27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of residents of the State of Victoria respectfully sheweth:
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 the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the Commonwealth Parliament has acted to remove some inadequacies in the Australian education system; a major inadequacy at present in Australian education is the lack of equal education opportunity for all; more than 500,000 children suffer from serious lack of equal opportunity; Australia cannot afford to waste the talents of one sixth of its school children; only the Commonwealth has the financial resources for special programmes to remove inadequacies; and nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States have shown that the chief impetus for change and the finance for improvement come from the National Government.
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives make legal provision for a joint Commonwealth-State inquiry into inequalities in Australian education to obtain evidence on which to base long term national programmes for the elimination of inequalities; the immediate financing of special programmes for low income earners, migrants, Aboriginal, rural and inner suburban dwellers and handicapped children; and the provision of pre-school opportunities for all children from culturally different or socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. And your Petitioners as is duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– by leave - I think it might well be appropriate if I were to express as I believe 1 can not only on behalf of the Government but on behalf of the Federal Parliament great shock and regret at the tragedy which has occurred during the construction of the bridge in Victoria. I believe that we should as a Federal Parliament extend our sympathy to the dependants of those who have been killed on this occasion.
– May I associate the Opposition with the expressions the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has just made. He in fact does speak for the whole of the Parliament and the people we represent in referring to this tragedy, the most serious that Australia has had in industry for half a century. Men will always be enterprising and adventurous. Disasters like this show how vulnerable we still are to all the machines and inventions we devise.
– I should not like this occasion to pass without registering on behalf of my Party, the Australian Country Party, that we wish to join with the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in the expression of deep concern and deep sympathy in respect of those who have lost their lives, those who have suffered, and in particular the families and relatives of the men involved in this tragedy, and at least to have the survivors and dependants understand that all Parties in the Commonwealth Parliament have expressed deep distress and sympathy. This happening has drawn once more to the attention of the appropriate authorities the great necessity for the most intimate scrutiny and watching of all safety precautions in regard to these engineering projects.
– Mr Speaker-
– Order! In these particular circumstances I have permitted the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country Party to speak without obtaining leave of the House. If the honourable member wishes to seek leave he may do so.
– by leave - The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) and I, in whose electorates this structure is being built and many of the victims resided, would like to be personally associated with the expression of sympathy.
– The Prime Minister will recall telling the House nearly 2 years ago that negotiations for Australia’s entry into the container shipping consortia were opened by the Minister for Trade and Industry. And he will recall saying that we would be inside all these shipping conferences which dominate our trade with Europe, the United States of America and Japan and we would participate in their management and that the information so gained would be of great value to Australia. I ask him: Was this his own view or the view of the Minister for Trade and Industry? In the light of the Government’s failure to prevent recent increases in container freight and on-shore handling charges or to persuade the consortia to honour their undertakings in the matter of outports, does he now believe the view, whoever held it, was well-founded? If so, will he say in what way the situation would be different if the Government had not joined the consortia?
– I think that any reasonable person must admit that if a company or a government or an individual is a member of an organisation carrying on some commercial activity and therefore has access to the costs of that organisation carrying on that activity then they must be in a better position to judge the accuracy or otherwise of cases put forward for increases in freights. I think that the Minister for Shipping and Transport might well elaborate if the Leader of the Opposition wishes to pursue the matter, but in my understanding of it, contrary to what has appeared in print, the costs of shipping in container ships are less than the costs of shipping in the conventional types of ships.
– No fear!
– Very much lower, and many of the conventional ships are still engaged in the trade to which the honourable the Leader of the Opposition refers. The statement I have made that the cost of the sea freight on conventional ships is much higher than the cost on container ships has been questioned. That is a matter of fact. That is a matter on which the Minister for Shipping and Transport I think might well, as the Minister responsible, inform the Leader of the Opposition at this time if he extends his question to that responsible Minister and to the Minister for Trade and Industry.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister aware of the plight of the small poultry farmer - the family unit - who has a flock of up to 10,000 birds? Is it possible to establish a system of registration of farms and a quota system? Is there any other way in which the industry can be rehabilitated to ensure its survival, or is it just a matter of where the chicken got the axe?
– I am very conscious of the growing difficulties of the small poultry farmer in obtaining a satisfactory net farm income. In recent years the governments of Australia have introduced a scheme controlled by the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities. This scheme has brought about a degree of stability and equalisation of prices, but the effect of the scheme in helping to stabilise prices has tended to create a decline as production has increased. There have been moves within the industry to try to bring about some control of production firstly, by the licensing of farms, and secondly, by the implementation of what is known as the French plan by which a supertax is imposed on anybody who produces more than his quota of eggs. Both of those proposals have been examined by the Australian Agricultural Council. The first proposal on the licensing of farms was rejected because there was no unanimity between the States on the proposal and a restriction on production could not work effectively unless all States were in agreement This agreement could not be reached. As to the second proposal, known as the French plan, it was shown to be unconstitutional for the Commonwealth to organise such a plan, so that was not workable. As a result of the Australian Agricultural Council having examined both proposals and deciding that nothing could be achieved, it felt that a firm decision should be taken and made known that there was not any likelihood of a quota system being introduced to control the production of eggs. The need to make a firm statement was to prevent people trying to boost their egg production level so that if a quota system did come into operation they would then be entitled to their higher quota. That is the situation obtaining at present. I have been told that New South Wales is again looking into some scheme of which I have no knowledge, but I do not know how any scheme can be brought into operation without the consent of all States.
– I preface my question which is directed to the Minister for Trade and Industry by saying that he will recall telling us 18 months ago during the container shipping debate that he wanted to see the Government right in the middle of this business so that when an argument occurred as to what should be a fair freight we would know as much about it as would any other shipping operator in the world. I ask him whether the Government partnership in the overseas container consortia has convinced him that the recent freight increases are indeed fair, and if not, what effect the Government partnership has had in obviating or moderating such freight increases.
– I make it clear that I accept the primary responsibility for having advised the Government and the Parliament in respect of participation of the Government in the container shipping service. Let me remind the Australian Labor Party that this was warmly applauded by that Party. There are factors in respect of shipping services that are beyond the control of the Government. For instance, there was an industrial dispute in respect of the container terminal at Tilbury in London which led to the whole Australian-British container service having to go to Rotterdam and Antwerp for, I think, almost 18 months, and bearing the cost of the tremendously expensive terminal at Tilbury which was not in use for the whole of that period. But within the freight rates of that period was absorbed the cost of transporting the container cargoes from the Continent to London or to other British ports. That matter was quite beyond the control of this Government or, as far as I know, any other government. I am informed that seamen’s wages have increased over that period by 40 per cent.
– What about containers to the United States and Japan?
– There is no container service to America. So I do not know what the Leader of the Opposition thinks he is talking about. There has been an increase of 31 per cent, I am informed, in stevedoring costs in Australia. The increase in seamen’s wages and the increase in stevedoring costs are primarily to the advantage of those whom the Labor Party believes to support it. I do not know whether the Labor Party believes that these tremendous expenses can be incurred without being reflected in the charges made by those who have to pay the higher rate. The truth of the matter is that higher wages have a vastly lesser impact upon a container ship than upon a conventional ship in the carrying of cargo, because we know very well that the proportion of manpower to tonnage is very much less in a container ship than it is in a conventional ship.
It is not for the Government to say whether it enjoys the higher freight rates. The Government knows that the higher freight charges substantially are a reflection of the costs of the shipping companies. It was not the Government which approved of the freight rate increase; it was those who, to a large extent, owned the freight, thai is, the wool, the fruit and so on. It is true that the owners of general cargo did not approve the 10 per cent increase. I think it would be useful if on an early occasion, possibly today or on the next day of sitting, I were to make a short explanatory statement of the factors that bear upon the container service to Australia, the costs, and the advantages which have come or which we are sure are still in prospect
– Has the attention of the Minister for Customs and Excise been drawn to the extraordinarily mild penalties which are consistently imposed on convicted drug pedlars in most courts throughout the Commonwealth? In view of the increasing numbers of drug thefts from both retail and wholesale pharmacists, what steps can be taken to strengthen security? Finally, is there any evidence of drug addiction amongst school children in Australia?
– In answer to the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question, unhappily there is evidence of school children being peddled drugs of certain descriptions by those creatures who seem to have no conscience about selling anything for money. Fortunately, to this stage, the situation has not reached alarming proportions; but, as I have said before, the trends are such that they cause us deep concern. Security in chemist shops is another matter that is causing us great worry. As the efficiency of the Narcotics Squad of the Department of Customs and Excise, working in co-operation with the State Police drug squads, increases and we manage to clean Sydney out of pot or marihuana, for example, or Melbourne out of marihuana for a period, the increase in the outbreak of robberies or chemist busts, as they are called, is comparable with the increase in the sale of ice cream when there is a rise in temperature. When one looks at the security arrangements that exist in most pharmacies in Australia one has cause to feel concern. In some States, for example, the law provides that all dangerous drugs should be locked safely in a certain place. I have inspected these certain places and find that they are simply cupboards which I, not experienced in safebreaking, could open with a screwdriver in about 10 seconds and there, conveniently exposed for any thief, are all the dangerous drugs ready to be parcelled up and taken away.
But the National Standing Control Committee on Drugs of Dependence has asked each State Government to legislate for drugs to be placed in safes which would provide some deterrent to a thief. I understand that New South Wales already has some legislation on this question and that other States are following. It is my hope that they will follow as quickly as possible. As far as penalties are concerned, I have mentioned before in this House the deep concern that I and State Ministers charged wim this responsibility are showing for the lightness of penalties imposed by courts on drug pushers. I am now not speaking of those who are simply users but of drug pushers who are not users. It just goes beyond my comprehension how, when parliaments both State and Federal set a maximum penalty of 10 years for such an offence, a pusher who is convicted with virtually no extenuating circumstances can be released by a court on payment of a $1,000 fine or is sentenced to 2 months imprisonment. I have said before in this House that Parliaments are loath to introduce minimum penalties for any offence hut I must say that my personal view is that unless some more realistic action is taken by the courts on this national problem the temptation will be placed before parliaments to legislate in that way.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I remind the Minister that on 22nd April 1969 he said in regard to information gained through Australian participation in container shipping:
We can ensure that Australian exporters who pay the freight will receive the protection that this information will confer. 1 remind him that the Leader of the Opposition in reply indicated that:
The Government’s action will bring about a result-
-Order! The honourable member is using a fairly long preface and giving information. I suggest that he ask his question.
