27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Mon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– 1 present the following petition:
To the Honourble 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 hy the States for these needs.
That without massive additional Federal finance the State school system will disintegrate.
That provisions of the Handicapped Children’s Assistance 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. A»d your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– 1 present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members ot the House ot Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Victoria respectfully showeth:
That due to the higher living cost, persons on Social Service Pensions are finding it extremely difficult to live in even the most frugal way.
We therefore call upon the Commonwealth Government to increase the base pension rate to 30% of the Average Weekly Male Earnings for all States, as ascertained by the Commonwealth Statistician, plus supplementary assistance and allowances in accordance with A.C.T.U. policy and adopted as the policy of the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners’ Federation, and by doing so give a reasonably moderate pension.’
Your 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 Pensions may live their lives in dignity.
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 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 Assistance 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.
– 1 ask the Prime Minister: Have certain oil companies been complaining about the pricing policy for indigenous crude oil? ls Esso-BHP the company gaining most advantage from the Government’s policy? Has the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd announced a 52 per cent boost in pre-tax profit for the half year ended 30tb November 1970, with an anticipated profit for the year of $90m? Was the increase in profit due almost entirely to the sale of crude oil? Does this suggest that Esso-BHP has been given too good a deal on the price of crude oil to the detriment of the Australian motorists and other oil companies? Will the Prime Minister undertake to review immediately the crude oil pricing policy?
– The answer to the last part of the question is: ‘No, 1 will not’. I have noticed that certain oil companies have been complaining about the pricing policies for Australian crude oil. The complaint has largely been that the price set by the Australian Government is too low - not that it is too high - and consequently that companies which may find fields with a small flow of oil or fields which are far from a port would not be encouraged to go ahead because the price set was too low. This is what is being complained about. In regard to Esso-BHP the House will remember that there was an arrangement at a fixed price for 5 years settled between the Government and Esso-BHP for crude oil from Bass Strait. The price was set at import parity, and if I set aside conditions about quality differentials, the import parity price set for 5 years was $A1.89 per barrel. The overseas price at present at import parity is something like 42c or 43c per barrel higher than the price which was arranged. The overseas price is under the agreement recently made with the oil producing countries to increase year by year and consequently will be dearer and dearer each year as compared with the import parity price for Australian oil.
I scarcely think that this can be presented as providing a bad deal for the Government or the Australian motorist in securing supplies of Australian oil. I would not be able with certainty to say by how much a gallon of petrol from an Australian barrel of oil would be cheaper than a gallon of petrol from a barrel of overseas oil, but it would certainly be quite considerable, and we have the knowledge that this is fixed. This is not going to be subject to escalation, whereas overseas prices are. Dealing with another part of the honourable member’s question, I am not clear - no doubt he is - as to the precise profits made by BHP from its oilfields, but I believe that they would have to be related to the immense amount of capital which was expended in discovering that oil and the funds employed in the business. Surely what is really important is the end result, that we in Australia and the Australian motorists are getting oil far cheaper than could have been got in any other way.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and is supplementary to the question 1 asked last Thursday in relation to DC3 aircraft purchases. Can the Minister now give the contract price for the purchase of the DC3 aircraft?
– I said in the House on 18th February that as soon as the contract acceptance order had been sent by the Department of Supply to Jetair Australia Ltd I would announce the actual sale price. As it turned out, the amount paid for the total of 6 aircraft was $275,000. I think that is about $45,833 per aircraft on the average. In addition to that amount we have other facts to remember. Firstly, a small quantity of supplies and equipment will go with the aircraft and, secondly, the two additional payments mentioned by me on 18th February have to be taken into account also. ‘
– Has the Prime Minister seen statements that an increase in the price of steel can be expected in the very near future? Would any increase in the price of steel have a serious effect on prices? Was the 3 per cent increase in the price of steel early in 1970 justified? Did the Government conduct any inquiry to satisfy itself that the increase was reasonable? Does the Government intend to take any action to prevent Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd from increasing the price of steel similar to the action taken by President Nixon when the American steel industry threatened to increase its prices in 1970? Has BHP over the years received great assistance and protection from the Tariff Board to develop the steel industry in Australia?
– I cannot pretend to be able to remember the whole’ sequence of questions which were’ put into that one compendious question. But’ the increase in the price of steel iti 1970 to which the honourable member referred can scarcely have been an inordinate increase because since that time BHP- has been earning on the shareholders’ funds employed, as 1 understand it. something of the order of 6i per cent or 6i per cent.
– Go on!
– What rubbish!
– Order! An important question has been asked. I do not think the members on the front bench of the Opposition who are interjecting are assisting in the management of the House.
– The figures on this are all known. They are. all publishable. Calling out and making noises does not alter that fact. That can scarcely be regarded as a very great incentive for continued investment in that particular part of BHP’s business. It was suggested in a question that has just been asked of me by another front bench member of the Opposition that in fact the increase in BHP’s earnings is not from steel, to which the honourable member for Newcastle .has referred, but from oil. 1 would like them to get together to discover just which they are complaining about. But what I did understand from what was said by the managers of BHP was that they did not propose to make an increase in steel prices in the near future but that they did believe they would have to make one subsequently due to the increase in costs unless there was an increase in productivity. I would believe that those who are concerned about increasing prices should direct their attention, if they are responsible, to trying to see that productivity is increased so that prices do not need to rise and that other companies such as the paper, company to which we recently referred are not subjected to a 20 per cent wage increase in one year, which makes it inevitable that costs and therefore prices will rise.
– ls the PostmasterGeneral aware that hundreds of cables emanating from the United Kingdom are being held up by employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department in Perth and have been banking up since 1st February? Will the Postmaster-General give the House what information he has on the hold-up of cables and mail in Australia and endeavour to get the union or unions to see the damage they are doing to the Aus tralian economy, including the activities of woolbuyers who expect buying orders io be among the cables, and small businessmen who do not have direct Telex communication?
– Honourable members will realise that an industrial dispute in the British Post Office is now entering its sixth or seventh week. Of course there has been a good deal of disruption of industry in the United Kingdom and of correspondence which passes between Australia and the United Kingdom. I think it is fair to say that the British Post Office employees have no regard whatsoever for the public interest in relation to this matter nor, in some respects, have the employees of the Australian Post Office. What has happened is that no mail, telegrams or cables have been transferred between Australia and England since the Post Office industrial trouble commenced in the United Kingdom. Some mail did arrive in Australia but it has not been distributed.
The United Kingdom Post Office is not completely responsible for the telegraph services of that country. It has granted franchises to the International Telephone and Telegraph Co. and Western Union International as well as some Canadian companies. These were in fact able to process cables irrespective of the strike in the United Kingdom and for a short period there was movement of those cables when they reached Australia. However, when the Australian Postal Workers Union realised this it declared a black ban. It removed that ban and then the Union of Postal Clerks and Telegraphists applied a black ban. The APWU then came back into the picture so that now both have applied this black ban and there cannot be any movement of these cablegrams out of the Post Office. At the moment, I understand, there are some 232 held in post offices in Australia and it is unlikely that these will be delivered to the persons to whom they are addressed until the British Post Office industrial troubles are overcome.
– Did the Minister for Labour and National Service state on 7th October last that employers must not try to widen profit margins unreasonably simply because the market situation is such that they can get away with it? Is such a market situation inevitable or do the governments concerned decide the degree of restraint on unreasonable profits and capital gains when productivity or sales volumes increase? Will he spell out to employers the case for restraint and acceptance of arbitration by those concerned and for economising in government services and concessions just as strongly where profits are rising as he does where wages are rising, and, in particular, will he denounce the irresponsible foreshadowed moves of Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Limited to raise steel prices when its profits and capital gains are well above those of most employers?
– I assume the honourable gentleman quoted me correctly. I made a statement to that effect in October when I believed, as 1 believe today, that a primary requirement in the Australian economic atmosphere is restraint on the part of those seeking wage increases in view of the fact that wage increases bring about an increased unit cost of production and with it increased prices. 1 have said also that apart from restraint by unions and trade union leaders in their own interests, so as not to make money increases sheer illusory increases, they should be looking for increased real wages and the way to increase real wages is not to put pressure on the unit cost of production but instead to look for more effective ways of production and to increase productivity.
So far as the entrepreneurial section of the community is concerned, I asked for restraint in those sections of commerce where, in a fully employed economy as we have had over the last 2 decades, there is always a situation of strong demand. In a situation of strong demand there can be areas of structural excess demand. In those areas the people should not take advantage of the situation to increase prices in order to increase profitability. The restraint I have called for is an equal restraint on both sides. I only hope that both sides apply that restraint. In relation to the last part of the question relating to Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, as I read the newspaper reports - I have not seen the statement - it was announced by the Chairman of that company that there would be restraint on steel prices in view of the request by the Government for restraint.
– The ‘.Minister for Shipping and Transport will, recall that in mid- 1 970, some time after the, fire on the tanker Amanda Miller’, the Commonwealth Fire Board visited the Whyalla. Shipbuilding and Engineering Works as part of an Australiawide investigation of existing and proposed fire fighting facilities. Has the Minister received the Board’s - report and is he satisfied that ships being built under the Australian shipbuilding subsidy, scheme are adequately protected against fire during construction?
– Following the fire on the Amanda Miller’ last year; the Commonwealth Fire Board, with a: senior officer from my Department, visited Whyalla in July and inspected the fire fighting services and the fire fighting practices at that shipyard. The Board submitted a report to my predecessor, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), at the end of September and, at the same time, sent a copy of the report to the . authorities in Whyalla seeking information as to what practices had been improved in their fire fighting services. My advice Ls that since the receipt of that report much has been done at Whyalla to meet the requirements of the Commonwealth .Fire Board and to protect the Commonwealth Government’s interest in such services., For example, they have reorganised the fire fighting service and they now issue quick reports on even the smallest fire. They have instituted a training system and have replaced wooden equipment with steel equipment. As a result of the fire at Whyalla. a: survey has been made of other Commonwealth shipyards and I am advised that the Commonwealth Fire Board is now satisfied that the Commonwealth Government’s interests are now protected.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that in September 1970 more than 28 per cent of the capital value of the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd was covered by bonus share issues worth more than $583m? Does he realise that this comes largely from retained profits and, therefore, is a tax on consumers who, in fact, are paying for a substantial proportion of the capital investment programme of the Company? In an effort to modify the impact of inflationary influences arising from these sorts of practices, will he consider the introduction of appropriate fiscal measures, including net worth and capital gains taxes?
– The honourable member must surely know by this time that asking questions about what policies will be on financial matters is not a course which will lead to any answers from a government. In reply to the first part of his question, I am not aware - 1 take it he has probably looked it up so perhaps he is right - of the actual percentage of bonus shares. Bonus shares, I take it. are from retained profits which, in turn, flow from undistributed dividends to investors and therefore reduce the dividends. But what is surely significant in this matter, and surely of the most significance, is the statement which was made by the Chairman of the Company that he was not now proposing to increase the price of steel although he foreshadowed that he might be forced to do so unless there was an increase in productivity. Not only in this Company but also in all fields of industry, there can be few who would deny that if we are to get the full benefit - and I mean that if the people of Australia are to get the full benefit - of increased expansion, of increased investment and of better methods of making materials, then we will only get that if that is utilised to the full and if it is utilised to the full that must be a great blow against any necessity to increase prices. If it is utilised to the full and if wildcat strikes and other matters do not take place, then we can get the proper benefit which we really want.
– Mr Speaker, can I ask the Prime Minister to answer the question?
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I direct to the Prime Minister a question supplementary to that just asked by the honourable member for Oxley. Does the profit made last year by the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd represent a return of only 6.2 per cent on shareholders’ funds. Is this years increased profit unlikely to provide BHP shareholders with a return which is comparable with many that are readily obtainable by investors elsewhere?
– As I announced previously, last year to my understanding showed that there was a profit earned by the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd of 6.25 per cent or 6.2 per cent on shareholders’ funds. As I indicated at that time-
– Oh, come off it.
-Order! If interjections from the front bench do not cease I will deal with the members concerned.
- Mr Speaker, they seem incapable of understanding that insult is not argument. BHP made a profit of 6.2 per cent on shareholders’ funds. If we want companies generally to expand and provide more employment and produce to the full from what they have, then we can scarcely hope to bring that about by trying to bring in a situation which requires investors, who are not only large people but small people, to take a return on their investment far less than they could get from investing in the safety, for example, of government bonds.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by reminding him that the subscribed capital of the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd is $266m and that the announced profit for the half year just ended of $80m is in itself a 30 per cent return on that issued capital. In view of these facts I ask: Because of this company’s national monopoly in steel production and near national monopoly in crude oil production, will the Prime Minister ensure that a national dividend will be collected for the people of Australia by its Government imposing a super tax on excessive profits?
– The question asked by the honourable member is based on a complete misconception. What he referred to as a 30 per cent profit was a profit earned before tax, not after tax. The $80m to which he refers therefore would result in something like $40m being that bonus to the people which he said he wanted to see. It is quite useless to refer to a profit before tax, half of which goes immediately to the Australian people, and try to pretend that that is a profit on shareholders’ funds.
Dr Mackay having addressed a question to Mr Speaker -
-The honourable member’s question is out of order. A question without notice can be asked of me only about my administration.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that a person who in 1950 owned $1,000, or rather 1,000 shares, in the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd worth $5,270, and who took up all bonuses could be, for the total outlay of $5,300, the owner now of 5,270 shares worth $68,000 on the present share market? If the Prime Minister is not aware of the true position will he look it up and give a report to the Parliament?
– The honourable member seemed to be very mixed up in the initial part of his question as to whether he was talking about 1,000 shares or $1,000. He mentioned both of them.
– One thousand shares.
– It makes a difference whether it is 1,000 shares or $1,000. There has been no indication of what the honourable member has in mind as to the extra amounts which would have had to be paid in during the 2 decades of which he speaks. I do not propose to turn myself or the Government into a research department on his behalf. If he wants to certify these matters himself he can look them up. They would be a matter of public knowledge.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. I claim to have been misrepresented.
-The honourable member has been here long enough to know that he may seek the indulgence of the Chair after question time to make a personal explanation.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. I ask: What is the function at the Australian Minerals Council? Apart from negative results on the off-shore mining issue has it had discussions on other mining subjects? Will the Minister call for urgent talks on the setting up of a uniform mining code for Australia to replace the present incoherent and quite inadequate State mining raws?
– The Australian Minerals Council has performed an excellent coordinating service over the years that it has been in operation. The honourable member is referring to certain difficulties which have arisen during the last couple of years. Only recently we arranged for the standing committee of the Minerals Council to meet. It discussed a very broad agenda covering a number of .major items, lt is preparing for another meeting shortly. A ministerial meeting of the Minerals Council will be held as soon as we can finalise arrangements. It will probably be held in a couple of months time. The agenda at that time will be a substantial one covering a very broad scope. The question of a uniform mining code, which is, of course, an ideal to which we all aspire, is a subject which has been under discussion by the standing = committee of the Council for some considerable time. We hope that we will further advance this ideal at the next meeting of the Council and that at some time in the future we will be able to introduce legislation which will produce satisfying results for the honourable member.
– I wish to ask a question of the Prime Minister. The right honourable gentleman must recall that in April 1966 the then Treasurer spoke of that year’s census in these terms: ‘ . . accurate census information is essential to the orderly planning and progress of a modern community . . . it will be used in private and governmental planning- to. meet the nation’s future needs for housing, schools, hospitals, homes for the aged etc., and in estimating future government spending on such essential’ public utilities as water and electricity supply, sewerage and drainage, and roads and railways. .. ,
I ask: Is it a fact that the. forms for this year’s census have been already printed and would have to be pulped if the census were postponed? In the light of the potential waste and the vital role of the census in national planning will he give the House an assurance that this year’s census will go on as scheduled?
– I am not aware of the position regarding the forms to which the honourable member refers, or what would be involved if they were not used. Neither am I clear as to what the reason for that particular question is. I do know that on a previous occasion the Leader of the Opposition has objected to some questions not being placed on the census forms and I can only repeat what was then said, and which 1 believe to be true, that there ought to be a limit to a government’s right to extract private information from citizens by law, under threat of penalty, and that there is a need to draw a very fine line between information which would be of use and information-
– Why do you, not answer the question?
– I think honourable members opposite do not like the answer. There is a need to draw a fine line between information which would be of use and information which could well be categorised as prying into the private affairs of the citizens of Australia. .
– Are you going to postpone it?
-Order! There have been far too many interjections this afternoon. One or two members have been interjecting continually. 1 warn the House that from now on 1 will deal fairly strongly with those honourable members who continue to interject.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Does the Minister know that according to reports the Chairman of the Australian Wool Board, Sir William Gunn, has suggested that certain wool selling centres, including Portland, Victoria, should be discontinued and that the honourable member for Wannon, who represents the area, has signified opposition to such a move? As many wool growers in northwestern Victoria market their product at
Portland, will the Minister visit the town at an early date and inspect its decentralised wool selling centre and its deep water port from which all wool sold there could be shipped? To overcome the anomaly of wool bought at Portland sales being sent to Melbourne for container shipping, will the Minister make investigations with a view to installing equipment to provide full containerisation facilities at that port and so, in this case, make decentralisation a reality?
– I have seen a report of a statement alleged to have been made by Sir William Gunn that he would like to see some of the smaller wool selling centres closed. As I understand it, his view is that this rationalisation would save some wool growers some of the cost involved in selling their product. I recognise the importance of Portland to the electorates of the honourable member for Mallee, the honourable member for Wannon and the honourable member foi Wimmera. The method by which wool is shipped from Portland is a matter for the shipper and the shipowner. The Government has been able to play a part in bringing about an agreement in the European trade so that wool transshipped from Portland to a container port in Melbourne is charged at the basic service charge. In regard to the provision of containerisation facilities at Portland, as it is a Victorian port the matter falls primarily within the responsibility of the Victorian Government. My predecessor last year inaugurated a meeting of State Ministers in charge of ports so that matters of this nature could be discussed. There will be a meeting of those Ministers within a couple of months when I will see whether this matter can be discussed. As to the suggestion that I might visit Portland, I would be very happy to make a visit at the first available opportunity.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Defence. Has the independent market survey of sales prospects for Project N been completed? Has the final analysis to substantiate performance claims made for the aircraft been completed? If so, can the Minister indicate to the House the potential commercial market for the aircraft? Can he assure the House that there is a definite Australian military requirement for Project N?
– Before the Government supported this project to the extent of $3.2m to enable 2 prototypes to be built and flown a panel of .the Defence Industrial Committee did make a survey to assess the commercial prospects for this aircraft. Of course, within the defence group the Army does have a requirement and has in service now light aircraft of the Cessna and Pilatus Porter type - the Pilatus Porter being the more recent addition. This requirement was very much in mind in the initial support that the Government provided for this project, but now that we are approaching the stage when the first prototype will be flying and the claims of the designers and the manufacturers will be tested, we are again, through the Defence Industrial Committee, going to approach commercial organisations to have a further check made of market prospects. This information will be examined and the Government requirement will be checked once again.
The Service requirement is known and there is no problem about that but there may well be other governments which would be interested in this type of aircraft. I believe that the designing and construction to the present stage have gone very much as planned. I know that the Department of Supply is confident that the aircraft will perform as has been claimed. The programme is on schedule. Indeed, I think it might even be a little ahead of schedule. But this is a competitive business. It is a difficult one and to be finally successful the project will certainly need not only the support of governments but also the support of large Australian commercial enterprises, and this point is now being examined.
– Does the Treasurer share my concern at reports that the Commonwealth census of 1971 may be deferred? Is he aware, I ask with deference, that such a deferral would be no less than a statistical disaster and, in the direct sense of the term, a false economy? Will he take any steps necessary to ensure a wide understanding that an irremediable act such as altering the intercensal period should not be equated with other economies like delays in building construction?
– There is no intention whatever to do other than proceed with the earlier Cabinet decision to carry out a census on 30th June. The fact is that the census arrangements are going ahead and I hope to complete and approve of the final arrangements within the next week or two. After these reports started to circulate in the Press I made some inquiries and found that alterations had been made in the times at which certain advertisements were to appear in the newspapers and newspapers, of course, are very apt to apply their imagination to anything which occurs and they have done so in this case. The fact is that there is no intention to do other than carry out this census. The rumours to the contrary have no basis or substance whatever despite their being picked up so readily by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Is the Minister for the Interior aware that a survey of Commonwealth drivers will reveal that 90 per cent of Ministers and members fail to use the seat belts provided in Commonwealth cars? Is this an example to the Australian motoring public who are constantly being urged and, in some instances, compelled to utilise the undoubted safety value in safety belts?
– I was not aware of the fact to which the honourable member has referred, but the point is well taken and I hope that it will be well taken by every honourable member in this House. I believe that the installation of seat belts is an absolute necessity in order to try to reduce the loss of lives on our roads. I hope that honourable members will set an example. The Minister for the Interior himself will set an example by doing up his seat belt in a Commonwealth car.
– Is the Minister for Customs and Excise aware of the tremendous wave of criticism and disgust which is sweeping the nation as a result of the nature of a number of speeches made by certain honourable members of the Opposition during the recent censorship debate? Is be of the opinion that the honourable members who made these disgusting speeches are typical of the intrusion of the new left into the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party?
– This is truly a question without notice. I have been asked for an opinion. My answer is that I was not disgusted with any of the speeches made by members of the Australian Labor Party. I said on my feet that I thought the standard of debate on the censorship statement did credit to the Parliament. One of the things I said was that I was very pleased that it was one debate on philosophy which transcended party politics, and I have no reason to move away from that statement.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the cost of pollution documented in the reports of the Senate select committees on air and water pollution? Does he recall saying in his opening speech for the Senate campaign: ‘The time to begin to correct present pollution and prevent increasing pollution is now’? Is it a fact that he has deferred the appointment of the Director and Assistant Director of the promised Office of the Environment, gazetted 5 weeks ago, in order to achieve a saving of $25,000 in Commonwealth expenditure? Can he say whether this saving will equal or exceed any reduction in the cost of pollution which might be achieved by making the proposed appointments now?
– I am well aware of the costs of pollution as set out in the Senate paper. I would remind the Leader of the Opposition that I indicated that we were going to set up an Office of the Environment to advise the Commonwealth on matters under its control, and that we were also going to seek to set up a council of representatives of . the Commonwealth and the States to deal with matters which, because of their very nature, tend to transcend State boundaries.
It is quite true that we are not proposing to proceed at this time with the appointments to the Office of the Environment, which was to have advised us. I doubt very much whether the delay incurred in this will greatly increase pollution or have any really deleterious effect. As I have pointed out to this House previously, I have already written to all the Premiers on the other question which we decided, that b, to set up a council, and have received replies from 4 but not yet from the other 2.
– Who are the other two?
– I do not think it is proper or right for me to tell the Leader of the Opposition what State Premiers have or have not answered or when they did or when they did not. But as soon as this has been completed, we will certainly go ahead with it.
– Mr Speaker, I would like to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I have, very much so. I know it was not done deliberately.
-Order! I would remind the honourable member before he commences that he should know that ho must confine himself to the purpose of his misrepresentation.
– Yes, I had an idea that was so. The Prime Minister, in answering my question during question time, quite wrongly attributed to me a remark or a word that I did not say. He said that I had said that I was talking about a person who owned $1,000 worth of shares. Then he said he thought that I had changed it later to 1,000 shares. But in the end he said that I had contradicted myself again. 1 feel that I am entitled now to clear my good name and put on the record once and for all what I said. What I asked was: Is it a fact that a person who owned 1,000 Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd shares in 1950 and who took up all bonus issues since then could for a total outlay of $5,300 now be the owner of 5,270 shares now worth about $68,000 on the share market? As you can. see, Mr Speaker, I had the question written out. I had 3 questions previously written out but they were such obvious questions that my colleagues asked them before I could, and so I wrote this one out rather quickly. I did have trouble after seeing the rather pained expression on the Prime Minister’s face to continue-
-Order! I think that the honourable gentleman has made his personal explanation.
– 1 rise to order. My point of order is raised to direct your attention, Mr Speaker, to standing order No. 145 which states:
An answer shall be relevant to the question.
I submit that the-
– Order! If the honourable member wanted to take a point of order against an answer given in question time he should have taken it at the time. He would certainly be out of order by raising it now.
– May I have your advice. Mr Speaker, as to under what particular standing order that ruling is given?
– Order! The Chair is not obliged to give advice to honourable members in relation to the Standing Orders. It is the duty of the Chair to interpret the Standing Orders.
– 1 take it, Mr Speaker, that you will not accept a point of order.
– Order! The honourable member will not take anything. He will resume his seat.
– Mr Speaker, I-
-Order! I have asked the honourable member for Lalor to resume his seat.
– I heard that, Mr Speaker, but I believe that in this House I have a right to move a point of order.
– Order! The honourable member has taken his point of order. I have told the honourable member that he would not be in order. If he does not resume his seat at this request I shall deal wilh him.
– I will not resume my seat.
-Order! I name the honourable member for Lalor.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) put:
That the honourable member for Lalor bc suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I seek leave to make a statement on pensioners.
– There being no objection leave is granted.
