27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Humble Petition of citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully sheweth.
Your petitioners request that your honourable HouseQuake legal provision for:
A further undergraduate representative on the Council of the Australian National University. And your petitioners, 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 Australia respectfully sheweth.
That the Australian Education Council’s report on the needs of State education services has established serious deficiencies in education.
That these can be summarised as lack of classroom accommodation, desperate teacher shortage, oversized classes and inadequate teaching aids.
That the additional sum of one thousand million dollars is required over the next five years by the States for these needs.
That without massive additional Federal finance the State school system will disintegrate.
That the provisions of the Handicapped Children’s Act 1970 should be amended to include all the country’s physically and mentally handicapped children.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to:
Ensure that emergency finance from the Commonwealth will be given to the States for their public education services which provide schooling for seventy-eight per cent of Australia’s children.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
MrDAVIES -I present the following petition:
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Division of Braddon respectfully showeth
Thatthey are not gravely concerned that moral standards in the Australian community may be changing, particularly in regard to the community’s willingness to treat adults within it as reasonable and responsible people who are capable of making up their own minds as to what may be perfectly acceptable or unacceptable material in books, magazines, plays, films and television and radio programmes, and particularly when this material depicts life in human society, including language habits and sex habits and gives warning of the dangers of the use of violence and narcotic drugs;
That they in fact welcome this change, having regard for the fact that it demonstrates an increasing tolerance of and respect for the rights of individuals to think their own way through their own lives, free from information-withholding restrictions which people of one religion or one standard of morals may seek to impose on either the majority or minority who do not hold the same views;
That they question the simplistic view that nations ‘perish’ because of a so-called ‘internal moral decay’ unless such ‘decay’ is taken to include an increasing unwillingness to face the facts of life in open discussion and freedom of thought;
That they welcome the statement by the Honourable the Minister for Customs and Excise, Mr Chipp, that the concept of censorship is abhorrent to all men and women who believe in the basic freedoms and that, as a philosophy, it is evil and ought to be condemned -
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Honourable Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will seek to ensure that Commonwealth legislation bearing on films, literature and radio and television programmes is so framed and so administered as to give the maximum freedom to adults to choose what they will watch, read and listen to, even in the face of pressure from those who seek to impose their ideas and morals on others who do not share them.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable” the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of South Australia respectfully showeth:
That due to the higher living cost, persons on Social Service Pensions are finding it extremely difficult to live in even the most frugal way.
We therefore call upon the Commonwealth Government to increase the base pension rate of 30 per cent of the average weekly male earnings for all States, as ascertained by the Commonwealth Statistician, plus supplementary assistance and allowances in accordance with A.C.T.U. policy and adopted as the policy of the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners’ Federation, and by doing so give a reasonably moderate pension.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to bring about the wishes expressed in our Petition so that our citizens receiving the Social Service Pensions may live their lives in dignity.
And your petitioners 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 Petition of the undersigned citizens of South Australia respectfully showeth:
That due to the higher living cost, persons on Social Service Pensions are finding it extremely difficult to live in even the most frugal way.
We therefore call upon the Commonwealth Government to increase the base pension rate of 30 per cent of the average weekly male earnings for ail States, as ascertained by the Commonwealth Statistician, plus supplementary assistance and allowances in accordance with A.C.T.U. policy and adopted as the policy of the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners’ Federation, and by doing so give a reasonably moderate pension.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to bring about the wishes expressed in our Petition so that our citizens receiving the Social Service Pensions may live their lives in dignity.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the interior.Is it a fact that since 1966 Messrs G. Holbrook and A. W. Yelland have been seeking a decision by his Department on their application to lease a small portion of land at the Cotter Reserve to set up a miniature railway? Has his Department been informed that Mr Yelland has constructed for this purpose a working model of a 36-class railway locomotive which, in the opinion of railway engineers, is as near perfect as possible? Has his Department been informed also that Mr Yelland has been offered $6,000 for this locomotive but prefers - in fact, it is his sole wish - to see it operating in Canberra? As Mr Yelland is now 75 years of age and the official replies that he has received have chiefly reiterated the phrase: ‘Your proposal is being examined and I will again write to you at an early date’, will the Minister now take a hand? Does he agree that it is unreasonable to expect Mr Yelland to wait patiently for another 4 years for a decision? If the Minister will accept it, 1 have here a file on this case for him.
– I heard the honourable member for Eden-Monaro mention this matter the other night on his weekly television programme in which he said that he would raise it in the House. Consequently, I have asked my Department for a report on this matter and I hope to be able to give the honourable member some information fairly shortly.
-I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service: Are any industrial strikes current or are any industrial disorders threatened in order to achieve the 35-hour working week in accordance with Mr Hawke’s stated objective with the support of the Australian Labor Party?
– A very great number of demands have been made on various employers for a 35-hour working week. Usually such demands are accompanied by claims for increases in wages or improvements in conditions. There was a strike on Friday last in Victoria by members of the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union - in relation to a claim for a 35-hour working week. I think about 2,500 men were involved. There is no doubt that on the basis of the Labor Party’s platform there will be a continued industrial and political campaign mounted in relation to a 35-hour working week. The Labor Party platform clearly and explicitly states that the Labor Party wants a 35-hour working week. Another item in its platform says that the Parliament should have the power to award conditions by legislation. So the combination of the two would - but for constitutional reasons, I hope - empower a Labor Government to provide a 35-hour working week. It is interesting, of course, that the Leader of the Opposition has not so far proclaimed his attitude on a 35-hour working week.
– Before I direct my question to the Minister for External Affairs, may I commend the comments he has made on the case of the Colombo Plan student who was asked by the South Vietnamese Embassy to spy on his fellow students. I am encouraged to ask him whether he has made the inquiries he promised my deputy he would make into the case of Mr Dzu, the runner-up in the last presidential elections in South Vietnam, who is still in prison, and, if so, whether he has decided that there is any action the Australian Government can take.
– I did make inquiries, as I informed the Deputy Leader of the Opposition I would, and I came to the conclusion, after receiving the advice of my Department, that this was a matter for the internal jurisdiction of the South Vietnamese Government and that consequently we should not intervene.
– The Minister for National Development will recall that recently in this House I addressed a question to him seeking information on the likelihood of an early start on the building of the proposed Dartmouth Dam. The Minister replied that he could not supply the information until after a meeting on the subject that was arranged to be held in Sydney. As I understand that that meeting has now been held, can the Minister supply the information I sought?
– Is there a simple answer that the Minister can give?
– I suppose the simple answer to the question is no, that I cannot provide the information at this point of time. But I would hate to let the answer rest on that. It is correct that there was a meeting on Friday of representatives of the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia and that a number of proposals were brought to the meeting by the Minister from South Australia. Those proposals were considered and discussed at length. It is only today that ( have written to the Ministers concerned enclosing a copy of the notes relating to the meeting. When those notes are received by the States the Ministers will no doubt be discussing the matters with their governments. Two things emerged fairly clearly from this meeting. The first is that there is little change in the stand that South Australia had previously taken. I can say that wilh authority, although the Ministers had agreed not to make any statement on their return to their States and had agreed to a joint communique after the meeting, which was released. But I note that the Premier of South Australia has made some statements and that Mr Corcoran has also had statements attributed to him, although I repeat, it was agreed that statements would not be made. The position is that there is no apparent change in the position of South Australia, and this matter has now to be considered by that State in the light of the discussions last Friday. Emerging from the meeting there is a second point which, as I mentioned, is quite clear. There is agreement between the Commonwealth and the States on the future study of the resources of the River Murray. This includes the Chowilla project, the problem brought up by South Australia. It is to be included in the study of future development of the River Murray waters. This was agreed to by the Commonwealth and the States, as it was agreed to by the previous South Australian Government. This has been reaffirmed.
One of the important things that emerged from this meeting, Mr Speaker, was the question of water quality. Nothing is more important to South Australia than water quality. We recently received the report on salinity. This report was requested by the River Murray Commission. It has now been studied by the Commission and it has been submitted to the Governments concerned. Emerging from the meeting was a request to the Commission to proceed with an urgenty study of the report so that recommendations can be made to the Commonwealth and to the 3 States concerned as to any amendments required to the existing agreement on the River Murray waters. I think this point is of vital importance to South Australia and no doubt the South Australian Government appreciates it. At the same time 1 point out quite clearly that it is South Australia that will gain most from the agreement signed by the previous government of that State, but not ratified by the South Australian Parliament, relating lo the construction of the Dartmouth dam. South Australia each year will gain about an additional 250,000 acre feet of water from the Dartmouth proposal and it is in its best interest to proceed with that project. I wrote today to the Ministers concerned with this matter and 1 expect to receive some correspondence from them shortly. No doubt the Prime Minister in the future will receive correspondence on the project from the Premier of South Australia. The advice at this point of time is that it is in the best interests of South Australia to proceed with the Dartmouth proposal.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral examined the restrictive penalties imposed by the Western Australian Parliament in its legislation on interstate exports of iron ore without its consent? Has he examined the restrictive price structure imposed by Esso-BHP and the Premier of Victoria which has delayed Bass Strait natural gas supplies to New South Wales for several years? Will he in particular examine the extent to which both these restrictions are monopolisation contrary to the Trade Practices Act and in breach of section 92 and other provisions of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act?
– I answer the first part of the question by saying that my attention has been directed to an article and to a letter by a correspondent in today’s Financial Review’. I have given the issues raised in the letter and in the article some cursory examination. I hope the honourable member will not take it amiss if I say that I do not propose, on the basis of a very cursory examination - which is all I have been able to give it so far - to offer any view on what could only be described as complicated legal questions. In answer to the second part of the question which concerns the arrangement between the Victorian Government and Esso-BHP: No, I have not examined that particular agreement. 1 should venture to think that there may be some difficulty in bringing that agreement within the scope of the Trade Practices Act because, as the honourable member probably will be aware, the Act, as 1 recall it, excepts from its operation agreements to which the Crown, in right of the Commonwealth or of a State, may be a party. The other part of the honourable gentleman’s question concerned, I think, the operation of section 92 of the t Constitution in relation to arrangements between the Hamersley company and the Western Australian Government. Again, I have taken note of what has been written in the article but I do not propose to offer any opinion. 1 shall take the matter further into my consideration.
(Mr Whittorn having addressed a quesion t to the Prime Minister) -
-Order! The question is not beyond the competence of the Prime Minister to answer, but it is out of order.
– I address a question to the Minister for Defence. Is the 3rd Battalion, stationed at Woodside, South Australia, the next battalion to be posted to Vietnam? ls Lieutenant-Colonel F. P. Scott the Commanding Officer of the 3rd Battalion? Did Lieutenant-Colonel Scott recently ask all members of the battalion, and national servicemen in particular, whether they were willing to serve in Vietnam? Did between 60 and 80 of the men indicate unwillingness to serve in Vietnam? Have these men been transferred to noncombatant roles in the unit and will not now be going to Vietnam?
– I will .see what information I can gain from the Minister for the Army. Let me say quite clearly that if an officer had asked a battalion whether the men in the battalion wished to serve in the battalion or did not wish to serve in the battalion and then posted them according to their wishes as opposed to posting them according to the training which they had had, their abilities and the requirements of the Service he would be acting, as I am advised by the Chief of the General Staff, contrary to Army policy.
– My question to the Prime Minister is supplementary to the questions asked by the Leader of the Opposition last week in which he attributted the bomb attack on the Yugoslav consulate in Melbourne to terrorist elements from Croatia or from other parts of Yugoslavia. Is the Prime Minister aware that such actions are avowedly not the policy of the Croatian Liberation Movement in Australia? Does he know that the members of that organisation subscribe to peaceful protests in this democratic society and would regard the destruction of buildings as a weak form of terrorism if that were their policy? Will he examine the leading Communist newspapers of Australia to find whether they have, over the past few months, set the stage for such an action as that which occurred in Melbourne?
– I am not aware of the intricacies of this matter to which the honourable member refers but I think that on this whole question - and I would not confine it to one particular organisation which may be out of favour with the Opposition but would relate it to any such organisation or individuals in it - I cannot do better than to paraphrase remarks which I made on this situation some years ago and before I became Prime Minister; those remarks being that we would not wish to see imported into Australia the old, sad feuds of Europe. We wish people to come here from whatever organisation they might have come and to become Australians, and settle any questions they have without resort to violence or, indeed, without resort to seeking to take over the streets.
– Has the Minister for Immigration seen recent suggestions in the Press that some form of home visit insurance should be provided for migrants to cover them against the heavy cost of a return visit to their homelands in cases of emergency? Will the honourable gentleman advise the House whether such a proposal is under consideration by his Department and, in the short term, what action is intended to be taken?
– There is no doubt that one of the major concerns felt by prospective migrants in considering the decision to migrate to Australia is that on settlement here they will be unable to return home in the event of illness or bereavement amongst their relatives in their homelands or in other types of emergencies. 1 am sure that at the present time this is one of the areas of disincentive in relation to migration to Australia. Because of this fact for some months now a home visit insurance scheme of the type mooted by the honourable gentleman has been under consideration by me and by officers of my Department. The scheme al this stage is subject to detailed investigation by the Chief Migration Officer in London who is in consultation in that part of the world with insurance companies concerning the costs and the practicability of implementing such a programme. I can say to the honourable gentleman that 1 see considerable merit in the programme, although its implications have yet to be fully assessed aud, of course, any move towards it would be a matter of Government policy.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I ask: Has a case for the introduction of a 35-hour week been commenced in the arbitration court? Can the Commonwealth assist in the hearing by providing evidence in the national interest and in the long term interest of wage earners generally?
– I know of no claim before the Arbitration Commission for a 35-hour week, although, in answer to an earlier question, 1 referred to a strike last Friday by the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union in Victoria. That was. referred to the Commission under a section 28 notification, but that is not what the honourable gentleman had in mind, 1 think. He had in mind whether or not a formal application had been made by any parties at all. If such an application were made it would need to be considered under section 33 of the Act. The Commonwealth could intervene in the public interest. In intervening in the public interest no doubt the Commonwealth would put arguments along the line that if such a provision were made by the Commission it would have tremendous inflationary pressures; it would have social disadvantages by reallocating savings and income, and therefore the Commission ought to look at it in terms of whether of not it is in the interest of the Australian people, and especially of the work force, to squander takehome pay. That would be the attitude of the Government. I understand that tomorrow night the Leader of the Opposition will be opening Pandora’s Box, and perhaps he will tell us then what his attitude is to a 35-hour week.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. With the renewal of Britain’s application to join the European Economic Community, will the livelihoods of people in the rural sector of Australia be in jeopardy? The Prime Minister will be aware that during the past 6 years since Britain made its first application, farm acreage, particularly in sectors such as dairying, fruit growing and wheat producing, has increased? Is he aware that natural woodlands, even areas of great natural beauty, are still being destroyed with the encouragement of the State governments and the Commonwealth Treasury which allow Pitt Street farmers to purchase farmlands and use such transactions as deductions for income tax purposes? Will he examine the Commonwealth’s attitude to this foolish action and also have a discussion with the States with a view to restricting farm acreage particularly in the areas where there is over and uneconomic production?
– I think the honourable member has asked quite a number of questions in one. One is: Would the Government look at the question of providing taxation concessions to persons who are improving land? That is what it boils down to.
– No, it does not.
– Well, that is denied, but the whole basis of the question was that certain people described as Pitt Street farmers were spending money on altering land for agricultural purposes, that they should not be allowed to do so, and that we should look at the policy we have which is one of giving taxation concessions to people who spend their money on improving the productivity of their land. It may well be - 1 do not know - that some States allow some land to be improved which would better be left in its natural state. As to that I cannot offer an opinion but I can say that the question of looking at taxation concessions for the purpose of improving production in primary industry is one that would need to be looked at very carefully before it was changed. One of the other questions I was asked was whether the livelihood of people engaged in rural industry would be put in jeopardy as a result, if it occurred, of Britain entering the European Economic Community. I think we would all acknowledge that there could be no doubt at all that certain rural industries would be gravely affected should Britain’s bid to enter the EEC be successful. That is well understood.
On the question of dairy produce, the House will remember that this Government some time ago brought in a scheme in order to enable the putting out of production of uneconomic dairy farms and the reconstruction of that industry. That has been a long time coming into implementation because it has been virtually impossible until now to get State governments to agree. The State governments have the constitutional authority in this area. However, I believe that now all States but one have agreed and this can go ahead. All that I can add to what I have said is that this Government is fully aware of the grievous state in which people engaged in rural industry now find themselves. Much has been done to assist them but a great deal more in the way of helping in rural reconstruction and in the way of examining finances needs to be done in order to help them. But whatever we may do in that direction would come to nothing if the people engaged in these rural industries were to have an additional intolerable cost burden imposed on them as a result of a 35-hour week.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to further reported attacks upon him yesterday by the Premier of South Australia. The Premier of South Australia stated that the moment he arrived in Canberra the Prime Minister said to him: ‘You can ratify the agreement to build the Dartmouth Dam or you will get nothing’. He also claimed that similar instructions were given not only to the Federal Minister concerned but also to the State Ministers who attended last Friday’s conference. This is an interesting new development in CommonwealthState relationships.
– I rise to order. Is the honourable member now giving information instead of seeking it?
– There is no substance in the point of order. This is the normal type of question that may be asked in relation to any public affair or anything in relation to which a Minister may have the responsibility of administration. It is a matter for the Prime Minister to answer.
– The Premier of South Australia also alleged yesterday that it took 4 months for the Prime Minister to reply to him on the question of the standard gauge railway line between Adelaide and Port Augusta. In view of this and previous irresponsible behaviour by the South Australian Premier I ask the Prime Minister whether further negotiations should be deferred in the interests of South Australia until there is a more sensible person in office in that State,
– I rise to order. Mr Speaker, I address your attention to question No. 1870 which has been on the notice paper, not for 4 months awaiting a reply, as a letter to the Prime Minister might have to wait for a reply, but since 23rd September. It is clear from reading that question that any information sought on railway standardisation or the River Murray Waters Agreement can be given in an answer to that question. You will notice, Mr Speaker, that both matters which the honourable member raised in his question are covered by this question which has been awaiting a reply for the last 5 weeks.
-Order! I can appreciate the fact that there is some similarity between what has been asked and the question on the notice paper but the question asked by the honourable member for Boothby went far beyond the matters that are raised in the question on notice. Therefore I would say that the question asked by the honourable member for Boothby would be in order.
– I raise a point of order - in regard to the standing order which states that personal reflections shall not be made against an individual. The honourable member for Boothby made a personal reflection upon the Premier of South Australia and I ask that statement be withdrawn.
-I think that the honourable member for Boothby did not reflect upon the conduct or character of the Premier of South Australia but made an assertion in relation to an opinion that he himself held.
– I have not seen the attack to which the honourable member refers, but we must remember that Mr Dunstan, the Premier of South Australia, has caused considerable delay on the start of a project which could greatly increase the water supply to South Australia and be of great benefit to that State. We must remember that he took it upon himself to defeat in the South Australian Parliament a Bill embodying the agreement which would have enabled Dartmouth to go ahead, that agreement having been ratified by this Parliament, by the Parliament of New South Wales and by the Parliament of Victoria.
– The then Premier was defeated on this issue.
– Yes. That agreement having been ratified by this Parliament, by the Parliament of New South Wales and by the Parliament of Victoria and being of great advantage to South Australia in that it gave an extra 250,000 acre feet a year, was defeated by the present Premier of South Australia. That is merely a matter of history. Therefore we must also remember that he asked for a conference on this matter with the representatives of the other States and of this Government and, that conference having been held, he was unable to bulldoze the other States into agreeing with what he wanted. I can only hope that he will not persist in this obstinate course of action and that we will be able to go ahead with a project which will be of great benefit to 3 States including, particularly, South Australia.
I do not remember whether when Mr Dunstan initially came to Canberra 1 suggested to him that he would need to sign the agreement which had already been agreed to by all the other States or he would be unlikely to get anything at all, but if I did say that I was warning him of what the situation was and what the situation has turned out to be. In relation to the other matter he raises! - apparently the question of rail standardisation and the alleged long delay in answering his initial letter I can only say this: Certainly in lune the Premier wrote to me expressing unhappiness with an agreement on this matter which had been reached with the previous government after Maunsell and Partners had made an investigation of the matter on a brief agreed to by the Commonwealth Government and the Government of South Australia. 1 cannot say on what date he wrote his letter or posted it because he sent it off without a date on it. But we got it on 12th June and it was acknowledged on 29th June. Following that, and bearing in mind that this complicated matter of rail standardisation had been the subject of a report by Maunsell and Partners and had been the subject of interdepartmental consideration, and consideration and discussion with South Australia, a suggestion that the whole thing should be changed into something else obviously required considerable discussion with the Treasury and with the Department of Shipping and Transport before any final reply could be made. I am surprised at this outburst from the Premier-
– Did you sign the acknowledgement?
– Of course I signed the acknowledgment. Do you not like this story being unfolded? Are you trying to stop it? I have just pointed out the lack of basis for this outburst on behalf of the State Premier. I am surprised that it should have happened, because when he was up here for the Premiers Conference he came to speak to me and he advanced in a reasonable way his worries concerning the report put in by Maunsell and Partners, his worries concerning the efficiency of that scheme as opposed to a scheme suggested by the South Australian Railways Commissioner, his worries about various economies and his willingness to pick up any extra moneys involved himself, and after a very amicable conversation al that time we said: ‘Right, we will have a look at this again.’ He has been written to and told that it would be examined to se whether the views he put forward were reasonable or right, but it appears, just as in the case of delaying the water supply to South Australia aud trying to blame someone else, he is trying to make unjustified political capital out of a case where we are trying to meet him and where so far nothing more has happened.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, ls he aware that the Australian and New Zealand Eastern Shipping Conference charges $16 per ton to carry cement to New Guinea from Australia but only $7.14 to carry it the greater distance to New Guinea from Japan? Has the effect of this discriminatory rate been to exclude Australian manufacturers from the New Guinea market where Japanese manufacturers now sell up to 7,000 tons of cement a month? Was its imposition supported by the conference representatives of the Australian National Line? What steps has he taken to see that Australian exporters are not frozen out of New Guinea by the Japanese conference majority?
– I am not sure of the specific circumstances in which freight is levied between Japan and New Guinea or between Australia and New Guinea. Nor am 1 aware of the posture taken - if it was taken - by the Australian National Line within the conference, if the matter was raised. But I am aware that generally in the trade between Japan and New Guinea, because of the lower cost of operating vessels under the Japanese articles and because of the general circumstances of a lower salary scale and other factors, opportunities go to Japanese exporters which regrettably are not always available to Australian exporters. In Australia there are, of course, very high labour costs and very high maritime costs associated with the operation of the vessels and their handling in port. It is for this very reason that the Government is concerned that new types of cargo handling should be introduced as soon as possible. lt might be of interest for the Leader of the Opposition to know that, for example, the ‘Melbourne Express’ last week handled some 1,450 containers in 72 hours while she was in port in Melbourne; in other words, approximately 500 containers per day, representing some 22,500 tons of cargo per day. By way of comparison, conventional ships would have taken about 3 weeks to handle, the same tonnage - and many vessels would have been needed to handle the same volume of tonnage. It is true that as a result of new forms of shipping it is possible to contain freight charges and to contain the effect generally of the higher salary scales and higher operational costs for Australian shipping. T shall investigate the circumstances in regard to the cartage of cement to New Guinea. However. T might point out that it was for the very reason that costs were so much higher that bulk handling facilities have been installed, for example, at Darwin. Similarly, bulk handling facilities have been installed in Tasmania so that freight can be shipped competitively by Australian shippers.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. I have received a number of complaints about the reception from regional radio station 2TR in areas a little outside Taree. T ask: Are investigations being carried out with a view to increasing the power of this regional station? ff investigations are being carried out can the Postmaster-General inform me what stage they have reached?
– It would be necessary for me to refer to files of my Department or to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to give the honourable member an answer. I am afraid that it is not possible for me to keep in my mind the power of every television and broadcasting station around Australian and what requests may have been made in relation to these stations.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. Has his attention been drawn to the financial plight facing both church related and voluntary agencies that are providing nursing homes for the care of the frail and aged pensioners, particularly in South Australia? Is the Prime Minister aware that these organisations have incurred substantial deficits, particularly since 1st September last, which could cripple them financially unless they receive immediate Commonwealth assistance? Will the Prime Minister clearly state whether it is the intention of his Government to extend the national health scheme to this area of need in order to overcome the crushing financial burden of these organisations, and if so, will he assure honourable members that Commonwealth financial assistance will be made retrospective to 1st September this year?
– I think the question referred to voluntary organisations and church run organisations which were conducting nursing homes for the aged. My attention had not been drawn to the plight in which it is said they find themselves. Indeed, I had thought that this Government’s action in increasing the payments for people in such homes who needed heavy attention from S2 to S5 a day had been of considerable assistance to such non-profit making homes. All I can say is this: We have, of course, in the field of health done a number of highly beneficial things. We have put an end to the fear of people who had to stay in hospital for a long period of time and whose insurance ran out before that time was completed. We have, if I may say so, brought in a health scheme infinitely better than the one which was put forward by the Opposition and which does much more for the people of this country. It is our objective to continue to provide such benefits and one of those objectives we must have must be to try to remove the fear of long continued illnesses in nursing homes and this we have in our minds, as I have stated previously.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr Speaker.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I have been misrepresented by a statement made by the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) which was published in several newspapers.
– I would point out to the House that when an honourable member claims to have been misrepresented the correct course for him to follow is to see the Chair before he makes his personal explanation, unless he wishes to make a personal explanation during a debate, in which case it is made at the first opportune time.
– Well, I have one of those.
– I have already called the honourable member for Mitchell.
– The honourable member for Lalor stated in a Press statement that I gave support to the Croatian Brotherhood. I have no knowledge of such an organisation. I have had many wonderful associations with Dalmatians, Macedonians, Serbians, Montenegrins and Croatians. They are all wonderful, loyal, good Australians who are not associated with any extreme association, and they all vote for me.
– Mr Speaker-
-Does the Leader of the Opposition claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I claim that the honourable member for Denison (Dr Solomon) misrepresented me in a question which he asked the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and in which he attributed to me a certain expression of opinion about Croatian terrorism. I will quote from Hansard what I said on this matter last Thursday. In a question to the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) I referred to ‘another bomb outrage against the Yugoslav Consulate, this time in Melbourne, presumably inspired or carried out by extremists or terrorist elements from Croatia or from other parts of Yugoslavia.’ 1 went on to say:
I quote this description of the assailants from last year’s report of the Department of External Affairs . . .
