and approved by this Government for the Griffith University, which is to be the name of the proposed university at Mount Gravatt. A small unobtrusive reference dismissed in 4 lines at page of ot the Fourth Report of the Australian Universities Commission typifies the Government’s attitude to the needs of young Queensland school leavers who will be seeking a university education in the next few years. Many will be denied this opportunity. It is somewhat refreshing to see that at least one voice has been raised among the ranks of Government, backbench members on the problem. Therefore I wish to take this opportunity to support the honourable member who said that it would cause a grave injustice to St Lucia University if the financing of Griffith University during the 1973-75 triennium caused any cut back to the requirements of St Lucia. I support his call for special Government assistance for St Lucia. In turn I seek his support for my submission, which I believe may offer an immediate solution to the present neglect, of the Griffith University building programme.
However at present there is little reason for his concern that Griffith development will handicap any plans for St Lucia, for one reason as 1 intend to show. The reverse is rather the fact because at the moment Griffith University lacks a voice which would be effective in submissions to the Australian Universities Commission. To date Griffith is dependent on the hopelessly over-committed advocacy of the St Lucia vice-chancellor and his staff. Let me state quite definitely that the vice-chancellor has more than he can humanly be expected to cope with in the administration of and planning for the completion of his own university without paying more than scant attention to the problems concerning the development of the Griffith University.
This Government and its fellow LiberalCountry Party administration in Queensland have allowed the Griffith University to become the unwanted child of tertiary, education in Queensland. Griffith University was planned originally to enrol students in 1969, but unless a new approach is taken to its development it will not be able to take students until at least 1978, almost 10 years later. Even if students were to have been enrolled this year ii would have been almost too late for the current needs of Queensland. The disgusting revelation last year that Griffith University development was to be retarded because the Queensland Government was unable to provide matching finance for any Commonwealth grant, which we were told was then available, was a shocking illustration of Government disinterest in the problem at that time.
Equally urgent to the need of a special grant for St Lucia, which, with its particular problems places it in a very unfavourable light in comparison with other Australian universities, as have been illustrated on more than one occasion, is the urgency for a non-matching Federal Government grant to enable the Griffith University building programme to be undertaken without delay. In order to establish a genuine and realistic figure 1 urge the Commonwealth Government to call on the Queensland Government to establish an interim council, to appoint a vice-chancellor to head that council, and to charge that council with submitting, before the end of this year, a project development plan together with a fully documented and costed estimate of the finance needed to proceed with Griffith University completely independently of the requirements of St Lucia.
This documentation should be immediately considered by the Australian Universities Commission and the vitally necessary Federal Government grant should then be approved and paid to allow the development of this university to proceed.
– I want to raise a matter within the province of the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes). The Attorney-General is quick to tell us of his concern for law and order. I hope he is also concerned for justice. The matter I wish to raise concerns 6 men who are at present in Long Bay Gaol following a conviction for contempt of court. The sentence of 14 days’ imprisonment with hard labour was passed on 17th August in the Magistrate’s Court in Sydney in which the 6 men were appearing on a charge of trespassing on private property, that being the private property of the Attorney-General.
It is not my intention to discuss the charge of trespassing on the Attorney-
General’s property. 1 think it is important that the trespassing charge and the contempt of court charge be separated entirely. 1 ask the Attorney-General to try to do this in spite of his personal involvement in this case. I wish to direct my remarks only to the matter of the contempt of court charge and the events following. These events have been quite extraordinary. During the sitting of the Magistrate’s Court the defendants each raised one arm with a closed fist - nothing more, nothing less. Thereupon the Magistrate asked the defendants to show cause why they should not be dealt with for contempt. The Magistrate then proceeded to sentence the men to 14 days’ imprisonment with hard labour. It should be noted that the magistrate failed to extend to the men an adequate opportunity to obtain legal advice and that the men were not remanded on the charge.
On Thursday, 20th August, a request was made to Mr Justice Taylor that the case be heard by the Court of Appeal of New South Wales on the grounds that the men had been denied natural justice and that their actions did not constitute in law contempt of court. The counsel for the defence pointed out that they had been denied legal representation and that the charge had not been remanded. They further pointed out that their conduct did not in any manner threaten the peace of the court and that it did not in any way prevent the ordinary course of business of the court. Further, the belief was expressed that the conviction was founded upon considerations of motive based on social and political values which the presiding magistrate may have believed to underlie what was or would otherwise have been innocent conduct.
Mr Justice Taylor held that there could be an arguable complaint about a denial of natural justice and he was concerned whether their conduct constituted contempt of court. He granted an order to restrain the magistrate from proceeding with the sentence until the Court of Appeal heard the case. The appeal was heard by the Court of Appeal of New South Wales on Friday, 21st August. On Monday, 24th August, the court declined to order the release of the men. The same afternoon an affidavit was filed in the High Court of Australia seeking special leave to appeal to the High Court. Under the Judiciary Act only 2 judges are required to convene a
Full Court, lt is a further fact that there are 6 High Court judges in Sydney this week and that only 2 of them are occupied. In spite of this the Chief Justice refused to assemble the Court this week. He did not even state that no judges were available; the message was merely received from the Registrar of the Court that the Court would not be assembled.