– At the end of question time last Tuesday week the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) rose in his place and claimed to have been misrepresented by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). As the subject matter involves me, my honesty and my credibility as a member of this House, I rise in an attempt to clarify the position. I have here, Mr Speaker, a copy of Hansard which contains details of the question asked of the Minister, the reply made and the denial of the honourable member for Werriwa. For the benefit of all who read Hansard, with the concurrence of honourable members I. incorporate in Hansard the question asked by the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) and the answer of the Minister for Social Services which appears on page 12, and the personal explanation of the Leader of the Opposition which appears on page 19 of Hansard of 16th February 1971:
– I address my question to the Minister for Social Services. During recent months has he, as Minister for Social Services, received any direct representations from the Leader of the Opposition regarding the pension rate?
– To the best of my recollection I have received no such direct representations. Indeed, this would not surprise me because it would appear that although the Leader of the Opposition makes many representations in public, for political purposes, in his own way of thinking his attitude to this question is somewhat different from the public presentation he would have us believe. I recall that the honourable member for Shortland, told us of what happened in the Labor Caucus. Apparently the Leader of the Opposition spoke of feather bedding when it was suggested by the honourable member for Shortland - and I have no doubt he suggested it - that the pension rate should be raised. 1 for one do not regard this as feather bedding. I would hope that as soon as it is economically practicable the rate will be raised. But I draw the attention of the House to the very notable discrepancy between the published - the intended to be published - attitude of the Leader of the Opposition and the attitude which he reveals in the comparative privacy of his own Caucus. I have no doubt in my own mind that the honourable member for Shortland has given us a truthful version of what there occurred.
– I have been misrepresented by the Minister for Social Services.
-Order! Does the Leader of the Opposition claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I have never used the words that the Minister for Social Services attributed to me or any words like them. I have never used such words or any like them at any meeting of my Party, as all its members will confirm, and 1 have never used them anywhere else, as many thousands of pensioners -whom 1 have represented and served as a member of this House would also confirm, and they resent and refute this allegation.
Honourable members having refreshed their minds, 1 now state my side of the controversy so that a true record of the whole matter will in future be found in Hansard. Every honourable member who was present when my Leader made his denial of the Minister’s ‘feather bedding’ jibe will know that I had remained seated and had made no attempt to rise and join issue in the dispute. Probably many honourable members may have thought I should have done so seeing that I was the culprit who had been responsible for the Minister’s outburst. .’,
On Tuesday I did not repudiate my Leader’s denial simply because I had never ever desired this matter to become public gossip in the first place. My disclosure of the ‘feather bedding’ incident, on 9th November had, along with other comments about my Leader, been made in the supposed privacy of my Federal ‘Electoral Council meeting to which the Press under Australian Labor Party Rule 61 B was barred. The fact that the Press was- present on that occasion can, I believe, be laid fairly and squarely at the feet of the present administrative authorities pf the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labor Party who, by their refusal to deal with complaints made by me over the past 2i years of the creation of a bodgie branch and the stacking of another branch in my electorate, have, been directly responsible for everything- that has occurred. It was the credentialling of the bodgie delegates to the Shortland FEC that had enabled the taking over of my Council by its present officers and it was those officers who had admitted and in fact welcomed the pressman to the meeting. It was those same officers, through the Council president, Mr Bell, who hadj. half-way through my remarks, requested ‘ ‘the pressman to temper the report he was preparing. The request had been openly ‘refused by the pressman and Council officers did nothing about it.
My silence on Tuesday last in the House was to enable me to raise the issue in dispute at my own Caucus meeting and this I did the next day by moving and obtaining the suspension of standing orders. I fold Caucus, as I now tell this House, that on either 19th or 26th October 1966 at a pre-election Caucus policy meeting the Leader of the Opposition, who at that time was the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was Acting Leader and was occupying the chair in the absence of Mr Calwell who was unwell. Members were discussing election policy items and 1 had brought to the notice of Caucus an anomaly in the social welfare regulations in that aged widow and widower pensioners who had either a child or children living at home caring for their parent were being refused the Postmaster-General’s Department’s fringe benefits in those cases where the child was earning in excess of the permissible supplementary income a pensioner was allowed to have. This amount at the present is $20 a week. At the October 1966 Caucus meeting I had asked that as an item of policy the Party should promise uniformity of fringe benefits for all pensioners.
At the conclusion of the discussion the then Deputy Leader replied to the points raised and, on reaching my subject, he half turned to his right and pointing to me said:
As for the honourable member for Shortland, what does he want us to do - feather bed the pensioner?
My reaction was immediate, and I said to the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) who was sitting next to me:
That was an awful thing lo say. No wonder we remain in opposition.
Of course, apparently my colleague has also forgotten the incident because he has never mentioned it since. 1 have, however, continued to discuss the incident from time to time with a few members of Caucus and in some branches of the Australian Labor Party within my electorate. As I was speaking I had my widowed sister’s case in mind. Her daughter was training as a nurse and was earning something like 320 a week and as a result my sister was being denied telephone, radio and television concessions. At that time I had shown how other pensioners were enjoying fringe benefits when their total income was far in excess of that of widows and widowers. I point out. to honourable members that even today married pensioners who have fortnightly incomes in excess of $100 still receive the fringe benefits while widows and widowers with no supplementary income, and who have someone living in the same house earning more than $40 a fortnight, whose income is only $31 a fortnight from which rates, insurance and other costs must be met, are deprived of PMG benefits. So I again pose the question: Why? 1 also spoke with the then Leader of the Opposition, the right honourable member for Melbourne, about the rebuff I had received in Caucus and that gentleman tried to console me by saying:
Who knows. We may still give the pensioners if we are returned more than the big fellow anticipates.
In Caucus after I had spoken last Wednesday, the Leader of the Opposition spoke and again denied having made the statement I had attributed to him. The honourable gentleman also threw in the suggestion that at one stage I had said 1 could not remember either the date or place where the statement had been made. Of course, Mr Speaker, such a suggestion will not fool the matured politician for there is a well known saying that if someone throws mud for long enough some of it will ultimately stick, and that is what my Leader appears to be hoping for. I assert that there is an abundance of evidence that will show I had mentioned this in many places and to various people over the past 3 to 4 years.
Last Wednesday at the conclusion of the Leader of the Opposition’s speech he applied the gag to prevent any further discussion. The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) attempted to speak and did so above the din. He then walked out of Caucus and my thanks now, although belated, go to Senator Willesee, Senator Keeffe and to the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) and others who restrained me from leaving the room and resigning from the Labor Party at that time. The reason why I had intended to resign from the Australian Labor Party was the action of my Leader in refusing my request to allow members to volunteer information, if they wished to do so, that they had remembered the remark of the honourable member for Werriwa. Since the Caucus meeting the right honourable member for Melbourne has informed me that he recollects my discussion with him at
Parliament House prior to that Parliament’s conclusion on 28th October 1966. The honourable member for Gellibrand and the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) also have clear recollections of what was said. I know there’ are other colleagues who also remember the incident because some have said so to others. However, I do not intend to seek their support because I know only too well that the statement had in fact been made.
Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa - Leader of the Opposition) - I ask for leave to make a statement on the same subject.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Tell the truth.
– I shall. The first time that this matter was raised in the House was Tuesday last week and at the end of question time I took the first opportunity to refute the allegation. I have never used the words attributed to me - any words like them - in any place or at any time. Until last Wednesday I was at a complete loss, and so was everybody else who mentioned it to me, as to where it was alleged that these words had been used by me. At last Wednesday’s Party meeting - Caucus - the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Griffiths) referred to a debate in the Caucus in October 1966 concerning free television and broadcasting licences for pensioners. I looked up the minutes of the Caucus meeting and I shall read them to the House. My predecessor, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) was in the chair. The minutes read as follows:
The Deputy Leader-
That is myself - put the Executive recommendation on the Broadcasting and Television Bill 1966 not to oppose. Mr Barnard suggested that an amendment should be moved to have war widows included. The following spoke: Mr Griffiths, Mr Sexton, Mr Jones. The Deputy Leader then replied, accepting Mr Barnard’s proposal, and the Executive recommendation was put and approved.
It is quite clear that the only amendment to the executive recommendation which I had put to the Caucus was, in fact, accepted by me. Honourable members can see from Hansard of Friday, 14th October 1966 - 2 days later - that the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart), speaking on behalf of the Opposition, said that it did not oppose the Bill and, in Committee, he moved an amendment so that there should be radio and television licence concessions not only for ‘ social service beneficiaries, totally and permanently incapacitated servicemen and service pensioners, but also for war’ widows. He pointed to the anomaly that a TPI pensioner gets a free licence, but “on his death his widow has to pay the frill licence fee. There were no other speakers: ‘The amendment was defeated on a Party vote. The honourable member for Shortland did not participate in the vote.
It is clear that the only amendment proposed in the Caucus was accepted by me. Furthermore, as everybody; knows from recalling the events of 1966 or, in fact, 1968, if there were any disclosure to be made from the Caucus to my disadvantage it would have been made. The astonishing thing is that for over 4 years, nobody had heard of this allegation. Two. questions arise from this. Why did the honourable member for Shortland raise this matter? Some clues may be found in Hansard. Before the 1969 House of Representatives election the honourable member for Shortland was opposed by another gentleman for selection as the Australian Labor ‘ Party candidate for that electorate. Somewhere about this time, the honourable member for Shortland announced that he would not seek another term in the Parliament.
– Only if the Parliament ran its full course.
– I will accept that addendum if the honourable member wishes. He announced that he would not seek another term in the Parliament if the Parliament ran its full course., Last September, the Federal Executive of my Party expelled the Victorian Branch of the Party from the federation which comprises the 6 State branches. At the same time, the Federal Executive re-endorsed as. Labor candidates for the next House of Representatives elections all sitting members of my Party in this House from Victoria.
At that time there was informal discussion outside the Executive that the same action might be taken in respect of sitting members of the Party in this’ House from New South Wales. That ‘being so, there were suggestions that the honourable member for Shortland, who would not have been disqualified as 2 members had been from Victoria by the retirement provisions of the Party, might have another term through the endorsement of the Federal Executive. Nevertheless, the New South Wales Executive called for nominations. Several persons nominated for the electorate of Shortland including the gentleman who had opposed the honourable member on the previous occasion. The honourable gentleman’s preoccupation with this matter came to the attention of the public in a question which was asked of the Treasurer (Mr Bury) last Friday. The person referred to in that question was this gentleman who is among those who are seeking preselection for the honourable member’s seat and who had opposed the honourable member previously.
I wondered how my name came to arise at the meeting of the Federal electorate council of Shortland. It appears that I am thought to be a supporter of the candidate who seeks pre-selection on this occasion and who opposed the honourable member for Shortland on a previous occasion. I believe that I have met the gentleman on one occasion. So that is how 1 came to be involved in the matter. The other question has been asked by a number of persons both inside’ and outside the House. What can one do about a member of a party who makes such belated accusations against another member of a party, leader or otherwise? The fact is that in the Australian Labor Party; as in all other parties, nothing can be done about a member of the Party in his last term in the Parliament. There is no effective discipline whatever.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. A subsequent question apparently has given the impression that my appeal to you earlier was directed largely against members of the Opposition, t want to make it quite clear that I was not criticising Opposition members only.
-Order! Honourable members will remember my appeal to them yesterday to co-operate when Ministers are called immediately after question time. There is always too much noise and I ask again for the co-operation of honourable members.
– Pursuant to Section 70 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1970, 1 present the Fourteenth Annual Report of the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for the year ended 13th August 1970.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s failure to inform the Parliament on the future of the Australian Task Force in South Vietnam and its plans for civic aid and rehabilitation in indo-China
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)
– The Opposition has proposed this discussion of a matter of public importance to allow the Government to clarify its future policies towards its commitment of Australian troops to Vietnam and to the rehabilitation of Indo-China. I should like to begin by making some general comments about the military situation in Indo-China. Much has been made of the progress in South Vietnam since the operations in Cambodia last year. From my own observations there have been significant advances in the stability and security of the three and four corps areas of South Vietnam - that is, the Mekong delta area and the provinces surrounding Saigon. The South Vietnamese Government claims to be on top in these regions and I believe it to be a fair claim. It must be borne in mind, though, that this improvement has been achieved by the sacrifice of Cambodia.
The Cambodian coup and military operations last year have certainly moved North Vietnamese units away from the border regions where they had supply bases with easy access to South Vietnam.
At the same time these operations have dispersed Communist forces over the whole of Cambodia. An exceptionally vicious and tragic war is being fought in Cambodia with a rather uneasy alliance between the Cambodian Army and units of the South Vietnamese Army.
What has been the net result of the extension of the war to Cambodia? It has produced some gains in South Vietnam at the cost of bitter warfare in Cambodia, the only country in Indo-China which had been spared. If we look at the whole of Indo-China, there has been no net gain. Weighing the relative stability in the bottom half of South Vietnam against the chaos and carnage in Cambodia perhaps there has even been a net loss. Elsewhere in Indo-China there has been the remarkable confrontation of the last few weeks in Laos. It is easy to be wise in retrospect but on all evidence available at the moment this seems to have been a grave military mistake. Even on the simplest military terms it seemed unwise to commit an already over-extended army to a major offensive in difficult country. Admittedly the information available at the moment is scanty and inconclusive, but putting the best possible face on it for the South Vietnamese Army, it has fallen far short of its objectives.
The best that has been claimed for the operations by United States Army spokesmen is that it has disrupted traffic along the Ho Chi Minh trail, a rather spurious claim. At the worst, the ARVN Army could have suffered a major disaster. Whatever else the operation proves, it shows beyond doubt that the mainforce North Vietnamese Army is still a very formidable opponent. Operating from its own territory with interior lines of communication it has again proved its effectiveness. It also refutes the claim that morale has been crumbling in North Vietnam. Quite obviously the North Vietnamese Army and civil population are capable of sustaining a major military effort. Why the United States and the South Vietnamese should have invited a direct confrontation with this powerful army on its own ground at this time is beyond my comprehension. With elections due later this year surely it would have been the better tactic to take a defensive stance on the borders of Vietnam white continuing consolidation of its inter nal gains. Instead the ARVN Army is heavily committed in Laos and Cambodia as well as continuing operations against the Vietcong in South Vietnam.
The so-called process of Vietnamisation has produced a major war in Indo-China. It has destroyed the neutrality of Cambodia; further it has seriously threatened the balance which has persisted in Laos since 1962. All possible combinations between the left, the centre and the right have been tried in Laos. Whatever the shortcomings of the present system it has been reasonably effective. Destruction of this precarious balance would only intensify the problems of getting any sort of solution in IndoChina in the next 5 years. The plain fact is that if the South Vietnamese Government is not capable of standing by itself now it will never have that capacity. This is a conflict which massive ‘ intervention by external forces has failed to resolve. It can be solved only by direct political, negotiation and confrontation between the contending Vietnamese factions. It is the responsibility of the Vietnamese to achieve their own consensus; no one else cun do it for them.
It is in this context that the commitment by the Government of Australian troops to South Vietnam should be examined. Late last year one battalion was withdrawn ostensibly in line with policy, of .Vietnamisation which the . Government took over wholesale from the United States. Vietnamisation may have had some, value as a glib verbal cloak for an American, process of withdrawal. It is completely meaningless to explain what the Australian Government is doing at the moment. The Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has described the objective of the . Australian Government in this way:
What he seems to mean is that it is the objective of the Australian Task Force to establish these circumstances in Phuoc Thuy province. The Australian’ presence there has no influence whatsoever in the other thirty or so provinces of South Vietnam. It is a useful exercise to have a look at the disposition of Australian’ units in Vietnam at the moment. In the’ : past few weeks in Phuoc Thuy province the 3rd
Battalion has replaced the 7th Battalion; the 4th Battalion is due to replace the 2nd Battalion in May. On the face of it the Government is committed to stay in South Vietnam until May 1972: that is when the 4th Battalion finishes its 12- month term of duty.
There have been rumours that cuts will be made in Australian troop levels. The tenor of these rumours is that the Royal Australian Ah Force Canberra squadron and other support units will be withdrawn. This would leave the Task Force at Nui Dat substantially intact at its 2-ba.ttalion level. 1 suppose the projected withdrawal of the Canberra squadron would have been dictated by the difficulty in finding a suitable role for it with the run-down in military activity within South Vietnam. From reports in the past few days it seems the Canberra squadron has been used extensively in the 1 Corps area because of the scope of United States air operations in Laos. If these reports are correct it seems that with the bulk of American air power committed to Laos, the Canberra squadron has been committed to routine operations in the corps area. This development could pose problems for the Government in making cuts in its troop levels. It may have been possible a few weeks ago to withdraw the bombers without any problems. Now with a major campaign in progress the Americans and South Vietnamese are calling on every ounce of airpower. This points up the dilemma of the Government’s commitment. Quite clearly it wants to make cuts in troop levels but under the terms of its commitment there may be no logical way of doing this.
The other aspect of the operations in Laos which may affect the future of the Government’s commitment lies in the possibility that if the South Vietnamese get into serious trouble America may have to commit ground troops. This would deal a blow to the process of American withdrawal and Vietnamisation. a blow that would be transmitted through the whole military structure. Ultimately it would be felt by the Australian Task Force’s process of Vietnamisation in miniature in Phuoc Thuy. Again any substantial success by the North Vietnamese could have serious repercussions for the Government’s policy of withdrawal in step with Vietnamisation.
The level of military activity in South Vietnam has been low in recent months. As I pointed out earlier this is in part due to the improved effort of. the South Vietnamese Government in the countryside. There are other contributing elements, including the need of the Viet Cong to regroup and re-organise. Undoubtedly there is also a degree of accommodation at the local level between the contending Vietnamese forces. Although the Viet Cong have been weakened, it would be a mistake to assume they have Been destroyed or made impotent. They are still a. viable force.
It would seem logical that any substantial degree of success by . the North Vietnamese in Laos would be accompanied by a renewal of Viet Cong activity throughout South Vietnam. If this happens ‘flag’ forces such as the Australian Task Force would be in a vulnerable position. The Viet Cong would be prepared to take risks and accept severe casualties to give a bloody nose to a force whose, presence was mainly symbolic and political. Obviously the Australian Task Force, is weakened in Phuoc Thuy because 1 battalion has been taken out. It is just as obvious that a considerable Communist presence is in the province. Five years of military effort has failed to root the Vietcong out of the sanctuary of the Long Hai hills. If the Communists in Phuoc Thuy want to mount a major effort against the Task Force they have the capacity to do it. This raises the possibility of further savage combat in the region with heavy losses by the Task Force in the next few months. lt does not seem that this contraction of military responsibility is ‘ commensurate with the pull-out of 1 battalion. On one hand the Army command’ can extend the diminished force over the, province and try and fulfill a full military and civil aid role, (f it does this it accepts the risks I have indicated. The other alternative is to withdraw into an enclave at the Nui Dat base, acting completely on the defensive and concentrating on training South Vietnamese Officers at the Jungle Training School. This could be justified on the basis that Vietnamese units had in substance taken over the rest of the province. But it would open the way for the Vietcong to take the offensive in other parts pf the province. Neither possibility makes much sense in the light of the Government’s picture of a placid Vietnamisation with Australian troops enjoying a peaceful rundown as the Vietcong withers away.
Behind this facade 1 am convinced the Government recognises the urgency of getting out quickly. There is every chance that all Australian troops will be out of Vietnam by the end of the year. But the Government is doing itself and the electorate a serious disservice by maintaining the fiction that it will stay until Vietnamisation bursts into final flower. Theoretically it is committed to maintaining a substantial Australian presence at least until May of next year. It cannot defer any longer its obligation to explain its future intentions for the Task Force and ancillary Australian units in Vietnam. There is nothing more the Australian Army can do in Vietnam. Despite lack of funds it will leave an excellent and enduring civil aid contribution, an effort that should be continued and extended by civilian agencies.
Whatever the final political wash-up in Vietnam, there will be a residual humanitarian duty on this country to provide succour and rehabilitation. The Minister for Defence has chosen to tie the civil aid programme in with the whole process of military Vietnamisation. I have not the time to look at the inconsistencies and flaws in this approach. The point should be made that once the military goes, a very real gap in civic assistance will remain and it must be filled by other agencies. In summary, the Government is running very grave risks with a policy of stringing out the commitment. Even on the political terms pushed by the Government a continued Australian presence is futile and irrelevant. Our troops must be extricated as quickly as possible. The Minister has the clear duty on behalf of the Government to scrap the soft soap and outline to the House why it is maintaining the commitment and how it is to be ended.
The Minister has been singularly silent on this matter. He has made some tragic mistakes in his statement on civil aid and the civic construction work which has been pursued in South Vietnam. The Minister did not deny last week that the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s correspondent in Saigon had transmitted to this country a statement which had been made by those in Saigon who have the clear responsibility for making this kind of statement. We now have the situation where the Government is about to replace one battalion in Vietnam with another. It will relieve a further battalion in May of this year. One can only accept the political implication that it is the clear intention of this Government to maintain an Australian presence in Vietnam until May 1972. I conclude by saying that the Opposition believes and the great majority of the people of Australia believe that it is time the Australian troops in Vietnam were returned to this country.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Corbett)Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s time has expired.
– If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) had heard what occurred on the television programme ‘This Day Tonight’ last night he would have known that at least one of the sentences he used today was not correct. The statements or suggestions contained in the report of an Australian Broadcasting Commission reporter have been denied on, I think, three or four occasions. On the first occasion last Friday I re-affirmed the determination to maintain civic action at a high level and said that it was not the Government’s intention to reduce it. I think the precise words were: There is no intention to reduce civic action in contemplation’. I used the same words on Sunday in a statement further clarifying the matter. I also said the same kind of thing in the House in answer to a question. I am prepared to say it again for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in order to see whether he can comprehend that there is no intention to phase out civil aid.
The civic action work is going to be maintained at a high level. An instruction had not been issued. It was a guideline - something which was designed to enable the Army to form its own view. It was a document with no policy connotation at all. It had not even been discussed with the Ambassador in Saigon and it had not at that stage been referred to Australia. Any policy change would be a matter for the Government and the Government has no intention of running down this activity. It was also said that all work in the fields of medicine, education and social services is to be stopped. That again came from this guideline. It was not an instruction. It had not even been referred to the Ambassador in Saigon.
Some of the statements which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made in speaking to the motion before the Chair were full of contradictions. He said, on the one hand, that there had been significant advances in South Vietnam and that there had been a greatly improved effort by the South Vietnamese Government in the countryside. On the other hand, in contradiction of that, he said there was considerable Communist pressure in the province. He spoke of grave risks to the Task Force as though these risks had increased compared with the time when the Task Force was first placed there. One thing that this House can be sure of and Australia can be sure of is that this Government will not take decisions in relation to the Task Force or any element of the Task Force which, in the judgment of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff, who are the Government’s military advisers, will place any element of that force at undue risk. Quite obviously soldiers in a theatre of war are always at some risk. The military term is that they should not be placed at an undue risk. This is a policy that the Government will most certainly maintain. No action that it will take will contravene that policy.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in a strange moment of forgetfulness. accused the South Vietnamese of, by their attack on the sanctuaries in Laos, having destroyed the neutrality of Laos. I would ask: What is the position in this area? The neutrality of Laos has been shattered not for a few months, not for one or two years but for nearly 10 years by the active participation and aggression of North Vietnam in that part of what was once Indo-China It was not South Vietnam and the United States of America which shattered the myth of neutrality in Cambodia, as the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) well knows and as he reported courageously in view of the environment of his own colleagues; it was the blatant aggression by North Vietnam and the determination of the Cambodian people to stand up for their own independence that ended Sihanouk’s regime, placed the present Prime Minister in power and began their struggle for independence. The
Government’s position on these matters is quite plain. When the process of withdrawal and the process of changing qualitatively the involvement of Australia in this conflict began the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said, among other things: 1 reiterate that the objective is to establish the circumstances in which South Vietnam can determine its own future without fear. There can be no thought of abandoning that objective by a precipitate withdrawal of allied forces.
Later on he said:
After the initial withdrawal, should the progress of pacification and Vietnamisation succeed as the President hopes and believes that it will, then at some stage during the 12-monlh period, we will consider phasing additional troops into the planned withdrawal.
In the same speech to this House on 22nd April - a speech which is a definitive document of policy on this matter - the Prime Minister also said:
Let me review what has happened since then. The Prime Minister indicated the additional training assistance that is to be given to South Vietnam. Fifteen military assistance training teams stationed with and working with the regional force companies are training and improving the capability of these companies. The jungle warfare training centre has been established. The first class of lieutenants and captains has already entered the centre. By the end of this year 1,200 to 1,300 junior leaders will have passed through the centre established with Australian technical and military knowledge and understanding in these matters.