-I present the following paper:
Audit Aci - Supplementary report of the AuditorGeneral upon other accounts for year 1969-70.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– Pursuant to section 314 of the Bankruptcy Act 1966-1969 I present the third annual report on the operation of the Act for the year ended 30th June 1970.
– Pursuant to clause 8 of the Sugar Agreement 1969, I present the report on the operation of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee for the period ended 30th June 1970, together with the Committee’s financial statement and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 84 of the Wool Industry Act 1962-1967 I present the annual report of the Australian Wool Board for the year ended 30th June 1970, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements. An interim report of the Board was presented to the House on 27th August 1970.
– Pursuant to section 29 of the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929-1966 I present the forty-second annual report of the Australian Wine Board for the year ended 30th June 1970.
– Pursuant to section 36 of the Canned Fruits Export Marketing Act 1963-1968. I present the forty-fourth annual report of the Australian Canned
Fruits Board for the year ended 3 1st December 1969, together with financial statements and the report of the AuditorGeneral on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 44 of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Act 1961-1966 I present the ninth annual report of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission for the year ended 30th June 1970, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate:
Without amendment -
Fisheries Bill 1970.
Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Bill 1970
Without requests -
Income Tax Bill 1970.
Income Tax (Partnerships and Trusts) Bill 1970.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Diesel Fuel Tax Bill (No. 1) 1970.
Diesel Fuel Tax Bill (No. 2) 1970.
Excise Tariff Bill 1970.
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1970.
States Grants (Mental Health Institutions) Bill 1970.
Sheltered Employment (Assistance) Bill 1970.
Wireless Telegraphy Regulations Bill 1970.
Agricultural Tractors Bounty Bill 1970.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to protect the Australian consumer and export industries from rapidly increasing prices and to apply and extend the Trade Practices Act.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
- Mr Speaker, the failure of the Federal Government’s monetary and fiscal policies to halt the insidious increase in costs and prices throughout the nation demands that the Government be given constitutional powers to intervene directly in Australian industry for the regulation of prices of basic industrial commodities such as steel, aluminium, oil, petrol and chemicals. The Trade Practices Act has been useful in exposing some of the nefarious practices being followed by Australian industry. But this Act has been completely ineffective in achieving its objective of ‘preserving competition in trade and commerce to the extent required by the public interest’. The Commonwealth has no direct powersof price control under the Constitution. But the man in the street and the man in the farming community throughout Australia are fed up with the ceaseless caning they have taken from the cost price spiral. If the Commonwealth went to the people via a referendum, to obtain the right to intervene in the pricing structure of Australian industry for the good of the nation, I believe it would receive an overwhelming vote of approval.
The economic and political climate is vastly different now from what it was in the immediate post war years when the public rejected the Commonwealth’s request for price control powers. Labor does not see Commonwealth power to control and regulate the price structure in industry as being the control of every conceivable commodity price. This would be intolerable and is unnecessary. Rather the Commonwealth should have the power to intervene, when necessary, in those major basic industries, which exert a profound influence on the price level of the economy, such as steel, aluminium, oil, petrol and chemicals. These are the major price prime movers in the economy. These are the areas in which the Commonwealth should take an active and regulatory interest. It is axiomatic that stability in the level of prices means stability in the level of wages. The Commonwealth’s role should be to veto any significant increase in the prices of basic commodities, if it believes those increases are not justified. Justification for the price increases of these basic commodities should then be proven or otherwise, before a public tribunal. At the same time the farce surrounding the weakness of the Trade Practices Act should be ended. This Act must be given teeth so as the highly objectionable practices of non-competition and colusive tendering, blatantly followed by major sectors of industry, can be publicly exposed and prosecuted.
The present Liberal-Country Party Government throughout its 21 years of power has been opposed to any form of price regulation. It must be patently clear to everyone that the Government’s ‘hands-off and so called domestic free-enterprise policies have been a monumental failure in stabilising prices and wages in Australia. Monopolistic and collusive practices have been allowed to intensify at an alarming rate. Restrictive and exploitative trade practices have reaped exorbitant profits for companies enjoying high tariff protection Price fixing agreements, with the objective of banning price competition, now dominate a major section of Australian industry. As a result of the Government’s refusal to take positive action to hak the serious injustices which are being perpetrated on a helpless buying public, the consumers, comprising mainly wage and salary earners, farmers and small business complexes are fighting a continuous uphill battle. Those on fixed pensions, of course, are in a hopeless position. Their very existence depends on charitable handouts at Budget or election time and their standards of living are forever lagging behind price increases.
The virtually uncontrolled increases in prices in Australia have had a serious effect on the export rural industries, which are still the major source of export income for the nation. These industries are living on borrowed time unless effective action is taken to restore and maintain their previous real income standards. The cost-price squeeze is constantly forcing the smaller traditional farmers out of the industry. The recent fall in wool prices clearly shows that wool industry, under continuous pressure of rising costs, is in no position to withstand the shock of a serious fall in wool prices. National chaos and despair reign throughout the wool industry, which provides 25 per cent of Australia’s net export earnings. Many manufacturing industries which are trying to break into the export market now are finding their efforts continually sabotaged by increased production, marketing and shipping costs. Competition between wages and prices is a running battle to maintain the economic survival of many of our rural industries, lt has all the earmarks of a vicious struggle in the future, with the wage earner and farmer desperately trying to survive the cancerous erosion of their living standards by accelerating cost increases.
The domestic mechanism controlling the economy is seriously out of balance. Until a measure of stability is achieved by applying the brakes to all major inflationary forces, the self generating processes of price and wage increases will continue as the core of inflationary costs. In 1949 Sir Robert Menzies promised the Australian public that the Liberal-Country Party Government would put value back into the £1. Let as examine its record of achievement. Since 1950 the general consumer price index has increased by 60 per cent, which is the average increase in the capital cities. The relevant increase in provincial cities and country towns is much higher.
The farm sector, traditionally the hardest hit by rising costs and inflation, has taken an unmerciful battering. Since 1950 farm production and marketing costs in Australia have risen by an average of 170 per cent. The serious gap between farm costs and prices received by farmers has been overcome to some degree by increased farm productivity. But every rural export industry in Australia is walking an economic tightrope which is being progressively weakened by the stranglehold exerted by the tightening cost-price squeeze. Married people trying to buy a home in the cities or the country and to rear a family are the cruel victims of the Government’s apathy regarding uncontrolled price increases. A most serious increase has occurred in the housing field. Since 1950 housing costs have increased by 105 per cent. Interest charges and land prices have been major determinants of this increase. The Government must accept a major share of the responsibility for the increase in housing costs. Traditional monetary policy of raising interest rates to slacken aggregate Australian demand has had an adverse effect on the cost of housing, which is subjected to continuous demand pressures from population growth spurred along by migration programmes. High interest rates, for example, are imposing crippling burdens on young Australians who are struggling to own a home and to purchase essential household goods. At a 7 per cent interest rate and a 25-year repayment period, interest payments as a percentage of total capital costs exceed 55 per cent. Australia should follow the established practice in the United States of America and the United Kingdom of allowing interest costs paid by house buyers as a full income tax deduction.
Food prices are closely . correlated with wage and general price levels. Since 1950 food prices have increased by 56 per cent. Only an estimated 7 per cent of this increase has been due to subsidies to farmers. Almost all food price increases have been the direct result of the uncontrolled inflation spiral of the forces of supply and demand. The root of the pricing problem in Australia, which is vividly brought out in the annual report of the Trade Practices Act. is the breakdown of genuine price competition between those industries which exert a profound influence on the general level of economic activity in Australia. Not only is there a firm reluctance among important sectors of industry to engage in price competition, but the Australian market is riddled with collusion and collective price agreements mostly designed to benefit the manufacturers at the expense of the consumer. This is particularly so with homogeneous products such as steel, chemicals and petrol.
In such circumstances the Commonwealth must reinforce its monetary and fiscal policies and powers with the right of direct intervention in the commodity pricing structure of industry in Australia. If the Government wishes to tackle this problem it must strengthen the Trade Practices Act and negotiate for effective complementary legislation in the States. The ability of industry to reach common agreements on price and to ban price competition throughout Australia is one of the worst features of the monopolistic practices employed in this country. In such circumstances firms devote most of their competitive effort to securing a large share of the market or as large a share of the market as possible within the common price agreement. An example of the wasteful capital expenditure incurred in many industries is the multitude of petrol stations in some areas. This is evidence of a wasteful use of fixed capital. Uncontrolled and violent price wars may not be desirable in the interests of stability but healthy price competition has always been regarded as one of the best methods to achieve efficiency both in industry and in the use of the nation’s resources. There is little doubt that high tariff protection for some industries is having a marked effect on price levels. Evidence presented in the annual reports of the Tariff Board and on the Trade Practices Act clearly reveals the compelling need for a thorough overhaul of the tariff in Australia.
Of great concern to the Government should be the intolerable position of the major export rural industries, particularly those which are mainly unprotected. Official figures of the relationship of aggregate farm income to farm costs in Australia reveal the seriousness of the increase in prices. It is true that in the last 15 years substantial increases in productivity on farms have occurred. This is reflected in the increase of the gross value of rural production by around 50 per cent during this period despite the fact that the overall average of farm commodity prices has remained static.
This is a magnificent achievement. On the other hand, total farm costs have increased in this period by over 100 per cent. Taking into account gross costs and gross income the aggregate value of net farm income of the rural sector in this period has not increased. Thus in real terms the financial position of the rural sector has deteriorated. This decline has now reached serious proportions as the rate of increase in farm costs has greatly accelerated at the expense of rural commodity prices. Evidence presented in the last Federal Budget shows that over the national financial scene the rural sector is economically sick.
The Government has made much play of the 35-hour week. Let me put this in perspective in terms of costs. Official figures of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics indicate that in the rural sector wages account for approximately 21 per cent of total costs. To decrease the number of hours worked from 40 to 35 would mean a one-eighth or 2.6 per cent increase a total farm cost would occur; or an increase of 2.5c per bushel in the price of wheat. If the Government took more note of interest rates, shipping rates and things like that which are increasing the cost of production in the rural sector of the economy it would do a far better job. The most important thing that this Government can do is to declare its policy on the present inflationary spiral and take positive action in the field of trade practices to reduce costs in Australia. It has power under the tariff regulations and it should have power under the Trade Practices Act. If it adopted that course of action the farmers of Australia would get a fair go and would not be subjected to the disadvantages of the present iniquitous system that this Government has implemented.
– The matter of public importance that we are discussing today is one in which I think everyone would be interested. No doubt there is concern about the increasing costs which confront our exporting industries particularly, and also the increasing prices being charged consumers in Australia. It was a most interesting exercise to listen to the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) leading for the Australian Labor Party. He came into the House with a prepared rather pedantic speech. In fact its language was so unfamiliar to him that I doubt whether he prepared it. The Government received notification - at least I did - about half an hour before question time that this debate was coming on.
The honourable member adopted a rather academic attitude to the question of inflation and how it should be tackled or managed. The crux of the question is this: How would the Labor Party manage the economy and the inflationary problem confronting this nation compared with the Government’s record in that regard and its general approach to the problem of increasing costs? The honourable member leading for the Australian Labor Party ignored how his Party would approach the problem in practical terms but he suggested a somewhat theoretical approach of controlling wages and prices. While admitting that the Commonwealth had no power in that field he suggested that we should have a national referendum designed to take that power from the
States and to confer it on the Commonwealth. Even if that were a possibility, is that the right approach to inflation? Let him tell me of one non-totalitarian country in the world which has succeeded in controlling inflation by controlling wages and prices. All that does is to foster and encourage illegal methods of trading, black marketing, under the counter prices and shortages of goods throughout the economy. Of course the honourable member made no mention of the disastrous and crippling effects of the Labor Party’s policy of allowing unbridled demands for increases in wages; supporting and, in some cases encouraging, industrial lawlessness; and supporting the imposition of a 35-hour working week on this nation. That alone would have an almost crucifying effect on our rural industries.
This Government has been very conscious of increasing costs and has managed the economy over the past 20 years in a way that is equalled by very few countries in the world. In fact the only country amongst the developed nations of the free world which has had a lower increase in inflation than has Australia is West Germany. Australia has had a magnificent record but over the last decade costs and prices have tended to go up because of increasing wage demands and the very high levels of employment that have been maintained. Let us imagine a Labor government in office. Let us imagine a Labor government fulfilling all of its extravagant promises - promises which would involve greatly increased Government expenditure - promises which could not do other than increase the inflationary pressures in our economy.
– Tell us a few of them.
– The honourable gentleman has asked me to tell him a few of the Labor Party’s promises. You name it, tha Labor Party has promised it. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has been going around the countryside promising regional development centres, promising to provide urban areas with better water and sewerage facilities, promising improved social service benefits and increased pensions. You name it, the Labor Party has promised it. There is no limit to what the Leader of the Opposition says can be given because he claims that there is no difficulty in giving it. If you seek to provide additional moneys for Government expenditure they have to be obtained either by increasing taxes - we never hear the Labor Party mention increased taxes - or by deficit financing which is the creation of money. Nothing is more inflationary than that. During the past year the Government has tried deliberately to reduce inflationary pressures within the economy. Through the operations of the Reserve Bank liquidity has been kept at a fairly low level although interest rates have been higher than one would wish them to be.
One must recognise that the Government’s ultimate objective is for this country to remain economically secure and to keep inflation at as low a level as is possible. The main thrust of the recent Budget was directed towards curbing the inflationary pressures within the economy. It had within it a very high domestic surplus which has a tendency to withdraw money from the economy. The Government adopted that policy because it is conscious of the serious effects of a high domestic surplus on our exporting industries, particularly the rural industries which are suffering the effects of declining world prices as well as increasing local costs. If any primary producer thinks that under another government his circumstances could not be worse than they are today let me say to him: Do not kid yourself too much. If the Labor Party comes into power and pushes ahead with its plan for a 35-hour working week it will be disastrous for you.
It is pitiful to hear the honourable member for Dawson, who represents a rural electorate in the central area of Queensland in which there are cane growers and beef and dairy producers, say in this House that the 35-hour working week will have little effect on them. Let him go back into his electorate and justify that statement. Let him go back and talk to primary producers about increasing local government rates. What would happen to local government rates if a 35-hour working week were introduced? They would jump immediately by 10 per cent, 12 per cent or even 15 per cent. What about charges for electricity? What about water charges and charges for all the other service industries in country areas which have no capacity to absorb wage increases through increased productivity? How does a local government clerk increase his productivity? A shorter working week would be an additional impost on the ratepayers. I think all of us in rural areas are absolutely fearful of the consequences. 1 do not know how a member such as the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) can sit there idly supporting a 35-hour working week when the wool growers in his area must know the disastrous effect of this sort of policy. We have been given notice by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions that next year, after the Senate elections, will be the year of 35-hour working week and that the ACTU will try to bring it in by industrial trouble. There will be a series of running strikes across the country. No doubt the ACTU will be supported by the Labor Party, because it is in the Labor Party’s platform that people should have a 35-hour working week.
If there is one thing that is of concern to the people of this nation it is increasing costs, whether they be for food, rent or clothing. The housewife, the farmer and the businessman are all desperately worried about how they will keep pace with this situation. Nothing can accelerate it more than the policies of the Labor Party, which makes extravagant, wild promises without any consideration of their economic consequences. As I said, it does not matter what is mentioned, the Labor Party will promise it, and if the promise is not big enough it will make a bigger one still. Policies directed towards a shorter working week without a corresponding increase in productivity - and there are so many industries in which it is impossible to have increased productivity - will only produce severer effects on the consumers. The honourable member included consumers in his remarks. He said that consumer costs are going up. Is he arguing against the food producers charging higher prices? If their wages bill and transport costs are going up, do they not have a right to ask the consumers for a higher price? I have heard the honourable member for Dawson oppose in this House a move for increases in the price of wheat in Australia.
– That was a long time ago.
– You have done it.
– You opposed $1.71 a bushel as the domestic price and said that it should be $1.50. I suppose that if you follow that, you will oppose an increase in the price of sugar.
– The honourable member is saying that he does not oppose an increase in the price of sugar. Should there be an increase in the price of sugar?
– Right. He does not mind an increase in the price of sugar. It just shows how parochial he is. 1 wonder whether the rest of his Party supports that. Does he believe that there should be an increase in the price of butter in Australia?
– I raise a point of order, ls it not contrary to the Standing Orders for the Minister to direct his remarks directly to the honourable member for Dawson? Should he not direct his remarks to the Chair?
– I suggest that the honourable member for Bendigo should listen to some of the speeches that are made in this House that he evidently does not listen to. He would then know that on occasions some honourable members do noi address another honourable member through the Chair. But the point of order is valid.
– I have been endeavouring to make the point that there is a vast difference between the approach of the Labor Party and the record of this Government in the management of the economy and inflation. To allow the Labor Party to employ its policies would be absolutely disastrous, not just to the primary producer but to the housewife who has to make the pay packet go as far as possible. To talk in terms of controlling costs and prices is no answer. It is much more basic than that. This country has a record in controlling inflation better than that of almost any other country. That stands on itself. There are problems, of course, when we have full employment, when we have a growth rate as great as ours, when we have so many new factories and new houses and when we have a standard of living that is now unmatched by almost any other country in the world. Of course there are some inflationary effects, but I believe our record is one of which we can be proud and that the people can place more confidence in our ability to manage the serious effects of increasing costs than they could place in the ability of a Labor Government.
– The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) less than 4 weeks ago in this House attacked the Labor Opposition for daring to favour cheap food. It is a matter that will not be forgotten by workers and pensioners on Senate voting day. Wages, the price of human labour, are the only commodity under universal price control in the Commonwealth today. Wages are lagging further behind than ever in the race with prices, and a Labor Government will give them a chance to catch up. In his recently tabled third annual report, the Commissioner of Trade Practices, Mr Bannerman, stated:
The depression of the 1930s, and wartime price control, led to many of the price-fixing agreements still current and to the pre-disposition of many businessmen to agree on prices with their competitors. Common criticisms of price control by governments are that it constitutes undue interference with business freedom, and tends to produce uniformity and to damp down competition. These may be valid criticisms, if the comparison is between government price control and competition. Often, however, il is not competition, but industry agreement on prices, thai has replaced Government price control, which was at least known to the public.
Australia today is the last frontier ot uninhibited monopoly and concerted price control by companies to the detriment of the Australian consumer, primary producer and pensioner. Just about every restrictive economic practice known to man is used in Australia. These restrictive practices and their associated agreements are accepted in this country as ‘orderly marketing’. The economist for the Australian Mutual Provident Society, Dr Bell, has stated that the intensity of industrialised concentration in Australia is generally accepted as perhaps the highest in the world. Our economy is dominated by some 200 companies including 40 giants. Of these giants 40 per cent are owned or substantially controlled by overseas interests.
The current Trade Practices Act is a ruthlessly emasculated version of the original reformist Barwick proposals. Its Register of Trade Agreements at least reveals the existence of 12,649 examinable restrictive agreements and 1,465 trade associations responsible for their formulation and enforcement The Commissioner of Trade Practices in his report states that the most common restriction in these agreements is on price competition, and that typically they are directed to ensure profitability to companies already in an industry and not to the efficiency of the industry itself. Australian business today prefers to see free enterprise in terms of cartel control of production and distribution rather than the harsh discipline of the competitive market place. To it free enterprise represents the freedom to organise the competition out of enterprise - to keep the ‘ins’ in and the ‘outs’ out.
In 3 years operation the Commissioner has settled by consultation with the parties a whole 17 of these 12,000 restrictive agreements. One solitary case has been heard by the Trade Practices Tribunal. In frustration the Commissioner has said the processes of the Act will take years to deal with the agreements and practices that require attention; perhaps generations would be nearer to the mark. The Act was launched with unheeded pleas for State mirror legislation, and is of doubtful constitutional validity in many parts. Although it has survived one minor attack in the Tasmanian Breweries Pty Ltd case, its applicability to intrastate trade will depend on the ability of the Chief Justice to convince the majority of his colleagues in the High Court that it has regulatory rather than prohibitory operation under the principles stated in Hughes and Vale Pty Ltd v. the State of New South Wales.
The Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) has screwed up his courage, according to Press reports, to actually launch a test prosecution of the national concrete pipe cartel. Should the constitutional validity of the Act be upheld, in whole or part, and the confusion of the old Huddart Parker v. Moorehead and Coal-Vend judgments be dispelled, what will emerge still will be a ludicrously inadequate watchdog without relevance to the overriding need for national price control. The Act is notoriously weaker than the Australian Industries Preservation Act which it replaced. Paradoxically, that portion of the Trade Practices Act of undoubted constitutional validity relates to the overseas shipping conferences and their agreements with
Australian exporters. Its woolly effective machinery has been deliberately ignored by a Government embarrassed by participation in the overseas container consortium as revealed in last week’s debate in this House. Australian primary producers and manufacturers can be assured that they will continue to pay the highest freight rates, based on the guarantee of profitability to the least efficient shipping line, in the over-tonnaged shipping consortium. Wool growers will pay the highest freight rates at a period of lowest prices for transportation in containers unnecessary for their product.
We clearly have in Australia a unique situation of universal negative price control by manufacturers and producers to the detriment of consumers, allegedly policed by the wretchedly imperfect Act of a reluctant Government, with secret processes of investigation, faced with the hopeless task of unlimited years of inquiry on an ever increasing register of price restrictive agreements. The Trade Practices Act provides more escape hatches for racketeers than the runways in a rat’s castle. It controls neither company mergers nor horizontal price maintenance, nor refusal to deal. Its definition of ‘monopoly* is designedly loose and imperfect, and its provisions on collusive bidding and tendering are fundamentally defective. The alternative is obviously the Gordian solution of positive price control for the benefit of the consumer by direct and positive investigation and proclamation. The most urgent field is in respect of basic commodities such as food, clothing and footwear.
We have heard much recently of the politics of the street’. More will be heard in the very near future of the ‘politics of the consumers’ purse’ in what could be a supermarket election. The ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ last Wednesday reported a Tamworth farmer’s complaint that his colleagues were receiving 22c per lb for pork which was being retailed at 80c to 90c, and that potatoes were being sold at a 400 per cent mark up. He logically demanded to know who was receiving the difference. Positive consumer price control will provide for economic justice to housewive, pensioner and primary producer alike. The people of Australia are justifiably cynical at the ruthless profiteering, and the Government’s calculated obstinacy in refusing to control it. In Sydney recently Woolworth’s General Manager warned manufacturers and producers that it would not accept unjustified price increases. He said:
One manufacturer put all his prices up by 40 per cent across the board. We simply do not believe that there is any justification for the amount of the increase, or foi the areas in which the increases have occurred.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions has persistently demanded price control. The various State Labor councils and the Australian Public Service Federation have asked Federal and State Governments to bring in price control for all goods. The President of the ACTU has said that manufacturers should have to justify their particular rises before a public tribunal instead of fixing them in the privacy of board rooms. A real Trade Practices Act would place on parties to trade agreements, particularly those relating to price control, the onus of proving to a monopolies commission that their activities were not contrary to the public interest, and suspend operation of such agreements until approved. The well tested principles of the United States legislation would be introduced by a Labor Government into this Commonwealth. Surely the Trade Practices Act under a Liberal Government should operate to make free enterprise mean something through the endless prodding of competitive pressure.
In the coming Senate election campaign the question of price control will be one of major importance. Section 128 of the Commonwealth Constitution provides machinery under which either the Senate or the House of Representatives, despite the opposition of the other House, may submit any question to the people of Australia, for their consideration. A Labor controlled Senate will present such a question on price control to the Australian people and the result will be overwhelmingly in its favour.
– The honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) spoke of the Trade Practices Act with a lack of understanding of its purpose, its thrust and the success that it has achieved. The major purpose of the Act at the time it was introduced was to provide means of examining those users of domi nant economic power or of collective arrangements. It was known then that there would be a period of time before it would be possible for the Act to have its full impact. This is in the process now. The constitutional power that the Commonwealth possesses in relation to this matter is now being tested. The one thing that the honourable member did not mention but which must be made abundantly clear, from personal experience and from the reports of the Commissioner of Trade Practices, is that the Act already has achieved the result of seeing the end of a great number of collective price fixing arrangements. This would not have happened without that Act. It has been effective and as time goes on I am sure it will be more effective.
We are speaking about a curious topic. lt is as though the Opposition asked all of its members to submit a topic, then mixed them together and pulled out three. Out came rural affairs, inflationary pressures and the Trade Practices Act. There has been a rather weak effort to pull them together in one debate but quite clearly the debate has been disjointed. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) talked about a wide range of things unconnected with the subject dealt with by the honourable member for Cunningham. No doubt what was said by those 2 speakers will be unconnected with what the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) has yet to say. It will be interesting to see how the Opposition puts these 3 things together.
As has been said frequently in recent times we in Australia are facing inflationary pressures and the Government has the responsibility of dealing with them. The Government is dealing with them and dealing with them very effectively. Let me remind the House that over the last 4 years average weekly earnings in Australia have increased by 7 per cent annually while in the same period prices have increased by 3 per cent per annum. The net result of this therefore must be that our standard of living has been increasing at a rate of 4 per cent a year over the last 4 years.
In bringing up this matter as one of public importance and an issue of urgency at the moment the Opposition quite clearly has illustrated that it has not looked at the figures or. if it has, that it does not understand them. In the first 6 months of this year prices were increasing at an annual rate of 41 per cent. In one quarter the increase in prices was such that it represented an annual rate of increase of over 5 per cent. But quite clearly members of the Opposition have not seen the Statistician’s figures for the quarter ended in September which show that the price increase fell back to, if my recollection is correct, 0.6 per cent or an overall annual rate of 2.4 per cent, which is less than the average over the last 4 years. Overlooking this statistic in order to launch some sort of attack makes it perfectly clear that the Opposition does not understand.
The Opposition says that the Government is railing to control prices in Australia. It wants some grand scheme. The honourable member for Dawson said that economic conditions today are vastly different from what they were in post-war years when a referendum on price control failed. I will say they are different - vastly different. Honourable members will recall those days of a Labor Government when unemployment in Australia was 4 or 5 per cent. They will recall that to find an overaward payment could take a week’s search. The economic conditions of today are vastly different and they are what they are because of 20 years of coalition government by the Liberal and Country Parties. That is why we have been returned consistently to office - because of our performance. The honourable gentleman says that we have failed abysmally in maintaining price stability. Regarding price stability I will name 3 European countries, and I have no doubt that if I invited the honourable member to interject he would tell me what wonderful economic performances they have put up in recent years. I refer to France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Perhaps he would deny that the United Kingdom has had a good performance in the last 4 years because, after all, the United Kingdom had a Socialist Government for most of that time. So we will leave it out. But what about France and the Netherlands? He would say that they have had good economic performances. The fact is, of course, that United Nations figures disclose that in France the price increase has been 0.9 per cent and in the Netherlands 1.7 per cent greater than the increase in Australia. Yet the honourable member says that we have failed in controlling prices.