– I am coming to that now.
-I suggest that the honourable member come to it.
– The Leader of the Opposition on that occasion said:
The Government’s actions will bring about a result directly opposed-
-Order! If the honourable member does not ask his question I will ask him to resume his seat.
– Can the Minister say whether the recent 50 per cent increase in onshore container handling charges, or the increase of 4 per cent in freight for wool, 6 per cent for sheep skin? and 10 per cent for refrigerated and general cargo would have been greater if the Government had not joined Associated Container Transportation Ltd? Is this the sort of protection which the Minister had in mind or will he now concede that the warning of the Leader of the Opposition was well based?
– I frankly did not hear, nor was I aware,of the warning the Leader of the Opposition gave. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition, together with members of the Australian Labor Party, very strongly supported the participation by the Australian Government in overseas shipping trades. As to the substance of what I understand to be the question of the honourable member, that is. whether or not there would be a lesser increase in costs if the Australian National Line had not participated in the overseas trades, perhaps the honourable member might be interested to pursue the statement which the Minister for Trade and Industry has indicated that he will make in this House either later today or on the next day of sitting. In this statement we can set out categorically the several areas within which costs have moved very substantially against the ship owners. It is these costs, of course, which were recognised by Interlaine and the British Wool Federation, being the owners of wool at the point of shipment, and as a result of these increased costs they agreed to the establishment of the 4 per cent freight increase. There is no doubt that there have been cost movements but these have moved far more in the conventional sector than in the container sector.
Over the past 12 months of operation there have been and in the next 12 months there will continue to be a very substantial percentage of cargoes and goods carried from Australia to the United Kingdom and Europe by conventional vessels. It is because of the industrial troubles at Tilbury, to which my colleague referred, because of the taint problems in refrigerated containers and of this blend of conventional and container vessels that the cost factors have moved so adversely against conference line freight rates in the United Kingdom-Europe trade. I believe that the participation of the Australian National Line in overseas shipping will give the Government some opportunity to follow the trends both on shore and in the sea legs in future freight negotiations. I believe this is very much in the interests of Australian shippers. I am surprised that members of the Australian Labor Party who initially came out in support of participation by the Australian Government in the overseas shipping trade are now so critical of it.
– I ask the Treasurer a question which concerns the marked increase in demand by the farm sector of the community for bank loan accommodation. Is consideration being given to the need for long term bank lending through the Farm Development Loan Fund to which the trading banks have access, and term lending through the Development Bank for the purpose of making loans over periods of 15 years or more with suspension of repayments during seasonal difficulties where necessary? In view of the liquidity difficulties facing many primary producers could this means of assisting them be facilitated by the Government as a first step towards debt reconstruction foreshadowed in the recent Budget?
– As the honourable member may be aware, the Farm Development Loan Fund and Term Loan Fund were recently replenished to the extent of $63m. This arrangement was announced recently by the Governor of the Reserve Bank. Loans from these Funds are directed towards farm development and improving productivity rather than debt restructuring or any other such end. The honourable member will be aware also that a number of farm development loans have been granted for a period of 15 years or more. My colleague the Minister for Primary Industry is currently engaged in a study of farm reconstruction problems which, of course, would include debt restructuring. But this range of problems is rather separate from the area covered by term loans and farm development loans. As soon as the studies being conducted by the Minister for Primary Industry have been completed - they are being pursued as fast as is practicable - the results will come up for examination and review.
– I address a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. How many drug pushers have been apprehended in the last 12 months? How many of these pushers have been selling drugs for a profit? How many have been selling drugs in order to provide themselves with drugs for their own addictions? Rather than talk of increased activity to clear Melbourne or Sydney of pot and then bemoan the increase in robberies of chemist shops, might it not be more intelligent and humane to offer supplies to drug addicts while they are medically examined and treated for their illness?
– I am sure the honourable member would not expect me to carry in my head the statistics that he sought in the early part of his question. Might I say that a great number of pushers are also in fact users. But I think the honourable gentleman would be making a mistake if he said that these people deserve only sympathy - which they do - but that the community should not be protected from them. I think that a pusher who is not a user is a person without conscience and is wreaking havoc on his fellow man. The user-pusher has an even greater compulsion to sell drugs than the pusher because he must sell them to get money to feed his habit.
If the honourable gentleman recognises that, I would readily agree with him that treatment is the proper course of action for that person. I doubt whether, to rush in to provide a solution by simply giving killer drugs to people who happen to be addicts would be an act of responsible government
– It is being done in the United States today.
– The honourable member for Oxley suggests that it is being done in the United States of America. I suggest that he might look more carefully at what is being done in the United States. I presume that the honourable member is talking about the administration of methadone.
– That is right.
– A controversy is raging throughout the United States today as to whether that particular treatment is correct. As I understand it, it is treatment that goes on forever; there is no stopping it
– How much do you pro-, vide?
– As I understand it, the treatment means a lifetime addiction to another kind of synthetic drug. Whether that is the solution to the problem, I do not know. But research is being done on this matter. I think it would be an act of sheer irresponsibility for any government to administer an addictive drug - no matter what it was - to people without first having deep research into it.
– I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise a question. It has been reported to me that chemists are concerned at the increasing demand for hypodermic syringes made to them by young people. Is there any check or control on such sales? Should some control be introduced to ensure that only people with a legitimate need - doctors, dentists, nurses, diabetics, etc - are supplied?
– The honourable member asks an interesting question. When talking with them myself, young drug addicts have put to me that stricter control should be placed on the sale of hypodermic needles and that they should be made available only on prescription. However, there are a great number of people in the medical profession who would oppose this. They believe that this stems from an artificial premise, that if you simply prevent a child from getting a hypodermic syringe that child will no longer take drugs. But such is the compulsion of a drug addict to administer a drug intravenously that the problem goes far deeper than simply cutting off the mechanics of administering the drug.
We have had evidence - I have seen it myself - of children who have an addiction to or a compulsion to take hard drugs - to mainline - and who when they cannot get a syringe use a most extraordinarily unhygienic and terrible implement to open up their arms and arteries to administer the drug. Whilst I acknowledge that the question has merit, there is by no means unanimity among members of the medical profession as to whether this is the best way to combat the problem.
– I ask the Minister for
Customs and Excise whether his attention has been drawn to the complaints of John Guise concerning his treatment by Customs officials. I ask whether an inquiry has been made and, if so, with what result. Is there any means whereby Customs officials know when any representative of Papua and New Guinea is travelling through Australia or to Australia and treat him accordingly?
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has supplied me with an answer, anticipating that this question might come, because it is a question of some importance - certainly prima facie. The advice we have received is that Dr Guise arrived at the Customs office carrying a number of gifts in a hessian bag. These gifts were for other persons. He stated that he did not know the nature of the gifts. Because of a strong and, I think, thoroughly reasonable presumption that quarantine problems might be involved, the bag was inspected by a Customs examining officer and one article was found to be a club with bird skins and feathers attached. That was referred to the quarantine officer on duty who informed Dr Guise that it was subject to appropriate treatment before it could be admitted into Australia.
I think that no matter from where anybody comes, or whatever position they hold, there is an overriding responsibility on the Department of Customs and Excise to see that diseases that could be introduced into Australia with disastrous effects should not be risked being introduced by allowing any subject matters of this kind. At that stage and not before it, as I am informed, Dr Guise informed the Customs officer that he was in fact only in transit and not seeking to come into Australia - in transit to Fiji. So the Customs officer advised him that he could take that club and take it to Fiji, which he did. No other baggage of Dr Guise or his wife was inspected in any way.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry: Has the Government considered the desirability of embarking on a public relations and advertising campaign in the United Kingdom, extolling the high quality and reasonable prices of Australian primary products, especially food, and if possible drawing attention to the possible increases of food prices should Great Brittain enter the Common Market, when Australian produce, especially foodstuffs, would be excluded from entry to the United Kingdom?
– The Government does aid in maintaining a constant trade publicity campaign in the United Kingdom and, from the United Kingdom, largely in Europe. I do not recall immediately the amount that is set aside ‘in this year’s Budget to support this campaign, but it will be found to be of the order of some hundreds of thousands of dollars. The campaign is conducted by a committee known as the Overseas Trade Publicity Commitee. The funds provided by the Government, which, as I say, will amount this year to some hundreds of thousands of dollars, are supplemented by very substantial sums provided by the statutory marketing boards such as the canned fruit and dairy boards, and further supplemented by funds provided by either private commerce or expenditure by private commerce tailored to fit into the total publicity campaign. On the whole, this is an immense and very effective campaign. It is directed to drawing attention to the existence of goods and Australian food products and to the value of the food products. By and large it has been very successful.
I would think it improper for the Government to appear to be trying to influence a political decision in the United Kingdom by canvassing the fact that if Britain should join the Common Market food products there would be dearer. There is not the slightest doubt about this. They would be dramatically dearer. But that is a matter of controversy in the political field in the United Kingdom and it is not a matter in which we have sought or ever would seek to intervene and participate. We express our views, as I am expressing my own now, in this place.
