27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of residents of the State of Victoria respectfully showeth:
That because of uncontrolled shooting for commercial purposes, the population of kangaroos, particularly the big red species is now so low that they may become extinct
There are insufficient wardens in any State of the Commonwealth to detect or apprehend those who break the inadequate laws which exist.
As a tourist attraction, the kangaroo is a permanent source of revenue to this country.
It is an indisputable fact that no species can withstand hunting on such a scale, when there is no provision being made for its future.
We, your petitioners, therefore humbly pray, that:
The export of kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the Commonwealth Government take the necessary steps to have all wildlife in Australia brought under its control.
Only a complete cessation of killing for commercial purposes can save surviving kangaroos.
And your petitioners, therefore, as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of residents of the State of Victoria respectfully showeth:
That because of uncontrolled shooting for commercial purposes, the population of kangaroos, particularly the big red species is now so low that they may become extinct
There are insufficient wardens in any State of the Commonwealth to detect or apprehend those who break the inadequate laws which exist
As a tourist attraction, the kangaroo is a permanent source of revenue to this country.
It is an indisputable fact that no species can withstand hunting on such a scale, when there is no provision being made for its future.
We, your petitioners, therefore humbly pray, that: The export of kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the Commonwealth Government take the necessary steps to have all wildlife in Australia brought under its control.
Only a complete cessation of killing for commercial purposes can save surviving kangaroos.
And your petitioners, therefore, as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Humble Petition of citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully sheweth: Whereas -
the Commonwealth Parliament has acted to remove some inadequacies in the Australian Education system.
a major inadequacy at present in Australian education is the lack of equal education opportunity for all.
200,000 students from Universities, Colleges of Advanced Education and other Tertiary Institutions, and their parents suffer severe penalty from inadequacies in the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936-1968.
Australia cannot afford to hinder the education of these 200,000 Australians.
Your petitioners request that your honourable House make legal provision for -
The allowance of personal education expenses as a deduction from income for tax purposes.
Removal of the present ag» limit in respect of the deduction for education expenses and the maintenance allowance for students.
Increase in the amount of deduction allowable for tertiary education expenses.
Exemption of non-bonded scholarships, for part-time students from income tax.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– I present the following petition:
To the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Pre-school and after-school education facilities are in urgent need within the Australian community. The shortage has become more acute as more mothers join the work force.
In advanced countries pre-school and afterschool education are recognised as essential aspects of education for all children.
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to:
Provide the necessary finance to enable state education Departments and local Government authorities to establish:
Facilities for training the stafffor such centres.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– Mr Speaker, I would like to inform the House of the following ministerial arrangements. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) left Australian on 7th September to attend the high level meeting of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which is being held in Tokyo on 14th and 15th September. He will then go to New York to attend the early stages of the United Nations General Assembly debate and he will later participate in the first Australian-Canadian consultative talks in Ottawa. During his absence, the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) is Acting Minister for External Affairs.
The Treasurer (Mr Bury) left Australia on 12th September for Cyprus to attend the annual meeting of the Commonwealth Finance Ministers which is being held in Nicosia during this week. He will also visit Copenhagen to attend the annual meetings of the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Affiliates. He is expected to return to Australia on 10th October and during his absence the Prime Minister is Acting Treasurer.
The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) left Australia on 14th September for Fiji to lead the Australian delegation to the South Pacific Conference. Mr Sinclair is expected to return to Australia on 19th September. During his absence, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) will act as Minister for Shipping and Transport and the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) will represent the Acting Minister in this House.
The Minister for Works (Senator Wright) left Australia on 12th September to visit the United States of America at the invitation of the United States Travel Service. He is expected to return to Australia on 20th September and during his absence the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) is Acting Minister for Works. Senator Wright’s absence will also necessitate some changes in ministerial representation in the Senate. The Minister for Supply (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) will represent the Acting Minister for Works, and the Ministers for Labour and National Service, Education and Science, External Territories and the Attorney-General.
– I preface my question which is addressed to the PostmasterGeneral by reminding him that on 19th August 1964 in answer to a question he informed the House that the Post Office was experimenting with a home telephone meter to record the number of calls made from a particular telephone so as to assure subscribers that they were not overcharged. I now ask: What progress has been made in this direction during the past 6 years?
– A good deal of progress has been made in the development of this piece of equipment. The honourable member will appreciate, of course, that it must be 100 per cent efficient before it can be made available to the public. It is possible with this type of equipment to have 2 pieces, one in the exchange and the other in the subscriber’s home, which could become slightly at variance in terms of the number of calls recorded. Therefore we must be sure that we have arrived at perfection in both areas rather than only in one as is the position at present.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. With the appalling examples of international piracy and destruction of 4 passenger aircraft at Cairo and in Jordan in the last 4 days, involving violence, seizure and international lawlessness without elementary regard to private rights, common decency or law and order, does the Minister propose any special measures in respect of Australia’s overseas airline or domestic airlines to meet any political or crank attempts to hijack Australian aircraft?
– 1 am sure that we all dep.ore the acts of violence which have been committed, not only recently but also in the past, in relation to aircraft engaged in international fligths and some domestic aircraft. Australia has been participating very actively, with other members of thi International Civil Aviation Organisation, in a number of special conferences designed to deal with this subject. There was such a meeting last June and a further meeting will be held about 1st November to deal specially with matters of this nature. Australia has participated actively in the previous meetings and will participate in the meeting in November. Australia is also continuing active participation in meetings as a member of the 1CAO Council. In addition to this, of course, we have been keeping very closely in touch with developments in the United Nations. We have noted that the United Nations Security Council has condemned very strongly these acts and the perpetrators of them. We also stand ready to attend, if required, any special meetings which may be called or held when the United Nations General Assembly meets shortly.
Certain actions have already been taken to safeguard to the greatest posible degree our own international operations and our domestic operations. Within Australia our domestic laws are suitable and adequate to deal with the situation and severe penalties can be applied not only for this type of act but also for other acts associated with interference with aviation generally. So I can assure the House that the Government is aware of this problem and is taking every possible action at the present time to deal with it.
– I ask the Attorney-General: How many persons have been prosecuted for subversive activities considered to be detrimental to the security and national interest since the Liberal-Country Party Government assumed office in 1949?
– If I may say so with respect to the honourable member, that question is a pretty wide one and I must confess I do not carry figures of that sort in my head.
– There is plenty of room tor them.
– 1 am sure the honourable member’s criticism is well founded. 1 would ask him to put the question on the notice paper and I will give it my consideration.
– Can the Minister for Social Services advise the House whether he intends to table the report which was recently prepared at his request by Mr J. Griffith of Perth and which made recommendations on possible future trends in governmental participation in the provision of adequate facilities for the physically and mentally handicapped? As the Minister has now received and read this report, will he now agree to establishing a committee, professionally oriented, to investigate more fully the findings of Mr Griffith? In this regard, will the Minister consider having discussions with, and perhaps using the services of, the new medical committee established under the auspices of the Austraiian Council for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled and headed by Dr Burniston of Sydney to investigate medical and health aspects of this most vital of subjects?
– This matter is at present before the Government. It is a matter of very great consequence. I am not able to say at this present moment what the policy decisions will be. I am able to say, however, that policy decisions of quite considerable moment will be made. As the House will know, the Government has been developing a policy in regard to handicapped children, sheltered workshops and the other related aspects of rehabilitation. I can assure the honourable member that we will be looking for the help and guidance not only of the organisations and persons whom he has named but also of other persons throughout the community with a view to implementing what is one of the great objectives announced in the Prime Minister’s policy speech. It has been said that the 1970s will be a decade of rehabilitation. An international conference towards this end will be held in Sydney in 1972. I would hope that before that time we would have taken very significant further steps in this vital matter.
I wish to mention to the House one matter that has come up in our investigations. I refer to the number of mentally handicapped among handicapped people generally. A very recent survey of invalid pensioners in the age group 16 to 21 years showed that no less than 61 per cent suffered from mental retardation and another 14 per cent from associated mental diseases. This shows, despite the widely held belief created, because some disabilities bring themselves more in front of the popular eye than others, that the real problem here is in the mental and not in the physical field. 1 am not saying there is not a problem in the physical field. The Government will bc doing everything it can to help in both fields. But it would seem to me that the main need lies in the mental and not in the physical field. This is something that will have to be taken into very careful consideration when the Government comes to frame, as it will, its constructive programme in this matter. We are not delaying. As well as surveying and getting a comprehensive programme developed we are at this moment, as the House will know, taking practical steps which we know will fit in with any programme which may eventually be evolved.
– 1 ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is a fact that he or any other Australian citizen on a visit to countries such as Italy can fly there and back without hindrance from Australian quarantine laws. ls it also a fact that an Australian citizen who flew to Italy to marry was permitted to return immediately by plane while his bride, a non-citizen, was originally ordered to travel by ship because she came from a rural area and was supposedly exposed to livestock disease hazards? Are such decisions based on the quaint view that certain germs originating in Europe can distinguish between Australian and non-Australian passports? Will the Minister confer with the Minister for Health to ensure uniform treatment of citizens and non-citizens alike in respect of travel arrangements to Australia and. if necessary, their treatment in respect of quarantine regulations?
– I am not aware of the precise background to the case to which the honourable member has drawn attention. Naturally l will discuss the details with my colleague, the Minister for Health, if the honourable gentleman will provide me with the names of the persons involved. I will let him have a reply in writing.
– I address my question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. As there is an urgent need to sell more of our primary and secondary products overseas, I ask: Will the Minister for Trade and Industry appoint at least 3 efficient and accredited salesmen, not necessarily with academic degrees, to travel overseas and continually engage in finding markets for our products throughout the world, working in cooperation with all those who represent Australia? Also, is it a fact that Trade Commissioners are not necessarily good salesmen and that many appointments of those to represent Australia are chiefly dependent on university degrees held? Finally, does (he Minister know that no private enterprise with goods to sell would remain long in business unless it employed efficient salesmen of high integrity?
– The Government has devoted itself very fully to the matter of promoting Australian trade around the world. But the Government itself does not own anything for sale. What we do is lo promote the product, put buyers and sellers in contact with each other, negotiate to obtain access to markets on the best conditions possible, and in all respects lo aid those who have property for sale. But as I have said, we are not the salesmen. I would not claim for a minute that those within the Trade Commissioner Service would be as competent to explain the advantages of a certain product as those whose business it is to produce and to merchandise that product. It should be understood that it is not the job of the Trade Commissioner to effect sales. He is not in a position to do so. It is his job to provide every facility that he can in order to see that prospective buyers understand what is available from Australian markets and then to attract the attention of Australians who are in the business of selling particular products to where there are markets. I do not carry certain figures in my mind which I would like to recount, but the Government does produce regularly publications - which are produced in, I think, more than a dozen languages - and periodicals which constantly bring before the notice of those in foreign countries what Australia has to sell and the advantages of this market.
Or JENKINS - 1 direct my question to the Minister for Health. Has a basis for the regular review and adjustment of the most common fee schedules under the National Health Scheme been agreed upon? If so, what indices will be considered in these adjustments? Further, can the Minister advise me whether there is any indication of the number of doctors failing to accept the most common fee schedule, and how significant it is?
Or FORBES- The question of a mechanism for a review of the common fees on which the health benefits plan is based is still the subject of discussion between the Government and the Australian Medical Association. Some progress has been made, but this is a very complex matter and it has not yet been brought to finality. I might add that in the normal course of events we have until the middle of 1971 before it will be necessary to finalise this matter, because most of the branches of the AMA would not be recommending fee increases to their members until June 1971. With respect to the second part of the honourable gentleman’s question about the degree of observance of the common fee, sufficient time has not yet elapsed for us to be able to make a meaningful judgment. As I am sure the honourable gentleman would appreciate, the new scheme started only on 1st July and doctors’ accounts based on the new system would not begin to appear in the records of the funds until about the end of September. My view is that it will be some months before we can form a valid opinion about the degree of observance of the common fee. I might say that there has been a good deal of discussion between the funds and my Department in regard to setting up the necessary statistical machinery so that when there is a statistically meaningful sample of fees available we will be able to form a judgment about the degree of observance.
– Is the Attorney-General aware that the Wheat Industry Stabilisation
Act 1968 is vulnerable to challenge under section 51 (xxxi) and sections 92 and 96 of the Constitution? Is he also aware that no provision is made for acquisition on just terms? Will he assure the House that it is legally possible to define ‘just terms’ in any legislation, especially in regard to a wool marketing authority with powers of acquisition?
– Quite frankly, I am not aware of the matters to which the honourable member has referred. In legislation of the kind to which he refers - if there be any such legislation - of course the questions to which he adverts would be given attention.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question. Is the honourable and learned gentleman the legal expert from Canberra who is alleged to have told the Public Solicitor in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea that he should not appear for members of the Mataungan Association in the present tax cases in Rabaul? Did he have the Public Solicitor brought before him on this matter when he visited Port Moresby 3 weekends ago? Did he take this action after the Prime Minister received a telegram from the Gazelle Local Government Council alleging a breach of the promise that no legal aid would be given to members of the Mataungan Association in these cases? Is it a fact that there is no statutory charter setting out the rights and duties, not only of the Public Solicitor but also of the indigenous inhabitants who can rarely afford to engage one of the few private practitioners in the Territory and who can still more rarely find one who is not already retained by expatriate interests?
– I must confess to being the person described in this newspaper article as a legal expert from Canberra. But I want to go on to say quite unequivocally that that part of the report-
– Regarded as an expert - false?
– Will the honourable member give me a go?
– Will you take your bat home if we don’t?
– I would not need a bat for the honourable member. I would just need a puff of wind. When I was interrupted 1 was about to say that that part of the newspaper report which attributes to this legal expert the giving of some advice or instruction that a particular case should not be taken is quite ill-founded, lt is true that when 1 was in Port Moresby a few weeks ago - I think it was the weekend of 29th to 31st August - I did have a conference with the Secretary for Law and the Public Solicitor, who are respectively Mr Curtis and Mr Lalor. Various aspects of the problem arising in this series of tax cases were discussed between the three of us. I had this discussion as a result of a conversation which t had before leaving Canberra with the Prime Minister who was then, as the House will know, Acting Minister for External Territories. I am not able to answer the third part of the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition. In fact I am not aware of any telegram such as he purported to summarise, so I will not deal with that part of the question. As to the fourth part of the question, I am aware that in the Territory there is no statute or statutory instrument defining the duties of the Public Solicitor. His duties are regulated by departmental instruction, the Public Solicitor being, as 1 understand it, part of the law department in the Territory. I think I have covered all aspects of the question and answered them as best I can.
-Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that the Australian Labor Party owned and controlled radio station 4KQ in Brisbane recently broadcast several paid National Service callup notices? Can the Minister tell the House whether other radio stations owned by the ALP are broadcasting callup notices for payment and whether I am correct in assuming that this is a classic example of how the ALP will sell out its socalled principles for cash-
-Order! That part of the honourable member’s question is out of order.
– . . . a classic example of how-
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– My question also is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Was a young conscientious objector on a hunger strike transferred at the weekend from Long Bay Gaol in Sydney to a psychiatric centre? If so, what is his physical condition and how long will he be confined? Will the Minister remit the remainder of the young man’s gaol term in view of his physical and mental suffering?
– I have no knowledge of the allegations made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. If he will provide me with the man’s name and any other information for which he can warrant I will make appropriate inquiries. I am unaware of anybody undergoing a penalty in the New South Wales penal system for failing to render service, lt may be that the person is in prison for some other breach of the National Service Act. I would like the honourable member to specify the breach. If he will give me that information I will make immediate inquiries and let him know the result.
– in view of the growing net indebtedness of rural producers and the consequent effect on the business sector in rural towns, can the Minister for Primary Industry give any indication as to when he and the Government will discuss with the State governments the matter of rural debt reconstruction? Will the Minister expedite examination of the feasibility of providing long term low interest rate finance to help in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of rural industries suffering from prolonged drought, low prices and market difficulties?
– The Treasurer announced in his Budget Speech that I had the responsibility of using my Department and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to carry out a survey in depth of the general indebtedness of rural industries. This work is being carried out as a matter of urgency. Officers of my Department and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics have been negotiating with the banks, pastoral houses and brokers and will be holding discussions with finance companies and other credit organisations to determine the incidence of indebtedness in various rural industries. Once this survey has been done the Government will be in a clearer position to decide how best the problem should be tackled. This problem may involve the State governments. If it does there will need to be negotiations with the States, but until that position arises we will not be able to say just what the course of the discussions will be. The Government is very much aware of the seriousness of the debt situation in rural industries, and it is because of this that the Government is carrying out such a survey.
– -Negotiations on, and the administration of, drought relief are carried on a State by State basis. When the incidence of drought reaches a proportion unmanageable for a State’s finances the State concerned makes application to the Commonwealth for assistance. Sometimes this assistance is on a $1 for $1 basis; at other times it may be total Commonwealth assistance. In Queensland, where the incidence of drought has been severe and continuing for a good many years, drought relief has been extended to help those in dire need. What has happened in Queensland in relation to local government authority rates has happened as a result of a request made by Queensland for Commonwealth assistance in this direction. The Commonwealth agreed to give assistance to cover 50 per cent of local government authority rates in areas which have had at least 2 drought years out of the last 5 years. Certain other prescribed qualifications are laid down. This Commonwealth assistance was given after negotiations and discussions with the Queensland Government. If the incidence of drought continues to be of the same severity in New South Wales as it is in Queensland I imagine that New South Wales will make a request to the Commonwealth Government if it is beyond the State’s capacity to provide the necessary relief. But up to now the effect of the drought has not been as severe on State finances in New South Wales as it has been on Queensland’s finances. I come back to my original statement that this matter is dealt with on a State by State basis.
– My question is addressed to Postmaster-Genera). Will he obtain and study a transcript of a session on Australian Broadcasting Commission radio this morning when a Mr Blain and his lady assistant discussed the institution of marriage? Will the Minister give consideration to the value to Australia of a session in which all comment made agreed that there was no real place for vows or required promises in the marriage ceremony and where the lady described for Listeners a ceremony in which the bride and groom, having been pronounced husband and wife, proceeded to strip off their clothes and consummate the marriage before the celebrant and the guests? Finally why put up licence fees to pay for more and more of this subnormal tripe?
– I am interested in the comments of the honourable member. There have been occasions on which 1 have made public statements on some programmes when he has remained completely silent. T will obtain a copy of the script of the programme to which he refers and look at it to see whether action is justified.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Interior. Did the New South Wales State Planning Authority, in its ‘Sydney Outline Plan’, strongly recommend the release of the LiverpoolHolsworthy military manoeuvre area to facilitate the natural growth of Sydney? Is it a fact that the 78 square miles held by the Commonwealth would house a quarter of a million people, could provide 40,000 job opportunities and provide a site for a new university? Is the Government likely to co-operate by relocating the military manoeuvre facility so that Sydney can expand in - the manner that the planners consider desirable?
– The policy followed by my Department in respect of land held by the Commonwealth within the States is simply this: That land is used perhaps by 1 department or another. If the department using the land declares that that land is no longer required by it, my Department then circulates other Commonwealth departments to see whether there is any Commonwealth interest in the land. If other Commonwealth departments do display an interest, the land remains with the Commonwealth Government. But if other Commonwealth departments declare that they have no interest in the piece of land, the policy followed is to see whether the previous owner is interested in reacquiring the land; if not, then to offer that land by public auction. If the land has been acquired in the first place from a State Government, the land is offered back to the State Government concerned. 1 do not carry in my mind the details of the piece of land which the honourable member has mentioned, but T will have a look at the details about which he has asked and 1 will give him a considered reply.
– Does the Minister for Labour and National Service see any incongruity in the frequent protests by members of the Australian Labor Party at annual profits of some tens of millions of dollars by leading Australian productive enterprises employing many thousands of workers while, in 3 days of late August, the anti-productive withdrawal of labour on the Australian waterfront cost shipowners almost S2m?
– I can only reiterate the word used by the honourable gentleman. It is incongruous. The national objectives of this country must constantly be to increase our gross national product at constant prices. In order to do this, we must improve our productivity performance. To have a good productivity performance, we must have the co-operation of the entire people in the work force and in management running through from operatives, semi-skilled, craftsmen, and lower levels of management to the board room.
There is no doubt that a bad industrial situation deteriorates from the capacity to achieve a good productivity performance.
While our productivity in some industries is quite high, overall our productivity performance has not been as good as some other countries. The truth of the matter lies, without any doubt, in the fact that our standards of living do depend upon good productivity performance. I would hope that the campaign currently running would lead to a greater knowledge of productivity and a greater state of mind to achieve it. I would hope that the Labor Party would thoroughly endorse it and would lend its support to productivity drive. I would hope that the trade unions, which have indicated through the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the General Secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation that they recognise that productivity is most important, would improve the atmosphere.
As far as the specific question is concerned, it is not possible merely to measure the loss of money from a strike in terms of the identifiable money. That follows through in prices throughout the entire community. Without any doubt again, there is absolutely no value in having increased money wages if the money wages cannot buy more goods. These are our national objectives and ought to be pursued as the national objective by all people in the community. The incongruity of trade unions pointing to the different things and pretending they are connected can only be described in the words used by the honourable member.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Territories. Will the honourable gentleman table the directive which Mr Curtis, the Secretary of Law, wrote to Mr Lalor, the Public Solicitor, after the Attorney-General discussed the Mataungan tax cases with them on his visit to Port Moresby? Furthermore, in view of the comment reported today by the Professor of Law at the Australian National University and the statement issued today by the International Commission of Jurists in Sydney, I ask him: Has any action yet been taken to introduce a legal aid ordinance in New Guinea like the legal aid laws which, with all their shortcomings, apply in Australia?
– I am not aware of any directive given by Mr Curtis to Mr Lalor, but I do have a letter which was written to him. That is probably the same thing, and I am very happy to make a copy available to the Leader of the Opposition. The answer to the other part of the question is no, there has been no progress yet in introducing an ordinance to provide legal aid in the Territory. But as my colleague, the Attorney-General, pointed out the duties of the Public Solicitor are set out in a duty statement which, I think, covers a great area of necessity, I suppose mainly in the area which examines the asset situation of the average litigant. This appears to suffice for the present. Undoubtedly, if we feel later that some other examination is necessary it will certainly be carried out.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health, ls the Minister aware that most canned pet foods are based on meat from kangaroos, working horses and cattle rejected for human consumption? Is he also aware of recent reports that such canned pet foods are being purchased for human consumption? If the report that the majority of pet foods consist of kangaroo meat which is slaughtered under most unhygienic conditions is true, will the Minister consider introducing regulations requiring that all meat used in pet foods be purchased and handled under the same conditions and standards that apply to meat used for human consumption?
– I am aware that meat used for canned pet food is not subjected to the same standards of inspection as meat used for human consumption is. However, I am not aware of the reports he mentioned that canned pet food is being used for human consumption. I might add that the standard for canned pet food is a matter for State governments and State legislation, the Commonwealth having responsibility only in relation to its Territories. I understand that the desirability or otherwise of introducing a uniform standard for canned pet foods has been considered by the Public
Health Advisory Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council, but the discussions by the Public Health Advisory Committee have not reached any finality yet.
– My question is directed to the Deputy Prime Minister. 1 ask him whether he is aware of a statement by His Excellency the Ambassador for Japan, Mr Saito, to a leading Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun’ in which he is reported to have said:
In Australia the general expectation is that Japan should play a military role as well as being a great economic power. Many believe that Japan in any case will become a military power.
Can the Minister confirm that this is not a view gained from the Australian Government by His Excellency the Ambassador? If not, can the Minister suggest how His Excellency might have reached the conclusions he is reported to have reached about the state of Australian public opinion concerning Japanese rearmament?
– I have no knowledge of this report and I do not know whether the honourable member can vouch for its accuracy. It is not for me to attempt to interpret the mind of the Japanese Ambassador, but I can say quite clearly that there is no view reached by the Australian Government that Japan should become a military power.
– For the information of honourable members I present the interim report of the Australian Meat Research Committee for the year ended 30th June 1970. When the final report is available it will be presented in accordance with statutory requirements.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Poultry Industry Assistance Act 1965-1966 f present the fifth annual report on the operation of the Act for the year ended 30th June 1970.
– Pursuant to section 28 of the Dried Fruits Export Control Act 1924-1966 I present the forty-sixth annual report of the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board for the year ended 30th June 1970.
– Pursuant to section 33 of the Australian National University Act 1946-1967 I present the report of the Council of the Australian National University for the year ended 31st December 1969.
– Pursuant to subsection (6.) of section 5 of the States Grants (Teachers Colleges) Act 1967, 1 present a copy of a determination made pursuant to sub-section (5.) of section 5 of the Act.
– Pursuant to section 24 of the National Capital Development Commission Act 1957-1960 I present the thirteenth annual report of the National Capital Development Commission for the year ended 30th June 1970, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 22 of the Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Act 1954-1968 I present the sixteenth annual statement concerning the operation of the Act and the payment of subsidy during the year ended 30th June 1970.
– Pursuant to section 30 of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies Act 1964-1966 I present the annual report of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies for the year ended 30th June 1970, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
By leave, could 1 suggest ….
-Order! The Minister has not obtained leave. His additional comments will be deleted from Hansard.