I would like to know upon what basis the Court was not assembled this week. There has been a severe denial of justice to these men. I fail to see why the application for leave to appeal should not have been dealt with. The cases in which the 2 judges were involved, incidentally, both concerned taxation - Commonwealth matters, lt is quite obvious that the Court could have been convened. Even if the other 4 judges were unavailable, surely the 2 hearing the taxation matters could have heard the case. 1 point out to the House that in the United States and in the United Kingdom it is standard practice that matters involving property rights are put aside when the liberty of a subject is involved. Why could this not have been done here? It should not be forgotten that the Chief Justice had the same material before him as Mr Justice Taylor had last week and at that time I remind the House that Mr Justice Taylor stated that there was an arguable case, yet with the High Court the matter could not even be heard. Meanwhile, the men were and are still in Long Bay Gaol.
I ask the Attorney-General to put aside his own emotional involvement in this case. Can he explain on what basis the Chief Justice exercises his discretion on whether or not a case will be heard? Does the Commonwealth Government regard matters of property and taxation as more important than the liberty of the individual? If this is the case, I believe this attitude will only bring the law into disrepute. The answer to such situations is not increasing repression, or what the Government likes to call ‘law and order’, but to give equal justice to all citizens. Six men have been imprisoned without remand and without representation on grounds which one judge has considered at least open to question yet their application for leave to appeal further has been denied. While 2 judges are hearing tax matters and 4 others are hearing nothing 6 men remain in gaol.
This is outrageous. Mr Speaker, I ask the Attorney-General to tell us whether the rule of law is to apply equally, whether we are to grant justice to all citizens equally across the board, or whether it is only to be granted to those whose political standards are similar to those of the Government. We will hear a lot more about law and order 1 suppose. The Government has had all its mindless menials parroting about law and order because they are all frightened to debate the Budget and I suppose we will hear of nothing else but law and order until after the Senate election is over. Let us hear the Attorney-General tell us whether he is interested in justice as well.
– I am sure that later the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) will discuss the legal ramifications of what the honourable member for Kingstom (Dr Gun) has said here tonight. I enter this debate because the honourable member did give notice that he intended to raise this matter. It concerned me. I sat here and thought: ‘Here is a member of the once great Labor Party. He is here protesting on behalf of a worker, some poor innocent lad who is a plumber’s apprentice, a builder’s labourer or somebody who has committed an offence.’ But in 10 years 1 have never heard such an appeal made by any member of the Labor Party on behalf of any member of those he claims to represent.
There has been silence about all the matters which have concerned such people. But when it comes to anybody concerned with a moratorium badge or an organisation such as the Students for a Democratic Society - the new elite and the new confreres of the Labor Party - they are in hook, line and sinker. This would not happen to the old Labor man. One does not hear it from the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Griffiths), the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) or the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). One does not hear this from those who are staunch and true Labor men but from those of the new ilk who are now flirting with those who have no time for law and order and who in fact in this particular case said that they did not recognise the jurisdiction of the court and that as far as they were concerned-
– That is not true. I will show you the transcript.
– It is obviously misreported again because this is one of the things that they were imprisoned over. But let us ask ourselves what is happening in this country. If one goes through the newspapers over the last year one can see the reports of demonstrations by the friends of the honourable member which have taken place. One can see the number of times that the courts of this country have been upset, where there have been demonstrations within the courts and where the courts have been occupied. One will find the same people, whether it be in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane or anywhere else, and it is the same small coterie who are carrying out these attacks. We find that a political party goes as far as to raise in the national Parliament the rights of these particular men. I think that these men are not concerned about their rights. They are concerned to get the newspaper and television coverage which is granted to them so freely in this country at this time. This is the objective towards which they are working. I feel ashamed to think that a Party such as the one to which the honourable member for Kingston belongs has stooped so low. I would suggest that, in relation to the Budget, the Opposition may have a case. But it will never sell itself to the Australian people as long as it performs like this because the Australian people are concerned with the affiliations which are undertaken by some sections of the honourable member’s Party.
Let us go through the names of some of those concerned in this matter. Mr HamelGreen is in and out of court like a yo yo. Mr Hetherington Jones is in and out of court like a yo yo. He is in every demonstration. His name appears in the newspapers more frequently than does the name of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). Let us go further and examine what is happening in this country. Disruptive action against government and private buildings and the courts of the land has occurred in capital cities right throughout this country. This action has been taken by a small group, the same people on each occasion. They are not decent unionists. They are not unfortunate young lads who may have had hard luck and on whose behalf onn might rise and make a case. They are the people who do not recognise the laws of this country, who wish to pull down the laws of this country and who wish to overthrow the method of life in this country. They are being given able assistance by a considerable number of members of the Opposition.
Let us remember the fire bombs that were thrown into the General Electric Co. building in Melbourne. Nobody seemed to be terribly concerned, lt appears that it is quite al) right in this country to throw petrol bombs into a building. It does not matter that there could be people in that building or that, if a fire broke out, those people could be killed. It would not matter if that fire spread to other buildings. These are the great friends of the Opposition and the people whom Opposition members will support whatever they do.