– Is the Minister for Education and Science aware of the bombshell dropped by the Tasmanian University Council last week when it announced that 32 first year medical students will not be permitted to continue their course or career in medicine because of the shortage of s:<.: and facilities? Will the Government guarantee sufficient emergency funds to enable the University to recruit staff an<? to provide extra facilities before the 1>?1 academic year commences? Does the Minister realise that those 32 students who passed then medical examinations this year will be forced to register for science courses which they do not wish to do and, as a result o[ which, Australia and Tasmania will lose 32 prospective medical practitioners? Can Autralia afford this erosion of potential doctors?
-I do not have a report on the particular case in Tasmania to which the honourable member for Wilmot refers. But I would point out that supplementary grants to assist in the payment of the increase in academic salaries recommended by the Eggleston Committee have been promised by the Federal Government. This is our share of the matching grant to assist the universities in meeting the increase in academic salaries. I hope to introduce a Bill, perhaps next week, on this subject.
The only other thing that has affected the triennial amounts which the university has, if it orders its affairs properly, is some rise in non-academic salaries. When the Australian Universities Commission plans for the 3-year period the amount that it is prepared to recommend to particular universities, it incorporates in the figure an amount for rises in prices and rises in the case of non-academic salaries. I have not seen any representations through the Commission in relation to the University of Tasmania on non-academic salaries. Academic salaries have risen following the Eggleston report and we have promised to supplement them. So, I do not see any justification at the moment for the proposed course of action of the University of Tasmania.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the speculation taking place relative to Australia’s future wheat trade prospects with Mainland China? I*, the Minister concerned that future Australian wheat sales to Mainland China could be in jeopardy because of the decision of the Canadian Government to grant diplomatic recognition to Mainland China?
– The question asked ii whether I think there would be any t>. percussions in Australian sales of wheat ic China because Canada has now recognised her diplomatically. My answer is that I doubt very much whether it W1 make any difference. The fact is that we have been making very good sales to China since s first started making sales in 1960. During that period, Canada has talked of recognising China and of extending her diplomatic relationships with China, but this in no way has affected our sales.
Indeed we have made larger sales to Mainland China than Canada has. Although in the last 12 months, we have sold 2.2 million metric tons of wheat to Mainland China as against a Canadian sale of 2.3 million metric tons of wheat to Mainland China, if one looks at the period since sales first started to Mainland China in September 1960, one sees that Australia has sold 19.7 million metric tons of wheal and Canada has sold 17.5 million metric tons of wheat to that country.
I believe that China buys wheat where she gets the type she requires and at the prices that she considers most favourable to her for that type of wheat. If one wishes to speculate as to what might happen, one also can ask: What will be the consequences to Russia’s sale arrangements - they have expired - and will Canada’s recognition of Mainland China have any effect on Russia? I do not know. I doubt whether it would. Members of the Opposition seem to take glee in speculating on this sort of thing, but I think they are wasting their time.
– I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise: What is the number of officers employed by his Department who are authorised or required to ascertain whether literature is indecent or obscene? Is the perusal of this literature made necessary by legal restriction on material which may tend to corrupt or deprave the readers? On what basis are such officers chosen, what tests are applied to assess the corrupting or depraving effect upon them and what action has been taken as a result of any such effect?
– Imports which are in the form of ‘literature’ - I use that word in inverted commas - and which are regarded as obscene can be divided into 2 parts. The first part consists of literature which is obviously hard core pornography, or rubbish as you might call it, and the other part consists of those works which do contain literary merit. Books of literary merit are referred by my Department to the National Literature Board of Review which is a body consisting of 9 people who are distinguished in letters - there is a poet, a publisher and people of that calibre - and who work in a part time capacity. Their recommendations are made to me and on the basis of those recommendations, I decide whether a work should be classified as a prohibited import or not. I understand the honourable gentleman is referring particularly to the first category I mentioned. These are banned at departmental level but only by an extremely senior officer. There are some who believe that customs officers all around the country can grab an importation and ban it. This is not so. There is no officer at State level who has the duty to do that. Everything is referred to the central office in Canberra and then to a senior officer who only after looking at it carefully makes the overt decision to declare it a prohibited import.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry whether his attention has been drawn to the recent commercial development of a nylon-type substance known as aromatic polyamide. Its greatest value is that it can resist temperatures of the order of 1,200 degrees centigrade. Will the right honourable gentleman investigate the possibility of introducing or producing this material within Australia for use inside aircraft, for pilots’ uniforms and in industry in relation to furnaces and that sort of thing? As this material is in distinct competition with wool which is largely used in those areas will the Minister look at the possibility of finding a manner in which wool may be treated to give it the same sort of qualities?
– I do not know of the product to which the honourable member refers. I do know, of course, of the qualities of wool in respect to inflammability and heat resistance. They are very high indeed. To that extent it is turned to very much by the aircraft and other industries. It is really not the function of government to take the initiative in persuading industry and business to use a new product. It certainly is part of the function of government to see that every opportunity is made available for there to be knowledge of these products and then for business to make its own judgment in its own sphere on whether they should be used.
- Mr Speaker, could I now quote a figure which I did not have available when I answered the question asked by the honourable member for Mitchell. The funds provided in this year’s total budget for the Overseas Trade Publicity Committee amount to $1,350,000. In accordance with the work that I have been doing over the years, this fund provided by the Government has attracted to it for associated expenditure from the statutory marketing boards a further sum of $1,250,000. This year that Committee will spend in Britain and the Continent $1,600,000 in promoting Australian food products.
– Order! Does the Leader of the Opposition seek leave to make a statement?
– I have been misrepresented. I am entitled to do so.
-Order! If the Leader of the Opposition wants to make a personal explanation he must claim to be misrepresented.
– I claim to be misrepresented.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will confine his personal explanation to the way in which he claims to have been misrepresented.
– As I recollect it, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) said that he had not heard what I said on the subject of shipping conferences and then proceeded to state what he thought was my view. Therefore, to correct the position, I wish to quote what I said on his statement on 23 April last year, I said:
The Government has allowed itself to be inveigled into this position at a time when the prospects for increasing competition in overseas shipping have seldom seemed brighter. Developments in train at the time the Government was reaching its decision would have brought up to ninety-six vessels into service on the Australian run. The Soviet Union was showing an interest. At the same time tensions within the Conference had raised the probability of a breakaway by some European operators. Such developments could not have done other than bring about a sharp reduction in freight charges. The Government’s decision to ally itself with the Conferences inevitably strengthens Conference solidarity and weakens the impetus to independent operations. Its decision to favour container vessels of a particular type strengthens British shipping interests against their continental competitors. In these circumstances there will be no breakaway, no increase in competition and no reduction in freights. The Government’s actions will bring about a result directly opposed to its professed objectives.
- Mr Speaker, I desire to make a personal explanation as I feel that I have done an injustice to some members of the Government party.
– Mr Speaker, I do not think anybody on the Government side would take any notice of anything the honourable member said and therefore no personal explanation is necessary.
– Order! The honourable member for Grayndler, in accordance with practice, came to me and informed me about his personal explanation prior to seeking to make it. The honourable member for Grayndler will be in order in making the personal explanation.
– I thank you, Mr Speaker. With due deference to the Prime Minister, members of his Party did take notice of this and that is why I want to make the explanation today. During a debate in the Parliament on 4th September I referred to certain members of the Liberal Party and said:
Young Turks of the Liberal Party are the present-day vanguard of the movement towards Nazism in Australia.
On reflection I realised the gravity of this statement which I made in the heat of debate. I regret and withdraw the imputation against the members concerned.
– Pursuant to section 12 of the Marginal Dairy Farms Agreement Act 1970-
-Order! On the last 4 occasions immediately after question time I have had to ask for the co-operation of the House to enable the House to proceed with its business. I would request that all honourable members co-operate with the Chair in this regard because Ministers and members from time to time, even in the course of personal explanations, have a right to be heard in this chamber. I would suggest that immediately after question time, if members want to leave the chamber they do so as quickly, but particularly as quietly, as possible.
– Mr Speaker-
-Order! The Minister for Primary Industry has the call.
– Mr Speaker, I was only trying to support what you have said.
-Order! I should be glad if you would do so at the appropriate time, but I have already called the Minister.
– Pursuant to section 12 of the Marginal Dairy Farms Agreements Act 1970 1 present a copy of an agreement made between the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland in relation to the marginal dairy farms reconstruction scheme.
– Mr Speaker, pursuant to section 17 of the Meat Research Act 1960-1968 I present the Fourth Annual Report of the Australian Meat Research Committee for the year ended 30th June 1970. An interim report of the Committee was presented to the House of Representatives on 15th September 1970.
– Pursuant to section 13 of the Aboriginal Enterprises (Assistance) Act 1968 I present the Second Annual Report by the Office of Aboriginal Affairs on the administration and operation of the Act for the year ended 30th June 1970.
– by leave - Honourable members are aware that I have been very concerned for some time to ensure that there is a detached and comprehensive review of some of the more fundamental aspects of the financial conditions of service of the armed forces. The Government has decided to appoint a committee of inquiry to make a thorough study of the duties and responsibilities of officers of the Australian armed forces and to recommend appropriate salary rates; to review the working of the group pay system whereby industrial award rates in respect of civilian employment are translated into rates of pay for skilled other ranks of the armed forces; and- no less important - to examine the demands and exigencies of Service life as they affect all ranks and their families in order to see whether any revision in financial recognition is called for.
Officers’ salaries have never been the subject of a comprehensive study as to their qualifications, skills, functions, responsibilities and the variety of conditions and circumstances under which they are called upon to serve. A short time ago, I announced some modifications to officers’ salary rates. But as I stressed then, this was essentially a restructuring of the officers’ salary scale within existing parameters to provide a more ‘balanced and equitable pattern of pay and increments. It was not intended as a definitive job evaluation. On the other hand, there is an established rationale behind the pay structure for other ranks as this is based on the rates approved under industrial awards for the trade skills which are assessed as having equivalents in the armed forces. However, there are a number of important matters associated with the working of this system of paygrouping which produce anomalies and need to be examined. These problems are mainly those which arise in translating to a different Service environment rates which have been assessed in a civilian context. The questions deserving consideration are such matters as rank structures, and the significance to be accorded to military skills possesed by qualified Service tradesmen.