– Pursuant to section 147 of the Defence Act 1903-1970 I present the annual report on the Royal Military College of Australia for the period 1st February 1969 to 31st January 1970.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Transportable houses and classroom at Exmouth, Western Australia.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– As Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, I present the 122nd report of the Committee. I seek leave to make a short statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– This report relates to the Treasury minutes on your Committee’s 85th and 86th reports concerning automatic data processing. I would remind the house that your 6th Committee’s inquiry in 1966, which formed the basis of these reports, was far-reaching in nature. It included an examination of technological changes that had occurred following the introduction of automatic data processing equipment and the changes which were expected to occur as the number of installations increased. As decisions relating to the installation of computers involve considerable expenditure, specific attention was directed to die co-ordination and general management processes for automatic data processing within the Commonwealth Public Service. Evidence was also obtained from suppliers of computer equipment to the Australian market and other acknowledged experts in the field.
At the same time your 6th Committee included in its inquiry a detailed examination of the automatic data processing network installed by the Bureau of Census and Statistics. At that time this network was the most important Commonwealth installation in terms of capital cost. This phase of the inquiry enabled your 6th Committee to examine in the form of a case study the history, development and implementation of automatic data processing by each authority concerned with that network, their recruitment and training problems and the benefits which each had obtained from conversion to computer processing. In addition your 6th Committee was able to assess the capital and operating costs of that network as a whole and to obtain an appreciation of the problems then beginning to emerge.
From its examination of the Treasury minutes relating to these reports and which are now brought before you, your 8th Committee is pleased to note the general acceptance by the departments and authorities concerned, of the conclusions and recommendations made in this important area of administration. We note that progress has been made and is still being made in the relevant areas of education to improve staffing. We also note with satisfaction the acceptance of the criteria outlined in our 85th report by which computer installations may be justified and their efficient usage measured. Additionally, exploratory and feasibility studies have been carried out in connection with all proposed Commonwealth computer installations. Your Committee is further pleased to note that a Treasury representative, in addition to the Commonwealth Statistician, now attends all meetings of the inter-departmental committee on automatic data processing and that progress has been made in amending the Audit Act and Treasury regulations to remove legal impediments to the efficient introduction and operation of automatic data processing systems.
During the inquiry evidence was tendered relative to the important question of conducting studies relating to the costs of installing and operating automatic data processing systems in the Commonwealth Public Service and it is pleasing to learn from the Treasury minute that cost-benefit relationships and general progress are now assessed periodically by departmental management. Furthermore, the interdepartmental committee on automatic data processing conducts additional examinations in these fields when considering departmental proposals. 1 commend the report to honourable members.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Bill presented by Mr Wentworth, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The sheltered workshop concept was not originated by the Government but owed its origin in Australia to devoted organisations which saw the real need of the disabled for employment and set out to satisfy it. In 1967 the Government began its programme of assistance to the movement, which is now growing so rapidly. This Bill will provide further assistance and stimulus, in a way which 1 shall describe in a moment. Before I do so, however, I would remind the House of an even wider issue. The sheltered workshop is a part - indeed a very vital part - of our whole concept of rehabilitation. In this sense, the present proposal is the thin end of what I believe will be a very substantial wedge. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) foreshadowed this in his policy speech before the last elections when he laid it down that rehabilitation would be one of our major objectives in the welfare field. This is in line with the world slogan which we might well adopt for Australia: The Seventies is the Decade of Rehabilitation’.
The Government is working to a plan, but it does not intend to defer action until all aspects of that plan have been worked out. There are some things which we can do immediately, and will do immediately. This proposal is one of them. At the present moment we have a survey in progress as to the dimensions of disability, especially among the younger members of the community. It is of course crucial to give help to the younger group at the time when training will be most beneficial to them. It was for this reason that earlier this year, and as part of the plan, we brought in the Handicapped Children (Assistance) Bill, which, [ am glad to say, is already proving its practical worth. Thus we inaugurated our plan of helping the handicapped at the bottom of the age group. At the other end, we must help them to undertake employment and train for normal employment those who atc able to sustain it. and to provide continuing sheltered employment for those who are unable to make the grade. In between these two extremes - the handicapped children an;l those whose disability precludes them from normal work - we shall be developing further positive rehabilitation measures which I hope will be carried forward in conjunction with State and voluntary bodies. At the present moment I am considering how best these objectives can be achieved and how our available resources can best be co-ordinated. Meanwhile, there are some definite and constructive things we can do and I believe that the proposals in the present Bill fall into that category.
This Bill gives effect to 3 specific proposals contained in the Budget Speech, namely a subsidy towards the capital cost of accommodation for disabled persons working in normal industry; payment of a training fee in respect of persons placed in normal employment by a sheltered workshop organisation; and a subsidy towards the salaries of certain sheltered workshop staff. These items have been selected as the forms of assistance which, at this stage of the development of sheltered workshops, will meet their most immediate needs and will help them to attain their objective of improving their services for the increasing number of handicapped people who look to them for help in overcoming the many problems they encounter. It is little more than 3 years since the Commonwealth first began a very successful programme of assistance for sheltered workshops. Under the original Act introduced in 1967 capital subsidy of $2 for $1 is available towards the capital cost of sheltered workshops, workshop equipment, and residential accommodation for workshop employees. Subsidy is also available, for up to 3 years, towards the cost of rent for workshop premises.
Within the period of the 3 years that this legislation has been in force it would not be an overstatement to say that sheltered workshops have developed as a vital force in tackling the social, vocational and economic problems of the handicapped. The impetus given by the Government’s assistance can be gauged by the fact that more than 100 sheltered workshops, employing an estimated 5,000 handicapped people, have been approved for assistance and are now producing goods worth $5m a year. This figure is rising at the rate of approximately Sim each year. The wages paid to their handicapped employees, most of whom are invalid pensioners, are also increasing steadily. Over the past 3 years Government assistance to the extent of almost $5m has been given. To this could be added the money, amounting to more than $2m, contributed by organisations and other groups conducting workshops. To these organisations also goes the credit of organising the workshops, of endeavouring to make them viable economic establishments, while at the same time administering them sympathetically and in the interests of their physically and intellectually handicapped employees. Credit is due too, perhaps most of all, to the handicapped people themselves whose courage and determination has been the greatest single factor contributing to the marked success of the sheltered workshop movement.
The Bill now before the House represents the second stage of Commonwealth assistance. It is calculated to provide aid in specific areas where financial help is needed and to recognise the community service which workshop organisations are providing at their expense. By amendment of section 9 of the Principal Act, the capital subsidy of $2 for $1 which is at present available for the accommodation of persons working in sheltered workshops, most of whom have been assessed as 85 per cent incapacitated for work, will be extended to include subsidy for hostels for disabled people who are working in normal industry. There are few who will argue with the need for half-way houses for the physically and mentally handicapped. There are many disabled people who are able to hold a job
In commerce or industry, but who need special facilities or supervision to enable them to cope with the ordinary acts of daily living - accommodation designed for wheelchairs or help in building confidence and adjusting to a way of life that we take for granted. For some people accommodation of this type will be a permanent requirement; for others it will provide a stepping stone to their complete social and vocational rehabilitation. Because these hostels will be required mainly by people who are well on the way to overcoming their disabilities, subsidised accommodation will be available to those whose physical or mental disability is deemed to ‘require special residential accommodation’. Under the proposed legislation all existing and future subsidised hostels will be able to offer accommodation to eligible disabled persons regardless of whether they are working in a sheltered workshop or in normal employment.
The second feature of the Bill is that it provides for a training fee of $500 to be paid to a sheltered workshop organisation where a former employee who is disabled to the extent required for invalid pension purposes, graduates to normal employment and is able to retain such employment for a period of 12 months. Many sheltered workshops spend a considerable amount of time training their disabled employees until they reach a degree of proficiency which enables them to accept outside employment. Sheltered workshops are, therefore, continually losing their most proficient workers with resultant loss of their productive capacity. Because of this there has been an understandable reluctance on the part of many workshops to encourage their best workers to attempt the step to open employment. Nevertheless, and I say this with great gratitude, last year workshops placed in outside employment almost 500 disabled people, a majority of whom were or had been invalid pensioners. 1 think that the House will agree with me that this is a magnificent effort, which deserves reward and merits stimulus. The proposed training fee of $500 is a recognition of this valuable secondary function of sheltered workshops. lt will he paid in respect of disabled people who complete their period of 12 months normal employment on or after the date on which the legislation comes into effect. However, the fee will generally be only payable once in respect of an individual and then only if that person has been undergoing a period of training of at least 6 months in the sheltered workshop.
The third and final provision contained in the Bill is for payment of $1 for SI subsidy towards the salary costs incurred by sheltered workshop organisations in the employment of persons to provide special supervision, or medical guidance, counselling, social work or other like services for their disabled workers. Sheltered workshops are business enterprises, and as such they must have regard to their overhead costs - the same as any other commercial organisation. But business firms, as a rule, do not have to employ staff on a full-time or part-time basis to provide medical guidance, counselling, or training lo the same extent, or to attend to the personal needs of severely handicapped people. Sheltered workshops have to provide more staff for purposes of supervision and training than is normally expected in industry, and to this extent are financially disadvantaged by comparison.
The subsidy of SI for SI will assist sheltered workshop organisations to meet these additional expenses and by reducing the amount of money, obtained either from outside sources or from their own business activities, which they are required to use for these purposes, will permit them to apply a greater proportion of their income towards improving their operational efficiency and by this means providing a better service and higher remuneration for their disabled workers. Collectively, the 3 new provisions contained in the Bill will enable sheltered workshops to assume a more important role in catering for those people, who notwithstanding their physical and mental disadvantages, want to work lo the best of their ability; some to augment their invalid pensions, others with the objective of achieving full economic independence by entering or re-entering the normal work force. The measures are designed to provide encouragement and to give the workshops an incentive to do just these things. The provisions ;n the Bill will be interpreted by my Department in a way which will give the workshops the maximum encouragement and help.
Nor is this all we propose to do. I am initiating discussions with sheltered workshop organisations on a national level to see if there is any way in which -ve can assist them by co-ordinating their efforts to obtain appropriate orders, or to increase their efficiency. My present view is that it would be preferable not to have the machinery for these purposes formally within my Department, but rather that we should encourage and subsidise an association of sheltered workshops to undertake this work themselves and to exchange information among themselves, and that we should stand in a liaison rather than directive capacity. However, I would say that at the present stage my views on these details are not firm. It is expected that sheltered workshops will play an ever increasing role, in collaboration with the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service, in serving the needs of those who are physically or mentally handicapped. The Bill is designed to provide the assistance that is required at this stage for their continued development. I am confident that it will receive the support of all honourable members. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hayden) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) agreed to -
That, in relation to the proceedings on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1970-71 and the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1970-71, so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the House making one declaration of urgency and moving one motion for the allotment of time in respect of both Bills and the consideration of the proposed expenditures in the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1970-71 in the order (unless otherwise ordered by the committee of the whole) and groupings shown in the motion for the allotment of time.
Declaration of Urgency
– I declare that the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1970-71 and the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1970-71 are urgent Bills.
That the Appropriation Bills be considered urgent Bills.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time
– I move:
That the time allowed for the consideration of the Bills be as follows:
Honourable members will see from the schedule that insofar as it has been possible to do so the times have been distributed between those groups of departments which normally have the most discussion, which have 5 hour allotments, and other groups which have allotments of 24 hours and 2 hours. One group which is made up of the Repatriation Department and the Department of Social Services may attract more speakers. However, Bills which deal with repatriation and social services will come into this House for debate and passage next Thursday. I expect that those Bills will be through the House by dinner time on Thursday. It is necessary for a tight schedule to be followed to enable the Bills to go through this House and through the other place and to receive the Governor-General’s assent so that payments can be made at the determined date. Apart from the 3 hour period for Repatriation and Social Services the alloted times for other groupings are as follows: External Affairs, 5 hours; Customs, Primary Industry and Trade and Industry, 5 hours; Defence Services, 5 hours; and 2i hour periods for Civil Aviation, Education and Science, Health, National Development, Postmaster-General’s Department and Shipping and Transport. The remainder will have 2 hours, except the Department of the Interior which will have only 1£ hours.
The allotment of times has been decided upon after discussions with my Whips and after considering the times that have been taken up in the past during estimates debates. I think that what has been decided on is a fair distribution of time. The total time is 51 i hours. This compares with the total times which have been taken over preceding years, which have usually been around the low 50s in hours. Of course, the use of the guillotine in estimates debates is a very old method of handling such debates. The guillotine was used by the last Labor Government. It has been used on many occasions.
– And in the French Revolution.
– I do not know whether you would describe the Labor Party as a revolutionary party or whether it is of the French variety, the Italian variety or perhaps the USSR variety. If it is revolutionary you have made it so. I am talking about the Labor Party administration which was last in office. That administration used the guillotine.
– I was only a baby.
– You did not win any prizes either. The guillotine will be adopted on this occasion to keep the total amount of time to 51 i hours. This total conforms to actual discussion times in the past. Therefore it is not a guillotine, as it is usually applied, to cut down debate quite markedly. The purpose is to the contrary. If there is no guillotine honourable members do not know for how long an individual group of estimates will run. The consequence is that if discussion of a group of estimates goes on and on the time available for other estimates is cut down to the disadvantage of honourable members wanting to discuss them. If it is necessary, as it frequently is when there is no guillotine, to put the question ‘That the question be. now put’, an extra division is required. All honourable members know that the counting of a division averages about 8 minutes. If there were 10 closures - the Opposition traditionally votes against a closure - it would mean 10 unnecessary divisions, and 10 honourable members would not have been able to speak.
It is therefore much more convenient for all members of the House to know precisely at what times the questions will be put on each of the estimates. I emphasise that I do not believe this procedure will cut down time at all. Some discussion took place between the Opposition and myself on this matter. I do not suggest that there was agreement between the Opposition and myself, but there was some consultation. Insofar as we were able to do so. we did allot the time between the separate estimates according to discussion. I think it is fair to say that the Opposition indicated to me that it thought the total amount of time was reasonable and fair.
– The Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) never ceases to amaze me when, with his pontificial air, he gives the impression in discussions like this that all is being clone for the good of the Opposition and to assist it in its deliberations, that any move he makes in the House is never concerned with the Government’s avoiding criticism; it is made only to ensure that Opposition members might have their share of the time and thereby participate in the debates to the fullest possible extent. Of course, nothing is further from the truth than what the Minister has said. The real reason why debate on the Estimates is being curtailed under the procedure laid down is not only to stop criticism from this side of the Parliament but also to protect the rebels on the Government side whom the Government cannot trust. Admittedly, they are somewhat reluctant rebels. They speak quite openly but they vote with the Government. The Minister does not want that to be said.
The Minister said that the last Labor Government used the guillotine. Let me congratulate him on referring to some things that the Labor Government might have done. I wish he would take our example on many other things. We had a good excuse for using the guillotine. At that time we had an obstreperous Opposition which refused to give law and order to the Parliament. It had to be curtailed somewhat because it sought to defeat the procedures of the House. Only in the interests of justice and of serving the people generally did we introduce the guillotine, and under the most severe provocation. I mention that to remind the Parliament of the situation at that time. I do not blame the Minister for wanting to curtail discussion. He said that 5 1 i hours was reasonable. Let us look at what is to be discussed in those 51 1 hours. We will have half an hour to discuss the expenditure of the Department of Works, which amounts to $68m. In speaking of those estimates an honourable member must be very sure that it is the most valuable speech he has ever made, because for every minute he speaks he will be discussing the expenditure of more than $2m. Even the most golden voiced orator opposite, even the one who occupies that lowly position of Deputy Government Whip, the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles), who is interjecting, is not worth $2m an hour.
Let me refer to the Minister for Works (Senator Wright). Everybody here knows that we could speak for 6 months about him, so incompetent is he in his administration. Yet we are allowed 10 minutes to do so. The Minister for Works ought to be eternally grateful to the Leader of the House for letting him escape with only 10 minutes’ criticism. Let us take the Leader of the House. I will give honourable members the good oil about him. We have 2 hours to discuss his Department. I could spend 2 hours talking about national service without going into the details of it. It is no wonder that the Minister wants to curtail the discussion on that. Another Minister who is being protected is the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes). The expenditure for his Department amounts to $104m but we are allowed 2 hours to discuss that. The Minister for External Territories must be the happiest Minister in the Parliament at this time. These are the real reasons why the Leader of the House is curtailing debate, not for the great reasons that he has given, but to protect an incompetent Ministry from criticism which would justifiably be levelled at it from this side of the Parliament.
We will be allowed 2i hours to discuss all the ramifications of the postal system. Certainly the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) would want to escape his responsibilities on this score. Postal charges have all been increased and every honourable member knows that the populace is seething with discontent about the impost of postal charges by this Government. If we run right down the full pattern of this proposal we will find that the departments which are subject to the most criticism are the ones on which we have limited time to speak. So I dismiss the pontificial approach of the Leader of the House. I wish he would get off his forum and be honest about it. He should tell us that he is doing this to prevent criticism from members of this side of the Parliament. When he says that 514 hours compares with the time allotted in the past he should remember that here today is a vital, dominating Labor Opposition that seeks and demands time to talk. The Government, in its few remaining months in power, should We criticised so the public will know its shortcomings. That is why I oppose the motion on behalf of the Opposition today. I hope that it will be rejected and that democracy will reign once more, so that the Opposition can give full expression to the views of more than half the people and nol be curtailed by the guil’otine
– The remarks of the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) amused me. He came into Parliament on the same day that I did. I sat in the Opposition for 6 years and I know that what he said is not factual. The Labor Government used the guillotine and the gag repeatedly. We called the then Vice-President of the Executive Council the Lord High Executioner because he was always using the axe upon us. At that time the House had only about half the number it has today. I think there were 78 members instead of 125. The Labor Government would not give us time to discuss the Estimates although a lesser amount was involved in the Budget and there were fewer departments to operate as extensively as they do now. Yet the Labor Government used the guillotine and the gag continually to frustrate the then Opposition in putting forward its effective arguments.
If the honourable member for Grayndler will be candid he will say that in those days we really had debates and the Parliament was a much better one in that sense. Today the Opposition is so divided and has so many problems outside the House that it is gagging its own supporters all the time and continually exiling this one and that. Let us lake a look at the Opposition. It is so engaged with its outside problems that when it comes here it is not prepared to discuss the merits of a case ‘and put it in as few words as are necessary to make it more effective. I just want to draw attention to the fact that if we followed the example of the Labor Party there would be no democracy here at all.
– I understand that the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) said that he had consulted the party Whips in regard to the matter which is now before the House. The chuckles coming from the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) show that he is anticipating what I am about to say. For the estimates for the Defence Services - the Departments of Defence, Navy, Army. Air and Supply, and General Services - we will have a total of 5 hours to discuss the expenditure of- a colossal sum of money. This Government and previous governments have been squandering public money since 1963 on one aspect of our air defences. Obviously I am referring to the FI 1 1 aircraft. A colossal sum of money has been spent on these aircraft. But the Department of Air is fourth on the list under Defence Services and 5 hours has been allotted for the total discussion on Defence Services. This section of the Estimates involves the Departments of Defence. Navy, Army, Air and Supply, and General Services. There will be very little time for the Fill to be discussed in this House. Admittedly the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) made a statement on this matter in this House a short time ago. A colossal amount of money is being spent on Phantom aircraft, which are now flying into Australia. They will be used only for a very short time and their cost will be exceptionally high. Again, there is insufficient time to go into that matter.
Expenditure by Australia on defence has amounted to about $ 1.000m a year for a number of years. In fact it has been higher than that. Yet the Leader of the House has had the gall this afternoon to move this motion and to request us to agree with it He said that at some time the present Opposition party had applied the guillotine when it was in office. That was done because the Opposition of that time was callous and vicious.
The Government ls asking us to limit the time for debate of these matters because it has squandered thousands of millions of dollars of public money year after year on the Fill, to mention one item, and I need go no further than it at this stage. Today, although honourable members on the Government side say that Australia has a dire defence need, Australia has never been more defenceless, in spite of the vast sums squandered.
The Department of National Development is another department which I want to mention briefly in the short time available to me. lt is proposed that we have 2t hours to debate the estimates for (he Department of National Development. There has not been one sincere word from the Government about this Department so far as the construction of a nuclear power station is concerned. This project involves hundreds of millions of dollars and the money will come from the taxpayers. There could be considerable debate on that one project: alone because the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) has stated that 1 1 tons of paper has to be examined before a decision on it can be made known to the House.
In the next week or two honourable members on this side of the House are required to debate the 2 matters 1 mentioned, along with estimates for about 20 other important departments - I have not counted them - and this has to be done in the extremely short time suggested. The Leader of the House said that the House ought to agree with his suggestion. He tried to gloss the matter over by saying that the time allowed might be better than was the case the previous year. What has gone on in previous years is not damn well good enough this year so far as the Opposition is concerned. The Leader of the House and the Government ought to give proper and serious consideration to debating expenditure of the taxpayers money instead of squandering it. Ministers do not even give half replies to questions put to them in this place. One could say that most Ministers do not answer questions put to them.
– My only suggestion at this stage, Mr Deputy Speaker, is that Opposition members should get together and speak with one voice. It is well recognised that there are internal difficulties in the Australian Labor Party. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) referred a little while ago to the Department of Works. It is worthy of note that, according to my memory, no-one spoke on the Estimates for the Department of Works last year. Yet the honourable member suggested that a half hour is too short a period to discuss those estimates. I think I could go one stage further without breaking any confidences and say that the Opposition Whip, a member of the same party as the honourable member for Grayndler, advised that no time should be allotted for discussion of the estimates for the Department of Works. This was quite right because last year no honourable members wanted to speak about those estimates. Therefore I refute what the honourable member for Grayndler said.
– That was last year.
– The honourable member for Sturt has been here for only 5 minutes. I suggest that he hold his horses and learn what goes on in this place before he offers some of his vociferous comments. I return to consideration of what happened in the Estimates debate last year because this is the only valid way in which we can properly allocate time. From memory last year we spent 4 hours on the Defence estimates and the year before we spent 4 hours and 17 minutes. This year we have allotted 5 hours. I hark back to the statement made by the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) that there is no curtailment of time for discussion of these Estimates. If we compare what is proposed with what happened last year we find that there is a considerable increase in the time available for discussion of the Estimates as a whole. The last point I want to make is this: I am quite convinced that in running parliamentary business there must be proper priority allocated to subjects.
– Order! The time allotted under the
Standing Orders for discussion of the motion has expired.
That the allotment of time be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 3 September (vide page 980).
Proposed expenditure, $3,753,000.
– The people of Australia are not getting the value that they should be getting from the money spent on this Parliament. This is because not enough time and effort are being put into having a good look at the institution and bringing it up to date in this ever changing world. Therefore 1 for one am taking the opportunity in this debate on the estimates for the Parliament to put forward a few ideas. First, let me give my ideas on the functions of back benchers such as myself. Incidentally, although a new member, I am not reluctant to launch forth on this subject. Sometimes a fresh mind looking at a subject such as this is more objective and realistic than is someone who has lived with the system for a long time. The first function of a member I would describe as the social work or representational function. This is looking after the needs of the individual citizen, acting as an ombudsman. The creation of an ombudsman by a State government would not take this function away from us. Our citizens get to know us and they expect us to deal with their problems and not to sidekick them to someone else. This, in my view, is the way it should be, with some qualifications which ( shall mention in a moment.
The number and type of these social work or representational jobs we get depend on the type of one’s electorate and the success with which one does these jobs. 1 believe that those of us who represent city, suburban or large country town electorates get far more of this type of work than those whose electorates are rural. Because of the lack of distances we are more available. We get the many Department of Social Services pension applications - the headaches of the means test. We also get the acute housing problems. Honourable members will know well that our electors are not conversant with the distinctions between the responsibilities of the Commonwealth, Stale and local government authorities. This is not surprising with the complicated federal system we suffer from. This applies in particular to new settlers. I had a number of complaints over the weekend about the increase in council rates. I expect these complaints and I pass them on to the local ward councillors, but the complainants have to be told that council rates have nothing to do with a Federal politician.
The o her factor that determines, surely, the number of social work and representational jobs we get is the income level of our electors. If one represents a lower income area one gets far more work than if one represents a higher income area. This is because people with more money have their own lawyers and accountants to turn to. It is also because migrants and citizens who have not had the advantages of a better education have more problems.
Mr Chairman, 1 have mentioned all this because with an electorate like mine, anyway, the volume of work is great. In fact, this function alone could be a full time job if one let it be so. I have the advantages and the training of a professional life before coming into this job, with such additional aids as dictating machines and travelling notebooks to help ease the burden - aids whose cost naturally has come from my own pocket and which are not possessed by all members. My fulltime secretarystenographer and I have been processing over 100 individual letters, phone calls or private visits to us a week, each of which requires this personal social work or representational attention. By the time the letter has been read, or the telephone call taken, or the interview completed, by the time the necessary research has been done on the particular problem and the letter written to, say, a Minister or a form completed - surely it is not unreasonable to allocate an average of at least 20 minutes to each job. This is about 34 hours a week.
The danger about this is the neglect of the other important functions. How do we represent people unless we get out among them, listen to them as well as talk to them in order to receive their reactions? The social work and representational work that I have mentioned do help us to know our people and their problems. But it is by no means sufficient. We must put time aside to visit people in groups and individually. This is the second function.