As a result of those policies, as a result of improved capability in Vietnam and as a result of the security operations over many years by the Task Force itself, ;he process of Vietnamisation has started to move in such a way that areas of prime military responsibility are now being handed over to the regional force companies. This is the very objective of the whole enterprise - so that the South Vietnamese can maintain security on their own in certain areas and ultimately over the whole of the territory. This is not to say that in the area of prime responsibility our troops may not be involved. If the South Vietnamese forces require assistance in those areas our forces would be available. Instead of belonging to the Task Force, the prime responsibility in those designated areas is added to the areas of responsibility of the regional force. This has occurred next to the Long Hai hills, in areas around Xuyen Moe and Duc Tahn and in the area between Nhui Dhin and Thi Vai as well as in the heavy jungle area east of the Long Hai hills. In fact areas to the north, south, east and west of the Army base at Nui Dat have been handed over to the responsibility of the regional forces. This is a story of success in the process of military Vietnamisation. It would not have been possible if the Australian Labor Parry’s policy had succeeded. The Opposition’s policy of immediate withdrawal, which was espoused some time ago, would not have made possible an orderly handover of military responsibility. From his own knowledge of what has happened there the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would recognise this.
Let me say a little more about civic action. The civil affairs unit was established in June 1967 when 1 was Minister for the Army. In February 1969 100 people were engaged full time on civic action work. In February 1971 there were 450. It is not the dollars spent on this work which counts so much; it is the work of the soldiers themselves and the heavy equipment, machinery and technical knowledge which they bring to their tasks which enables work of great value to be undertaken. Such work includes water supplies for villages; construction of classrooms; electrification of hamlets; construction and improvement of hospitals; the building of 500 houses for regional force soldiers and their dependants; miles of road construction; medical assistance; and education, agricultural and social welfare work in many different areas of the province. Let me be more specific. Five market centres have been established; 6 dispensaries; 71 classrooms for many hundreds, and indeed thousands of children who will occupy those rooms; 4 community centres; water supplies for 14 hamlets; and playgrounds for 17 schools. Since February 1967 more than 200,000 medical patients and more than 31,000 dental patients have been treated. Dental treatments were running at a higher level in November 1970 - the latest figures available - than in the same period in any of the previous 2 years.
I have already said that many miles of roads had been constructed. Four major bridges have been erected on route 23. However, the road programme still has a good way to go.
Why would the Opposition want to withdraw immediately? The Deputy Leader of the Opposition does not challenge that that is the policy of the Labor Party. After all he cannot because it is written in its documents. In fact it was repeated in a statement by him in a television broadcast last night. He is nodding. He admits that it is the Opposition’s policy to withdraw immediately unilaterally without consultation with the allies, to repudiate allies on both sides of the Pacific. He is nodding again. He is approving this shameful act because it would be a shameful act if an Australian government were put in that position. Is it because the Opposition believes that South Vietnam is not worthy of some protection, not worthy of an opportunity to work out its own future and not worthy of an opportunity to have an independent viable democratic government? The Deputy Leader of the Opposition thinks that South Vietnam ought to have that opportunity but he thinks that the securing of the independence of a people is not sufficiently important for Australia to have any part of it. If those people are not worthy of support in the greatest of all things that a people can have - freedom to choose or to change their government by peaceable means - how can the Deputy Leader of the Opposition say that it is worth helping them in providing aid? Unless there is protection the purpose of aid falls to the ground.
One might almost be excused in believing on some occasions that the Australian Labor Party wanted the North Vietnamese to win this war. An honourable member laughs. Some of his colleagues in another place are on record as having said that they want the North to win. Senator Wheeldon has said:
I personally do not deny that I do support the Vietcong.
That is a firm statement which is recorded in the Hansard record of the Senate and if there are no other members of his Party who have the same view I would be surprised.
– Who said that?
- Senator Wheeldon, one of the most prominent senators in the Australian Labor Party or does the Opposition deny Senator Wheeldon and the views that he expresses? If the policy of unilateral withdrawal were in fact accepted it would involve a repudiation of allies on both sides of the Pacific. It would destroy Australia’s reputation as a reliable ally and, as the extreme left of the Australian Labor Party - but not the Deputy Leader of the Party - wants, it would also destroy every defence and treaty alliance that Australia has. As to the future, we are reviewing the present position in accordance with the statement the Prime Minister made last April. When there is to be a change in terms of the disposition and deployment of Australian forces an announcement will be made to this House by the Prime Minister. But I want to reaffirm quite clearly the Government’s attitude in relation to this matter of civic action which is under discussion in this House today and which has been made a public affair over the last week. I think our attitude is clearly expressed in a message sent this month to the commander of the Australian forces in Vietnam. That message reads:
The Australian Government’s policy is to retain civil affairs activity at its highest level and indeed to increase our efforts in this field as reductions in our forces take place.
Our objective in this area is an objective which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would, from his own statements over the last few days, support but how can he support it if he is not prepared to take the measure necessary for the adequate security and protection of the South Vietnamese people? Our objective, in conjunction with allies is to achieve a situation in South Vietnam of sufficient security so that the South Vietnamese can maintain themselves.
Plainly it is ludricous to think that Australia can do this on its own, as the honourable member sought to suggest I had said. This policy needs to apply in our own part of the area as part of a total plan. As a result civic action work by civilians or by military people could continue after the last troops have ceased firing throughout South Viet nam. I believe that should be an objective which all people would be able to support. There is nothing strange in the concept of civic action being undertaken by engineers, members of the medical corps and other servicemen when there are no fighting troops in the area. If we get to that stage, as I hope and as we plan, some might make a judgment that these things ought to be done entirely by civilians but if it is done in part by the civil affairs unit and by Australian soldiers undertaking these tasks, that also is something that I believe this House should applaud. I wish that the Australian Labor Party would cease speaking as though its members are the only people who want peace and as though they are the only advocates of peace. For our part we on this side are determined to try to achieve a peace that does not deny or shame what decent men everywhere stand for.
– One of the points we have raised in this debate, and on which the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) stands indicted for his lack of action, is the plan for civic aid and rehabilitation in IndoChina. I do not believe any honourable member, particularly on this side of the House, objects to civil aid in principle and certainly no-one questions the dedication of both civil and military personnel engaged in the implementation of programmes. But today I want to look behind the principles and examine the practice of civil aid in Vietnam. Seeing that the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has been caught out recently on whether there is or whether there is not to be. civic action, we might start with an examination of our civic action programme in Vietnam. The military civic action programme is a shallow public relations exercise.
– That is not what your Deputy Leader says.
– I will now give honourable members the reason why I regard it as a shallow public relations exercise. If the honourable gentleman would listen he would find that this information comes from a bulletin published by the Department of Foreign Affairs. In listing the purposes of the programme it stated:
We are asking our men to try to achieve an objective which successive South Vietnamese regimes have failed to do and that is to achieve the loyalty of the people they are supposed to represent. Civil aid to Vietnam has been just as much a public relations exercise as the force commitment of the so called free world. United States administrations, in justifying the commitment and particularly in justifying it to the American people, have gone to great lengths to encourage countries within their sphere of influence to make contributions. We all know that the commitment of Thai, Philippine and Korean forces was made on one basis, that is. that they were bribed to go into Vietnam. But in the civil field the United States, which is able to saturate South Vietnam with aid, devised programmes that would allow the nominal participation by other countries so that it could point to the broad support that it was said to have. 1 can remember seeing when I was in the Department of Foreign Affairs a multitude of pamphlets and publications on the free world’s contribution to the effort and 1 also recall a statement that the Government of Honduras, for example, had provided drugs and medical aid. But perhaps 1 could refer honourable members and the Minister now to the recent discussions on this point in the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee where it was pointed out that the aid provided by Honduras, which was supposed to have gone in a Honduran Air Force aeroplane was in fact transported in a United States Air Force aeroplane which had been repainted with the symbols of the Honduran Air Force. A large group of people had gone to hand over this token gift of drugs, and I would like to read the statement subsequently made by the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He said:
After a stop of 5 days in Vietnam, (be philanthropic party (there were 26 aboard) returned in even more leisurely fashion (it took 13 days from Honduras to Vietnam), taking 16 days . . via a different route - one which naturally included Hong Kong. . . . The record does not disclose the cost of this pilgrimage, but 1 think we can lake judicial notice that it undoubtedly exceeded (he cost of supplies delivered to the Vietnamese.
– What has this to do with your motion?
– The point is that the United States has tried to devise little operations that could expand what it regarded as the support of the whole free world. But let us look at what Australia’s aid has involved. Our aid to Vietnam has been unselective in approach and inconsequential in dividends either to the Vietnamese people or to the Australian people. We have picked up the odd and scattered crumbs that have been let fall from the banquet table of the United States military and civil aid. In short, the Australian Government has had to scavenge for aid projects with which to project a public relations image that it says is built on compassion and concern. Much of what we have classified as civil aid to Vietnam comes within the category of para-military aid. We can take an example the Minister for Defence has mentioned, the $500,000 special aid for housing. This in fact was for barracks for the dependants of members of the regional and popular forces in South Vietnam, no doubt designed to strengthen their questionable loyalty to the Thieu Government. In the 1969-70 Budget we provided under civil aid $100,000 worth of sleeping kits for the Vietnamese police.
We have also in the past supplied barbed wire and galvanised iron for what have been euphemistically described as strategic hamlets. One is never sure whether strategic hamlets were built to keep the Vietcong out or the people of South Vietnam in. But our largest civil aid programme has been in the medical field. We have spent something like S3m on this project but regrettably it has had serious drawbacks and has been severely criticised by no less than a gentleman sent to Vietnam by the Government to examine the medical aid programme. He said:
Because there is no consistent Australian role or policy the Australian programme sometimes involves the repeated dislocation of hospital administration, services and practices. . . . Under prevailing conditions the system does not provide our teams with enough work to do. The Vietnamese doctors aTe often conspicuous by their absence and collaboration is difficult.
He went on:
The general impression is that the Australians are welcome only because they relieve the local doctors of their public hospital duties for which they continue to be paid. . . . Much of the minor surgery performed by the Australians could be done just as easily by the Vietnamese doctors who, however, now prefer to spend more time in in private practice.
But this medical aid has been maintained despite the trenchant criticisms because the Government has considered that it would be politically embarrassing not to carry on. But the Australian taxpayer, whose money has gone into these projects, has in fact been the loser. What the Government has in fact done is to trade in political gimmicks. We have scavenged for aid projects in Vietnam and we have perverted the functions of our armed forces. The Government may be satisfied with its antics and may regard these antics as constituting a civil aid programme but we on this side of the House most certainly do not. In South Vietnam, North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia we are faced with a monumental job of reconstruction because policies which were supposed to be designed for the betterment of the people have failed. These policies have in fact been counter-productive, but what is this Government going to do about the rehabilitation of Indo-China? That is the question we ask. We on this side of the House will not be satisfied with the gimmicks that have been put forward as a civil aid programme.
– Last evening in this House the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) said that some of the members in the House were asleep. If he had taken note and thought of this discussion today I am sure that what he said would have been true as far as many members of the Opposition are concerned because it shows a complete lack of an appreciation and an understanding of many of the things that have happened in this House in the last few days, in particular of some of the statements made by the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I have in front of me a series of comments and answers to questions by the Minister relating to this matter of South Vietnam and our civil action policy, what we will do about certain aspects and what thought has been given to the future. There is a comment from the Minister in regard to there being no cut in civic action and there is an answer to a question asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) on this matter as well.
The Minister made varied comment about what has been done in the past and what the Government intends to do in the future. I do not argue against criticism of these statements by the Minister or of the policy of the Government; nor do I argue against the right, which honourable members in this House have, to say that the Government is not doing enough or that it is misdirecting its endeavours. The matter of public importance refers to:
The Government’s failure to inform the Parliament on the future of the Australian Task Force in South Vietnam and its plans for civic aid and rehabilitation in Indo-China.
I think that anyone who has given any thought or consideration to the situation in Vietnam knows that it is impossible to plan any action or any form of rehabilitation as one would after the cessation of hostilities. Therefore, while hostilities are proceeding, as they are at this moment, there can be only a potential for planning in this, regard. In these circumstances 1 certainly do not think that the Government can be dogmatic and say: ‘This is going to happen’, or ‘That is going to happen’. The Government can have only a general overall plan, and I think that if the Parliament has a look at what has been achieved by the Government it will be seen that this is so.
I then ask myself this question: What is the purpose behind the Opposition’s raising this matter of public importance? I am afraid that one must come up with the answer that this urgency statement, worded as it is, is a smokescreen so that the Opposition may cover up for some- of the failures that are evident within the Opposition at the moment and also because it cannot come out with a direct and dogmatic criticism of what the Government has been doing. I believe that one of the major things we have to do in this situation is to sustain a degree of confidence in what Australia will do and in what the United States of America intends to do in this area. If one follows the speeches of, perhaps I should say, the majority of honourable members opposite one sees a constant thread of criticism levelled against the United States, the Australian Government and the Australian troops. There is no criticism or comment at all of what has been done by the enemy.
Let me for a brief moment refer to the situation in Laos. I must confess that I am rather disappointed at the protest made by the World Council of Churches regarding the Laos action. It said that it is a flagrant violation of human rights. I remember speaking many months ago to an American serviceman who said that one of the tragedies in his experience was to see his comrades lose their lives because of the use that was being made of the Ho Chi Minh trail by the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong and the use that was being made of the so called neutral territory by the enemy, and to know that the Allied forces were unable to protect themselves and their comrades against this violation.
– The honourable member for St George can say ‘nonsense’. I was speaking to a combatant member of the forces who was there and who was able to say that this was so. Reference has been made in this House to the neutrality of Cambodia. As I have pointed out on other occasions, neutrality in this area is something that is used as a screen by the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong to the detriment of our troops who are engaged in the war in South Vietnam. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said that damage has been done to Laos. What is the total position in Indo-China at the present time? Are the Vietcong, the North Vietnamese or the Communist forces completely innocent of any of the actions that have occurred in this area?
Let us look at the peace talks in Paris. Every concession that has been made by our allies at the peace talks has been met by a further demand from the North Vietnamese or the Vietcong. I think this question has to be considered when we are talking about the total situation in IndoChina. All the stress on rehabilitation and all the stress and emphasis upon what we will do to provide aid and assistance to the people in South Vietnam will be to no avail unless the military position in this area is stabilised.
The honourable member for St George referred to the work of the Australian Army and spoke sneeringly about what our troops were doing in South Vietnam by way of providing assistance. Let us look at what is happening. He said that the assistance was being provided only to win the support of the people, ls it not natural that you win the support of the people and even of the Government if you give to them a degree of security and stability? On the other hand, the enemy coming into South Vietnam is endeavouring to win support for its side by force and terror, and we have seen instances of this. The enemy has taken the head of a village and the villagers have not seen him again. This has been done to force the villagers to support the Vietcong. 1 emphasise that, according to honourable members opposite, all the wrong has been done by the United States and by ourselves and none of the blame for this situation in Indo-China can be laid at the feet of the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese. I ask the Australian people, having looked at the total situation, to judge whether such comments are correct.
Not very long ago the leader of the North Vietnamese delegation at the Paris peace talks was interviewed in a programme on ‘Four Corners’. She said: ‘We know that the majority of Australians are against the war in Vietnam.’ This statement was not contradicted by the interviewer. One might say that the interviewer should not have interfered in the programme, but I believe that at that point he should have commented because this programme was being televised throughout the world. In conclusion, 1 commend to this House and to the Australian people the final words of the Minister for Defence when he spoke of peace. I support him and, as I have said in this House before we desire peace with all our heart and with all our mind, but we desire a peace which will last into the future and give security and safety to the people of South Vietnam.
– In answer to the last point made by the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock), it is quite obvious from any study of the international situation that Australia can contribute nothing whatsoever to the cause of peace while its forces are engaged in the war in South Vietnam. It will be somebody who is totally neutral - not necessarily neutral in the moral sense, but neutral in the physical, military and political sense in this conflict - who perhaps will get the parties together around a table. The Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who happens to have left the chamber for some reason or other, and the honourable member for Lyne have missed the point altogether. The point of this debate is: What are we doing in South Vietnam? What do we achieve while we are there? When will our troops come home?
– What does the motion say?
– Obviously the honourable member for Diamond Valley is not going to Vietnam. In my day and generation, if anybody of your age-
– Read the motion.
– Yes, the motion is quite clear. I can read it.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I find it acutely offensive that the honourable member for Wills should make a remark like that. I remind him of the wording of the matter of public importance.
– Order! The honourable member for Wills has the call.
– That is right. Honourable members opposite, if they have the conscience, will listen to what I have to say. The honourable member for Angas knows full well what battle fields are like, and that is what the discussion is about today. The Minister has made no statement about the future of the Australian forces in Vietnam. The future of the Australian forces in Vietnam is the scale of their withdrawal, and this is the issue which is before the House as much as the question of civic aid which has been discussed quite effectively by my colleagues.
The Minister spoke about undue risk to our troops. He does not want them to get into undue risk. They are in undue risk, according to the point of view of more than half the people of Australia, while they are in Vietnam. It is true that if the Australian Labor Party’s policy had been followed they would not have been there at all. I believe that most of the people in Australia would agree that, seeing the issues now with the clarity that is possible with 5 or 6 years of hindsight, we would not commit them there at all. We committed them because the United States commitment was there.
Do not tell me that the Government and the Australian people in general go around looking for people to free from tyranny and to protect their independence. If that were the case, why is the Government so silent about West Irian, which is right next door? When are we going to launch an attack on the Greek colonels and get them out? There are 130 nations in the world of which not more than 25 or 30 are independent and free in the sense to which we refer. Does that mean that after Vietnam we have ninety-nine to go? It is utter rubbish. Everyone knows full well that we are there because we drifted into it with some dream about the American alliance. What about Cambodia, then? Cambodia is the innocent victim and innocent bystander. What has the Government done about that? There has not been even any effective attempt at diplomatic action concerning Cambodia. The same applies equally to the suffering people of Laos. 1 listened to the Minister’s speech. It was a catalogue of inconsistencies, cliches and self-delusion. He did not speak about any of the issues that were before the Parliament. I make an appeal on behalf of this House and the Australian people for the people of Laos. I understand that another 15,000 or 25,000 people there have become refugees. When my colleague, the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) and I and a number of others were there about 6 or 7 months ago the needs of those people were relatively simple. With a few blankets, mosquito nets and ground sheets a great deal of their hardship would have been removed. Now they are faced with an all out war between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. 1 believe that the whole climate has changed. The situation has now moved from what might be called ‘civil war’ to a major war between two fairly populous countries which would be pretty powerful and effective when they are mobilised. I know that in the present situation the South Vietnamese have not proved their total effectiveness as a military force and that therefore the situation has changed. Australia’s commitment there can gain nothing for us.
We are arguing this afternoon that the Government has been less than honest with the Parliament. It has made no real statements. There has been no clarity in the statements. That was the issue I took up with the honourable member for Diamond Valley. There has been continuing Government confusion. In the last few weeks we have heard statements about what the Army was going to do in Vietnam. We have heard them contradicted by the Ministry, and we have heard new statements from the Ministry in Vietnam. The Parliament is informed only incidentally and indirectly when people ask questions. What we want to know is what it is all about. What are we achieving there militarily? What are we achieving there politically? Of course we are achieving very little militarily. The Minister mentioned the hills area. There has been little change over the last 2 or 3 years in the military situation around the hills area. There has been no political change, as far as one can determine, in the adjacent villages. Our information was that a very large proportion of the people in that area still support the National Liberation Front. That is not the case, 1 believe, throughout the rest of South Vietnam.
Then there is the continuing drain on the Australian people and Australia’s resources resulting from our commitment. The point at issue is the Government’s failure to inform the Parliament on the future of the Australian Task Force and to inform the Parliament about any part of it. We want to know how much this is costing us. At the present moment it is costing about $42m a year just to have the forces there. This amount is added on to the other costs. No estimates have been placed before the Parliament of what our commitment actually costs. First of all there is the pay which is probably to the tune of $50m a year. In the costs that have been placed before the Parliament, that has not been admitted. What does it cost to maintain men in the field in such a situation? People in business tell me that it is possible to estimate somewhere between H to 2 times extra for heavy business operations such as occur in the engineering field. So there is another S75m.
What does it cost to train the people at home in Australia to prepare the battalion which will replace the battalion that is going to come home? It will perhaps cost another $10m. What is the national service system costing? How much are repatriation benefits costing? How much are they going to cost? We can expect them to flow on for the next 50 years. It will probably cost Australia somewhere between S170m and $200m per annum for our commitment in Vietnam. I place this matter before the House because I believe it is important for the Australian people to understand that the commitment in Vietnam is not simply 7,000 or 8,000 men. The commitment is not just $42m a year extra. A study of the defence system shows that the rising costs in the defence bill have been pretty well contemporaneous with the Vietnam commitment. I think we have gone from 4 or 5 battalions in 1965-66 to 9 battalions now. Other things such as the national service system are very closely associated with it.
What are the plans for the future? Are the battalions going to stay there indefinitely? Nothing has been said. Are we going to wait until the Americans have pulled out and then finally bring them home? My views about this are well known. As honourable members opposite have said, my views about the position of the people of Cambodia and Laos are well known. I believe that they are now in conflict in a war in which they are the innocent bystanders. What baffles me is the complete and utter silence df the international community about it all. Is it not possible that something can be done for the people to protect their independence and their neutrality? The principal sufferers at the present moment are the people of Laos. Nobody could be more inoffensive or more innocent victims than they are. Something to which we must turn ourselves - I might disagree with my 2 colleagues from this side of the House here - is the situation in regard to civil aid and other matters in Vietnam. I personally believe that South Vietnam is big enough to look after itself.
We have a responsibility in some ways because our Government has committed us there. It is true that we can exercise no authority whatsoever over the Government of North Vietnam. We do have some kind of remote responsibility for our relations with South Vietnam. For our operations in Vietnam, the Government is answerable to this Parliament. That is why the Opposition is critical of what goes on in South Vietnam. Like most honourable members opposite, we on this side of the House know very little about what goes on in North Vietnam, but we do know that the people of Laos and Cambodia are being sacrificed in the war. I believe it is time we brought our forces home, f think that the recent dispatch of troops was an act of absolute and utter irresponsibility and cynicism. I would like somebody opposite to tell me what the score will be. How many of those soldiers does the Army estimate are going to be killed? According to the statistics for the last 5 years it will probably be between 30 and 50. How can the Government possibly justify that?
I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) that this is a futile and irrelevant exercise. I believe that our troops are there either because we started there and do not know how to pull out and do not have the political courage to do so; or because, for political advantage and to gain the support of splinter groups in Australia, the Government is prepared to continue this sacrifice. Throughout Australia the situation is being challenged continually. The despair 1: feel about that situation this afternoon is bad enough. But the Minister for Defence, a very powerful and important man in this country, had nothing to say about the future.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Corbett)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Wilis (Mr Byrant) began by saying that the solution to the distress in Indo-China is the assertion of what he described as a neutral authority’ to bring the conflicting parties together. That was broadly his proposition. I would never have thought for one moment that among his blemishes in politics the honourable gentleman would encourage us to believe that he suffers from a poor memory. I hope that the House will not let go lightly the fact that scores and scores of attempts have been made by highly neutral authorities to try to secure peace in South Vietnam. It has not been merely the United States of America. It has not been merely Australia, New Zealand or the Philippines. Go through the record of the last 5 years and surely the tragedy of human effort will be clear enough there. Does the honourable gentleman say that when His Holiness the Pope sought to assert his own unique authority with respect to South Vietnam there was no neutrality there? What does he say about the spokesmen of the British Labour Party, who command the same sense of compassion as the honourable gentleman? Has neutrality fled from them?
I hope my honourable friend recalls that all these efforts have been made by neutral authorities to try to secure peace in South Vietnam, and they have failed. Why have these efforts failed? They have not failed because of the South Vietnamese, on whose part there has been a complete readiness to go to the conference table. Who was responsible for the dreadful charade of the Paris peace talks before they got off the ground, so to speak? The obduracy rests not with the South Vietnamese; it rests with the North Vietnamese. That is the fact of the situation, and it is to no avail saying that that is not the case. I hope my honourable friend will concede that. I want to ask the honourable member one other thing. When he was in Cambodia and saw, to use his own language, an invasion that parallelled the invasion of Belgium by the Germans in 1914, did he say that there should be the assertion of a neutral authority? What did he implore us to do? He said we should send arms to Cambodia to help them.
There is a lot of confusion about the basis on which we are in South Vietnam. I do not want to attempt to oversimplify what is a complex and tragic situation, but 1 have always apprehended it to :>e a fundamental principle in the conduct of international affairs that when a nation asks for help when it is attacked assistance can be given to it. It is recognised in article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations. We do not have to turn to the protocol to the SEATO agreement and say that is a basis for our being in South Vietnam. This country, which is recognised by 60 or 70 nations throughout the world and which is accepted on a number of specialised agencies of the United Nations, was attacked. There can be no question about that.
– I rise to a point of order Mr Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for an honourable member who has participated in a debate to take the Speaker’s chair while that debate is still in progress?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)This question has never been raised before. There is no substance in the point of order.
– I am trying to make the point that there is no doubt that South Vietnam commands international personality and that South Vietnam was attacked by North Vietnam. There is no denying that. The North Vietnamese have been coming down the Ho Chi Minh trail through the Centre of Tchepone for years bringing the wherewithall to sustain the invasion of South Vietnam and the invasion of Cambodia, about which the honourable gentleman complained. That is the basis on which we are there, and as my colleague the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said, we will stay there. We will maintain the commitment until such time as there is every prospect of the country being able to maintain itself.