Over the last 2 decades we have had full employment. At present we have full employment to the extent that if we want to draw a distinction between the full employment of last month and the full employment of this month, or of any 2 months, we have to go to 2 decimal places to describe it. What about unemployment in the United Kingdom, North America - the United States and Canada - or the Asian countries? In Asia and Africa they do not merely measure unemployment, they measure under-employment. There is no country that does not envy our performance in the control of inflation and in the full employment of our work force. But we live in an atmosphere today which encourages the cost-push inflationary pressure, and the cost-push inflationary pressure is attributable principally to 2 factors - to the increases in award rates granted by the various tribunals in the country and to union pushfulness. This is the pushfulness of powerful trade union leaders possessed of great industrial power and using it to force employers, by the use of naked force, to grant them wage increases and increases in conditions which the economy really cannot afford in real terms. Of course it can afford them in money terms, but when we are talking about an economy we are talking about it in real terms. Of course one can produce the money to pay. There is always capacity to pay in that sense but, make no mistake about it, paying is not just from the employer to the employee or from the wage payer to the wage receiver; the paying is done by the community because of the inflationary pressures. The vice of inflation, I assure honourable members, whether they know it or not, is the redistribution of income and assets in our community so that the persons who have assets or past savings, or who are wage earners in the non-powerful industrial areas, are the people who suffer.
There are old union members in the Opposition who have come up through experience in unions that have no industrial power. If they can sit there and say that it is in the interests of Australia, or of those trade unions to whom they owe their allegiance and loyalty, I am surprised. They are being led; they are submissive to the strength and power of industrial musclemen, and it is time they learned the difference. Perhaps the honourable member for Dawson has never been a member of a union or, if he has, it was of a union that possesses little power - of a union that possesses little capacity to influence political events. He is therefore at ease, but what about other honourable members? How many of them these days represent solid trade unions which are concerned for egalitarian principles and the protection of the 85 per cent of the Australian work force which depend on not having inflation for the preservation of their conditions? But the Australian Labor Party, to which they all belong and to which they all contribute, has as its policy a working week to consist of not more than 5 consecutive days with a maximum of 35 hours and with a progressive reduction to 30 hours. In 1969, at their conference, they adopted the following proposal:
The conference considers that an effective political campaign be undertaken in conjunction wilh the ACTU to achieve our objective of a 35-hour week.
Why would not the honourable member for Dawson say he supports that? Why would not the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) say he supports it? Do they deny the Labor Party policy or do they not possess the courage to say: ‘This is wrong’ or, alternatively: ‘I won’t support it because the inflationary impact it will have will be so harmful to the community that the community will bear the scars for a decade’ and they will bear the responsibility?
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– After the contribution of the previous speaker, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden), I would not blame honourable members or, indeed, other people listening to this Parliament today, if they felt that the subject under discussion had become so camouflaged as to no longer be recognisable. Let me remind the House what we are debating as a matter of public importance - in fact, of urgency. It is the failure of the Government to protect the Australian consumers and export industries from rapidly increas ing prices and to apply and to extend the Trade Practices Act. My colleague, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), who opened this debate, has drawn a descriptive picture of the hardships being suffered, particularly in the rural sector, the sector with which he has most concern because he represents a country electorate. However, he has not failed to include among those whose standard of living is suffering badly because of the inaction of the present Government, all of those on fixed incomes and those whose incomes are increased very slowly, sometimes after long delays and after previous damaging increases in prices. In other words, the real standard of living of these people suffers a decline because they do not possess the economic power to maintain, to say nothing about improve, their economic position as do, say, the employers and the entrepreneurs of this country. These sufferers are the lesser privileged people in the community. The pensioners are one group which comes readily to mind. They are the very people who can ill afford to take another knock. These are the people who suffer the most hardship from inflation and from the ever increasing prices. These are the people whom we, on the Australian Labor Party side of the House, for humanitarian and many other reasons, are proud to champion as, indeed, we are proud to represent all men of good will who are prepared to seek to remedy hardships and injustices, whether or not those hardships and injustices apply to themselves.
My other colleague from the Opposition in this debate, the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor), has moved further into the subject of adequate action to control inflation to protect Australian consumers and export industries. He has spoken, in particular, about restrictive trade practices legislation, or the lack of it, and the ineffectiveness of that legislation which does exist. He has reminded us how the Act, under which we are now trying to operate, trying to create really competitive economic activity in order to stimulate efficiency and increased productivity and lower profit margins and thus lower prices, is but a pale image of the one that Sir Garfield Barwick brought into this House. The manufacturers’ lobby, as indeed the lobbies of other employers, got to work on their friends in this Liberal-Country PartyDemocratic Labor Party coalition Government and pointed out how the present occupiers of the government benches are there only because of the financial and other assistance of these various employers’ lobbies, and pointed out that they cannot bite the hand that feeds them. The result: An ineffective and ineffectual piece of restrictive trade practices legislation, recognised as such from the start by the Australian Labor Party - a piece of legislation which has rushed headlong into all sorts of delays and difficulties, and is still doing so. I need not elaborate further on this subject. The honourablt member for Cunningham already has done so. Even the Minister in charge of the Act, the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Hughes), recognised the waste and disappointment of this toothless Act in his now well known Tasmanian speech.
The honourable member for Cunningham touched also on the subject of price control and the Constitution. I remind the House of the report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review which reported to this Parliament in November 1959, almost 11 years ago, and entirely overlooked by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony). This lazy Government has had 11 years to do something about that report. Disgracefully, it has been pigeonholed. T remind the House that in this report there are valuable sections on navigation and shipping, aviation, scientific and industrial research, nuclear energy, posts and telegraphs and other like services including broadcasting, television and other telecommunication services, industrial relations, corporations, restrictive trade practices, marketing of primary products, economic powers and interstate road transport, all subjects of vital concern to any active, energetic government which is concerned to protect the people of its nation from unnecessary economic hardship. Regrettably, we do not find such action taken by the present Federal Government, in spite of the fact that the Constitutional Review Committee contained a majority of Government members.
What the people of this country need badly from government in this economic sphere is leadership. That is not what they are getting. Instead, we have the complacency characterised by the 2 Ministers we have heard from this afternoon, ls there one impartial, objective observer who does not commend the work of the South Australian Prices Commissioner? Is this not precisely what we should have in the Federal sphere? No-one is suggesting that the setting up of such an office is the panacea, and that immediately price increases will cease. No-one that I know of is suggesting that the structure should be such that it would be a vast, bureaucratic machine exercising power over the prices of all commodities. That is not the South Australian concept. What this country needs is such an office, with controls over key commodities, to set the pattern for the nation. It is a salutary and rewarding exercise for industrialists, particularly the many of them in monopolistic positions who have at the moment in their own often inefficient, often greedy hands, the power of deciding prices, to have to submit their plans for increases to an independent office. It makes them think through those plans. Justifiably in so many cases, it delays their implementation. It makes those entrepreneurs justify their actions.
This plea for leadership in this sphere in this country is not asking for something new or radical. It is asking for powers which exist and are used in the United Kingdom, the United States of America and New Zealand, to mention only 3 countries with economies similar to ours. Who will ever forget the leadership of President Kennedy in 1961 when steel companies were increasing prices? He halted those increases which would have had such a disastrous, snowballing effect on the economy of his country. What a contrast with the inaction of the Australian Federal Government during the last round of steel price increases in this country. Even Conservative governments in the United Kingdom make constant pleas to entrepreneurs there to shave their profit margins and to concentrate on efficiency.
In all the speeches we read made by Federal Cabinet Ministers to Institutes of Directors, Chambers of Commerce and Manufactures, Employers Federations and even Young Liberal Movements from one end of Australia to another, there is precious little persuasion to temper the greed, to lower the profit margins and to attempt to break the ever-present costs and prices spiral. They do not even exercise persuasion on the females of this nation to take up the midi and maxi fashions - of course, discarding the minis in the process - and so increase the consumption of wool. Leadership by the Federal Government has been lacking in very many instances. My time is so short that I can but mention in passing a few other examples of where the Government is failing to support the Australian consumer and export industries.
Why have we not a stronger savings campaign? Any intelligent observer of the economic scene knows that if savings do not equal investment an inflationary situation is encouraged. Why have we not an Australian consumers’ council financed by the Commonwealth Government just as the British one is financed by the British Government? As good as the job is that is being done by the consumers’ associations in both countries, this is no substitute for the work of the council in the field of packaging and consumer protection generally. Why do we not follow the up-to-date methods of economists such as Professor Galbraith in fighting inflation instead of relying on the present out-of-date methods being used, such as increasing interest rates? I dealt with this in my speech on the Budget on 28th August. Let me merely quote from yesterday’s ‘Australian’ headlined ‘Home Buyers Hit by Interest’. The article says:
Home ownership, especially for lower paid prospective buyers, has reached a stage in South Australia where it is becoming increasingly beyond their reach. Because of high interest rates more people in this category are finding they cannot afford their own homes. This is the significant message of the South Australian Housing Trust’s Annual Report for the year to 30th June of this year.
I am sure that that applies to the rest of Australia, too, to say nothing of the effect of high interest rates on the costs of farmers and so many others in our community. I wish I had time to talk about the lack of support given by this Government to the Tariff Board. The Board cannot even obtain sufficient staff to do its work. This has had an inflationary effect. There is little need to talk about shipping freights and the imposts which Government policy in this area has placed upon our people. These matters have been aired recently.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It has been an interesting experience to listen to the Opposition’s proposal for discussion of this as a matter of public importance this afternoon. It has been interesting because for almost the first time we have had an example of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) intruding into fields which are a little foreign to him. We saw in his intrusion an essential contradiction between his understanding of the economic process and that understanding which we would hope would have been shown by the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) and the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). The contradiction has been interesting for a number of reasons. This would be the first debate concerned with alterations in prices which has not touched upon the employment obligations of a country. It is the first debate initiated by the Opposition for many years in which Opposition members completely ignored the effects on employment and unemployment of following the policies that the Opposition would ask the Government to follow.
I was intrigued to hear the honourable member for Adelaide still affectionately holding the theories of Professor Galbraith. I find this intriguing because I would challenge the Opposition, if it embraces Professor Galbraith, to indicate whether it will embrace his wages and income policies and whether it will embrace the wages and income policies in Canada, the country which the Opposition so often invokes but which it understands so little. Honourable members opposite invoke Professor Galbraith’s theories time and time again in respect of economic considerations and matters. Let them embrace Professor Galbraith in his understanding of the employment obligations of a country, and realise that those countries which have followed his advice have suffered incredibly great unemployment distress.
Let me go further. The essential condition in any consideration of the change in price levels is related to production. It has a relation between production and the demand for those things which are produced. Put in its simplest terms it amounts to that. While we are concerned with inflation we ask ourselves: Is the Opposition concerned with inflation? During the Budget debate earlier this year I challenged the shadow treasurer, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), who understands these matters in contradistinction to the 3 gentlemen who have spoken this afternoon, to indicate what was his policy concerning inflation. He has never stated it. The honourable member for Dawson fled this afternoon from stating any policy concerning inflation, as did the honourable member for Cunningham and the honourable member for Adelaide. But their mentor, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, had this to say about inflation in his speech on the Budget 2 years ago. It is quite a revealing comment. He said:
I suggest that there is in Australia an undue obsession with inflation.
There we have his words. They have been forgotten by those gentlemen who spoke this afternoon. During a later speech on this year’s Budget the honourable member had this to say, in refuting the concern with inflation that clearly underlay the Government’s Budget strategy:
I want to say something about some of the things that are not being looked at. The word inflation’ seems to be becoming the most used word to describe the situation as we find it.
That was uttered with sarcasm and contempt.
– That was 2 years ago.
– The second one was this year. The honourable member is a little out of date. So there was supposed to be a continuing fund of knowledge available to the Opposition, but it has not acted upon it. The honourable member for Dawson this afternoon in concerning himself with inflation said nothing about banking policy in terms of the philosophy of money and money supply in the community. He said nothing concerning overall Budget strategy. In fact in regard to a Budget which was concerned with inflation he has been responsible for opposing almost every revenue measure which was part of the social service programme and which were part of the Government’s attitude towards inflation. After having tried to wreck and erode a Budget which was concerned with inflation the Opposition in this House says: ‘Well, let us forget all this; we are now concerned with inflation’. The other matter to which I refer is the overall economic policy of a government. A government has to be concerned with production. If we do not have production we will assuredly have inflation - that is the lesson of history - unless we have grave depression. With respect to production, the attitude of the Opposition is to say: ‘Let us reduce overall working hours by one-eighth’. The Opposition would reduce working hours by one-eighth, by over 12 per cent. This is how it would destroy the production side of the equation that is always concerned with inflation. The Opposition went through a type of rationalisation which had no relation ro the matter of public importance. I was a little disturbed. In referring to consumer prices and the alteration in consumer prices it is quite clear that the Opposition has not examined the ingredients of the latest variation in consumer prices. The ingredient which has caused the highest rise in consumer prices in any capital city in Australia is fares. The ingredient of fares in the consumer price index in Brisbane rose by .6 index points. That fare rise was imposed by a Labor council. Then we look at the other ingredients in the consumer price index with the highest rise and we see mattters such as rates. In both these ingredients the Labor Party has shown itself more capable of increasing the index points, of increasing prices, than have other parties.
The Opposition comes into this House and raises a matter of public importance. On top of its misunderstanding of economic policy and banking and monetary policy, it has not even gone to the trouble of examining the basic data upon which a matter such as this should depend. There is an excellent reason for this. I go to one last point which is appropriate, that is, the matter of wages. An article by Mr Sheehan of the Australian National University has been quoted by the shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, with great approbation. The article, which appears on page 12 of the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 13th October, makes it perfectly clear that if wages get out of hand we can expect to see rises in prices in the subsequent quarters. Mr Sheehan in his article quotes quite clearly an article by Professor Pitchford in the ‘Australian Economic Papers’ of 2 years ago. Then Sheehan says:
May be we would be justified in expecting the rate of increase of prices to abate by the end of the year . . . Without going into this whole difficult question of how to assess the impact of the Budget on the economy, two points can be made which are consonant with the general theme of this article.
For this reason I think the problem which needs to be focussed on now concerns the potential movement in economic aggregates in real terms rather than prices. That is a simple way of saying ‘production’, lt is in its attack on production that the Opposition is culpable. As long as it makes an attack on production it will make inflation worse than it otherwise would be. After all, the experience of its own people in office, of Democratic Socialist parties in office, makes it quite clear that the Opposition has a love of inflation which this Government has not had. This Government has had a policy to keep it low. At the same time, and most significantly and importantly, it has tried to accompany that obligation with one significant point - the policy ignored by the Opposition this afternoon.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Discussion on the matter of public importance is now concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Lynch, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill seeks the approval of Parliament to the guarantee by the Commonwealth of $US4.5m, or $A4m. borrowing by the Administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The proceeds of the loan, together with the proceeds of a credit of similar amount from the International Development Association, will assist in the financing of a major highways project in the highlands of
New Guinea. Following a recommendation by an International Bank mission in 1967, a survey of the transport requirements of the Territory, financed by the United Nations, was carried out in 1968 by an international firm of consultants. The highways project is based on the recommendations of these consultants. It involves the re-alignment and construction of the South Wahgi Highway from Kundiawa to Mount Hagen and of the Southern Highlands Highway from Mount Hagen to Mendi. The detailed engineering for a new road from Madang to Kundiawa, to provide a second access from the coast to the highlands, is also included in the project.
Normally borrowings by the Territory Administration automatically carry a Commonwealth guarantee by virtue of the operation of section 75a of the Papua and New Guinea Act 1949-1968. However, with loans from the international Bank, a formal guarantee agreement is required from the Commonwealth and this must be authorised by specific legislation. The guarantee agreement for this loan, which is shown as the First Schedule to the Bill, follows the form of a guarantee agreement previously approved by Parliament in connection with a telecommunications loan made by the International Bank to the Territory 2 years ago. The loan agreement, which is shown as the Second Schedule to the Bill, has been approved by the Territory House of Assembly. The loan carries an interest rate of 7 per cent and has a life of 24 years, with repayments commencing after 4 years. A commitment fee of three-quarters per cent per annum is also payable on undrawn balances while the loan is being drawn down. Tenders have been called and are presently being considered. It is expected that work on the project will commence early next year. The Bill provides for parliamentary approval of the guarantee agreement. It makes consequential provision to ensure the efficacy of undertakings in the guarantee and loan agreements regarding freedom of payments from Australian taxation or restrictions imposed by Australian law. It also includes an appropriation of moneys required for the Commonwealth to make any payments under the guarantee. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
– I move:
The Customs Tariff Proposals, which I have just tabled, propose amendments to the Customs Tariff 1966-1970. They implement the Government’s acceptance of the Tariff Board’s recommendations in its report on nitrogenous fertilisers, an interim report under the review inquiry on industrial chemicals. I am arranging for a copy of this speech to be distributed to honourable members so they may read it with me. The normal detailed summary of tariff changes is also being circulated.
The Tariff Board recommends that the duties on ammonium chloride be reduced to 7½ per cent general tariff and free preferential tariff. The change will have little significance because imports of ammonium chloride have been admitted at these rates under customs by-laws. The report contained more important recommendations on the question of bounty assistance to local production of nitrogenous fertilisers. Since 1966, local production of urea and ammonium sulphate has been assisted by means of bounty payments at the rates of $16 per ton on urea, with an annual limit of $500,000, and $8 per ton on ammonium sulphate, with an annual limit of$1m.
The Tariff Board conducted a review of these bounties and has made a detailed report on the present nitrogenous fertiliser industry. The Board found, for example, that there had been significant changes in the industry since its 1966 report. Large new ammonium plants have been built in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia with the capacity to produce large quantities of ammonia, urea and ammonium nitrate in excess of the needs of the Australian market. The report deals in some detail with the excess capacity of the industry, the market growth and future trends of demand. It has assessed the industry’s need for protection on the basis of notional costs.
The Government has adopted the Board’s recommendation that local production of nitrogenous fertilisers be not accorded future assistance. Accordingly, the present bounties on urea and on ammonium sulphate will be terminated. It is proposed to issue a proclamation to the effect that the bounties will not be paid after the 18th November 1970. This decision will in no way affect the provisions of the Nitrogenous Fertilisers Subsidy Act which is designed to assist the primary producer. The Act will continue to operate as previously. The Proposals also make further additions to the list of goods receiving concessional treatment under the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. An administrative change is also included with respect to certain mineral oil additive preparations, involving no change in effective duty rates previously applying to such goods. I commend the Proposals.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Report on Item
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I present the following report by the Tariff Board:
Nitrogenous Fertilisers, an interim report under the review inquiry on Industrial Chemicals, and Nitrogenous Fertilisers (Dumping and Subsidies Act).
Ordered that the report be printed.
Motion (by Mr Chipp) - by leave - agreed to:
That Customs Tariff Proposals No. 13 (1970) and Excise Tariff Proposals No.1 (1970) constituting part of order of the day No. 50,government business, be discharged.
Debate resumed from 20 August (vide page 299), on motion by Mr Swartz:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The principal objective of the States Grants (Water Resources Measurement) Bill 1970 is the financing of a programme of measurement of the flow of rivers and the investigation and measurement of underground water resources. The House will remember that in 1961 the then Prime Minister of Australia, Sir Robert Menzies, made an announcement in his policy speech that he intended to discuss with the
State Premiers the possibility of establishing a water resources council. In 1962 the State Premiers agreed that this in fact was a very good move. The formation of the Australian Water Resources Council was then proceeded with. I think the Minister responsible for this measure at that time was Sir William Spooner and the head of the Department of National Development was Sir Harold Raggatt, both of whom played a major part in the establishment of the Water Resources Council and, with the State Premiers, in the formulation of the functions of that Council.
The principal objective of the Water Resources Council was the provision of a comprehensive assessment on a continuing basis of Australia’s water resources and the extension of measurement and research so that future planning could be carried out on a sound and scientific basis. There was no question but that this particular objective very much needed to be achieved in Australia because with practically all of the major works of irrigation and hydroelectricity in Australia there had been an element of guesswork as regards stream flow and the capacity of rivers over a period. Anyone familiar with some of the dry areas of Australia would realise that it is very important to know what the stream flow is over a great number of years - years in which there may have been a drought or there may have been floods. This knowledge is essential from an engineering as well as an economic point of view and this measure is one of the most important that the Government has introduced in the field of water research. However, the Water Resources Council was concerned not only with surface water. I suppose that as far as resource development is concerned there are few areas which have had less research than the area of underground water and yet it is quite apparent that in the future Australia as it develops will have to rely more and more on this resource of underground water.
The first official assessment of water resources undertaken by the Council showed that the average annual discharge of Australia’s rivers was about 280 million acre feet, of which approximately 38 million acre feet was discharged in Tasmania. If the discharge of Australia’s rivers was spread over the entire continent it is estimated that there would be approximately 1.6 inches of water covering the continent compared with 9 inches in the United States of America which is approximately the same area as Australia. On an international comparison it does show that Australia is an extraordinarily dry continent.
I briefly mentioned the physical side of the measurement of water flow. Water storages are required not only for irrigation purposes but also to enable municipal and local government authorities to supply the water needs of the consumers living in provincial cities and country towns. It is clear that the flow of streams is of extreme importance to engineers concerned with the impounding of water. The measurement of stream flow is important not only in terms of the volume of water but also as to the reliability of supply. We all know that many areas in Australia are subject to floods. We are aware of the devastation that can be caused by flooding. My own area of north Queensland is periodically subject to devastating floods. On the other hand the same area is also subject to devastating droughts. Droughts occur in areas where we see from year to year millions of acre feet of water flowing wastefully to the sea.
It is obvious that the development of water resources in Australia will continue despite the knockers, and there are plenty of them. These knockers seem to have an obsession against the conservation of water. I have always been puzzled why they are opposed to water conservation. I am not saying that I have always endorsed the spending of money irresponsibly just to build a dam to conserve water. I do not endorse the damming of all rivers, but I am certainly in favour of constructing dams in proven and established areas which are susceptible to major droughts and in which over a cumulative period of years hundreds of millions of dollars have been lost in production. In the Bundaberg district there has over a period of years been tremendous loss in production and this alone has justified the Bundaberg irrigation scheme. Yet we find plenty of knockers in Australia who condemn this type of project being undertaken in a proven and established area.
It cannot always be argued that one project has a greater priority than another. It is for this reason that we should have thorough cost-benefit analyses undertaken to determine project priorities. In regard to the measurement of water resources 1 do not think that there is one member of this Parliament who would disagree with this concept and the objective involved. We have to have water stream measurement. It is a great tragedy for Australia that we did not know more about water capacities before today. If there had been available to us more information relating to the behaviour of our rivers it would have helped us to save a lot of the money that has been spent over the years in the construction of dams.
One of the important aspects of this Bill is in relation to underground water. It is easy to visualise water flowing clown a river and the installation of water measuring equipment to record the stream flow on a type of graph; but it is not easy to visualise research into underground water particularly in the sub-artesian basin. I think it can be said that, in general, underground water moves fairly slowly compared to the movement of surface water. Anyway, this is the conclusion that has been reached in research. We should consider the techniques that are used for measuring not only the capacity but also the movement of underground water. In the Burdekin district in Queensland underground water has been a major factor in recent years in replenishing the aquifers. If this replenishment had not taken place there would have been a tragic loss in the delta areas in that area of Queensland. However, this is only a temporary solution to the problem. The real solution is without doubt the establishment of proper conservation projects such as the Burdekin Dam and the Burdekin Falls project which would in terms of magnitude often shock people. The Burdekin Dam would contain 16 times more water than the Sydney Harbour. This will give honourable members an idea of the tremendous capacity of that river. That project, after making some allowance for technology in regard to the draw of water, would be one of the cheapest dam projects in Australia to construct. This does not mean that water reticulation and development over time would be cheaper. The construction costs alone would be relatively low. However before construction commenced it would be necessary to obtain all the facts. The purpose of this Bill is to measure systematically and scientifically the flow of water into many rivers and even the creeks which flow into our major tributaries entering the sea. The Opposition completely supports, as it has always supported, legislation dealing with the development of natural resources, particularly with respect to water. But we deplore the actions of the knockers on the Government side who time and time again do everything possible to downgrade water conservation. I may be wrong in what I am about to say but 1 was told by one of my colleagues-
– Who are they?
– J will mention them shortly, i was told by one of my colleagues that Sir William Gunn recently made a statement deploring irrigation, saying that it is a waste of money. If my information is incorrect I will rectify that statement.
– You are quite right.
– This is something that I have been told.
– He is not in the Government ranks.
– He tried to stand for the Government side once, but he missed out on pre-selection.
– He is not in the Government.
– Have you ever heard the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) say one word about irrigation?
– The honourable member for Wakefield is probably one of the most constructive critics in Parliament with respect to irrigation, and this is, of course, only right. Every person is entitled to hold an opinion. The Opposition believes in water conservation. In regard to the financial aspects of this Bill, when the legislation was introduced in 1964 the allocations to the States were determined on the basis of each State’s prospective area and population weighted equally. The allocations to each State were: New South Wales 25 per cent; Victoria 15.8 per cent; Queensand 20.9 per cent; Western Australia 23.6 per cent; South Australia 12.4 per cent and Tasmania 2.3 per cent. At that time the South Australian Premier was not particularly happy with the allocation for his State.
An i have already said this Bill concerns the measurement of water. The Opposition is in complete support of the objective and concept of this Bill. The Opposition notes with interest that in respect to the funds for the measurement of water resources the grants to the States are now to be included in the overall national water resources development programme. This amount will come out of the $50m over the next 3 years which was promised at the last election. I would like to make one observation about the schedules to the Bill. If I were a South Australian, for example, I would not be very happy with the amount of money that has been allocated to South Australia. It is well known that South Australia has a deficiency in surface water. This means that there has to be a tremendous speeding up of efforts to find water in that State. I think the Commonwealth’s contribution to South Australia is pretty poor.
– That State does not want water.
Or PATTERSON - At the present time water is the most important resource in which South Australia is deficient. With those comments in mind the Opposition supports the Bill. The Opposition is also of the very firm opinion that this programme should continue for many years. From memory I understand that the period will be increased from 10 years to 12 years. It is pretty clear that this programme should nol stop after 12 years; it should be a continuing process. It is essential that Australia continues to spend money in the field of research into water development and that the research should be followed up by a constructive water development and water conservation scheme, particularly in the proven and established areas of Australia.