The third function - research - is a sadly neglected one, as is the fourth, the parliamentary function; that is, what we do in this Parliament House when it sits. These are neglected because of the calls of the electorate. When I am away from Adelaideand I know that I am not on my own in this - the electorate work must be carried out over the telephone. Letters must be read to me. messages given and replies dictated - all over the telephone from Canberra to Adelaide. Fifty-five of the 59 Labor members in this House - that is all except the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), the Opposition Whip, the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) and the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) - ‘have 4 stenographers between them while they are in this Parliament House. We can hardly burden them with our electorate work.
So, as I have said, the research on our speeches, the seeking of solutions to the great problems - and I could mention Commonwealth-State relations, the improved Government performance that is needed, and the crisis in the countryside - and all the necessary study and reading which go with these functions and with these problems are relatively neglected. Is it any wonder that the people of Australia are not getting value for the money spent on this Parliament?
Well, what are the solutions? The first is that we should not downgrade ourselves. We are not highly rated in the community because we have not rated ourselves very highly. We just have not given ourselves the facilities to do this job properly. A United States senator or congressman has, on average, I believe, about 8 on his staff. We do not need that many, but we certainly need more than I stenographer home in our electorates, if we are to do this job properly. The difference between the facilities given to a Minister and a backbencher in Australia are enormous. Each one of us certainly needs a research worker cum social worker if our standards arc to improve. This would be an excellent job for a young graduate for a few years.
The experience for the person chosen would be invaluable. The lift in the standards in this place also should be incalculable.
The next solution is to improve our process of decision making. It is not just good enough to be content with the ways of the past. We are dealing with an increasingly educated community. Not only do our people want us to be better informed, to research and prepare our work better and to have the facilities to do this, but also they want to see that the results of that improved work are resting somewhere where they matter. At the moment, even those of us who get this far into Parliament often question the value of getting up and making a speech in this place. That cynicism which rests in us is compounded in the community in general. This is a real danger in our society. Our form of parliamentary democracy, with all its faults and with all the room there is for improvements, is the best system devised so far for ruling a nation. It is easy to be critical, to be destructive, and to find in the end that the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater. Therefore, it is necessary for each one of us to bring about the improvements, to recognise that change is necessary in an ever-changing world and then to be able to challenge the critics of the system to be more constructive. At the present time, we are on the defensive. We are hesitant because we know some of what is said about this institution is true.
So far, I have mentioned only the participation of more people in this House of Representatives and, indeed, the Senate in decision-making. But this also applies to citizens in the community. Let us involve more of them in the process, too, in order to arrive at better solutions and in order to derive more respect for this place. The key to achieving both these aims lies in the recommendations of Mr Speaker and the Standing Orders Committee to set up a series of standing committees in this House. Rumour has it that those recommendations brought to the House by the Honourable member for Wilis (Mr Bryant) are not going to receive the support of the Government; that, in fact, the free vote of Government members is being withdrawn. The sop will be one or two more select committees which are in my view no substitute. I cannot go into all the arguments now. Perhaps there will be an opportunity later. But 1 do wish to record in the strongest possible way my view that we are taking a retrograde step and making a damaging decision if we do not grasp this opportunity to improve our methods and to increase our standing in the community.
Before leaving the subject of committees, briefly I wish to mention that I see no reason why there should be a fee for those members attending a committee. It should be the normal function of a parliamentarian. There should merely be an expense allowance for those occasions when committees meet at a place away from one’s home base and when one is not covered already by a parliamentary allowance. Incidentally, as Vice-Chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts. I, say that this should apply to existing committees. But this is not to say that we do ourselves any justice in this place in the matter of our remuneration, tt is a ridiculous situation to spend all day, as I did yesterday, in a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee, asking on behalf of the people of this country senior public servants to account for their stewardship, only to realise that each one of the 30 or 40 who came before us probably was being paid more than his masters, the parliamentary representatives on the Committee. I have gone on record already in my maiden speech to the effect that we should not be setting our own remuneration but that we should decide where we should be in relation to Commonwealth public servants and tie our salaries and expenses to that level accordingly.
Mr Chairman, there are 2 final points that 1 wish to make briefly. The first is that so many of these improvements that I have mentioned cannot be instituted until we have a new Parliament House. There just is not room for housing a satisfactory committee system here. There just is not room for us to bring here a research worker cum social worker - that personal assistant whom I mentioned earlier - and there just is not room to improve the legislative research services provided by the Parliamentary Library. Let us get on with the task of building a new parliament house- on Capital Hill, where it ought to be - and of converting this existing building into a conference centre.
The last point concerns the private interest of members and particularly of Ministers. I give notice that I intend to raise this subject again. The Comalco new issue was a shameful episode in the public life of this country. From what I have been told, the Ministry in this Parliament is not blameless. For the sake of this parliamentary institution and the respect in which it should be held, we must have some clear guidelines in this matter of the interests of Ministers and of members. I shall be agitating until this is so.
– I propose also to say a few words about the Parliament itself and the committee system which has been mentioned by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). The cost of the Parliament is summarised in the document called: ‘Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the year ending 30 June 1971’ and further details of the cost of Parliament can be found in the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1970-71. The cost of Parliament can be found at page 6 of the latter document under Divisions 101, 102. 103, 104, 105, 108 and 109.
The total cost of Parliament in the next 12 months is estimated to reach $3,753,000. This is really a small amo-nt when compared with the total Budget, ft is really a small amount when compared with the appropriations for many of the departments associated with the governing of this country. For instance, one case that I might mention is the Commonweath Department of Housing. Its appropriation for administrative expenses is $6,3 10,000. Frankly, as the honourable member for Balaclava, I fail to see why this Department is in operation at all unless, of course, it carries out the administration of the War Service Homes Division. The appropriation divisions I have mentioned cover all the parliamentary activities. For instance, Divisions 101 and 102 show that $ 1.609m of expenditure is proposed for the Senate and for the House of Representatives but more than 50 per cent of this total amount is for the administration of the Parliament. The point I am making is that of the $ 1.609m less than 50 per cent is for parliamentary salaries - that is, the salaries of senators and members of the House of Representatives.
Division 103 covers the Parliamentary Reporting Staff, usually known by us as Hansard. This will cost $770,000 this year or $42,000 more in a year than the salaries paid to members of Parliament. I am one, as most of us are, who gives credit to the officers of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff because, without their help and their dedicated service, many of the words that are spoken by members of Parliament would not make the sense that we would want them to make. Therefore we all appreciate the work that .Hansard does. These remarks apply also to the Parliamentary Library because here again we rely on the dedication and expertise of the staff. This section comes under Division 104. Its activities have been extended in the last few years, much to the benefit of the Parliament itself and certainly to members.
However, as the honourable member for Adelaide said, over recent years more particularly and certainly in this session of the Parliament a great deal has been said about the committee system, the need for the expansion of it and the like. Of course, this system has been augmented by a recent decision taken in the Senate, where the numbers are now equal in some respects because the Opposition and the Democratic Labor Party find that by combining they can outvote the Government. Honourable senators think there has been an increase in the need for additional committees and they now feel that there should be an additional 8 standing committees. In 1969-70 7 select committees were operative in the Senate. If one has a look at the composition of the committees one finds that there are many senators serving on 2 or more of these select committees. To my mind it seems improper and almost impossible to expect a senator to devote his full energies to committees of this type and give full value in services rendered.
The same would apply, I feel, to the object outlined by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), if we were to establish standing committees in this House. I realise that standing committees are stood by. In other words, they are laid aside until the Parliament decides that these committees are required to do some work. Here I find that whenever a select committee is set up by this House or by the Senate, or as a combination of both, numbers matter. The point I am trying to make is that whenever the Government parties decide that there should or should not be a select committee they will decide in any case. In fact, in this House we have the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise which was set up last year or perhaps the year before. We also have the House of Representatives Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation which was set up during this session. Last week we were given notice that an additional select committee had been set up. This was the Joint Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation. It is my view that the Parliament should control this sort of activity. In other words, it should not set up standing committees of the form mentioned by the honourable member for Wills but should have select committees of the type operated by this Parliament over the years.
Whenever we talk about committees we should think in terms of at least 10 members of this chamber for each of the committees. So far as the Senate is concerned, if we take 10 members of that chamber for each of 7 standing committees we find that there are not sufficient senators to cater for those committees. I think the honourable member for Adelaide put bis finger on the pulse of the problem in the last few sentences of his speech when he said that there is not enough room or enough convenience in this building to cater for all of these select and standing committees. In fact, I know that the Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation has held some of its deliberations in the Tariff Board building which is not far from here. The reason is obvious. It is more convenient and more satisfactory. It has the facilities for taking evidence and for the interrogation of witnesses by members of the Committee. They can obtain sufficient information and go about their deliberations in a proper way.
Having been a member of the Public Accounts Committee during the life of 2 parliaments, and presently being a member of the Public Works Committee, I find it impossible to feel very happy about the addition of new committees to this system of Parliament. First of all, I make the point raised by the honourable member for Adelaide, that is, that sufficient facilities, sufficient room and sufficient services are not given to committees. We already have the Public Accounts Committee, the Public Works Committee and the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, which has several sub-committees. These committees find it difficult to be properly serviced by the staff that we have. I believe that the honourable member for Adelaide should have gone further and said that not only do we need a new Parliament House in Canberra but we also need a lot more members to service these additional committees that people are talking about.
There is another point which is often mentioned - it was certainly mentioned by the honourable member for Wills - and that is that joint committees particularly depolarise the members of Parliament and in turn depolarise the electorate. I am not one who feels that the point at issue should be depolarised. I think they should be polarised. In other words, the people and particularly the news media should know on which side members of the Government stand and on which side members of the Opposition stand. The matter of dissent, the matter of the Moratorium and the matter of law . and order are all matters that should be polarised so that the people - the constituents - know just where the Government stands and just where the Opposition stands.
Already we have read reports from America on this system of committee use so far as their parliamentary government is concerned and many of us know that Democrats and Republicans vote on the same side of the House on given problems. The reasons are obvious. The news media and the Press particularly pressurise these members to vote in the way they do. In other words, we finish up, if we continued a system of committee government, much the same as the French finished up before de Gaulle took over, and that is as a group of independents without any proper allegiance to a party at all. I believe the Australian Labor Party is right in having allegiance and loyalty from its members. I agree with Edmund Burke, a great statesman of the traditional English parliamentary system many hundreds of years ago. He said that a member of a party should be able to follow that party 85 per cent of the way, that if a government and a party make a decision the member of the party should be able to follow that decision in 85 out of 100 cases. Bui if members find regularly that they are unable to follow the decisions of the government - when I say ‘government’ 1 mean Cabinet - then they should either resign from the party or resign from the Parliament.
There are many things that many of us should take note of in this Parliament. I have talked about the polarisation of problems, about government and about the Executive. Last time I spoke on this subject I said something which I appreciate and which I think bears repetition. 1 said that the Parliament is not a governing or policy making body. In other words, we are not a policy making or governing body at all, these rights being invested in the executive government - that is Cabinet - which, of course, must have the support and confidence of a: majority of mem b- rs of the Parliament. This in fact means the support of the majority of members of the lower House. I do not see any reason for changing the thoughts I had last year. Until and unless all of us believe that the Government is the Cabinet and that the party that governs is the party that has the greatest number of supporters then this talk about committees, standing committees and select committees is so much kibosh, if I may use a colloquialism. Of course, the public, the Press and all of us have a great interest in the committee system. A tremendous amount of good can come from additional committees of this House, but until we get a larger parliament house or building which can accommodate an additional committee system 1 will vote against it and talk against it.
– I wanted to say a lot about the Parliament but time will not permit me to expound as fully as f should have liked on all the subjects that concern me. I begin by supporting the views of my colleague, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), who said that it is high time that the Parliament made a firm decision on where the new parliament house will be sited and took early steps to commence its building. It seems quite unsatisfactory to me that the Senate should decide in favour of Capital Hill, that the House of Representatives should be divided almost 50-50 on the location and that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) should walk into this chamber, without a vote being permitted in the Senate, and announce to the world at large that the new parliament house will not be on Capital Hill, which site was so overwhelmingly supported by the Senate, but on Camp Hill. There is only one place for the new parliament house and that is Capital Hill. We ought to say so now. We should not allow one person who is here today and gone tomorrow - that applies to us all - to determine the site for what will be the most magnificent building in this city - the building, more than any other building, which will symbolise our parliamentary democracy and our system of parliamentary government. I hope that the Government will listen to the remarks of the many speakers who have had something to say about this and will allow the Parliament to decide, in the name of those who are to follow us, where the parliament house will be built and will put an end to this business of one man walking into the chamber and saying: ‘I wish to announce that the new parliament house will be sited on Camp Hill’.
T am sick and tired of the attitude of Ministers and Prime Ministers who treat the Parliament and all of its members as mere rubber stamps of the executive government and of, in this case, the Prime Minister assuming that the Parliament as well as the Executive is a rubber stamp of his own prejudices. I am afraid that the Prime Minister, like a lot of other Ministers, has too much work to do it all properly. He has to rely on advisers, and he has had crook advisers on the siting of the new parliament house, lt. is about time that on the issue of the new parliament house we told the advisers responsible for the advice that the new parliament house should be on Camp Hill that they should give more attention to their advice than apparently they have given. It is bad enough to be misled by advisers on other matters but on a question concerning the building of the new parliament house it is inexcusable to let ourselves be misled.
I want to complain also about the practice that is growing year by year - as one can see by examining the number of regulations issued - of the Government ruling by regulation and hamstringing debate on contentious legislative matters by leaving such issues until the end of the session when members are tired and are forced to short-circuit what they intended to say. I have a high regard for most senior public servants. They do know more about their subjects than their respective Ministers know but, at the same time, they carry the same sort of prejudices for or against issues or stances as other people carry. They are no different from other human beings. They have their human frailties. The best of them have the weaknesses which occur in all of us and the worst of them have many more weaknesses and prejudices than occur in most of us. A Minister should do some careful sorting out of his senior advisers to make certain that he is not being taken for a ride as have so many Ministers over the last 20 years, lt would not be possible for a Minister to be as stupid as is sometimes suggested by the advice he gives; he obviously has been helped, and the advice quite clearly has come freely and almost incessantly from senior public servants.
I must say this about some senior public servants: Too few members of the Parliament bother to read the annual reports that are submitted by departments which are required to submit annual reports. Not many members of the Parliament - and this goes for Ministers too - could honestly say that they have read all of the annual reports that are submitted by those people who are required by law to make such reports to the Parliament, much less understood them. Indeed there are very few members who could say that they have read every annual report on the matters on which they have a particular interest and understood it.
– There are not any.
– The honourable member can speak for himself. I read all of the annual reports that are submitted concerning the Department of Labour and National Service. No doubt one gleans a lol of information from these annual reports, but I have come to believe that the people who write them are beginning to suspect that people do not read them to the extent that they should and they, in turn, are not bothering to put into those reports the amount of detail that they should put in them. Let me tell Sir Richard Kirby, who has to report to the Parliament each year on the functioning of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, that I read his reports, even if nobody else reads them, and I hope that he will be a little more comprehensive in his future reports than he has been in the past. I do not blame him. Once I became aware of the scant consideration that is given to reports that are submitted here annually I do not suppose I would feel much justification for expounding on a report. I believe that when reports are furnished, they should be read thoroughly by Ministers.
How are members to find time to read the reports that are submitted? This is probably what the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) had in mind when he said that no-one reads them. The plain fact is that a member has not the time to read them for the simple reason that by the time he has dealt with constituency matters - social services, telephone complaints, complaints about immigration and the like - there is no time left to undertake the study, research and reading that he should be doing. This is why 1 am glad that the new parliamentary sittings will come into operation next month. We will sit continuously for 2 weeks and have a week off. This will force members, in my opinion, to set up residence in Canberra rather than return to their homes at the weekend preceding the resumption of the Parliament on the following Monday morning, lt will at least give the member of Parliament who does this an opportunity to study during that weekend. Since I have taken on the position of shadow Minister for Labour and National Service I have been forced to obtain a flat in Canberra so that I can study over the weekends when the Parliament is sitting and return to my constituency on the week off that occurs every 3 weeks. If I were not able to do this I could not possibly maintain an understanding of the intricate and highly sensitive Department of Labour and National Service.
While I am on this point f want to make 2 comments. The first is that it will now cost me $102 every 3 weeks to bring my wife here. The only alternative is to live a separated life, so to speak, with my wife living in Adelaide and me living here. But I will pay this $102 every three weeks so that my wife can accompany me to Canberra when this new system of parliamentary working hours comes into effect.
Previously it was not quite so bad. lt was costing me $102 only every month. But it is a lot of money when I have to do it month after month, year after year, lt becomes a heavy burden. Those honourable members who have no family obligations and who are therefore in a position to do this ought to do so. But when we do it we should not be compelled to pay these large sums of money out of our own pocket. After all, by our staying here the community is saving at least the cost of our fare back to our electorates. If we were reimbursed the cost of our wife’s fare, the community instead of paying for 2 trips by the member each 3 weeks, would pay for I trip by the member and 1 by his wife. The cost of my wife’s fare is a burden that I am prepared to meet but it is not one that I feel I ought to meet without mentioning.
As a front bench member I am required to do a lot more work than I previously did. lt is quite impossible for a front bench member to keep up with the work done by the tremendous staff that the Minister has. No-one expects that. When I am dealing with a Minister who has 13 Second Division secretaries, a secretary and a stall of 600 to help him prepare his case to the Parliament, I need more than a single stenographer sitting over in Adelaide. I must have, and I need, staff here in Canberra as well. I am grateful to Mr Speaker for supplying me with an extra staff member last year when I had the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Bill to handle, but I do not have her assistance now. This is a hopeless job. I am falling further and further behind as I try to keep up with letters from union secretaries and from people who are interested in the affairs of the Department of Labour and National Service. Tt is just impossible now for me to do my job. Other honourable members on the front bench are in the same position. Perhaps they are not as badly off as I am but they are certainly in a position where they cannot do justice to their work without some extra help.
I want to refer to the Hansard staff, because this was mentioned by another speaker. Just as he did, I want to pay tribute to their work, as I always do. lt is the hardest working reporting staff in the Commonwealth. Its members have to report .select committees. CommonwealthState conferences and conferences and other proceedings associated with at least 18 Commonwealth departments, lt is true that they receive 2 or 3 weeks extra leave a year during the recess but they receive nothing in the way of overtime for the hours that they work here, and sometimes they work until 2 o’clock in the morning and sometimes all night. I have k;:own it to happen that we have sat until daybreak and, of course, the Hansard staff is still sitting here and is required to resume again that day. They receive no overtime for this, and it seems to me to be grossly unfair. Although we make fine speeches praising their work, as we should if we are just and fair, none of us bothers to see what they are being paid for their work. I was quite aghast when I discovered that the Commonwealth Hansard staff is paid less than the Hansard staff in Western Australia and $800 a year less than members of the Queensland Hansard staff who do nowhere near the amount of work, nowhere near the amount of overtime, that our Hansard staff has to perform.
I cannot help but again refer to the gross anomaly which exists where the female member of the Hansard staff is paid even now $428 a year less than a man for doing the same sort of work. The margin of difference was even greater when she was appointed but it is now being phased in under this odd scheme called the ‘Phasing in of female equal rates of pay’. That young lady should have been paid the full male rate from the moment she sat at that desk to take up her Hansard duties, but she was not. This is one of the things that I believe needs urgent attention. If we cannot see the glaring anomalies that exist right under our very noses in this place, how can we claim to be people capable of seeing anomalies further afield? For that reason, T want something done about these anomalies quickly.
Another point I want to make relates to copies of Hansard. I do not believe that 65 copies of the Hansard report of an important speech are enough. I believe that honourable members should have a much larger allocation of Hansard on the free list for at least 2 speeches a year, which the member can choose himself, so that he can, if he wishes, distribute those speeches throughout his electorate. I wanted to talk about the library, to congratulate Mr Allan Fleming on his promotion to the position of National Librarian and to pay tribute to the great and courteous work that he performed during the time that he was Commonwealth Parliamentary Librarian.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I was rather surprised to hear the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) earlier in his speech refer to a 1 man dictatorship and government by regulations. I thought it was rather strange that this comment came from one who has just been to Victoria, laid down the law to the Victorian Executive of the Australian Labor Party and dictated its takeover by the Federal Executive of that Party. I am not here today to dwell on the internal squabbles of the Labor Party. They are well enough known to the electors as it is. We are here today to talk about the Parliament. At its last sitting several weeks ago, this Parliament took action to rationalise the days and hours of sitting and to introduce a more realistic quorum of the House. This action was well overdue and should do much to make the Parliament work more efficiently. However, it seems that on most nights Parliament will not rise until some time between 11 p.m. and midnight, or later if Government business so decrees, and I still believe that this is too late an hour. The matter of hours was fully canvassed at our last sitting and 1 do not wish to open up the debate again.
I wish rather today to speak about the status of a parliamentarian. It is true that in the public mind it is not as high as is merited. I think this is partly our own fault. It is also partly due to the reporting of some journalists, and I say ‘some journalists’ because it is not all; but it is largely due to the attitude of the Government itself. It Ls partly our fault because we so often turn debates into a slanging match in an effort to gain some political advantage. It is partly due to certain journalists who seem to imagine that members of Parliament are a privilege class, which, as we all very well know, we are not. I remember the remark made in this House by the late
Prime Minister, Harold Holt, that E. H. Cox, the then chief political correspondent of the Melbourne ‘Herald’, sat up in the Press gallery watching how often members sharpened their pencils. But it is on the Government itself that I believe the main responsibility must fall because in so many ways backbench members are treated in this Parliament almost like junior clerks in an office.
The honourable member for Hindmarsh and the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) spoke of the need for a new Parliament House. One would imagine that an honourable member would be entitled, just as a junior executive in private enterprise would be, to an office to himself in this House, an office in which he can work without interruption. Most of us are 2 io an office, and some of the newer members are 3 to an office, lt is most difficult in these circumstances to interview constituents who may be in Canberra, to make a telephone call, or even to research a speech. While T was preparing this speech this morning my colleague with whom I share the office was speaking on a long distance telephone call to his electorate. Much as we get on well together, it was difficult to coneentrate. I know that the answer that is given is that there are just not enough rooms. If there are not, the Government should be taking one of two positive courses. It should be either erecting temporary accommodation to give each member an office to himself or it should get on with the job of erecting a new Parliament House which will provide the proper facilities for members to work efficiently.
We have, after much debate, decided on a site for a new and permanent Parliament House, and we have sent a committee overseas to look at parliamentary buildings in other countries. Yet it is commonly acknowledged that the new building will not be functioning at the earliest for at least 10 years. A common comment heard from members in this Parliament is that it will not happen in their lifetime. And so the present situation drags on. I understand that temporary extensions to Parliament House are planned for some time in the future. Let us hope that they will be adequate at least to provide members with an office to themselves where they can work in private. When the last increase in parliamentary salaries was made in 1968 the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said:
If we are to attract people of the right calibre to enter Parliament they ought to be reasonably rewarded for what they do.
A former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, said:
The salaries of a member should be fixed at an amount which is not so low as to deter a man of good attainment and ability who has no private income from entering and remaining in Parliament.
The present Prime Minister on the occasion of the salary rise in 1968 said that the Government had made a survey of salaries paid for positions of comparable responsibility in the Public Service and other sectors. He went on to say:
We have particularly taken account of changes that have been made in payments to the Second Division of the Public Service.
And so the salaries of parliamentarians were set in 1968 at $9,500 per annum, the equivalent of the Second Division of the Public Service. But what happened? Within a few months the salaries of the Public Service were revised by the Government. The Second Division rose to $11,250 per annum and the salary of a member of Parliament is now equal to the Third Division of the Public Service. Next Saturday the people of the electorate of Chisholm, which adjoins my electorate of Deakin, will elect to this Parliament a very brilliant 31 year old senior lecturer in political science at Melbourne University, Mr A. A. Staley. Despite his youth, Mr Staley as a lecturer receives in the vicinity of $1 1,000 per annum plus certain extras for lectures, television commentaries and so on. His salary will drop $1,500 or more because he wishes to serve his country in what should be its highest calling - as a legislator in the Federal Parliament.
In its recent Budget the Government has introduced legislation to reduce income tax on lower and middle income earners. The reductions cover incomes up to $32,000 per annum. I need hardly say that if a person earning $32,000 is regarded as a middle income earner surely anyone on $9,500 must be regarded as a low income earner. No government should be proud to admit that it fixes the salary of the elected represenative of the people in this Parliament at a level which must, by the Government’s own definition, be regarded as a low income. Several weeks ago this Government granted to 2 former GovernorsGeneral pensions of $7,500 per annum each. No-one would quibble about this. They were both dedicated men who rendered great and meritorious service to this country. The reason given in the Press for this action was that both men were, to some extent, in financial difficulties. The Australian’, however, pointed out that Lord Slim at 79 years of age was receiving a pension as a retired Field Marshal of $11,240 per annum, $1,740 more than is paid to members in this House, many of whom have young families to rear. By the time the pension from this Government is added he will be earning very rauch more. As I have said, no-one could begrudge this pension to these 2 gentlemen but I do point out the comparison of what they receive to members’ salaries. Members of Parliament should be, and most are, full time members of Parliament. They should never be placed in the position of trying to make ends meet by taking other positions because if they do their parliamentary duties will suffer.