That brings me to the next point I want to take up. I was delighted to hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) say that progress had been made in South Vietnam. That was the definite impression with which I was left after my visit there. Having seen the work that has been done there by the Australians, I was a little saddened to hear the honourable member for St George, in what I promptly describe as an outrageous speech, speak with such bitter criticism of the civic and civil aid being given in South Vietnam.
– Give us an example.
– 1 listened to the honourable gentleman with what I think was an almost ghostly silence, and I hope he will try to contain himself and listen to one or two points T am making. The honourable gentleman said that we are scavenging for projects in South Vietnam. Does he call the work of the Australian medical and surgical teams in South Vietnam a scavenge? Are we to say to all the Australian surgeons who go to South Vietnam: ‘You are participating’ - to use the honourable gentleman’s language, again - ‘in a shallow public relations exercise’? Many of these surgeons are giving up their practices for 6 months, and when they return they have to pick up their practices again. To say that they are participating in a shallow public relations exercise and to accuse them of being participants in a scavenging project I can only describe as a shameful and outrageous assertion to make.
– A Queensland doctor said it.
– The honourable gentleman now says that a Queensland doctor has said it. The mere fact that we find a critic does not mean that we should elevate the criticism to something rivalling that of holy script, but that is what the honourable gentleman is asking us to do. Bless my heart and soul, I have even heard by way of rumour in the last few hours a criticism concerning the administration of the Australian Labor Party. Am I to believe that? 1 want to deal with some of the other projects that the honourable gentleman described as being part of a shallow public relations exercise. Are we to say to those people working on. the Cantho water supply, on which $600,000 is being spent: ‘You are taking part in a shallow public relations exercise’? 1 say to the honourable gentleman: ‘At the first opportunity take yourself off to South Vietnam, go round the traps and talk to the people who are giving up their time and are spending money provided by the taxpayers of Australia’. This year under the three headings of SEATO aid. Colombo Plan aid and special aid 33,442,000 is to be spent by Australia. Let the honourable gentleman say to these people: ‘You are taking part in a shallow public relations exercise’.
– They have said it themselves.
– This is not my experience or my observation. I am not prepared to say that everyone serving in Vietnam from the Australian commander down to the chap at platoon level sitting out in the bush is mistaken; but the general view of those who serve in Vietnam - you cannot help but be tremendously proud of the fact that you come from Australia when you see them in the field and see them at work - is that they have got the Vietnamisation programme to the stage today where it is working. T did not meet one person serving in Vietnam who expressed a view to the contrary. But as my colleague, the Minister for Defence, says, in terms of the future and a long range programme, no person can say with certainty what the outcome will be. The effort which has been made by this country to preserve the integrity and the independence of South Vietnam is not something that should draw shame from any person in this country, and neither is the superb effort which has been made by those serving in the fighting forces and those who are participating in the civic and civil aid programmes there. They deserve to be praised and they deserve to be recognised by everyone in this country, including the honourable member for St George.
– Order! The discussion has now concluded.
Debate resumed from 23 February (vide page 529), on motion by Mr Bury:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Income Tax Assessment Bill before the House seeks to suspend the provisions of section 62aa of the Income Tax Assessment Act, which relates to what is commonly known as the investment allowance. This allowance is a special income tax deduction based upon expenditure on new manufacturing plant. It is noted that in his announcement of the Government’s intention the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) used the word ‘suspend’ in regard to the cessation of this allowance. The same wording was used in the second reading speech of the Treasurer (Mr Bury). Why was this section of the Income Tax Assessment Act not completely discontinued? Is it the Government’s intention to have the same stop-start economy which we have seen with a successive number of LiberalCountry Party governments?
It is important to look at the reasons for implementing the investment allowance in 1962. In introducing the measure on 12th April 1962 the then Treasurer, the late Mr Harold Holt, said:
In proposing the allowance the Government aims to encourage greater investment in our manufacturing industries and thus ensure, in both the short and the long term, a greater volume of both output and employment, lt seeks also to promote greater efficiency in manufacturing production from which should flow the advantages of lower costs which will benefit the Australian consumer and help our industries to seek export opportunities in markets overseas.
To what extent are the conditions today different from what they were then? Let us analyse the Treasurer’s statement. The Government, through its spokesman, the Treasurer, said in 1962 that it wanted lo ensure … a greater volume of both output and employment’. If the Government’s arguments were valid in 1962 the situation should be reversed when it suspends the operation of the allowance, in other words, what the Government is apparently now seeking is a decrease in output, which is inflationary, and an increase in unemployment. It is a policy of despair. The Government also said in 1962 when introducing this measure that by promoting greater efficiency in manufacturing production, lower costs would flow from it which would benefit the consumer and help our export markets. Again assuming that the Government’s arguments were valid at that time, if we reverse the situation now with the discontinuance of the allowance the opposite should happen, namely, higher costs to the consumer and a decrease in our ability to export at a competitive price.
I would like to make it clear that the Opposition did not accept the reasons given by the Government for the introduction of this measure when it was first introduced and it does not do so now. lt could well be that there were deep political reasons for the introduction of this measure in the first place, lt has certainly been of great financial value to the manufacturing interests and the giants of industry as 1 will show later in this speech, lt is commonly accepted that the investment allowance was the brainchild of the former Minister for Trade and Industry, Sir John McEwen. It was introduced in 1962 following the disastrous near defeat of the Menzies Government in 1961 as a result of the 1960 horror Budget. It has also been suggested that the manufacturing interests have been a prime source of funds for the Country Party under Sir John McEwen. This n not my suggestion; I would not know whether this allegation was true or not. But the editorial in that conservative newspaper, the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, on 22nd February 1971 makes no bones about it. Speaking on the need for a tariff review the editorial said:
The qualifying remarks are probably a political exercise intended to mollify an increasingly fearful manufacturing lobby that has been a prime source of Country Party funds under Sir ohn McEwen.
In opposing the introduction of the investment allowance in 1962 the Opposition spokesman and shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) as recorded on page 1859 of Hansard of 2nd May 1962 said:
We believe that this imports into the income tax legislation a new principle and that certain aspects of it should be subjected to criticism.
Later he said as recorded on page 1860:
On page 1861 he is recorded as having said:
I am not quibbling about whether this sort of thing ought to be done; I am simply saying that if it is thought that certain industries require some encouragement to improve their export trade, if it is believed that life insurance companies ought to devote a certain part of their investible funds to public loans, or if it is felt that certain kinds of investment in particular manufacturing industries ought to be encouraged, then the, Government ought to be honest enough to say that that is the purpose of the measure instead of attempting to shelter behind the provisions of the Income Tax Act.
How right was the honourable member for Melbourne Ports then and how right is he now? In the case of a non-private or public company, as it is better known, the investment allowance which was granted by this piece of legislation is equal to a direct subsidy of up to 8i per cent of the cost of an item of plant. Applying this to an item of plant which costs $20,000, the investment allowance of 20 per cent of $20,000, namely $4,000, would finally be worth $1,700 to the company after the company rate of 424- per cent had been applied to the $4,000. This would reduce the net cost of the plant from $20,000 to $18,300. The Commonwealth subsidy through the taxation system would be $1,700.
Let us now look at the total effect of the investment allowance. In the year 1969- 70 - and I quote from the official figures attached to the Treasurer’s Budget Speech - the estimated revenue lost by this provision for the manufacturing industry component was $55m. The primary production sector which has not been altered caused an estimated revenue loss of $9m. Turning now to those who were the greatest beneficiaries of this type of legislation, the public companies, and considering the latest year for which statistics are available, that is, the company assessment year 1968-69 or the income year 1967-68, the total investment allowance deduction for taxable public companies amounted to $70,582,000. The amount applicable to public companies with a taxable income of over $2m was $43,575,000. There were 186 public companies - industrial giants, if we like to call them that - who had a taxable income of over $2m in that year and those 186 public companies received 61 per cent of the benefits. The total investment allowance for the private companies in that particular year amounted to $13,983,000. If we add the investment allowance of public companies to the investment allowance of private companies we get a figure of $84,792,000. The amount of that total applicable to the engineering companies was $31,177,000. In other words, 5,053 engineering companies received 37 per cent of the benefits, ls it any wonder that those companies are concerned? Their pockets have been hit.
It is interesting to note the comments of those who have been affected by this decision to eliminate the investment allowance. The President of the Associated Chambers of Manufacturers of Australia, Mr H. N. Herford, commenting on 4th February 1971 on the Prime Minister’s decision, said:
Sleight of hand tricks such as the present announcement add nothing to the total knowledge or acceptance of responsibility which all sectors must share if we are to match and overcome the problems of inflation which arc bedevilling the economy.
The Prime Minister must know that private industry just cannot shut off investments in the way it is pretended will happen from his announcement. Investment will and must go on because it has been committed years ahead. Ail that will happen is that costs will be increased and must have their ultimate effect upon prices.
What the representative of the manufacturing interests is saying is that what was put in as a concession, a type of backhanded subsidy, at a time when the economy was flat and depressed should be maintained or they will increase the price of their commodities. This is a direct challenge to the Government. I wonder whether it will accept it. I think not. The Australian Labor Party is not opposed to economic assistance to industry. What it opposes is the snide and underhand manner in which this assistance has been given since 1962 when this legislation came into effect. If there are to be economic subsidies to particular industries, then let proper inquiries be made as to which particular industries need this assistance - which companies or which industries need assistance in the national interest and not in the interests of the individual industry. The Tariff Board currently makes these inquiries in regard to tariff proposals.
When decisions are made after proper inquiry, the extent of the subsidies should be there for all to see, not hidden away due to the secrecy provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act. I should like to know, and the people of Australia - the taxpayers - are entitled to know, how much this legislation has benefited the monopolistic giants of the Australian manufacturing industry since it was first introduced. How much has been gained by means of this ingenious piece of legislation by Broken Hill Proprietory Co. Ltd, Australian Consolidated Industries Ltd, Australian Paper Manufacturers Ltd and the other industrial giants? The only people who know are the Commissioner of Taxation and his staff. Is the ordinary taxpayer not entitled to know these facts,, or is he expected just to pay up and shut up and keep on paying? This is the thought that came into my mind when this legislation was introduced. I wondered whether it was the beginning of a move to re-vamp the economy in a method different from that which had been applied during the McEwen era. It is interesting to note that the same arrangement was applied in 1963 to the primary producer sector of the community following the benefits which were given to the manufacturing sector in 1962. Whilst the manufacturing sector has now had its taxation advantage taken away, the primary producer sector has not. This is possibly not an unreasonable attitude in view of the present parlous state of the farming community. The bulk of the farmers will have little use for the concession because, as a result of this Government’s policies, they are finding it difficult enough to exist, let alone engage in a programme of capital expansion and development.
Just how important the investment allowance has been to the industrial giants can be gauged from the published statement of Sir Colin Syme, Chairman of Directors of Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd. In his half-yearly report which was made yesterday, 23rd February 1971, he said:
The suspension of the investment allowance has important consequences for bhp. These allowances had been a valuable source of cash flow when it was most needed - at the beginning of operations of qualifying new projects. . . . * The direct effects of this company, both from a cash and profit point of view, could well be serious.
How right he is. This investment allowance has been a valuable source of cash flow to his company and a valuable addition to its profits. But the point at issue is whether an industrial giant like Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd should ever have received this type of subsidy in the first instance. How many millions of dollars has it received? No-one will ever know with certainty due to the manner in which this benefit has been given by the legislation which is now being suspended. The statement by Sir Colin Syme was made at the same time as it was announced that the company had increased its pre-tax profits by 52 per cent for the half year to November 1970, which will have the effect of increasing its net profit for the year to an estimated $83m.
On a general basis, a major point for concern should be the extent of Commonwealth assistance to industry through the taxation system. Official figures issued in the annexures to the Budget Speech show that the amount of revenue foregone in 1969-70 through the main taxation concessions is estimated at not less than $282m. The investment allowance accounts for $64m of this total, comprising $55m to the manufacturing industries and $9m to the primary producers. These concessions are made to everyone in a particular category - to efficient industries as well as inefficient ones and whether there is a need for assistance or not. It is a most inefficient method of making what is, in reality, a subsidy payment. The Opposition does not oppose this measure to take away the benefits conferred by section 62aa of the Income Tax Assessment Act. For my own part, I hope that it is not a suspension of the concession but a complete elimination of a concession which should never have been granted in the first place.
– The battle against inflation is, in part, psychological. The visible determination of the Government to fight to control inflation is vital and for that reason I support the suspension of the 20 per cent tax allowance for manufacturing investment. Nevertheless, I should like to argue that this allowance should, in truth, be suspended only and not cancelled as was proposed by the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin).
There are a number of strands to the argument that this allowance should be restored as soon as inflation is contained. The first strand is that investment in plant and equipment is an essential ingredient of increased productivity and, thus, increased industrial efficiency. We need more, not less, investment in industrial equipment.
The second strand is that this tax change does not affect the 2 fastest growing areas of investment, that is mining and other non-manufacturing activities, particularly office buildings. I certainly agree that the knocking down of solid office buildings and their replacement by tall glass boxes is a waste of national resources and that it should be restrained, but that has nothing to do with the present tax concession, which does not cover such construction. Nor does it cover mining investment, which has risen by 51 per cent in the last year. International comparisons are notoriously difficult, but Professor Colin Clark pointed out in last December’s ‘Economic Record’, comparing Australia’s capital investment with such investment in Norway and Japan, that we have a relatively low investment in industrial equipment. He suggested that this might be because Australian industry is not under sufficient competitive pressure to induce adequate investment in new equipment. If this is true, the answer lies in the Restrictive Trade Practices Act and tariff review, both of which are being closely examined by the Government. But, industry needs a carrot as well as a stick and that is why this investment allowance is so important to our future industrial prosperity.
Professor Clark suggested also that we ‘ are devoting too much of our savings to public investment and to private office buildings. The former can be controlled and is being controlled by Government policy, but I confess that I do not know how we are to control excessive expenditure on private office buildings. The only immediate weapon seems to be exhortation.
I must repeat that all this investment allowance covers is manufacturing industry and between the last quarter of 1969 and the last quarter of 1970 this rose by only 10 per cent compared with a rise over the same period of 51 per cent in mining and 20 per cent in the remaining nonmanufacturing industries - wholesale and retail trade, transport, building construction, banking and so on. We seem to be hitting hardest at the least offending section of the economy. An examination of the Bureau of Census and Statistics publication ‘Capital Expenditure by Private Business for the December Quarter’, published on 17th February, reveals a disturbing fact about this 10 per cent rise in manufacturing investment. Mineral processing - extracting, refining and founding - which we all agree should be encouraged, is included in manufacturing investment. This investment rose by 64 per cent between the last quarter of 1969 and the last quarter of 1970. Investment in the remainder of manufacturing industry - vital areas such as engineering, vehicles, chemicals and textiles - actually fell from $2 10m to $206m over the same period, and this fall is even more dramatic when one realises that investment in vehicle manufacturing has almost doubled. This leaves the rest of those manufacturing industries in a fairly parlous investment situation.
I think there is a danger in looking at trends over too long a period. As Keynes once said, in the long run we are all dead. A year or so ago the Treasurer was reasonably happy with the balance of the economy. What surely we should be restraining now are activities that have continued to rise since then or, more particularly, those which are rising at an increasing rate. Neither of these is true for investment in manufacturing plant and equipment. On the figures that 1 have seen, the seasonally adjusted figures for investment in plant and equipment, that is, excluding buildings, have shown a slow but steady decline since March 1970. To remove a taxation incentive to investment in manufacturing equipment at a time when such investment is actually falling seems to me to be dangerous and not desirable in the long term interests of Australian industry.
As 1 have said, I support this measure as an anti-inflation step, but I should like an assurance from the Treasurer that this investment allowance, which is an important incentive to increased manufacturing efficiency, is only suspended and will be restored as soon as inflation is contained.
– I rise to take part in this debate because one of the most significant factors of it is the disagreement amongst
Government members. We have just heard the last speaker say that he hopes that this will be only a temporary measure. Last evening we heard the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) virtually oppose the proposal. It seems to me that there is a great deal of. misunderstanding in the Government ranks about what is the real intention behind the Government’s policy. If we go back to what happened in 1962 to encourage the introduction of this investment allowance we find that the Government had just received a dreadful fright in the election of 1961. At that time there was great unemployment. The level of unemployment rose to 150,000 which was an all time record since the depression. On 6th March 1962, when the Government I think had a majority of one, the present Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr McMahon) made a speech in which he tried to justify what he thought were measures that would give some impetus to employment. The right honourable gentleman said that the Government was doing its utmost, and that it was filling the vacancies rapidly. One of the measures which he advocated as being most successful was the very one we are now about to do away with. When speaking on the Address-in-Reply debate on 6th March 1962, the right honourable gentleman said:
Let me mention, first, the investment allowance of 20 per cent that has also been mentioned by the Prime Minister (Mr Menzies). That allowance was granted for the purpose of permitting our industries to buy machinery and, when allowing for depreciation, to provide for an additional amount, being 20 per cent in excess of the cost of the equipment, as well as the amount represented by depreciation itself. This nol only allows the industries to have extra funds for spending on equipment; it also provides an opportunity for efficiency, and it gives us a chance not only to compete in international markets but also to reduce the cost of the things that we produce in this country.
We enter this debate with the Government having said: ‘We had better dampen down this expenditure’. In his most recent speech on this matter, that of 18th February, the same right honourable gentleman, who is now the Minister for Foreign Affairs - this speech was not made by the Treasurer (Mr Bury) - said: ‘Too much money has been spent on plant and equipment. We will have to dampen it down, lt has now reached a level of 15 per cent.’ He went on to say that we roust take action to slow down the rate of growth of private investment. The investment allowance on manufacturing equipment is to be done away with on the basis apparently that the rate of growth has been too rapid. If a growth rate of 15 per cent is too great, what is an acceptable figure? In a Press release issued by him last year, the Treasurer referred to this rate as being 11 per cent. On 18th February it was referred to as being 15 per cent. When this measure was introduced the rate was given as 20 per cent. Does it matter from the Government’s point of view what the increase is? It is intended to do away with this allowance, anyhow.
I congratulate my colleague the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), who made the valid argument that it does not necessarily follow that all industries should be discouraged from using the investment allowance. If they are industries which are in the national interest, which are expanding in a worthwhile area and which are able to increase employment and create greater efficiency, why should they not be looked at when determining priorities? Why is this one legislative act being undertaken to counter inflation? This is ridiculous. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports mentioned the aircraft industry. This was a very valid point, hecause the aircraft industry in Melbourne is using machines to produce high grade and intricate toolmaking equipment. By the use of those machines tools and equipment are now being produced in 16 hours as against 160 hours previously. We hope that this industry will be able to compete with foreign aircraft industries because it can become more efficient. The industry is deploring the fact that it is not given sufficient encouragement. If it were given encouragement the industry could reduce costs and it would be able to employ more men than the 1,500 employed at present. Surely these are factors that this Government, which is interested in private enterprise, might look at.
What worries me is that the atmosphere of the 1961-62 horror Budget is creeping back again. No-one has recognised the problems facing the economy at present. The position today is similar to that when I was a member of the Sydney County Council in 1960. At that time the Council went on the loan market to borrow essential funds.
On the day we went on the loan market the then Treasurer announced an increase in the bond rate. We did not get any contribution lo that loan; it failed. We were faced with the prospect of dismissing 1,000 men or of increasing the cost of electricity. The Council had to increase the cost of electricity. This again illustrates the impetus that rising costs create. At that time the Government decided that to save its failing loan market it had better increase interest rates. That interest rate has never decreased; it has confirmed to increase.
Let us have a look at the position which again has been referred to - incorrectly, 1 might say - by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Minister said that we had to increase interest rates to encourage people to contribute to loans. Interest rates were increased last April. One would have thought that if the interest rate was increased last April the Government would have been successful in its proposed loan. The figures now given to me show that merely $48. 5m was subscribed to that loan despite an increase in the interest rate. In the previous April the comparable figure was $81m. Therefore, despite an increase in the interest rate, the subscription was almost half of that for the former year. If we look at the loan subscriptions that have now been made to the Government to help it. one might say, in its need we find that these subscriptions are running at half of what is required. This is the great tragedy of interest rales. All that the increase in interest rates did to costs was to increase them. It delayed the provision of adequate housing: fewer homes were built and young people have had to pay more in repayments. The increase in interest rate has done nothing which would help as an antiinflationary measure. We are able to say now that over the past 12 months cash loans have not been successful. Cash loans raised in the May quarter of 1969-70 and in the August and November quarters of 1970-71 were down considerably on the amounts raised in the April quarter of 1968-69 and the July and September quarters of 1969-70.
With the Government loan programme which is being undertaken at present the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has had to rush in and say: ‘I am not going to increase interest rates because I know that this might affect the present loan’; but statistics show that the last 2 loans which have been conducted this financial year have raised only Si 88m as against a previous annual rate of $543 m. This loan is not going to succeed. Why is it not going to succeed? Because there are other more attractive avenues of investment. One has only to look at any newspaper and one will see that an interest rate of 9 per cent on investment is being offered by hire purchase companies. These include Finance Corporation of Australia Ltd, Australian Guarantee Corporation Ltd, General Motors Acceptance Corporation of Australia, Associated Securities Ltd and others. What do these finance companies do with- their profits? This year some of them have declared record profits. In an atmosphere of antiinflation and having increased interest rates last year the Government is in the position of finding its loan programmes failing miserably, but the private finance companies are having record profits. They have not been putting their money into what might be termed the right sort of investment from the point of view of adequate housing for the people they have been putting it into office blocks and other projects of the nature which honourable members on the Government side of the House have been complaining about. Knowing this they ask in despair: ‘What can we do about it?’ The obvious thing to do is to take some control over what these people are doing. They are siphoning off for their own benefit investment funds that should be going to the Government.
Not one new hospital is being built in New South Wales because no money is available and some schools are in a deplorable condition because of the lack of money. But when 1 asked the Prime Minister whether he would give an undertaking to advance more money for schools and hospitals he said certainly not. What are we to do? Are we to become a second grade society simply because we are allowing these companies to build new office blocks in Sydney? ls this the attitude of the Government? Why does it not take the simple action of disallowing the tax deduction to companies offering an interest rate of 8i per cent, 8i per cent and 9 per cent? That would be the first and most obvious thing to do. What advantage is it to the Government to allow GMAC to come on the loan market in order to sell cars on hire purchase at 9 per cent? What advantage is it to ASL and others to advance so much money to build office blocks?
Let us examine what these companies have done and how they have raised their money. In 1965 these companies raised $88m; in 1966 they raised $99m; in 1967 they raised $27 lm; in 1968 they raised $384m; and last year they raised $403m. So their raisings have increased from $88m in 1966 to over $400m and Government loan raisings have fallen in the same ratio. What have these companies done with this money? Money advanced by finance companies on mortgages rose from $222. 6m in 1965 to $565m in 1969. The mortgages are on real estate. But they are not on normal homes; they are on office blocks. If the Government had taken the opportunity of saying: ‘We will not allow the interest paid to be claimed as a tax deduction’ that money would have been automatically siphoned off into Government funds, which it should have been. A recent article in the ‘Canberra Times’ clearly illustrates, by way of a hypothetical but nevertheless suitable comparison, that the allowing of interest as a taxation deduction has meant a rate of profit of 44.7 per cent as against 7.9 per cent if it had not been allowed. One can get money anywhere in New South Wales from money lending companies at 13 per cent; but it is not even thenmoney. They have borrowed it on debentures. There would not be any real security except perhaps sub-mortgages on real estate. This is what is happening in the present state of the economy.
The other evening in a debate on inflation the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr McMahon), who was formerly Treasurer, said that the present state of the economy is due to the decision handed down by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the national wage case. He depicted the Commission as the villain. He used the strongest language possible to decry it. He insulted the members of the Commission and said that they lacked integrity and had no sense of responsibility. The Minister said that something would need to be done to re-establish the Commission. One can imagine what the commissioners thought when they heard what one of the most senior Ministers in this country had to say about them in this House. He said that the whole blame is theirs because of the 6 per cent increase they awarded in the national wage case.
I have not heard one honourable member on the Government side of the House discuss the national wage case in the context of the present inflationary situation without criticising the Commission. I wish to defend the Commission. I defend it not in the sense of the justice of its decision but in the sense of the accuracy of its decision. The Commission said quite clearly that it considered that an increase of 6 per cent to be economically sustainable and industrially just. In the national wage case the Commission was dealing with costs which had risen before it made its determination. The Commission emphasised that the 6 per cent should be applied to award wage only and not the wages actually paid. This means that the average worker will not get anything out of the 6 per cent increase.
An employee of a local council in my electorate receives a margin over the award, but because his margin will be taken into consideration he will receive a weekly increase of only 80c on his wage of $53. His weekly wage of $53 is not enough to sustain htm, but he will receive an increase of only 80c because of this interpretation. This represents an increase of 1.5 per cent. If honourable members were to look at this decision they would find that the 6 per cent increase applies only to the award wage and that over the award payments are taken into consideration. Anybody on $51 a week, who is getting $3.90 over the federal award wage of $47.10, does not get anything at all. Is this not a sham? I must agree with the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd that this is sheer hypocrisy on the part of the Government to frighten people. Certainly the decision of the Arbitration Commission in the national wage case is not the cause of the present troubles. The Minister for Foreign Affairs deserves the severest castigation for thinking that he could stand up in this chamber, put on an act that would do justice to Richard Burton and say that the Commission is irresponsible.