Let us remember also the shots that were fired into the building of Unilever (Aust.) Pty Ltd, again by friends of the Opposition and people who are being supported by my young friend opposite. When an arrest was made in that case it was found that the persons concerned had petrol bombs in their car. They had the same offensive objects as did earlier attackers. Let us go further and recall when the Melbourne Stock Exchange was occupied by similar groups of young gentlemen. A fire was set on the floor of the Melbourne Stock Exchange, lt did not matter whether other people were present or whether lives could have been in danger. No concern is felt on the other side of the House about these matters.
In September 1969 in Adelaide, 6 masked men entered a national service registration office during the lunch time break. One man was carrying a tomahawk. The others had wire cutters. They cut and wrenched out telephone wires. They pulled out drawers containing records and then poured animal blood from a container onto those records, the furniture and the floor. This is the sort of thing that these honourable gentlemen opposite are supporting. These people are all in the same group. On 25th April 1970, in Hobart, 27 shots were fired into a Department of Labour and National Service building. If this is the sort of thing that is to be tolerated in this country and if this is the sort of action which honourable members opposite are supporting, I am sure that they will be repudiated by the Australian people. Australians may be concerned about pensions. They may be concerned about the Budget. But I am sure that they will never ever take to a Party which seems to give support only to those who are out to break the laws of this country.
There is no country in the world where the rights of the people are so clear as they are in Australia. I invite honourable members opposite to talk to people from overseas to verify this. Look at the rights which are given to these young students. Time and time again they come before a court. They are released on bail and nothing further is done. But unrest is becoming apparent at this moment in the Australian community because it appears that there is a law for these people and a different law for the common people.
It may be that for once, although I think it is basic, the Government feels that the law is for all the people of this land whether one be a plumber’s apprentice, whether one cannot read or write or whether one be a university student whose education is paid for by the public. If this action does not stop I think there will be a greater reaction from the ordinary people of this country that may well compel governments to take action which they have no desire to take. It is the ordinary people who are becoming concerned. It is the ordinary people who know that the protection of their homes, their children, their businesses and their way of life is under threat by certain organisations within this country. It does not give them reassurance when they find honourable members from the other side of the chamber not only playing a part with but leading organisations which are undertaking action such as breaking into buildings, throwing out records, disturbing people in their employment and the occupation of post offices so that ordinary people cannot go about their business. The pressure is not coming from Liberal supporters; it is coming from members who were formerly Labor supporters and who say: ‘I would not have a bar of what is going on in the Labor Party at this time’. I suggest the honourable member for Kingston would use his time better if he called for mercy, leniency and justice for people who were more deserving of it.
These gentlemen are glorying; they do not recognise our law. They are out to break it, to put it into jeopardy, and to see that it terminates.
– This week reports indicate that members of the Liberal Party were worried - quite rightly so - at the great public image of the Australian Labor Party. The clarion call has gone forth: ‘We must fight an election on the law and order issue.’ Could honourable members imagine anything sillier than the Liberal Party fighting on law and order? Everybody knows that the Liberal Party is a desperate, discredited rabble which is riddled with hatred, bitterness and intrigue, and is grasping at straws to avoid political doom. Why would Liberal Party members not try to fight on some other front? Look at the disunity that exists among them. The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) I would refer to as the reluctant rebel from La Trobe. He talks as he likes but votes as he is told, and he does it again and again. Tonight he is the custodian of and the fighter for the Liberal rally for salvation. Why would not the Liberal Party want to fight on law and order? Why would it not want to get away from criticism of this Budget which it has brought in? Why would it not get away from the disunity between the Liberal Party and the Country Party? Why does it not want to escape from its responsibilities to the primary producers and others? Why does it not want to get away from the selling of wool to China - its Communist enemy, as it says - which shoots down Australian fighting men in Vietnam? Why docs it not want to escape from the Fill contract and the waste there? Why does it not want to get away from thousand and one other things like the gaoling of men who oppose the war in Vietnam, as mentioned by the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) a few moments ago?
What short memories honourable members on that side of the fence who believe in law and order have. Do honourable members remember that magnificent move when the Labor Party sought to nationalise the banks? The present Government’s own members stood in this Parliament and exhorted the people of this country to rebel against the legislation, to fight in the streets and the banks by any methods necessary in order to destroy the Labor Party and the legislation. 1 stood in halls from one end of this country to the other in which agitators paid by the Liberal Party and Country Party disrupted meetings in the most violent and disruptive fashion. These are the people who talk of law and order. Throughout the debate on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill did honourable members ever stand on a platform while the Liberal rabble tried to howl speakers down? Even when the Labor Party’s attitude was endorsed by the Australian people Liberal Party supporters were still endeavouring to disrupt the meetings. Do honourable members recall Rothbury in New South Wales where a miner was shot at a Liberal Government’s instigation to stop a riot at that time? The Country Party once had a member named Thorby and they called him ‘Shootemdown Thorby’ because he wanted to shoot every fellow that went on strike. Yet these are supposed to be the law and order parties in this country today.