As I have said before, my area of northern Queensland contains over half of Australia’s water resources. Yet, this area is one of the most undeveloped in terms of water resources. Everyone would agree that there is tremendous scope for water conservation in this part of Australia. If we consider the amount of water that is contained in the Burdekin and Fitzroy Basins, for example, in conjunction with the amount of land in these areas we can see the tremendous potential which exists.
This area is also favourably located, lt is close to the coast, it has an infrastructure of towns and transport facilities and it has an inbuilt population. This area is crying out desperately for large scale water conservation. It is as certain as that night will follow day that we will have serious droughts in Australia. The areas most susceptible to drought in Australia in terms of incidence are the coastal areas and the western areas of the north and the western areas of Queensland in particular. In terms of the loss in value of production the area worst hit cumulatively is the eastern coast of Queensland.
The value of the losses from drought alone in the intensive agricultural areas and the intensive cattle country of eastern Queensland can be illustrated when we consider that within a radius of ISO miles from Rockhampton - and this is only a half circle - there are more cattle than in the Northern Territory and Western Australia put together. This will give the House an idea of the intensity of beef cattle production in this area. As I said before, this area is plagued by drought. We recognise that there is not much that anyone can do about providing large scale water conservation projects in semi-arid and arid areas of Australia. In these areas the farmer or the grazier must do what he can in terms of fodder conservation and in terms of small scale water conservation and harnessing underground water, be it sub-artesian or artesian. However, certainly more research should be carried out by the Government at this time in areas where official investigations have shown a high susceptibility to drought. I refer here particularly to the eastern coastline of Queensland. This is the area in which the research which is being endorsed by the Government in the legislation now before us is needed.
The eastern coastline of Queensland is an area which contains a tremendous volume of water. The supply of this water is reasonably reliable although not as reliable as that of the Snowy Mountains area. In conjunction with the other resources in eastern Queensland, one can conclude by saying that water is the key in the short and long term developoment of this area. It does not matter whether we talk about steel works, major chemical works, the expansion of agriculture or the large scale processing of minerals; there is one thing that we must have plenty of, and that is water. If Queensland had had a large scale water conservation and power scheme some years ago the aluminium smelter would not have been lost to the south. This is one of the problems and one of the penalties that Queensland has had to endure because of a lack of large scale water and power scheme.
The Opposition supports the concept and the objectives of the Bill now before us. The Australian Labor Party sincerely hopes that the programme will not cut out and that the rate of spending will not be reduced. This is the type of research and legislation which this country needs in a continually increasing way.
– I do not intend to speak at any great length on this Bill because, as the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has already said, he and the Opposition support the measure. I am delighted to hear this. I do not think it is necessary, particularly in view of the number of Bills on the notice paper and the fact that we hope to conclude our sittings by the end of this week, for me to speak at any great length on this measure. I was glad to hear the remarks of the honourable member for Dawson. Nearly all of us agree that we should have increased water conservation in Australia. I was lucky in that I had the opportunity to be associated for a considerable time with the development of Australia’s water resources. Although the Australian Water Resources Council was set up by my predecessor, Senator Sir William Spooner, I was responsible for introducing into this Parliament the first of the Bills concerned with the States Grants (Water Resources) Act. This Bill undoubtedly helped to step up the search for underground water and the measurement of surface water.
As the honourable member for Dawson has said, until the time that the Australian Water Resources Council was set up there was no knowledge in Australia of what our total resources were. I think the first assessment which was brought out by the Australian Water Resources Council horrified a lot of people. This assessment was that Australia had only 280 million acre feet of water and in fact something like one-third of Australia had no measurable run off at all. Australia is undoubtedly the driest continent. In fact, the total run off from the whole of Australia - and this includes areas in northern Queensland, the Northern Territory and Tasmania which are not satisfactory for irrigation - compares very unfavourably with some single rivers in other parts of the world. Many of these rivers have a far greater run off than the whole of Australia. I was glad that I was able to introduce the initial legislation which granted to the States $2.75m over a 3-year period from 1964 to 1967. This grant was made for the purpose of enabling the States to step up facilities for measuring surface and underground water. It is good to see that the grant was later increased to $4. 5m. Under this legislation the grant has risen to $8.2m for the period 1970-73 which is about 3 times the amount of the original grant. 1 believe that most of us consider that this is the way in which we should develop our resources. We have to know what our resources are before we can proceed to develop them. Basic data are necessary for so many things. It is necessary to estimate the water that can be obtained from a river with storage and without storage. It is necessary to determine what the safe yield of a particular reservoir is and what the spillway capacity of a dam is. In the past we have seen dams under-designed or overdesigned. Of course, if a spillway is underdesigned there is a danger of a catastrophe in time of flood. If it is over-designed, far more money than is necessary is spent and therefore one of our resources is wasted.
Basic data are necessary to design adequate stormwater drains, and also for the design of bridges, culverts, floodways and levee banks to protect settlements against floods that the honourable member for Dawson referred to. We know that floods have occurred in the past and that they will occur in the future. In fact, floods occurred in many areas this year, lt is necessary to know what our resources are in order to estimate the safe yields of underground water storages, the maximum pumping rates and all these sorts of things. We know that recently quite large aquifers have been found in very dry areas in the Northern Territory. They are very large aquifers, but until now we do not know what their safe yield is. Unfortunately, on occasions people over-pump and then there are disastrous results for everyone. There must be limits on the amount of water drawn so that a safe yield can be maintained.
Basic data are necessary for the diversion and distribution of irrigation water and of course for the scheduling of power produced in the Snowy. We have to know what our resources are so that we know exactly what is a safe yield of power. Otherwise, the supply can be overdrawn so that power will not be available when it is required. But these things are all known to honourable members and 1 do not want to weary them by going into them in detail. But I want to comment on one or two of the matters raised by the honourable member for Dawson. He said that water is still flowing to the sea. Of course, water will be flowing to the sea for the next century because I do not think anyone would expect that we could build dams so large that they could hold all the water and that no water would flow to the sea. Of course, we can build only dams which are regarded as reasonable and economic. There is no point in saying that we should never allow a drop of water to flow into the sea because it would be so expensive to conserve that last drop that it just would not be worth while.
I agree with the honourable member for Dawson that in Australia we should maintain a reasonable water resources programme. Of course, this is what has been done. An amount of approximately $50m per annum is being spent in Australia today on water conservation and works pertaining to irrigation. In fact, I think that a total amount of $670m has been spent on this work in the last 20 years. Of course, that does not include the considerable amount of money that was spent on the Snowy Mountains projects. We know that about $670m has been spent on that project alone. Of course, this is related mainly to the production of electricity but, nevertheless as a by-product from the Snowy Mountains there is a diversion of water inland, on the average, of 2 million acre feet per annum. This has had an enormous effect in my electorate and in the electorate of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten), who is sitting at the table.
We know that during 1967 that area experienced the driest period on record. Records, which had been kept at Albury for 107 years, indicated that there had never been a year as dry as 1967. The situation would have been even worse without the diversion of water from the Snowy. The situation would have been far worse in the Murrumbidgee area. I believe that approximately three-quarters of the water used in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area in 1967 came from the Snowy and that approximately one-third of the water used in the Murray area came from the Snowy. So this Government is proud of its record in the water resources field. I know that no-one can stand on his record, but we are proud of what we have done in the field of water conservation.
Of course, basically under the Constitution the primary responsibility for water conservation rests with the State governments. But we were quick to realise that the States are limited in their financial resources. We hold the purse strings. While the States have done their utmost to continue to increase expenditure on water conservation, they would not have been able to go very far if they had not received the assistance which they did. This assistance was provided quite willingly by this Government. So apart from the assistance provided under the States Grants (Water Resources Measurement) Bill which we are now discussing, the Commonwealth has assisted in many other areas. It has assisted special projects, many of which were too large for the individual State to contemplate.
I have referred to the Snowy. We also made a large contribution to New South Wales towards the construction of the Blowering Dam. The State was able to find the rest of the money in order to proceed with the construction of the dam. The Ord River Dam, which is now under construction, will cost, all told, about $60m. This again was a project which the Western Australian Government could not contemplate on its own. I am particularly pleased to see that the Ord River project has proceeded, even if when the first charge was blown for the major dam it did not go off. But it went off later, and the dam is now under way. At a cost for the major dam of only some S20m we will have the largest water conservation project in Australia.
We should not forget that about 15 per cent of Australia’s water resources flow down the Ord River each year. This is a greater amount of water than the total amount of run-off from all the Snowy Mountains area.
I know that there are problems with the Ord River project. There have been problems in the past and there will be problems in the future. But when it is realised that the Ord River is one of our greatest resources, I cannot believe that in the long term we will not obtain great benefits from using this resource, particularly as the river is relatively cheap to dam. The Ord River project has an ideal situation, and in spite of what various people say, I am sure that it will grow crops. Of course, at present it is growing crops which can be sold on the world market.
The honourable member for Dawson referred to knockers, lt is a fact that in matters concerning resources development we do not always find that people have similar views. Of course, this is natural. We like to have a debate on these matters. But I believe that sometimes people overstate their cases. I am afraid that my good friend the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) overstates the case when he talks about growing crops which cannot be sold. I do not know of any crop which has been destroyed in Australia in the last 20 years because it could not be sold. We are selling cotton and selling it very well on the overseas market. We are selling many other products.
Of course, it is true that it is not easy to sell agricultural products and that sometimes we have to provide assistance by way of subsidy to help the farmers. Sometimes we have to limit production, as has happened in the case of wheat. But for heaven’s sake, let us not adopt this sort of knocker attitude and say: ‘We must not spend any more’, because I believe that we must go ahead. As I have said, we are now spending at least $50m a year on the development of water resources in Australia and we are also providing many other forms of assistance for water conservation. I believe that this programme should be continued.
I have mentioned the way in which we have assisted particular projects, such as the Ord River project. We stand ready, when the South Australian Government comes to its senses, to assist it with the Dartmouth Dam. We have made a very generous offer to the South Australian Government, and it is a tragedy that politics have been brought into this matter. It is a great tragedy for the nation, because the sooner we get on with the Dartmouth Dam, the sooner there will be a very considerable increase in the amount of water available in the Murray and a greater degree of regularity of flow. This has been shown by the best engineers in the nation who have looked at all the sites on the Murray. But unfortunately the matter has been fouled up through politics.
We have provided assistance for the Western Australian comprehensive water scheme. We have provided bridging finance for the Tasmanian hydro-electric scheme. I see ray friend from Tasmania, the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) in’ the House. Some $40m has been promises to assist with bridging finance for the hydro-electric scheme plus another S5m for the Gordon River road which opened up some of that area.
Over and above that, we had the national water resources development programme. I am glad that the first major project selected under this was named the Fairbairn Dam. Not only did we allocate that project $50m overall. In actual fact, the amount rose slightly above that figure to $53m. Now the Government has said: That was not enough. We are going to provide $100m in the second programme’.
– What will they call that, David?
– J think the next one will probably be the Swartz Dam. I conclude by saying that this matter before us today may be a small matter; nevertheless, it is vitally important. I believe that everything must be known about water resources before water can be conserved adequately. This nation needs water. I believe that the Government can take credit for what it has done oyer quite a relatively short period during the 1960s. It is seeing that Australia is much better situated than it ever was before. It is a little difficult to get the figures concerned but I understand that, when this Government came into office, some 7 million acre feet of water was conserved in major irrigation storages in Australia. When every project now under construction is concluded the total will be over 50 million acre feet and that, I believe, is a monument to this Government.
– 1 support this measure to facilitate work on water measurement in our country. This is a small but vital part of the nation’s development of its water resources. No doubt exists at all in my mind or in the minds of most other people concerned with national development that water is the limiting factor in the overall development of the nation. Sixty-nine years after Federation we are still without a national water programme. Sixty-nine years after Federation we are still without a national water conservation authority. I mention in passing that, as far as the Opposition is concerned, it is quite clear what we will do in this regard, that is, create a national water conservation authority from the ruins of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority and develop a much overdue national water programme.
Surely it is this building of skills at the national level which would have obviated one of the most disgraceful incidents in this Federal Parliament which occurred when we came to debate the water resources of the River Murray. There we had a situation of conflicting technical reports, of various reports, of differing input data and a situation in which words did not mean what they originally were intended to mean - by the dictionary, at any rate. Here we had the example which honourable members may remember of ‘in perpetuity’ and ‘indefinitely’ becoming one and the same thing. It was important that all 125 members of the House of Representatives had the technical data clearly and definitely set out in a way that they could follow and understand so that they could be satisfied in their own minds as to what was being done and what was being proposed and that it would be in the best interests of everyone concerned. I felt on that occasion that it was an insult to the Parliament that we did not have all the necessary technical data. I do not think that we have it at the present time. We had limited data that enabled us to make one decision alone when there was a number of decisions that were required - and a number of interlocking decisions at that.
I hope that we are gradually moving further towards a rational and proper programme of water conservation. This project of stream measurement is a basic project. It must be encouraged and I am delighted to see that this measure does just that. I was delighted to hear the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) pledge his support for continuing water conservation. This is a vital thing not only for agriculture but also for all the integrated development that we must undertake if the inland of Australia is to be utilised properly. The critics of irrigation - and they have come in for a mention - have reached a new height of intensity - and they include, as my colleague, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) mentioned, Sir William Gunn. Fresh from bis triumphs as leader of the Australian wool industry, Sir William Gunn turned his attention to irrigation the other day when he said in a flight of incredible fancy that farmers should march on Canberra every time a dam was to be built. He said that every product of irrigation was overproduced and that the nation should not use tax funds to facilitate irrigation.
So, here we have the man who, with his colleagues, has led the wool industry into disaster telling us what we should do about irrigation, telling us in effect that whole communities should not have come into being. What he was saying is this: We should not have come and now we are here perhaps we ought to go. I reject that suggestion on behalf of the people whom I represent. I am sure that all people along the major streams of the nation who have been so rubbished will reject it because they will know just how absurd it is.
Let us be quite clear about this matter. The great irrigation schemes that have been developed in the past have been developed as an integrated part of the economy and have been designed to keep the food supplies flowing to the cities. Let us be clear that, in relation to Sydney, half of all the food supplies moving into that city originate in irrigation. Is it suggested seriously that we should play Russian roulette with the nation’s food supplies by relying strictly on the climate and strictly on the chance of weather. After all, drought is endemic in our continent. There is always somewhere in Australia drought all the time. So, should not we-
– No one is suggesting that we ought not to have a water conservation programme.
– Well, the Minister has said that no one is suggesting that we should not have water conservation and that we should not have irrigation.
– No one in the Government.
– Well, I have just quoted one of the major servants of the Government.
– I said no one in the Government.
– Well, we have had the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) and the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) standing in their places and saying that all irrigation has done is-
– They are not in the Government.
– They are distinguished members of the Government - one a former Minister-
– They are not.
– They have said here time and again that they questioned the value of irrigation to the nation. They questioned its value to the agricultural sector. I have debated with them. What I am suggesting at the present time is that the critics are becoming even more - what shall 1 say - damning, and the most recent one, as I say, just the other day was Sir William Gunn-
– What has he to do with the Government?
– Well, he was not appointed by us. We have not been in power for 20 years. He has had many high offices. I am sure that he would not have received any of his appointments from our point of view-
– He is still not in the Government.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order! .
– Well, I accept the assurance of the Minister for Repatriation that Sir William Gunn is not in the Gov- eminent. I have always assumed that he was a distinguished servant of the Government. If he is not, the Minister may disown him at his leisure. I wanted to make this point: The criticism that has been made is this: It has been suggested that there have been very large expenditures on irrigation. Well, I think it should be known that, as far as irrigation alone is concerned, in the 69 years of Federation we have spent less as a nation on irrigation as such than we have spent in importing whisky every year. So, we have not made a great national investment in irrigation at all.
It is certainly important to realise that irrigation is only part of what is done with the storage. Water must always be regarded as a multi-purpose commodity. This is what it is. That is why the suggestions that have been made from time to time that irrigation farmers and irrigation industries - that is, industries limited to the land - should be loaded with the total cost of dams are completely unreal. As a matter of fact, this is a matter that was dealt with a generation ago by a most distinguished royal commission presided over by Mr Justice Pike. He explored all of these aspects and, in his findings, which were unanimously accepted by the parliaments - State and Federal - at the time, said that it could not be sustained either as a practice of government or of good economics that irrgation farmers should be made to pay for the public works. This was clear. It was settled. It was done a generation ago. But we are still getting this kind of criticism thrown up in a most casual way.
Let us see what this criticism means in practical terms. It means that Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra - a very fine multimillion dollar facility which is pleasant to see - does not need a cost benefit analysis because it is a facility, a park, or recreational area. I have no objection to it, but the absurdity of the critics is shown by the fact that if some resident of Canberra decided that he wanted to grow an acre of tomatoes and if he pumped water out of Lake Burley Griffin those critics would say that he should be loaded with a portion of the capital cost of the Lake. It is absurd. Water is a multi-purpose commodity. It has to be regarded as such. The basic works are public works, the cost of which ought to be borne by taxation revenue. Let us be clear when we examine every major : conservation structure in our nation. All of - them sustain more than just irrigation and farmers; they are sustaining secondary industry, factories and householders who turn on taps. They are multi-purpose structures and they should be regarded as such. I think this point should be made in the debate because this Bill is connected with water supplies and their further measurement for their future utilisation.
Reference has been made to the structures that have been built and to their benefits to the nation. I think the benefits to the nation should be clearly and definitely spelt out. - Sometimes the critics claim that all they are asking- for is a proper analysis. By all means let us have a proper analysis. There is no reason why this should not be done. . For past, structures in New South Wales - the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area and the development of plans for the utilisation of Blowering water - most precise studies were made. The results were published. They were examined by Federal and State agencies. A variety of skills were brought together to see that the right and proper thing was done and to see that the plans for the utilisation of the water were sound and would return the best to the community. Of course we should have a proper cost benefit analysis. Why should we not? 1 think it is very desirable that studies be carried out and that results be published. There will have to be several of them. As the former Minister for National Development knows, the answers depend on the inputs. Let us try the various ranges of input and publish the results. There is nothing wrong with that. The decision will have to be made by the Government. There is nothing wrong with that either. That is democratic responsibility.
Tn summation I say that the economists are a very useful tool and that economics, as a subject, is a most useful skill. The economists should be used and utilised. But they cannot make the decision. The decision is based on many imprecise factors touching on the future of the nation and on many things that perhaps are beyond the measurement of economists. I sum up in this way in supporting the Bill: I hope that in future debates in the House of Representatives we will look at water con servation as a basic need for the future of the nation; that we will recognise that water is a limiting factor in our development generally; that we will regard water as such as a multi-purpose commodity and water conservation works as multi-purpose projects; and that we will reject the kind of criticism that we have heard in the last few days from Sir William Gunn, fresh from his triumphs in the wool industry. After many years in control, he turns his attention to irrigation and decides that it is superfluous, that it should be ended, wiped out or phased out and that never more should we have development of this kind. That statement should be rejected completely as an irresponsible criticism by ‘ a discredited industry leader.’ I say that most sincerely.
– 1 rise to support the Bill. I believe that some of the statements made by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) are not in accordance with fact. There are members of this side of the House who desire that before any scheme which will mean the expenditure of many millions of dollars is implemented it should first be determined to be viable. They argue that a cost and feasibility study should be undertaken before the scheme is commenced. 1 think that is what should be done. It is a businesslike approach; it is most desirable. I do not know why honourable members opposite single out the honourable member or Bradfield (Mr Turner) so often for criticism. All he is demanding is that a sensible, logical and commonsense approach be adopted. We have been subjected to a tirade of abuse and to assertions that the Government has not done enough and that after 69 years of federation we are still without water. This is far from the truth.
Let me state what has been done by the Government. The projects in which the Commonwealth has assisted or is assisting include the Snowy Mountains scheme at a cost of $696m; the national water resources development programme involving non-repayable grants to five States amounting to $53m; stage 1 of the Ord irrigation project at a cost of $1 2.18m; and stage 2 of the project at a cost of $48. 18m. That shows how keen the Government is to assist in the conservation of water. Loans to the States and the direct Commonwealth share of building the Dartmouth Dam, chosen as the next major storage on the Murray River, will amount to nearly $3 6m. That scheme has been delayed by the Premier of South Australia, Mr Dunstan. The other States involved are happy with the scheme, but he wants to be out of step. To make political capital out of the issue just before the Senate election, he delayed this work. Now he is complaining about the delay. He also wants some assurances about . the Chowilla project. How foolish can one become - to use water conservation for political purposes. No mill will grind on water that has passed by. It is about time the Opposition realised just what the Government is doing about water conservation. Let me continue with the list of projects in which the Commonwealth has assisted or is assisting. They include a contribution towards the cost of Blowering Dam amounting to $20.5m; for New South Wales flood mitigation works on the coastal rivers. $Sm; and a contribution of $20. 5m towards the Western Australian comprehensive water supply scheme. T could go on ad infinitum and quote from this list of what the Government has done to aid in the conservation of water.
This Bill more especially deals with State grants for water resources measurement in regard to surface and underground water. This matter has been traversed ably by the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn). It is pleasing to note that the Emerald scheme, which the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) and myself, with other members of a Government committee, visited on a fact finding tour, is proceeding. We listened to what the people of Emerald and surrounding districts had to say. The Queensland Government had prepared plans and the Commonwealth Government came in to assist. The scheme now being formulated and sponsored by the Government rebuts what the Opposition is saying about water conservation. The Government is doing a very practical and commonsense thing in relation to the measurement of the flow of subterranean water. I congratulate the former Minister for National Development, the honourable member for Farrer, on the tremendous work that he did and the knowledge that he brought to bear when he occupied min isterial rank. I congratulate also the present Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) and the Government, and regret that the Opposition has made some statements which would have been better left unsaid.
– Surely one of the most satisfying expenditures that a nation can make is in the field of water conservation and irrigation. The Bill before us is designed to give to the States the necessary financial means to enable them to discover and measure the extent of underground water, and to record the rate of flow and capacity of our rivers. Just as we must know the extent of our national income before we can allocate expenditure economically, so we must know the extent of our water resources before we can plan adequately our conservation programme. As the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) said in his second reading speech:
The Commonwealth grants have been allocated between the States on the basis of the State’s own proposed programmes for both surface and underground water.
Therefore the allocation has been linked not only with dams but with irrigation schemes as well. The Minister went on to say that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) mentioned in October last year that this programme would be brought within the compass of the national water resources development programme - the whole national programme of water conservation and irrigation. Then he said:
Thus, the grants provided for in this Bill are part of the total allocation to be made to the States in the national water programme. The provision of works to conserve and use our water resources must be preceded by thorough investigations of the resources involved, so that adequate basic data for rational development are available. The programme of water resources assessment which all governments are undertaking has been devised with this end in view.
It is a commendable programme. We have waited a long time for the implementation of such a scheme. The former Minister for National Development, the honourable member for Farrer, set the ball rolling in 1964. The Government boasts about what it has done in regard to water conservation in Australia but it has been the only government in office for 21 years, and if it has not something worthwhile to show for 21 years occupancy of the Treasury bench it is a pretty poor government. I do not think there is anything to boast about in what the Government has done after 21 years in office.
The Tasmanian aspect of this matter is shown in the schedules to the Bill. Each State has its own drought problem, its own water problem and its own problem of water running to waste into the sea. Being a Tasmanian, it is only right that 1 should refer to the Tasmanian aspect. In the First Schedule to the Bill relating to the measurement of discbarge of rivers it is shown that the base amount of expenditure for Tasmania will be $89,500 and that for each of the next 3 years the allocation will be $47,400. In other words, over the. next 3 years a total, of $142,200 will be available to Tasmania. In the Second Schedule which relates to the investigation and measurement of underground water resources the base amount of expenditure for Tasmania will be $15,000 and for each of the next 3 years it will be $23,100, making a total for the 3 years of $69,300. If one adds the 2 amounts one will see that the Commonwealth will grant to Tasmania over the next 3 years just over $200,000. We are grateful for that consideration.
Although the Commonwealth is prepared to grant that sum of money the State, not the Commonwealth, has the fina] say on whether it will be granted. Let me read to the House clause 8 of the Bill which is the relevant clause:
– (1.) A State is not entitled to financial assistance under this Act in respect of a year to which this Act applies unless the State has duly furnished to the Minister a report in relation to the first six months of that year and a report in relation to the whole of that year, to the satisfaction of the Minister, setting out particulars of the works carried out, the facilities provided, and the things done, by the State during that period in connection with -
That throws back to the States the full responsibility of whether they will receive the grant. In other words, the States must have the equipment, the manpower and the knowhow to set about the 2 jobs, firstly, measuring the surface flow of rivers, and secondly, measuring underground water resources. The States will have to show the maximum concern, activity and cooperation to receive this grant. That is rightly so. The Commonwealth will pay according to the work done. In my opinion, that is a fair condition. The sums of money that I have mentioned in respect of Tasmania are the sums which the Commonwealth will grant provided the State shows that it has spent a certain amount on the works concerned.
Another matter I wish to mention relates to one of our schemes, the Poatina irrigation scheme, which will use about 12 per cent of the water from the tailrace of the Poatina hydro-electric works. A Bill allocating $750,000 to Tasmania was passed last year. Tasmania has contributed an additional sum making a total of about Sim for the scheme. That is bound up with the measure before us because a definite mesurement of water was required in connection with the construction of the Poatina Dam. The other big project which the former Minister for National Development mentioned - the Gordon River scheme - will cost about $95m and will conserve more than 8 times the amount of water in Sydney Harbour. That scheme will almost equal the biggest section of the Snowy Mountains scheme. It is being undertaken on the Gordon River on the southern tip of my electorate. A road 53 miles long was built from Maydena to it out of money allocated by this Government - about $5m over a period of 2 or 3 years. This road was through wild, rugged, untouched country. A big township has been established by the Hydro-Electric Commission at Strathgordon. It will take about 8 or 9 years to complete this gigantic water conservation and hydro-electric project.
The amazing thing about our projects is that they are all linked with the production of hydro-electric power. When the Gordon River scheme is completed we will have 15 or 18 dams, arl producing power and some producing water for irrigation. The Poatina irrigation scheme running to the north of Poatina through Cressy and Longford districts will be part of a scheme involving the use of water to produce power and the use of water for irrigation. Originally it was planned as a channel scheme with about 68 miles of channelling to serve 60 farms. T recently asked the Minister for National Development a series of questions about this scheme. I asked him first whether the terms of the Act specified that the scheme had to be an open channel scheme rather than a pipeline scheme; in other words, whether the scheme could be a pipeline scheme in the terms of the Act. Secondly, I asked him whether the water was to be especially for irrigation or whether it could be used for a town supply if that town was on the perimeter of the irrigation area. Thirdly, I asked whether a time limit was imposed on the Tasmanian Government for the expenditure of the money.