Nor have the demands and exigencies faced by all personnel as an integral part of their commitment to disciplined service been examined in sufficient depth by advisory machinery in the past. These demands and exigencies - the disabilities of commitment to service - are being compensated by allowances assessed on a fairly broad view taken some years ago. We shall ask the committee of inquiry to make a more exhaustive study of all aspects of the nature and incidence of disabilities of Service employment and recommend the most appropriate form of compensation.
The structure of, and the way of expressing remuneration - although naturally not the level - have remained basically unchanged since the mid-1 940’s. The pay code is complicated and quite difficult to understand. In announcing adjustments to Service pay last month, I referred to the Government’s concern to have the present system translated into a form more comprehensible and recognisable to servicemen and civilians alike. There is a need for a careful and searching examination of all of these matters to reflect modern day principles applying to wage and salary fixation and the vast changes that have occurred in our armed forces. The Government has been considering ways in which detailed examination of all of these matters might best be sought. It has come to the conclusion that the Defence (Conditions of Service) Committee is not best suited to the task of large scale examination these matters require. Since it began effectively to function less than 7 months ago, the Defence (Conditions of Service) Committee has done much important and constructive work in the area of pay and general conditions of employment of Service personnel and it will continue to do so. I have announced in the last few months a number of substantial improvements and modifications across a broad range of terms and conditions which have been based on recommendations from the Committee. However, a major review would place intolerable demands on the time the permanent heads of the Defence and Service departments and a senior member of the Treasury, and of the personnel members of the Service boards.
Moreover, the Government believes that servicemen and service women would wish to have the major aspects of their pay and financial conditions of employment given a thorough examination by a body sufficiently detached from their employing organisations in the government area and equipped to draw relevant comparisons with pay and conditions in the civilian community. The principles and concepts developed by the Committee will, I would hope, provide lasting guidelines for the determination of Service remunerations in future. Whilst the matters I have mentioned will constitute the immediate and primary areas of the Committee’s work, the Government recognises that, in the course of its investigations, the Committee may find attention focussed on other conditions of Service employment which it may consider warrant examination. In that event I may, if it is considered desirable, ask the Committee to take up and consider such questions.
The specific terms of reference of the Committee of Inquiry are as follows:
The Committee will be under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Kerr, C.M.G., a judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court since 1966. His Honour has had extensive experience in industrial relations and wage fixing matters and has played an active part in a wide range of community affairs. He has been a distinguished member for many years of the legal profession and has held high office in legal councils and associations. His Honour was a member of the 2nd AIF from 1942 to 1946. I envisage a total Committee of 5 or 6. The remaining members will be selected with a view to producing a balanced, capable and experienced Committee. I will announce the full composition as soon as negotiations with individuals are complete.
To assist in the inquiry, each of the Services has been asked to appoint a special consultant to be available full time to provide technical and specialist information on Service matters that the Committee may require. The Government expects that the inquiry will proceed with a minimum of formality in preference to the more procedural approach of industrial tribunals and that it will visit and inspect a wide range of Service establishments and installations and seek the views of interested persons inside and outside the Services. The Government has decided that the proceedings of the inquiry should not be open to the public. It is not desirable that servicemen or others assisting the Committee should be inhibited by the public nature of the proceedings in giving information or explaining themselves to the Committee. The investigation will be pursued vigorously. However, this is an inquiry of historic importance in the life of Australian Services and a very thorough examination is essential and necessarily time consuming.
I stress that the process of examination of some aspects of conditions of Service employment by the Defence (Conditions of Service) Committee will continue during the currency of the inquiry. The Defence (Conditions of Service) Committee is well placed to consider and to bring forward prompt recommendations on a number of matters related to terms and conditions of service. The Committee will be taking up matters such as removal entitlements, disturbance allowances and rentals charged for Service housing unless otherwise referred to the inquiry. I add that, while the inquiry is processing, the process of applying variations in the pay of civilian classifications to aligned Service categories will continue. And, following on the Government’s decision which I announced last month, any general movement in the salaries of the administrative and executive area of the Third Division of the Commonwealth Public Service will be extended to Service officers up to and including Colonel and equivalent ranks. Of course, senior officers are aligned with the Second Division of the Commonwealth Public Service. In short there will be no freeze on terms and conditions of employment while the inquiry is under way.
The Government has made clear its belief that there is a need to continue the national service scheme. It is fundamental to the Government’s position that all servicemen and servicewomen should be adequately recompensed for the service they give. The Government’s decision to appoint a Committee of Inquiry further demonstrates the Government’s determination upon this matter. Financial conditions, in the form of pay and allowances and related provisions, are but one aspect of the totality of terms and conditions under which members of our armed forces serve. I am very much alive to other aspects which have a marked impact on servicemen and their families. More needs to be done to meet the problem of providing housing in adequate numbers and of adequate quality in suitable locations. A high level interdepartmental committee including uniformed representatives has been established to give high priority to this task. When it has completed its work I will be submitting recommendations to the Government. Yet a further matter which is under close and active consideration is the effects of frequent reposting of servicemen in the form of family disruption and interruption to children’s education. I am pursuing this matter with the Services. It is not an easy problem to solve. The Government’s objective is to develop further the defence force Australia requires and in the words of the terms of reference ‘to attract and retain men and women with needed qualities, skills and experience for the Australian forces’. The Committee of Inquiry will make its contribution to that end in a situation of formidable competition from civilian employment.
I present the following paper:
Service employment - Committee of inquiry - Ministerial statement, 16 October 1970.
Motion (by Mr Barnes) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– The Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said in the opening sentence of his statement that the House is aware that for some time he has been very concerned to ensure that there is a detached and comprehensive review of some of the more fundamental aspects and financial conditions of service of the armed forces. The House is aware of no such thing. Certainly the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) is unaware of the Minister’s determination to have such an inquiry. He gave notice as recently as 12th August that he would move that a select committee of this Parliament be appointed to inquire into and report upon the pay, conditions and housing of the defence forces. Earlier in this session a select committee to review the defence forces retirement benefits scheme was set up. On behalf of the Opposition I sought to widen the terms of reference of this committee to cover Service pay and conditions. This was rejected by the Government, although it provided an excellent test of the Minister’s sincerity in wanting to have a comprehensive review of pay and conditions in the Services.
The Minister’s concern for such a review was not evident to the Returned Services League earlier this year when it pressed him to set up such an independent review. Honourable members will recall that the Minister for Defence begged the RSL to defer the matter for 3 months; in other words, to get the heat off him. Doubtless he hoped that a number of short term variations in pay and allowances would stifle the very serious criticism of his administration developing in the Services. The RSL reluctantly agreed to defer the matter. Some changes were made in pay and allowances. These did not deter servicemen from expressing their resentment at years of neglect of their pay and conditions. The Minister burned his fingers very severely in his intemperate and unwarranted comments of flying pay allowances. He had to resort to some sort of public relations compaign wandering around the messes and barracks of Canberra making atonement.
In the past the Minister has always dismissed complaints about pay and conditions by reference to the Defence (Conditions of Service) Committee. According to the Minister this Committee would provide a cure-all for all complaints and conditions. He neglected the basic fact that any substantive result from this Committee would take years of work. He also neglected the fact that this Committee simply was not trusted by servicemen who believed they were not adequately represented on it. I make no criticism of the members of this Committee; undoubtedly they have done much devoted and dedicated work. But this Committee has the signal disadvantage that it is an internal committee of the Department of Defence; its functions are prescribed by the Department of Defence and this must limit its effectiveness. It has not the power to initiate inquiries or to make comprehensive assessments of conditions in the 3 armed services.
This is why the Opposition moved for the setting up of a select committee of this Parliament to look at the whole range of service pay and conditions. What we had in mind was a comprehensive inquiry into the whole social enviroment of the serviceman and his family; into pay; moves and reposting, re-settlement and reestablishment in civil life, family separation and disruption, housing and education. I submit that the committee of inquiry envisaged by the Minister is no substitute for such an inquiry by a select committee. The basic flaws of the committee recommended by the Minister are firstly, that its terms of reference are not properly based, secondly, the inquiry will be conducted in secrecy, and thirdly, as an ad hoc committee it cannot be regarded as machinery for keeping service pay and conditions under constant review.
The Minister has summarised the terms of reference in the opening paragraphs of his statement. I restate this summary rather than the fuller account of the terms given later in his speech. The first task of the proposed committee is to study the duties and responsibilities of officers and to recommend appropriate salary rates. The second is to review the working of the group system for skilled other ranks. The third is to examine the demands and exigencies of Service life as they affect servicemen and their families in order to see whether any revision in financial recognition is warranted.
The Minister goes to some pains to emphasise that the terms of reference are flexible; that the committee can wander down whatever avenues of inquiry it likes. However, it is a pretty safe bet that the committee will not stray too far from the lines indicated by the Minister. This will confine the committee’s lines of investigation in the main to a work value study of what servicemen do. Supplementing this would be a sociological examination of the day-to-day life of the serviceman and his wife and children with a view to making cash compensation. Despite the Minister’s insistence that the terms of reference would not be frozen, it is likely that the committee would draw up its duty sheet on the lines I have indicated.
No-one disputes the value of this kind of analysis. It would turn up as a mass of invaluable data about the peculiar nature of Service life. But it seems too wrong to me to link this sort of work value and sociological study with specific recommendations for improved pay, allowances and conditions. This sort of work could best be done in the form of pilot studies by universities, research foundations or industrial consultants. It is a matter for great regret that this work has not been done before but it should not be done in association with an inquiry into pay and conditions. It cannot be stressed too strongly that this is a very urgent matter.