We remember the New Guard. Who will ever forget it? It put up its own organisation to take over the Government of New South Wales at the time when J. T. Lang, now the hero of the Liberal Party, was Premier of that State. Even at that stage Sir Eric Harrison, formerly a leading member of the Liberal Party in this House, was supposed to be a member of it. The Liberal Party supported this Fascist movement and it. now talks about law and order. Honourable members on the Government side talking about law and order must be regarded as one of the greatest jokes of the century. Why should people today not have the right to express themselves? The Government knows that it is on the way to political doom and it is frightened of dissent. It is frightened of people criticising. By all possible police state methods the Government seeks to suppress criticism of its actions in this Parliament and in other places.
The Government is using every form of intimidation under the guise of law and order to try to stop people from protesting. The poor old souls who were out in front of Parliament House the other day, who came up here expecting that they would get more than a miserable SOc from this contemptible Government, staggered out to the front of the House to wave banners in their frail and sick hands. The Government turned the photographers on them to take their photographs. Those aged people were considered subversive; they were undermining the Government. The poor souls could hardly stagger up here so weak and ill were they from want because of this Government’s failure to give them sustenance to carry on. Fancy the security police being turned on them. The Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) noted with pride the efficiency of his police officers in photographing these dear old souls who could not in a week have run away from danger. This is Liberal Party law and order. These are the methods the Liberals use; yet they talk about law and order.
The Government should be revealed to the people for what it is. It is the greatest farce of our time. The law and order specialists on the Government side, under another name, are the people who believe in suppression of the rights of the individual, suppression of the right to dissent and the gaoling of people who do not agree with them. The gaols of this country have men in them today simply because they protested against legislation which the vast majority of Australians do not countenance. Are we to have a law and order election? I hope that the Government accepts the challenge of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in respect of this Budget. Let us have an election on law and order at this very time. I can see those honourable members opposite who want an election, and one of them is the honourable member for La Trobe. If he wants to get rid of people on this side then he should vote against the Budget. We will face the people on any issue which the Liberal Party cares to nominate, including the Fascist law and order proposals put before the Australian people. Tonight I invite the Liberal Party to accept the challenge that is held out to it. Let us fight an election on law and order. 1 have no doubt that if such an election took place the Labor Party would have so many members on the Government side of the House that it would be one of the most historic victories of our time and one of the greatest.
– There would not be law and order.
– The honourable member for Boothby has interjected - the South African sponsor; the Rhodesian sponsor.
He wishes to introduce his legislation from Rhodesia. Let us hope that he does not become a Minister; he would probably abolish the monarchy. When all is said and done he believes in Rhodesian policies. I would like to hear the honourable member speak on his form of law and order. I ask him: Do you believe in men going to gaol without a trial, as they do in Rhodesia? Do you believe in the suppression, the treatment and the torture that comes to them? Let us hear the honourable member’s plan for law and order. We heard intimidation tonight from the honourable member for La Trobe and we had a threat by the Prime Minister, but these things should not mislead the people of this country. They should know the nature of the political parties that sponsor these things, and that when legislation was introduced in this Parliament that did not suit the huge interests behind them in days gone by, every force known to man was used to destroy the Labor government of the day irrespective of the effect that might have on the law abiding citizens of this country. I know that you, Mr Speaker, would not agree with this. You are one of the few democrats remaining in the Liberal Party. Tonight you must sit there with pride knowing that you are not associated with these people, free as you are from the contamination of the policies which they espouse in this Parliament.
I was interested to hear this campaign was to come on tonight. I knew that something must have been on because I saw that the galleries were filled with pressmen. Knowing that the honourable member for La Trobe was going to speak I knew that the pressmen would not have come in unless they were asked to do so. So I say to Government supporters: If you do not want us to know that something is on, never put up the honourable member for La Trobe because he is the best indication that something is coming along. Otherwise, there would be no-one around the place. If I might coin a phrase, I am sad to see this once great Party a disunited rabble today, afraid to fight on its policies, ashamed to go to the people on a 50c Budget increase for pensioners, ashamed to fight on the great principles which it once espoused. Now, under the guise of restoring law and order, the Government is seeking to have re-elected a government the people do not want. More in sorrow than in anger I say again that it is sad to see the decline of a once great Party. I see that the honourable member for Calare (Mr England) is silently agreeing with me in his inimitable way. I cannot help noticing that at last the Country Party - or at least half the coalition parties - has awakened to what the Government is doing to this country. I hope that other honourable members on that side of the chamber will state their plan for law and order. Is it a matter of guns, men to be imprisoned without trial and all those things? We are entitled to know. I say to the public that the greatest joke of our time is that the Liberal and Country Parties talk of law and order when they are the greatest lawbreakers in the land.
– After the excursion into ancient and mostly imaginary history by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) I should like to bring the House back to sanity on this important issue of law and order. 1 propose to quote a description of the younger generation written by a very wise man. He said:
Our youths now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, they show disrespect for their elders. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble their food and tyrannise their teachers.
That is not a description of members of the Australian Labor Party; it was actually written by Socrates in the 5th century B.C. There is nothing new in our present turbulent younger generation. It is true that our society and all societies throughout the world are subject to unprecedented stress. Someone said the other day that of all the scientists who ever lived, 90% are still alive. The effect of this can be seen in the accelerating change in our material surroundings. This naturally and inevitably leads to the questioning of other aspects of our society. Because of this rapid material change society has a greater need than ever before of some certainties to hold onto. The rule of law in this country now faces graver and more pervasive danger than it has ever faced before. I put it to you bluntly: The rule of law could be wiped out by one misguided generation, no matter how well intentioned that generation thought it was. If this should happen it would take a century or more of struggle and sacrifice to restore what had so wilfully been thrown away.