Yesterday members and senators on the Public Accounts Committee, of which I and the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), who has just spoken, are members, cross-examined public servants about the spending of public funds. It was rather strange, as one member pointed out afterwards, that most of the public servants we were questioning and so, perhaps, putting on the spot were earning salaries far in excess of our own. Would it not be a natural reaction for such a public servant, or anyone for that matter, to draw the conclusion that the Government considers the importance of a back bench member inferior to that of the public servant? Another rather strange treatment of back bench members concerns the use of Commonwealth cars. It is not commonly known by the public that Commonwealth cars are used mainly in taking repatriation cases to and from hospital and by the Public Service and the Services. A back bench member is allocated a car once a week when Parliament is sitting to drive him from his home to the airport on a
Tuesday and to pick him up at the airport on a Friday to drive him back to his home or office. If it is necessary for a member to make a rush trip to his electorate because of some urgent electoral business during the parliamentary week, he is not entitled to a car to take him from his home town airport and then back to the airport as this would be using the car twice a week instead of once. On such occasions Members of Parliament are forced to hail a taxi which they pay for out of their own pockets while public servants, and others, many of them young girls, drive off in chauffeur driven Commonwealth cars. It should be obvious lo all concerned that honourable members do not come to Canberra unless it is in relation to their parliamentary duties. I think the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) should remedy this matter as soon as possible. I am told by some Commonwealth drivers that a senior public servant who lives close to me is picked up each morning, driven to his office and taken home in the evening. This is very different treatment to that given to back bench Members of Parliament. I am not suggesting unlimited use of cars by honourable members, in fact, I would be one to oppose it. But I am rather bewildered by the different standards applied by this Government for members of Parliament and public servants.
When I first became a member of this Parliament I felt that at last I had the opportunity to serve my fellow citizens in what I believed was the highest possible way. In those early days there were several members at whom I looked and wondered how they got here. But as time went on and I became more experienced I realised that each member represented a section of the community - a section which it was only right and just should be represented in this Parliament. I believe the complaints I have outlined today should be looked into by the Government because they are genuine complaints and they are pinpricking complaints that make the job of a member of Parliament harder. As we all know, members on all sides work hard and long hours. They deserve every facility to assist them in their work. As I said when ] began this speech, I am concerned with the status which has been given to members of this Parliament. To serve one’s fellow countrymen in a democracy should be the highest calling of the land. Nothing should be done to denigrate it.
– I am sure that we would all be in agreement with most of what the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) said in respect of the status of members of Parliament and the need to give them every working facility so that they may be more effective in their electorates and in the affairs of the nation. It is hard to convince people outside this place of the need for this. I wonder what salaries we would be getting today and under what conditions we would be working if we left it to people outside this place to decide. What sort of a slum would we be in? What sort of a slum salary would we be getting? The cynicism outside this place is widespread. Yet what the honourable member, one of our newer members, has said is absolutely right. Top public servants get transport facilities to which members of Parliament are not entitled. The secretary of a top public servant gets a car to herself. That is perfectly true. It is about time the Government set up a committee to analyse the facilities or lack of them available to members of Parliament and took to heart what the honourable member for Deakin has said. He was quite courageous in the way he placed this very personal matter before the Parliament this afternoon. Take the matter of secretarial assistance for back benchers. In this Parliament we have only 4 typiststenographers to cater for the 57 Labor Party back and front benchers excluding the Leader, the Deputy Leader and myself as Whip. I think the same number cater for Government back benchers.
– lt is 3.
– The number is 3 on each side, is it?
– Yes. We do not have to worry about the Ministers. They have their own staff.
– That is right. The Ministers are not complaining about this. I think they are adequately catered for in their staffing. It is only right that this should be so. But I feel that the typing facilities for back benchers on both sides of this place should be at least doubled. As things are, a lot of work has to be done over the phone and this is expensive for the Government. Why not put this expenditure to a more useful purpose by helping to pay for extra secretaries here in this place to help members whose work has increased at an enormous rate with the development of the Commonwealth over the last few years? I am putting this suggestion forward to the Government for serious consideration. I believe that back benchers should have at least double the typists that they have at present. After all, the back benchers on both sides of this House are the grass roots of the Parliament. The Parliament is not the Cabinet; the Parliament is basically the back benchers of this place from whom are elected the members of the Cabinet. Let us never forget that.
Every back bencher in this place represents between 40,000 and 60,000 electors. A backbencher has every right to be the most effective member that it is possible to make him, apart from his own shortcomings, and we all have them of course. But the facilities to make him so should be available without stint. We talk about staff and its cost. I was in America in June of this year where I visited Washington for 3 days. While I was there I found that every American senator has 13 fully paid secretaries, typists. stenographers and researchers on his staff. The cost of such a staff runs into thousands and thousands of dollars a year for each senator. Also, I found that each member of the United States House of Representatives has 8 fulltime workers on his staff.
– Including researchers.
– Yes, including researchers. But backbench members of this Parliament each has a staff of one - one solitary secretary and stenographer who in most cases is worked to death anyway, because the work of members of Parliament is increasing at such a rate. If people out there in the electorate, who are so cynical about us, get into trouble, where do they go to? They go to their private members, to the backbenchers, to get them out of all sorts of trouble. Yet in many cases at other times they criticise us in the most unparliamentary language. But they are right on our doorstep when they are in trouble. And each of us has only one staff number to help us all the year round. We have each one secretary while a senator in America has 13 and a Congressman has 8. Of course Amenca is a much bigger place than Australia, but the basic problems are the same. We in Australia are still representatives of the people. A member of this house may represent 60,000 electors, and we are entitled to have the number of stall that will enable us to do our job in the electorate as expeditiously, efficiently and as effectively as possible. I leave it at that, lint there need io be some changes in staffing at this point.
I arn bitterly disappointed that the Government has nol laid some money aside in the present Budget to get on with the job of building the new Parliament Rouse. We have been committed to it. There is no need to get out from under; there is no need to get cold feet about it all. The absolute need for a new Parliament House is here among us. Fancy having to put on another extension to this place? As honourable members know, an extension is to be added to the Senate side of the House. This is ridiculous. Every hour, every day and every month that we delay getting started means ‘ that more money will be spent on this temporary building. This is not economics in the way that I have studied this subject. I expected to see a few hundred thousand dollars allocated in this Budget lo enable us to get started on the planning and the specifications for our new Parliament House. The Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House worked on this project for 2i years and 1 was a member of it. We have drawn up the most minute and detailed plans that have to be put before and passed by the appropriate authority. But I could not find a cent in the Budget which is to go towards starting off this project. This means that the funds will have to be provided in another Budget and that another year is wasted. We have decided th;”.t the new Parliament House is to be sited on Camp Hill - for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health. I was happy about the Camp Hill site. Some of my colleagues are not happy about the site and they want the new parliament house to be built on Capital Hill. But this has been decided. The
Government took it into its own hands and decided.
– The Executive.
– That is right. I regard the Cabinet and the Executive as the Government. So here we are no further advanced. This is completely wrong. When we see this place cracking and bursting at the seams, with not enough accommodation for the essential services of a parliament house, it is a pretty poor show that the Government has not started the ball rolling to build the new Parliament House. The new Parliament House will take 5 or 6 years to build. The building is being planned to last 400 years and the way we are going it will take that long to build it. The new Parliament House can be built by way of an allocation of so much per year. I do not know what the total cost will be, but it could be S20m or S30m. But this money will not be spent in one year, because the new Parliament House will be built over 5 or 6 years and the cost will be spread over this period. It will take 4 years for the plans and specifications to be prepared before we lay the foundation stone. So it is about time that this Government snapped out of it and gave the green light to those in charge to get started.
Another matter I would like to criticise on behalf of the staff of this place concerns official government dinners. When we have official government dinners in Parliament House the staff dining room is closed. For the life of me I cannot under stand why. I do not think it is right for the staff dining room to be closed just because members of the Parliament are attending an official function to welcome an important visitor to this Parliament and this city. I would like to see this policy altered for the sake of all of our staff. The facilities for the large staff in this place arc not all that bright. It is not a fair go if staff have to miss out on a meal because members of Parliament are having a function in the official dining room.
I too would like to thank the Library staff for their magnificent assistance to honourable members. The work of the Library has greatly improved in the last few years and none of us can complain about the way in which the Library staff helps us by researching for our speeches.
The Library also obtains information for other people who need it. Mr Fleming, until recently the Librarian, and his staff are to be congratulated for their dedication and efficiency. Hansard too is a vital part of this Parliament in recording good speeches, not so good speeches and other sorts of speeches, lt is also doing a magnificent job. I agree with my friend the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) that the lady member of the Hansard staff ought to be receiving the same salar)* as the male members of that staff. It is unique to have a female on the Parliamentary Reporting Staff actually taking shorthand in this Parliament. We are very proud of the fact that Australia has made this breakthrough, as it were, and that the fairer sex is now fair and square in the middle of this place helping to take down speeches made by members of an all male House.
I would also like to make a statement about the standing committees that have been referred to by other speakers today. One matter particularly which I want to refer to concerns the motion in the name of my colleague the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) which is set down on the Notice Paper for debate at some future time. The honourable member for Wills wants to have set up 7 standing committees of this House. The subjects of these committees will be foreign affairs and defence; finance and trade; health and welfare; primary industry and national development; transport and communications; education, science and arts; and legal, home and internal territory affairs. These committees would be so constituted that the top men in various departments would be called upon to give evidence and to produce facts and figures so that the committees might better be able to analyse and dissect the legislation that comes down from the Government. The Senate has the same idea. I am very much afraid that this setup could be far too cumbersome for our Parliament. I am opposed to this type of committee system. I think that the joint committee system we have now is very effective and can be made more effective. I wonder where we would get if we had seven more committees superimposed on the same sort of committees set up by the Senate. I am quite sure that the left hand would not know what the right hand was doing. It would be a tremendous strain on the heads of departments who would be invited over here one day to give evidence to the House of Representatives committee and perhaps on the next day to give evidence to the same committee operating in the Senate. Ne’er the twain shall meet.
We know that the Senate is endeavouring to build up its status. If the senators think that the formation of this type of committee system like the American system will build up their status in the country, that is their business. But if we here do the same thing it will become so cumbersone, so intricate and involved that it will defeat its own end. We have 14 of our own Party committees, we have the standing committees and the joint committees. We will not have time for debates in Parliament. We will spend most of our time attending committee meetings. I feel that the system will be too cumbersome to operate effectively. At this stage, therefore, I am opposed to the intricate system of committees suggested by the honourable member for Wills. I hope (hat the Government will consider as quickly as possible what has been said today by honourable members.
– I just want to say one or two things regarding the estimates for the Parliament. In most years I have spoken on this subject. It is rather interesting to note that last year when these estimates were being debated, of the first 5 members who spoke only one is here now. It is also interesting to note that on this occasion, of the 5 members who have already spoken only one represents a rural electorate. All the rest are city members. Generally speaking, a city member puts up a different proposition from a country member, largely for certain reasons that are well known. Most honourable members have been talking about more money for members, more money for buildings and more money for facilities so that honourable members can do a better job. The history of this country shows that since federation 70 years ago some wonderful men, by their wisdom and by what they did in this House, did much to build this nation. Perhaps they did not have the facilities we have now. I atn of the opinion that a parliament is only as good <is the members who are elected to it, who sit in the Parliament, who speak on different subjects and who meet in the Party rooms. One honourable member who spoke today said: ‘When I came in here as a new member 1 looked around and I wondered how some of the members ever got in here.’
– He looked at you.
– Perhaps he did, but he may have been looking past me and he may have seen the honourable member. I do not deal in wisecracks of that sort because they do not mean anything. When I first came to Canberra I thought I would find some wonderful men here, and I did. But I found a lot of people like myself who are only a cross-section of the community. For a democracy to operate the Parliament of the Commonwealth must consist of men from all walks of life. I appreciate every member here.
As 1 said earlier, honourable members are asking for more and more money. People are talking about this country being in danger of inflation, already threatened by inflation or in the throes :>f inflation. J ask: What will more money do? Will it help much to fight inflation? Of course it will not. The country man’s view is different from the city roan’s view. It has been said that a member of Parliament received a certain salary and then the public servant received a rise, lt was said that the member’s salary should somehow be tied to the public servant’s salary, which meant that we would get a rise, too. If the member received a certain rate of salary and the public servant received a much higher rate I should think that the public servant’s salary was too high. It has been said that certain men in the Public Service are receiving more than their masters. I do not use the word ‘masters’ myself. I do not believe that we are masters of anybody. The public servants are public men in public offices and as such are greatly appreciated.
– Low wages - Country Party policy.
– The Country Party’s policy, which I support, is to keep inflation down as much as possible because men in the great primary producing industries do not have the protection of the tariffs or the protection of arbitration courts basing salaries on what the industry can afford Let us not forget that in 98 per cent of arbitration cases it is secondary industry that benefits. Much has been said about committees. I say that committees should not meet when the House Ls sitting. No-one can say that there is not room in the House this afternoon. There is plenty of room for honourable members here. It is the duty of honourable members to be in this House and to know what is being said. I would not have known what other honourable members had said previously today if I had not been here to hear them. There are so many papers, books and statements to read, the chances are that I would not have had the opportunity, nor would other honourable members, to read Hansard closely to find out what has happened. When it comes to a vote honourable members walk into this House, look around to see where their Party is sitting and go and sit there. This is the party system. We must have the party system. Honourable members say: ‘What are we voting on?’ and then look around to see where members of their own Party are sitting. They then move across and sit in that section of the House whether they are voting yes’ or ‘no*. Some people say: ‘Would it not be wonderful thing if we could do away with the party system and we could have all independents?’ This country would be bankrupt in less than a week while Parliament was sitting, for the simple reason that when it came to increasing pensions everybody who wanted to please his constituents would vote for it, and when it came to reducing taxation all honourable members would be voting on the one side of the House. We have a party system and, in the party system we have an executive. lt is like a big company with a board of directors and a chairman. These people hold the purse strings. That is what happens in this House now.
With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard a table showing the representation of the Australian Labor Party in Parliament since federation. The table has been supplied to me by the Library.
I want to comment on the matter that 1 have incorporated. Australia became a federation almost 70 years ago and since then the Australian Labor Party has occupied the treasury bench for only 16 years and 3 months. It was never in office for very long before a change in government came about.
The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) referred to the number of people who wanted to see members representing city electorates about social services and all sorts of other things. He either said or implied that members representing city areas had a lot more work to do than members representing country areas. A large electorate like Kalgoorlie has one or two big centres to which the member is able to go and to meet people. But in an electorate like Mallee, which I represent, the people are spread all over the place and the member is travelling much of the time to attend meetings and to consult people. The statement made by the honourable member for Adelaide was definitely not based on experience. If a member representing a city area wishes to meet his constituents he has only to advertise that at a given time he will be at a certain place in order to report to electors about what has gone on in the Parliament. His constituents can go to meet him because they have to travel only 10 or 15 miles at the outside. But in a large electorate constituents might have to travel hundreds of miles. We cannot expect them to travel that distance in order to speak to their member.
The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) referred to the fact that members of Parliament have only one secretary who is located back in Adelaide or some other centre. This is quite true. But he also said some Ministers have about 14 advisers in the House, or somewhere else, and about 600 other people who prepare their speeches and do other things. In order to be fair about this point we should say that we have a staff of research officers in the Library, all of whom are courteous and prepared to assist us, if necessary, in preparing speeches. We have many other people round about who give us great assistance. Therefore it is a great exaggeration to say that a Minister or someone else has 600 assistants. After all, we all have more than just one secretary to assist us and I do not mean someone to do our shorthand and typing. There are other ways of getting assistance and these must be considered.
I wrote down one or two points mentioned by speakers in this debate. The honourable member for Adelaide suggested that a research worker could be employed.
He said that the experience of working in Parliament would be good for a young graduate. We are not here to pay money out in order to give experience to young graduates; we are here to get work done and to put legislation into effect. Mention was also made of the new Parliament House. The new Parliament House project has the support of this Parliament. It has my support. But a lot of people agree with my opinion that there is no great hurry for it at this time. The present building is serving us pretty well just now. However, I understand the position of a member who shares an office with 2 or 3 other members. Therefore we should have the new Parliament House as soon as possible. The millions of dollars that have to be set aside do not seem to mean anything to some people. I remember people saying that one of the Budgets introduced by Sir Arthur Fadden, when he was Treasurer, was of great dimensions’. They asked: ‘What would it matter if another £500,000 or £2m or £3m were added to it? What difference would it make?’ Of course it would not matter if the money could be found. But Sir Arthur Fadden said: ‘If we were to implement all that people ask, I would want 5 times the amount of money that I now get from the taxpayers. We would have to increase taxation and other sources of revenue for the Treasury in order to get 5 times as much as we now have.’ That is not a practical thing to do under any conditions.
The honourable member for Hindmarsh also referred to reports which have to be read by members of Parliament. I said that we do not have time to read them and he said: ‘Speak for yourself. I read all the reports’. But the honourable member for Hindmarsh confined his remarks to reports from the Department of Labour and National Service. I cannot let things go without mentioning this matter and putting it right because he first referred to all reports. I say very definitely that no honourable member reads all the papers and reports sent to him. This would be a physical impossibility in spite of the fact that some time ago quick reading classes were held. Those classes seem to have died out - I do not know why - because I have not heard much about them. I have not heard many people say that they can now read much quicker than other people.
As I have only about 3 minutes of my time left and 1 am talking about reading, I want to say that I deplore the lack of oratory in this House which has come about because members read speeches. How can a man make a telling point when he reads his speech word for word? I have said on occasions that 80 per cent of members read at least 85 per cent of their speeches and I have said that 30 per cent of members read the lot word for word. I tried many years ago to stop this practice of reading speeches but I got nowhere. Honourable members used to say: ‘Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to the fact that the honourable member is reading his speech.’ I did not do this but others did. The Speaker would always say: ‘I cannot tell whether he is reading his speech or is referring to voluminous notes.’ After it got to that stage 1 said in this House one day that we should be sincere. I said that if we do not implement the standing order that says that a member shall not read his speech then it ought to be eliminated because we must be sincere. I was hoist by my own petard because the Standing Orders Committee eliminated the standing order aimed at preventing members reading their speeches. I was not a member in the days of the great speakers of the past, such as Alfred Deakin, but I doubt very much that they read their speeches. I have not the slightest doubt in the world that they stood up and spoke without reading. If a member cannot stand and speak on a subject under discussion he has not done his work properly. If a member reads his speech word for word it may not be his speech at all. That is why I refer to this practice as representation by proxy. I could get people who know more about certain subjects than I do to write speeches for me and then merely read them in this House. The speeches would appear in Hansard and would be considered to be mine but that would not be the case. The same thing applies to other honourable members. Representation by proxy is not in the best interests of this Parliament or of the Commonwealth.
– I want to say a few words about the estimates for the Parliament. The sum allocated, about $4m, is comparatively small and I say that the Australian public gets good value for this money. The honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) made a point about the small number of members in attendance in the House at certain times.- I would point out to him that one of the facilities here enables us to listen to the proceedings on radio if we do not want to see the show on television, as it were. The proceedings are piped to members’ rooms and I think many honourable members listen to them there. The honourable member for Mallee also referred to some of the great orators and figures of the past in the 70 years history of the Commonwealth Parliament. If Parliament is to be preserved as an institution - I still believe it to be the most satisfactory form of government - then it needs to modify some of its procedures. In the early weeks of this session we devoted a great deal of time to recasting the Standing Orders. Suggestions were made about committees and so on. Like my colleague the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie), I am not a great one for the proliferation of committees because we could get to a stage where we spend more time attending committee meetings than Parliament. It is inevitable that some of these meetings must be held while Parliament is in session.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! There is too much conversation in the chamber. The honourable member for Sturt will remain silent.
– I did not carry on a conversation while the honourable member for Mallee was talking, and I wish he would do me the same courtesy. We cannot hear ourselves think sometimes in this place for the non-speeches that are going on at the same time. I was referring to the complexity of issues that face members. I have had experience today of 2 of them that I think typify the difficulty we have in understanding or getting to the roots of many of the problems that face us. We had a discussion in our Party Executive - I hope I am not breaching any confidences about what took place there - about the provision or otherwise of a nuclear power system in Australia. We have been told that if the proposal to build a nuclear power station is implemented it will cost something like $5,000m. I think we were told by the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) that the submissions associated with this power station weighed some tons.
– It was 1 1 tons.
– How we turn what is written on 11 tons of paper into a sensible proposition that is understandable by us who have to legislate is a problem that typifies some of the difficulties we face. Another matter came up at the meeting this afternoon. I do not often attend meetings while the House is sitting. I think that my friend the honourable member for Mallee will agree that, like him, I am one of the best attenders in this House because I think this is where most of us should be most of the time. Nevertheless I attended a meeting this afternoon. It was associated with the increase in postal charges. I do not want to go into the details, but at least it is fairly minor or peripheral compared with the total problems we face. Nevertheless, to listen to the representations that are made - and they ought to be able to be made - requires us to go away and do a great deal of homework on some matter which in terms of totality has nothing like the same significance as that $5,000m. but which nevertheless is an important problem. I think additional facilities should be provided for the use of members.
Also in these estimates is the proposed vote for the Parliamentary Library. I pay a tribute to the Library and its services. Nevertheless those services are nowhere near extensive enough, and sometimes nowhere near close enough to the sorts of problems that we have to face. I believe that Parliament ought to be the central institution in a democratic system. I do not know whether other honourable members received a questionnaire that I received the other day from a student. I will not quote his name lest he be embarrassed. It is a questionnaire on what Australian politicians - I must confess that I do not like the word ‘politician’; it seems to have unpleasant overtones - consider as the most important national buildings needed in a hypothetical new capital city. I am afraid that I am not disposed to give very much time to considering what I would put in a new hypothetical capital city. But I certainly think that in the capital city we have - and there is no prospect of moving it to anywhere else if anybody wanted to - Parliament House ought to be central. I do not mean central in the sense that one can see it from a great distance, but it ought to be the most important and best equipped building thai it is possible to have.
How long it will be before the new Parliament House is built I do not know, but certainly the facilities we have here at the moment are grossly inadequate. One only has to go to an average member’s room, if he has one, and look at the pressure of paper against the space that is there to see that certain inadequacies face us. I do not quite know how in 1970 the average member is able to cope with the sort of paper work and reading material that comes before him, let alone do his constituency duties as well. Each morning when we come here there seem to be a bundle of documents, letters and annual reports that have just been tabled. 1 wish sometimes that there was a corner in this building where on 1st July the first annual report that was tabled could be put and where these documents could be systematically built up until 30th June the next year just to show the amount of stuff that is tabled for the consideration of honourable members to show how unthinkable and impossible it would be for us to examine the lot. The answer may be to have some sort of precis of each annual report. 1 think some of the departments provide such precis, but there are times when we have to read annual reports in great detail. J suppose each of us selects the ones we regard as the more important and the more significant for our own interest. For one who is a specialist in a particular field - and I think that increasingly members of Parliament have to specialise in certain fields - an annual report may be easily understood, but it may be difficult for those who are not in that speciality to understand what the report is all about. I suppose the fault lies partly with those who are the expositors.
The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) the other evening in the course of another debate made some reference, I thought rather obliquely, to some of the speeches that were made here during the Budget debate. At least to some people the Budget debate is a very important occasion and a great deal of time has to go into the preparation of their speeches on the Budget if they are to say what they want to say. Like the honourable member for Mallee 1 do not write speeches. I do not like written speeches. I give a great deal of time to preparing my material and trying to understand what the subject is about, but like the honourable member for Mallee I like to be able to answer something that has gone before or anticipate something that may come after rather than have something cut and dried in advance.
The record of attendance in the Press Gallery by members of the Press is worse than the record of attendance by members in the chamber. Apparently only one member of the Press is needed in the gallery at one time. He seems to cover the diversity of the Australian Press. Maybe the other pressmen listen on the radio as I do. But why should copies of members speeches have to be handed out to the Press hours in advance? Are the pressmen not here to report? They are given space and facilities in the House, and to my mind we should not have to have a speech carefully circulated in advance so as to have it reported in the Press. If after listening to a speech the Press does not think anything is worthy of reporting, I suppose that is the risk we have to take.
My experience over a long time - I am afraid I have become one of the veterans in this place, having been here for close to 20 years - is that the majority of members who come here are decent hardworking people, with certainly a variety of talents. Sometimes within the one person we find a great diversity of talents. But they come here and endeavour to contribute, to the best of their ability. We on this side of the House talk among ourselves and I presume that honourable members opposite do likewise. But increasingly the issues that come before us seem to be becoming more complex. 1 am one who believes that in a parliamentary system a government must govern. Whoever happens to be the Excutive has to have the initiative. That initiative should not be exercised tyrannically. It should not be exercised to the detriment of the rights of Opposition members or back benchers. Part of the function of the Government is to communicate the kind of information it has and the kind of background material that is necessary to make what goes on here understandable.