Let us have a look at what has happened to the consumer price index. The greatest increase in Sydney has been in rent. Taking the figure as 100 in 1966-67 we find that it has gone now to 130. So there has been a 30 per cent rise in rents in New South Wales. What is the reason for this increase? It is because there is no incentive to have low rentals. Reference has been made to depreciation. What is wrong with offering as an incentive to taxpayers that if they are prepared to advance money at a relatively low rate of interest to young people who want to buy homes they will be given a tax concession or, better still, a tax exemption. Aged people in my State have to wait 5 years for a Housing Commission home. What would be wrong with allowing as a tax deduction money advanced at a very low rate of interest for housing for the aged? We might not then have the ridiculous situation of people on the poverty line having to rely on the Meals on Wheels organisation for assistance and the Government having to pass legislation to subsidise this spendid organisation. Let us face the fact that the Meals on Wheels organisation does not operate everywhere. What happens to the pensioners who do not have the benefit of such an organisation in their area? The answer is that they starve.
What does the Government do about the high rents pensioners have to pay? It gives them a measley $2 a week. Rents are continually increasing but nothing is done by the Government to assist the pensioners.
Commonwealth funds are being diverted into what might be termed a mere section of the problem. Why not allow depreciation on rental accommodation as a taxation exemption? Such an allowance would probably be fictitious because homes certainly do not come down in value but it could be made. In New South Wales rent determinations, an allowance is granted for depreciation. Why should it not apply throughout Australia at, say, 2i per cent? on the basis of an improved capital value of $8,000 this would mean an effective reduction of $4 a week, which would be worth while from the point of view of reducing the cost of living. This could be done. I am talking about this from the point of view of private enterprise, which the Government likes to support. Do not let it be said that the Government is helping the economy, lt has created a phoney sense of fear. Its loans have been unsuccessful and they will continue to be unsuccessful while private finance companies have so many opportunities to make millions. What did the Prime Minister do? He had a conference with them and he pleaded with them not to get out of line. Can anyone imagine those companies ever taking any notice of such a plea? They virtually run this Government anyway. They are the big shareholders and the directors of all these finance companies.
– The honourable member would not know. Australian Guarantee Corporation Ltd is owned by the Bank of New South Wales.
– On a point of order, this debate is on the Income Tax Assessment Bill.
– You have just come into the House.
– You were not here when I came into this place. This Bill deals with investment allowances. The debate is not one on the general economy. Might I, with respect, have a ruling on this matter?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hallett)It is true that it is a taxation Bill related specifically to certain taxation measures. It has been the custom of this House to allow ranging debates on taxation measures but I would ask the honourable member to keep within the terms of the Bill.
-I bow to your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker, but with the greatest respect what I have said has already been canvassed by honourable members who have already spoken about the problems of inflation. I do not want to be disrespectful to you, Sir, but there is no new material in my speech. I want to know what this Government will do to counter inflation. This Bill is the only measure which the Government has introduced on this matter and I am suggesting alternatives. I think I am entitled to do this. I want to discredit the Minister for Foreign Affairs. From the point of view of politics I think he is a phoney. To attack the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission on the wrong premise is completely unjust. Such an attack will cause untold trouble throughout this country. This attack has been made on the basis of creating a fear complex, perhaps to influence future decisions of the Commission. Why should the worker not get justice? They are the things which we on this side want to put to this Government. This Government has had opportunities to do something about inflation but it has not taken the initiative. This Government deserves the most severe castigation for its failure to take action. We have had the final example of what might be termed the bona fides of the Minister for Foreign Affairs when he said:
We had no alternative to do this because we had to meet the receipts tax - a tax which I never favoured.
At the Premiers Conference the New South Wales Premier, Mr Askin, said:
I had to introduce this tax because the present Minister for Foreign Affairs prodded me to do so.
Is this not the problem of inflation today? The Government has cut back on State works. It has affected every school and hospital. It has done nothing for the worker apart from castigating him on the basis that he is getting too much money when in fact he is not getting enough. From the point of view of this Government this measure is wrong. It may well create unemployment. Perhaps the Government wants to see that happen so that big industries will have an excuse not to expand. Let us look the facts squarely in the face. Let us look at the problems the Commonwealth has in raising loans.
– Are you for the Bill or against it?
– The honourable member is to follow me in this debate and he can dispute the figures. Let us take the opportunity to see who is fair dinkum about this matter. Certainly it is not the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Treasurer is speechless, so we cannot criticise him.
- Mr Deputy Speaker,-
– On a point of order, is it correct in a parliamentary sense for this debate to continue on such a vital measure introduced by this Government when there has not been a Minister at the table for some considerable time?
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– I think I should say at the outset that the Income Tax Assessment Bill 1971 refers more particularly to the Government’s decision to cancel taxation investment allowances on plant and equipment purchased by manufacturers in recent years. As has been said by honourable members on both sides of this House, this legislation was introduced in 1962 for very good reasons. Those reasons still prevail. I propose to do what the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) thinks we on this side cannot do and that is chide the Government. We on this side are democratic and we can assess our own point of view and expound it in the Party room and in the Parliament without being chided by the Government or without having to make personal explanations to the House such as the one we heard just after question time today. The Liberal Party of Australia is a democratic Party. The Treasurer (Mr Bury) has called the allowance a special income tax deduction whereas in fact the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) stated not only last night but also in 1962 that from a legal point of view this allowance is a subsidy for the purchase of equipment by manufacturing concerns and therefore it should not be associated with income tax allowances. It may be that technically speaking he is correct because since February 1962 it has been a subsidy to manufacturing industries for equipment purchased by them.
I think most honourable members would do well to look at the reasons why this legislation was originally introduced on 12th April 1962 and also the results that have been obtained because of its introduction. Another matter of importance is the cost to the community which I propose to set out but not in too great detail. When introducing this Bill in 1962 the then Treasurer said:
In proposing the allowance the Government aims to encourage greater investment-
I would like honourable members to take note of the words ‘greater investment’ - in our manufacturing industries and thus ensure, in both the short and the long term, a greater volume of both output and employment.
I believe that the situation of greater investment, a greater volume of output and greater employment in the manufacturing industry was important in 1962. 1 believe that this condition still prevails. There is no doubt in my mind that any manufacturer who has purchased a new piece of equipment will need in the first year of business some financial assistance. The original Bill gave the manufacturer that much needed assistance, so much so that the primary production section of industry in 1963 used the same tax allowance. It was not an allowance of 20 per cent. The allowance granted was 40 per cent in the year of purchase. I believe that to assist this country to grow even greater this sort of assistance to industry across the board is a useful adjunct, particularly to manufacturing and the primary industry section of industry.
In the intervening years since 1962 production has, of course, increased together with employment. We have seen tremendous increases in the mining industry itself. Above all there has been a fantastic increase in the speculative aspects of finance throughout this country. The manufacturing industry has shown a slow but continuous growth compared to the mining industries which have been spectacular and the speculative approach by most people in Australia to the use of dollars and cents. This measure was at that time an ideal method of encouraging production and investment in the manufacturing industry I contest the right of the Government ro cut off the subsidy at the drop of a hat. All honourable members know that huge concerns such as the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, which has been mentioned several times during this debate, do not plan for tomorrow or for the next year but that their budgetary arrangements are made 10 or 20 years ahead. I have no doubt that the larger and even the smaller companies in Australia have used this plan of investment assistance given by this Government in their future budget considerations. In those days all honourable members on the Government side and on the Opposition side were complaining about the importation of all types of equipment and all types of goods into Australia. It was decided to grant this assistance to the manufacturing industry so that it could compete with imports from overseas and this it has done to a remarkable extent. I think that in presenting the Bill the Treasurer said that the manufacturing industry will increase by 20 per cent this year. This is a wonderful thing for Australia.
When this legislation was introduced in 1962 the real intention was for the manufacturing industry to compete for the export market which was available to manufacturers throughout the world. At that time we were almost entirely dependent on primary production. The Government made a wise decision in deciding that other sectors of productivity should be set up so that they could compete on the export market and this is what the manufacturing industry has done. I hope to be able to give a few figures on this shortly. In those days we were looking at the overseas markets and we still ought to be. In those days we were endeavouring to strengthen our overseas balance of payments. We had many debates in this Parliament about our balance of payments but we never hear about it now because our balance of payments is in such a strong position. In those days we were looking for more employment.
The honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Lionel Bowen) said that in 1962 we had an unemployment total of 150,000. I think his figures are wrong. 1 think the figure was 101,000. But nevertheless we were endeavouring to make certain that men in this country who wanted work could get work and that is what this type of legislation did for the manufacturing industry. So we gave this incentive on plant and also on complex equipment associated with the manufacturing industry. I want to know what is involved in terms of revenue so far as the forgone revenue to the Treasury is concerned and the Budget papers give a clear indication of the forgone revenue. If one looks at the Budget speech of 1969 one will see that the total concessions were $177m. That is shown on pages 61 and 62 of the pamphlet copy. That is for all categories of revenue forgone by the Treasury, but of this $177m only $46.5m or 25 per cent of the total went to the manufacturing industry. For the work that manufacturing industry has done throughout Australia and the solid base it has set since 1962 I say that $46.5m in the year 1968-69 is a small price to pay. Included in these forgone revenue figures were special assistance to primary industry, a special rate of reduction used on plant and research for scientific concerns and the like and certain allowances for mining enterprises, etc. The comments in the Budget papers gave me, and certainly gave manufacturing industry in this country, a feeling that this sort of legislation would be retained for many years to come. On page 63 it was stated:
In the light of the rapid expansion that is occurring and is in prospect in the mining and petroleum exploration and production industries, it seems certain that there will be increases in the cost of the various income tax concessions which these industries enjoy.
Honourable members should note that there is no mention of the manufacturing industry. The comment continues:
In particular, as the income, from production of Australian petroleum grows, there will be an increasing cost to revenue of the special allowances permitted for petroleum-producing enterprises.
That comment was taken from the Budget papers of 1969-70 and referred to the taxation concessions for the previous year. Because of it manufacturers felt certain they could plan ahead and obtain this tax concession for years ahead. It is interesting to note in the Budget Speech delivered by the present Treasurer (Mr Bury) last year the revenue forgone, assessed on the same basis as in the previous year, was no less than S282m. In 1969 it was $177m. In other words, the increase forgone by the Treasury between 1969 and 1970 was $1 05m. Did it go to the manufacturing industry? Of course it did not because in the first year I mentioned $46.5m was allowed to manufacturing in this form of concession and this was raised to $55m in the following year. In other words, the increase between 1968-69 and between 1969-70 was $8.5m and not the S105m which I have mentioned. In other words, I am suggesting that the Government should had had a look, and should continue to have a look, at those areas where these tax concessions are granted to industries across the board and not pinpoint one section of industry which is the greatest user of labour in Australia and which has increased its ability to export at a far greater rate than any other industry except the mining industry.
The 1970 Budget Speech contains some interesting comments. It states that the information given did not include the average provisions applied to the income of primary producers. It also excluded the drought bonds scheme which was commenced in 1969-70. Looking at my calculations I would think that some $70m has been forgone by the Treasury for this purpose. I ask again: Why has the manufacturing industry been singled out for this cancellation of assistance? In fact, the increase in investment in new plant for the manufacturing industry has, on my figures, gone up 12 per cent in the last 12 months whereas the increase in the mining section is 54 per cent. In other words, there is not the tremendous investment in the manufacturing industry that there ought to be for the good that it does for Australia and Australian employment because there have been better areas for investment and speculation. There has been a greater investment in large blocks of buildings in the various cities and one could not measure to what extent money has been spent on these large insurance and bank buildings and the like. Of the 3 growth areas manufacturing has had the least growth but has been continuous and will remain a continuing factor in the economy for, I hope, as long as I am on this earth. This is an area where labour employed in factories such as Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd and the Colonial Sugar Refinery hopes that it will have a permanent job with these companies.
It always amazes me when I hear members of the Opposition talk about employment. They seem to feel that the worker is always antagonistic towards the boss or manager but the worker knows that the manager is a worker himself; he just has a different situation in the organisation. The worker knows that the future of himself and his family is invariably tied up with the company for which he works. There is a far better esprit de corps between the worker and management today than most Opposition members would have us believe. I think the good conditions so far as manufacturing is concerned will continue for years provided the unions and the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission do not decide that the workers must get a little more of the cake. The cake is so big for splitting amongst investors, reinvestment in the company itself and the workers and I believe that the workers have reached the peak of their part of the cake in the manufacturing industry.
Since the legislation was introduced in 1962 the volume of output in the manufacturing industry has increased by 62 per cent or an average rate of 6 per cent a year. This is not magnificent, but it is steady and continuous. It is a steady growth and will be maintained for a number of years. 1 also looked at some figures concerning what we are currently importing. The figures for 1969-70 are quite startling. In the plant and machinery area a total of $710m worth of equipment was imported during 1969-70. To supply this area would be a wonderful opportunity for manufacturing industry to continue the growth that I have talked about. Electrical goods valued at $233m were imported and to supply this area would give the manufacturing industry in Australia a real opportunity to do something. Another area is that of employment. I believe that the Government is worried that employment is at a more or less overfull situation. I. do not have those feelings so far as the manufacturing industry is concerned.
I believe there are too many employees in government service - Commonwealth, State and municipal- but I do not believe that the increase in employment in the manufacturing industry is startling although it also is continuous. Employment in the manufacturing industry has increased from 1,160,000 in 1962 to 1,377,000 now, a total increase of 25 per cent in the intervening 8 years. It is the manufacturing industry that uses the school leavers and the new settlers, the ones who have not the qualifications to take high jobs in industry and in commerce. We have left it to the manufacturing industry to use these people and I believe, although the Minister said that he has suspended this form of tax concession to the manufacturing industry, that he has cancelled it. I use the word ‘cancelled’ because this legislation does cancel that assistance to industry. I will not say I oppose the Bill because I am a voice in the wilderness.
Debate (on motion by Mr Connor) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mt Bury, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to enable the Commonwealth to meet its obligation under a guarantee of repayment of certain borrowings by the Australian Wheat Board from the Reserve Bank of Australia, In respect of wheat from the 1969-70 pool. A similar loan, whose repayment will be completed during March 1971, was made last year in respect of wheat from the 1968-69 crop.
To assist in the marketing of the 1969-70 crop, arrangements were made for the Board to borrow up to $398m from the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank. The date for final repayment is 3 1st March 1971, approximately 12 months after the drawings were made, in order to comply with section 57 of the Reserve Bank Act which requires that loans of the type made to the Board shall not be for more than one year.
Receipts by the Board from sales of wheat will be insufficient to enable it to repay the borrowings in full by the due date. This will mean that the Commonwealth will be liable under its guarantee for an amount currently expected to be in the vicinity of $190m, recoupment of which is estimated to take approximately 14 months. It is proposed that the Commonwealth lend to the Board sufficient funds to enable it to discharge its debt to the Bank. It is also proposed that the Board be required to use for repayment of the loan all net proceeds from export sales of wheat of the 1969-70 pool- after the date of the loan - as well as the Commonwealth’s stabilisation payment.
The Bill provides that the loan to the Board be at an interest rate of 5+ per cent per annum on the daily balances outstanding, with the actual timing of capital repayments and interest to be determined by the Treasurer. The interest rate is onehalf per cent higher than that charged on last year’s loan and reflects, in part, the increased cost of borrowing to the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth financed last year’s loan to the Board by the issue to the Reserve Bank of treasury notes, on which the average rate of interest at the time was about 5 per cent. The expectation is that the loan to the Board in respect of the 1969- 70 pool will again be financed by the issue of Treasury notes, on which the average rate of interest is currently 5.725 per cent. It should also be noted that, on its export sales on credit terms, the Board quite rightly charges commercial rates of interest. The Government, therefore, proposes to charge the Wheat Board an interest rate higher than the 5 per cent charged last year. Bearing in mind the circumstances of the wheat industry, a rate of 5i per cent is proposed.
The Bill authorises the Commonwealth to borrow up to $250m to make the loan to the Board. This exceeds the Board’s current estimate of the amount required under the guarantee but, as such estimates are subject to substantial variation, the amount specified in the Bill provides a margin in case the estimate proves to be too low. The Australian Loan Council has agreed to a special borrowing programme for this purpose for the Commonwealth in 1970- 71. The terms of the borrowing will be subject to Loan Council approval. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Chipp, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Customs Act 1901-1968 to bring certain provisions which relate to payment of customs duties, and the granting of refunds of duty, into line with present day commercial practices and procedures. Section 137 of the Customs Act of 1901 originally provided that payment of any duty was to be in British currency. By amendment of the Customs Act in 1947 the words ‘British currency’ were replaced by the words Australian currency’.
For many years it has been the practice to accept bank and other ‘guaranteed’ cheques in payment of customs duty and also, in certain instances where hardship would otherwise result, to accept foreign currencies which are known to be stable and to present no repatriation difficulties. The Auditor-General has pointed out that these practices do not have the sanction of the Customs Act in view of the specific provisions of section 137. lt is therefore proposed to repeal section 137 and thus remove the legal impediment to the present administrative practice. Whenever necessary, collectors will have resort to other provisions, such as the Currency Act 1965-1969, to require that payment be made in currency which is legal tender in Australia. Authority for the granting of refunds, rebates or remissions of duty in prescribed circumstances and subject to prescribed conditions and requirements is contained in existing sections 163, 164 and 164a of the Customs Act.
The progressive introduction of ‘commodity control’ procedures by the Department of Customs and Excise has brought considerable benefits both to industry and the Department. Briefly, this concept relies on company documentation reinforced by selective and random physical checks, and applies procedures which are tailor-made for particular industries or classes of goods. The inflexibility of the present provisions of section 163 of the Customs Act does not allow the operation of ‘commodity control’ principles in the area of refunds, rebates and remissions of duty or, for that matter, does not allow the prescribing of selective requirements for particular goods or for particular classes of goods.
For example, the final settlement of duties on certain petroleum products is effected on the basis of a monthly reconciliation of duty liability offset by refunds payable. In its present form, section 163 of the Customs Act does not provide for such a practice. To cater for this and future extensions of the ‘commodity control’ concept, it is necessary to introduce into the refunds provisions of the Customs Act sufficient flexibility to allow requirements and procedures to be tailor-made to suit particular classes of goods and particular circumstances.
Accordingly, it is proposed by the Bill now before the House, to amend the Customs Act to provide, as well as a specific authority for the granting of refunds, rebates and remissions of duty, authority also for the prescribing in the Customs Regulations of differing conditions and requirements to apply to different goods or classes of goods. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Hughes, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act to provide for the appointment of a second judge under sub-section (1.) of section 7 of that Act. The need for the Bill arises out of the Government’s decision - which I announced in this House on 19th May last - to establish a Law Reform Commission for the Australian Capital Territory. A draft of the ordinance to establish the Law Reform Commission was recently submitted to the Advisory Council of the Australian Capital Territory for comment, and it should be possible for the ordinance to be made in the near future.
In accordance with my statement to this House on 19th May last year, the draft ordinance provides for the Chairman to be a judge. As the Commission will have the task of reforming the law of the Australian Capital Territory, it is desirable that the Chairman should be a judge of the Supreme Court of the Territory. The present Bill will enable the Chairman to hold such an appointment. The present position is that the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory consists of one judge appointed under sub-section (1.) of section 7 and the additional judges appointed under sub-section (2.) of that section. An additional judge is required to be a judge of another Commonwealth Court and it would not be satisfactory for this requirement to apply to the Chairman of the Commission. The Bill accordingly provides for the appointment of a second judge under sub-section (1.) of section 7.
I expect that the Chairman of the Law Reform Commission will be engaged for the greater part of his time on the work of the Commission and that this work will take precedence over the normal judicial work of the Court. However, it will, I think, be desirable from many points of view, particularly in the early days of the Commission, for the Chairman to assist from time to time with the judicial work of the Court, and this will be possible under the amendment provided for in this Bill. The work of the Court has increased considerably in recent years and this has at times led to delays in the hearing of cases. The main proposal in the Bill is to be found in clause 4, which provides for the amendment of section 6 of the Act so that the Court will consist of not more than two judges appointed under sub-section (I.) of section 7 and the additional judges appointed under sub-section (2.). All the other amendments proposed in the Bill are merely consequential upon that provided in clause 4. They are necessary because the Act is at present framed upon the basis that only one judge can hold office under sub-section (1 .) of section 7.
The Bill makes provision with respect to the relative seniority of the two judges holding office under the sub-section and provides for that seniority to apply in several provisions that depend on seniority. I comment the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) 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 establish facilities on a national level for the conduct of research into crime and for the training of persons engaged in the prevention and control of criminal behaviour.
The introduction of the Bill follows extensive discussions between the Commonwealth and the States. 1 should like to pay tribute to my ministerial colleagues in State governments for the help and co-operation that has made possible the introduction of this Bill for the setting up of machinery on a truly national basts in the form of an Australian Institute of Criminology, a Criminology Research Council and a Criminology Research Fund. The cost of crime to the nation is enormous. 1 speak not only of cost in terms of government expenditure, but of the tragic waste and loss of human resources, the unhappiness that is caused, the erosion of human character and the break -down of families. People are the most precious resources of any civilised community. In this field therefore, parliaments and governments should no longer confine themselves to law making and law enforcement. They must provide the facilities for the study of the causes and effects of crime and of means for its prevention.
Good work has already been done in Australian universities, and public interest in the problem has been stimulated by nongovernmental bodies such as the Australian Crime Prevention, Correction and AfterCare Council and the Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology. But the resources of government are needed if real progress is to be made. Here the Commonwealth believes, and the States agree, that the Commonwealth has an Australia-wide co-ordinating role so that the problem can be tackled on a national basis and the available .resources of men and money can be applied to the task in the most effective way. According to one estimate, the cost of crime in the United States during the year 1965 amounted to some $US20,000m. The Rural Bank of New South Wales in a publication that received wide publicity in 1968 estimated that the ‘immediate’ cost of crime in Australia - that is to say the loss suffered by individuals, as distinct from the economic loss suffered by the nation as a whole - could well exceed $3 50m a year. I suspect that this is a conservative estimate.
There can be no gainsaying that the incidence of crime is rising in Australia. This is no unique experience. Many overseas countries, particularly those that are highly urbanised and industrialised, have even greater problems than we do here. It has become generally recognised that there is a causal connection between rising crime rates and a number of aspects of development, such as urbanisation, industrialisation, population increase and technological change. There is by no means a complete understanding of all aspects of this connection. It is an ironical feature of the times in which we live that increasing standards of affluence have not had a diminishing effect upon the incidence of crime. Once upon a time it was thought that much crime was the illegitimate offspring of poverty. So it was, and so some crime still is. But now perhaps we are witnessing in increase in criminal activity, because of, rather than despite, our relatively affluent standards of living. Affluence itself, particularly if it is unevenly distributed, creates greater criminal opportunities; there are more goods to be stolen and the appetite for possession is made larger by the vision of glittering material temptations. We know that these problems exist but our research into them has not yet gone very deep.
Many related factors are involved - the greater complexity of life presented by modern society, the decline in social controls of behaviour, the absence in many highly urbanised societies of the supports and sanctions of a well understood traditional culture, the opportunities provided by urbanised societies for anonymity and freedom of action and for an increase in criminal activity with a lower risk of detection. In short, an element in the price of rising material standards in an industrial or post-industrial society is that the society becomes less firm-footed. I do not say any of this in any mood of depression or resignation; I say it because if we are to meet the challenges of the times, as I believe we can and will, we must have the vision to see why they have arisen and the honesty to admit that our way of life has a darker side. In the United Kingdom, United States and other countries, there are reports of alarming increases in the number of reported crimes in proportion to the population. Similar trends are discernible in Australia. Some estimates suggest that there has been an increase in Australia in the order of 100 per cent during the last 20 years in the number of crimes reported per 1,000 of population. Moreover, reported crime is only the tip of the iceberg. There remains what is called the dark figure of crime that is unreported. Some estimates suggest that it would be almost 4 times the reported rate for some offences.
While statistics of crime increases are widely publicised it should not be assumed that the statistics presently available accurately outline or measure the problem. One of the big gaps in our resources both in Australia and overseas is the lack of basic information about the incidence and extent of crime. We do noi know, for example, the extent to which statistics reflect increased police efficiency or improved crime reporting standards, bringing out into the light more of the dark figure than was previously known. We do not know the extent to which the figures reflect changing practices in the administration of justice. The recent population growth in the younger age categories has a close connection with the increase revealed in statistics. Nevertheless, if one makes all due allowances for defective statistics, there is in this country a trend of sufficient magnitude to give cause for real concern.