In our society the question is not ‘May I dissent?’ One may dissent. One may criticise. One may oppose. Our Constitution and our courts guarantee this. The real question is: ‘How may I dissent?’ Each of us owes a duty of obedience to law. If we wish to protest we must find out what methods of protest are lawful. But it must be remembered that good motives do not excuse actions which injure others. The individual’s conscience does not give him a licence to indulge individual conviction without regard to the rights of others. But if an individual observes these restraints, he has the right to protest, however strongly; the right to criticise, however intemperately; the right to draw others to his cause. The state must not only respect these rights; it must also protect the dissenter from other citizens who try to prevent him exercising his rights. This may be seen in practice in the protection afforded speakers in, say, the Domain in Sydney or the Yarra Bank in Melbourne or in the arrangements made for orderly and prearranged protest marches.
What happens if dissenters go beyond these bounds and disrupt the movement of peaceful citizens, invade offices, terrorise people in their homes or show their contempt at the proceedings of the law? Clearly if our society is to survive under the rule of law it must take action to restrain and, if necessary, to punish such dissenters. These dissenters are in many ways like young children who are constantly probing to find out how far they can stretch parental authority. We need clear statements on the permissible limits of dissent and firm action to be taken against those who transgress these limits. But principally it is a question of enforcing more strictly the limits which already exist. In nearly every case of outrageous mob action at a university the situation would never have got out of hand if the university authorities had acted promptly in the first place to restore order. The extent to which some university authorities have abdicated responsibility for the behaviour of their charges is almost a national disgrace. This is having an ominous effect on the future of tertiary education because the public is becoming increasingly hostile to students. If this trend continues it cannot fail to do great harm to our society.
In addition to enforcing reasonable limits on dissent it is essential that we keep open every avenue for the orderly voicing of dissent and the airing of grievances. I believe that this has been largely achieved in the universities and it has certainly been achieved in our society at large. The way to change laws or policy is through the ballot box, not through strikes organised by a would-be dictator or moratoriums organised by a would-be alternative Prime Minister. The result of this type of dissent may be, as was pointed out the other day, a massive vote of no confidence in the Opposition. However, while I share this want of confidence in the Opposition, I realise too that the trend is dangerous for democracy and the rule of law in this country. We must all unite to restore and improve the rule of law for the alternative is anarchy.
– It is obvious from listening to the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) that he has a general tendency to link everything which is wrong in the community with the Australian Labor Party. That was the meaning behind his remarks. The fact is, of course, that there are many in the community today who believe in the freedom of assembly irrespective of the people who assemble. We do not say that people are Communists because they assemble with Communists. To illustrate my point, 1 shall quote from an article in the ‘Canberra Times’ of 27th August last year concerning an invitation by the Woden Valley branch of the Liberal Party of Ausatralia to a Russian diplomat to address it. Before doing so, I should like to make it perfectly clear that I am not saying that the members of the Woden Valley Branch of the Liberal Party are Communists. The article states:
We cannot expect that it would be possible to do anything in a few days or months. H will take time to consider and discuss’, the third secretary of the Soviet Embassy in Canberra, Mr Alexander Ekimenko, said last night.
Mr Ekimenko was addressing a Liberal Party meeting on Australia’s attitude to Soviet proposals for collective security arrangements in Asia.
Speaking at a meeting of the Woden Valley branch of the party, he said: ‘Let us live in peace and try to do what we can do to present the nest war and live, if not as good friends, as good neighbours’.
Mr Ekimenko arrived from Moscow 3 days ago to take up his new post in Canberra. He has had connections wilh the Australian Embassy in Moscow. . . .
While speaking Mr Ekimenko wore a badge carrying the words ‘Liberal Party - Maher for MHR’ . . .
I suggest that it is most unethical for any foreign diplomat to support a political party in Australia; but that was done without any inhibitions whatsoever. As I said before, I do not suggest that the members of the Woden Valley branch of the Liberal Party are Communists or that the President of the Branch, who invited Mr Ekimenko to address the meeting, is a Communist. But very many honourable members on the other side of the House say that if we on this side associate with Communists we must be Communists. Imagine what would happen if a Communist addressed a Labor Party branch. We would have all the Red baiters on the other side of the House up on their feet talking about it for weeks.
The malicious methods that were used to character assassinate Mr Ben Chifley are well known, although possibly not to many of the younger members of this Parliament. This revered member of the Australian Labor Party was actually accused, by the use of these innuendoes, of being a fellow traveller. I would say that many of those who accused him by these methods at that time were not fit to clean his shoes. He was one of the greatest men Australia ever produced. With the immortal John Curtin, he was responsible for guiding Australia through World- War II. He had to come into office when our defences were absolutely nothing. We had Wirraway aeroplanes to fight the modern Japanese Zeros. We were short of artillery and short of rifles.