I asked these questions because there had been appreciable pressure from certain farmers to have a pipe scheme rather than an open channel scheme. When the full details of the open channel scheme were known to the farmers and the plans were finally completed, it was discovered that these channels would wind snakelike through dozens of farms, tearing them to pieces, criss-crossing some farms 3 times on the contour line and making a terrible mess of good land, cutting paddocks off from houses, carving farms up into segments and all in all producing a destruction of land that no-one originally contemplated. So action was set in motion to change this scheme to a pipe scheme. This proposal has been put to the Premier, Mr Bethune, by a committee of farmers and it has gained a lot of support. It was seen from the plans that the open channel scheme would emasculate many farms. The farmers claimed also that under this scheme a lot of water would be lost by evaporation and soakage. Incidentally, some farmers who are not even in the scheme are to have the channels put through their farms, and thousands and thousands of dollars will be involved for compensation to the farmers for the land taken up for the channelling.
The Minister, in his reply to me, pointed out that the Act which was passed through, this Parliament specifies in the schedule attached to it that the works are to comprise, inter alia, the construction of a channel system to carry the water and that consequently it would not be possible to construct a pipeline scheme without a variation of the schedule. He said:
You may be aware that there is provision in the Act for variation oi the schedule but I would not anticipate doing this unless I received a specific request from the Tasmanian Government.
Then he commented also on the open earthern channels as compared with the pipeline scheme. He said: in most cases it has been found that the value of the water saved in this way would not offset the additional cost of the construction by pipeline.
Then he went on:
When the National Water Resources Development Programme, under which this scheme is being financed, was announced by the Prime Minister it was stated that the purpose of the programme was to extend the conservation and use of water in rural industry. This has not been interpreted to exclude the provision of urban water supplies which may be a secondary purpose of a scheme, but in such cases the cost of works associated with urban supplies have been excluded from the amounts involved in financial assistance from the Commonwealth.
In other words, it could be used for a town supply but it would involve an extra cost to the State government. It is not included in the money received from the Commonwealth. Then he said:
There is no provision in the Act providing a time limit for the construction of the works or imposing restriction on the Tasmanian Government by way of time allowed for the spending of the grant.
That is the $750,000 grant. He went on:
It was however understood that the project would be completed within about 3 years.
I comment on that point. Some of the farmers thought this scheme had to be completed in a time limit and they voted for a channel scheme because they wanted a channel scheme rather than no scheme. The time limit they thought was imposed pressured them into voting for the channel scheme when they would have preferred a pipe scheme. Now that they know, following my query to the Minister, there is no time limit on the expenditure of the money, many of these men have taken another look at the matter and are now saying that they should have a pipe scheme rather than an open channel scheme. The Minister, in his reply to me, went on:
It should be borne in mind in discussing all of the projects being financed by the Commonwealth Government under the National Water Programme that the schemes are those submitted by the State Government-
That is true - . . and the Commonwealth Government has not in general interfered with details of the proposals. In the case of the Cressy-Longford Scheme the works as submitted by the State were agreed by the Commonwealth Government without any substantial changes.
That also is true. If we now wanted to change to a pipe scheme from a channel scheme in Tasmania legislation would have to be passed through this Parliament amending the schedule to the Act. So it is not impossible to have a pipe scheme ; provided that the State Liberal Government makes the necessary approach to this Government. We could change over to a pipe scheme provided the finances were available, because a pipe scheme is more costly than a ‘ channel scheme- But how much more worth while would it be, and how much more satisfactory would it be to have the’ water from the Poatina hydroelectricity scheme channelled to these farms through pipes rather than open channels?
The advantages would be. as follows: All the water in the pipes would be useful; there would be no loss by soakage or evaporation as in channels. No compensation would be payable because there would be little interference to property. Clear water, as opposed to possibly polluted or turbulent water in open channels, would be available for domestic and stock use. Less maintenance would be involved than with a channel scheme. We would need 3 bailiffs employed all the year round to maintain the channels. Storage charges would be less. Less equipment would be required by farmers. We would be able to conserve large areas, including the highest and driest land, and we could extend the scheme to include 100 farmers with 46 miles of pipe as opposed to the present scheme which will serve 60 farms with 68 miles of open channelling. We would save an estimated 300 acres of land that would be taken up by channels. This land would return, say, $30 an acre annually. No fences would have to be erected and kept in repair. No channel bridges would be required. With the channel scheme dozens of bridges would have to be built over the top of the channels at the expense of the farmer, and it would be a very expensive scheme for these men.
Interesting statistics that have been worked out by a prominent engineer show that the pipe scheme would cost $1,218,840. I do not know the cost of the open channel scheme at the moment, but the total amount of money made available for it is $lm. So for an extra expenditure of, say, $250,000 we could have a pipe scheme, which would be much more satis factory and much more economic in the long run. It would serve 100 farmers instead of 60, and there would be only 46 miles of pipe as against 68 miles of open channel. In addition, the farms would not be cut to pieces by this snakelike channel running 68 miles through dozens of farms. I put this proposal to the Government this afternoon and I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for letting me mention it in the debate on this Bill. This scheme is connected with water resources and our total national water programme. I hope that if the Tasmanian State Government puts a request to this Government it will change the schedule and enable us at least legally to go on with a pipe scheme instead of the wasteful, ugly, long, winding, snaking, open channel scheme that is contemplated.
Debate (on motion’ by Mr Corbett) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Anthony, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bil! be now read a second time.
The object of this Bill is to establish a statutory body to be known as the Australian Wool Commission, empowered to operate a flexible reserve price scheme for wool sold at auction and to perform a number of other functions relating to the whole clip aimed at improving the marketing of Australian wool. I explain the background to the Bill. The idea of setting up a statutory wool marketing authority originated with the woolgrowing industry itself. As a result of a severe decline in wool prices during the last 18 months, strong advocacy arose among wool growers in Australia for a body which would strengthen the position of sellers and reduce the irrational fluctuations which occur in wool prices. The proposal for such a body was supported at mass meetings of wool growers throughout Australia. The 2 federal wool grower organisations - the Australian Woolgrowers’ and Graziers’ Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers’ Federation - resolved to press for such a body as did the national body of the wool growers, the Australian Wool Industry Conference.
At the request of the Conference, a special Advisory Committee of the Australian Wool Board prepared an outline plan suggesting the principles on which a statutory wool marketing authority could be established. The special Advisory Committee of the Wool Board is a body representative of all sections of the wool industry including wool-selling brokers, wool buyers and wool textile manufacturers. The Advisory Committee recommended that a statutory body be set up and operated along the lines proposed in its report and this recommendation was adopted in principle by the Wool Board, the 2 federal wool grower organisations and the Wool Industry Conference. The report and recommendations of the Advisory Committee of the Wool Board were presented to the Government by representatives of the industry in July of this year The Government decided that it would be desirable to have an independent assessment made of the proposal by a highly qualified person who could also fill in the details of the broad principles recommended by the Advisory Committee. To this end, I arranged for Sir John Crawford, Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University to undertake the task.
After considering Sir John Crawford’s comprehensive report the Government put to the industry the terms on which it would be prepared to set up a statutory wool marketing authority. These were accepted early this month by the 2 federal wool grower organisations and by the Wool Industry Conference which voted overwhelmingly for the implementation of the scheme. This, then, is the background to the Bill which we are about to consider.
The need for establishing a statutory wool marketing authority with powers relating to the whole clip was argued in some detail in Sir John Crawford’s report which has been made public. Wool marketing must be considered in the wider sense of the word which includes not only the method employed in the physical selling of wool but also embraces many other aspects such as the preparations and handling of wool for sale, its transport and the use of scientific and technological aids to increase efficiency in the marketing process. Even though the free auction system has been regarded as an efficient means of transferring wool from the producer to the user there is an urgent need for strengthening the position of sellers, that is wool growers, by eliminating the serious deficiencies which have developed in the auction system. These deficiencies have developed by its failure to keep pace with the changes which have taken place and will continue to occur in world commerce and business organisation. In particular some of the deficiencies which call for attention are:
Irrespective of what type of system is used for selling wool it is of paramount importance to ensure that the most modern and advanced techniques are applied to make that system as efficient as possible. As matters stand now, where the control of auction selling is decided upon jointly to wool growers, selling brokers and buyers there are obvious difficulties in obtaining a consensus of the interests concerned in order to obtain the ready application of new techniques. An example of the innovations needed is the development of commercially acceptable sampling and testing methods to enable the application of objective measurement of wool’s characteristics prior to sale. It does not need much imagination to visualise the savings, particularly in handling costs, which could accrue from the sale of wool by sample. Also, as I mentioned previously, errors which occur in the appraisal of wool by subjective methods are an important factor contributing to instability in wool auction prices. It follows, therefore, that pre-sale objective measurement of wool would be an important aid in this regard. 1 might mention here that the Government attaches great importance to this aspect and as announced in . the last Budget it is providing about $1 1/2m for the development of techniques for pre-sale objective measurement and for trials to prove their commercial applicability.
The auction system in itself cannot be held responsible for the depressed state of the wool market. This is the function of the relative strength of supply and demand. On the other hand, the introduction of a flexible reserve price scheme can help to reduce the instability of auction prices, prevent wool from being sold at sacrificial prices due to purely temporary slackening of competition and so avoid considerable losses to individual growers.
Of equal importance is the confidence which a flexible reserve price system could engender in the market as a whole, particularly in the circumstances we are witnessing today. The psychological factors which operate in such circumstances lead buyers to hold off in bidding for fear that their competitors will obtain wool at a lower price later. In this way the decline in prices feeds upon itself. In situations of this nature there is a great need for a strong holder of wool who is able to exercise a restraining influence against these temporary depressive factors. In such a manner a measure of badly needed confidence can be restored to the market. For a body to perform this role it must have the necessary powers and standing and be backed with adequate financial resources.
Similarly there is a pressing need for a body to pursue a positive programme of cutting the high costs associated with the handling, transport and marketing of wool. I have already referred to the advantages which can come from the pre-sale objective measurement of wool. Another is the establishment, where appropriate, of integrated wool selling complexes. Because of the many interests involved, a strong co-ordinating body is required to obtain early and tangible results in these and other fields. I shall now turn to outlining the main provisions of the Bill.
The composition of the Australian Wool Commission is dealt with in Part II of the Bill, lt is proposed that the Commission should consist of 7 members comprising a Chairman, 2 members to represent Australian wool growers, a Commonwealth government representative who would be drawn from the Public Service, and 3 other members. The 3 other members would be persons with special qualifications. They would be required to have experience in the fields of marketing of wool or wool products; in the processing of wool or the manufacture of wool products; or in commerce, finance or economics. All members, including the Chairman, would be appointed by the Minister for Primary Industry. The Chairman would be a full time member appointed for a period of 5 years. All other members would be part time and would be appointed for a period of 3 years.
The Chairman would be appointed by the Minister after consultation with the Australian Wool Board. The 2 wool grower representatives would be appointed after consultation with the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The 3 members with special qualifications would be appointed after consultation with the Wool Board. Provision is made in the Bill for the appointment of an interim Chairman pending the appointment of the full time Chairman. The main reason for this provision is to facilitate the early inauguration of the Commission as it may take some time to secure a person suitable and willing to serve as a full time Chairman. Provision is also made in the Bill for the appointment by the Minister of a Deputy Chairman from amongst the members of the Commission.
The Government gave careful consideration to the composition of the Commission and concluded that in the interests of efficiency it was necessary to keep the membership as small as possible, consistent with the need to obtain an adequate range of skills relevant to the work of the Commission. In view of the nature of the functions of the Commission, it is considered that the main emphasis should be placed on commercial and technical skills. I am sure that it will be agreed that every endeavour must be- made to secure for the Commission men of the highest expertise and ability. The Government recognises the importance of maintaining a close liaison between the Commission and the Australian Wool Board because of the relationship between the functions of the 2 bodies. For this reason the Bill provides that the Chairman of the Commission should automatically become a member of the Wool Board.
The functions and powers of the Commission are dealt with in Part III of the Bill. The principal function of the Commission is to operate a flexible reserve price scheme in respect of wool offered for sale at auction. I should like to emphasise that the reserve price scheme operated by the Commission would be on a flexible basis and not one with reserve prices fixed for a whole season. Under the scheme reserve prices for the various types of wool offered at auction would be determined daily or at less frequent intervals. Reserve prices would be determined having regard to the most recent prices bid by commercial buyers at auction and after taking into account all market intelligence available to it. If the bidding on any lot did not reach the Commission’s reserve price, the Commission would be prepared to purchase the wool at that price. Wool so purchased by the Commission would be re-offered at auction or otherwise disposed of by the Commission. The grower would retain his right to place his own reserve price on his wool, except in the case of wool included in the price averaging plan or voluntarily pooled.
The purpose of the flexible reserve price scheme would not be to defy or force the market but to test it with the objective of securing the best price obtainable at the time and of minimising the losses associated with the growing instabilities in the auction system. The operation of the scheme in this way should mean a significant reduction in sales crf wool at under-valued prices, in relation to prevailing rates, and the prevention of sales of individual lots when bidding on those lots has ceased to be competitive; that is preventing the occurrence of ‘potholes’ in the course of auction sales. The Government decided that no quantitative or financial limits should be placed on the amount of wool which could be purchased and held by the Commission, as such a limitation could adversely affect the operations of the Commission. For example, to declare and publicise a fixed limit to the level of stocks which the Commission would be permitted to hold could lead to embarrassing pressure on the Commission as stocks approached or were thought by buyers to be approaching the fixed limit.
On the other hand the Government, because of its financial commitments under the scheme, to which 1 will reFer later, must be assured that the Commission pursues a sound policy in its wool market operations. To this end the following provisions are included in the Bill in respect of the reserve price and re-selling policies of the Commission: A government representative is to be on the Commission; the government is to have the right to appoint the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman of the Commission; the Commission is to report fortnightly to the Minister for Primary Industry and the Treasurer on its reserve prices, on wool purchased and held by it, as well as sales of wool made and proposed offerings; the government is to have the right to issue directions to the Commission on its reserve price and reselling operations when this is considered necessary. Steps would, however, be taken to provide the Commission with guidelines in respect of its reserve price and re-selling operations so that the provision for directions need be invoked only as a last resort.
To assist it in the operation of its reserve price scheme, the Commission is empowered to establish and operate a market intelligence unit. Since the flexible reserve price scheme will not involve long range price forecasting, this unit will be primarily concerned with the examination of short term developments which affect wool prices. The Bill provides for the Commission to take over the functions of The Australian Wool Marketing Corporation Pty Ltd. These functions include the formulation of standards of clip preparation for wool sold at auction or otherwise and the making of arrangements to secure their observance; the elimination of small lots (except specialty wools) from sale at auction to the extent desirable; the operation of a Price Averaging Plan for wool from small lots; the payment of advances to growers whose wool is included in the Price Averaging Plan; the operation of the Wool Statistical Service; and the operation of a scheme for the voluntary registration of woolclassers.
The Commission is to be given the following additional functions and powers under the Bill:
To operate, when judged appropriate by the Commission, a voluntary pool for wool other than that in small lots (that is, for wool in lots exceeding three bales) and pay advances to owners of such wool:
To formulate the terms and conditions governing the sale of wool at auction and make arrangements for their adoption:
To make arrangements concerning wool auction sale, rosters and offerings and to pay advances to growers the sale of whose wool has been delayed because of the arrangements made by the Commission. Provision is made in the Bill that the Commission in exercising this function will not direct wool from one selling centre to another except within such limits, or in such circumstances, as are approved by the State Government concerned:
To have power to sell wool outside the auction system or have wool processed before sale in cases where such wool cannot be sold advantageously at auction. This provision means that the Commission will have power to dispose of any wool purchased by it, or entrusted to it, in any way the Commission deems fit. The Commission is empowered to purchase wool in two ways - through the operation of its flexible reserve price scheme after the wool had been offered at auction or, with the consent of the grower, before the wool is offered at auction in cases where it is considered that the wool cannot advantageously be sold at auction. In the latter case, the Commisison would pay the grower a price equivalent to its most recent reserve price for the particular type of wool or such higher price as the Commission may determine:
To encourage the progressive adoption of proven and practical technological aids to more efficient wool marketing. Examples of the aids envisaged are the pre-sale objective measurement of wool and, in cooperation with the Australian Wool Board, the establishment of integrated wool selling complexes:
To register firms at present operating outside the auction system which purchase wool direct from growers and sell it to local and overseas buyers, and obtain from these firms information on matters such .is the type, yield and price of wool handled by them. The precise nature of the information to be supplied would be subject to the approval of the Minister for Primary Industry. The information provided by the individual firms will be treated by the Commission as strictly confidential. The reason for obtaining this information is to enable the Commission to keep the private buying and selling of wool under review and assess its effects on price formation in the auction system:
To make recommendations to the Government for suitable action to be taken if and when it can be clearly demonstrated that private buying and selling is having detrimental effects on wool marketing generally:
With the approval of the Minister for Primary Industry, to participate in negotiations concerning charges associated with the marketing of wool, including freight rates:
To co-operate with authorities and organisations in other countries in measures aimed at more efficient marketing of wool. An important matter envisaged under this function is to consult with the New Zealand and South African Wool Commissions in the operation of their flexible reserve price schemes:
To co-operate with the Australian Wool Board and other authorities and organisations in regard to wool promotion and research, including inquiries into methods of marketing wool:
Such other functions conducive to the object of the Bill including functions conferred by a State Act, as the Minister approves.
I have had discussions with the State Ministers for Agriculture, through the Australian Agricultural Council, and they have expressed unanimous support in principle for the establishment of the Australian Wool Commission. 1 have raised with them some matters, which may ultimately require supporting State legislation, such as giving j compulsive power to the Commission to set the terms and conditions governing the sale of wool at auction; the control, if it should become necessary, of the private buying and selling of wool outside the auction , system; and the enforcement of standards of clip preparation for wool sold outside the auction system for use within a State. The State Ministers have agreed to consider these matters and provision has been made in the Bill for possible State legislation.
The Australian Wool Industry Conference has asked for an assurance that the Commission should not have the power to establish quotas on wool production in Australia. Such a power has never been envisaged for the Commission and, in any event, the Commonwealth Government could not, for constitutional reasons, confer it on the Commission without the approval of the States. The Commission will, of course, require adequate and reliable financial backing to carry out its functions. The Commission would need working capital for its activities involving the purchasing of wool and advances to woolgrowers as well as finance to meet its operating costs. lt has been estimated that the Commission might require in the region of Si 15m by way of working capital for a full year - to operate flexible reserve prices, make advances to growers etc. - and about $18.7m to meet its likely annual operating costs. I would like to mention that the assumptions used in making the estimates were on the libera] side and in practice the financial requirements could be smaller. Moreover, the estimates include the finance which is already required for the operations of the Wool Marketing Corporation, mainly for the elimination of small lots and the price averaging plan. Details of the estimated working capital requirements and of operating costs are set out in paragraphs 44 to 47 of Sir John Crawford’s report which has been distributed to members of both chambers of Parliament and released to the public. However, the relevant extract from the report is available to those who require it. lt will be noted from the report that after allowing for the financial requirements of the present Wool Marketing Corporation the net additional working capital required is about $66m and the net additional operating costs are about $6£m per annum. The total operating costs of $ 18.7m would represent S3. 12 per bale or 1.04c per lb. The net additional operating costs of $6.33m would be $1.06 per bale or 0.35c per lb. It should be mentioned that the estimates for operating costs include a component for possible losses which, of course, may not eventuate.
The financial arrangements for the Commission are dealt with in Part IV of the Bill. The Bill makes provision for trading banks to participate in providing the finance required for the working capital of the Commission, and the Government would guarantee such loans as trading banks may make available to the Commission on acceptable terms and conditions. The Government would make available such finance as may be required by the Commission beyond any funds provided by the trading banks. In regard to the operating costs of the Commission, the Government would meet any losses resulting from the resale of wool purchased by the Commission. Such losses would include interest payable by the Commission on capital borrowed for purchasing wool as well as storage, handling and selling costs, as approved by the Minister, which could not be recovered from the resale of wool lt is quite probable that the Commission will make profits. The first charge on such profits would be for meeting any losses which the Government has borne on behalf of the Commission. Remaining profits would be set aside as a contingency for meeting any future losses. Profits and losses of the Commission would be calculated on a financial year basis and certified by the Auditor-General. (Extension of time granted).
Provision is made in the Bill, however, for the Government to make advances to the Commission during a financial year for the meeting of losses and a suitable provision is made in the Bill for the appropriation of any funds which may be required for this purpose. In regard to the other operating costs of the Commission, the Government will continue to make available the funds required to meet one-half of the rehandling and brokers’ administration charges for the elimination of one-, twoand three-bale lots covered by the present Price Averaging Plan. The Government’s commitment for these costs is estimated at $3.7m in a full year. In regard to the voluntary pooling of wool, which would be an extension of the Price Averaging Plan, growers concerned would be expected to meet all the costs involved themselves. The balance of the operating costs . associated with the operations of the Commission comprises interest on money borrowed for making advances to growers, one-half of the rehandling costs and brokers’ administration charges for the elimination of one-, two- and three-bale lots under the Price Averaging Plan and the total administrative costs of the Commission. These costs would be met by woolgrowers through appropriate deductions, by arrangement with woolselling brokers, from the proceeds of the sale of the growers’ wool.
I would like to make it clear that woolgrowers would not be called upon to make any contribution for the capital requirements of the Commission. Provision is made in clause 31 of the Bill that until 30th June 1971 there may be paid to the Commission out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund such sums as the Treasurer is satisfied are necessary for the Commission in carrying out its responsibilities under the Act. Normally, a limit would have been placed on the payments to be made but in the present case this has not been possible because of the difficulty of estimating, at this stage, the amount of money that may be required during the current financial year. Accordingly, to allow the Commission to commence operations without delay it was necessary to meet the situation by the provision made in clause 31. To protect the public interest, however, the Treasurer and the Minister for Primary Industry will closely scrutinize any proposals for payments to the Commission before approving them. Part V of the Bill covers miscellaneous matters associated with the opera tion of the Commission. These include provision for the employment of staff by the Commission; safeguarding the interests of staff now working for the Australian Wool Marketing Corporation who would be employed by the Commission, auditing of the accounts of the Commission by the Auditor-General; annual reports to the Minister on the operations of the Commission which would be required to be tabled in Parliament; and the provision for making regulations.
In introducing this Bill the Government is acting in accordance with the wishes of the woolgrowing industry. The original resolutions passed by the woolgrowing industry organisations calling for the establishment of a statutory wool marketing authority used the term a ‘single’ marketing authority. This term was still used by the Advisory Committee of the Australian Wool Board in keeping with its terms of reference. The outline of the authority drawn up by the Advisory Committee and which was endorsed by the Industry and put to the Government clearly did not envisage a single body with monopoly powers to buy and sell the whole Australian wool clip, which the term ‘single’ implies.
What was put to the Government was a body which should be given certain powers relating to the whole clip but working within the existing marketing arrangements in which a number of private firms carry out the physical task of selling wool. The Government has very largely adopted the proposals put to it by the industry and they have been embodied in this Bill. In considering this Bill, we should keep in mind the critical position in which the wool-growing industry now finds itself. Due to the catastrophic drop in wool prices over the past 18 months, the average price being received by wool growers today is the lowest for 24 years. On the other hand, wool growers’ costs have increased very considerably indeed over this period. I think it can be said that the position of most wool growers is a parlous one and in many cases, due to the advent of drought, a desperate one.
Because of the substantial contribution which wool makes to our export incomestill some 20 per cent despite the extremely low wool prices - and because of the almost total dependence of large regions of Australia on woolgrowing, the wool industry must, by all measures available, be restored to a viable condition. The Government considers that reform of the present marketing system, although not the complete answer to the problems facing the wool industry, can do much to safeguard woolgrowers against losses which they often sustain under the present marketing arrangements. The marketing reforms which this Bill aims to bring about, in conjunction with other measures now being pursued as a matter of urgency by the Government - such as debt reconstruction and farm adjustment - will assist materially in the rehabilitation of this great industry. 1 commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Hughes, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. This Bill is designed to meet the constitutional position disclosed by the decision of the High Court of Australia given last June in Worthing v. Rowell and Muston Pty Ltd and Others. In the case the plaintiff, Mr Cyril Worthing, alleged that ‘ while in the employment of one of the defendants he was injured by falling from his working place. He claimed damages from his employer on the ground that the employer had failed to secure his safety, by means of fencing or otherwise, as required by certain regulations made under the Scaffolding and Lifts Act, 1912 of New South Wales. The employer pleaded that the regulations did not bind him since the work was being carried on at the Royal Australian Air Force base at Richmond and the base was a ‘place acquired by the Commonwealth for public purposes’ within the meaning of section 52 (i.) of the Constitution. Section 52 (i.) provides that the Commonwealth Parliament has exclusive power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to any place acquired by the Commonwealth for public purposes.
The High Court held by a majority of 4 Justices to 3 that the State legislation did not operate in the Richmond Air Force base. The decision runs counter to the assumption, held and acted upon by both Commonwealth and State governments since Federation, that State laws are not affected by section 52 (i.) if they do not purport to apply specifically to Commonwealth places. Immediately after the High Court decision I communicated with the Attorneys-General of the States. It was the unanimous view of the law Ministers that legislation should be introduced as quickly as possible to meet the position resulting from the High Court’s decision. Subsequent events have emphasised the need for early legislation. In several cases parties have argued, sometimes successfully, that certain State laws concerning manslaughter, forgery, theft, gross indecency, possession of drugs and the use of indecent language do not operate in Commonwealth places. These places include, for example, not only Royal Australian Air Force bases but also Army camps, Post Offices.. Commonwealth offices, Commonwealth court buildings and quarantine stations. A series of meetings has taken place between the Commonwealth and Slate Attorneys-General and between Commonwealth and State officers. A special meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General was held in Sydney on 18th September to consider draft Commonwealth and State Bills. The matter was further discussed at the regular meeting of the Standing Committee in Perth on 15th October.
I shall now describe to the House the principal features of this Bill. The broad object of the Bill is to restore the position as far as possible to the position that was assumed to exist before Worthing’s case. This has proved to be a task of great legal complexity. The Bill if enacted will, subject to certain exceptions, apply as Commonwealth law the provisions of State laws that are inapplicable by reason of section 52(i.) of the Constitution. The provisions of these State laws will be applied as in force from time to time in each State. When the States repeal or amend their laws, the repeals, and amendments will, by force of the provisions of this Bill, be automatically applied in Commonwealth places. The Bill, if enacted, will apply State laws retrospectively in both civil and criminal matters. For example, persons who have uttered forged documents in Commonwealth places will be liable to prosecution under the retrospective provisions. A plaintiff in a civil action will be able to pursue a claim under the retrospectively applied provisions. Mr Worthing would therefore be able to proceed under the applied provisions unless he has already settled his claim.