In the past few weeks we have seen the unique spectacle of what amounts to industrial action by groups of servicemen. I refrain from using the term ‘mutiny’ to decribe what happened at Garden Island and at Williamtown air base. This terminology has been denied by responsible Ministers but by any standard of Service discipline these actions bordered on mutiny. There have been no comparable incidents in the Army but there has been a heavy rate of resignations, particularly among officers. This is the highly dangerous situation in which the Minister proposes this committee to remedy these problems.
He has abandoned his reliance on the Defence (Conditions of Service) Committee. Now he proposes a committee which will undertake major in-depth studies of the Australian Services. It is in effect a Vernon report on the Army, Navy and Air Force. On the most optimistic assessment this committee would not be able to undertake the survey outlined by the Minister and recommend specific remedial measures in less than a year. From 18 months to 2 years is not improbable. Given the present inflammatory mood of the Services this is much too long to wait for effective action, even if other improvements flow from the Defence (Conditions of Service) Committee.
In essence, this committee will be working on long-term solutions which will take a long time to prepare. This is not the way to solve extremely pressing problems which require action now. I suppose one solution would be to grant an across the board increase on the lines of the 25c increase in allowances the Minister announced last month. This would be regarded as an interim step until the committee reported and its recommendations could be implemented.
It is impossible to believe that in the absence of such immediate benefits, the Services will be mollified by the promise of this committee. Furthermore, it will have no impact on the problems of manning and recruiting manifest in all services but principally in the Army. These difficulties must intensify if a solution is deferred until this committee reports and the practical results of its investigation start to be felt through the Services. This would take at least two years. It should be remembered that what servicemen say about their jobs is one of the major influences on recruiting. What they are saying at the moment would not induce many to the colours.
The second criticism I listed earlier was the hearing of evidence in camera. I think this is a serious mistake. The Minister’s reason for this is that servicemen and those assisting the committee would be inhibited by the public nature of the proceedings in giving information or explaining themselves to the committee. I would say that the chances of any witnesses from the Services being reticent or inhibited on the subjects of pay and conditions in the present climate are nil. If the Minister for Defence has any lingering doubts about this he should study again the letters columns of the ‘Canberra Times’ in recent months. I am sure they have already provided him with considerable material for quiet meditation.
If this committee is appointed, something on these lines will happen. The committee will start its hearings in a blaze of publicity and then go promptly into camera. It will hear evidence over the next 6 months or so but because the proceedings are not public it will quickly pass into the limbo of the forgotten. Ultimately the committee will produce a report which may or may not produce decisive action. In such an atmosphere of secrecy and uncertainty how can such a committee serve as a dampener on discontent and unrest in the Services? How can servicemen be expected to wait patiently for what may be illusory improvements when they do not have a jot of information about what is going on in the committee hearings?
The third criticism I made was that this committee is conceived as a one hit exercise. It does not establish any sort of precedent or any sort of machinery for a continuing review of Service pay and conditions. Even if the report of this committee is an excellent one and it overcomes many of the existing difficulties, how can we be sure the improvements it makes will be consolidated and sustained?
An off the cuff committee of this sort compares most unfavourably with the Standing Reference on the Pay of the Armed Forces established in the United Kingdom. This committee has linked annual reviews of salaries and conditions with recommendations for improvements and studies of Service jobs and Service life.
Admittedly, this Committee has worked within the broad guidelines of a prices and incomes policy, a framework which is lacking in Australia. But it is the sort of model that should be considered by the Government. In summary, the Opposition does not think the approach adopted by the Minister is the correct one.
He has made a tacit admission that the Defence (Conditions of Service) Committee is not up to the job of restoring equity and sanity to pay and allowances. But he has failed to put forward any remedies for short term improvement which will satisfy the Services until more sweeping and comprehensive reforms can be adopted. Undoubtedly, a committee of this sort would do much valuable work in assessing job values in the Services and the peculiar strains and stresses of Service life.
This is work that needs to be done; it should have been attempted years ago. But the Opposition does not see why the Services should have to wait for these surveys to be made before pay and allowances can be increased or conditions improved. The approach favoured by the Opposition is the appointment of a select committee of this Parliament to examine pay and conditions. This could be done more quickly than the independent committee; with the Parliamentary recess coming up it would be possible to get a series of recommendations for short-term improvements within a few months. There is enough evidence available to assess pay and conditions and recommend changes which could be brought in quickly and effectively. With the public hearings of a select parliamentary committee, servicemen would be assured that their problems were getting the urgent attention of this Parliament. There would be palpable evidence that pay, allowances and conditions were under scrutiny and that changes would be made. I believe this is most important for the morale of the Services in the light of the present serious crisis in recruitment and manning. By all means let us have the sort of analysis the Minister envisages in his terms of reference. We must have this sort of information if future policies are to be correctly based and the errors of the past avoided. But this work could best be done by other agencies such as a university department of sociology or a firm of industrial consultants. This side of the investigation should be divorced completely from the immediate problem, which is how to stop serious unrest and dissatisfaction, in some cases bordering on mutiny, in the armed Services.
Therefore, against this background I submit on behalf of the Opposition that because substantial improvements are needed and needed quickly, Service pay and conditions should be put under the immedi ate scrutiny of this Parliament. I move, as an amendment:
That all words after That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘this House is of opinion that, instead of the proposed committee, a joint select committee of both Houses be appointed to inquire into and report upon the Australian Defence forces in relation to (i) pay and allowances of all personnel, (ii> provision for the retraining of officers and men, (iii) housing and (iv) educational facilities for .the children of servicemen’.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– I have listened with great interest to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and I am in agreement with many of the points that he has made. I think it may be admitted that during my period in this House one of my main interests has been the terms and conditions of service in the 3 Services. It is interesting to note the concern in the Services over the terms and conditions under which members serve. I believe it is necessary, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, to examine the morale of the Services today. In my opinion in the 10 years I have been in this Parliament and over a long period of parliamentary government in Australia the Defence Services have never been understood and have never had the consideration that they should have had from governments or from oppositions.
It is interesting that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has now decided to take a great interest in the Defence Services. However, if one goes back over the debates during the years when the Australian Labor Party was in government and since that Party has been in opposition one can see how little interest members of the Labor Party have shown and how rarely, if ever, conditions of service have been brought up by them. In fact, the records show that the majority of their statements are almost aimed at lowering the conditions of services. Members of the Opposition have made reference to ‘brass hats’ when talking about officers. They have referred to officers as people dressed in uniforms who glide around in cars. Therefore, I cannot take seriously the matter raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. It is my intention in the Estimates debate today to speak about the terms and conditions of services. When I speak during that debate I intend to draw to the attention of honourable members the fact that a defence statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) many months ago has not been debated. I have heard of no pressure from the Opposition to have it debated. It is claimed that this defence statement is the most far reaching that we have had presented in this House, but there has been no demand from the Opposition to discuss it.
A ministerial statement was made last session by the Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock) on the Royal Military College. However, this has not been debated and I have not heard any interest in this matter expressed by the Opposition. Today during the Estimates debate we will be discussing the 6 Defence Services. Honourable members will each be allowed 10 minutes in which to debate those estimates. This means that we will have 1 minute 50 seconds to speak on each Defence Service. I have not heard the Opposition complain about this. When we look at the Notice Paper we find that there has not been one move by the Opposition to discuss matters relating to defence. I contend that there has been delay. I contend and I have contended over the years that I have been here that there has been a lack of understanding of what it means to be in the Services. There has been a lack of understanding of what it means to be an officer, an NCO or a serviceman who has to move from State to State and from theatre to theatre, with consequent disruption of family life. The Opposition has never objected to the fact that a serviceman has to live in housing commission houses while his counterpart in civilian life, who might have gone to school with him, is living in a nice home somewhere else. The Opposition has never raised this point.
I give credit to the Minister for Defence - and I do not give credit when I do not think it is deserved. I think the Minister has done a good job. I think he has endeavoured to move the Defence (Conditions of Service) Committee to bring forward quick decisions. It is interesting to realise that already this year Service pay has been increased by $30m. This is not a bad record. I accept the contention that in the past there has not been sufficient Service representation on the various committees. I think this is a reasonable complaint. It has been pointed out that on these committees there is always a representative from the Treasury, from the Department of Defence or from the Department of External Affairs. If members of the soldiery are asked a question they are allowed to put in their oar but otherwise they sit on the sideline in silence. I have heard no objection to this from the Opposition.
It fills me with horror and dismay to hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition talk about select committees. When he does this I do not think that he is speaking with the knowledge that he should have. When we look at this question of select committees we find that every senator in the Senate is a member of about two select committees and a member of one of the Estimates Committees which have been established. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition talks about the delay which may be occasioned by this inquiry being conducted by an independent committee, on which will be Service representatives and people who have served and have known or do know the factors and conditions which affect a serviceman’s life. He says that a delay will be occasioned by the appointment of an independent committee because it will not be able to submit a report within 12 months. He claims that a select committee would be able to submit a report in a much quicker time. I think that is absolute rubbish.
At the present time, together with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I am a member of the Joint Committee on the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation. We are finding that it is difficult to arrange a full Committee meeting because senators and others are members of other select committees. We find that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition - I do not blame him for this - has other duties to perform and that it is not always possible for him to be in attendance at Committee meetings. On the Committee are three senators who are standing for re-election at the forthcoming Senate election, and therefore their prime objective is to get re-elected. So the Committee cannot sit. If the Senate result should be as Labor hopes it will be, but I am confident it will not be, am I to believe that the Senate, with the present Opposition in control, will not endeavour to create chaos in this House? Is it not possible that next year could be one of the most vital years in parliamentary history? Do I take it that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will want the proposed committee to press on and that Labor senators will be allowed to be absent from the Senate in order to conduct inquiries which, of necessity, will have to be held throughout Australia? I think that is absolute rubbish.