Wooden rifles were issued to people on sentry duty at camps. Let me tell the House of one incident. A fellow, who was on duty in the middle of the night with his wooden rifle, heard footsteps approaching. He said: Stop! Who goes there?’ He received no answer. He repeated: ‘Stop! Who goes there?’ Again he received no answer. So he said: ‘Stop, or I will fill you with white ants’. That incident happened at one of the camps.
It is said that subversion is active in Australia today. If that is so, the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Hughes) should sack the Aus tralian Security Intelligence Organisation and every man in it. Not one person has been prosecuted for subversion since Dr Evatt launched a prosecution for subversion when he was the Attorney-General in the Chifley Government. Yet we hear this cry of subversion, particularly by the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay). What is ASIO doing about it? What are its officers being paid for if there is subversion in Australia? The honourable member insults the Labor Party and after doing so sits back in his seat with a smile on his face like a deep sea mullet suffering from indigestion.
It is quite obvious that the LiberalCountry Party coalition is endeavouring to fight the Senate election and possibly a House of Representatives election by kicking the Communist can again. The Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen) was returned in 1961 on Communist Party preferences. He had to wait a fortnight for the result. The election made headlines in the newspapers every day. The headlines said: ‘Who is going to win?’ or ‘Labor could win’. The suspense was kill in’. When he was returned to this House the Menzies Government was returned to office and Mr Menzies, as he then was, said: ‘Killen, you are magnificent’. Of course, the fact is that this gentleman was elected on Communist Party preferences and his return meant the return of the Liberal-Country Party Government. Imagine what would have been said if the reverse had been the position. What would the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) have said about the Australian Labor Party if its candidate had been returned on Communist Party preferences? It is quite obvious, as I have mentioned here before and as 1 will mention here again-
– Don’t you like me?
– Of course I do. The last time you shouted me supper I said that I would return the compliment. The fact is that a certain gentleman was once a Liberal Party senator. I have repeated this before and I will keep on repeating it. I think he retired about 1958. He was a great friend of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). This former Senator had a daughter who was a Communist Party candidate on 2 occasions. She was one of the leading Communist Party candidates in New South Wales. I do not complain about this because members of families are entitled to differ in their politics. But could you imagine what the Liberal Party would have said about a Labor Party Senator whose daughter stood as a candidate on behalf of the Communist Party. Can you imagine what would have been said by the Minister for Social Services, by the Minister for the Navy, by the honourable members for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) or La Trobe (Mr Jess)? Why, they would have kept talking about it all their lives. We of the Labor Party did not talk about it although we knew of the case. The fact is that we say that family members are entitled to hold their own political views. The time has come when the people of Australia must wake up to the fact that if Communism is to be destroyed then the introduction of Fascism and McCarthyism is not the means of doing it.
– Remember what Mr Askin said he would do to them.
– Yes. Mr Askin said he would run over someone. Members of the Liberal Party opposite often say that there is a lot of intrigue and dissension in the Opposition Party. 1 want to refer to an excerpt from a newspaper. It refers to a statement by the honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Dudley Erwin) about the Prime Minister’s (Mr Gorton’s) mushroom club. He said that its members were kept in the dark and fed on bull. The word bull’ is an abbreviation for an unparliamentary word which I certainly will not use. This statement said that the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) was a member, the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) was a member, the Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock) was a member, and the Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen) was a member and that they called the Prime Minister the chief spore. This caused a lot of dissension within the Liberal Party. Tt is strange now that every member of the mushroom club has been appointed to the cabinet. This proves that many a good deal is clinched over a good meal.
– I shall not detain the the House for long but I must rise to answer the criticisms levelled against me tonight by the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun). The premise upon which he offered the criticism of me seemed to be that 6 men were committeed to goal by a magistrate for contempt of court because they raised clenched firsts in court - the honourable member for Kingston seems to think they did it as a mark of respect - were treated unjustly by the magistrate and that their appeal to the court of appeal, which was rejected, should have succeeded. I do not want to canvass the merits of the case. I think the House would probably take the view, however, that we must face the fact that it was dealt with in the court of appeal and the magistrate’s decision was upheld. I think it may not be altogether irrelevant to notice the premise or assumption upon which the honourable member proceeded in levelling his attack against me. The premise seemed to be that it was fair enough for defendants to raise their fists when brought before the court to answer charges. The assumption is that this was not a contempt. It seems to me to be a very curious notion. A person less charitable than I might be disposed to suspect that it throws some light upon the political sympathies of the honourable member for Kingston in relation to violent forms of unlawful protest. But I pass that by. The House can draw its own conclusion and 1 am pretty sure what it will be. But I do not offer a conclusion.
The honourable member for Kingston omitted to state some rather relevant facts which 1 feel bound to put before the House. Last night he came to me in my office - I was pleased to see him - and he expressed his concern about the fact, so he alleged, that these 6 men in goal for contempt of court had been unable to get their case dealt with by a Full Bench of the High Court in the short time remaining between their application to the court by filing papers and the termination of their sentence. lt was quite obvious that he came to see me for the purpose of asking me to do something about the matter. I spent some time with the honourable member explaining to him that it was no part of my function as Attorney-General of the Commonwealth to intervene in any way so as to influence the justices of the High Court and, in particular, the Chief Justice of the High Court, who disposes the Court’s administration. I explained that it was no part of my function as Commonwealth AttorneyGeneral to influence the Chief Justice or the justices of the High Court as to how they disposed of their business or ran the list of their cases. The honourable member for Kingston and I had a polite and cordial conversation. He seemed quite clearly to accept that fact when I gave it to him privately.