For constitutional reasons, some exceptions must be made to the application of State provisions as they stand, lt will therefore be necessary to make regulations modifying the applied provisions so that they can operate effectively. For example, it will be necessary to modify provisions of State laws that confer judicial power on bodies that are not courts within the meaning of Chapter III of the Constitution. However, the regulation-making powers would extend no further than necessary for purposes of this kind: if the Commonwealth wished to make other changes - for example, if it wished to increase the penalties for assault or other crimes committed in Commonwealth places - it would have to do so by separate legislation.
The Bill will not affect the continued operation in Commonwealth places of Commonwealth laws such as the Airports (Business Concessions) Act 1959-1966.
The Bill authorises the Governor-General to make arrangements, with State Governors for the administration of the applied provisions by State authorities. Where a State makes an arrangement, its authorities will be given the powers, functions and duties under the applied provisions just as if they were still State laws. However, if a State does not make an arrangement, its authorities will not be obliged to perform any duties under the applied provisions, though they would have power to administer the provisions if they so wished. The assimilation of the applied provisions to the corresponding State laws is taken- a stage further by providing that Federal jurisdiction under these provisions would-be exercised by State courts just as if it were State jurisdiction. The only qualification is that no appeals would lie from State courts to the Privy Council in matters arising under the applied provisions. This accords with Commonwealth policy as expressed in the Judiciary Act 1903-1969 and the Privy Council (Limitation of Appeals) Act 1968.
Several clauses of the Bill deal with situations where people act on the assumption that a State law is applicable but the law turns out to be inapplicable as a result of Worthing’s case. For example, proceedings begun under an inapplicable State law would have to be continued as if they had been originally brought under the applied provisions. I have referred to possible arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States for the administration of the applied provisions. Not all the State governments have yet indicated their intention to introduce legislation to enable these arrangements to be made. I can say, however, speaking as of now that some States have done so. Accordingly, the Bill has been prepared in terms that, in certain respects, would apply differently according to whether or not a State has made an arrangement. If a State does not enter into an arrangement, a proclamation will be made bringing the proposed legislation into force in that State as soon as possible. In the case of States making arrangements, proclamations will be made to take effect from dates to be agreed with those States.
Mr Speaker, 1 think I have sufficiently, though shortly, described the reasons for the Bill, the manner in which it will operate and why it is that the Government considers that legislation should be passed by the Parliament in the present sittings. I should be glad, in Committee, to give honourable members a more detailed explanation of the provisions of the Bill, many of them of a highly technical nature. The Bill is both important and urgent. I commend it to the House.
– Before I move that the debate be adjourned may 1 ask the
Attorney-General which States have made ‘ arrangements?
– I have had communication by telegram from certain States indicating that they are prepared to pass complementary legislation - in the main legislation limited in point of time. It will be very helpful if they do that. If the honourable gentleman would care to ask me a question tomorrow I will answer it when I have taken stock of all the telegrams.
Debate (on motion by Mr Whitlam) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Hughes, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this Bill is to remove any obstacle that the Bankruptcy Act may present to the operation of compositions or schemes of arrangement entered into under State or Territory legislation providing for assistance to farmers in respect of their debts. The Bill seeks to achieve this object by, firstly, preserving the validity of com- positions or schemes of arrangement that might otherwise be void because of the provisions of the Bankruptcy Act arid, secondly, authorising the Bankruptcy Court to stay proceedings under the Bankruptcy Act that might affect such a composition or scheme of arrangement. Having regard to the provisions of section 213 of the Bankruptcy Acf, questions have arisen as to- the validity of compositions or schemes of arrangement made under State legislation. Section 213 renders void a composition or deed of arrangement that is not made in accordance with the provisions of Part X of the Bankruptcy Act. My inquiries indicate that it is unlikely that arrangements made between farmers and their creditors under State legislation would be in accordance with Part X of the Bankruptcy Act.
The repealed Bankruptcy Act contained a provision, section 57a, directed to protecting the operation of compositions and schemes of arrangement ‘providing for the management, administration or control of the business, property or affairs’ of a debtor. The provision was inserted in that Act in 1933 following the enactment by some of the States of legislation to provide relief to farmers during the financial depression of the 1930s. Section 9 of the Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjustment) Act 1935 of the Commonwealth was enacted for a similar purpose. However, when the committee that was appointed to review the bankruptcy law of the Commonwealth presented its report in 1962, the affairs of very few farmers were being administered under the various State Acts to which section 57a of the repealed Bankruptcy Act applied. This prompoted the committee to comment in paragraph 83 of its report that ‘this section was enacted in 1933 as a result of the economic conditions prevailing at that time but it no longer appears to have any practical value’. The committee therefore recommended that ‘section 57a should not be included in the new Act’ and this recommendation was given effect to when the Bankruptcy Act 1966 was enacted.
The effects of the drought, particularly severe in some States, appears to create a fresh need for the managament of farmers affairs under State farmers’ debts assistance schemes. I understand that some millions of dollars are held by the States under their farmers’ debts assistance legislation and that these moneys could be made available for the assistance of farmers faced with mounting burdens of debts because of the drought. There may be some hesitancy in providing that assistance because of a doubt about the validity of proposed compositions or schemes of arrangement. The Government has, therefore, decided to introduce this Bill to ensure that the Bankruptcy Act is not an impediment to the provision of assistance to farmers under State or Territory farmers’ debts assistance legislation. The scheme of the Bill is as follows: A State or Territory law providing facilities for (he giving of financial assistance to farmers for the purpose of discharging all or any of their debts may be proclaimed under proposed section 253b. This is a wider description of the laws that may be proclaimed than that contained in the old section 57a. The decision of the Bankruptcy Court in the case of Francis decided in 1941 (12 A.B.C. II) raised a doubt whether some State Acts answered the description in section 57a of an Act ‘providing for the management, administration or control of the business, property or affairs of the debtor’.
The Bill will preserve the validity of compositions or schemes of arrangement under a proclaimed law by excluding them from the operation of Part X of the Bankruptcy Act. This will be done by excluding the composition or scheme of arrangement from the definition of ‘composition’ or deed of arrangement’ in section 187 of the Act. The Bill provides, by proposed section 253c, the machinery to enable the authority administering the proclaimed State or Territory law to notify the Registrar in Bankruptcy of a bankruptcy district that proceedings or execution against a debtor are stayed under that law. 1 should mention that the time at which a stay is granted under the State or Territory law seems to be the most appropriate time for extending protection under the Bankruptcy Act. It appears that an automatic stay operates under all State Acts when an application for assistance has been accepted except in the case of New South Wales legislation under which, however, a stay can be granted if sought. The Registrar is required to maintain a register of notices received and forthwith to notify the Registrars of every other bankruptcy district, who are also required to enter in a register all notifications received. Each Registrar’ will, therefore, have a comprehensive register of notifications concerning all districts, not merely concerning his own district. This could be of importance where a farmer has creditors in more than one State or Territory.
The Registrar will be required, by new section 253d, to notify the relevant State or Territory authority of pending proceedings against a farmer in relation to whom a stay is in force under a proclaimed law. These pending proceedings include the ordinary creditor’s petition, a partnership petition presented by the partners of a farmer, a petition for an order for the administration of the estate of the deceased farmer - dealt with in new section 253e - and an application by a farmer for leave to present a petition against himself or against a partnership of which he is a member - dealt with in new section 253f. The protection given by the sections mentioned is wider than the protection that was provided under section 57a of the repealed Act. By new section 253e, the State or Territory authority will be given the right to seek, and the Bankruptcy Court will be empowered to order, a stay of the pending proceedings. The Court will be able to take into account all the facts of the case in determining whether to grant a stay of proceedings of a petition that has been presented or to give leave to present a petition. A stay may be of indefinable duration or for such period as the Court thinks fit.
I should mention that the opportunity has been taken in this Bill to include a provision in clause 20 that makes it an offence for a person to wilfully swear a false affidavit for the purposes of the Bankruptcy Act. The penalties provided are the same as those provided by section 11 of the Statutory Declarations Act for wilfully making a false statement in a statutory declaration. I believe that the provisions contained in the Bill will provide a satisfactory scheme for ensuring the validity of compositions and schemes of arrangement made under State legislation and will allow the Bankruptcy Court in pending proceedings to consider the circumstances relating to farmers who have sought assistance under such legislation. I com1 mend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Chipp, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr Speaker, this Bill provides for the validation until 30th April 1971 of customs duties collected in pursuance of Customs Tariff proposals moved in this House since 22nd May last and forming part of orders of the day - Government Business. To avoid encroaching on the indulgence of the House in reciting a description of each of the 10 tariff proposals involved, with the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate these descriptions in Hansard.
Honourable members will appreciate that legislation to enact the tariff proposals could not be properly debated before the House goes into recess and hence a validation Bill to continue the collection of the new duties is necessary. I would hope that it will be possible for the Bill to enact these and other changes made while the Parliament is in recess to be introduced early in the next session. This should enable honourable members to debate Australia’s tariff policy at length as well as the particular Tariff Board reports on which the tariff amendments are based. I commend the Bill. Mr Deputy Speaker, I understand that the House is prepared to allow debate on this measure to proceed forthwith.
– Is it the wish of the House to continue with the second reading debate forthwith? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– The House is being asked to validate tariff proposals which were introduced some time ago. Tariff Proposals No. 11 were introduced on 22nd May 1970; Tariff Proposals No. 12 were introduced on 11th June 1970; Tariff Proposals Nos 14 to 18 were introduced on 25th August 1970; Tariff Proposals No. 19 were introduced on 16th September 1970; Tariff Proposals No. 20 were introduced on 22nd October 1970; and then there are the proposals which were introduced today. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) made a speech in relation to each of those tariff proposals which were introduced. For instance, when introducing Tariff Proposals No. 12 he said that the Government intended to adopt the recommendations by the Tariff Board in its interim report under the inquiry on plastic products, etc., in relation to alginic acid and its derivatives. He went on to outline the proposals which had been recommended by the Tariff Board and accepted by the Government. When introducing Tariff Proposals Nos 14 to 18 the Minister said:
The Customs Tariff Proposals which I have just tabled relate’ to proposed amendments to the Customs Tariff 1966-1970. Customs Tariff Proposals
Nos 14 to 18 (J970) formally place before Parliament the tariff changes made by ‘Gazette’ notices and published in the ‘Gazettes’ of 2nd and 6th July and 3rd and 4lh August while the Parliament was in recess.
Then he went on to outline the products which were affected by the tariff proposals. My research indicates to me that in most of these amendments to the Customs Tariff there were decreases in the amount of tariff charged. In introducing Tariff Proposals No. 19 the Minister said that the Government intended to implement the acceptance of the Tariff Board’s report on pencils, crayons and chalks. The preferential tariff for ordinary lead pencils . was increased by 2i per cent. The Minister said:
This represents an increase of 2i per cent general tariff, 5 per cent preferential tariff of the value of loose pencils but in relation to boxed goods and cheap pencils duties will be somewhat reduced. Tariff protection is reduced on school chalks by 274 per cent or more of their value. Other goods, such as crayons and slate pencils, wilt now be admitted at non-protective rates of duty of 7i per cent general tariff, free preferential tariff.
The Minister also referred in his speech to preferential treatment being given to imports from New Zealand. When introducing Tariff Proposals No. 20 on 22nd October last, which dealt with vinyl acetate and cellulose acetate flake, the Minister said that the duties which were being introduced represented a reduction of 10 per cent under both the general and the preferential tariff. He said that they would come into effect on 1st December 1970. In introducing the tariff proposals relating to the Tariff Board’s report on nitrogenous fertilisers today the Minister said that the Government had accepted the Tariff Board’s recommendations.
The Board recommended that the duties on ammonium chloride should be reduced to 7J per cent general tariff, with free preferential tariff. So in most of the customs tariff proposals which we are now being asked to validate there has been a reduction in the tariff that is presently being charged.
The Bill that we are now asked to pass through the House will allow the Government to make decisions on tariffs while the Parliament is in recess, and I understand that it is necessary for the Government only to give notice of reductions or increases in tariff in the ‘Gazette’. This will be the procedure followed between the end of this week and perhaps the middle of February 1971 or even later. The Parliament is being asked to give an open cheque to the Government for its tariff policy. There is some criticism of the Government’s tariff policy and of the policy being adopted , by the Tariff Board.
I am beginning to wonder . whether the refusal of this Government to face up to the controversy on tariff policy, which it has dodged for 3 years now, is not a back door approach to establishing a pool of unemployed. There are so many in the Government who see such a pool as wholly essential to industrial peace and control of inflation. But they cannot come out openly, and for purely political purposes they have to present themselves as great supporters of full employment. However, we know that they still see great value in a pool of unemployed, and it may be that the Tariff Board has unwittingly presented them with a great opening. Perhaps what the Gorton Government wants to do is see the Tariff Board’s policy put into practice, but without coming out in public and agreeing with it and without saying that the Government will adopt the Board’s policy.
The manoeuvre is quite obvious. For 3 years now the Government has been pretending that the Tariff Board has not produced a new policy. The Government covers it over by saying such things as ‘lt is good for the Board to improve the quality of its advice*. Then at the same time the Government keeps saying to manufacturers that they should not be concerned, because the Government’s tariff policy is unchanged, and the Government will take the final decisions. How can the Government take its own decisions when Tariff Board reports do not give the information necessary in taking a decision? We know that the Government gets no more from the Tariff Board than the report which is made available to honourable members and to the public generally. We are asked in this Parliament to decide on the tariff changes that come out of these reports. We can no more make our own decisions than the Government can. For so long as Tariff Board reports do not give the information needed to make an assessment of the recommendations, the Parliament, like the Government, is stuck with the recommendations. For so long as reports of that kind are accepted by the Government, anything the Tariff Board says will be adopted by the Government because it has no alternative. The question is whether it really and honestly wants any alternative.
The Government has not got access to the Tariff Board’s papers. It cannot get the workings and the arithmetic that led to the recommendations. If the Government wanted to make a decision different from the Tariff Board’s recommendation it would either have to rework the entire case itself or make a guess. I do not believe that there is in the Department of Trade and Industry a unit that could rework the case. Even if there were, it would not have all the information that the Tariff Board has. These are the plain facts of the matter. The Government should stop talking in circles about its tariff policy being unchanged, or about making its own decision. The Government should stop claiming even that, it has a tariff policy until such time as it tells us, in words we can understand, just what the policy is.
This is what the presidents of 15 national manufacturing associations said publicly on 24th September last about the Government’s tariff policy:-
Industry today is confused and uncertain as to Government protection policy, and as to the circumstances under which protection might be expected. It is now meaningless for the Government to say that its tariff policy is that economic and efficient industry will be protected, and that the Government will make its own decisions after viewing a report from the Tariff Board.
Tariff Board reports do not give a full explanation of all of the circumstances on which the recommendations are based. They are rarely sufficiently comprehensive to enable an assessment to be made - either by the Government, or industry or anyone else - of the soundness of the recommendations. The Government’s decision usually is expressed merely in terms that it has accepted the recommendations.
Later they went on to say -
Protection policy and industrial development policy are matters for determination at the highest Government and economic adviser level, and the Presidents call on the. Government to resume its responsibilities in those areas.
How can this Government, in the face of that condemnation by people representing the whole of manufacturing industry, go on pretending that it has a tariff policy and that it takes the decisions. The people who said what I have quoted were not people of no consequence, but leaders of manufacturing industry. Let us have a look at some of them. The include: the President, Aluminium Development Council, the President, Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, the President, Australian Chemical Industry Council, the President, Australian Electrical Manufacturers’ Association, the President, Australian Industries Development Association, the President, Federation of Automotive Products Manufacturers, the President, Heavy Engineering Manufacturers’ Association, the President, Metal Trades Industry Association and the President, The Textile Council of Australia, among others. There they were 15 presidents representing without question the whole of manufacturing industry in Australia, telling the Government that what it keeps saying about tariff policy is meaningless, and that it should resume its responsibilities to make decisions on tariff policy.
But the Government still keeps saying those things, and the Deputy Prime Minister even as late as last week in Adelaide went over the whole worn-out story that Government tariff policy has not changed and that it will make its own decisions.
Even this Government is not silly enough to continue to go on like this in the face of statements such as the one the manufacturers made. So there is some important reason behind this facade, and the reason seems to be that it wants the Tariff Board’s policy to be put into practice because it wants a pool of unemployed. It sees most of the problems that face it now, and that it is not capable of handling, solved by the simple expedient of a pool of unemployed. The Tariff Board’s policy will lead to the pool of unemployed. Not enough people are concerned about where that policy is taking us, because of the conditions of today. More people should start thinking beyond next weekend, and start asking just what that policy could do to them and their jobs.
Too many people have fallen for the smart statement of the economists that tariff protection is no longer important in maintaining full employment. What they fail to see is that there- is some truth in that for so long as we retain the sort of protection we now have. But start to dismantle it, to considerably reduce it to the point where there is no alternative employment offering, and the smart economist’s theory leads the way to rolling unemployment. The Tariff Board in its annual report for 1970 included a table - table 4, appendix 2 on page 32 - that is the master chart for tariff reduction and industry destruction. The last column of that table lists the degree to which a great range of industries are, on the Tariff Board’s workings, receiving protection over the 50 per cent effective rate limit set by the Board. And here let us be clear that this does not mean a duty of 50 per cent. It means 50 per cent as the result of a formula worked out by the Board. The actual duty could be 15 per cent, 20 per cent, 30 per cent or 40 per cent. It becomes 50 per cent effective rate according to a formula worked out in the back room of the Tariff Board and which no one can check.
– 1 rise, Mr Deputy Speaker, to take a point of order with 2 prongs - one on principle and one on practice. The point of order on principle is that this is a Customs Tariff Validation Bill. As the honourable member for Lang knows full well, the Parliament will have a full opportunity to debate this Bill in February next or when Parliament resumes. By tradition, validation Bills have been allowed to go through during the dying hours of a Parliament without debate. I had a gentleman’s agreement with certain members of the Opposition that this Bill would go through tonight without debate. Members on this side of the House have so acquiesced. They have said that they will not debate it. I understand that the honourable member for Lang - this both surprises me and disappoints me, knowing him as T do - did not submit his name to his Whip or to the member of the front bench on bis side of the House who has control of this Bill. He is making now a highly political speech, not on the matter before the House at this moment. That is my point of order on principle.
The point of order on practice which I make is that I tabled certain proposals that are the subject of this Customs Tariff Validation Bill. This Bill has nothing whatsoever to do with the general matters of policy that the honourable member is debating now in a highly political context, including the Tariff Board’s annual report, the question of the 50 per cent protection, or whatever. I submit that for your consideration.
– Order! In regard to the first point of order taken by the Minister for Customs and Excise, the Chair has no control over any arrangements that might be made privately between the Whips-
– But members have, Sir.
– . . . or members or those in charge of Bills on one side of the House or the other. In relation to the second point of order that the Minister has taken, when the Customs Tariff Validation Bill has been debated the consideration has normally covered a wide range on matters relating to Customs tariff. To that degree, the honourable member for Lang is in order in the references that he is making.
– Without canvassing your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker, I point out that the Customs Tariff Validation Bill is rarely if .ever allowed to be debated in this House. With great respect, Sir, what you are speaking of is the substantive Bill which comes in once a year, not the Customs Tariff Validation Bill which is presented twice a year and rarely if ever is debated in this House.
-I point out to the Minister that whether or not a Bill is debated is another matter. Once a Bill is debated - if honourable members start debating that bill - the subject matter of the Bill is as wide as the subject matter of the tariff protection itself.
– I appeal to the honourable member’s better nature.
– I apologise to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and 1 apologise to the Minister for Customs and Excise for having had the audacity to make a political speech in this House. What I would like to point out is that the Customs Tariff Validation Bill which the Minister has just introduced has as its purpose the validation of tariff proposals brought down on 22nd May of this year, 11th June of this year, 25th August of this year, 16th September of this year and 22nd October of this year. A further proposal was introduced today. The Minister says that we will have the right to debate them in February. He did not add: ‘If lucky’.
Now, I have quoted the views of 15 presidents of manufacturing industries. They are very disturbed about the tariff policy that is being adopted by this Government. This is the only opportunity that we will have before this Parliament adjourns to discuss these proposals and to highlight the tariff policy that is not being followed by this Government. The Deputy Prime Minister last week in Adelaide again reiterated that efficient and economic industries will be satisfactory.
Again I apologise to the Minister. 1 knew of no arrangement. I spoke to the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) when he was at the table. I asked him whether he was going to speak on this Bill. He said he was not. I told him that I was.
– Why did you not tell your Whip?
- Mr Deputy Speaker, there is no compulsion on me at any time in this Parliament to tell you, the Minister, my Whip or my Leader whether I am going to speak at all. If 1 desire to raise a matter, I have the right to raise that matter; and I am doing so now.
I continue where I left off. 1 was about to ask the Minister whether he would allow me to incorporate in Hansard table 4 of appendix 2 which appears at page 32 of the annual report of the Tariff Board for the year 1969-70. I thank the Minister and the House for permission to incorporate the table.* If the industries listed in the last column are to be deprived of tariff protection or are to be destroyed by imports because they do not have enough tariff protection, 40 per cent of existing protected manufacturing industry will be destroyed. There are 600,000 people employed in that part of manufacturing industry and in the tertiary industries that directly serve it.
Then there is the lost growth. Over the next 10 years that part of manufacturing industry could be expected to create employment for another 200,000 people. Where are those people to find employment if this policy is followed? Undoubtedly some alternative industries will be created, but will they provide employment for that number? The only advice I have been able to get from people in manufacturing industry is that they do not know where these alternative industries will come from. *See Table on page 2825
Most of them say that they wish someone could tell them right now where these wonderful opportunities are.
I do not delude myself that even this Government would push ahead with this policy to the extent that unemployment went anywhere near the numbers I have quoted. The Government will always remember the year 1961. It would not last long if it persisted with this policy. But despite this all the indications are that it will push ahead with it until it gets its pool of unemployed, and we should not expect to hear any sense out of the Government on tariff policy until that objective is achieved. I think that this is a most important problem. People are now talking about the destruction of our secondary industries and the whittling away of our tariffs. We are not getting any sense out of the Government in answer to questions. I have asked a number of questions on tariff policies. So I have taken this opportunity to raise these matters. I am sorry that I have offended the Minister for Customs and Excise in so doing, but I think I was entitled to do it. The people who work in manufacturing industries are entitled to have someone express the point of view that I have expressed here tonight.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Chipp) read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 2794).
– Few matters are more important to this great Commonwealth of ours than the conservation of water and its effective use. This Bill is to grant financial assistance to the States in connection with the measurement and investigation of their water resources. The Australian Water Resources Council has performed and is performing very essential work. The importance and value of water conservation has been proved time and time again. No irrigation project which has been implemented could be regarded as anything other than of very real advantage to Australia and of particular importance to the decentralisation of national development. Water is the fundamental basis of decentralisation and is also most essential in the utilisation of land.
It is true that a cost benefit analysis is made to evaluate the real value of a water supply or irrigation scheme. A lot of discussion has arisen around these cost benefit analyses. I believe it is essential that a cost benefit analysis should be undertaken, but I wonder whether it takes into account the supplementary value of an irrigation scheme. I deprecate the type of investigation which omits to take into account so many of those important supplementary benefits. When large irrigation development takes place it brings with it increased population. I wonder whether a cost benefit analysis takes into consideration the full value of such an increase in population when it is of such advantage nationally. I wonder whether this is given its rightful place in the assessment of the real worth of an irrigation scheme. I give an example of what has been achieved in this way. I have heard discussions and debates about the value of the St George irrigation scheme in my own electorate. The scheme was debated and argued very considerably. St George is one of the few towns that has developed and grown in population and that has security as a result of this irrigation scheme. From the experience gained since the scheme was implemented the State Government has decided to duplicate the scheme by putting in another dam. So the value of this scheme has been proved and its benefits have been realised. I wonder whether a few other factors are taken into account in the evaluation of an irrigation scheme. In some inland areas the adoption of irrigation schemes has proved of tremendous value in having fodder much closer for the benefit of drought affected stock. I question very much whether this factor is fully appreciated in this very dry continent.
I move towards some of the proposals. One in particular is the proposed dam at Pikes Creek in southern Queensland. This has been subject to investigation by the States of New South Wales and Queensland and has recently undergone another cost benefit analysis by the Commonwealth Government. I believe, on the basis of what I have already said, that it would be detrimental to our national progress and development if this scheme were not proceeded with. Whilst the measuring of our water resources has reached a greater degree of efficiency than it had attained in the past, I still believe that this type of proposal will prove its worth as other irrigation schemes have done. The cost of Ais dam will be borne by 3 governments, so the cost to be met by any one government is reduced. This makes its value to the community so much more than if the costs were not spread to that degree.
The investigation and measurement of water resources is something that I hope will be continued. As I have previously mentioned, water conservation in this dry continent is most necessary. More and more water will be needed in the future to supply the domestic requirements of our towns. I refer to the great value to Bundaberg of the irrigation scheme that is proposed in that area. In fact, I doubt whether Bundaberg could develop without such a scheme. One factor in relation to these measurements is that the quantity of water that is available to the dam must be considered not only in relation to the size of the dam but also in respect of catchments. In the areas to which I have been referring the rivers rise in the higher rainfall areas and flow through the less favoured rainfall areas. The water measurement will he of value in assessing what quantity of water can be utilised from a dam of a particular size.
I believe that too much is made of what is called the increased production which will come from irrigated areas. Perhaps there will be some increase in production but I point out that where there is assured production there is a security that does not apply where these particular facilities do not exist and where people are dependent on dry land farming. Little is said about what security of production means. Those who have been through the droughts that have been experienced in Queensland recently are more appreciative of the value of this type of water conservation. The increased production that comes from irrigation is spread over a period and this helps to counter the disadvantage that may accrue if all the production came about at a time when production generally was good from dry land farming areas. Production can be spread over the year because of irrigation and it can be available when not so much production is available from areas other than the irrigation areas. It is vital to have accurate measurements made of the flows of our rivers so that the potential of our underground water resources and our surface waters can be determined.