I think that a tendency exists in Australia to classify too much material as top secret when it would not matter if everybody knew all about that material. In fact, it would be much better in many instances if more people did know all about it. At least, an improvement has occurred. I have noticed an improvement over recent years concerning information on defence and its allied branches. At one time it seemed to be thought very dangerous if we in Australia knew how many aeroplanes, naval ships, battalions and platoons or what equipment we had. This information is given now in the reports which are presented during the period when the Estimates are being considered. This is a great improvement. No longer does defence rely on having some sort of secret weapon. The Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen), though, seems to have found a few projects during the last week; and, I think he would have done better if he had announced them here rather than outside this place. I am glad to know that some of the building is to be done in Australian shipyards. This is a good thing.
This Parliament is a better place for having more information, though sometimes we may have such a plethora that it is hard to see the wood for the trees. One of the great virtues of a committee system - we should not have too many committees - is that the expert can be brought along and questioned, his assumptions examined and the crudities of those who do not quite know what he is doing subjected to criticism. I think the Parliament is a better place for committees. I do hope that we will continue to give serious consideration to this proposal. After all, this is the right of Parliament. It is not the Government which should say: ‘You cannot do this because we will not give you the money’. I would like to see the Parliament give something similar to what the Treasurer has - that is, a Treasurer’s Advance. There should be a parliamentary advance. A sum should be available for Parliament to use if the Parliament believes a new committee system or a new series of projects is desirable. Parliament should be able to initiate these things. Their introduction should not wait upon the charity of a Government that often does not have much as far as the working of this place is concerned. Parliament has certain rights. Those rights ought to be preserved.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I speak this afternoon shortly after a speech was delivered by the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull). I have not been here for some 24 years as he has, but I have been here some years. On many occasions I have heard him make an unkind reference to members who read their speeches. I am one who rarely reads a speech, but I think that the honourable member is a little unkind in his remarks because a great many of the people who come here have different abilities. It may be said that the honourable member for Mallee, in common with the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), can rise to his feet and rattle off a speech without needing to read it. There are others who are not so blessed. Perhaps they have been blessed in other areas in which the 2 aforementioned members have not been blessed. This is just the way it goes.
I agree that the standing of Parliament is detracted from because some honourable members are seen to read their speeches. There are some honourable members who have been here long enough and who are able enough that they should not need to read their speeches. However I think that the honourable member for Mallee was a little unkind because there are some honourable members who cannot deliver a speech without notes.
I wish to take this opportunity in speaking on the estimates for the Parliament to push once again the cause for a more realistic approach to parliamentary life and the provision of opportunities for members to do their work properly. We are in the 1970s now. Earlier we heard the honourable member for Mallee talk about Alfred Deakin and mention the names of some other prominent persons who lived at the beginning of the century. Things have changed a lot since that time. I think that the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, which recently brought down its report, still lacks some of the foresight in respect of the provision of facilities which are so necessary to enable the members of this Parliament to work as effectively as they should be able to work. I notice in the report that, in very guarded terms, it is predicted that in time secretarial staff will be provided for members in the new Parliament House. The report says:
There is every reason to believe that in dme additional assistance will be provided to members.
In view of this, the Committee suggests that a room of IS ft by IS ft should be added to the office of each member. This is certainly a far cry from what we have today. I share an office here with a new member. 1 remember that, when 1 was a new member 3 years ago, I used to apologise to the man with whom. I shared an office because I must have distracted him by asking many questions as to how the Parliament worked. I think that every member is entitled, not in IS years or 20 years time but almost immediately - in the very near future - to the privacy of his own office.
Even in Brisbane, in my home State of Queensland, where my office is in the Commonwealth building there, 1 work in a room that is 10 ft by 12 ft. Every time my secretary boils the jug. I have almost to leave the office or I will be scalded, as the room is so small. When people come into my office, and somebody wishes to walk out of it, that person must shift chairs in order to do so. This is the type of mentality which has been associated with the workings of Parliament. I think that this is a condemnation of those people who set the conditions under which we work. I do not know where they are. I do not know whether they are in the Government, are Ministers or are people at the top of the Department of the Interior. I think that this type of attitude is absolutely deplorable and, more shamefully, not only does this reflect the low regard in which these people hold members of Parliament but also it shows that they deserve condemnation because they have so much contempt for the democratic system under which this country works.
In accord with my practice in past years, I do not intend to speak long on this subject, but I take this opportunity to say once again - and I always will - that it is high time the people who are responsible for providing and who could provide realistic facilities for members of Parliament did something about the present position and stopped hiding behind the cloak of reports such as the one to which I have referred and saying: ‘Well, one day we will give members something’. What do I see when I look at conditions in my electorate? The tally clerk down at the fish depot at one end of my electorate has an office far bigger than mine. Whilst his job is important, obviously he would not have as much paper work in his office as I have. Unfortunately, most of the papers that people send to me each day must go into the rubbish bin because there Ls nowhere to store them. Mr Deputy Chairman, if you tried to fit 2 desks, a cupboard, a filing cabinet, chairs and a jug with which to make a cup of coffee into a room approximately J 2 ft by 1.0 ft, you would know just what I am talking about.
Sitting suspended from S.S8 to 8 p.m.
– The interests of the Commonwealth of Australia in its relations with other countries are almost entirely determined by this Parliament. From time to time trips are made abroad on official business by Ministers, by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), by back bench members and by members of the Opposition. There are delegations to various parliamentary associations, including the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and other groups and general fact finding tours which have been, I think, in the main to South East Asian countries. I am making an observation and a plea m the debate tonight for more official groups of ordinary members of this Parliament to make tours to other countries. The countries I have in mind are those which are most important to us in trade and in foreign affairs, namely, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Japan and New Zealand. They are the countries which most readily come to mind but that list will grow.
I think that honourable senators and honourable members of this House who visit those countries should have an opportunity not merely to meet the heads of Government and Ministers and their public servants, important though that may be, but most important of all to meet the ordinary members of Parliament. I know that some members of the public and the Press have criticised past trips and no doubt will go on criticising any future trips, but this is an important suggestion because these countries have a close and growing association with Australia in trade - after all, we are the tenth trading nation of the world - and in defence where we have defence arrangements or, I might suggest, potential defence arrangements. Surely Australia needs increasing trade and certainly needs friends. As honourable members will be aware the United States has a different basic constitution and a separation exists between the legislature and the Executive; yet Congress is of crucial importance to us in Australia, especially its attitude to foreign affairs and certainly its attitude to the existence of trade barriers.
I have had the good fortune to visit the United States twice. In 1968 I spent 6 or 7 weeks in New York, Washington, and in the New York State capital ot Albany. I had the opportunity to see at first hand the members there - the congressmen, members of the House of Representatives and senators - and to see for myself their ability and intelligence, which, indeed, they have, though much to the contrary is written of them. I found them - both men and women - to be most interested in Australia and in our policies and development. I think it is valid to say that they like what they see but they are not very well informed. It is natural that we as Australians should know more of the United States than they would know of us since it is the greatest economic and political power in the world today. For our own members to meet their numbers can do nothing but good for Australia. Government to Government negotiations are in themselves not good enough for Australia’s interests. I hasten to add that this is in no way a criticism of the contacts between the United States Government and our representatives through the Department of External Affairs and the Department of Trade and Industry. But they are hedged by protocol and must contract the United States government in an official capacity. Our members, in talking as politicians to politicians with an understanding of government, politics and the representational aspects of political life whether it be arranged by tours, discussions or even seminars and the provision of reciprocal invitations, could certainly cut down misunderstandings and better their knowledge. I have heard, as no doubt all honourable members have, references made by these people to Australia from time to time which show basic misunderstandings of Australia’s attitudes and values and our determination on matters which we think are fundamental.
– Whose fault is that?
– I think it is the fault of all. It is well that people in other countries for their past should understand our own personal qualities, that we mean what we say and that we intend to stick to our agreements. May we as a country ever deserve that reputation. Of course, personalities do not change the basic strategic or economic facts. There is still much room, however, to exchange views and in my judgment in speaking with members of the legislative bodies of 3 of the countries that I have mentioned, while there are commercial interests and electoral interests in which they are involved, in their attitudes many have an international outlook and some altruism which is the mixture of influences and motives of which we are keenly aware in our own Parliament.
There is an understandable impression by older and larger countries that other methods and standards are inferior to their own. I have experienced that attitude in some fields. We can help dispel that belief in many areas by acquainting them of the real position and I know them to be intelligent enough and willing enough to grasp the point quickly. Our foreign policy views, the sides of the debate on great issues which are carried on in this country and our case for allowing great imports - in the case of the United States in meat, sugar and wool - are examples of matters which would be discussed between members. A recent example was the misunderstanding, as I believe it was, of the standards of our meat exported to the United States where ultimately Australia proposed a compromise in the regulations. There is naturally on the part of our own members inadequate knowledge of the problems, facts and policies of the parliaments of the 4 countries I have mentioned - the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Japan - and each of them is of great importance to us.
There are large gaps in the knowledge and a generalisation of their conditions accepted here even by the best informed people and, conversely, this applies equally if not more so to members of their parliaments. I suggest that to understand them better would enable us to be closer to those countries. I think it is widely accepted that better relations and understandings exist between countries where there is a free flow of travellers. Because of their position, for members of Parliament to travel and obtain information would place them in a position to be able to use that information. It would be used better and more quickly because we are more directly connected with Government administration and policy. And it would have the most important objective of our being able to reach grass roots political opinion in those other countries. It is a matter which cuts both ways and no doubt there is much that we can learn in standards, productive methods, efficiency and quality. I know some areas in which we can learn but in some others we are simply underestimated abroad. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) emphasised the need for co-operation in a speech to the AustralianAmerican Association a while ago and I put this forward as a positive suggestion to improve the knowledge, the exchange of information and the cooperation between major nations and ourselves.
– In dealing with the estimates for the Parliament this evening there are a few points I would like to raise as to what the role of Parliament ought to be. I want to refer to some aspects of Parliament that have caused waste down through the years. One of the first things I would like to draw to the attention of this Mouse is the fact that some 1.2 years ago a decision was taken to set up a joint committee at considerable cost. After long deliberation the joint committee brought down a report which dealt with a review of the Constitution. I imagine that the cost of producing this report would have been about S 100,000 or, £50,000 in the currency of that time. Nothing has been done about the report by the Parliament since then and the Federal Constitution is such today that it almost inhibits good government. It does so far as the present Government is concerned.
It is obvious that the Government does not want constitutional reform. It wants to shirk its responsibilities and is not prepared to accept hs responsibilities on behalf of the Australian people. This is one of the reasons why so often we hear Ministers say in reply to questions directed to them: This is a matter for the States’ or ‘That is a matter for the States’. I represent a Federal electorate the boundaries of which include parts of a number of State electorates and part of an electoral division of the South Australian Legislative Council - and God forbid that I should even mention the Legislative Council in this place. The fact is that residents of my electorate are Federal constituents as well as State constituents and the responsibility of the Federal Government in many fields should be greater than it is at the moment. Health is not adequately and properly taken care of and education is in a shocking condition. I entirely agree with what teacher organisations throughout Australia have said when they have referred to a crisis in education.
– What nonsense!
– The honourable member for Angas never seems to be pulled up by the Speaker or the Chairman for his continual interjections when I am speaking. From time to time he claims in this chamber that certain things are in accordance with the policy enunciated in a speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), although which speech he is referring to is often extremely obscure. I suggest that the honourable member should acquaint himself with the contents of this report related to constitutional reform. I cannot recall whether the honourable member was a member of this House when that committee made its deliberations, but the fact is that it is shameful that this document should have been available for so long yet the Government, or for that matter the Parliament, has not seen fit to look at the Committee’s recommendations and to try to put some life into our Constitution which would be hardly fit for the horse and buggy days when it was written. In fact, one often reflects that perhaps federation came too soon. It may have been better had it been left until after 1910 when I am quite confident the Constitution would not have been in the form it is in today. I do not know whether in the short time at my disposal what I have said about this subject is likely to arouse the interest of Government members opposite.
– lt has.
– It would not arouse the honourable member for Angas. Nothing would shift him. He will continue to make speeches in this House in the manner he has done for many years. I recall a remark he made the other day about my sending telegrams. I make no apologies for sending 14 telegrams to 14 age pensioners whose representatives stood outside the front of this building in almost snow conditions and who were virtually refused admittance to the House. I can draw many parallels for members opposite, particularly those with rural interests at heart - wheat quotas, for example - who use their privileged ministerial positions to do all manner of frightful things, so do not have a shot at me for sending a few telegrams that cost about $30, because I had no compunction about sending them and I will send telegrams in the future. I sent a telegram down the corridor to the honourable member for Angas only because I was prevailed upon to do so by people who live in his electorate and whom he should represent in this place far better than he was doing or was likely to do at that time. However, do not distract me any further. I point out to the honourable member that if he is guilty he should not cast stones at other people.
– Did you send 30 telegrams each of 38 words?
– No, 1 did not. 1 have told the honourable member and I do not intend to elaborate. The fact is that this Government has not done anything to reform the Parliament to meet the present day requirements of the people. I have already mentioned constitutional review. Does it surprise honourable members to know that in its investigations the committee referred to what were the peaceful nuclear aims for Australia, yet the Government, as I said earlier this afternoon, is spending a tremendous amount of money, without debate as yet in this place, on a nuclear power station. This matter was considered by this constitutional review committee as far back as 1958 yet the Government has sat on the report and done nothing with it. It is apparent that it does not intend to do anything with the report. The Government has been in office too long. It has surrounded itself with a wall of apathy and indifference and does not recognise the problems of the people in the Commonwealth. This is obvious from the fact that this afternoon we heard statements from members opposite about pensions and such matters. What hypocrisy! Surely if a Government member were worth his salt, knowing what was proposed for pensioners in the Budget, and he had any sort of fortitude at all he would have stood his ground firmly, as the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), who is not in the chamber tonight, should have done on the matter of social welfare. No member opposite did that so why should they rise and make hypocrites of themselves by criticising the Government’s provision for pensioners. Another honourable member opposite referred to 2 former Governor-Generals getting-
– Order! The time allotted for consideration of the proposed expenditure has expired.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Department of the Treasury
Proposed expenditure, $83,068,000.
Advance to the Treasurer
Proposed expenditure, $20,000,000.
– In discussing the estimates for the Department of the Treasury I desire to refer to the proposed increase in sales tax on motor vehicles and home appliances, with special emphasis on motor vehicles, and to point out how this proposed measure will seriously affect the economic stability of South Australia. Basically South Australia manufactures many goods especially vehicles and home appliances, for the national market. Any downturn caused by Commonwealth policies, such as an increase in sales tax and increased interest rates, has a far greater effect on growth patterns and employment in South Australia than in other States. The proposed increase in sales tax from 25 per cent to 271 per cent represents the ninth change in sales tax on motor vehicles in 19 years. There have been 5 increases and 4 decreases. History reveals that each time the tax has been increased car sales have fallen alarmingly and the Australian motor vehicle industry and its allied industries - including the rubber, paint, glass and steel industries - have been forced to make heavy retrenchments. However each time the Government has belatedly adjusted the position by reducing the tax these important industries have immediately commenced to pick up..
I emphasise that in relation to employment opportunity South Australia relies heavily on the motor industry, for when one realises that in May of this year the two major car manufacturing companies, General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd and Chrysler Australia Ltd, were between them employing in that State more than 18,000 people and that an estimated further 9,000 were employed in the State in providing components and spare parts, it can be seen that these totals are significant in a manufacturing employment total of some 130,000 in South Australia. These figures show that more than one-fifth of South Australia’s manufacturing employment is based on the motor industry.
This sales tax increase could not have come at a worse time for South Australia because earlier this year, following the increase in interest rates, new car sales dropped by some 10 per cent in some States. As a consequence, one of the major car manufacturing companies in South Australia, after waiting a few weeks to ascertain whether its fears regarding the finance squeeze were justified, cut its production schedule by roughly the same proportion as the fall in the daily total market rate and retrenched some ISO men. At the moment neither of the 2 major companies in South Australia is replacing labour wastage through retirements, deaths, etc., and this alarming situation prevailed even in the field of skilled tradesmen. In other words, the recruitment of labour for the present and the immediate future has ceased in the motor industry in South Australia. My advice is that the same position applies in the electrical and home appliance industries of that State.
The manufacturers of South Australia believe that the downturn in employment opportunity in South Australia is due entirely to the financial and economic policies of the Federal Government. In any case, growth in the Elizabeth area, where so many migrants are housed, will be severely checked at a time when the Federal Government has commenced a drive to attract more migrants. The
Government’s repeated alteration of sales tax on motor vehicles seems to indicate that its economic advisers have no idea of how these decisions affect not only the industry and its employees but also the people of Australia as a whole. In this regard I point out that any increase in sales tax on motor cars does not affect the purchasers of new vehicles only. Its repercussions are much wider than that. In actual fact, it is an added tax on every section of the community. It goes without saying that the sales tax is a tax on the person who buys a new car. It also affects the person who buys a second hand car, because the price of second hand cars is governed by the price of new ones.
This sales tax is also passed on to the person who does not own a motor car but who purchases certain types of goods. Because of the nature of normal business practice, commercial firms pass on the increased cost of the vehicles they use in their business by adding some amount to the cost of the goods they produce or sell. In this way the customer carries his share of the increased tax. The overall effect therefore is to depress living standards.
The South Australian Government is so concerned as to the repercussions that this added tax will have on the State’s employment position and its economy that on 20th August this year the House of Assembly of South Australia carried the following resolution:
That this House calls on the members of the Federal Parliament representing South Australia to take action in the Federal Parliament to protect employment and development in South Australia from the impost on the sale of wine of SOc per gallon and from an increase of 2i per cent in sales tax on motor vehicles and electrical goods which are proposed in the Federal Budget and which will adversely affect South Australia far more than any other State.
Consequently in speaking today on this matter I, as a South Australian Federal member, am taking up this issue as requested by the State Government. It is also of interest to note that the Liberal Opposition of the South Australian Parliament moved an amendment to the Government motion in the following terms:
That this House inform the Prime Minister that the interests of the wine industry and the manufacturing industries in South Australia will be beneficially served if the increased taxes on the sale of wines and consumer goods be removed as soon as possible.
There is no question that both political sides of the South Australian Parliament are clearly concerned as to the position in South Australia following the proposed introduction of these added taxes. It clearly indicates that both sides of the Parliament are concerned that these tax increases will affect the State’s economy and its employment position.
I ask the Treasurer (Mr Bury’) to have an investigation made into the present position of the motor industry, particularly in South Australia. I can assure him that he will find, amongst other things, firstly, that the employment opportunities for newcomers do not exist; secondly, that there is a grave possibility of retrenchments; and, thirdly, that the number of new vehicles at grass and in the sale rooms is almost at a record level. I make an appeal that the implementation of these tax increases be deferred until such time as a further study is made. However, if the Government really requires the extra finance that such increases will bring I suggest it may be raised by increasing the sales tax on really luxury vehicles and increasing the customs duty on all imported vehicles.
In the time remaining to me I wish to raise another matter which comes under the jurisdiction of the Treasurer. I refer to section 74 of the Income Tax Assessment Act, which provides that expenditure incurred in the year of income by a taxpayer on being elected as a member, or in contesting an election for membership, of the Federal Parliament or of the Parliament of a State shall be an allowable taxation deduction. This is a reasonable provision as far as it goes, but I believe that it should be extended to cover persons who contest elections in the field of local government. I feel every honourable member of this Parliament fully appreciates the importance of local government and the part it plays in the interests of the community. Local government, which is accepted and recognised as a necessary and vital part of our society, has been aptly described as representing the grass roots of our political and administrative structure. As such it is my contention that it should be given every assistance and encouragement. I find it very difficult to understand in a country which has 3 recognised and essential forms of government - federal, state and local - why our tax laws differ in their treatment of candidates for elections in these 3 different forms of government. In fact, if any preference is to be extended to one of the 3 forms of government, f believe it should be to local government, because members of local government bodies, in the main, and particularly in South Australia, receive no remuneration for the many hours of service that they give in the interests of the public at large. I know that this matter has been raised before in this House. Regardless of this, however, I again appeal to the Treasurer to give further consideration to the matter, which I hasten to point out will not be a very costly venture.
– In looking at the Treasurer’s estimates and considering the national taxation burden, it is clear that not only is taxation increasing but also that the rate of tax is increasing. The rate of tax per head in increasing in real terms. Hard as it is, increasing the rate of income tax and taxation remains easier than cutting down the functions of government and implementing greater efficiencies in the functions of government. The rate of expenditure at present and over recent years has risen whether one compares it with the growth in the gross national product, the growth in the population or the growth in the national income. That present rate of expenditure is a great one. Many people would say it is too great. Perhaps this country can afford to allocate so much expenditure at this time. T am persuaded by the fact that we have many skilled Treasury officers and the fact that the Commonwealth Government considers the Budget in great detail. As a result of this I am inclined to believe that the present rate of expenditure In Australia is justified. We have had and no doubt will continue to have for some time partypolitical criticism of the Budget by members of the Australian Labor Party and others on matters including education. There has been criticism by bodies that purport to represent education in this country and by numerous other bodies demanding more and more government services in health, education, defence, roads and social services.
Very considerable, indeed vast, amounts of expenditure on services are demanded. We had an illustration of that earlier from the opposite side of the chamber. The question that arises is how can these demands be resisted or met by us as the people’s elected representatives? Many electors say to each of us - it is their right to comment and question - that we should reduce taxation and the number of public servants. My reply is that the problem is not one of reducing taxation and the number of public servants but of trying to keep down the rate of increase by endeavouring to obtain greater efficiencies in the public services that are provided. I am concerned in these few remarks to touch on the problems of the rate of increase of expenditure and the rate of increase in public services, not only at the Commonwealth level but in the 3 levels of government, Commonwealth, State and local - because they are increasing today at a faster rate than ever before. In the long term we must face the fact that with an increase at a greater rate than the growth of our income or than the growth of our population we must sooner or later reach a saturation level because we cannot continue having a greater rate of increase of public servants. I think it is right that we as members of Parliament and all thinking people in this country should dwell on the subject.
The Budget that we have before us allocates between competing priorities the revenue which is raised. We cannot have lower taxation and a higher expenditure; that is obvious. But it is often ignored and ignoring it prevents us from getting down to the next and realistic level of the way to improve the situation. Successful improvement in this rate will not be a one shot exercise but a continuing process - a procedure and a government and parliament programme. I suggest firstly that in seeking funds we must look to see whether there are areas of expenditure which can be reduced or eliminated where for historical, social or economic reasons that expenditure would be better spent elsewhere. Secondly we must look into the methods of providing incentives to Government employees, providing work satisfaction by removing drudgery and unimportant tasks, by improving efficiency, by providing less paper work and removing unnecessary internal controls. Could we not implement controls and supervision methods that would apply if the work load were 100 times greater than it is at present and thus test its real value.
I am pleased to know that the Commonwealth Treasury has sections which are dealing in part with these processes. They carry out research into the origin and evolution of governmental precedures They have sections which undertake research into the application of management accounting techniques and analyse departmental expenditure, compare the relative operational costs of departments and isolate and measure differences in performance. These sections develop standards for guidance of Treasury divisions responsible for the examination and review of departmental estimates. They analyse growth movements and other fluctuations in departmental estimates and expenditure, provide reports and advice to Treasury divisions for the examination and review of departmental estimates and develop appropriate techniques for analysis and interpretation of data. We must try 10 get more value for the money we are spending. It is not always true in looking, for example, at education or health that twice the expenditure results in twice the benefit.
I point out that the Australian Labor Party in advocating greater Commonwealth control of every aspect of the economy, still contains in its platform a prominent objective in the nationalisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange - a definition which covers just about all there is and inevitably involves large rises in taxation. A review of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) on the Budget makes that certain. The trade unions recently repeatedly demanded income tax reductions before the Budget was announced with an insistence the Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party should reflect on. Whether one believes in much greater Commonwealth government control of every aspect of the economy, a centralised planning and takeover of government and business in this country as does the Australian Labor Party, or whether one believes, as do the Government parties, in the minimum of government intervention and regulation, and only then when public interest is justifiably involved, there remains a serious problem to be tackled. It is one to which there is no easy solution but I believe Australians have a capacity for solving problems to which they put their minds. After all this is a problem with which every highly developed economy, Western or Communist, has to deal. We must use the wealth of individualism and initiative by providing incentives and guidance to cut inefficiencies and the impersonality of centralised planning. Anyone who has involved himself in a close study or a discipline has known the experience of grappling with a complex problem to which there appears no simple solution and, after much fret and work, finding what then appears an obvious solution. It is to such a task that we as a Parliament and as individual members should bend in effort.