Clearly, the provision of facilities for research into crime is an urgent and pressing need. There is no deployment on a nationally co-ordinated basis of existing facilities in Australia for criminological research. As part of the Commonwealth’s consideration of the arrangements that might be made to deal with this problem and in an endeavour to introduce some measure of co-ordination between the various State and Commonwealth agencies working in this area, a governmental seminar was held in Canberra in 1968 under the sponsorship of the Commonwealth. The seminar was attended by senior representatives of a number of professions - police, magistrates, probation and parole officers, child welfare officers, psychiatrists and other experts. The theme of the seminar was ‘The Control of Deviant Behaviour in Australia’. A number of matters emerged from the discussions of the seminar. In the first place, the seminar demonstrated the value of inter-discipline discussion. Those attending obtained an enlarged understanding and appreciation of the work done by each other in the whole field of crime prevention and correction. Secondly, the seminar made a recommen dation that there should be increased research into crime. They saw this as being achieved by the establishment of a national body, with the active participation of the States. .
In Octobe 1968, the Commonwealth proposed to the States a scheme involving the establishment under Commonwealth legislation of an Australian Institute of Criminology, a Criminology Research Council and a Criminology Research Fund. In May 1969 my predecessor announced in Parliament that the States had agreed in principle with these proposals and in November last year I announced that agreement had been reached with the States on the details of the scheme. This Bill is the expression of the agreed scheme in legislative form. It is a worthwhile project. The Criminology Research Council will consist of one representative of each State and one Commonwealth representative. The Council will administer the Criminology Research Fund. The Commonwealth will provide one half of this fund and the balance will be provided in agreed proportions by the States. The primary task of the Criminology Research Council will be to assess needs in the field of criminology research and to allocate moneys from the Fund to specific research projects in universities and governmental institutions.
It is envisaged that a substantial amount of research will be carried out on this basis. These arrangements will give effect to the view that there should be a maximum utilisation of existing resources in Australia where in both universities and government departments there are many experts whose services might be made available for specific projects. However, there will be some areas in which it would be more appropriate for research projects to be undertaken on a national basis at governmental level. These projects will be undertaken by the Australian Institute of Criminology. The Institute will also be responsible for conducting seminars and training courses designed to keep police, prison and parole officers and others up to date with modern techniques and developments in their respective callings.
The Commonwealth will, accept full financial responsibility for establishing and maintaining the Australian .Institute of Criminology. However, because of the considerable interest of the States at the regional level, the States will be represented on a board of management of the Institute. The board of management will consist of a chairman and five other members. The chairman and two members will be appointed by the Commonwealth and the 3 other members are to be appointed by the Criminology Research Council to represent the States. The chairman will have a casting vote-.
The Bill is divided into five parts. Part I. deals with preliminary matters and definitions. Part II. deals with the establishment of the Australian Institute of Criminology. The functions of the Institute are set out in clause 6 of division 1. In addition to the conduct of research and training, the Institute will advise the Criminology Research Council in relation to the needs for, and programmes of, criminological research and provide secretarial and administrative services for the Council. An important function of the Institute will be to give advice in relation to statistical requirements and the compilation of statistics with respect to crime. The Institute will also perform incidental functions such as collating and analysing research and disseminating the results of research to the Commonwealth and State governments. Division 2 deals with the establishment of the board of management and division 3 deals with the appointment of the director and the staff of the Institute. Provision is made for the appointment of an acting director. The finances of the Institute are provided for in division 4.
Part 111 of the Bill deals with the establishment of the Criminology Research Council and Part IV establishes the Criminology Research Fund. Clause 46 provides that there shall be paid into the Fund out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund an amount of $50,000. The Fund will also consist of moneys paid by the States to the Commonwealth for the purposes of the Fund. The Fund is to be applied only in the making of payments for such purposes of, or related to, criminological research as are determined by the Council and in the discharge of any obligations or liabilities of the Council arising under the Act. Part V of the Bill deals with miscellaneous matters. The accounts and financial transactions of the Institute and of the Council are to be audited by the Auditor-General.
The establishment of facilities for research into crime is a need that is recognised at the international level. No country has devoted enough of its resources to the problem of crime prevention. Nevertheless, efforts to encourage research programmes and establish institutes of criminology have been made by many countries. Australia too must play her part. 1 believe that the Australian Institute of Criminology has an international role to play, particularly in the South-East Asia area. There is a need to provide training facilities for persons from these countries engaged in crime prevention and correction. There is need for international collaboration and consultation in the formulation of policies and programmes for the fight against crime. There is also the opportunity, both for Australia and South-East Asian countries with developing economies and changing social structures, to seek to learn from the mistakes made by other highly urbanised societies and endeavour to minimise the increase in crime that so often flows from development. If such a result is to be achieved, firm and vigorous action must be taken now. This Bill will provide the necessary base for such action. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Whitlam) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Killen, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill seeks to amend the Naval Defence Act in two respects. Firstly it seeks to repeal the existing Part V of the Naval Defence Act which covers cadets. I am sorry that I have no prepared speech, lt is in the hollow of my head.
– There is plenty of room for it.
– Yes. You could join me and that would not increase it. The present Part V of the Naval Defence Act covers naval cadets. The two relevant sections of the Act are sections 38 and 39. Section 38 of the Act deals with naval reserve cadets and it has done so for many years. Section 39 of the Act deals with a body known as the Australian Sea Cadet Corps. This Bill seeks to repeal those two sections which constitute Part V of the present Act. The second thing this Bill seeks to do is to put into effect two completely new sections of the Act. I think this is a splendid Irishman’s approach to the problem; it repeals the part and then puts it back. But it is one of the quaint quirks of history that for more than 50 years this country has had two bodies of sea cadets - an extraordinary thing. Both bodies, of course, have shared in maintaing the same essential naval traditions. Both bodies have sought to encourage the same interest in the Royal Australian Navy, those who serve in it and those who have served in it.
Strangely enough both bodies had completely different origins. The origin of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve cadets goes back to 1903 and the introduction of the first Defence Act in that year. I have taken the opportunity to look back through the debate in that year and, if I may say with great respect and humility, there were splendid speeches made by those who took part in it. I think of Mr Knox, the then member for Kooyong, and of a very famous name in Australian politics and in my own State of Queensland - -Lyttelton Groom, the one time member for Darling Downs. He was a man with an immense breadth of mind, a great sense of compassion and a great sense of perception. Irrespective of which side of politics one falls down on, it is clear that he always commanded respect. On looking through that debate, interestingly enough, I noted that the first member for Moreton, Mi Wilkinson, spoke. There have not been many members for Moreton and I understand it is the popular view that the present member has been there too long. It is a fascinating exercise to look back at those who took part in the debate and at the sentiments they expressed with respect to cadets.
The 1903 Defence Act dealt with military cadets and with naval cadets. The thought of having air cadets was not present. The then member for Darling described a visit by him and other members of the Federal Parliament in 1903 to Cobar. He spoke of arriving at Cobar. There was a young man - a school teacher as I recall it - who was interested in youth movements and keen to get the youngsters in the town of Cobar alert and interested in current matters. He had equipped them with dummy rifles. The former member for Darling said that when they arrived at the railway station at Cobar and got off the train there they were, these young boys with dummy rifles and a band. To use his own picturesque language, they constituted practically a guard of honour. Guards of honour have occupied some interest in recent times. There it is - times do not greatly change. In the same debate the distinguished former member for Melbourne Ports, Mr Mauger, expressed a view about cadets. He was opposed to the idea of having cadets.
– Was this in 1901?
– No 1903. Bring yourself up to date. He was worried. He thought the idea of cadets would put the young boys in jeopardy. To us his language, he said he thought they would be affected by the low jingo songs. I wonder whether in fact times have really changed. The next change to the cadet structure occurred in 1909 when the Defence Act was altered again. It made what, with respect, I would describe as superficial alterations to the provisions dealing with cadets. In the following year, 1910, occurred what in terms of my existence today, was a great event. It was the introduction of the first Naval Defence Act by the then acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General, William Morris Hughes.
– That Act was introduced by a Labor Government.
– If the honourable member examines the debate of 1910 he will see that there was some measure of controversy between William Morris Hughes and Joseph Cook about the rights and wrongs of who established the first naval defence concept in Australia. William Morris Hughes, during the course of the debate, said that the Defence Acts of 1903 and 1909 and the Naval Defence Act had to be read in conjunction.
– He was a jackeroo, too.
– It is one of the pities of this world that the honourable member never was. It is very difficult to find any genuine novelty of experience or, indeed, novelty of attitude. This is apparent when one reads the speech of William Morris Hughes in 1910 when he introduced the first Naval Defence Act. He said, in effect, that because of changing circumstances in the world, nine-tenths of the great British Fleet bad to be withdrawn to home waters in the United Kingdom. Some people say that the British policy of withdrawing forces from east of Suez is something sudden and new, but in view of what was said in 1910 I wonder whether that is the case.
The Defence Act applied to cadets and it has continued to apply to cadets ever since, although it has applied to a dwindling body of young men. From 1903 until 1929 there was universal training. Interestingly enough, in 1929, the statutory provisions relating to universal training were repealed by a proclamation issued by the Governor-General. This may seem rather strange, but that was the case. The statutory provisions of an Act were repealed by way of proclamation. Whether or not that was valid is a dry argument. However, ft is interesting to reflect that that is the way in which it happened. In point of fact, for more than 2 generations the Naval Defence Act and the Defence Act covered cadets. Then in the 1920s there came into being in Australia a small, voluntary body of people known as the Navy League’.
– These people have carried the burden ever since.
– Of course they have and I am indebted to my friend, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, for his interjection. The League has comprised a magnificent body of people who have sought no gain or acknowledgement. Of all the disciplines in this world the discipline which is not practised frequently enough is that of gratitude. Very few of us know how to say thank you, particularly to voluntary bodies. The Navy League in Australia is made up of voluntary people who have given of their time unsparingly. They have made a singular contribution in a very direct sense to the defence quality of this country. The Navy League has sought, as did those who were responsible for administering the Defence Act and the Naval
Defence Act, to stimulate, encourage and arouse the interest of cadets in naval matters. As at the beginning of this month there were just on 2,000 members of the Australian Sea Cadet Corps in Australia, all of them significantly maintained by the Navy League. It has become a very real burden to these people to maintain the cadets. They have been charged with the responsibility of providing accommodation for the cadets.
After the establishment of the Navy League, the Naval Board formed an arrangement with the Navy League and sought to assist it, but it was not until the 1950s that there was created a central body with which the Naval Board could, to put it in homely language, do business. In 1952 the existence of the Navy League in Australia was recognised by statute. This was not so long ago. This recognition is contained in section 39 of the Naval Defence Act. Under that provision the Naval Board is charged with doing a variety of things. Also under that section the Navy League is similarly charged with doing a variety of things. I would, with infinite respect to both the Naval Board and the Navy League, say that there cannot be found a clear definite line between one area of responsibility and the other. This Bill proposes to thrust upon the Naval Board - which, of course, means upon this Parliament and upon the country - the responsibility of maintaining the existence of naval cadets. In Australia today there are, I think, but 3 schools which have Royal Australian Naval Reserve Cadets. These cadets number 116 or 120 and the remainder of the cadets are attached to the Australian Sea Cadet Corps. The central purpose of the Bill is to fuse naval cadets into one body and, to that extent, it puts naval cadets on a comparable basis with Army cadets and Air Force cadets.
The people associated with the Navy League in Australia have been and remain a splendid body of people. I am sure that this would be the view of every member ot the Parliament who has had the opportunity of any association or link with the Navy League. As I have said, we are not always as frequent as we should be in giving thanks, lt is easy to be cynical but there is much in this country and in the world for which one should be grateful. The tremendous sense of enterprise and goodwill which this body of people has shown in Australia to young men is something that I should like to acknowledge in the most complete sense. I have had the opportunity of meeting them in virtually every State. The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) will be aware that I met them in Western Australia. These people have gone out of their way to ensure that young boys who are interested in ships and in the Navy are given every encouragement. Some members of the Navy League have had links with the Navy. Many of them have commanded superb records in serving this country. Some of them have not served with the Royal Australian Navy but, nevertheless, they have had an insistent interest in naval matters. I would not like any member of the House, and in particular any member who may have been associated with the Navy League, to get the view that this is the end of the road for the Navy League. On the contrary, the Naval Board looks with a sense of anxiety and hope to the Navy League to continue to sustain this interest in naval matters. The young men who will serve in the Naval Reserve Cadets from now on will be assured of 2 things. They will be assured of the abiding interest of the Naval Board and of the country in their existence, and 1 believe they will also be tremendously sustained by the genuine and most warmhearted interest shown by those who have been associated with the Navy League. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Barnard) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 589).
– This measure is for the purpose of repealing section 62aa of the Income Tax Assessment Act. It leaves intact section 62ab. Historically section 62aa was introduced as what might be termed a political douceur or sweetener to rehabilitate the status and the fortunes of the Government immediately after its hair breadth escape from annihilation at the hands of the Australian electors in the 1961 election. With a sudden and well understood excess of generosity the Government decided that the then statutory permission to write off progressively over a period of years 100 per cent of certain forms of industrial equipment should be taken a stage further and an extra 20 per cent made available in the first year of income.
The Opposition, of course, supports the measure. We do so not only because the original legislation has been a scandal on the Statute Book, but after all there is always a sense of approval and approbation and even heartwarming to see repentance on the part of fiscal sinners. For that reason alone we welcome the measure. In more simple terms - and after all it is finance that counts - the Government proposes to take back a gift which has grown to the point of between $65m and $70m a year. This has been a very special and at all times a much criticised concession. If honourable members want proof of this I refer the House to the statements attached to the last Budget Speech in which the following figures were given. The amount for investment allowance - manufacturing - was set at §46.5m. That is the estimated revenue foregone for the year 1968-69. We can add to that figure a little matter of another $8. 5m for primary production. This expenditure is provided for in section 62ab of the Act. This makes a total of S55m.
The Treasurer (Mr Bury) in his introductory speech said that there had been an increase in the subsequent year 1969-70 of approximately 20 per cent which would bring the amount foregone for the year 1969-70 to $65m. This year I think the amount would go considerably higher than that. It is very interesting to speculate upon the background against which this action has been taken. Dog does not normally eat dog and this makes it all the more intriguing to examine the Government’s real motivation. As a matter of fact, the amount to be foregone approximates the amount which the States have been forced to waive in respect of the graduated receipts tax. There we find one more of the fiscal chickens of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) coming home to roost. I need scarcely remind the House that it was the Prime Minister who quite off the cuff, in his usual impulsive and impetuous style, decided at a conference with the State Premiers that if they wanted more money, and if they wanted a tax to supplement their meagre pittances they might well consider a graduated receipts tax. In that regard he quoted the noble example of Western Australia. Finally, when the State Premiers discovered the technical problems involved, and particularly the cost of administration, they came back to chide the Prime Minister. As a result we see this measure today.
Of course, the measure now before us is paraded as part of an anti-inflationary package. Nevertheless it is the end, as I said before, of a straight-out scandal. Of course, the Government today is in a rather difficult financial position. It is scraping the bottom of the fiscal barrel. Thanks to its own foolishness in using the building industry as an economic regulator, and tampering with interest rates - with the subsequent flow through to bond rates, the Government has found that there is a very marked reluctance on the part of the normal investing public to accept Commonwealth bonds as a regular form of investment. Of course, it so happens that for this year it will have $61 lm which will accrue in maturing bonds. The Government has very cautiously set aside in the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve an amount of about S634m to make sure that in any event it can redeem those bonds as and when they fall due. If the Government wants more revenue it certainly cannot back track on its rather embarrassing decision to give a 10 per cent reduction in income tax. The Government cannot seek economies, for instance, in its commitments to the Vietnam war because this is part of the Government’s political stock in trade by which it hopes to perpetuate itself in office. Of course, the Fill deal adds to the Government’s further financial embarrassment.
Hence, there is a need for the Government to look its best supporters straight in the eye and say: ‘We are very sorry boys, but we have to do it; we have no alternative. You are for it. Again, the Government cannot look towards a lot of sympathy from the holders of its bonds who are locked in the market today because there has been a very substantial drop in the share market in the amount that the average Australian investor is prepared to pay for a $100 Commonwealth bond. It is as low as $85 and can shade up to $96. This is a very sad state of affairs when we consider that bonds that are available on the Stock Exchange should be normally readily convertible at somewhere near their face value, less brokerage. Certainly in the future those who are holding bonds which are currently depreciated at that figure, can scarcely be enthusiastic, if and when their loans fall due, about further investment. We can take it also that the Government cannot expect any further substantial increase in the inflow of overseas investment because here again investment is on tha down grade.
-Order! I draw ;he honourable member’s attention to the fact that while it is reasonable in a debate in income tax measures to have a broadly based discussion, I do not think that the honourable member is in order in allowing his reasons and alternatives to supersede debate on the real provisions of the Bill. The Bill seeks to amend section 62aa of the Income Tax Assessment Act. I ask the honourable member to bear in mind what I have said.
– I point out with respect, Sir, that this Bill stems from the Government’s present financial embarrassment. I have endeavoured to show the reasons for its embarrassment and I have endeavoured to present alternatives to overcome its embarrassment. The normal alternatives are not now, as a consequence of the Government’s ineptitude, not readily available to it.
-I think I conceded this point when I said that I thought the honourable member should some back to the provisions of the Bill.
– Another matter that I think should be stressed at this stage is that this Government is essentially a government of subsidies. You name it and the Government will subsidise it. If you want proof of that, Sir, consider the subsidies which are granted to the rural industries today in just the same spirit and with just the same sort of principles - or lack of them - as would have applied in the application of section 62aa of the Income Tax Assessment Act. At no time has there been any investigation of the financial status of the recipients. Large and small, just and unjust, competent and incompetent they have shared alike in the Government’s largesse. Exactly the same principle applies to the butter subsidy. The thoroughly competent, rich and efficient farmers can back in for their subsidy and get it on just the same basis as an inefficient battler from, say, northern New South Wales or Moreton Bay in Queensland.
– The honourable member ought to read the Constitution.
– 1 think the Minister for Shipping and Transport should do so, too. 1 thought he would come in on that one. As a matter of fact, the withdrawal of the subsidy, although it is being advanced its an anti-inflation measure, will in all probability have the opposite effect because, in the absence of price control, there is not the slightest doubt that the manufacturers will seek to recoup their losses by a further increase in the cost of their products. Of course, this Government - particularly its Prime Minister - will at all times use the blunt instrument. To borrow a phrase used by my colleague, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), a blunt and unselective instrument has been used in this case. Subsidies, of course, have a habit of self perpetuation. They have a habit of becoming integrated into the financial infrastructure of an industry. I suppose the classical example of that would be ‘he existence of the meat industry in Europe today. It was first introduced by Napoleon to offset the Continental blockade. This is nevertheless one case where a very blatant political subsidy has been withdrawn.
It is nothing new for this Government to angle its subsidies and concessions. I cite as an example the Government’s 10 per cent reduction in Income Tax and its impact. Instead of using the reverse taper system to ensure that those in the lower income groups profited most, exactly the opposite has applied. A further demerit of the subsidy as it has been in operation for the last 10 years is the fact that the biggest firm in Australia has chosen the most inappropriate time to wail about the withdrawal of the subsidy. I cannot understand the financial logic, much less the moral justification, for a firm such as Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd through its Chairman of Directors to state in the report of the company which has just been published that it would be seriously embarrassed by the withdrawal of the investment allowance. If it is a matter of embarrassment to this company, God help the ordinary, run of the mill companies in Australia because the Australian economy is generally accepted to be under the control of 200 companies and 40 of those companies are considered to be. giants. The largest of those giants now preaches that it is going to be seriously embarrassed.
Other companies which have profited from this allowance are subsidiaries of overseas firms which have been established in Australia with local company registration. They have come in to jump across the tariff barriers in many cases and they back in for their subsidy and have done so right through the years. The Government has, of course, welcomed these firms. In some cases it has been justified in doing so but in other cases franchise agreements associated with their operations which have restricted exports to a limited field or prohibited them completely. Despite that these people have been the recipients of the Government’s largesse. Again the same lack of discrimination applies in respect, of the Government’s subsidies - I again use the term advisedly - in the form of ‘research and development grants. Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd and some of. the major breweries in Australia have been recipients undeservedly of a subsidy which was intended to help the poor, small, struggling firms. As a further instance of the unfair operation of this concession over the years let us take the case of companies, and there are many of them, which are in the process of establishing their industry and acquiring their equipment. Some would be operating at a loss for 2 or 3 years and consequently could not claim the benefit of the subsidy.
I do not want to delay the House unnecessarily. Therefore, in conclusion I merely repeat that the Opposition welcomes this measure, chides the Government for its unjustifiable extravagance, and believes that the Government should, if it wants to put its house in order, have a look at the general field of interest in particular as well as price control and the restrictive trade practices which are rampant in Australia today.
– ^1 rise to speak briefly in this debate. I support the remarks of the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor). Because the
Opposition originally opposed the inclusion of the provisions of section 62aa in the Income Tax Assessment Act it therefore feels that it is quite proper - although for different reasons to those given by the Government - that it should be repealed. lt would seem to me to be less than satisfactory economic planning to offer without any criterion incentives to all forms of industry for the purchase of manufacturing plant and equipment. It seems to me to be taking the easy way out. Remembering the situation in 1962 when, following colossal economic blunders on the part of the government of the day, panic measures were taken, it would seem that this typifies the approach of this Government to matters of national economic planning; it has no approach. The situation which has resulted in the introduction of this legislation is a further example of the laissez-faire attitude of the Government.
Last year a budget was introduced into this House which could not be considered by any responsible person to have any other effect but than to substantially increase the cost of living in the community and make money available through taxation concessions to those in the higher income groups for additional investment in the community. My understanding is that one of the reasons for having a low maximum rate of income tax is to encourage those persons who have large surpluses of money to invest that money. This theory has been used in West Germany. It is apparently the theory of this Government. Within 6 months of the passing of the last budget, which contained fiscal measures which could only be described as being designed to create investment capital in the community, we find the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) saying that investment is one of the major causes of the present inflationary situation in this country. It would appear that some people on the Government side who have very short noses cannot see past the end of them. The investment allowance could well be a valuable instrument in financial policy if it were used selectively and used to assist Australian industry and development where that assistance is needed and is critical. I suggest that the investment allowance is justified for essential industries establishing themselves in provincial and rural areas, or for those essential industries which have, because of low profitability, reached a stage where it is absolutely necessary to replace their plant but cannot reasonably do so out of existing finances. Assistance of this kind would be of benefit to those industries.
We hear a lot of debate about overprotection within the tariff structure. Some industries do not have the economic capacity to bring their efficiency up to the standards which would be required to enable them to cope with direct competition or partially direct competition from some of the more advanced countries or some of the low wage countries of, for instance, Asia. A concession of the type which existed in the earlier legislation could well be of benefit to those industries. An example of the type of - industry to which I refer is a textile mill in my electorate which was taken over some time ago and completely reorganised ‘ from a woollen piecegoods producing mill into a carpet factory, thereby maintaining’ employment in that area and providing a vital industry. This is the type of thing which 1 believe should be encouraged and is worth encouraging. On the other hand it is not reasonable to offer the same level of encouragement to many sections of Australian industry which’ are “ already highly profitable and which have without doubt the capacity to carry out their own expansion and which do not? hesitate to use their position in the market in order to make excessive profit margins.1 I believe that to offer assistance at that level ‘is wrong both morally and politically.. :
The suspension of the taxation investment allowance on manufacturing plant and equipment will not damage highly profitable industries but it could have some effect on the development of industries which must of necessity up-date their plant and equipment in order to cope with competition. I feel that some level of economic planning and the selective use of this type of legislation could be of great benefit to industries operating in provincial and rural centres which, because of other problems, have a great deal of difficulty in, competing with industries established in capital cities.
I think that this Big. which is being presented at this time for the wrong reasons, will remove a benefit which was previously granted to a large number of industries which had no reasonable grounds for claiming that type of benefit, but will unfortunately remove from a small number of industries a benefit which they greatly need. This is an undesirable and unfortunate result of financial mismanagement on the part of this Government. We are told that inflation is the reason for this benefit but one wonders whether the Government is really serious. When walking near Lake. Burley Griffin the other day I saw cut grass lying on the lawns and I am sure that this will make a great impact on national inflation. I understand that about 50 Commonwealth cars which have already been purchased are not to be used because the sight of new cars may give the appearance that the Commonwealth is unnecessarily spending money. 1 am sure that these sorts of things are having a tremendous effect on inflation. 1 am quite sure that allowing the excavation hole on the other side of this House to fill up with water and become an unused swimming pool will also have a great effect on inflation. Whilst these steps are possibly commended publicly the use of such trivial financial cuts will have no real effect at all on the nation’s economy or on the future cost of living in this country. If the Government is serious and really wants to do something about the state of the economy - the inflationary spiral as it is being called - it will at long last recognise that there is a need to look further ahead than tomorrow. It is essential to plan for the future economy of this nation so as to ensure that strong and viable industries exist and that the fiscal measures which this Government will adopt will be of benefit and continue to be of benefit to those industries and will not have the effect, which for over too long a period has been evident, of generating a state of mind in which people say: ‘Grab everything while you can while (he going is good because tomorrow we are sure to have a recession’.. This has been the pattern in Australia for too many years, lt is a pattern which should be changed and could be changed if the Government would take a longer, steadier and possibly unpopular look, or even a revolutionary look - I know that is a terrible word, but it is used on television every night - at its methods of financial planning. The granting of . taxation deduc tions to the value of about S300m in August of one year followed by an announcement to the nation in January of the next year that a disastrous inflationary situation has developed and that investment, which is one of the direct results of a taxation reduction, is one of the major causes of the inflation is, in my opinion, an admission of total budgetary failure and an admission of a total lack of foresight on (he part of the Government in regard to fiscal methods.