There has not always been a correct utilisation of our water supplies. Sometimes there has been an over-use of an irrigation scheme with the result that water is not available when it is sorely needed. This situation can be remedied by our obtaining a better appreciation, through this scheme, of the quantity of water which may be available for a particular scheme that is envisaged in a survey. But when : the surveys are all completed and with a full and correct utilisation of the water economically available for irrigation and domestic supplies, it will become patently clear that from a national viewpoint the disadvantage will be from lack of available water and not from too much water.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (9.33) - 1 approach this problem from a slightly different angle from the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) in that I am not so concerned about the value of investigations that are taking place as I am at the lack of investigations. As a member representing one of the driest parts of New South Wales I fully appreciate the importance of grants to the States to accelerate the measurement of the flow of rivers and the investigation and measurement of underground water resources. In a nation of 70 per cent arid or semi arid land where the threat of drought is always present, and in New South Wales where 60 per cent of the State could be classified as arid or semi arid, the need to harness all our water resources on a State and interstate basis is necessary. It is well known that the Darling River is the longest and driest river in New South Wales. It flows through the most drought prone area of the State and as the water storages on the centra] and northern rivers are constructed less water will flow into the Darling. This has been well recognised by all governments and a system of 37 weirs from below Bourke has been planned to use this deep channelled river to store water for use in times of drought or dry years. But over the last 5 years only one weir has been constructed. This scheme must be speeded up with a target of 3 weirs per annum which would make it possible for graziers in the west to have not only a safer water supply but to grow fodder to store for dryyears.
No doubt this grant to the States will greatly assist in this regard, but as a Federal member greatly interested in the problem of water storages whose electorate takes in the driest parts of New South Wales, I feel that the information given with the introduction of this Bill leaves much to be desired. We are asked to make available $8.2m to the States to carry out the measurement of the flow of surface water and to investigate underground water resources, but ve have been given little or no detail about how this money will be spent. We should not be asked to vote on the Bill unless we have this information. The importance of this was brought home to me a few months ago when I was approached by people who have homes on Sunset Strip, which is part of the Menindee Lakes storage scheme. These homes are all valued from $10,000 to $25,000 and their owners were concerned at the great quantity of water that was being let out of the Menindee Lakes scheme to flush out the great anabranch and supply water to the 33 homesteads between Menindee and the Murray River. The people considered that too much water was being allowed to flow out of the Menindee Lakes scheme. About 12 months ago their homes were sitting on a dry lake and they had become very concerned. I made a tour of the river. I was fortunate enough to have some assistance. Motor boats were provided in different areas to enable me to investigate the situation. I could see no grounds for the fears of these people. It was rumoured that illegal weirs, billabongs and creeks were being filled instead of only homesteads being supplied with water. I must admit that I could And no evidence of this. My information was that the recommendation from the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission was that more water than was actually let down the river should have been released. In any case, an aerial survey is made twice during the period when water is running down the river to ensure that everything is carried out in accordance with the understood practice. I feel that in this instance more information should have been given to the people. A member of a large area, whose time is almost completely occupied, cannot fully investigate these matters. If he were given the opportunity to take part in some of these aerial surveys it would greatly facilitate his work and would be a source of greater satisfaction to the people in those areas.
It must be remembered that the driest part of New South Wales is in that part of my electorate which is called the far west, yet my investigations show that little or no research has been done in this area in relation to underground water resources. To sink a shallow bore of from 300 to 400 feet in that area would cost $4.50 per foot for the drilling contractor plus the cost of piping, sand screen and a pump, or a total cost of $200 if the bore were unsuccessful. Of course, if the bore were successful and some of the parts could not be salvaged the bore would cost up to $300. lt is a pretty costly exercise if it is carried out on a hit and miss basis. A good example of what the lack of useful information is costing the grazier in this area is the fact that in 1959 a bore was sunk at Braunghams Gate to a depth of 202 feet. It supplied 250 gallons an hour of poor quality water with a very high salt content. This year it was decided to replace it with a new bore at a site 50 yards away. On the driller’s recommendation the bore was taken down to 300 feet and a supply of 1,140 gallons an hour of good quality water was obtained. This means that for 11 years the grazier on that property had been forced to operate with poor quality water due to lack of research and information. 1 have asked the graziers in this area why an approach was not made to the New South Wales Government to have more research carried out on underground water supplies. I was informed that this had taken place and was shown copies of correspondence from the western division of the Pastures Protection Board and the Graziers Association indicating that an approach was made to the New South Wales Government in 1967. A request was made for a rotary type drilling plant to be used by the Water Conservation and Irrigation
Commission in prospecting for underground water in the arid areas of the western division. On that occasion the graziers were informed the Commission had purchased 4 high speed rotary drill rigs but because it was necessary to train the crews to operate the drills it was essential that the plants operate within a reasonable distance of Dubbo and Cootamundra. As far as I can ascertain these drills have never seen the western division of the State. This is not good enough. In my opinion it is important to New South Wales and to our survival that all water be regulated, controlled and used to the greatest advantage for irrigation, stock purposes and consumption in our towns and cities. The demand for these purposes is becoming greater. Therefore, it is necessary for any sane government to ensure that the waters flowing into our streams are controlled. The Government should investigate schemes such as those put forward by John W. Campbell, which would bring 4 million acre feet of water over the mountains to the western rivers, based on the Clarence River scheme. The Government should also investigate the scheme put forward by the Barwon-Darling Association. Facts and figures should be made available to these organisations. At the same time the Government should take steps to protect the water we already have.
I am told by the dried fruit growers at Wentworth and Curlwaa that although provision has been made to pump water from the deep drainage areas to areas away from the Murray, this high salinity water often finds its way back into the Murray. The River Murray Commission shows that it has some concern for this problem because under a new agreement with the New South Wales Government it can claim the waters of the Menindee Lakes storage to flush the lower Murray should the salinity build up due to the lack of the smoothing effect that Chowilla would have had if it had been built. In fact, the Menindee Lakes Storage Agreement seems to have been completely overlooked by Government supporters when propounding the merits of the Dartmouth scheme as against those of the Chowilla scheme. It is well known that the River Murray Commission could take water in the Menindee scheme in excess of 390,000 acre feet should it be necessary to flush the lower
Murray of its salinity. Of course, an area like the Menindee Lakes scheme built to hold 2 million acre feet of water would soon become contaminated and useless. Yet if we look at the map of New South Wales it will be seen that the Menindee Lakes area is the only major water storage in the western part of New South Wales. A brochure issued in New South Wales states that the Darling River has ceased to flow completely on several occasions. In 1902 and again in 1919 the river ceased to flow for 12 consecutive months. Should this happen again what sort of plight would the people of this area be in when this sort of water agreement puts our water a: the disposal of the River Murray Commission for the purposes I have already stated?
Some Government supporters tried to understate the problem of salinity in the lower Murray but Mr Driden’s report on this matter as far back as 1947 should leave no doubt about (his danger. At that time Mr Driden was Deputy EngineerinChief of the South Australian Irrigation Commission. In the drought of 1957 Mr Driden prepared a report for the Murray Citrus Growers Co-operative Association setting out clearly the danger of salinity in the lower Murray. My information shows that the farm water supply division of the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission has provided excellent advice to farmers in the low rainfall areas on the construction of dams on their property for stock and domestic water supplies. But these small dams arc not the answer to our problems in the far west of New South Wales. If it could be found and tapped, underground water would be of great assistance, but the Government has not carried out adequate investigation or research into this matter. The whole of the central and western areas of New South Wales must be investigated for underground water basins. These underground water supplies must be used only in times of emergency. This’ should be backed up by a complete investigation by the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission of ali coastal rivers with a long range view to diverting water over the mountains so that all storages can be maintained at a high level for emergencies and inland rivers assured of a good flow, thus defeating the build-up of salt in our streams and irrigation areas. The nation’s water resources are such that until waters from the coastal rivers are utilised there will never be sufficient to supply the whole of the irrigable land and the industrial establishments. Sufficient investigation of our underground supply has not been carried out to ascertain whether there is a permanent supply of water, whether water already found is in the form of underground lakes and basins, or whether the water already tapped is seepage from rivers or lakes and thus exhaustible. All these things must be done. When bringing down a Bill as important as this the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) should supply greater detail of how the States are spending this amount of money because as far as my electorate is concerned, the State’s activities fall far short of what could be called a fair thing.
– I rise to support this Bill although I cannot commend the Government because its approach to the subject of water resources is haphazard. What is needed in Australia at this time beyond any doubt is a national water conservation authority. I want to make reference to only 2 parts of the Bill before the House. The Bill clearly sets out that it is concerned with grants to the States for the next 3 financial years to accelerate the measurement of the flow of rivers and the investigation and measurement of underground waters. In his second reading speech the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) said:
The distribution of Commonwealth funds over the 3 years is set out in the Schedules to the Bill, but for the convenience of members, 1 give the figures briefly now. For surface water, the totals are: in 1970-71, $1.17m; in 1971-72, $1.2m; and in 1972-73, $ 1.26m. For underground water, the totals are: S 1.45m, $1.54in and SI. 6m respectively.
The Bill obviously falls into 2 parts. It is concerned, firstly, with the measurement of the discharge of rivers, and, secondly, with the investigation and measurement of underground water resources. Let me say at the outset that as to the question of the measurement of the discharge of rivers it ought to be understood, and I think the Minister is conscious of this fact, that because South Australia is in fact the driest State in the Commonwealth and Australia is the driest continent on earth stream gaugings and water measurement are to some extent limited because of the scarcity of run-off. But I have to lodge a protest, in effect, over the allocation under the Second Schedule of the Bill insofar as the allocation to South Australia for underground water resources is concerned. The base amount of expenditure in South Australia as indicated in the Second Schedule is $82,000. The grant for the year ending 30th June 1971 is $134,900 and this remains constant up to 30th June 1973. To put it quite bluntly, I do not consider that satisfactory for the problem that South Australia is facing at the present time and will continue to face in the future and well into the next century.
At this stage I would like to refer to a paper delivered to the University of Adelaide by the Director and EngineerinChief of the South Australian Engineering and Water Supply Department, Mr Beaney, on 28th May this year which I think accurately sets out the position in South Australia. He stated:
If one looks at the rainfall map of the State the area receiving more than eight inches average rain is about 15 per cent of the total.
In various ways individuals and groups provide for certain water needs. The farmer has his dam, the householder his rainwater tank, others can take water from streams or from wells and bores. In the main, however, the development and handling of the main fresh water resources is in the hands of Government, and the Government has taken to itself wide powers.
I will not quote the provisions of the South Australian Waterworks Act but Mr Beaney continues:
Legislation places the power to exploit the water resources and to supply water with the Crown, and through the appropriate Minister the function is performed by the Engineering and Water Supply Department.
Apart from the reservation of water for water supply purposes, there are other controls. The Control of Water Act’ provides for any stream in the State to be brought within the Act by proclamation, so vesting the water of the stream in the Crown. This Act has only been applied to the River Murray and water is there made available to riparian users through annual licences.
Likewise the’Underground Waters Preservation Act’ provides for strict cotrol within defined areas, and areas can be defined by regulations made by the Governor with the advice and consent of Executive Council. In such areas the owner must record with the Minister of Mines full details of all wells and must have a permit to alter a well or to sink others. Water usage can also be regulated, all these controls aiming to prevent action likely, to quote from the Act, “(a) to cause contamination or deterioration of any underground water;
to cause inequitable distribution of underground water;
to cause undue loss or wastage of underground water; or
to deplete unduly the supply of underground water.” 1 now want to refer to the commentary quoted by Mr Beaney on the South Australian Gulf Drainage Provision. He stated:
The Division is the second smallest of the drainage divisions and is the driest of the divisions (MX) which drain to the coast,
The eastern boundary of the division is formed partly by the Mount Lofty Ranges, which rise to nearly 2,400 feet east of Adelaide and to over 3,000 feet north of Burra, and further north it follows the Flinders Ranges, which reach a height of 3,800 feet at St Mary Peak. The boundary then rounds Lake Torrens and, further south, the western boundary of the division is formed by a discontinuous line of hills on Eyre Peninsula. Kangaroo Island is also included. The division contains striking contrasts in topography, with the large flat area around Lake Torrens close to the rugged Flinders Ranges.
The individual river basins in this division are small. The largest, the Broughton, which includes Yorke Peninsula, has a catchment area of 6,400 square miles.
Rainfall in excess of 30 inches per year occurs only on a very small area in the Mount Lofty Ranges, and in the north-west of the division the average is less than 6 inches per year. In the south apart from the more elevated areas, average precipitation exceeds evaporation only during the four winter months May to August, and over most of the division monthly evaporation rates exceed rainfall throughout the year.
The average annual run-off from the division is only some 430,000 acre feet or 0.28 inches, which is about a ninth of the average for the rest of Australia excluding the Western Plateau. As can be seen on the map-sheet, the division has very little run-off outside the vicinity of the Mount Lofty Ranges. With the tendency for concentration of rainfall in the winter months and the very high summer evaporation, there is a markedly seasonal winter run-off pattern. Although there is significant summer rainfall in the south-eastern part of the division, the antecedent conditions are usually so dry that little or no run-off results. Even the main streams, the Onkaparinga and Torrens, occasionally cease to flow in the summer.
Development of the streams in the Mount Lofty Ranges, mainly for municipal water supply, has in most cases reached the practicable limit and there seems to be little scope for further development of surface water elsewhere in the division. In fact, the division has long been an area of net import of water, supplies coming by pipelines to Adelaide and Whyalla from the Murray River.
He goes on to say:
Adelaide’s 1969-1970 consumption will be about 32,000 million gallons, or 118,000 acre feet.
Metropolitan reservoirs bold 41,000 million gallons, or 152,000 acre feet
I would now like to give some indication of the actual cost of water in South Australia. These facts are not very well known. The cost of the Engineering and Water Supply Department of water is 44c per thousand gallons in the metropolitan area. 92c per thousand gallons at Whyalla, $1.30 at Port Augusta, $1.45 at Port Pirie and $1.92 at Eyre Peninsula. The other subject 1 want to touch on briefly, which is discussed very well in this paper, is that of underground water which is vital to South Australia. The pointI want to make is that I think there are insufficient funds available for a detailed investigation of the underground water resources in South Australia to be carried out. Mr Beaney listed them as follows:
The underground resources of Eyre Peninsula.
The towns and farms of the Peninsula mostly have a water supply, partly from the Tod River Reservoir but more importantly from a series of underground basins.
The Uley-Wanilla basin was developed in 1948, and has been followed by the Lincoln and Flinders basins, all near Port Lincoln and the Polda basin some 90 miles north near the township of Lock.
The yield of the basins is safely held at some 6,000 acre feet, and new basins available for development promise to increase this to 10,000 acre feet or more providing useful assurances for normal development on the Peninsula for years to come.
The hydrology of the South-East covers a complex of surface and underground waters. The water resource is substantial. Up to now, civil works have concentrated on the removal of water by drainage, and up to 200,000 acre feet a year has been taken to the sea to enable pastures to be established in erstwhile swamp areas. The drains also provide a valuable means of disposal for saline waters, a service of increasing importance with the increasing use of fresh water of the region.
The Eight Mile Creek, to the east of Port MacDonnell carries a permanent natural overflow from the springs of the Ewen Ponds area and discharges 50,000 acre feet a year to the southern ocean. There are other visible outlets.
The Blue Lake now provides 3,000 acre feet annually to Mount Gambier, and while the lake level has fallen quite markedly in recent years it is not likely that this is caused by exploitation of this water source.
The South-East carries a substantial irrigation industry, and this has grown very rapidly, particularly in the Padthaway area in recent years. Some 50,000 acre feet is now being used each year by this industry.
There is little doubt that there is scope for considerable development in the South-East. While in some areas readily accessible ground water may decline, the gross resource of the area is large. Present investigations are aimed to assess this potential and a water use of say 150,000 acre feet a year may not be optimistic A problem in the investigation is the acceptance and identification of a large range of water systems, variable in both history and water quality as against the earlier concepts of a more simple hydrology. Difficulties may also lie in the lack of suitable sites for surface storage and the need to rely on underground storage.
Other underground supplies.
The Adelaide and North-Adelaide Plains and other areas provide usable and sometimes good waters. In the total resource the quantities are not large. The aquifers of the North Adelaide Plains have provided an increasing supply for market garden and related irrigation,’ but the demand level of 20,000 acre feet has been found to be beyond the permant capability of the area and this is being reduced by rigid control in the hope of reaching a balance, the powers of the Underground Waters Preservation Act being invoked.
In South Australia surface water is limited. That is why I think the allocation in the first schedule of the Bill is less than that in the second schedule of the Bill. In the south east of the State we cannot differentiate between surface and underground water. It is all water, and it is important to South Australia’s development. According to the analysis it must be developed and sustained at a constant level. This will require a detailed survey of the hydrological cycle particularly in relation to the water requirements of the State as a whole. I think that there is a great deal of optimism over the quantity of water in the south east, but the quantity will not be established until the State Government is given a greater allocation so that it can make a detailed study.
The other point I want to raise briefly in the limited time at my disposal is, as I said earlier, that after two decades in office the Government has tackled the question of water resources in a very . haphazard fashion. If ever there is a need in a nation like Australia for a national water conservation authority, as exists in Canada, France, Israel and Great Britain, it is now. We have the problem of the tedious complexities and arguments between the Commonwealth and the States. As I have stated in this House before, the debate on the Chowilla and Dartmouth dams was complete hooey. It is about time that an issue of such national importance was treated as a national issue and not just as a question of politics. The honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) said this afternoon that what has happened with Chowilla has been a question of politics. Of course it is politics. Every State Premier is responsible to his State to do the best for that State. The Premier of South Australia has done nothing more, nor anything less. He is to be praised for what he has done for South Australia. He is preserving his right to a water storage in South Australia, in the same way as the rebel knight from Victoria, Sir Henry Bolte, has done. He is going to hang on to Dartmouth by hook or by crook. That is his attitude.
I want to quote briefly from a paper by Professor Munro which was delivered some years ago but which I think is apposite to the question in point. He said:
Since the early post war years there has existed in Australia a steadily growing body of professional and public opinion which feels that our national planning of water resources development has been haphazard and based on intuition instead of on comprehensive investigation of the engineering-economic bases for various projects. Such studies as have been made have been the responsibility of a variety of State authorities, often with inadequate facilities and with little co-ordination between them. No attempt has been made to provide Commonwealth wide overall appraisal of Australia’s needs, without regard to artificial State boundaries and political jealousies.
The Labor Party’s policy on water resources is quite clear. It states:
Australia is the world’s driest continent. National development demands a National water policy involving:
Establishment of a National Water Resources Authority to plan and coordinate the development of surface and sub-surface water resources throughout Australia on Federal, State and Regional levels.
Utilisation of investigation, design and construction teams of the Snowy Mountains Authority- which this Government has now scuttled - and State Water Conservation Authorities.
Intensive investigation into desalination of sea and sub-surface water by solar and nuclear energy.
I have spoken on 2 Bills in this House, one of which concerned the complete strangulation and scuttling of the Snowy Mountains Authority, which ranks second in the world for constructions of this nature; the other concerned the River Murray. I reiterate what I said in relation to the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation Bill. I said: . . in 1901 - that was at federation - Australia’s population stood at 3.75 million. By 31st December last year it had increased to 12.5 million. The projection is that in the year 2001 Australia’s population will be 22.7 million . . . I point out that the present capacity of all major storages existing or under construction in Australia is about 43 million acre. feet. That is a significant proportion of the total runoff of 280 million acre feet. If we assume the present projection of population growth which indicates that by the end of the century our population will be about 22 million, we will need about 81 million acre feet at that time. The increase is 38 million acre feet, which is the equivalent of seventeen times the amount made available for irrigation by the Snowy Mountains scheme.
Alternatively, it means the construction of 8 additional Eucumbene dams. That is what we will want by the year 2001. During the last 7 years of indecision by this Government more than 20 million acre feet of water has run to waste into the sea. As 1 understand it, Australia spends only 0.7 per cent of national income on water research compared with 31 per cent in the United States of America, 2i per cent in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and 2 per cent in the United Kingdom. In addition, Australia’s total expenditure on water research is only 0.001 per cent of all expenditure on research.
– Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I want to refer to the second reading speech of the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) on the subject we are debating so that honourable members will be reminded of just what we are debating. The Minister said:
This Bill concerns financial grants to the States over the next 3 financial years to accelerate the measurement of the flow of rivers and the investigation and measurement of underground water resources.
I fully support those remarks. The Minister went on to say in the same speech:
The Government now proposes to make available a total of over $8.2m by way of grants to the States to assist in achieving the planned programmes in the next 3 years. This figure represents an increase of 80 per cent over the level of Commonwealth aid in the past 3 years and a threefold increase in assistance from the first 3-year programme. In making this increased contribution, the Commonwealth contemplates that the States will increase their own contributions, in order that the objectives endorsed by the Water Resources Council may be achieved.
I believe that water conservation is true national development because from water conservation springs ail kinds of development in Australia. It is a great aid to decentralisation and to greater production. I might mention that there is a very active association named the Murray Valley Development League that envisages a population of a million people in the Murray Valley. I advise everyone to get behind that organisation so as to assist it in the tasks it has undertaken and to which it is dedicated. I desire to say something in regard to the general water supply in Australia. lt has been stated that Australia is the driest continent in the world. That is probably true. For this reason we should take advantage at every opportunity to conserve the water that we have available.
I was very pleased to listen to the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) when he advocated the use of water pipelining. I have on many’ occasions advocated the use of pipelining of water. I believe that the pipelining of the water being used from the River Murray in the Murray Valley, would provide us with an extra amount equal to that in all the storages that serve that area at the present time. The simple reason for this is, as has been stated by an expert on water supply, that in the electorate of Mallee which 1 represent in this place over 90 per cent of water is lost between the storage and the consumer, and this situation would obtain in many other areas. If the water that is now being lost was pipelined it would be conserved, and this would provide as much more water as the building of many more storages. Furthermore, if we build double the number of storages, that we have today there is no guarantee that we will be able to keep them filled with water, especially when it is needed in a dry period. If we can keep our present storages- filled with water and if we can convey the water by pipeline it must be a great advantage to productivity, to decentralisation and to the future of this nation. In regard to underground water in the Mallee electorate which is one of the great irrigation areas–
– Where is it?
– It is an area that covers the great Sunraysia district in which most of Australia’s dried fruits are grown. It also encompasses other places such as Robinvale which is a new soldier settlement district that is proving very successful. The Mallee also includes Boundary Bend where a good deal of citrus is grown, and Nyah where citrus and dried fruits are grown. It also includes Woorinen where similar fruits are grown and Tresco which is further up the river. The Mallee also encompasses other places but 1 will not mention them tonight. I am particularly concerned with irrigation and I compliment the River Murray Commission on the work which it has done.
It has been suggested in this House tonight that certain authorities should be set up. I have endeavoured over the years to have a Murray Valley commission or authority established to control the whole Murray Valley and deal with it in a way which would obtain maximum production and attract people to the valley because of the prosperity that would exist there. But 1 have always come up against a brick wall for the simple reason that the States have what they called sovereign rights. Whilst they have these sovereign rights they will not do anything that will result in some of their land being taken away from within their authority. I have asked the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) to convene a meeting of the States and the Commonwealth to discuss this matter but it seems that there is no chance of this meeting taking place. The members of the State parliaments to whom I have spoken about this matter are irrevocably opposed to it. So we still have the old political arguments regarding the Chowilla and Dartmouth dams and other things. It takes a long time to bring about any worthwhile result. I do not want to go into the matter of Chowilla. I would not have mentioned it except for the fact that the last speaker did refer to it towards the end of his speech. In regard to Chowilla the former Minister for National Development, Mr Fairbairn, said in this House on 25th September 1969:
Technical representatives of the four governments concerned agreed that the best site for this storage is near Dartmouth, on the Mitta Mitta River, instead, of at Chowilla on the Murray River, In Sydney on 7th March, I met the Ministers responsible for water supply in New South
Wales, Victoria and South Australia. That meeting agreed on conditions of water sharing, and other technical matters, under which the 4 governments would proceed with the construction of Dartmouth. At that meeting in Sydney, the 3 States specified that their agreement was conditional upon the Commonwealth providing finance to help them pay their share of the cost of the new storage.
In Canberra, at the meeting with Premiers in June, this condition was met. The Commonwealth agreed to provide a loan to the States of half their share of the cost of the storage, in addition to the Commonwealth meeting its own quarter share. This committed the Commonwealth to an outlay of nearly $36m out of a total estimated cost of $57.5m.
I need say no more about that. At that stage the Ministers in the 4 States had agreed.
– When was that said?
– It was said in this House on 25th September 1969. 1 do not want to say any more about Dartmouth and Chowilla. I have stated very clearly what was said. I think that 1 will have to say something more about it now because an honourable member has interjected to say that I supported Chowilla.
– One hundred per cent.
– The honourable member says 100 per cent. 1 will not agree with that, but I did say in this House that I supported Chowilla for the simple reason that at that time the experts had agreed that Chowilla should be built. But very shortly afterwards and after more investigation the experts said very clearly that Dartmouth would supply much more water, that it would be clearer and readily available. Someone may say: Have you changed your mind on this subject?’ Of course I have. I am not an expert on water conservation. Neither is the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Birrell) who is interjecting. Therefore we have to take notice of the River Murray Waters Commission and its expert advisers who are the best in the land. One may claim to be consistent and still retain the right to change his mind. A person may be consistent in not sticking to a certain opinion but being willing to change his mind if he can see reason for doing so. On these subjects I have been most consistent in all the years that I have been in this Parliament I do not want to challenge anybody - although I could - to prove otherwise.
I know that certain members of the Opposition are coming around to the idea that Dartmouth should be built now. One honourable member said that it is important, it is necessary and it is vital to build Dartmouth now. He has changed his mind. I did not want to enter into a speech on the subject of Dartmouth. However, at about that time the Australian Labor Party moved a lengthy amendment which means that there had to be all sorts of investigations made into Chowilla and Dartmouth before that Party would agree to the construction of Dartmouth. This meant that construction would be held up a long time, because after the investigations had been made there still would have had to be agreement between the 4 States.
I want to say a word or two about underground water. In the Mallee electorate there is a wonderful supply of this type of water which should be tapped and utilised. It is not only the Governments but also private people who are pushing hard and helping to bring about the exploitation of the underground water. I refer to Murrayville in the Mallee electorate which is over towards the South Australian border not very far from Pinaroo. In this part of Australia I have seen wonderful supplies of artesian water. Farmers in this area have been irrigating paddocks which have been able to carry 8, 9, 15 or perhaps more sheep to the acre. The only trouble was that if there were too many sheep to the acre they would tread down more feed than they ate.
I would like to refer to a letter that 1 received from the Shire Secretary of the Shire of Walpeup. The letter states:
Dear Mr Turnbull. You are no doubt aware of the ‘Pomona Experimental Farm’ at Murrayville, where the owner. Mr F. N. Bethune, has for the past ten years utilised the underground water for the purpose of irrigating crops. My Council has now been advised that Mr Bethune has offered some 1,300 acres of his property, free of any cost, to the CSIRO, on the condition that experimental work on the use of underground water, is carried out, with a view, to providing information to enable local farmers to irrigate portion of their properties and provide alternative income to wheat growing.