– Not having taken part in the. Budget debate because of the limited time the Government placed on it, I am prompted to speak on the Treasury estimates simply to join issue with the Treasurer on the Government’s monetary and fiscal policies. This Government has been in office for 21 years and in that period the country has had at least 17 bountiful seasons and rising prices for all types of production. The world has recovered from 2 world wars. Our population from immigration alone has increased by at least 3 million. Australia is experiencing the greatest resources explosion of any country, yet in terms of real human progress we are still thinking in terms of the horse and buggy days. Constitutionally in Australia an elected government of whatever political persuasion has unlimited and unfettered powers of monetary and fiscal policy. I believe there is evidence that shows that the present Government is prostituting that power to an alarming extent. That is why I am on my feet at the moment to protest at what T see and know. As an example, loan fund financing in a modem and well developed economy could always be of inestimable value to the community. On the other hand, loan fund finance used indiscreetly and extravagantly could and would destroy us both morally and nationally. But, of course, that is the sole responsibility of the centra) government. lt is a responsibility which LiberalCountry Party Governments absolutely shun. An example of this is with us right now. In Queensland a devastating drought is killing stock worth millions of dollars yet we let mice and weevils eat and destroy millions of tons of surplus wheat simply because no-one can work out a so-called economic solution to the wheat industry’s problem. At the same time we are handing out millions of dollars to fanners as drought relief in specific areas and in other areas we are restricting the planting and growing of grain. How ridiculous can we be? The Australian Loan Fund is as old as the Constitution itself. In earlier years its use was extremely limited, especially by Labor Governments. I well remember that in the late 1920s and early 1930s Jack Lang was sacked from office and Ted Theodore held to public ridicule when in the depression years they had proposed that loan fund finance should be made available to the States to relieve unemployment and to use up the nation’s surplus production. Apparently in that period loan fund finance was taboo in the hands of State Premiers or when devised by a Labor politician such as Ted Theodore. His proposition was that a £2()m issue of Treasury notes be made to create employment. It will be remembered that the Niemeyers and Guggenheim, called them fiduciary bills and no-one was game to accept responsibility for their issue. People remained unemployed while thousands starved.
Today it is a different story. The loan fund is being used with impunity by the Government. But its benefits are not for the needy or the poor and flow only to the wealthy through profits from wars. Any concession that this Budget might hand out has already been eaten up in increased direct and indirect taxation, rising prices and increased interest rates. Taxes in all forms, including local government charges, continue to rise steeply and to erode wages and salaries despite the mammoth wealth in minerals and oil now being unearthed throughout the nation. The Treasury estimates are the Budget’s largest. They cover an expenditure of about $4,500m. Incidentally, that Department is the most costly to administer, at a cost of about $l32m a year. Its officers certainly wield great power and authority over the Treasurer (Mr Bury) and the Cabinet, because their financial considerations appear to be sacrosanct in every way.
To me it is utterly immoral for the Treasurer to announce, as he did in the Budget, that “within this overall result there would on present figuring be a surplus of domestic receipts over domestic expenditure of the order of $550m’. As shown in the Estimates, it might reach $633m. Yet the Treasurer in the previous paragraph had brought the Budget figures into balance with a $4m surplus, with income at $7,887m and expenditure at $7,883m. How are honourable members on both sides of the Parliament to evaluate intelligently departmental expenditure if the figures presented to us are to be rigged in the manner in which Statements 2 and 3 in the Budget Papers have been presented to the Parliament by the Treasurer? The honourable gentleman did not once reveal during his hour-long speech that there was to be another massive surplus, for the second year in succession. For honourable members to obtain information about the nation’s finances they have to turn either to the Estimates or to the Auditor-General’s report, and not look to the Budget which is considered to be the Government’s White Paper on its income and expenditure. 1 believe that the Treasurer and the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and his Cabinet had known for months, and perhaps as far back as last year, that they intended to clamp down on the nation’s expenditure again this year. It is known that the Commonwealth Bank had informed some of its borrowers about a month or 6 weeks before the Government had announced it, that interest rates would rise and that the Commonwealth Bank’s housing loans were to be increased by three-quarters of 1 pet cent, from 4.75 per cent to 5.5 per cent. The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) has already had incorporated in Hansard a table showing the extent to which increased interest alone will extend the repayment period of home purchasing and the extra cost involved. The Government’s action in 1969-70 and again this year, in its restriction of finance to borrowers under the guise of reducing liquidity, has set off a political time fuse that will smoulder for years. In the result the investor will become richer while the borrower becomes poorer and poorer.
Already this is to be seen in the 50c a week, or S26 a year, increase to pensioners, who were given money with one hand and had it taken back with the other. I am sure that the major financial difficulties of State governments flow directly from the Commonwealth’s immigration policy, whereby it spends more than S50m a year to bring migrants here only to dump them mercilessly, relentlessly and unceremoniously into the laps of State governments to nurture, house, educate and employ them, without any consideration for the ability or otherwise of the authorities which must of necessity be the final link in a migrant’s rehabilitation in his new country - the local government authorities. Last year and again this year there has been a financial confrontation between State governments and this Government, the result being that this Government has been compelled, if only in part, to recognise the financial needs of the States. Local government finances are a shambles. Numerous shire and council administrations no longer know where to turn to obtain sufficient funds with which to carry on their essential services in the face of rising debts. The health services in urban areas lacking sewerage are a positive disgrace to the nation. There are literally hundreds of such areas. Rising interest rates add enormously to the financial problems of local government because not only is this causing higher payments to meet the cost of the investment capital that councils acquire but also it compels councils and shires to increase the rates payable by low salary property owners who are already over-burdened in the repayment of capital. This adds further to the burden of home ownership.
The extent to which local government and semi-government authorities are financially committed to new works, road construction and widening, land resumption compensation, slum clearance, free public libraries, elderly people’s homes, Meals on Wheels, baby clinics and numerous other undertakings, would be extremely hard to assess. One thing is certain, and that is that the cost of providing these services is fast becoming beyond the resources of both local government and the people who are called upon to meet the cost. For a long time now representatives of the shires and councils associations have been urging representation at conferences between the Commonwealth and the States. Local government representatives have been kept out of monetary and fiscal discussions for far too long. I urge that they be extended an invitation to be present at all future meetings of Commonwealth and State authorities, if not on the Loan Council level then on the Treasury level. When all is said and done, local government is the authority which is closest to the population domestically.
What causes me most concern is the movement and cancellation of finance which takes place in government fiscal policy, at which level all sort of juggling and manipulation can take place. The manipulation I refer to is that the Government is paying itself interest, such as from the Post Office or the Snowy Mountains scheme, makes sure that it is at the highest rate and yet the funds used are often provided from Consolidated Revenue, a source to which we all contribute. The cancellation of finance derived from revenue in the first instance and repaid, or derived from loan fund advances for such items as housing, at a time when personal exertion taxation is being kept excessively high and is still increasing is, to my way of thinking, heinous and immoral. As I see it, the proper deployment of this finance could well bring about a reduction in taxation and thus add to the real value of wages and salaries.
For this to be occurring at a time when the Treasurer is able to soak away and in other ways terminate the use of thousands of millions of dollars of the taxpayers’ hard earned income each year under the pretence of preserving the national economy from overheating, excessive liquidlty and the inflation for which he and his Government are directly responsible, beggars description and leaves me cold. For 21 years the Government has been squealing inflation and h asdone nothing about it except to squeal and deliberately to mislead the people. That is confirmed by the Treasurer, both in his Budget Speech and his Statement 64 issued on 5th July, when he reiterated that the Budget surplus of $500m had been realised, whereas the actual surplus was $578m, or $78m more than the Treasurer cared to admit. Mr Chairman, I would have given anything for a million or two of those dollars to spend on local government requirements, including water and sewerage for many areas of my electorate. lt also has to be remembered that the Treasurer has said already that he expects this year’s surplus to be of the order of $550m whereas the Estimates list the sur plus as approximately $633m. A little earlier, Mr Chairman, I referred to the Loan Fund account. Shortly the Government will be dealing with the Loan Housing Bill in which $142,550,000 will be distributed to the States at, I think, 6 per cent interest - that being 1 per cent below the present long term bond rate. Since the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement has been in force, including the amount under the Bill to which I refer, the Commonwealth will have subscribed more than $2.000m for housing At the present time more than $ 1,800m is still outstanding. Last year borrowers of housing loans paid $61,852,000 in interest and in each of the years to come the amount will increase sharply because of this Government’s irresponsible action in increasing interest on housing loans.
What amazes me, Mr Chairman, is that once the interest has been received by the Commonwealth from the States it appears as if it is phased out of further participation in Commonwealth finances. On page 1 1 of the statements attached to the Budget reference is made to a $142,500,000 housing loan, ft is again referred to at pages 28 and 37 of the Estimates. The sum of $61,852,034 is shown at page 28 as the interest received from the States. At that point the $6 1m is extracted from the expenditure on special appropriation and appears to end there. I wonder why that is so. In my view budgetary accounting methods are another aspect of the Government’s financial juggling which also should be closely scrutinised because it seems that the discrepancy of a million or two either way in budget accounting does not matter anyway. Should this year’s expected surplus occur, Mr Chairman, in the last 3 years alone there will have been an accumulated amount of $1,437,957,897 paid to the Loan Consolidated and Investment Reserve from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. I would like to have developed my argument to some greater purpose but as time has run out I would like to hear what the Treasurer has to say in rebuttal of my remarks.
– It is customary during the debate on the Treasury estimates for me to say some words about the burden of taxation on the private individual, and tonight is no exception. Tonight I hope to take the matter a little further and give some of the reasons for the imposition of tax not only on individuals but on companies as well. The honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) spoke a short time ago and pointed out quite succinctly that if the Government, the Opposition and members of this Parliament attune themselves to the demands of sections of the people and desire to spend more money, taxation must be increased, because that money is not made on the printing presses - it is given by the people in the form of taxation, from personal exertion, from sales tax, from company tax, and from customs and excise duty.
I appreciate what the Treasurer (Mr Bury) said in his Budget Speech, because there has been some alleviation of personal exertion income tax. In fact I was surprised, after having listened to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) last October when he said in his policy speech that some alleviation would be given to personal exertion income tax to the extent of $200m over the next 3 years, to find in the Budget that the alleviation is not S66m a year but a total of $289m in a full year. Therefore I am pleased to say that some of the pressures brought to bear by some honourable members on this side of the House have borne fruit. However, what the Treasurer did not say was that by effluxion of time, the impact of additional people joining the work force and higher wages to those already employed meant that the Government could have expected an additional $575m this year if there had been no change in the form of the income tax.
All of the Budget papers have some reference to the Treasury because it is the Treasury’s job to carry out the policy decisions of the Government. Appropriation Bill (No. 1) and Appropriation Bill (No. 2) have a great deal of reference to what the Treasury has to do in this 12-month period. The document entitled ‘Payments to or for the States’ also has a great deal of reference to the expenditure of money and the manner in which it is expended. Looking at the first page only of the Budget Speech, I was impressed when he said that the Budget was framed to provide large increases on essential expenditures. This matter was referred to by the honour able member for Curtin. The Government has decided, as a matter of policy, to increase what is called essential expenditure.
For the purpose of this exercise I looked particularly at 4 items. The first was payments to or for the States, the second was welfare, the third was development and the fourth was assistance to industry and so on. As I said, it is the Treasury which administers these funds in accordance with Government policy. Therefore I thought it would be a good exercise on my part to understand why taxes on individuals and companies, as well as sales tax, were so high; why these increases were imposed in those various sections; why there is an excise on wine and the like; and why sales and company taxes were increased in this Budget.
If we consider payments to or for the States we find that this year the overall increase over last year is something like 12 per cent. In money terms this means an additional payment to or for the States of $291,494,000. This money is extracted from the revenue provided by the Australian people and is to be expended by the States. In money terms the greatest increase in this sector was for general revenue payments to the States. In other words it is to be used to supplement State budgets. At least 50 per cent of the $29 lm increase, namely $145,561,000, has been set aside to supplement State budgets. My mind boggled when I studied this document further and realised where this assistance is to go and the way in which the Commonwealth imposes its thoughts on areas normally considered matters for State governments. I refer the Committee to the document ‘Commonwealth payments to or for the States’, page 114, table 65, where it is shown that certain amounts are set aside for deserted wives, blood transfusion services, the disposal of ships’ garbage and hundreds of like items which are set out individually in the Budget papers. As I said, my mind boggles at the affairs of State governments which are directed or controlled by the Commonwealth Government. Frankly I believe that States need this assistance. So far as payments to the States are concerned, over the years the States have found it difficult to meet their needs. They have been faced with increased populations and the additional services required have not been met by way of additional moneys from the Commonwealth. However, I find it difficult to understand why the Commonwealth intrudes into these minute areas such as blood transfusion services. I believe that all these things are State responsibilities.
In money terms the second highest increase is for works and housing. The total involved here is $65m which is a 12 per cent increase over the 1969-70 Budget. This revenue is used by the States for capital works where debt charges are not recovered, such as in the case of schools and police buildings. The amount this financial year is $823m more than was allocated in 1969-70. In this total amount of $823m is an amount of $200m which is an interest free grant to the States. I am very pleased to see that the States have been able to induce the Com.monwalth Government to grant this amount interest free, because it is State debts which have caused many of their problems in the past. So far as I can understand from the Budget Papers the interest free grant this year of $200m will mean a saving of $150m to the States over the next 5 years. I am pleased to see that the Commonwealth Government, through discussions on Commonwealth and State relations, has been able to make this decision.
The next section worthy of mention is that of welfare. Of course, many honourable members on this side of the Committee and on the other side have a great deal to say about the national welfare section of the Budget Papers. This year the increase in the welfare field is an additional $131m over the figures of 1969-70. The largest part of this increase in money terms is $65.3 18m which is the additional amount set aside for age and invalid pensions. We all know that there has been a change in the health scheme of the nation. The medical benefit assessment has been increased by $40.667m this year; hospital benefits are up by $6.6m; and pharmaceutical benefits are up by $ 13.5m. This only confirms what the honourable member for Curtin has said, that whenever and if the Government decides that more money is to be spent in certain sections, increases in Budget expenditure must result and this money must come from the people of this great country of ours. So, in the 2 areas that I have mentioned - Commonwealth payments to or for the States and the welfare section - there has been a grand total of increase of expenditure over the last year of $422m.
The third area that I wish to talk about - I will not have time to deal with the 4 matters I want to mention - concerns assistance to industry where increases this year in terms of percentage over the last financial year amount to 42 per cent. Splitting these increases into various sections of industry, we find that the rural industry has an increased allocation of $77.265m or an increase of 50 per cent over the figures of 1969-70 and the manufacturing industry has increased by 17 per cent which in money terms is represented by $5.651m. The assistance given to the mining industry, which is the most satisfactory industry so far as costs and profits are concerned, shows a decrease of 13 per cent. I find it very difficult to understand from a business point of view that assistance to a section of industry so active as the mining industry has been reduced. We find in the mining industry that there are tremendous shortages of labour. All sections of the Parliament realise that one of our prime purposes is to ensure that labour is employed in this country. Yet the mining industry, in which wages are so high and where there is plenty of overtime and plenty of good work for men who are willing to work, is one of the few industries in this country which can compete with overseas industries on an export basis. The mining industry shortly will be the greatest component in exports - it will be a higher component than primary industry. I feel we are frittering away the amount that can be obtained from those industries that are successful in an endeavour to aid other industries that are not so successful. I feel for primary industry and for those in the manufacturing sector which are finding difficulties. At the same time I think more has to be done to ensure that we balance the budget so far as Australia is concerned. Otherwise we will be producing goods that are virtually impossible to sell, as is almost the situation now. What we are doing is contrary to good business practice and all of my training has been that if you are on a good thing stick to it.
Looking at the primary industry section we find that the allocation is up by 50 per cent. A sum of $30.5m is set aside for the wheat industry stabilisation fund. We have made certain that $300m will be made available to ensure that the Australian Wheat Board can pay for the wheat crops that were produced this year and will be -produced in the future. I am not negativing what the Government has done but I am saying that we should have a good look at the procedures and policies that have been adopted to ensure that the hard working city worker and the people in the middle income group get some benefit from these tremendous amounts that are being spent by the Government. Wool growers, of course, are in real trouble and $30m has been set aside this year for their benefit. 1 do not have any doubt that there is a great need to help wool growers this year but I would hate to see this amount increased next year and carried on ad infinitum. The butter and cheese bounty is up by $14. 5m and this represents an increase over last year of 54 per cent. Also, the processed milk bounty is up by 560 per cent which is not a bad increase in 1 year although the total amount of money involved is quite small. We have also set aside $25m for the stabilisation of the dairy industry. These are the things that I think all sections of the Parliament and Government members in particular will need to have a good look at in future years. 1 believe that those sections of industry that are profitable and those sections of industry that can and will continue to employ labour are those sections which the Government should be looking at for the future of Australia and for the benefit of all Australians.
– I want to touch on 3 aspects of the Treasury estimates. I think the first and foremost matter which I wish to bring before the Committee is the need for a new approach by the Treasury to the question of Treasury finance so far as the expanding perimeter areas of the great cities are concerned. I think if we look around at the rest of the world today and at the activities of federal governments such as those in the United States of America, Canada and West Germany we will find that they have a dramatically different approach to urban development and city development and particularly to the developing areas on the perimeters of the cities from the approach in
Australia today. For some considerable time now the Opposition in this House has been pressing the need for the Government to reassess this matter and to have another look at it. 1 make this appeal here tonight. 1 think there is a far greater need than is generally realised in the Government ranks for co-operation amongst the 3 fields of government - the Commonwealth, the States and local government. I believe there is a great need for the Commonwealth to assume as much responsibility as has been accepted by other federal governments in the United States, Canada and West Germany. I believe that grants should be made to the States specifically earmarked for the developing perimeter areas to overcome the very great problems that exist. I shall outline in detail some specific examples in a few minutes. 1 believe that the Grants Commission should be reconstituted to do this and I believe that there should be a new approach on the question of interest rates, particularly on local government finance.
Interest rates have increased recently. Let us look at the way the general banking rate has gone up. 1 recall that just after World War II the general rate was 4i per cent or 41 per cent. Today it is at the 8 per cent mark. Needless to say this is creating a very great strain upon our local government and State bodies, but particularly does this strain occur in those new areas where there is so much to be done and where there is such rapid and dramatic expansion occurring. I ask the Treasurer (Mr Bury) to come out with me and some of the other authorities - we could bring other members such as the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) on his own side of the House - and look at just some of the problems that exist in these new developing areas.
For example, we could visit the new Housing Commission development at Mount Druitt. Already between 4,000 and 5,000 Housing Commission houses have been built there and over 8,000 are proposed to be built. The charter of the Housing Commission stops virtually when it builds those houses and puts the people in them. It is then up to the local government bodies to provide the facilities. The State has to provide the necessary transport, develop ovals and playing areas for the children and meet the needs of education and the other very, great needs of an area which is developing at such an extraordinarily rapid rate. In 1966, only 4 years ago, this area did not exist as a residential area. The Minister for Education and Science (Mr N. H. Bowen) stated in this House that he understood the average age of all people, including grown-ups, in the area was 8 years of age. The number of children, young Australians growing up, is extraordinary there. I ask the Treasurer today to come and look at the problems of that area as they exist - for instance, the lack of any sporting facilities. It is an area as big as Wagga and it is only now getting a police station with police allocated to it. Only now are the authorities considering building a public health centre. It is not there yet. An ambulance station has just been completed and a fire station is being built.
– No public halls.
– No public halls, no community centres, nowhere for the children to play. The social problems that can come from this state of affairs are extraordinary. I make a special appeal for the Treasurer to move away from the Treasury building, move away from the theories of Treasury finance, move away from the issues on which he formed his belief, as disclosed in letters written to me, that the increase in local government interest rates is not having a detrimental effect on public investment, particularly in these new fringe developing areas, and for one day come out with me and have a look at the human problems in these areas, because they are very, very great indeed, and unless something is done to solve them there will be very serious social and economic problems there in the future.
As I said, the charter of the Housing Commission which builds the houses virtually stops when the houses are completed and the people are put in them. It is then up to the people to look after themselves. The local government and State bodies are not in the financial position to cope adequately with these tremendous problems. So I ask the Treasurer once again to pick his own team and spend one day with me in those areas alone to have a personal look at the problems that exist, because I think it would change his attitude on these important issues of the reconstitution of the Grants Commission, the problem of local government interest rates, the need for grants to the States specifically earmarked for these problems of local government finance, the questions of education, health facilities and all the rest that is needed in these areas. I ask him to come and have a look at the problems. I feel sure that his humanity will be touched by them. As I said, Mount Druitt is an area almost as big as Wagga, yet it has not got the ordinary everyday facilities which exist in virtually all other areas. Incidentally, another matter of vital importance right throughout that area is the provision of sewerage which is vital for health reasons alone. The moment that diseases such as hepatitis spread, a very serious problem is created. Only last week I went out with a senator to look at some of the pollution problems in the south Mount Druitt area, where there is a completely flat area without sewerage. There, once again, the health hazard to the public is very decisive indeed.
While I have the opportunity I would like to touch briefly upon what I would call a sleight of hand Budget insofar as the so-called tax concessions of this Government are concerned. I have taken out a few figures. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) undertook in the last election campaign to reduce taxation for the middle and lower income groups. In hard dollars and cents the only people who will benefit in any real way are those in the very high upper middle income bracket. Had taxation rates remained at their present level this year there would have been an increase in revenue of $408m, on the Treasurer’s own figures. He has given back to the public $23 Om of that $408m, so he will still collect in income tax approximately $178m additional. He has added on to that $666m from 3 taxes alone - excise duty, customs duty and sales tax. We can add on to that postal charges and telephone charges, which have also been increased. In other words, all this will be passed on either directly or indirectly to the public so that the public, particularly the lower and middle income brackets and especially the lower middle income brackets, will pay considerably more in taxation, be it direct or indirect, than they did last year. The Government has obviously deliberately abrogated the undertaking it gave in the last election campaign. Those sections of the community with families, those bringing up the young Australians, will be particularly affected by this decision and this abrogation of policy.
The final matter I want to deal with is the tendency these days for overseas banking institutions to come to this country. The Labor Party’s approach to the question of overseas capital is not one that could be described as outright opposition. We believe that if capital brought to this country brings us new know-how and techniques or gives something to this country for its industry and development, it is beneficial. But when capital is brought here purely for the takeover of existing Australian enterprises and does not bring extra know-how and techniques, we are opposed to it. The week before last I asked the Treasurer a question about Japanese banks. I want to make it clear that there are no racial aspects in this. I was dealing with the whole question of the movements not only into the takeover of industrial organisations, not only into the real estate field but into the banking field, and particularly the merchant and fringe banking fields, by overseas concerns. These are fields over which this Parliament, whilst it has controls over the conventional banking system, has no controls. The Parliament has no controls over the fringe and merchant banking field. In my question to the Treasurer, I pointed out that the Fuji Bank intended to join with the Commercial Bank of Australia and 5 overseas banks to set up a Melbourne-based Euro-Pacific Corporation and that the Bank of Tokyo would take a 20.4 per cent interest in the Adelaide-based Beneficial Finance Corporation. I also pointed out that other banks including Mitsui, Mitsubishi and Sumitomo were all considering at this time a financial invasion of Australia. 1 asked the Treasurer:
Will the Treasurer indicate whether he has discussed this matter with the Reserve Bank and also what steps he intends to take to maintain Australian influence in the banking and fringe banking systems of Australia?
The Treasurer gave me a very evasive reply. It was obvious from his reply that he showed no great concern for the fact that this was occurring. We know that quite a number of overseas organisations have entered into the fringe and merchant banking fields in Australia. This is something which we should not accept in such a laissez-faire way. It is a problem which ought to be watched carefully. I raised it on Tuesday, 1st September, hoping that the Treasurer would show some concern and indicate some intention to keep a careful watch on the problem.
– Where is the Treasurer?
– Yes, where is the Treasurer? He is not in the House tonight when the estimates of his Department are being discussed.
– If the honourable member had listened to the Deputy Prime Minister this afternoon, he would know where the Treasurer is.
– He is overseas.
– So, the Treasurer is overseas when the estimates of his Department are being discussed. Might I make this point: I am not criticising one country. This is a general problem. I am not opposing simply the introduction of capital from overseas for the sake of opposing it. Overseas capital can be beneficial to this country in some instances. But this movement at the present time to achieve an undue influence in our banking system and particularly upon the merchant and the fringe banking systems over which this Parliament has no direct legislative control, should be watched and should be treated with a far more careful approach than has been done up to date. I would ask the Committee to give consideration to these 3 issues but particularly to the first issue which I raised which was the question of the need for a new approach to financing fringe areas.
– I agree with some of the things which the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) has said and disagree with others. He is right, I think, in saying that there ought to be a fresh approach to the problem of allocating resources between the Commonwealth and State and local governments. Indeed, I have put forward some proposals in this regard although, of course, they have been ignored. But 1 believe that once we depart from principle we find ourselves in a bog and a morass from which it is very difficult to extricate ourselves. When funds are distributed between these 3 forms of government on an ad hoc basis we find ourselves in precisely the troubles which the Commonwealth Government now faces.
Again, I agree with the honourable member for Chifley in saying that we ought to be much more critical about the forms in which foreign investment comes to this country. I do not propose to embark upon a discussion on either of those matters now. I disagree with the honourable member for Chifley in regard to the Government’s reduction of income tax. I believe that, in the first place, it is important that incentive should be given, as if’ may be, by such reductions even though taxation is increased in other directions by a like amount - and I do not agree that it has been increased by a like amount in this Budget. But, again, I do not propose to pursue this matter because I rose really to make a plea on behalf of 27,000 people who are retired Commonwealth public servants. I should be ungracious indeed if I did not refer to the assistance that I have had in presenting this matter to the Committee from the President of their Association who is one of my esteemed - and I repeat esteemed - constituents. I speak for them tonight.