The Minister has decided that there should be an importial committee, not a political committee. Let us not think that politics do not enter into select committees; they do. It will be an impartial committee under the chairmanship of a distinguished judge. There will be businessmen and servicemen on the Committee and they will have one duty, and one duty only to perform - that is, to get to the hard core of the question of rates and pay and conditions in the Services. I accept one point which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has made, that is, that those things that are in the pipeline in respect of conditions of service and on which decisions are about to be made should not be delayed. If the Treasury or anybody else decide that because a committee had been set up we should delay a decision in respect of such matters as temporary rental allowances and educational allowances which are presently in the pipeline, I believe that this Parliament - I am sure the Minister and I would hope the Government - would see that the decision was not put into effect.
This could be the most far-reaching inquiry into the Services ever conducted. I think that the method of endeavouring to adjust the pay scales between the Services and civilian industries has not been successful. I believe that it has created problems. It has not taken into account the facts concerning a servicemen’s life. It has not taken into effect the officer-other rank relationship. It has not taken into effect the fact that at the present time certain engineers of non-commissioned officer rank, with diploma degrees, are receiving higher rates of pay than officers with graduate degrees. There are anomalies. Let it also be realised that we have the technical arms of the Services - the signallers, the medicos, the electrical and mechanical engineers and so on - who are given high rates of pay. But at the present time the infantryman, the rifleman, is to a certain extent at the lower end of the pay scale. But surely everybody realises that all these specialists are there basically in time of war to do one thing, that is, to service the rifleman who is in time of war the most important man in the whole team. I think that these are the things into which there has to be a deep and full inquiry.
I welcome the Minister’s statement and I think that the Services will welcome it. I think that the Services should be reassured that things such as allowances will not be held up pending this inquiry. There is no reason why they should be held up. Let this be the fullest inquiry and let it be impartial. I agree that its findings should be made public. I would object if, at the end of the inquiry, the findings were not made public. I think that the hearings could well be held in camera, but the report must be made available to this Parliament
I conclude by saying, as I said before, that the appointment of a select committee comprising members of this House and of the Senate, under the conditions which obtain in the Parliament at the moment, would be detrimental to the whole question. Although the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that it would take this independent inquiry 12 months to make its investigations, I guarantee that we would not get a convincing and realistic result from a select committee in under 3 years. Some of the select committees that are operating at present, such as the committee that is inquiring into aircraft noise, seem to have been going for an incredibly long time. I think that the servicemen should be reassured that this matter is now to be looked into and that the other matters - such as disturbance allowance and the educational allowance, about which I will speak when we are debating the estimates for the Defence Department - about which they are concerned at the moment are at present under review and close to a decision. I should like the Minister to stress that these matters will not be held up pending the overall review.
– That is part of the decision.
– The Minister says that this is part of the decision. I welcome his statement and I oppose the Opposition’s amendment. The amendment is nothing more than a political manoeuvre, and in my opinion it would be completely detrimental to achieving a quick result for the soldiers, who deserve it.
– For quite a period now the Opposition has been condemning the Government for the inferior conditions of service for our men in the fighting forces. Today in the statement of the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) we have a confession of guilt. There is nothing like an impending election to flush out a little action from an otherwise tardy Government when the rights and entitlements of sections of the community are concerned.
In reply to the points made by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess), who has just left the chamber, we believe that it is absolutely essential that a joint parliamentary committee should be appointed and that the investigation - the hearings and the findings - should be submitted openly to the public. We have too much evidence to indicate that the Government suppresses the reports of the various committees of inquiry which it has set up. The most recent one, of course, is the nationwide survey which was made into Australia’s educational needs. That survey was conducted with the support of the 6 State governments. The findings of that survey have been completely suppressed. A condensation of some of the less salient points - certainly the criticism was exorcised from that report - has been submitted to the Parliament. Is this going to occur on this occasion, too? Again, there are other indications-
– I raise a point of order. There was a gross misrepresentation here by the honourable member because this was a report to the State Education Ministers, and it is for them to decide what they do with it; it is not a decision for the Commonwealth.
-(Mr Locock)- Order! There is no substance to the point of order.
– Let us proceed to other reports. The Loder Committee’s report on transport costs in northern Australia was suppressed. The report of the Vernon Committee of Economic Inquiry was suppressed for many months and finally buried in haste and without respect by the then Prime
Minister. The report of the Nimmo Committee on medical and hospital costs was held in limbo for many months by the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) because of the embarrassing contents of the report, and then it was released only because of public pressure. Quite clearly, if the findings of the proposed committees are embarrassing to the Government, its report will be suppressed or, at the very least, severely truncated by the Government This is clearly apprehended in the statement of the Minister. In his statement he said:
The Government has decided that the proceedings of the inquiry should not be open to the public.
He has no intention of allowing anything that will embarrass the Government, as undoubtedly it would as a result of the quite unjustified treatment of and discrimination against our fighting men, to be released to the public. In any event, he has already prejudged the situation. How can one possibly expect that the men of our fighting services will receive any justice from him when he says that one of the main points of this committee of inquiry will be to investigate pay conditions, and when only yesterday in the House of Representatives he damned the suggestion of the Labor Party that our fighting men were entitled to better pay and conditions than they have at present. The Minister indicated in his statement in the House yesterday that only if we have a pool of unemployed can we attract people to join the defence services.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-(Mr Locock) - Order! If the Minister claims to have been misrepresented, I point out that a claim of misrepresentation can be made only when the honourable member for Oxley has finished.
– I will make a personal explanation when the honourable member for Oxley is finished, because of gross misrepresentation and the falseness of the allegations.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, you know that this has to be done at the end of a speech, and the Minister is using up my time. He said yesterday in the House that because the United States of America had unemployment it was able to have a voluntary defence service. We do not have a great degree of unemployment, therefore, he says, we cannot have an all volunteer defence service. Does he think that only those people in the gravest financial, social and economic need in the community would stoop to join the Services? I find this obnoxious. I find it offensive. On behalf of the fighting men of Australia I reject it completely. The Minister then went on to say:
If we were a country that sought to buy defence, which is what the Labor Party would do if it wanted any defence, we would have to pay higher salary and wage rates in an attempt to attract people into the armed forces to get the numbers we needed.
He has already prejudged the situation. He is opposed to salary increases. Then he excelled himself by going on to say:
If you could do this -
This is what we are talking about, higher pay and better conditions - it would mean that we would then be insulating the privileged, the better educated -
Mark those words, ‘the better educated’ - and the wealthy from the obligations of defence and from the obligations of doing something to protect their own country.
The Minister then goes on to say:
It is likely to appeal to the underprivileged and to the worker who is in a less fortunate situation.
So he argues that, if you improve conditions and pay, those people whose intellectual capacity has been developed - the better educated - would be too wise to join the defence forces even then. Why? Why does the Minister believe this? What is wrong with the defence Services under him, that the better educated people would not want to join even with better pay and conditions? If he argues that better pay and conditions will attract only the underprivileged of the community - this statement appears at page 2200 of Hansard - what sort of people does he argue will be attracted now to the defence Services when the pay and conditions are so gravely inadequate and totally unacceptable to the men of the fighting Services? I reject his statement. As I said earlier, I find it offensive. I find it objectionable. It is totally unworthy of the Australian Minister for Defence to regard the men of the fighting Services in this way.
The intransigence of the Conservative Government at Canberra towards the reasonable and long standing claims of the armed services for improved conditions ha; undermined the morale and depleted the ranks of out fighting Services. The lamentable deterioration in re-engagement rates is frankly alarming. In 1963-64 the reengagement rate for the Royal Australian Air Force was 61 per cent. By 1968-69 it has fallen to 57 per cent - this is under the Conservatives; for the Army the fall was even more pronounced, from 60 per cent to 47 per cent; but the Navy’s rate collapsed to a perilous level, that is, from 68 per cent, the highest, to 18 per cent, the lowest. In 5 short years Conservative neglect has wrought havoc on the confidence and elan of our serviceman’s sense of professional self respect. The downgrading and erosion of the professional status of our armed Services have been caused by long spells of Government unconcern about conditions of pay and provision of reasonable benefits for our servicemen.
The effect of this defenceless neglect by the Conservative Federal Government is dramatically revealed by its failure to meet recruitment targets; its unsuccessful, albeit expensive policy of seeking to pilfer manpower from the ranks of Britain’s Services; and the dismayingly high and rapidly increasing resignation rate of commissioned officers below retiring age. In 1969-70 the recruitment target set for Australian defence forces was 2,864. The actual level reached was 758; that is, recruitment was nearly 75 per cent down on the projected goal. The Air Force actually suffered a loss of manpower. The Army gain to personnel strength of 462 men was less than a third of the intake target set. The Navy’s extremely modest recruitment target was still 25 per cent down on its enlistment goal. Quite clearly the career prospects in our armed Services no longer attract the interest, confidence and support of young people. This comes about as a result of the inertia of the Conservative Federal Government towards a long overdue policy of improvement in conditions of service. I suspect that this may well be a cover up because of the points I made earlier. For the first half of this year overall recruitment has achieved only one-quarter of the target set. There is patently no abatement, indeed only aggravation of this serious problem. If this clearly apparent and distressing rundown of manpower is not halted and reversed the capacity of our armed Services to maintain their function of a meaningful defence preparedness will be seriously impaired.
Efforts to plug up the cracks in the system by attempted filching of manpower from the British Services have produced nugatory results, but at considerable public expense. This practice was introduced 2½ years ago, and up to the middle of this year fewer than 40 British officers had been enticed from their home Service. As Royal Australian Air Force officer strength alone is more than 440 down on quota, the meaninglessness of the overseas recruitment programme in comparison to need is forcibly illustrated. On the face of it, recent pay increases plus general conditions and benefits for married men seemingly make engagement in the British Services a superior proposition to the rundown in conditions of service in Australia. There is additionally the mass exodus of middle-rank commissioned officers from the Services which has become acute in the past 18 months. These men are resigning their commissions before reaching retiring age, through utter disgust and frustration with the conditions under which they labour and which, in many unhappy respects, affect their families. For them the idealism and dedication of the career officer has been shattered beyond repair.