The second point that I canvassed by way of volunteering it in this conversation about these. young men for whom he was concerned, for some reason, was that their proper course, if they wanted to get out of gaol before the termination of their sentences, was to apply to the Minister in New South Wales - and I named him - who is responsible for recommending to the Governor of New South Wales how the prerogative of mercy shall be exercised. It seemed quite plain to me that the honourable member for Kingston accepted that fact. I almost sensed gratitude coming from him - indicated by him - for the fact that I had volunteered this information.
I made it perfectly plain to the honourable member, as I make it plain to the House tonight, that the offences for which these men are in gaol are State offences. I have nothing whatever to do by way of ministerial responsibility with their release or any application for their release from gaol. I am quite certain that the honourable member for Kingston will not deny that I have truly stated to the House the substance of the conversation I had with him in my office last night. I repeat that explanation to the House and give the House my assurance that the explanation I gave in private to the honourable member last night is a true and fair one. I hope that the House will therefore acquit me of any charge that has been laid against me by the honourable member for Kingston tonight.
Before concluding what I wanted to say I want to put a thought in the minds of honourable members. Why has the honourable member for Kingston, having received from me last night in my office the information which he did not then challenge, raised the matter in the House tonight? The House will draw its own conclusion. He has brought the matter up to make cheap political capital and because he is in sympathy with the unlawful and violent activities of these men who disgraced the court and the name of justice and who were rightly sent to gaol for a gross contempt.
Dr GUN (Kingston) - Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Two distinct issues are involved here. It is quite correct, as the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) has said, that last night I raised with him the question of whether it would be possible to obtain the release of these men from gaol as their case would not be brought on this week. The other matter that the AttorneyGeneral raised tonight - whether their case could be expedited - was not raised by me with the Attorney-General. That is the matter I have canvassed tonight in the House. The matter I raised with the AttorneyGeneral last night was whether he could obtain the release from gaol of these men in view of the fact that their case could not be expedited. The AttorneyGeneral explained that that was outside his province and that it was only within the province of the Minister for Justice in New South Wales. I accepted his point on that and I still accept it. As far as I am concerned what the Attorney-General said is quite valid. The point I raised tonight is quite separate. I did not canvass it with him last night and he knows it.
– I should also like to raise one point in reply to the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes). Whilst I accept his proposition that he is not responsible for or even able to interfere with the workings of the court or give any instruction to the Chief Justice about the order in which certain cases should be heard, I think it is worth while for the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) to raise this question in the House because it surely makes clear even to honourable members on the other side of the House that we are appointing to the High Court of this country people who are more interested in the question of property than in the question of civil liberties.
– I rise on a point of order. I ask that you rule, Mr Speaker, that the honourable member for Prospect withdraw that remark because it is a gross reflection upon the judiciary.
-Order! I remind the House of standing order 75 which states in part:
No Member may use offensive words against . . . any Member of the Judiciary .. .
The honourable member shall not reflect upon the judiciary in any form and I would ask him to withdraw his remark.
- Mr Speaker, I certainly did not suggest there was any improper motive. I think both the protection of property and the protection of civil liberties-
– I rise on a point of order-
-Order! The honourable member for Prospect is explaining to me something in regard to the ruling I have given on the point of order.
– In my submission I am putting forward the proposition that both the protection of property rights and the protection of civil liberties are functions of the courts of this country. 1 would say that it is obvious that some members of the legal profession, whether they be lawyers or judges, give a different amount of emphasis to those 2 propositions. I am suggesting that when the next opening appears on the High Court the Government - and I assume that the AttorneyGeneral would be one of the people who would have a significant say in any recommendations as to who would be added to the High Court - should consider the proposition that we want at least some people on the High Court who put the question of civil liberties foremost. This is the proposition I am putting. I think to that extent the Government is certainly at fault.
– I rise on a point of order. The reflection cast by the honourable member for Prospect on the High Court was clear, plain and regrettably without ambiguity. He is now trying to rationalise what he said. I would submit with great respect that it should be withdrawn. I think the honourable gentleman would help himself and his cause if he withdraw the remark.
– What should be withdrawn?
– -Order! The honourable member for Reid will cease interjecting.
– I would like to know what the Minister would like withdrawn?
-Order! The honourable member for Reid will cease interjecting. Along with other members of the House I am endeavouring to concentrate.
– Why should he withdraw it?
-Order! If the honourable member for Reid disobeys the Chair again I will name him.
– I would submit wilh respect, and quietly, that the honourable member for Prospect has not withdrawn what was a plain imputation against the High Court.
– Order! There is no substance to the point of order.
– I want to speak to the point of order.
– I am ruling on the point of order now. As I understand the honourable member for Prospect, he was suggesting to the Attorney-General that in future when judges are appointed to the High Court, this would be a matter for consideration. I rule that there is no substance in the point of order.
It being 12 o’clock midnight, the House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. this day.