Inflation reduces the benefit payable to them unless adjustments are made to take account of this fall in the value of money, that has gone on continuously since World War II. If justice is to be given, that adjustment must be made to offset this decline in the purchasing power of money and it must be made in sufficiently frequent intervals to enable these people to keep pace with this continual decline. It is no use saying that, in the long run, they catch up because, as somebody has remarked, in the long run we are all dead and they in particular because their days tend to be numbered.
In 1961, the notional salary adjustment scheme was introduced by the then Treasurer, the late right honourable Harold Holt. He described this scheme at the time, justly I think, as the fairest method yet devised. This was accepted by those for whom I speak tonight. The Superannuation Fund is derived from 2 sources. Firstly, of course, the proceeds from the investments of contributions made by officers themselves while they are employed by the Commonwealth and, secondly, a contribution from the Commonwealth as an employer. The upgrading of the superannuation payment after an officer leaves the service and ceases to be a contributor to the Superannuation Fund obviously can be made in respect of the Commonwealth contribution only. The essence of the notional salary adjustment scheme is that this part of the payment is now related to the salary that the retired officer would have been receiving in his particular grade and appointment had he retired at the time when the last upward adjustment of superannuation payments was made. This means simply that the officer who retired 3 years, 6 years, 9 years or more years ago should be no worse off as far as the Government contribution to his superannuation is concerned than the officer who has just retired.
There is no dispute about the basis on which adjustments are made periodically - that is, the fairness and the adequacy of the amount determined. The bone of contention arises from the time lag. Let mc set out in 3 columns, first, the years when provision was made in the Budget for an addition from Government sources to the Superannuation Fund, on the principle already described; secondly, the dates on which the amount of the increase in superannuation payments was to be calculated; and, thirdly, the length of the consequent time lag. Now, provision was made in the 1961-62 Budget for an increase based on the relevant salaries paid in July 1954. This meant that there was a time lag of 7 years. Provision was again made in the 1963-64 Budget based on the relevant salaries paid on 12th July 1961. Again there was a time lag. It was 3 years in this instance. Provision was made in the Budget of 1967-68 applicable as at 30th June 1967. This meant that the time lag had been overtaken in stages during the 6 years since this scheme was first introduced.
But, in 1970-71 - the year with which we are concerned now - no provision has been made and already a retrogression of 3 years has occurred. We are beginning now to slip backwards again having, a few years ago, as it were, caught up. How much money is involved? In 1967-68, overtaking a 6-year lag, the Budget allocation was $7.7m. Even allowing for an increase in the number of retired Commonwealth public servants involved, the increased rate of inflation over the past 3 years and, of course, the increased salaries over this period, the cost on the most generous estimate could not conceivably exceed $1Om. Of course, there could be some off-sets. For example, there would be a reduction in the payments of age and invalid pensions in respect of those former officers in receipt of whole or part of such pensions. Again, there would be increases in income tax payments by many of the recipients on their higher pensions, and finally further liability for income tax by pensioners now entitled to age allowance concessions. I do not claim that these are large amounts but they are not entirely negligible.
Moreover, it has to be considered that the Government, in the case of its superannuated servants, has had over the years the use of their contributions as captive loans for investment in Government securities. The amount of the Fund at 30th June 1968, for example, was $326m, of which $272m or 83 per cent was invested in loans to government and semigovernment authorities and $54m or 17 per cent in mortgages of land. The interest earned on the former type of investment was approximately 5 per cent whereas interest being paid by more than SO well established and profitable public companies registered on the Sydney Stock Exchange on debentures current at 31st December 1969 varied between 7 per cent and 8 per cent with some paying as high as 8i per cent. This was debentures only; I am not talking about growth stocks. The point can best be made by instancing a very large manufacturing enterprise whose superannuation fund has been invested in a wide range of equity and other securities enabling the value of the income so derived to rise at the same pace as the inflationary tide. Indeed, the Superannuation Fund established by the Government of New South Wales has been successfully managing on similar lines.
I would like to quote from an American newspaper, the ‘Herald-Examiner’, dated 8th May 1970 where it is stated that 950,000 Federal annuitants and their survivors will receive increases in their superannuation payments. It goes on:
Under the law, a 3-point rise over a 3-month period automatically results la an adjustment of Federal annuities.
Of course, if such liberty of investment were now permitted in the case of the Commonwealth Fund it would be many years before such a policy could bear fruit and many retired Commonwealth public servants would have passed to another world in the interval. But their contribution to Government finance over the years should be taken into account in updating the amount of their superannuation payments here and now. It should have been done in the current Budget
Finally, I would say that most of the important companies in Australia have established superannuation schemes, making greater or less provision for their former employees, but all without significant exception have recognised the principle of updating benefits to take account of the rising tide of inflation. Surely it is the duty, and indeed the privilege, of the Government to lead and not follow in this matter and to set an example. The swindle of inflation has affected too many people in this community already and the Government should not be a party to such a swindle. I conclude by expressing on behalf of these thousands of people who have devotedly served the Commonwealth deep disappointment that they have not received in this Budget compensation for the decline in the value of their superannuation payments but have again slipped 3 years behind, and these are precious years for retired people. Their days are drawing to an end. I express the hope that justice will be done in the next Budget and that the retrogression will not be allowed to proceed any further.
– Listening to the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) brings to mind the plight of many of my constituents who also are either Commonwealth employees at present or have been Commonwealth employees and are now receiving superannuation benefits. One could agree with him that these people have been done a grave injustice. Those who have retired are able to say with great accuracy that they were promised from time to time that there would be progressive increases in the rate of superannuation that would be paid to them. In fact, some of the people who have retired recently have come to see me and have said that they were given this promise at a dinner where the Treasurer (Mr Bury) was the guest speaker only 4 weeks before the Budget was presented. He indicated to them that sympathetic consideration would be given to them in the Budget. The real position was that no consideration at all had been given to these people.
Further, in respect of the present Commonwealth employees I have had a submission made to me which illustrates some of the disparity between the present Commonwealth scheme and the New South Wales scheme. I am told, for example, that the Commonwealth itself makes no contribution to the scheme until such time, apparently, as the person retires. The Commonwealth is not making any capital contribution to that scheme. This means that the whole investment portfolio comes from the contributions made by the employees themselves. If this is true, is it any wonder that the scheme is so weak and does not have sufficient income to pay a much more substantial benefit? The New South Government makes its contribution, and while the New South Wales scheme leaves a lot to be desired it would be a much better scheme.
Again, I am told that the person who has not had the benefit of obtaining what might be termed permanent employment with the Commonwealth is only able to join the Provident Fund and in doing so enjoys a greater advantage on retirement than those who qualify for the Superannuation Fund. In other words, the Provided Fund reimbursement could be 2i to 3 times the contribution whereas the single contributor to the Superannuation Fund who unfortunately dies loses the whole of his contributions. Again, if he were to retire before reaching the appropriate age he receives only his own contributions back. This is a severe discrimination between various contributors to that scheme and one can only agree that the Treasurer should have looked at this aspect before this stage. To have it raised now by a member of his own Party surely high lights the attitude of the Government to the many thousands of retired Commonwealth public servants and the many more thousands who are still in active Commonwealth employment, making their contributions and receiving from the Commonwealth much less than what has been paid to their confreres in the States.
Let me pass on to the most significant part of any Budget speech and that is the amount of money that the Treasurer says he has apportioned for the works and housing programmes of the States as well as what might be termed their reimbursement under the formula. The Budget speech can virtually be condensed into 12 items which cover an expenditure of some $7,800m, a very substantial sum extracted from the taxpayers of New South Wales and the other States. It means, does it not, that we are told that nothing more can be done for anybody, whether in education, health or social services, because this is the maximum amount that can be paid out. The Treasurer could say: ‘I cannot do any more for the pensioners. I cannot make any more payments for education because I have really expended the whole of the moneys I have collected.’ But this is not true.
Let us look at what is termed item 2, which is at least one-third of the Budget expenditure and which is the amount the Treasurer says he appropriates for payments to or for the States. That includes payments under the reimbursement formula but it also includes a sum of about $800m which he says he appropriates for works and housing. Of course, this is not altogether the true position. In fact, if his loan revenue is buoyant and he receives this money from the loan market he does not have to expend it out of revenue at all. One of the immediate questions that can be asked is: ‘Why is it that this Government when it goes on to the loan market is not able to win the confidence of the people as other governments which have had good administrative records have been able to do at other times? Why can it not say: ‘Lend us the money, that we need and we will put it to this essential works and housing programme.’ The public would subscribe the money if there was sufficient incentive. If the Government wants to encourage incentive why does it not provide that those other competitors on the loan market who offer high and attractive rates of interest for what might be termed works of a superficial or nonessential nature should not receive the benefit of being able to claim their interest payments as incomes tax deductions? Why should they be able to compete on the loan market to an extent whereby the Commonwealth Government might well find its loans failing as has happened in the past.
In the many crises in the past when there have been severe recessions the loan market has collapsed. Frequently interest rates have been increased but people have not received the face value of their loan investments so is it any wonder that they have lost confidence? We have the situation where the Commonwealth is collecting taxes and allegedly using the money for State works and housing programmes. If, in fact, its loans were successful it would not have to use this money at all. It does not give the money to the States so this is bad administration by any Treasurer. If we examine other items - for instance, advances for capital purposes and other capital works and services - we find that the Commonwealth appropriates to itself substantial sums of revenue, at least approximately $l,000m for the purpose of undertaking purely capital works. If we had an efficient administration and a government in which people had confidence the Commonwealth could attract money that could be used for these purposes, thus leaving revenue money for the very essential purposes that we know exist.
No single pensioner can live on $13.50 a week and no pensioner couple on $27. We claim to be an affluent society and we should be able to afford to provide essential services. In presenting his Budget the Treasurer said that he could not give any more to the pensioners. If he were (old that a pensioner had to pay $7 or $8 a week for rent and he were asked whether the pensioner could live on the balance of his pension he would have to say that he could not survive. This is the real position, so it is very bad administration that the national economy is managed in such a way that while we have as much money as we can extract from the people we are unable to give them the services to which they are entitled and for which they pay.
In respect of housing we heard the Treasurer say that the economy was overheated and that he would have to do something about it. His remedy was to increase the bond rate by 1 per cent. That, as everybody knows, has severely affected housing development and many young people who wanted to borrow money. People who borrow money on the private market have to pay 84 per cent or 9 per cent in interest now. They are not getting any more in their pay packets but they have to meet these increased interest charges. Let us consider the effect on the housing of the poor and underprivileged people - ‘those who cannot afford to acquire their own homes and must be applicants for Housing Commission homes. The Housing Commission is obliged to charge interest at 1 per cent below the current bond rate. This means that it has had to increase its interest charges on rental homes to 6 per cent. In the time of the Chiflley Government the Housing Commissioners were able to obtain Commonwealth finance at 3 per cent. Now they have to pay 6 per cent. An interest rate of 4 per cent would be reasonable for them. A 3- bedroomed cottage - nothing substantial - in a Housing Commission development is estimated to cost $10,000, and it would be very cheap. The rental on such a house is $16.83 a week because of the 1 per cent increase in the bond rate. Incidentally, that is 2 per cent more than is required. In other words if the interest charge were reduced from 6 per cent to 4 per cent there would be a saving in the rental of at least $3.50 a week. As a result of the Treasurer’s tragic action in increasing the interest rate, applications for Housing Commission homes in New South Wales have snowballed. They are now at an alltime high of 29,000. The greatest number of applications occurred in the last quarter, which is the quarter severely affected by the Treasurer’s attempt to dampen down the economy by increasing interest rates.
It is a bit ridiculous to say that the housing problems of the nation will be solved by restricting that field of development and, at the same time, having to cater for them in the Housing Commission queues - and they are queues of some size. In New South Wales it takes an applicant 5 years to get pensioner accommodation. The Commonwealth virtually vacated this field until the last Budget. It took no interest in granting money for pensioner housing. Admittedly it has now made a grant, totally insufficient, for this purpose, because of the delay of 5 years for such accommodation. A young person with a family has to wait 3 years for a 2, 3 or 4-bedroom house. It is quite crazy, is it not, to think that the Treasurer is handling the situation with any sort of efficiency?
How ridiculous it is to have what might be termed the centralist power of money, which the Government has, and the paralysis we have and at the same time have this anaemic condition that applies on all the perimeters - that is, in the States, lt is important that the people receive proper housing, education, health and other amenities that the States provide. It is interesting to look at the minutes of the Premiers Conference which was held last February. In those minutes we note that no less a person than the Liberal Premier of New South Wales said to the Prime Minister: We have reached the end of our tether. We imposed the receipts tax under great pressure. Our people cannot pay any more. We now find ourselves severely lacking in schools, hospitals, sewerage facilities and the various essentials of life. What are you going to do about it?’ He said this to the Prime Minister. I might add that the Treasurer was present but he did not seem to speak at all. The Prime Minister said: Well, I gave you an undertaking about the receipts tax’. One can foreshadow now that that proposal will never be successfully carried out, nor should it be because it Involves a regressive flat rate of taxation Imposed on those people least able to pay it.
Does it not reveal the whole tragedy of the national Parliament when we realise what happened at that Premiers Conference? It was like a Gilbert and Sullivan opera. The Premiers were trying to see how much they could extract from the Commonwealth. The final arrangement was that the Commonwealth would increase its offer by $2m. In the minutes we can read of an amusing situation. Apparently Sir Henry Bolte was not present at one stage of the Conference and Mr Askin said to the Prime Minister: ‘Last year you looked at the ceiling and when you looked at the ceiling yon increased your ante by another $2m. Will you look at the ceiling again?’
The Prime Minister said: ‘Yes, I will’ and on that basis another $2m was given to the States. Later Sir Henry Bolte came in and said: ‘I am very sorry I was not here. I do not know what you have done, but I got left in the lobby. No car called for me.’ He then found out what had happened and he said: ‘I guessed as much. I think it is highly irregular that you should deal with this in my absence but it was done obviously in 15 minutes.’ And that is how long it took. Does not this illustrate a cavalier fashion of trying to look after the needs of the people? As has been said before, why bother to have a Premiers Conference. Why not just write them a letter saying: “This is all you are going to get’ and not have this annual farce of parading here and saying: ‘We are going to do this’? In the past the Premiers were ali Liberal Premiers. The Government claims that it is not centralist, but it denies its responsibilities. It is the most centralist government of all. It does not accept any responsibility for the fundamental issues that are now before us.
– This has been a particularly wide ranging debate but a useful one. T assure honourable members, in the absence of the Treasurer (Mr Bury) who is, of course, overseas attending the annual meeting this week of the Commonwealth Finance Ministers, that all of the suggestions that have been put forward will be brought by me before the Treasurer. I will make quite certain that the comments that have been made will be the subject of detailed appraisal and replies will be forwarded in writing to those honourable gentlemen whose submissions are not the subject of detailed comment by me this evening because of the limitation of time. But I do want to observe, without endeavouring to inject political comment into this debate whatsoever, that basically it is quite clear that the approach taken by the Opposition in relation to these estimates, of course, is that approach which mirrors the stand taken by the Opposition in relation to the whole framework of the Federal Budget. Opposition speaker after Opposition speaker advocated quite massive increases in Commonwealth expenditure and at the same time took a very critical stance in relation to those items of the
Federal Budget which will be responsible for the raising .of increased Commonwealth revenue. I put it to honourable gentlemen on the other side that they cannot have it both ways, and that really what they are putting forward in these estimates frankly is the same old story which we have heard Budget after Budget. It is the story of unlimited expenditure, unmatched by any readiness to face up to the disciplines of responsible budget making and, as if the matter were not in any way a fundamental question, ignoring totally the concept: How will these proposals be financed?
The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Birrell) referred to the increase in the rate of sales tax on motor vehicles and what he alleged to be the depressing effect of this increase on the motor vehicle industry in South Australia. But I want to observe that at this stage it is far too early to see any direct effect of the sales tax increase on the industry in South Australia, or indeed the industry throughout the country. We can say that sales were buoyant generally at the time of the increase and there have been no recent reports since the Budget to suggest depressed sales. I want to say to the honourable gentleman in relation to the point that he put forward that frankly I felt he was unduly pessimistic, and that if there is any down turn in the economic fortunes of South Australia the honourable gentleman might well look to the economic policies pursued by the Government of that State. I also want to say to the honourable gentleman who raised this question of sales tax, and of course indirectly referred to the general question of indirect taxation, that it must be obvious that the commitment to reduce the burden of personal income tax implied some change in the balance between direct and indirect taxation. It was never suggested, never implied and certainly never intended that the Government could reduce its expenditure commitments or cease paying its bills. In fact, personal income tax collections have grown over the years faster than other forms of tax, and it was necessary, quite apart from the need to raise revenue, to restore some balance by reducing personal income tax and replacing it with other forms of revenue. But there is no need for me to give figures on this because I have done so previously.
The honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) and the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn) spoke in some detail about the increased area of Commonwealth expenditure which, of course, has been generated by increasing demands in recent years for greater Commonwealth expenditure in a number of key fields. Certainly there is no doubt whatsoever that there has been a very large increase in Commonwealth expenditure in recent years. Indeed, Commonwealth expenditures have kept pace, and in some areas more than kept pace, with the growth in total national spending. In 1960-61 total Budget outlays, as a proportion of gross national expenditure, were 21.4 per cent, while last year they represented 23.6 per cent. As total Budget outlays are forecast to rise in 1970-71 by over 11 per cent, it is expected that there will be a further increase this year in the ratio of Commonwealth Budget outlays to gross national expenditure. Both the honourable member for Curtin and, as I recall, the honourable member for Balaclava made the point that the Commonwealth must accept the responsibility, as indeed it does, to ensure that Commonwealth overhead is kept at a minimum, consistent with the expenditures which have been initiated in so many areas in recent years. This, of course, is one vital area in which the Treasury has made great progress in recent years. I think of a number of major sections of the Commonwealth Treasury which have a responsibility in terms of research, in terms of work simplification and in terms of cost control, to seek to ensure at all times that what I would call loosely general Commonwealth overhead is kept at a minimum, consistent with the expenditures necessary for the programmes which the Commonwealth has determined.
A number of honourable members, particularly on the Opposition side, called for greater Commonwealth expenditure in relation to fringe areas, as I recall the comment made by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage). We think here, of course, of suggestions made that the Commonwealth ought to provide direct funds to the States to cope with the developmental problems of new areas. Here we have in mind such matters as sewerage, roads and other areas in the same general context. But what has been completely overlooked by the honourable gentleman who put forward the suggestion is the considerably increased assistance which the Commonwealth has provided to the States by way of general purpose payments in recent years. He has also totally overlooked the increase in the Commonwealth aid roads assistance, the assistance which is provided to the States under the Commonwealth Housing Agreement, and in fact he has completely ignored the fundamental principle that these are areas of State responsibility and the Commonwealth, in a sense, ought not to intrude into what really are questions of State sovereignty.
I would like to refer very briefly to a comment made by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) before the suspension for dinner in relation to the salaries of parliamentary reporters. 1 simply advise the House that these salaries are adjusted from time to time by the Presiding Officers, as you, Sir, would be aware, in consultation with the Public Service Board. An adjustment was made in December 1969. A further adjustment was made in January 1970 as a result of the national wage decision. The honourable gentleman also made reference to the basis of the salary paid to the female member of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff. 1 wish to inform the House of the position in terms of an answer given by Mr Speaker on 19th March 1970. He said: . . that the Public Service Arbitrator’s Determination No. 42 of 1968, as varied, provides for the grant of equal pay to female Parliamentary Reporters under the phasing-in formula laid down by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the Equal Pay Case. Under this phasing-in formula this reporter is paid at least 90 per cent of the male rate now. She will receive the appropriate annual increment next October, and from 1st January 1971 will receive at least 95 per cent of the male rate. From 1st January 1972 she will be paid the full male rate. This provision was inserted in the Determination with the agreement of all of the parties to it.
Because of lack of time I did not make detailed comments on alf of the suggestions which have been put forward by honourable members in relation to the Treasury estimates but I do undertake to ensure that any honourable member of the House who has put forward a constructive comment in relation to Treasury matters will have that comment evaluated and 1 will write to him during the course of the next 3 weeks.
– I teel heartwarmed by the concluding remarks of the Minister for Immigration (Mr Lynch). He said that any reasonable submission put forward by an honourable member will be brought to the notice of the Treasurer (Mr Bury) on his return from overseas where, we learn, he is attending the Commonwealth Finance Ministers’ Conference. To my mind, those remarks of the Minister throw a beam of light on the dim prospects of the unfortunate forgotten army to which I want to make reference, f hope that my submissions will receive top priority among the matters that the Minister will bring to the notice of the Treasurer. I arn somewhat disappointed in all honourable members that a certain group of people has not been mentioned during the debate on the Treasury’s estimates. I refer to that growing army of unfortunate males in the community who, through a breakdown in their marriage and the divorce that follows, have to pay substantial amounts of alimony to their alleged aggrieved former wives. These alimony payments are not deductible for taxation purposes.
I suppose all honourable members nave had instances brought to their notice of constituents who have to pay substantial amounts of alimony year after year which are not permitted as deductions for income tax purposes. Most honourable members know that f represent a working class community in the electorate of Hunter. Several such cases have been uppermost in my mind for some time. For a period of 16 years one chap has been paying at least $16 a week in alimony. He found because of temporary unemployment that he could not pay and he was put into Maitland gaol, or the slot’ as it is commonly known, as a debtor - a wife starver. He was kept there for about 6 months. He is a decent hard working man with corns on his hands through hard work. This is the most unfortunate case of which I know. For 16 years he has been paying alimony and he cannot claim it as a taxable deduction. This is because these unfortunate males have not formed themselves into a union or pressure group to get justice and if anything screams for justice it is the situation of these unfortunates who, probably through a desire not to disgrace their children, did not contest the divorce petition, perhaps because they were not in a position to pay the exorbitant legal costs charged in divorce cases. 1 am pleased that on several occasions the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) has shown considerable interest in the exorbitant costs of divorce. I referred at one time to a case in which costs of $900 were incurred in a simple undefended divorce petition. That brings me to the field of divorce costs for which the Budget does not make any provision by way of taxable deduction because I understand such costs fall into the category of domestic legal costs and are not regarded as a tax deduction. The only organisation in the nation that seems to take an interest in these sorts of affairs is the Law Reform Society but it is unable to exert sufficient pressure on the Government to cause high priority to be given to the need for legal costs, particularly divorce costs, and alimony paid by an unfortunate former husband to be allowed as tax deductions. I would like to think that the Minister will bring these matters to the notice of the Treasurer and will give them high priority.
A number of my constituents in the Morriset-Cooranbong-Wyee area feel, and I am in agreement with them, that there is a serious anomaly in the taxation laws in relation to water rates in that one can claim water rates as a taxation deduction but the unfortunate people who live away from the water mains and are unable to get reservoir or council water and have to install tanks or sink bores receive no taxation concessions. I believe this is something to which serious consideration should be given by the Taxation Branch. I assured the Chairman I would not take up my full time on these Treasury estimates. State and Federal members of Parliament today speak of the upsurge of crime in our society. One of the things that contributes to the upsurge of crime is the development of a sense of being nobody by some of these unfortunates who have to pay heavy alimony. This weighs them down to a point where they say to themselves: ‘What is the good of working? I am better to resort to crime than work to pay these exorbitant alimony costs for which I get no sympathy from the Government by way of taxation concession’. 1 say in all seriousness that it would be interesting, if the figures were available - I do not think they are collated by our very efficient library - to know the amount of alimony paid which is not a tax deduction and the number of persons who receive gaol sentences as a result of developing a sense of being nobody through being over-burdened with the payment of heavy alimony year in and year out. In conclusion I hope that the next Budget will make some provision for the forgotten army of people paying exorbitant alimony for which there is no taxation deduction and that similar sympathy will be shown to those who have to pay heavy divorce costs for which also no taxation deduction is allowable. Newspaper proprietors who have successful defamation actions brought against them can write off their costs in such actions by way of tax deductions. This is a shocking legal anomaly which should be adjusted as soon as possible.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Department of External Affairs
Proposed expenditure $81,276,600.
– Already during this Budget session we have had remarkable evidence of the extent to which the foreign policy of the Gorton Government has fallen into disarray and disrepute. We have seen the crude attempt of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) to justify his Government’s failure to oppose arms sales to South Africa by invoking the example of New Zealand in a thoroughly misleading way. We heard Ministers, in response to the motion of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) on Vietnam, return, in 1970, to the crude slogans and gross simplifications of 1965. Since that attempt to return to the old tack flopped, all rational justification or explanation of Australia’s present Vietnam policy has been abandoned, to be supplanted by a domestic law and order’ campaign, so-called, of the most crude and cynical kind. And on the last sitting Thursday, the Cabinet revealed - the Foreign Minister could not conceal - the Gorton Government’s self contradictions on Cambodia, and IndoChina generally.