The property concerned is valued by my Council at approximately $100,000 so the offer is indeed a most generous one and I request that you approach the CSIRO, urging them to give every consideration to accepting the offer and to set up a research staff on the property.
Individuals can do much for national development and this is outstanding evidence of that.’ I approached the Minister for Education and Science (Mr N. H. Bowen) who is in charge of tht Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. He is in touch with the Organisation and no doubt will put this offer before it. I am hopeful that the CSIRO will accept it because without doubt the area around Murrayville has one of the greatest artesian basins in Victoria. I hope that the CSIRO will take over the 1,300 acres - this wonderful gift - and send people to experiment on it. If the CSIRO undertakes this experiment the result could be that the surrounding farmland for miles will have abundant supplies of water. The nature of the soil is such that if enough water is supplied almost anything will grow. Honourable members should see the peach trees that are grown at Murrayville and the fruit that they bear. These trees are supplied with water from a bore. This is an outstanding example of what can be done. The man who has offered the 1,300 acre* of land has made a wonderful contribution to national development. Perhaps he wants to help himself but his offer will also help many others.
J, do not want to delay the House for too long because the hour is growing late and other honourable members desire to speak. I want to say that I am wholly and solely behind this Bill. I recognise the great value of irrigation and I will support it whenever I can. I was pleased to hear the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) speak about Mt Gambier because 1 have often visited Millicent and Mt Gambier and the south east of South Australia. I have always been intrigued by the great Blue Lake at Mt Gambier which, as the honourable member said, provides the whole of Mt Gambier with water. The water in this lake does not fall below a certain level, and I do not think that even to this day anyone knows where the water comes from, but it is nature’s godsend to Mt Gambier and it is appreciated by everyone.
During my remarks I have mentioned the sovereign rights of the States and the fact that they will not agree to the establishment of a Murray valley authority. I have mentioned also that the Murray Valley Development League is dedicated to the proposition of opening up the Murray Valley, claiming that there is room there for 1 million people. What a great thing it would be for Australia if we could get the people there. Pollution and smog in cities like Melbourne and Sydney are generally brought about by congestion. What a great thing it would be for the health of the nation and the future of the Commonwealth if we could get people out to where the water is clear and the air is fresh.
– In speaking to this Bill I would first like to refer to the Second Schedule which gives a list of the amounts to be granted for the investigation and the measurement of underground water resources, and to direct my remarks to a portion of South Australia which is isolated from the other water systems of that State. I refer to the system on the west coast of South Australia. The main water supply on the west coast which is isolated from the Why al laMurray water scheme relies on 2 main sources. One is the River Tod which is situated just to the north of Port Lincoln, and the other is made up of the various underground water storages which are situated throughout this area. The water from those 2 sources is reticulated considerable distances as far west as Ceduna which is about 280 miles along the coast. However, other areas are not serviced by the water pipeline.
I refer now to the scheme which links Lock with Kimba. The work is proceeding very slowly and not to the satisfaction of the people in this area. The main which will supply Kimba will receive water from both the Tod River scheme and underground water stocks which are close by in the Polda Basin. Over some years the people of the Kimba area have been crying out for a water supply because in the hot summer months it is necessary to cart water by rail. This area is normally very productive. However, it is an area which is now experiencing the problems that Tri confronting rural industries. One of the problems of this area is a lack of water which would allow farmers to diversify and to carry more stock and so on. Therefore, it is essential that this project be completed. The South Australian Government has a programme to complete this pipeline but unfortunately, with the limited resources available,’ it will not be finished for another 5 years. The South Australian Government has approached the Commonwealth Government for assistance from the Australian Water Resources Council. On 2 occasions I have asked the Minister for National Development a question on this matter. He has informed me only in the last couple of weeks that it is still being discussed and that it is not known when a decision will be made. As I have said, this is a rural area which is suffering the troubles of the rest of the rural industries. The main chance that it has is to obtain a supply of water which will allow diversification. If this area is to be kept viable the construction of a pipeline, with allowance for branch mains and so forth, will have to be completed.
We certainly hope that the Federal Government will give favourable consideration to the submissions that have been made not only by the present government of South Australia but also by the previous Hall Government for assistance so that this scheme can be completed. As I have said, if this area is to remain productive and if the farmers are to have a chance to survive it is essential that this project be completed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Barnes) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 24 September (vide page 1608), on motion by Mr Lynch:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill, I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the States Grants (Debt Charges Assistance) Bill, the
States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill and the States Grants (Special Assistance) Bill. Separate questions may of course be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of the 4 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the pleasure of the House to do this? In view of the concurrence of the House, I will permit that course to be followed.
- Mr Speaker, it is odd how Bills which appropriate about one-fifth or onesixth of the total appropriation of the Commonwealth are thought to be of such little importance that they are brought on for debate in this House at half-past 10 at night. I am leading on behalf of the Opposition, and again I must raise some protest about this practice because, after all, the measures which we are debating set the pattern in Australia for the next 5 years - at least if this Government continues in office - for the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States. Surely this is one of the most sigificant problems that face us at the present time, and nobody can suggest other than that there is dissatisfaction about the existing arrangements.
We have these 4 measures before us. The first really arranges the new formula. The second measure does something to take part of the interest burden from the States and put it onto the shoulders of the Commonwealth. The third measure does a curious piece of bookkeeping, and what formerly was lent to the States will now be given to the States. The final measure contains the results of the proceedings of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which in this instance makes special grants to the States of Tasmania and South Australia. All of these measures are being debated simultaneously, but I simply point out tha significance of the matters that are before us.
In order perhaps to get some perspective in relation to this matter, I turn to details which can be found in all their clarity in the statement on national income and expenditure for 1969-70, which is the latest issue of the White Paper on national statistics. Tables 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and IS show the overall position of public authority expenditure in Australia - that is expenditure by the Commonwealth, the States and local government authorities. In aggregate, the total of taxation levied at these 3 levels in Australia is in excess of $8,000m. Of course, the principal collector of taxation is the Commonwealth. It will be seen that so far as the last available complete year is concerned, Commonwealth taxation aggregated $6,334m and taxation imposed by the States and local authorities aggregated $1,3 29m. These figures refer to the previous year, and with the normal rise in expenditure, total expenditure this year will exceed $8,000m.
We get into a lot of arguments in our system about the virtues of direct versus indirect taxation. Really, the only substantial collector of direct taxation in Australia is the Commonwealth because at the moment it has a monopoly in collecting taxation on individual incomes and on companies. That means that if the States and local authorities are to raise revenue and if they are to expand their revenue, they must resort to the imposition of indirect taxes of one kind and another, and what a curious assortment of indirect taxes the States and local authorities levy can be seen from the statistics which are contained in the annual report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. It sets out the various areas in which the States collect taxes. Indirect taxes are levied on such a diverse range of items as motor vehicles, lotteries and, in the case of New South Wales, poker machines. The States and local authorities resort to the imposition of stamp duties of one kind and another. But all of these taxes are levied really on the consumption of particular articles rather than on the individual’s ability to pay. As commonly described, these taxes are regarded as being regressive in their incidence.
If the States and local authorities - and I want to talk in some detail about local authorities - want to increase their revenue they can do so broadly in 4 ways. They can get additional moneys from the Commonwealth. The matters that are now tinder contemplation are a reappraisal of the previous formula for the payment of moneys by the Commonwealth to the States. The States and local authorities can levy their own taxation, and I have indicated the rather dubious avenues to which they have to resort. They can borrow from the public, but again how much they are able to borrow from the public is conditioned by what is called the gentleman’s agreement which is entered into at the Australian Loan Council. The Commonwealth does the borrowing on the public market on behalf of itself and the States, but local authorities and semi-governmental authorities have to go onto the public market themselves or resort to other sources of finance, and they are largely in the hands of the collective monetary policy of the Commonwealth.
The other way in which the States and local authorities can increase their revenue is to charge for public utility services, such as electricity, gas and water supply, more than the cost of provision of those services. The surplus goes into a capital fund to expand the public utility capital resources. This is the position in which the States and local authorities find themselves. The Minister for Immigration and Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Lynch), in the course of his speech, said:
As I interpret that, the Minister - and I presume that he was speaking on behalf of the Government - believes that there ought not to be any separate allocation of funds from the Commonwealth to local and semi-governmental authorities; that that ought to be siphoned directly at the level of the State government. Perhaps I might contrast that with the views that have been expressed by the Leader of my Party (Mr Whitlam). I refer to an address which he gave to the University of Melbourne Political Science Society at Warburton in Victoria on Sunday morning, 16th August 1970. The Leader of the Opposition spoke at about the same time as the Minister delivered this speech. The Leader of the Opposition’s talk was entitled: ‘Government and Cities’. He said:
Under the existing set up, the States create authorities to provide the services basic to every modern civilised community and then leave them to fend for themselves.
I suggest that this is the reality of the situation. 1 simply contrast the view of what the reality is with the attitude which seems to be taken by the Commonwealth Government that a plea by local or semigovernment authorities for additional resources has to come via a State rather than that there should be direct subvention of these bodies. 1 do not think that what the situation in this field is always is appreciated. I have been interested this evening to listen to the debate that has just finished, it concerned water. The suggestion was that water, its conservation and reticulation, was fundamental to the future development of Australia. What is true of water is, I think, true with equal force about such things as transport, power generation and so on. 1 have taken out some figures. They are available in the latest bulletin dealing with State, Territory and local government authority finance during 1966-67, which was published in December 1969 and is the latest complete document available. The bulletin shows the debt of semigovernment and local government authorities as outstanding at 30th June 1967. That is 3 years ago.
Local government indebtedness is rising annually by at least Si 00m. Semigovernment indebtedness is set out also. Now, semi-government includes the bulk of power distribution in Australia. If Australia’s economic growth is to be encompassed, it is suggested that we ought to double the production of electricity every 8 years. This has to be done via these semi-government authorities. At 30th June 1967 the total indebtedness of local government was $l,279m. The total indebtedness of semi-governmental authorities - this mainly includes electricity, water systems and so on - was almost 4 times that amount - that is $4,879m - or an aggregate indebtedness of $6, 100m. This contrasts with the total indebtedness of the States of $8,31 6m at 30th June 1967. I think that everybody acknowledges the rather large indebtedness of the States. But I do not think that everybody realises that the total indebtedness of local authorities and local governmental authorities, for which there is no direct Commonwealth subvention, was at that date three-quarters of what was owed by the States. In aggregate the total indebtedness of local and semi-government authorities has risen by over $400m annually. This points to the difficulty that we face in our federal system at the moment. There is a lot of talk about what we call co-operative federalism. I suggest that, if our federal system is not only to co-operate but also to continue to be cohesive - that is, to survive, if honourable members like - a much more fundamental reappraisal of the total responsibilities outside the Commonwealth sphere needs to be made.
The real point at which we become bogged down in our system is that we have tended to think of the matter entirely as a financial problem. I believe that it is not a financial problem; it is a problem of resources and the proper allocation of resources. Because of the dominance of the financial powers of the Commonwealth in the system, we are ignoring the very real situation that faces us. I have quoted this example before; I quote it again. I notice that it was taken up to a degree in the statement which the Premiers presented to the Federal conferences held in February and March of this year. The example that I have here was published in the Victorian Hansard of 1.0th March 1970.
I refer honourable members to the actual capital expenditure for 1969-70. I take as examples the Post Office and civil aviation. These are 2 heads of Commonwealth expenditure. The total capital expenditure of the Post Office for 1969-70 was $336m. The expenditure for civil aviation for the same period was S64m. The aggregate for those heads was 400m. In 1965-66- that is, 5 years before - the aggregate expenditure of those 2 heads was $282m. 1 take now, if I may, 2 examples of State capital expenditure - education and public health. In 1965-66 the aggregate expenditure for capital purposes on education and public health was $222m. The projected expenditure for 1969-70 was $2 10m on education and $85m on public health. I ask in all seriousness, as I have asked before: What logic is it that says that it is a proper allocation of capital resources to spend S3 3 6m on the Post Office and 5210m on education or to allocate $64m to civil aviation and $85m to public health? Priorities are determined at the moment by the Commonwealth taking the first bite and then grandly saying to the States: ‘You can have what is left over’. It is an easy enough assumption but it bogs down in two rather difficult fields. It bogs down in different situations - at the level of local governing authorities as against the States.
All honourable members of the Country Party represent in some way or another local governing authorities. If a local governing authority wants to borrow, let us say, $lm, it cannot borrow this sum at the best available terms, that is, those that are given for Commonwealth loans. It has either to go to a bank which will charge 1 per cent higher than the Commonwealth rate or to an insurance company which will charge even more, or to some other source. Why should this be so? Where do the majority of people live in the Australian community? 1 ask this with all respect to my friends from the Country Party. The majority of people live in the 2 cities of Melbourne and Sydney.
– What a pity.
– Well, it is a pity but if it is a pity it is a pity that is increasing in degree. As we are looking into the 1970s, is anybody optimistic enough to say that by 1980 the disparity in population between the city and the country will be less rather than greater? In my view it is inevitable, having regard to the way that things are going at the moment, that there will be proportionately more people in Melbourne and Sydney by 1980 than is the case in 1970. My friend from Lilley has a great penchant for trying to take the sins off the shoulders of the Government by asking what the Opposition would do. I repeat to him today that inflation is rampant in this country at the moment and that it is due to the deficiencies of the Government’s policies, not due to the policies that my Party has not had an opportunity to put into operation. His approach this afternoon was rather curious. Whatever is being suffered by the farmers at the moment is not due to a 35-hour working week. A 35-hour working week cannot be introduced except by a deliberate decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission as in the fixing of wages.
What sins are afflicting honourable members opposite at the moment are their responsibilities, and they should not try to turn the argument away by asking what we would do if we were in power. Nothing can be changed as a result of a Senate election anyway. Whatever happens in the forthcoming Senate election, those people elected will not take their seats until 1st July 1971, and the Government will be writing another Budget by that time. But the deficiencies more than anywhere else are in the disparity in the allocation of the resources that are available to the Commonwealth and what has to be sifted through not only to the States but to the local authorities.
I repeat that the Government has changed the formula for the allocation of resources to the States. Even while the formula for the next 5 years was being written it was changed by the Prime Minister by thinking off the top of his head about the receipts duty. Even since this legislation we are now contemplating was introduced he added another sum to the base to be used from now on. But does anybody think that that sweeps everything under the rug as far as future proper relations between the Commonwealth and the States are concerned? I have cited figures - I ask honourable members to consider them - that show the magnitude of the debt problem that is afflicting the local authorities and the semi-governmental authorities. To point out again the difference in attitude between the Commonwealth and States I refer to statistics in the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission for 1970. I commend this document to everybody. The railways of Australia, with one exception, are conducted by the States. According to the Commonwealth Grants Commission, for 1968-69 railways had a net adverse impact on State finances of $108m. That is, taking into account all the costs that had to be borne by the railways there was a deficiency between their receipts and expenditure of $108m. The same sort of thing applies to metropolitan transport, where there was an adverse effect on State finances of $18m. Metropolitan water and sewerage services also have an adverse effect. An aggregate burden of over $60m is placed upon the budgets of the States for country water supplies.
I turn to the Commonwealth and civil aviation. I suggest that there are more people who have to use railways and water and sewerage services than who use airways, yet according to the information that was put into Hansard by my colleague the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr
Charles Jones), civil aviation has an adverse effect of about $50m on the Commonwealth Budget. Yet honourable members are prepared to argue on behalf of Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia that a certain charge that was being imposed on them should not be increased. 1 will not argue about the merits of that. All I am suggesting is that it is easier for the Commonwealth to absorb this sort of loss than it is for the States. But would anyone like to allot a priority and say whether it would be more within the capacity of the States to absorb a loss on the railways than it would be within the capacity of the Commonwealth to absorb a loss on civil aviation? Or if we like to go further down the line when we are talking about inflation, we load on to every user of electricity in Victoria - 1 presume this is similar in other States - a higher charge because we are extracting from today’s users the ability to increase tomorrow’s capital resources in the electricity field. That adds to today’s costs. There can be a lot of argument about how much should be loaded on and so on, but all I am saying at the moment is that the only level of government that has the luxury of choice in this matter is the Commonwealth. The States and, to even a lesser degree, the local and semi-government authorities have no choice in this matter. How long this sort of thing can go on, I do not know.
I read a couple of months ago a special supplement to the ‘Australian Financial Review’ on urban renewal or a similar theme. The article stated that transport and water were part of the key to the future. Whatever may be the minor allocation of grants by the Commonwealth to the States, basically the provision of all transport other than airways and the provision of all water undertakings other than the Snowy Mountains scheme are the responsibility of the States and local authorities. As was pointed out in the article by the Leader of the Opposition, which I have already quoted, the aggregate debt of local government and semi-governmental authorities has risen astronomically. The way it is going, in another 10 years it will overtake the capital indebtedness of the States. But the appalling thing is that the terms on which local government authorities and semigovernmental authorities borrow are worse than those available to any other public borrower in the Commonwealth. To some extent the Bill before us makes for an improvement. But when we look at the aggregate effect, to a great extent it is a bookkeeping problem. I think we get bamboozled with bookkeeping problems.
I again refer to what the honourable member for Lilley said this afternoon, lt is surprising how he can turn the words to suit himself when he wants to. I agree with him that real factors are more important than nominal ones. Otherwise we are suffering from what is described as the money illusion. If we are suffering anywhere from the money illusion, and by continuing to suffer from it making more difficult the working of federal systems in Australia, it is in the proper allocations as between State governments and local authorities. I am not quite sure that there is an easy breakthrough of the nexus that links the local authorities to the States.
– It is very important if that happens.
– I agree it is important. It is so important that we cannot continue to ignore it indefinitely.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m. and in accordance with the order of the House of 26th August I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
Australian Capital Territory: Third Party Claims (Question No. 1980)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The year of notification does not necessarily correspond with the year of accident and there could still be claims outstanding in relation to accidents which may have occurred in the years 1965 to 1969.
Payments made and Estimated Outstanding Liabilities for the years 1965-1969 are as follows:
Payments made in a year may relate to an accident which occurred in a previous year.
The estimate of liability on outstanding claims is the estimate of future liability on claims notified and oustanding at the end of the year. This estimate does not include an estimate of liability in relation to claims arising out of incidents which may have been incurred but about which the authorised insurers have not been notified.
I have requested the Third Party Insurance Premiums Advisory Committee to give me urgent advice about the present level of premium for motor cycles with an engine capacity in excess of 250 cubic centimetres.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
On how many occasions have parties to a dispute agreed to a Conciliator acting as an arbitrator with powers to make a binding decision in accordance with section 30 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am advised that since 1956, when the office of the Conciliator was created, about 3,700 disputes have been referred under section 30 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to the various holders of that office. Whilst there have been a few occasions on which Conciliators have been requested by the parties to decide a dispute in pursance of section 30(4), at least 95 per cent of such disputes have not involved the Conciliators beyond their conciliatory function. I. am also advised that a detailed examination of the files is unlikely to produce any greater precision than this. Perhaps I should add that it could be argued that only a fine line may separate formal arbitration under section 30(4) from the securing by the Conciliator of a settlement of the issues between the parties without a formal process of arbitration.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answer I provided to the honourable member’s question is set out at pages 1161-1167 of Hansard of 15th September 1970. 1 now provide the following information to supplement that answer:
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: 1 am advised that:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The $US34m provided to cover the Phantom F4E arrangements with the USAF is made up of:
The purchase of intermediate and operational spares, transportation costs to Australia, including aircraft ferrying,
USAF administration costs, field service representatives, (raining of RAAF personnel, including refuelling, publications, technical data and transparencies; and that portion of major repair and overhaul associated with airframes and engines likely to be required in the USA during the two year period.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
Does the Conciliation and Arbitration Act make it unlawful for an employer to terminate the services of an employee while the employee is absent on (a) workers’ compensation, (b) accrued sick leave which is supported by medical certificate, (c) annual leave due to him under the terms of an award or (d) long service leave due to him under the terms of an award or Act of Parliament.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am advised that the answer to this question is no’.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
How many senators and members of the House of Representatives (a) having served in three Parliaments or having served 8 or more years, retired other than by electoral defeat with less than 12 years’ service at 60 years of age or older, (b) have served more than 20 years in the Parliament and (c) have retired other than voluntarily after having served in either three Parliaments or for 8 years or more in the age groups (i) under 30 years, (ii) 30 to 34 years, (iii) 35 to 39 years, (iv) 40 to 44 years, (v) 45 to 49 years, (vi) 50 to 59 years and (vii) 60 years and over.
– The Clerk of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives have supplied the following answer to the honourable members question:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
On how many occasions has the AttorneyGeneral or a personauthorised by him consented to proceedings being instituted under the Defence Forces Protection Act 1967.
– The answer to the honour able member’s question is as follows: On no occasion.
Pharmacists (Question No. 1692)
asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honour able member’s question is as follows:
Industrial Disputes (Question No. 1540)
asked the Minister for
Labour and National Service, upon notice: Will he supply, if possible, up-to-date statistics on the number of strikes and the consequent number of working days lost in 1970 to date (a) in particular industries, (b) in each State and (c) throughout the Commonwealth.
– The answer to the hon ourable member’s question is as follows:
Statistics of industrial disputes classified by each of 16 industry groups for each State and for Australia and showing the numbers of disputes and working days lost during the first 6 months of 1970 are set out in the Commonwealth Statistician’s quarterly mimeographed bulletins - reference No. 6.6.
Territory Police: Annual Reports (Question No. 1700
asked the Minister for the
Interior, upon notice:
Will he table the annual reports of the Commissioners of the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory Police.
– The answer to the honour able member’s question is as follows:
The Australian Capital Territory Police Report will be tabled. However, since there is a Legislative Council for the Northern Territory, it would be appropriate for the Northern Territory Police Report to be tabled in the Northern Territory Legislative Council rather than in this House, and 1 am arranging for this to be done.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Public Service Board has advised me that the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
and (4) As a result of a query as to entitlement to legal representation, the Public Service Board has conveyed to Chairmen of Promotions Appeal Committees copies of legal advice the effect of which is that it is the duty of each committee to determine its own procedure. The Board has also made clear to such Chairmen that the Board does not favour legal representation at hearings of Promotions Appeal Committees. in taking this view the Board saw Promotions Appeal Committees as tribunals discharging the function of assessing personal qualities of officers competing for promotion, not to determine rights. lt noted that the Committee of Inquiry into Sys tems of Promotion and Temporary Transfers (commonly referred to as the Bailey Committee) had specifically advised against appointment of a judicial chairman. The Board considered, inter alia, that legal representation of promotees and appellants -
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2), (3) and (4) At present Vetsey’s interests in the Northern Territory total 16,965 square miles and are held tinder six pastoral leases by five separate companies. The areas, annual rentals and expiry dates of these leases are tabulated below:
Australian Capital Territory: Fire Fighting Services (Question No. 1811)
asked the Minister for the
Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2), (3) and (4) In accordance with the powers conferred on him by Section 5A of the Fire Brigades Ordinance of the Australian Capital
Territory, the Minister has made an arrangement with the Board of Fire Commissioners of New South Wales for the manning by employees of the Board of the fire brigades established under the Ordinance. Close consultation is maintained at all times between the Board and the Department of the Interior about this fire fighting service.
In addition, the responsibility for preventing the outbreak or spread of fire in any part of the Territory other than a built-up area is vested in the A.C.T. Bush Fire Council which is appointed by the Minister each year and is responsible to the Minister.
All fire brigade officers are employees of the Board.
All Board employees serving in the Territory are highly trained in modern techniques of fire fighting. The training is gained, for the most part, in the Sydney fire district where the Board’s employees are required to undertakefirefighting in all types of buildings, factories and other establishments with hazardous contents of varying degrees. The Board ensures that the equipment used in the Territory is of the highest order and is consistent with world standards. The present system of providing fire fighting services, judged by results, can be regarded as highly satisfactory.
The present arrangement for the provision of fire fighting services for the Territory is considered to be satisfactory and there is no proposal to make any changes in it at this stage.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What has been the course annually from (a) 1950-1960 and (b) 1960-1970 of:
average weekly earnings and
combined pension (male pensioner plus wife as a pensioner), based on the situation in (a) 1950 and (b) 1960 as an index.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Calendar year figures are not available for al] of the series requested by the honourable member. To facilitate comparison, therefore, the fiscal year figures have been converted to indexes for each particular series, 1949-50 being taken as the baseyear for the time span to 1959-60, and 1959-60 as the base-year for the second decade to 1969-70.
There are, of course, a multitude of concepts relating to productivity, varying according to their coverage of industry, the work-force and even their - basic unit of reference (i.e. whether per worker, per man hour, etc.). The index that has been derived in this instance is primarily a measure of national productivity, calculated as gross national product at constant prices per person at work.
The series for ‘persons at work’ used in this calculation was derived, for the period 1948-49 to 1964-65, from the Statistician’s monthly series of civilian employees and defence forces and from Census work-force counts for groups not covered by the civilian employment series. This series was linked with estimates for more recent years derived from the civilian labour force as measured by the Labour Force Surveys combined with figures for the defence forces.
Average weekly earnings index numbers for the years 1949-50 to 1969-70 are as follows:
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Associate Commissioners -
Department of the Treasury, and Treasurer.
With the exception of Mr Ritchie these persons were first appointed when the Commission was established in 1962. Mr Ritchie succeededH. H. Reeve, F.A.S.A., F.R.I.P.A., Assistant Administrator (Economic Affairs) in 1965.
At 31st August 1970 there were 522 indigenous staff who were undergoing training sponsored by the Commission. There are no expatriate staff being sponsored by the Commission. The following indicates the courses being undertaken and the numbers of indigenes involved-
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
However, he has supplied the following tables:
Public Service (Question No. 1896)
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice:
Has the Government ever consulted the Public Service Board concerning changes in the salary or any other conditions of employment applicable to the Public Service Arbitrator or his deputies.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There has been no occasion on which my Government has so consulted the Public Service Board.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
These activities are part of a patient’s planned treatment programme and follow the growing world-wide acceptance of this form of therapy to improve self-confidence and motivation and to stimulate chronic patients to exercise impaired physical, psychological and social functions. This often leads to re-employment within a commercial or sheltered workshop environment, or delays the deterioration of disabilities which would otherwise mean long-term institutional care.
At the Repatriation General Hospital, Heidelberg, Victoria, a range of projects is also carried out including the assembling and packaging of vegetable peelers and plastic toys and the filling and packing of small containers with detergent powder.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 October 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19701027_reps_27_hor70/>.