Between 1965 and 1970 there was nearly a 1,000 per cent increase in resignations of such Army officers below the rank of colonel. There was almost a three-fold increase in RAAF officer resignations for the same period. The trend is accelerating at a startling rate. For the first 6 months of this year, 80 RAAF officers left the Service. The Navy suffered, too, with a resignation rate in 1969-70 over 100 per cent greater than 5 years earlier. The rot is setting in here, too, for officer resignations for the first 6 months of this year, numbering 33, exceed the total for last year already. In a desperate effort to avert critical breakdowns in the operations of the Army this Conservative Government at Canberra has stampeded into pressing more than 100 Citizen Military Forces officers and nearly 80 retired list officers into regular service. This is a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul, and neither Peter nor Paul is satisfied with the result
Major General Paul A. Cullen, President of the CMF Association, is on public record asserting that the CMF aimed at reaching a planned strength of 36,000 last year. It in fact lost strength and fell to 31,000 personnel. Even more startling is his declaration that this organisation should have a strength of 40,000 to 50,000 men to fulfil a meaningful role in our defence arrangements. Depleting the CMF in this way not only undermines a gravely run down area of the services but also fails to plug up the gaps in the regular Services. Additionally, the practice is causing widespread resentment among career officers who find that the truncated training of CMF officers place the CMF officers on the same footing as 4-year trained Duntroon graduates. In some cases the CMF officer ever becomes their superior.
Again, justified and long standing complaints on pay, housing, transfers, retirement and family benefits have impaired many career servicemen’s assessment of their chosen profession. It is an inexcusable exploitation of a Royal Australian Air Force pilot’s dedication to expect him to bear with the present pay levels when he can earn 2 to 3 times as much with an international airline in a somewhat less onerous job. The Minister for Defence rose to unprecedented heights of arrogant offensiveness when he said of the RAAF claim to have pay rates strike parity with Department of Civil Aviation personnel:
But the DCA people have responsibilities not required by RAAF personnel and that is performing and observing standards of civil aviation flying.
The Minister thus displayed an alarming degree of ignorance concerning the duties demanded of our RAAF pilots. The recent pay increases give little relief. They mean $4 to $5 a week extra to a lieutenant. Out of this contributions to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund will claw off about $1. 50, tax will remain about the same, mess fees and rent will go up by about 15 per cent of the increase. The hapless officer will be fortunate to rescue a dollar out of the increase. What the Government is seemingly incapable of understanding is that top quality, well trained and experienced administrators - the qualities of middle-Tank officers - will not tolerate long a salary of $6,500 for a major, for example, when his skills can command nearly double that rate in civilian life. Officer engineers pay was supposed to be tied to that of a class- 5, engineer in the Commonwealth Public Service in 1964. An Army colonel engineer is now nearly $2,000 behind a class 5 engineer. May 1 have incorporated in Hansard this table?
– May I have a look at it?
– 1 will pass it across, but I he Minister has already had a look at it.
– 1 have not seen this at all. How dare you say that.
– But it will take mors than pay to hold manpower. A service”man pays 15. per cent of ‘his salary for Government housing while the Commonwealth Public Service pays only 10 per cent. The Serviceman is most likely to be pushed into unattractive, unsuitable accommodation after a long wait and after his selection by a lucky dip’ process. In moving furnishings are damaged and deteriorated. Some, such as floor coverings and curtains, become useless and have to be replaced at considerable expense, m contrast, vastly superior conditions are provided in the United States and the United Kingdom for servicemen.
Again, Australian servicemen are blighted by too frequent postings. This, incidentally, disrupts home life and plays havoc with young children’s education and their personality development. The contributory DFRB system as last is being investigated. It should be scrapped and replaced by a non-contributory scheme. Last year the Government’s contributions to the scheme were $9.9m but gratuities paid out were only $1.8m. That is, the burden of a noncontributory scheme seems mild and the benefits in terms of satisfaction in the -Services far exceeding the cost. Britain and the United States have non-contributory schemes. Again, there seems to be a case for less civilian control of servicemen and less of their interference. The ratio of civilians in defence departments to servicemen is 73.96 to 100, a glaring lopsidedness. Further, the five man Defence (Conditions of Service) Committee - all members arc public servants - should have high level representation from each of the Services. There needs to be a development of benefit; for servicemen’s dependants and for retired servicemen and their dependants along the lines of those available to the United States and British Services. .
A Labor government would promptly act to establish wage justice for our servicemen. It has pledged itself also to: Provide War Service home entitlements to all servicemen after 2 years regular service or 6 years of CMF service; minimise the incidence of postings so as to give more stability to home life; provision of health services from the Repatriation Department to servicemen and their dependants; scholarships to children whose education would be disrupted otherwise by shifts; availability of adequate life assurance and elimination of special loading charges which currently penalise our fighting men: injuries sustained other than on active service would be covered by the Repatriation Act and not the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act which is less generous; and non-contributory pensions to all exservicemen to replace the present costly, unwieldly and unintelligible DFRB contributory system.
The Labor Party proposes a practical programme of reform aimed at rooting out the grave debilitating defects which now impair and pose a critical threat to the operation of our defence forces. I suspect, however, that the Government intends to do very little, especially as the Minister has prejudged the case for salary increases in his statement in this House, which is frankly offensive to the righting men of Australia
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Mr Deputy Speaker-
-Order! I call the Minister for Defence.
– Did you allow the incorporation?
– Yes, but I had not seen it. Mr Hayden - You had. Mr Killen- Don’t tell fibs.
– The Minister for Defence had seen it. This is just another little ploy to waste more of my time.
-Order! To clear the point, leave is granted now for the incorporation in Hansard of the document referred to by the honourable member for Oxley.
– Thank you. The document reads:
EXECUTIVE COMPARISONS (Consolidated)
The table below gives an indication of executive salaries in private industry, the public service and the -army, along with an indication of the number of men controlled by industry and army executives as a base figure. Thus a comparison of different salaries paid to executives with control of equal numbers of men is possible. The Commonwealth Public Service 'equivalent status' is that normally regarded as operative in the defence group of departments.
– I again call the Minister for Defence.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) has grossly distorted my view and has grossly distorted the view of the Government. The view that I rejected yesterday was the view that the only consideration that the Government should have is that it should buy defence and that there were no obligations on the people of Australia and no obligations to see that the burdens of defence fall equitably on the people-
– I take a point of order. The Minister is debating the issues which were raised. This is not a point of order or a-
-Order! The Minister for Defence has claimed a misrepresentation. I point out to the Minister that, in speaking to a claim of misrepresentation, the Minister must indicate the point on which he claims misrepresentation but must not debate the merits of the issue before the House.
– No. That is precisely what I wish to do.
– I take a point of order.
-The honourable member for Oxley claimed that I had rejected-
– I have taken a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– -Order Mr Bryant - I am entitled to take a point of order on this, the Minister has the right of reply in this debate. That is the appropriate time to raise the issues that he is raising now. They may well be valid. The fact is that what he is doing now in my belief has nothing to do. with the system of debate established in this House. If he wants to answer the points raised in that manner, he can do that later when he has the right pf reply.
-Order! In reply to the point of order raised by the honourable member for Wills, the Minister, has the right to point out where he claims to have been misrepresented. I have pointed out to the Minister that he cannot debate the subject matter but he can point out where he claims to have been misrepresented.
– ls this possible?
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley will resume his seat.
– J was referring-
– I was going-
-Order! ] warn the honourable member for Oxley. I call the Minister for Defence.
-The honourable member for Oxley claimed that I had rejected pay claims for the Services as a result of something that I said yesterday. I was only saying that yesterday I was rejecting the view that the only consideration the Government ought to have in mind is that it can buy defence, establishing a position in which the privileged can insulate themselves from the effect of defence. A question of equity is involved in this matter This is quite clear in the statement that I made today and in the terms of reference of the inquiry which point to the need to attract and retain appropriate personnel in the services. This is quite clear in the statement in which J said: ‘This is fundamental to the Government’s position that all servicemen and women should be adequately recompensed for the service that they give’. That is the Government’s objective-
– A point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. You know as well as I do that this speaker is now debating the issue.
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley will resume his seat.
– Well, I will move a vote of no confidence in you-
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley was here this morning at question time-
– . . . if you do that -
– I am warning you.
-Order! I. call the honourable member for Oxley to order. The honourable member will withdraw that remark.
– 1 have merely indicated that I am about to move a vote of no confidence on the Chair:
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. The honourable member for Oxley was in this House at question time today and should have noted the occasion when the Leader of the Opposition made a personal explanation and in order to explain the basis of the alleged misrepresentation read from a portion of a speech that he had made in this House. What the Leader of the Opposition did is exactly the same as the Minister for Defence is doing at the moment. If the honourable member for Oxley sees any difference between the 2 circumstances, I am afraid bis disagreement with the Chair again is incorrect.
– A point of order- -
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley will resume his seat.
– 1 have an entitlement to raise a point of order.
– You do not know what my point of order is.
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley raised a point of order and I have given a ruling on it.
– How do you know what I am going to raise now?
– You have no idea at all.
-Order! Is the honourable member for Oxley raising another point of order?
– I am raising a point of order following on what you said was your interpretation of what was the procedure this morning. You have said specifically that the Leader of the Opposition read a previous statement by him which he said had been misrepresented by the Minister concerned. The Minister is not reading any previous statement at all. He is debating the issue-
-Order! Mr Hayden - Mr Deputy Speaker-
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley will resume his seat. At the time when the honourable member for Oxley took his point of order the Minister was reading from the statement that he made to the House this morning. I call the Minister for Defence.
– I read from the statement that I made this morning as I was earlier before the honourable member for Oxley interrupted me.
In making recommendations, the Committee of Inquiry should have full regard to the national requirement to attract and retain men and women with needed qualities, skills and experience for the Armed Forces.