Since the overthrow of Prince Sihanouk in April, which plunged the Khmer people unwillingly and unwittingly into the maelstrom of the Indo-China civil war, the Government, realistically if inconsistently, maintained that Australia would not supply military aid to the Prince’s supplanters in Phnom Penh. That has been its position for 5 months. Yet on 3rd September the Minister announced a subtle shift in that approach. It was done by way of parenthesis. There was no specific ministerial statement, no explanation, no opportunity for debate - just a hastily prepared, heavily qualified insertion into a speech about Australia’s external economic assistance programme. One understands the Government’s dilemma. For it is true - and this I apprehend is the real force of the views of the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) - that if the stakes were so vital in Vietnam that we were prepared to destroy that country, ready to risk nuclear war for it and tear our own communities apart rather than allow National Liberation Front participation in the government of Vietnam, then Cambodia was no less important. We were willing to apply unprecedented force and unparallelled violence in the name of the domino theory, but we baulked at its first real test - -righly and inevitably so, because the Australian people would no more tolerate a repeat performance of the Vietnam tragedy than the people of the United States would tolerate it. Yet the fact remains that the Government’s silence on Cambodia proved the hypocrisy of its rhetoric on Vietnam. Further, Cambodia is the proof, as it is the product, of the colossal blunders of Vietnam. The simplest way to measure the extent of those blunders is to judge the consequences by the Government’s own declared standards. Australia went to Vietnam because the United States went there, and the United States went there because China was behind Vietnam. This was the justification. Yet who would assert today that China is the weaker or the United States the stronger because of intervention in Vietnam, or that any conceivable settlement of the Indo-China war will now strengthen the position of the United States in this region or in the world, or will weaken the position of China in this region or in the world? When one considers the real mainsprings of Liberal foreign policy, when one acknowledges its avowed objectives, could one conceive a greater collapse?
Yet with its policy in ruins, there is no indication from the Government of any basic re-thinking of its policies and attitudes except, indeed, insofar as there are hints of a retreat to reaction, unreality and racism. The root cause of America’s tragedy - and being America’s, Australia’s - in Vietnam was an almost total loss of perspective, of the perspective of reasonable means and attainable ends. Yet we see the Australian Government, than which none contributed more directly and deliberately to American error, still refusing to get Australia’s own tasks and interests in the perspective of our geography and our capacity, in the perspective of the reasonable and the attainable. Only now, in the light of the Guam doctrine and Britain’s abandonment of her imperial role, is the truly defensive and inward looking nature of the policies pursued by successive Liberal governments being revealed. The American Alliance, crucial as it is, has not been, under the Liberals, part of an Australian foreign policy. It has been seen exclusively in terms of defence policy. Indeed, in the misguided belief that Australia’s defences were best guarded by having American troops held down indefinitely on the Asian mainland, the Australian government has helped to distort America’s own foreign policy, particularly her efforts to achieve a detente with the Soviet Union. Equally, in its relations with Britain and the Commonwealth, the Government has demonstrated how much it sees external affairs in military terms. It is no coincidence that Australian official apathy towards the Commonwealth grows as Britain’s military role declines. It is no coincidence that ils apparent indifference to a break-up of the Commonwealth and its interest in arrangements with South Africa occur at the same time, and over the same issue. lt would be difficult to find a parallel for a government which has shown as little interest in, and sense of involvement with its nearest neighbour as this Government has towards Indonesia. And yet this is not only our nearest neighbour, but the largest and potentially the richest in the immediate region. Our relations with Indonesia and the degree to which we can live cooperatively with Indonesia represent incomparably the most important task for Australian statesmanship for the next century. Yet the only important decisions ever made by this Government in terms of our relations with Indonesia have been two disastrous ones of a solely military nature - the introduction of conscription and the purchase of the Fill. This Government has made our relations with Indonesia quite secondary to those we have, those we should have and those we must have, with Singapore and Malaysia. It is a diplomatic leapfrog of a quite extraordinary kind. We are properly involved in defence arrangements with Singapore and Malaysia - that is to say, it is proper that we should have arrangements, not that those proposed by this Government are the appropriate ones. But defence arrangements in this region which exclude and ignore Indonesia are altogether out of balance.
The other country most relevant to us in the region is Japan. It is not enough that we should only be concerned to cultivate our commercial and trading relations with Japan. I applaud the Foreign Minister’s prompt repudiation of suggestions last week that Australia looked forward to a Japanese resumption of a military role in Asia, but we should also encourage Japan’s diplomatic role there, in the region of which she is the unsurpassed power. Nor can there be much doubt what the main purpose of that role should be. The history of the region is written in terms of the relationship between China and Japan. Japan can be the West’s bridge with China. Australia is well placed to make a two-way effort in this regard. We are able to join countries like Canada and Italy in encouraging the United States to modify her past intransigence, and we are able to encourage Japan to take her own initiatives. Sure enough, ours is only a supplementary role in both cases, but it is at least a role, and a beneficial one. In short, it has been a fundamental error of our foreign ventures to believe that the IndoChina peninsula provided the prime and appropriate sphere for Australia’s principal effort, militarily or diplomatically. We have never provided more than a token response, and that was tragically misdirected. For too long Australia’s foreign policy has been merely a reflection of America’s ideological preoccupation with Indo-China and Britain’s commercial preoccupation with Malaysia and Singapore. Australia’s external relations will never strike a fruitful balance until we pay at least equal atten tion to our relations with our principal neighbour, Indonesia, and our principal trading partner, Japan, as well as those with our principal ally, the United States.
Over and above specific directions of policy, it is essential that our whole approach be informed by decent regard to the feelings and aspirations of our neighbours. In particular, it means that our policies and attitudes must be free of any racist taint in alliances, sports and passports. It is futile to think that the American alliance can effectively endure if we affront the world’s most powerful negro community, with the world’s largest negro army. It is impossible to have fruitful relations with the Commonwealth of Nations - including Malaysia, Singapore and India and all those on the islands and shores of the Indian Ocean - if we persist in a nostalgic hankering for military collaboration with the racist regimes of Southern Africa. It cripples any effort to play a constructive role in the post-colonial world, a world centred on our own region, as long as we persist in ruling the world’s second largest, and second last, significant colony.
– 1 was rather amused to hear, and somewhat curious on hearing the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) refer to the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) and the statements he has made on Cambodia in the past. I was particularly amused because the Leader of the Opposition said that he apprehended the honourable member for Wills to have said a certain thing about Cambodia. I would have thought, with respect, that what the honourable member for Wills had said about Cambodia, as well as what he felt, were abundantly clear. I would have thought that there would have been ample time over coffee breaks at the Travelodge Motel last week for the Leader of the Opposition to have found out. What the honourable member for Wills perceived about the situation in Cambodia is fairly clear: That the obvious and basic fact is that North Vietnam invaded Cambodia. That is a basic fact which the Leader of the Opposition has not seen or, if he has seen, perversely refuses to concede. It is that basic refusal to admit the clear and proven circumstances in South East Asia that is at the root of the disagreement between the Government and the Opposition in Australia on foreign affairs today. There has been a clear invasion of Cambodia by North Vietnam. This was the situation in Vietnam and it is the same situation we now see taking place in Laos. It is that situation, those basic and clearly established facts, upon which the Australian Government has determined its foreign policy, having regard to the primary interests of Australia.
The Leader of the Opposition made some disparaging remarks about the attitude of the Government to Cambodia today. I would have thought that the attitude of the Government is clear on this issue. It has been stated clearly on a number of occasions by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon). You will recall, Mr Chairman, that emphasis was placed on the diplomatic initiative. This was a situation which at one stage could have been solved by diplomatic initiatives and diplomatic means. Those means were pursued, and pursued in such a way that no-one in his right senses could assert that the Government had failed to pursue every peaceful avenue for assisting Cambodia in the situation in which it then was - of being invaded by North Vietnam. Those diplomatic initiatives having been pursued we have now turned - the Minister for External Affairs emphasised this the other night in the statement he made on foreign aid - to a substantial and substantially increased foreign aid programme for Cambodia.
It was clearly pointed out by the Minister that this aid would be available for logistic support, items of equipment, dual purpose items and, if necessary, arms. In this situation the Government has pursued diplomatic initiatives and has pursued every avenue open to it to bring about a peaceful situation in Cambodia. Now it is further assisting Cambodia by the provision of this additional aid. Our belief is - and in my submission it is a reasonable belief - that this is a proper course to take with Cambodia in its present situation. I cannot see why the Leader of the Opposition and his cohorts continually fail to admit the simple proven fact that North Vietnam has invaded Cambodia and that it is in Australia’s interests to do something about this state of affairs. To refuse to do anything about it in a positive way that will contribute to Australia’s well being, which is the stand maintained by the Opposition, is an abrogation of the obligations of an opposition, the alternative government.
It is not these sophistries of the Leader of the Opposition with which I wanted to deal tonight but some other sophistries that we heard from him on an earlier occasion. That earlier occasion was when the Minister for External Affairs made his recent statement on foreign aid. The comments made by the Leader of the Opposition after the Minister had spoken prompted me to make some comments about this situation. The analysis of Australia’s foreign aid programme given by the Leader of the Opposition was both inaccurate and illogical. He analysed one set of figures to prove one point but abandoned that method when convenient and used a different set of figures to prove a different point. His assessment of the contribution made by Australia showed a complete lack of understanding of the nature of Australia’s contribution and the whole trend of foreign aid in the world today.
I want to refer to some of the points he made in order to show how wet I or otherwise they stand up. His first effort was to show that the first foreign aid budget of the present Government in 1968-69 showed the lowest rate of increase in our foreign aid appropriation since 1961-62 and that the Government for that reason was half-hearted and indifferent to the importance of foreign aid. The method used to prove that point was completely unpersuasive. True it is that the percentage increase in the first year of this Government was 6.9 per cent, as the Leader of the Opposition said. But, after all, it was an increase in real money terms of over $9m. Recipient countries are concerned with what they are getting this year rather than what they got and used last year or in any previous year.
Even that is not the point. The point is that the pundits and the experts and the Leader of the Opposition tell us that we should be looking at the percentage of our gross national product that goes to help developing countries. If we look at the Australian gross national product figures we find that the first year of this Government saw an increase of 12 per cent of our gross national product going to foreign aid.
The authoritative source in foreign aid statistics seems to be the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. That body tells us that we spent 12 per cent more of our gross national product in the first year of this Government than in the previous year. That was the greatest increase in the percentage of our gross national product devoted to foreign aid in any year since 1961 - the magic year that the Leader of the Opposition used as his base year.
The only true test is what percentage of our national wealth we are giving to developing countries. We gave a higher percentage of our wealth in the first year of this Government than ever before. Last year we gave $16m more than the year before. This year we will give $18m more than last year. When we look at such figures, the real amounts of money given by Australia each year, the mere accounting gymnastics that the Leader of ‘the Opposition engaged in pale into insignificance. Even if it is the percentage rate that is important, Australia’s performance is still quite remarkable. For instance, between 1961 and 1968 Australia’s percentage rate of increase in its foreign aid allocation was greater than those of the principal aid donors, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Again, the Leader of the Opposition places great importance on the Pearson Committee’s report that developed countries should increase their resource transfers to developing countries to a minimum of 1 per cent of gross national product by 1975. What he omits to state is something else that the Pearson report said, that if Australia did increase its aid to reach that target of 1 per cent by 1975, its aid is already of such dimensions that the rate of growth would be less than the rate of growth that would have to be built up by Austria, Canada, Denmark, Japan, Norway, Sweden and the United States.
– What about Papua and New Guinea?
– In other words, we are already closer to that mythical 1 per cent than all of the countries I have mentioned. In any case, as the Pearson report points out, the 1 per cent target is not an aid tar get at all as it includes commercial transactions and concessional aid. The aid target that was recommended by the Pearson report, as the Leader of the Opposition would have realised if he had read it, was 0.7 per cent of gross national product. The tables annexed to the report show that Australia is closer to achieving that percentage than the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and all of the other aid donors listed other than France.
But what concerns me more than the half picture presented by the Leader of the Opposition’s figures were the comments he made on our aid to Papua and New Guinea and the comments that were made a moment ago by the honourable member who interjected. There is a disturbing tone in those remarks of the Leader of the Opposition that aid to Papua and New Guinea in some way does not count. The Leader of the Opposition expressly said that if that aid were excluded we would be thirteenth on the Development Assistance Committee’s list instead of third. Let us have a look at the report of the Development Assistance Committee and see what it had to say about that. It certainly recognises the value of Australia’s aid to Papua and New Guinea and does not seek to excise it from Australia’s total aid as the Leader of the Opposition has attempted to do. The report states:
There are over one hundred ‘less-developed countries’ in the world striving for development Among them the case of Papua and New Guinea is one of the most remarkable.
Having entered the post-war period as almost certainly the most primitive territory in the world, Papua and New Guinea has in recent years become the subject of one of the most concentrated programmes of external development assistance in the world.
That concentrated programme of external development has been engaged in by Australia.
Secondly, the Development Assistance Committee recognises that Australia has an obligation to aid Papua and New Guinea because of its obligations as the administrator of a trust territory for the United Nations. Finally, although Asia as a whole receives aid from all donor countries, Papua and New Guinea receives bilateral aid from one country only, and that is Australia. It seems to me in these circumstances quite irrelevant and tortuous to seek to sever from Australia’s overall aid part of that aid that Australia is providing, in fact is obliged to provide and that only Australia is apparently prepared to provide. It would be just as foolish to suggest that France should be relegated further down the list because she provides aid to Algeria or Morocco or anywhere else or that the Netherlands should be relegated because she provides aid to Indonesia.
In this context it is particularly significant that there is a meeting in Tokyo at the moment of members of the Development Assistance Committee. I was very pleased to see, judging from newspaper reports, that the Minister for External Affairs had indicated that, although we accepted the magic figures of 1 per cent and 0.7 per cent as targets for our foreign aid budget and although they were desirable figures, Australia would not be harnessed or shackled to them. The Minister pointed out the basis of this Government’s foreign aid policy so far. He pointed out that we were concerned with deeds and not with words; we were concerned not with magic figures or formula but with ascertaining from developing countries what their real needs were and how we could best meet them. Australia’s attitude has been one of performance. We have placed the emphasis on performance and not on formula that we should try to achieve by 1975 or any other year. When we look at some of the other industrialised countries that are contributing to underdeveloped countries through their aid programmes we find that the overall result by and large presents a fairly dismal picture. Others talked in 1961, at the beginning of the first development decade as President Kennedy referred to it, and they have been talking ever since until we are now beginning another development decade.
What has happened in that decade, while some of the industrialised nations of the world have been embarking on their own foreign aid programmes? A number of things have happened. They are of particular significance. The first is that at the beginning of that decade the industrialised nations of the world were contributing about 0.89 per cent of their gross national products to underdeveloped countries. At the end of the decade it was 0.77 per cent - a decrease. At the beginning of the decade their aid was $4.5 billion overall.
Towards the end of the decade it decreased to S4.1 billion. During this time Australia’s aid has been increasing substantially. The most disturbing feature of some of the foreign aid programmes of some of the industrialised countries of the world is that underdeveloped but developing countries are now paying S4,000m a year in interest on their debts to industrialised countries, in servicing their loans and in repaying those loans.
Australia will have no part of shackling the underdeveloped countries in this way and of impeding their progress in this way. We have given money. We have not lent it, to be repayable with interest. We will not embark on the same kind of foreign aid programme idea which some of the gnomes of Zurich have embarked upon and which have caused great problems for underdeveloped countries.
– This is the first time since my entry into the House that I have had the opportunity of discussing the Estimates for the Department of External Affairs, in which I had the privilege of serving for some 20 years. Tonight I shall examine some aspects of the nature of our overseas representation and, secondly, I shall take up what the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown) and the Acting Minister for External Affairs (Mr Swartz) before him discussed at some length. I refer to the allocation and what lies behind the allocation nf $184m for the foreign aid programme. To all intents and purposes, the Department of External Affairs has been in existence only since the end of the Second World War. Like Topsy, it has just growed. Expansion has been piecemeal. In the quarter of a century of its existence there has been no review of its operations and certainly no examination of the procedures which we have adopted, mainly from the British Foreign Office, and how these could be pertinent to the formulation and implementation of Australia’s foreign policy.
In the last 10 years the British Government has held 2 full scale inquiries into overseas representation. I would strongly urge the setting up of a special commission along the lines of the Plowden and Duncan commissions in the United Kingdom. The purpose of this commission would be to examine thoroughly our overseas effort and to make recommendations for more effective participation in our overseas representation. It seems to me - and this is an impression I have after about 20 years service - that we have succumbed to the delusion of grandeur which, of course, is an occupational hazard of diplomacy. We have opened up a number of posts in a multitude of countries of only peripheral interest to Australia. We now have posts in some 50 countries.
At the same time in areas of immediate concern to use we have concentrated our staff in the capital city. We have, for instance, no regional officers in Indonesia. All om* staff in Indonesia reside in the Australian fortress in Djakarta. Incredible as it may seem, we have a consulate, in Portugese Timor but no representation in Indonesian Timor; nor do we have an office in Sumatra. I understand that the British Government is now closing down its operations in Sumatra and it would seem to me that this is an opportune time for the Australian Department of External Affairs to take over the British office in Sumatra.
But perhaps of more moment is that we have no office in West Irian. Our border with West Irian is the only border that we have with a foreign country. I think that all members in this Mouse on both sides will agree that the relationship between West Irian and Papua-New Guinea will be vital in the future relationship between Indonesia and Australia. Similarly, in the last post in which I served, in Sabah and Sarawak, we have no representation. I make these suggestions in a constructive spirit and I hope that the Minister for External Affairs, who like most Ministers is not here tonight, will take them into account.
Let us have a look at the Australian foreign aid programme. At the outset 1 want to applaud a belated but welcome innovation in the Australian aid programme. The Department has been given authority to programme its aid to Indonesia over a 3-year period. The annual average - I think we should point this out - is not significantly larger than the appropriations for last year, but what is important is that the planning and expenditure can be phased over 3 years rather than 12 months. For too long the public finances in Australia have been hidebound by the annual Budget requirement to spend in the current year the funds appropriated, otherwise these funds will be lost. The consequences have been a flurry of frequently reckless expenditure in the closing stages of the financial year. The annual budgeting for development programmes, whether they be foreign or for Australian domestic projects, is to my mind an anachronism which invites, indeed encourages, deception and ineffective utilisation of resources.
This is not the place to comment on the half-baked and pathetically superficial aid philosophy propounded by the Minister for External Affairs in his recent statement to this House. He pontificated on the moral and humanitarian motives of aid giving. All I want to say is that if it had not been for the cold war and the aid auction between the East and the West our moral and humanitarian instincts might not have been so much in evidence. I could not help recalling during the sermon of the Minister for External Affairs a Malay proverb that points out that water lapping in a half-full bucket makes more noise. His speech made good advertising copy on how good we looked statistically, but we Australians who foot the bill deserve something much more substantial.
The foreign aid allocation of $184m could be very readily used in Australia. We are building roads ia Asia which we sorely need here. We are putting in water pipes in Asia when large areas of Australia are unsewered, and we are providing educational opportunities for Asians when many Australians are denied them. The people of Australia have a right to know what it is all about and it is about time that we looked behind the neon lit statistics which the honourable member for Diamond Valley quoted tonight and see what sort of aid is involved and how effective it is. Let us take, as an example, our aid to Vietnam. The civil aid to Vietnam has been just as much a public relations exercise as the force commitment of the free world. The United States has provided massive military aid and economic assistance to South Vietnam. The country has in fact been flooded with economic assistance well beyond its capacity to absorb. Yet the United States Administration, in order to justify its commitment and particularly to justify its commitment to the American people, went to great lengths to encourage countries within its sphere of influence to make contributions. President Johnson’s principal concern was to show the American people that the policies he pursued had the help and support of other nations, and that the United States was not alone.
In the military sphere the United States Administration blatantly bribed South Korea, the Philippines and Thailand to send forces. The full cost of the participation of these forces in Vietnam is paid by the United States people. In the civil aid field the United States Government - which, as I have said, was already committing more aid than South Vietnam is in a position to absorb, devised programmes that would allow nominal participation by countries that the United States could influence. Our aid to Vietnam has been unselective in approach and inconsequential in dividends either to the Vietnamese people or to the Australian people. We have picked up the odd and scattered crumbs from the vast United States civil and military banquet. In short, the Australian .Government has scavenged for aid projects on which to project and build its public relations image of compassion and concern.
Much of what is classified as civil aid to Vietnam comes within the category of para-military aid. An example of this is the $500,000 special aid to Vietnam provided in this Budget, which is for the construction of houses for dependants of members of the regional and popular forces in South Vietnam. Last year’s Budget provided $100,000 for sleeping kits for the Vietnamese police. In the past we have also provided barbed wire and galvanised iron for what were euphemistically described as strategic hamlets. But much of this, I think, pales in comparison with our so called aid programme in the medical aid field. We have spent a great deal of money on this medical aid programme. Perhaps I could refer honourable members to the official report by the Department of External Affairs which was prepared by Professor Sydney Sunderland, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Melbourne. A couple of points that he made were: Under prevailing conditions the system does not provide our teams with enough work to do. The Vietnamese doctors are often conspicuous by their absence and collaboration is difficult.
There is evidence that in some hospitals the presence of the Australian team has meant a decline in the attendance and work of local personnel since they will not do anything if there is a chance of getting a foreigner to do it for them.
In fact, the whole report written by Professor Sunderland indicates that there have been serious deficiencies in this particular aid programme, arid this means that Australian taxpayer’s money has not been used to the best advantage.
– You do not think they are doing a very fine job.
– I would say that our resources could be much more effectively utilised in programmes which we ourselves decided upon and which were not palmed off to us by the Americans. The civic action programme by Australian forces in Vietnam involved expenditure of funds of $230,000 last financial year. Its aim is to do the job that successive South Vietnamese governments have not been able to do - to attract and hold the loyalty of the people. I do not regard this as a responsibility of our fighting forces. Yet in an official publication it is stated that there is no doubt that ‘most of the effort of the Civic Affairs Unit is in the field of military civic action - the use of military forces to improve the social and economic standard of the population as a means of winning their support to the Government of Vietnam.’
The Minister in his speech made no mention of trade. Trade is very important. Many of the countries of South Asia and South East Asia are just as interested in trade as in aid. Their cry is: ‘Trade and aid’. What have we done in LDC preferences - that is, preferences to less developed countries? We have done nothing. If we take our imports, we find that in 1958-59 our imports from the countries of South Asia and South East Asia amounted to 12.4 per cent of our total imports. By 1968-69, imports from these countries had dropped to 5.5 per cent of our total imports. Likewise, if we look at the preferential tariff system, we find that it has worked out in this way: During the first year of the operation of the scheme, the total imports admitted from Indonesia under the preferential tariff system amounted to $2,500. In the last financial year, after some years of operation of the scheme, the total had risen to the astronomical sum of $15,300. The hot dog stand at the Sydney Cricket Ground is worth more than that.
In the short time available to me, I wish to deal with this question of our aid to Papua and New Guinea. Only $33,750,000 of our total aid of $126,100,000 is earmarked for what is described as ‘certain well defined purposes of a developmental nature’. The Government is embarking now on loans as a part of our aid programme. What I am most concerned about is the nature and quantity of our aid to Papua and New Guinea. It is in effect a budget support programme and we could forgive the people of Papua and New Guinea for believing that, when independence is received, we will no longer be responsible for providing aid. Now is the time to set up a long term developmental programme as an earnest of our intention to continue to concern ourselves with the economic and social development of Papua and New Guinea. The programme should be drawn up by, and administered through, a joint commission.
House adjourned at 10.52 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) The records disclose that 37 civilians have been killed by vehicles being employed on Australian armed forces affairs in Vietnam.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In addition, it has been reported recently that the Rural and Industries Bank in Western Australia will make available $10m for housing during the current quarter, while the Western Australian State Government has also released a preliminary amount of over 82m to co-operative building societies as part of its 1970-71 CommonwealthState Housing Agreement allocation.
As regards employment in the building industry in Western Australia, statistics released on 17th August by the Minister for Labour and National Service show that during July there was a sharp drop of 160 to 195 in the number of skilled building and construction workers registered as unemployed, and a rise of 22 to 123 in the number of jobs available , to such tradesmen.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
A proper consideration of the matters raised by the honourable member would require a detailed examination of complex questions of law in areas that are not, as yet, fuly settled. It would not, in my opinion, be appropriate for .me to express views on those matters.
asked the Attorney-General the following question, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) No additional legislative drafting officers have become employed since the enactment of the Parliamentary Counsel Act and none have left since then, although two officers have left since the legislation was announced in the Governor-General’s speech.
On 2 July 1970 the First Parliamentary Counsel submitted proposals to the Public Service Board for reclassification of all the professional positions in his office. The First Parliamentary Counsel understands that the Board wishes to discuss his proposals with him but is not yet ready to do so.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What payments were made in the last financial year to the (a) sterling area, (b) non-sterling area’ for films (i) for use on television and 00 for other exhibition purposes.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
On what dates have there been meetings of the interdepartmental committee established to consider matters affecting the administration and development of Papua-New Guinea.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There is no single interdepartmental Committee established u consider the administration and development of Papua and New Guinea. Interdepartmental consultation takes place on a subject basis in some cases through formal interdepartmental committees and in some cases informally.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
Will he bring up to date the answer which his predecessor gave me on 19th August 1969 (Hansard, page 424) on income tax deductions.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question . is as follows:
Since 19th August 1969 statistics of income tax deductions’ allowed in the returns of taxable indi, viduals have become available for the 1967-68 income year.
Estimates of the cost to income tax revenue of deductions for the maintenance of dependants and other deductions in respect of which statistics were compiled for the 1967-68 income year are set out in. the following table.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 September 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19700915_reps_27_hor69/>.