House adjourned at 12 midnight
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) Extreme precautions are taken in the design, construction and operation of nuclear power reactors to prevent major accidents from occurring; in the most unlikely event of a serious accident occurring, additional precautions are invariably taken to limit the consequences and to safeguard the health and safety of operating staff and public. The same precautions will apply in the case of the Jervis Bay plant. The precautions include nuclear siting, conformity of designs to rigid specifications and safety codes, analyses of plant behaviour under all possible conditions, strict quality control during manufacture, construction and installation, detailed checking and testing of plant prior to start-up and intensive training of operating staff and checking of operating procedures. Nuclear reactors are equipped with warning and safety devices which will shut the reactor down instantly if any fault occurs. Radioactivity which could prove harmful lo humans is contained behind a series of barriers, all of which would need to fail before any significant release of radioactivity could occur and as a final precaution the plant is surrounded by an exclusion zone which is under the control of the operating authority.
Ultimately if a fuel reprocessing plant it established in Australia, high-level radioactive wastes viti almost certainly be concentrated and converted into a solid non-dispersible form which can be easily and readily stored. This practice ii now being adopted in the United States.
The Australian Atomic Energy Commission is a Commonwealth instrumentality and conforms to Government policy and practice. In the case of the Jervis Bay nuclear power plant the Commission will be responsible for ensuring the safety of the public and the staff of the Commission.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
If so, in respect of each of these universities:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
University of Sydney
University of Melbourne
University of Western Australia
The Australian National University.
The University of Melbourne offers a Diploma, Master of Arts degree and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in criminology. One optional criminol ogy subject may be included in the Bachelor of Arts degree course, and two optional criminology subjects may be included in the Bachelor of Laws degree course.
The University of Western Australia course for the degree of Bachelor of Laws includes one compulsory unit of criminology.
The Australian National University offers one optional criminology subject towards a Bachelor of Laws degree or a degree of Master of Arts in sociology.
University of Sydney: 7 full-time and 1 parttime staff members:
One Professor- M.A., B.C.L.(Oxon.).
One Senior Lecturer - LL.M.(Tas.),
One Senior Lecturer - B.A.(Wales).
One Senior Lecturer - B.A., B.E.(Sydney).
One Senior Lecturer - B.A., LL.B.(Tas.),
One Lecturer- LL.M., Dip.Ed.(Sydney).
One Part-time Lecturer- M.B., B.S.(Syd- ney), Dip.Crim.(Cantab.).
One Senior Research Officer- LL.B.(Syd.).
Total- 8 persons.
University of Melbourne: 3 full-time and 8 part-time staff members:
One Reader-in-Charge - B.A., LL.B.,
One Lecturer- B.A., Dip.Ed., MAPsS.
One Lecturer- B.A., Dip.Ed., Dip.Soc. Stud.
One Part-time Lecturer- M.B., B.S.,
L.R.C.P.(Lond.), D.P.M. (R.C.S.&P.),
One Part-time Lecturer- M.B., B.S.
One Part-time Lecturer- M.D., FANZCP.
One Part-time Lecturer - M.Sc, Ph.D.,
One Part-time Lecturer - M.B., B.S.,
One Part-time Lecturer - LL.B., Dip.Crim.
One Part-time Tutor- B.A.
One Senior Police Officer
Total- 11 persons.
University of Western Australia: 1 full-time Reader:
B.A., B.L.(Rangoon), LL.B.(W.A.),
S.J.D.(North-Western), Barrister and Solicitor.
Australian National University: 1 full-time Senior Lecturer:
B.A., LL.B.(Sydney), LL.M., Ph.D.(London).
The University of Melbourne’s Board of Studies in Criminology is an independent body administering the Diploma of Criminology. The Faculty of Arts controls the Bachelor and Master of Arts degree courses, and the Faculty of Law the Bachelor of Laws degree course. The Doctor of Philosophy degree in criminology is under the control of the Professorial Board.
In the University of Western Australia the main faculty is the Faculty of Law.
At the Australian National University, criminology is available to undergraduate students in the Faculty of Law and to post-graduate students in the Faculty of Arts.
asked the Minister for Army, upon notice:
Will he bring up to date the answer which his predecessor gave me on 12th August 1969 (Hansard, page 162) on the number of rounds fired at the Holsworthy Artillery Range.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Records show that some 61,061 rounds of artillery, mortar and anti-tank ammunition were fired at the Holsworthy Range during the period from 1 January 1969 to 30 June 1970. The break up of the particular type of ammunition fired is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Public Service Board has advised me that the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In answer to the second part of the question, this is a matter for the Public Service Board. 1 understand this claim was made following an increase granted by the Board in April 1969 of li% in the salaries of these officers. The rates introduced by the Board in April 1969 were increased by 3% on and from 1st January 1970, in accordance with the National Wage Case 1969 decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
However, Australian tobacco and cigarette manufacturers, since about 1940, have followed a world wide trend of incorporating the stem of the tobacco leaf, which is the vein separating the lamina on each side of the stem, with the leaf in the production of tobacco and cigarettes. The utilisation of tobacco leaf stems by special processing methods is a result of one of the major technological advancements in the tobacco industry throughout the world over the years.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 August 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19700827_reps_27_hor69/>.