Further, I repeat that:
The Government has made clear its belief that there is a need to continue the national service scheme. It is fundamental to the Government’s position that all servicemen and women should be adequately recompensed for the service that they give. The Government’s decision to appoint a Committee of Inquiry, which the Opposition opposes, further demonstrates the Government’s determination upon this matter.
Mr Speaker, the position of the honourable member for Oxley is that he obviously and clearly objects to his false allegations being picked out and noted-
– A point of order
-Order! The Minister is going beyond the point of a personal explanation.
– I apologise for that, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have finished my personal explanation.
Mr HAYDEN (Oxley) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented and to have been offended. The Minister said that I had misrepresented him when I quoted his statements. Following on your interpretation - and I know from experience that you will be consistent and uphold that interpretation when it applies to this side of the House too - I point out that what I quoted was this:
If we were a country that sought to buy defence, which is what the Labor Party would do if it wanted any defence, we would have to pay higher salary and wage rates in an attempt to attract people into the armed forces to get the numbers we needed.
That is, he is saying that if one wants more numbers than one has now one has to pay more money.
– Mr Deputy Speaker-
– I am quoting from the statement, Mr Deputy Speaker, with respect.
-Order! I call the honourable member for Oxley.
– He also said:
It is likely to appeal to the underprivileged and to the worker who is in a less fortunate situation.
The only point that I make then is: If the improved salary, situation and conditions of work and so on will appeal to the underprivileged and the worker, what sort of appeal do the inferior standards of the moment make? What sort of people do they appeal to? I am pointing out the convoluted logic that the Minister is trying to impress upon the House.
– I think the House could better understand the pyrotechnical language of the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) if I were to acquaint it with the fact that within his electorate there is the largest Royal Australian Air Force base in Australia, lt is a matter of notoriety that the honourable member for Oxley gets his poorest vote from the RAAF base at Amberley. Therefore, the honourable gentleman has set out this morning to try to stir up goodwill.
– Where do you get your best vote, from the Manly ferry?
– At least it has not had the advantage of colliding with you. The honourable member for Oxley, who has set out to try to retrieve that position and stir up goodwill, -came along this morning with a speech that I have not -the slightest doubt he started to prepare a week after the last election when he looked at the results and saw that his vote at Amberley was down. So he put his speech on the despatch box and read it funning almost as though he was in the Caulfield Cup on Saturday. I congratulate the honourable gentleman at least upon the fact that he contrived to finish his speech. But he roused my sensitive collection of feelings when he asked for leave to ‘ incorporate something in Hansard. I said: ‘I have not seen it’. He said: ‘You have seen it’. I am not in the habit of saying I have not done or seen something when in point of fact J have:
– Can I apologise?
– 1 hope the honourable gentleman will apologise. I have no doubt he could overhear the sob that came from me when he mentioned it. I had not seen the table and I did not wish to be discourteous to the honourable gentleman but 1 think it reasonable in the circumstances before one could agree to anything for one to have seen it. So much for the speech of the honourable member for Oxley. Perhaps I could make one or two other glancing blows in its direction before I leave it. The gravamen of the honourable member’s complaint this morning was that the Government refuses to accept the proposal for a select committee. I thought that was handsomely dealt with by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess). I could think of no more atrocious way of dealing with this problem than to set up a select committee. I invite my honourable friend, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), to reflect upon the fact that the Senate today is hopelessly engaged on committee after committee on a great variety of subjects. There are more select committees in operation today than 1 can remember in my time in this Parliament. Would the honourable gentleman seriously suggest that the wishes of the Senate should be ignored in this matter? 1 would be surprised if that were the point of view of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, if I may make the assumption that a select committee could be set up embracing the whole Parliament then I would say to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that it would be unreal to say to the Senate: ‘You, of course, have no interest in this’. I think it is & pretty practical basis upon which to reject the proposal. What is more, . as the honourable member for La .Trobe pointed out, with a Senate election in the offing it would be impossible to expect candidates for election to attend to this business.
While I am on that point may I advert to the suggestion made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the universities should be consulted in this matter. I do not wish to cast the slightest aspersion upon the universities but 1 would respectfully submit to my honourable friend that universities would not be the best providers of competent people to deal with this matter. It is a matter which involves the Services and if there is Service representation by people who understand the Services 1 think this would be far better than to have someone with a mere academic approach. I do not wish to be offensive or insulting but if we were to have a purely academic approach I do not think the problem would be solved. With stronger force let me say that if we were to have a purely political approach the problem, far from being solved, would be grievously exacerbated. My colleague, the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser), has not attempted to disguise his and the Government’s anxiety as far as the Services are concerned. It is one of the difficulties of our existence to be able to translate into the political arena the realities of Service life, ft has always been the case. Here is an attempt being made by the Government to establish a committee to examine in complete depth - 1 hope that is not a solecism - all the difficulties associated with Service life. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has sought to reproach the Government because - I think he used this phrase - it will be a secret inquiry.
– In camera.
– Well, in camera. I will look at that argument for one moment. Let us take the reverse of that and assume for the purposes of this examination that we were to have a public inquiry. Would the honourable gentleman suggest that witnessed should be paraded, that counsel should be there to assist the inquiry and that it should have all the accoutrement of a judicial inquiry? I have a preference for providing members of the legal profession with activity but it would seem to me to be an inept way of proceeding with this inquiry to give it all the trappings of a judicial inquiry. It is with infinite respect that I say that the man who will preside over this inquiry has one of the best furnished minds in this country.
– I agree.
– -He is a person who has had wide experience in his profession. He is one who commands the utmost respect wherever he has been, he is one who has seen al! walks of life in Australia and one whose personality has been submitted to Service life. These are admirable qualities for anyone who is to preside over such an inquiry. I would not accept for one moment the view that because the inquiry proceeds in camera there will be the slightest suggestion of putting to one side any matter which may embarrass the Government. If the honourable gentleman turns back on the case he sought to make out I think he will be disposed to agree with me that such a suggestion verges on being an affront to the integrity of His Honour Mr Justice Kerr. I would think it quite beyond Mr Justice Kerr for him in any way to say: ‘No, I must not accept this because it may embarrass the Government’. Mr Justice Kerr’s integrity is completely beyond question.
– The Opposition does not suggest it is not.
– I find it difficult, therefore, to accept the honourable gentleman’s view. I will proceed to deal with some of the other points which my friend has made. If we are to have the inquiry open to the public we could well have some person come along with a completely way out view on Service life. We must concede the possibility of that happening. This could be magnified in such a way as to disturb the morale of the Services and to give an impression of Service life which is quite eroneous. Do not say these way out views do not exist. Let me refer to one or two of them. There was an occasion when it was observed for the dubious benefit of the country that the best defence measure we could take would be to ensure we had a railways system of uniform gauge throughout the entire continent. That was a view on defence. Do honourable members know who gave that view? It was not a member of the public; it was the former honourable member for Parkes, Mr Leslie Haylen. I do not say this unkindly, but I thought that was a rather cranky view on defence. That brings me to a further view that was expressed. The honourable gentleman will recall on one occasion in this House - I rarely interject and when I do I try to do so with the utmost courtesy - the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) was making a powerful forward-looking speech and he said that the country was spending £204m on defence. In those days the country was dealing in pounds. I asked, with my customary courtesy: ‘Would you cut it? The House will recall what he said to me. He said that he would cut it and expand his surgery in other directions. That was a rather odd view.
What I put seriously to my honourable friend is that this will be a competent committee. The Minister for Defence has given that assurance. It is readily conceded on all sides that the one who will preside over it, Mr Justice Kerr, is able, highly intelligent and a man of the utmost integrity and of wide and varied experience. Without making any commitment on the publication of the report I suggest that this will be a matter for decision at the appropriate time. I do not think any purpose is served by seeking to pre-empt a decision with respect to it. The. terms of reference of the committee are wide. I do not think this can be gainsaid. Take, for example, the first term of reference, which is:
To inquire into and establish the principles and concepts which should apply in determining the remuneration of officers of the regular armed forces. . . .
I cannot, for my part, see any tether to that. That is a very wide expanse. What is the honourable gentleman’s complaint about that term of reference? Let us go further and I turn at random to another term of reference. It reads:
To review the practical working of the group pay. system applicable to other ranks pay. . . .
It would be no disturbance of the corporate existence of the Government if I said that for my part I think the group pay system is inclined to be over refined. It is a very complex system. I do not . know whether this is a view which may be substantiated or, indeed, refuted by an inquiry in depth. The group pay system never worried me in the Royal Australian Air Force, but it worries the Royal Australian Navy. And . why does it? Because the Navy was not used to it. The honourable gentleman will recall that in about 1947 the Dedman pay committee cut out the marginal differences that existed in the Navy. There was only something of the order of 6d between the remuneration of people of various skills and of various callings in the Navy. That committee cut. that out and set up, in effect, 3 broad bands of groupings within the Navy . lt became clear to the administration that as changes , were taking place in the civil society many people in the Navy were being disadvantaged, so in 1968 the Government made the decision to introduce group pay. I can well understand the sense of vexation that this caused. I have found anomalies as I have gone around ships and establishments. I have, quite deliberately, encouraged people in the Royal Australian Navy to tell me bluntly about their concern. Some of the anomalies I have discovered I readily concede are real and should never have been tolerated, ‘ but in abandoning the old system after so long and introducing a completely new, radical and quite revolutionary system so far as the Navy was concerned, it was inevitable that these problems would be created. I say to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and to my friend, the honourable member for Oxley, that their argument for a select committee is not a well-sustained or merited argument. This will be a competent committee. It will be a committee that will, I have not the slightest doubt, produce first class results.
- Mr Speaker, before the suspension of the sitting we were discussing the appointment of a select committee to–
Motion (by Mr Giles) put:
That the question be now put. The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. Sir William Aston) Ayes . . . . . . 42
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 October 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19701016_reps_27_hor70/>.