If a government is not able to foresee the events that will occur within 2 months after handing down its budget then quite obviously it is not competent to deal with the financial affairs of a nation. This Bill quite properly withdraws an allowance which was granted in a moment of panic. As I said, it is unfortunate that the amendment proposed will penalise some sections of industry which are in need of assistance. This Bill does not indicate a responsible approach by the Government to the economic problems which are facing the community. At some time, somewhere, someone on the Government side might stand up and ask those who are responsible for this nation’s fiscal policy when they will be in a position to forecast the financial events which will take place in this country and when they will provide financial policies which can be regarded as having some chance of standing at least for the year in which they are presented. Some of our recent Budgets have contained absolutely astounding errors. I believe that the circumstances surrounding this Bill are such that they will create in the minds of the Australian people, especially those who think, considerable doubt about the capacity of this Government to manage Australia’s economy.
– When this Bill was introduced in 1962 I was the member for Mitchell and at that time it was opposed by the Opposition. It was painted out at that time and has been pointed out consistently over the years that this is not an instrument which one could call anything but a blunt instrument. It is not one which portrays a method of economic planning with any finer edges to it. It. is no wonder, that the Government, now it has the opportunity, is endeavouring to get out from its commitment to this legislation with grace because of the realisation that the criticisms levelled at the legislation when it was originally introduced were basically sound. For this reason I think that it is important to endeavour to make some assessment of why it has been opposed in the past and to find some proposal whereby the lessons learned might be put into practice and we could have a far greater element of economic planning and so utilise the funds which will now be collected in taxation as a result of the abolition or suspension of this investment allowance. These will amount to something in the region of $60m a year.
This is a great deal of finance which could be used as a very effective economic instrument especially if it is used in a selective manner. For example, there is no doubt that it could be used selectively to assist country industries and the decentralisation of industry. I notice, for example, that in his second reading speech the Treasurer (Mr Bury) said:
I emphasise, however, that the suspension docs not affect the investment allowance for plant and equipment used in primary production which is allowable under separate provisions of the income lax law that were enacted in 1963.
One cannot help but ask: Why only for plant and equipment which is used in primary production? Why should this allowance not be extended at this time to those areas where it would be of assistance? It would be a sound economic instrument if it was used selectively and applied to plant and equipment used by country industry and the saving in income tax would assist in the development of industry in country regions.
We support the Bill. We criticised the original legislation because it was a very blunt type of economic instrument. The funds derived from it could quite easily be used to promote the decentralisation of industry in other ways. For example, the Commonwealth could assist by a reduction in the cost of trunk line charges to country industry. These are the important points. We will only get country industries if, firstly, we give them cheap capital; secondly, if we allow them cheap trunk line calls; thirdly, if we allow them cheap land and buildings; and, fourthly, if we allow them definite taxation concessions in respect of the plant and equipment which they have to buy. I realise that this is, of course, one of the short term instruments - if I can put it that way - being used by the Government at the present time in its so called anti-inflationary measures. What are the short term instruments that it is using? First of all, it says: ‘We want wage restraints’, lt should be noted that it is not profit restraints that are asked.. for but wage restraints. . ,
There was a most extraordinary stalement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in which he virtually gave an instruction to the courts of this country. He said that in future he does not want to see any more general increases .in the wage structure. On the other hand, he has made no definite statement that he will limit excessive profiteering in any sector of industry. Another instrument which he is using is, of course, this taxation investment allowance but, as I said, one cannot help but have the suspicion that the Government which introduced this measure in great haste in 1962 has now realised that the widespread criticism of it, not, only from this side of the House, but also quite generally in the community, was valid and it is now utilising this opportunity as a way of getting out with grace from the implementation of this policy..
Another short term instrument which the Government is using- is the appeals - I make the point that they are appeals md not instructions - to overseas investors not to invest in commercial buildings. The Government has suddenly realised that the criticism which has come from this side of the House for a long while- I . have raised it; innumerable members have raised it - is valid as regards the fact that the problem in the building industry has not been caused by home building! The fact is that the full utilisation and possibly over utilisation of men and resources in the building industry has been brought about by the excessive boom in commercial building. It should be kept in mind that restrictions were placed on home building last year and yet no action was taken at that time to restrict commercial building. These restrictions made it all the more difficult for young people to obtain homes, and despite numerous warnings that, .this situation existed and something would have to be done about commercial buildings no such action was taken. But today, qf course, we have appeals. It has suddenly been found that a great deal of the capital from overseas is going into commercial buildings and this is causing, as the Government says, the over-utilisation of men and resources within the building industry. But the Government will not take any action and will not use any of the powers which it has at present. On the contrary, appeals will be made to the overseas investors. 1 can recall hearing the Prime Minister’s speech on the radio.- He asked the foreign investors to go along -and have a talk to the Treasury before they invested. I do not think there is a great deal of logic in this because experience has shown that the overseas investor wm invest in that sector of our industry in which he thinks the greatest margin of profit lies and today the commercial building industry is one of those sectors. So I do not think that that will be a very effective anti-inflationary measure, nor do I think it will be very effective in overcoming the imbalance which exists between the commercial building and domestic building sectors. Finally, we have an appeal for a reduction in public investment. Surely this is the very sector which experts - if one can call them that - the various authorities, members on this side of the House and people throughout the country have been pointing out for some time is most in need of more public investment, not less. There is a great need for schools, for local government works and for hospital works.
One could go on and on into the various fields which are in need of public investment. Yet this is the very time when the Government - admittedly it has made out quite a good case - says: ‘Save as much as you can’ and ‘Cut out any waste’. This will take us to the point where public investment will be reduced and the imbalance which already exists between public and private investment will become even greater in the future. As I say, this Bill is one of the Government’s short term instruments. I cannot help but wonder whether the Government also has a long term instrument in the form of tariff revision. The argument about tariffs goes back to the 19th century when the free traders opposed protection. The issue has raised its head at various times since then. The issue was raised at the turn of the century when some people claimed that Australia should be a free trade country; that we should settle clown to being a rural nation and to having a rural economy. Some countries followed advice of that kind but fortunately Australia, helped by the impetus provided by the trade union movement and the Australian Labor Party, adopted policies of protection.
I cannot help but feel a little sorry for the way in which Sir John McEwen left politics. I do not think any honourable member would deny that Sir John McEwen was highly respected. No matter what opinions others expressed, he always pursued what he believed to be the correct course. But today those who once applauded him are howling like jackals. Now that he has gone those in this place who were once apparently his greatest supporters are criticising the policies that he advocated. Sir John was regarded as a protectionist. Let us not forget that our employment record and our living conditions have been built on a policy of protecting our industries and encouraging their growth. These days one hears disquieting stories of lobbies developing outside the Parliament - of endeavours to influence people in a position to be influenced - with a view to bringing about a complete revision of our tariff policy. I read with interest recently a leading article in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ which suggested that the first sector of industry from which tariff protection might be lifted could be the metal trades industries. If this were to happen the bargaining power of the trade union movement to obtain wage increases for its members would be reduced. The inference is clear: There will be a move against a sector of industry as a result of which many industries will go to the wall. If this happens serious unemployment will ensue. If you reduce the bargaining power of the Labor movement you create a pool of unemployed, which is the very thing we have been so concerned to avoid in this country for the last 2 decades.
Let mc make it clear that 1 do not advocate that a tariff should remain indefinitely and not be reviewed. Tariffs must at all times be subject to revision. That is commonsense. If an industry is not economic it should be forced to become a more efficient instrument of the economy. I think the machinery to do this exists already, but I am concerned at the sudden moves by his erstwhile friends to attack Sir John McEwen with a view to having a complete revision of our tariff structure. From what I have read in various newspapers I am led to the view that those who have an interest in restraining wages and creating a pool of unemployed are lobbying with a view to obtaining a freer importation of goods from countries such as Japan. I do not want to mention names, but I would not be surprised if some honourable members knew the names of the people to whom I have referred. So I give this warning: We must be very careful. By all means continually review our tariff structure. Ample machinery exists to do this and to make sure that our industries are maintained as efficient industries. It is a much different proposition completely to alter the existing tariff machinery so that Australia is no longer a country of protection, enabling our industries to prosper, but becomes instead a free trade country into which goods may be imported cheaply and, incidentally, very profitably for those involved with their importation, at the same time reducing the bargaining power of the trade union movement. When the trade union movement fully appreciates what is occurring I believe there will be a great deal i f unrest in this country.
I touch upon that issue because I think it is a pity Jo see a man as great as Sir John McEwen leave this place only to be attacked by some of his former colleagues in the Country Party. They once looked upon him as a very great man, but now they attack him like jackals.
– Nothing of the kind has happened.
– Some members of the Country Party have stated that the policies pursued by the former Minister for Trade and Industry should be reviewed.
The amount of tax now to be collected as a result of the withdrawal of the investment allowance will be about S60m. That amount could be a very effective economic instrument if applied in a selective manner to assist those sections of industry which need assistance. I refer particularly to rural industry. If members of the Country Party are sincere in their claims that they wish to see rural industry developed, they should press for the provision of special allowances and bounties to rural industry, because these are ways in which rural industry may be assisted. In my electorate is a company called Transavia Corp. Pty Ltd. It is building a crop dusting aircraft. It is the only aircraft of its type being built in this country. The company has been seeking a bounty to enable it to improve its efficiency. Even using what might be termed crude methods . of production the company has already reached a high state of efficiency and is fully competitive with overseas companies producing these aircraft. Surely we want industries of this kind in Australia. If the company was paid a bounty to enable it to produce a crop dusting aircraft cheaper than the imported article, the inflationary pressures in this country would be reduced and at the same time we would be helping to develop industry in this country.
– This is one of a series of so called anti-inflationary measures which the Federal Government has brought down, lt is” trie only measure which has come before the House. Lights have been turned out and the incidence of lawnmowing has been reduced in a purely administrative way; but this is the only measure that we have had specifically before the Parliament, and it has been brought down in the name of controlling inflation. One of the points that- 1 particularly want to make is that the measure seems to come down to us in the context of ‘a panic on the part of the Government/’ The- Government’s sudden discovery of inflation is most touching. The inflationary forces in the community have been there for some time, but suddenly the Government says: ‘We must tackle them; we -must deal with them’. The climate of confidence, which is so important to the development of the nation, is being attacked by the’ Government itself. The Government seems :to flounder as to the measures it should “take; the measures which it has determined upon seem quite extraordinary.
The stance of the Government is that the basic services provided through the States must be cut back, because that is what the decision means’ when the Government says that the Stares Shall not have more funds or shall apt have adequate funds, as they see it, to go ahead with the building of hospitals and schools and providing all the basic amenities which are enjoyed in an increasing way by other countries. But no, the Australian community must stand still because the Government says that we are in an inflationary situation, lt says’ that these basic amenities and their expansion create inflation, and that part of the cure is that the Government should cut down on them. The other part of the cure, or the major point which seems to have been made by the Government and its supporters, is that the Government should attack wages and conditions - that there should be restraint. There are no across the board references in the legislation, but there are continuing references to the wage earners of Australia as though they were the best off in the world and as though theIr standards were superb and magnificent. Yet it is well known that if a man wants to keep his family in a reasonable state and wants to sec his children educated the best contribution he can make is to send his wife out to work, and that is what is happening across the nation at the present lime.
These are the two prongs of the Government’s attack upon inflation - a cut in basic services provided through the States and an attack on wages and conditions. Surely to goodness this is the surest way to drive the nation down the road to a real economic crisis. It will create a lack of confidence and the Government will then have to turn around and say: ‘Look, isn’t it awful? Look at what is happening. Look at what we have done. We will have to have a rescue operation.’ 1 seem to remember that this was the pattern in 1962. That brings me to the point that the original legislation was introduced in 1962. In his second reading speech on the measure now before us the Treasurer (Mr Bury) said:
The investment allowance was introduced in 1962 at a lime of declining employment, slow economic activity and uncertainty a.-, to the outlook for the balance of payments, lt was one of a scries of measures designed to stimulate demand and restore confidence in the future growth of the economy . . .
The reason given by the Treasurer for the withdrawal of this allowance is that the economic conditions which led to its introduction do not exist today.
The economy of this country is divided clearly and sharply into two parts. In past months the Treasurer has stated frequently that the economy was overheated and that this was causing concern.
That may have been so in half of the economy of the nation. But the other half of the economy, that is the export earnings of the rural sector, has not been overheated; it has been in a state of deep freeze.
There is a continuing crisis in the rural sector. There is growing unemployment. There are great difficulties. I might say that the difficulties of this sector are important not only to that sector but also to the good health of the nation as a whole. It is not just a matter for the 10 per cent of the population who are engaged in primary industry. What happens in this sector concerns the nation as a whole because this sector earns half the nation’s exports and provides 90 per cent of the nation’s food and fibre. This sector is not responsible for earning just 10 per cent of the gross national product or employing 9 per cent of the work force. It is in fact half the nation in real terms of earning. But there is no reference whatsoever to that sector in the Treasurer’s second reading speech. The overall assessment which he makes is that there is a growing boom. He says: ‘You know, the economy is doing well; it is over-heated. In fact, it is so different from 1962 that we have to withdraw this allowance.’ That is just not true. I do not for one moment suggest that the Treasurer was deliberately misleading the Parliament. I think that perhaps he has overlooked half the nation, and I would direct his attention to that area.
There is a continuing crisis in the countryside; it is not improving at all. Unemployment figures in some country towns - even some of the best ones - are up 20 per cent. The effect on machinery has been reported by the firms concerned. The reports of the city based industries which supply the countryside and our exporting industries indicate that there is a stale of deep freeze in the countryside. So the answer to this proposition is that even if there is any excuse for withdrawing this allowance from city based industries, there is no excuse at all for withdrawing it from country industries.
I have understood well that this Bill does not touch primary producers as such, but I am not talking about primary producers; I am talking about decentralised country industries. Let us have a look at what is happening regarding decentralisation. The use of this word creates almost the same effect as mentioning Mecca; whenever it is mentioned everyone bows. Whenever decentralisation is mentioned there is tremendous obeisance from the gentlemen on my left who are members of the Australian Country Party. The word decentralisation’ is used with sheer reverence. Everyone pays lip service to it.
What is actually happening in the Commonwealth sphere, in relation to decentralisation after 70 years of federation? I will tell honourable members. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) informed me last year that there had been great strides in this direction. He recalled that at the Premiers Conference in July 1964 the Commonwealth and the States had decided to set up a committee to further decentralisation. This was the year of the great leap forward apparently. This was the first time that the Commonwealth had directed its attention to decentralisation. But what has it done since 1964. which is 7 years ago? That is a long gestation period. Let us see what the birth looks like. Well, it has come. The Committee has met three times. Honourable members will be glad to know that the last meeting about which I have been informed was on 7th February 1969. There is action for you; there is this dynamic young nation at work. After 70 years there has been one committee which has had three meetings, the last one being in 1969. This is 1971. I think I had better mention that in case it has been forgotten by the Administration. But what have we got? We have no report yet from the committee, let alone action. There is just no report, and there is no finality on any plan at all. So after 70 years of lip service to a concept we have done absolutely nothing.
I can speak oh this measure with some personal knowledge. The industrialists across the countryside, honest as they may be, were hopeful that they would receive continuing encouragement. This was one piece of encouragement which they shared not, as a decentralisation matter, with their city cousin. We are now told we arc tremendously well off. We are told that wage scales are tremendously high and that everyone in the country is rich. It is amazing. Even if I accept the Government’s picture of life in the cities of the nation - I am not too sure that the people in the cities will accept it - it does not apply in any shape or form in the countryside today where, as 1 say, there is under-employment, unemployment and a drop in the business index.
There is a real crisis of survival for many people, not only on farms but also in businesses and decentralised industries and among employees themselves. Surely to goodness when this measure was being contemplated there should not have been written into the Treasurer’s second reading speech the fact that everything had changed and that economic conditions were such today that we did not want to encourage the re-equipment of manufacturing industries which were then at a low ebb. He said that we do not need now to restore confidence. That is precisely what we need to do. We need to restore confidence in the countryside - the confidence in half the nation. We need to heat up the ice box, because that is what we have got. I know, because I live in it.
When I come to Canberra 1 am very disturbed to see the lawns not mown, the lights going out and the water spout reduced in height. I am not quite sure, but 1 think that is what has happened. But ali these little measures and gestures of tackling the fundamental disequilibrium of development in Australia have been made. What I am concerned about is that the incentive for half the nation in terms of our export income and in terms of the real production of wealth is being withdrawn. Here is an incentive which is a modest one. I feel that sufficient consideration has not been given before withdrawing this incentive - and it is an incentive. The honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin) and the honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Lionel Bowen) who preceded me said that perhaps the incentive should not have been brought in as it was - that if the Government wanted to give an incentive to a particular industry there were other ways of doing it. I do not want to argue that point. The decision was made by the Government. It was brought in in a time of general recession, to stimulate. Now the Government says we are overstimulated so we must reduce ourselves to what? To a static situation.
I am going to ask the Treasurer whether he has considered this matter in relation to the countryside and in relation to the deep freeze that we are in. I ask him also how he can justify an across the board decision which will penalise both those who wish to become better in terms of productivity and some of the giants of industry who do not worry very much and who are not terribly concerned. There are many segments of Australian industry which are anxious to improve their productivity. I would have thought that any incentives in a situation of. inflation to improve productivity would have attracted support. I cannot understand an across the board statement which says: ‘No. We are happy with productivity. We do not need to worry about it in this sector. Therefore we are withdrawing this incentive to up-date and to improve.’ I : cannot understand the approach there. I cannot understand how that decision could have been made. I make a sincere appeal that when the Government looks at a measure such as this and decides on its withdrawal it should consider the whole of the nation and not half of it. I submit that, in bringing this measure to the Parliament, only half the nation is being considered, and I doubt whether it is being considered wisely at that.
– in reply - 1 found it extremely difficult to reconcile the views just expressed by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) with the very clear and logical case presented by the main spokesman for the Opposition on this matter, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). However, his speech was interesting. The House usually smiles a little when the honourable member for Riverina holds forth. 1 think that most honourable members would have enjoyed his contribution. But the honourable member for Melbourne Ports gave an exposition of his views on this matter which are quite firm and are well known. They are views which are shared, at least, by most members of his Party. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports expressed the doubt that taking this measure now would have very much impact and that its bite would be very deep. I must to a large extent agree with him. But the taking of this measure is not intended to change anything very drastically. What it is designed to do is to remove the previous stimulus given by this measure to investment in manufacturing industry. It does not apply to primary pro duction in the country, as the honourable member for Riverina stated. Consideration was certainly given to differences between the manufacturing industries in the cities and those in the country concerned with processing primary production.
This is not meant to be a sharp measure. All it is suggested it should do is to have the effect in marginal cases of discouraging investment which might be made now. Before investments of this kind are made careful calculations are done. If it is a profitable operation, the investment is proceeded with. In doubtful cases, at this juncture when the total investment activity in plant and equipment is rising rather too fast, it is hoped that this measure will tend to slow it down. It is not intended to do anything more than that. Such sharp, sudden measures as some people suggest might be taken would not have a very sensible effect. The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) who spoke yesterday but who is not in the House at the moment put to me a number of direct questions. One concerned 4»ow permanent was this measure which suspends the allowance and when it would be reversed. Of course, the decision made at the moment is that it is no longer necessary to take special measures to stimulate manufacturing industrial investment - because this is what the measure does. In the circumstances, when it is not required for this purpose, there is every reason for eliminating it for the time being. The Government made quite apparent at the beginning that it was suspending the allowance.
The legislation has to be put in the form of making a change to the Act. There is no easy, tidy way of doing it in a form which merely suspends the allowance for the time being. The honourable member for McMillan also referred to the transitional period. This legislation means that those who have actually concluded contracts before the 3rd February would not suffer any reduction but those who concluded contracts afterwards would have the change applied to them. It was made clear in the first statement that was issued that there would be some very difficult transitional problems. The honourable member suggested that the Treasury did not understand this. He apparently had gathered together the wisdom to think that it was all very simple. In fact, the problems are well known. Companies which already have big expansion programmes under way and which have made contracts for part of their programmes - but not for a great part - to be carried out by other firms or by using their own resources are faced with acute transitional problems.
When introducing the Bill I said that submissions were being received from industry asking that transitional arrangements be made to continue the investment allowance for some of the expenditures on plant and equipment that had not been incurred or committed by contracts with suppliers by 3rd February 1971: These submissions are still reaching the Government almost daily. Some of them relate to large and complicated projects that have been under construction for some time or for which detailed planning and feasibility studies were completed before 3rd February. An examination is being made of the representations that have been received. The situations they deal with are complex and diverse, and when full consideration has been given to these representations to the Government the Government may introduce further amending legislation to ask Parliament to give effect to the decision the Government may take in response to some of the representations made to it. So to some extent, the position in this respect must still be regarded as open.
Finally, 1 express my appreciation of the work that the .honourable member for Melbourne Ports and one or two others have put in. on this measure. I am glad to have the honourable members support. Although he thinks that we are now eliminating legislation which should never have been born, nevertheless I thank him for supporting what at the moment is the sensible thing to do.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Bury) read a third time.
Commonwealth cars - Land resumption at Eden - Social Services - Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd’ - Aboriginals - Aircraft noise
Motion (by Mr Bury) proposed: That the House do now adjourn.
– This morning on page 1 of the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’ there was a statement that a confidential report had been made, a,t the request of the Department of the Interior, by a well known firm of consultants, P. G. Pak-Poy and Associates, on the use of Commonwealth cars. Today’s edition of the ‘Bulletin’ carried a similar story and stated that the report had been circulating in several departments since well before Christmas. It said that the politicians had not acted upon it. As an ordinary member of Parliament I have no knowledge of this report other than what I read in the newspapers. It has not been tabled in this House. But I do hope that by raising this matter tonight I may precipitate some action which will lead to the eradication of any abuses which may exist.
It is a common impression among the public in general - and this has in some cases been engendered by sections of the Press - that every time they see a Commonwealth car it is some politician or his family going for a joy ride at the taxpayers’ expense. Nothing could be further from the truth. I cannot speak for the Ministers; they are quite capable of doing that themselves. They work long hours and travel thousands of miles each week in the course of their duties. No-one can legitimately object to their use of a car. I would like it to be known to the public, however, that a backbench member of Parliament has a very limited and strictly controlled use of a Commonwealth car. We, as back benchers, are entitled to a car to take us from our home to the airport at the beginning of the week when Parliament is sitting and to return from the airport to our home at the end of the week. Several members often are required to share one car. In Canberra we are met at the airport and travel, usually two or three to a car, to Parliament House and at the end of the week we are driven back, two or three to a car, to the airport. Apart from parliamentary committee work, that is the sole entitlement of a private back bench member of Parliament to a Commonwealth car.
If a member finds it necessary to come to Canberra on electoral business when the House is not sitting, he must hire a taxi at his own expense to and from the airport in his home State. If it is necessary to return to his electorate on electoral business during the week when Parliament is sitting, once again he must hire a car to and from the airport. I have found it necessary to do this on a number of accasions and it costs me $10 each time for the taxi fares. As the member of Parliament stands there hailing a taxi he is conscious of Commonwealth cars driving off with Service personnel, public servants - many of them young girls - and others.
According to the ‘Bulletin’, 80 per cent of passengers carried in Commonwealth cars are Third and Fourth Division public servants. This would not surprise me. The Daily Telegraph claims that the 80 per cent is made up of clerks, secretaries, typists and messengers. During the last Parliament I was coming out of the old Federal members rooms in Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, to go to the Commonwealth Centre in Spring Street when a Commonwealth car drove up with an office boy with a letter to be delivered to a member or some other person. Why the boy could not have taken a tram I do not know, lt would probably have been quicker and certainly cheaper. However, the boy was quite decent; he gave me permission to ride back to the Commonwealth Centre with him. During the last session of Parliament a young female secretary who works in this House is reported to have stated to the Press that she phones the transport base before leaving work the night before and books a Commonwealth car to pick her up in the morning. Last week when I was being driven home from the airport in a Commonwealth car at about 5.30 p.m. a call came over the radio to pick up a certain public servant from an address in St Kilda Road and to drive him to the Melbourne Club. I was told several years ago - I admit that I cannot account for the authenticity of this statement - that a certain department gave time off to a female staff member to attend lectures at the University of Melbourne. As she had to travel some distance and as the department did not want her to be awa.y too long, according to my informant, she was given the use of a Commonwealth car twice a week.
It is interesting to listen to the various drivers on the use of Commonwealth cars by some public servants. But because most are frightened they may lose their job if they talk too much it is difficult to get specific instances. It is when we realise how a member of Parliament is forced to hire a taxi so he can- carry out functions which are part of his parliamentary duties and then see the apparent abuse by public servants of Commonwealth cars that the injustice really hits home. 1 raised” this matter in the House during the Estimates debate last session, and to be sure that the then Minister for the Interior was aware of the situation I sent to him a copy of my speech, underlined in the key parts. I received a polite but firm letter in reply from him saying that my views would be given consideration when the matter of Commonwealth cars next came up. But nothing has been done to correct the anomalies.
I have raised this matter ‘tonight for two reasons: Firstly, I want to make it clear to the public at large that ho abuse of the use of Commonwealth cars occurs on I he part of private members of Parliament; it would not be tolerated- by this Government. Secondly, if abuses are occurring, let us bring them out into the light of day and do something about them.-, I do not want to spark off a witch hunt. I realise the difficulties the Government experiences in policing the use of Commonwealth cars. I am told that for the financial year 1969-70 Commonwealth cars; taxis- and hire cars cost the Government more’ than $ I m. This Government has pledged ‘ itself to effect economies. If it is good” enough for the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) to drive himself to his office in. Parliament House on weekends to save overtime being paid to a Commonwealth driver, it is time for the Public Service to take a look at its use of Commonwealth cars.
If the reports in today’s Press are true and the Government has caused an inquiry to be set up, I congratulate it; but let us hear about it. I believe that if this report points to abuse of the system by public servants something should bc. done about it urgently. If this report exists, I believe we as members of Parliament should know of its contents. I strongly urge the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) - I know that he is only new to the portfolio - to table this report in Parliament without delay so that the truth may be known to all.
– A man in my electorate whose home has been seized and whose livelihood has been destroyed seems to me to.be, with his wife and young family, the victim of monstrous official oppression. Without warning men employed by the New South Wales Government rapped on his door, handed him a document, told him that his home had been resumed by the New South Wales Government and that from that moment he was no longer the owner but a tenant and that within 3 weeks he and his family must be out with all their possessions. His home is, or was, a quiet holiday guest house and he was further notified that from that day onwards he must have no more guests nor even any visitors to see him or his family.
– Would they let his wife stay?
– Yes. They let his wife stay, for 3 weeks. This man is Mr Vern Home and the home is ‘Edrom Lodge’, an historic mansion of 100 squares at Eden, on the shores of Twofold Bay. The blow was delivered about the end of last November and Mr Home was compelled by the official edict to cancel all bookings he had acepted for the summer season as from that day, including those for Christmas and New Year. He had to turn away about 100 people who had already arranged to stay at ‘Edrom’.
The resumption was stated to be for forestry purposes. The responsible Minister was Mr J. Beale, Minister for Conservation in the New South Wales Government. No reason whatever for the haste has since been shown. No forestry purpose for the resumption of ‘Edrom’ and its 23 acres of land has even yet been disclosed, and this is 3 months later. To find a possible reason one must look further afield than forestry reasons. The whole business has sinister connotations. Thus Mr Home and his family have since been permitted - as an act of grace, mark you - but subject to extraordinary prohibitions on his rights as a citizen, restrictions which cannot be linked by any stretch of the imagination with legitimate forestry purposes, to stay in the home until the end of this month. I shall explain those restrictions shortly because they are very important but there are two points worth immediate attention. The first is that 3 months after this shotgun resumption no compensation has been paid and no amount has been offered. The second point is that Mr Home’s prosperous business has been destroyed overnight and he is without means now of providing for his family except by selling his furniture. I know it must seem incredible that a man can have his home seized and his business destroyed in an instant by official edict without any warning, without any notice, without any explanation, without any negotiations, without any offer of purchase and without any payment being made. It must seem incredible because it -is in disregard of all the normal procedure governing a resumption by the New South Wales Government or for that matter by any government except a dictatorship.
In normal procedures the government first makes an offer of purchase. If there is no agreement on price the normal procedure is that negotiations follow and continue for a reasonable time. Only if all discussions fail to reach an agreement on price is resumption contemplated. Normal procedure is that the owner of the property is then served with a notice of resumption. This notice normally specifies a date reasonably in the future. For Mr and Mrs Home and their family nothing whatever of this kind has happened. The only reference to resumption was an incidental reference in a letter replying to Mr Home’s representations many months previously. It was then mentioned as a possibility at some distant date. For them the blow was as sudden as it would be for you, Mr Speaker, if you answered a knock on your front door to find officials, totally unexpected by you, standing there to tell you your home was no longer yours and to hand you a document confirming this grim announcement. I suppose it could happen in Russia if you had offended a powerful Minister or if you had endangered some interests in which he was involved. But this has happened in Australia. It is now 3 months since the Home family suddenly lost the ownership of their home at Edrom’ and since Mr Home lost his business and his livelihood. No legitimate reason for the action has yet appeared. No important forestry purpose has yet been disclosed. In fact, Forestry Commission officials have recently said that they do not know why the Minister resumed the property and they do not know what is going to be done with ‘Edrom’ even yet. It is as though someone is now trying to find a forestry reason for action taken for a different purpose. I shall come to that.
In those 3 months no guest has been allowed at ‘Edrom’. Scores of families who had made all arrangements to spend their summer holiday in its peace and beauty have been officially prevented from setting foot on it. It is plain beyond all doubt that the ban imposed on those intending holiday makers has served no forestry purpose or any other purpose whatever unless one looks for a sinister purpose. Mr Home did not have to be ruined and these other people did not have to be deprived of their holiday. This is shown to have been a wanton official misuse of power. I do not seekto. and 1 will not ascribe the motives animating those who ordered this extraordinary treatment of a citizen and his family. I know, and every honourable member knows, that the State must possess immense powers to set aside individual rights even to the extent of individual injustice in a time of grave emergency to the State. These powers exist for this kind of emergency but they have been exercised in a situation where no shadow of such an emergency appeared. Why? The circumstances cry out for an open and thorough inquiry, but I see no prospect that the Government of New South Wales, of which Mr Beale is a senior Minister, will appoint such an inquiry.
Finally, as matters which may- be of significance in examining this affair I set out 3 points. Firstly, Mr Home had spoken of the noise injurious to his business coming from the adjoining, privately owned wood chip industry, especially at the loading of a ship, and he may have contemplated legal action. Did someone want to prevent him from exercising his citizen right in that way? Secondly, a letter from the Forestry Commission to Mr Home dated 9th December offered to allow him to continue his guest house business during the holiday period with this condition:
As you have expressed concern that disturbance is caused by noise from the adjoining chipping plant, any agreement must also be subject to there being no interference with the operation of the chip industry. lt was then, of course, too late to reinstate bookings already cancelled,, but does that condition provide a clue to the reason for the outrageous official action? Thirdly, the land on which ‘Edrom’ stands fronts the ocean and a powerful overseas company has made an offer to Mr : Home for that land for a competing wood Chip industry. Does that provide a clue to the sudden and ruthless action taken which’ undoubtedly protected the interests of the existing private industry? Four days before the State election on 13th February, Mr Beale and the wood chip company concerned, as hosts in conjunction, held a great celebration at Eden marking the arrival of a vessel to load wood chips for Japan. The Governor, Sir Roden Cutler, look part in this function which took’ place a few miles from Mr Beale’s electorate of South Coast. Even so, such was the indignation of the area that Mr Beale, whose normal majority in the South Coast electorate would be between 4,000 and 5.000 votes, escaped defeat on this occasion by between 200 and 300 votes. 1 repeat that the whole circumstances demand an open and thorough inquiry. I wish it was within the power of this Parliament to order it. .
– The two matters that I wish to raise this evening concern social services. 1 am not a member who takes much- advantage of adjournment debates, but I feel that these matters deserve some airing in the Parliament. I join with the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) who. yesterday protested about the exclusion of children over the age of 16 years, who are undergoing full time study, as dependants of recipients of unemployment and sickness benefits. I have had referred to me. the case of my own brother who recently underwent a major operation which Will . result in his being off work for a lengthy period. He applied for sickness benefits but when he was notified of the amount that he was to receive he thought that some mistake had been made. He mentioned this to the social service worker at Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney. She said that she had a long list of similar cases.
It may be thought that the non-payment of a benefit for one child for a few weeks would not mean much of a loss to a family if sickness is not retcurring. but with the extension of the school leaving age it is not impossible for two or more children over 16 years of age in one family to be receiving full-time education, yet if sickness overtakes that family such students are not taken into account in determining the amount of benefit the family should receive. Children of this age are virtually adults. They eat as much as adults and it costs as much to clothe them as adults, but they are not recognised as dependants and this imposes a double penalty on the family because in calculating the amount of benefit payable in respect of children, those children’ above .16 years of age are not considered. The benefit is paid on the basis of S2.50 a- week for the first child under 16 years of age and S3. 50 for other children under 16 years of age.
I commend the Government’s action in extending long term sickness benefits as in the case of the invalid pension, but I emphasise that children over 16 years of age who are receiving a full-time education are not recognised as dependants by the Department of Social Services. The number of beneficiaries involved and the amount of money that would be paid to them if such children were recognised as dependants would not wreck the economy of the nation. A sympathetic review of this situation would be of considerable value to those families whose breadwinners have been forced through accident or illness to cease work.
The second matter concerns the payment of unemployment benefits. Several cases were brought to my notice towards the end of last year concerning employees who, because of a shortage of work offering, were asked to work 1, 2 or 3 days a week. As a result they are not unemployed but are paid only for the time they work. I have referred these cases to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). The men are members of the Amalgamated Meat Industry Employees Union and they are employed at abattoirs. For one reason or another - either because of drought or because of rain following a drought when animals are not being made available for purchase by the buyers of meat works - these men are being stood down. The men do not receive notice a week or two beforehand that they will not be required to work. They may be at work and it may not be until 4 o’clock in the afternoon that they are advised that they will not be wanted for work the next day.
When these men found that employment was not available for them for the remainder of a week they registered for unemployment benefits. Their cases were considered and rejected. I referred them to the Director of Social Services in Queensland and later to the Minister for Social Services. He has informed me that the reason for the rejection of their applications was that it is an essential requirement for the grant of unemployment benefit that the applicant be unemployed and, further, that the applicant must be prepared to accept employment. These men have been prepared to accept employment provided it is of a short-term nature. Some of these men have worked for almost 20 years with the one firm and if they accepted another job it would mean the termination of their employment with the loss of entitlements that have accumulated during their service with the abattoirs. They are being penalised. 1 agree with the Minister that there is a requirement that an applicant for unemployment benefits must be unemployed and that his unemployment must not be due to his being a direct participant in a strike. He must be capable of working and willing to undertake suitable work. He must have taken reasonable steps to get work and must have registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service. Furthermore, there is a 7-day waiting period.
If these men were not actually working they would be entitled to unemployment benefits. A man with a wife and 5 children, with’ a permissible income of S6 a week, would be entitled to a benefit of S39.50 a week, but if that man works for one or two days at the meat works his wages would still be less than S39.50. I ask the Minister for Social Services to consider whether or not, depending on the number of days a man works, the unemployment benefit payable to him might not be sufficient to increase his income to the amount of benefit to which he would have been entitled had he been unemployed. These cases are not dissimilar to the position of waterside workers who, before the payment of appearance money, were required to report as available for work when a ship came into port or when other work was available for them. Waterside workers are required to make themselves available. Employees at abattoirs also are required to make themselves available and, because of the entitlements that they have accumulated during their years of service, they naturally want to make themselves available provided their term of unemployment is not lengthy. But the period of short working weeks can extend, and in this instance it has extended up to 10 weeks and they are suffering loss.
Whilst I agree with the Minister that the Act must be complied with I believe this situation requires examination. The employer does not lose because the men are available and he has a hold over them. The Department of Social Services does not lose because it refuses to recognise them as unemployed at present, and rightly so. But the men and their families are certainly losing because of their refusal to take another job- which would mean termination of their present employment and loss of accumulated entitlements. I have spoken to other honourable members and I believe that there are other instances which would warrant an investigation. I hope that I can prevail upon the Minister for Social Services to give sympathetic consideration to the two matters that I have raised.
– 1 wish to raise a matter which I consider is of great importance. 1 refer to the recent announcement by Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd that it had made a 52 per cent increase in its profits in the 6 months ended 30th November 1970. A number of questions were directed today to various Ministers including the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden). One of the things that concerned me was the crocodile tears that were shed by those people on behalf of BHP.
– They are battlers.
– I know that they are battling; they are having a bad trot. I would like to put on record tonight the true position so far as the finances of this company are concerned. Before I ask for leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard some figures which have been prepared for me by the Library Legislative Research Service I would just like to read to the House from the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 19th August 1970. lt stated:
It was not iron ore nor was it oil and gas. For BHP Co. Ltd 1969-70 was the year of the Great Steel Bonanza.
The great steel bonanza was last year when this company made a profit . of §59,796,000 which represented a 21.3 per cent earning rate on ordinary capital. Since then, in the first 6 months of this year, the company has added another 52 per cent to that. The Prime Minister is not the least bit concerned. In fact, he went to great lengths at question time today to point out to honourable members and to the nation that this great company was not making exorbitant profits, that this additional 52 per cent was not exorbitant and that after all the company had a huge investment in oil and natural gas which was now to pay huge dividends. But what the Prime Minister did not tell honourable members was that if this huge expenditure had failed and the search for oil and gas in Bass Strait had not been a success, this loss would have been a tax deduction and nearly all of it would have been written off. So in actual fact this great company would not have lost anything.
The threat is the Chairman of Directors’ statement on the half-yearly state of affairs where he said that in the first 6 months of the company’s financial trading this year it had the effect of the last S3 per ton increase in steel but had not got the production because of industrial disputes. What else can the unions do? What other actions can unions take than to demand an increase in wages, when we read statements in the Press such as the one I have just read? As a matter of fact, I read only the headlines. As I said earlier,’’ I have the facts and I will shortly seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a document which clearly sets out the huge profits which ‘are being made by this company. The unions in Newcastle, Port Kembla, Kwinana’ and Whyalla have been conducting a campaign for an increase in wages. This great benevolent company which is making these huge profits is not prepared to pay to its employees a fair and reasonable share of these profits. It wants to corner the market; it wants the whole profit for its shareholders. This has been the attitude of BHP ‘ for as long as I have known the company. I first started work wilh BHP in 1935 as an apprentice. The company was no different then. It has opposed continuously any attempt by the trade unions and the workers to get some share of the profits which it is making. I think it is time that we had a real look at this company.
If the workers have to go to arbitration why does not this company have to go to arbitration. A list of the increases in the price of steel from 1949 to the present time shows that not on one occasion did the- company have to go to arbitration to get ‘ authority from anyone to increase the price of its steel. So that it will be possible to examine the amount of increases, with the concurrence of honourable members 1 incorporate in Hansard a table which has been prepared by *the Library Research Section.
This table clearly sets out the movement in steel prices that this company has been able to get away with. The increase of $3 per ton in 1970 represented an increase, according to General Motors-Holden, of $25 on every Holden Special which was purchased after the increase in the price of steel had taken effect. This also applied to many other commodities such as refrigerators. The Fe was an increase in the price of anything that contained steel as a result of the increased price of steel set by BHP.
This company got ‘away with its price increase.
The other matter I want to refer to is the increase in the share value of this company and the way in which it has been able to make new issues. In the limited time available to me I want to give a few facts.’ So that the facts may be clearly taken from Hansard, with the concurrence of honourbale members I incorporate two tables which have been provided by the Library Research Section and which show the growth of capital.
I would like to summarise this table quickly. Take the case of a person who held 100 shares in BHP in 1950. There have been issues of 1 for 5 in 1955 at $2; 1 for 5 in 1957; 2 for 9 bonus in 1958; 1 for 5 in the same year; 1 for 5 in 1959; 1 for 2 in 1961; 1 for 6 in 1962; 1 for 7 in 1966; and 1 for 14 in 1969. Some of these issues carried a premium of $2 a share and others a premium of $3. In fact, all of them were S2 with the exception of the 1 for 14 issue which was $3. The 1 for 2 bonus issue was for $2. Anyone who had held 100 shares in 1950 today would have 527 shares in BHP. It would have cost the person acquiring those additional 427 shares an additional $549. In 1950 those 100 shares were valued, as these tables show, at $565. The 527 shares which the shareholder would now hold are valued on today’s valuation at $7,2 19.90.
The Prime Minister talks about this great company making only 6.2 per cent on capital invested. I accept the facts con tained in the document I have incorporated because it has been prepared by the Sydney Stock Exchange Company Statistical Service. These authentic figures show that the earning rate of ordinary capital in 1970 was 21.30 per cent. I do not know from where the Prime Minister obtains the figure of 6.2 per cent or 6.28 per cent or something of that nature on capital invested. These are the facts of the earning rate of ordinary capital. I think it is time that the Government stepped in and said to this company: ‘If you peg wages you will have to justify every price increase which you decide to impose’. In the United States of America President Kennedy and President Nixon have at various times been forced to take this action. They have curbed the steel industry in that country and stopped it from arbitrarily introducing price increases which were not subject to inquiry by any government authority.
However, BHP made a decision over the board that prices would increase and that was it: Everyone had to take it. From the figures that l have disclosed tonight in the limited time available to me it is obvious that BHP is a law unto itself. It charges what it likes for its steel. It guarantees an assured, exorbitant profit. Whilst last year the company said its profit was only 11 per cent in reality for the person who has held shares for the last 20 years - and I have only taken 1955, bearing in mind that many of these shares have been held by families ever since BHP was BHP - today would find that an 1 1 per cent dividend was in actual fact about 57 per cent.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In response to suggestions in Parliament this week by the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) that I had advocated degrading and mutilating operative procedures on certain classes of people, and by the Minister for Social Services and Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth) that I would compel such procedures, I strongly denied advocating compulsion. Because this matter has received extensive publicity in my electorate, I want to put down the facts as I see them.
Certain types of desirable welfare assistance which should be given to physically, culturally and/or socially handicapped persons in this modern, affluent society are not available here and would be less effective if recipients were to continue to enlarge families which they admit are now too large for them to care for. I understand that some States of the United States of America have made certain benefits conditional upon the recipients adopting foolproof means of family limitation. I would oppose such conditions if they were to increase the hardship to the existing members of the family. So, clearly, I would advise not an increase of penalty but a decrease of the existing penalty imposed on people for producing children. I would oppose any penalty which would deprive of urgent needs those who now exist miserably on the scandalously inadequate services provided under the unfeeling policies of the Ministers own department for such persons, but I would advocate certain conditions for the receipt of certain other benefits which could not in fact be so beneficial if- the family- -continued to enlarge - for example, priorities for certain classes of public housing. . -
I have not spelt out dor have 1 considered in detail a hypothetical situation in which such priorities ‘ should be provided because the fact remains that all types of public housing in’ this country are totally inadequate and very few families occupying such housing ‘have anything more than the very minimum standard of living, so such a restriction or condition would not arise because it would impose hardship. I want to make it quite clear that I would oppose the -introduction in this country of compulsion of trie sort introduced in certain States of ‘.the.’ United States of America. I point out that, in the State which I come from arid the honourable member for Kennedy conies from and where the State Government is led by the honourable member’s own’ Party, the Government imposes much harsher conditions upon tenancy of public housing, such as banning long-staying visitors and eviction if payments cannot be met. Iri the Duaringa shire, which was referred to by the honourable’ member and the Minister, it appears that the policy ot the State Government is that housing- contractors building urgently needed State housing for Aboriginals should be allowed- to walk off the job for several months in order to do some other more lucrative job. In the meantine the Aboriginals are living out in the bush in the wet season in humpies amongst bogs and using one- tap which was put there after my representations to the shire to save them having tq go and raid the tank at the local school. This is the sort of degrading penalty which is imposed on these people not for the number of children they have but simply’ because they have not the means to meet ‘ the cost of decent housing; because they have not the political pressure to demand better treatment; because they have not been accepted in the community by the shire and State authorities, and because they do not have the moral backing as yet of ‘ the Commonwealth Government, whose primary responsibility it is to ensure that they have decent living conditions.
I am not going to go into the question of whether, in this day and age, certain people should be induced, persuaded or compelled to undergo . the procedures which have been referred to in such horrific terms by the honourable member for Kennedy. I am just going to point out that there is a very trivial out-patient procedure which does not require getting undressed, which can be performed after the administration of a local anaesthetic, which does not require time off work and which is becoming rapidly more popular in Australia as it is in India and other countries, lt is anything but mutilating and degrading, and it has been cheerfully paid for, sought out and recommended with enthusiastic satisfaction afterwards by certain prominent members of the Government parties whom I would not name without their permission. This procedure avoids the more costly, more inconvenient, more uncertain, more uncomfortable and sometimes hazardous practice of husbands using their conjugal rights to put a bit of compulsion on their wives to take the pill. Let me assure the House that there are husbands who, on their own admission, believe they are entitled to require their wives to do this; yet I have been accused of talking of compulsion when I have suggested certain procedures for the benefit of recipients of social welfare.
I reject any suggestion of compulsion. My aim is to free people from the compulsion to produce children for which they do not plan and for which they cannot provide. My aim is to improve their quality of life. However, my critics seem to be bent on twisting my intentions as if I would extend welfare as a kind of Nazi racial dictatorship.
– I wish to address the House tonight on a subject that has become one of the menaces of our time. I refer to aircraft noise. I wish to refer particularly to a statement made by the Minister for Civil Aviation about the anticipated noise nuisance at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport in 1976. Recently the Minister issued a Press statement as well as a noise exposure forecast in connection with Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport and its surrounding areas. I could net help but think at the time - I am not being personal - that the Minister showed a complete lack of knowledge of the sufferings of the people of the residential areas around Sydney airport. Had the Minister lived anywhere in that area he would never have made the complacent statement about air craft noise in the future that he incorporated in the Press release to which I have referred as well as the Press release he gave in reply to a request by the Premier of New South Wales, Mr Askin, for some relief from this problem. One of the Minister’s Press releases was in the following terms:
The Minister for Civil Aviation today released details of the current noise nuisance levels at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport, together with the latest estimates of the noise nuisance levels for 1976.
Senator Cotton said a comparison between the 2 showed that in spite of the increased traffic estimated lo be using Sydney by 1976, the actual rise in noise nuisance levels was expected to be virtually insignificant.
He said that the actual rise would be ‘virtually insignificant’. That means that people in those districts will have to live at least with the level of aircraft noise obtaining at this time and there is to be no relief from the noise nuisance. The Minister said that by 1976 there will not be any significant increase. I wonder if he realises the suffering aged people undergo in homes in Leichhardt, such as those run by the Reverend Hawkins, caused by aircraft which fly overhead during the day and the night. The curfew is not enforced as much as it should be. As the aircraft zoom in the noise in those homes is shattering.
Over the Christmas period the Minister did not think twice about seeing that those people who were holidaying were accommodated irrespective of the effect on the people who lived in districts surrounding the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport, and planes were permitted to fly outside the curfew hours. The Minister stated that there will be no significant increase but what I want to know is: What is he doing to relieve undue noise at this time? I understand that he gave instructions, or that instructions were given, that aircraft were not to use flight paths over residential areas except in exceptional circumstances or for safety reasons. I will go so far as to say that those instructions have been completely disregarded. I would say the use of the flight path that comes in over Leichhardt, Annandale, Petersham, Dulwich Hill, Sydenham and St Peters undoubtedly has been increased in more recent months. I would like to know precisely what the Minister intends to do or what he has done about this matter. I have not sufficient time to read the whole of the statement, but it went on:
Senator Cotton added that the information
– Hear, hear!
– It is easy to see that the honourable member does not live near the Sydney airport. The statement reads:
Senator Cotton added that the information currently available indicated that Sydney, an ideally situated major airport, could continue to -make a significant contribution to the efficient transportation of international and domestic passengers, mails and freight.
That means that he will not release the report which I understand he has been given in respect of the siting of future aerodromes in Australia. The fact of the matter is that he will leave the aerodrome at Mascot forever. He does not care at all about the sufferings of the people who live in that district. He thinks it is really an ideal site. I was so impressed by his enthusiasm for the Kingsford-Smith site that I extended by telegram an invitation to the Minister to come and live for a few days under the flight path in the electorate of Grayndler. I will be prepared to provide him With first class free accommodation. He will not use the bed much at night because he will not be able to sleep. Should he accept my invitation he will be able to judge at first hand whether Mascot is an ideal site. I suppose it is all very well for a person who lives at Oberon, where I suppose very few have ever seen an aeroplane, to tell people who live within 100 yards of Kingsford-Smith that everything in the garden is lovely, particularly when these aircraft fly over their homes at 2 o’clock or 3 o’clock in the morning. I wonder if the Minister will tell me whether he accepts my invitation. As I say. I guarantee him that he will be most cordially welcome and I am prepared to provide numerous people to give him the real facts at first hand. He will have plenty of time to see those people because, as I said, he will not be able to sleep much at night. When he sees deputations in the middle of the night and his replies are interrupted as aircraft zoom over the district he may realise that something must be done before 1976!
I hope that the Minister will accept my offer. 1 hope that he will see that he cannot leave Kingsford-Smith where it is as the major airport for all time. I hope that effective action will be taken by the Govern ment to put the major airport in the electorate of Robertson or in some other place well out in country districts. I understand, for instance, that in the electorate of the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) there are areas which would take an aerodrome. Perhaps it could be situated nt Dubbo or some other country district. But for the Minister to continue to say these things and do nothing about the matter is something that cannot be tolerated. Even the New South Wales Premier, Mr Askin, was so moved that he approached his Liberal colleague on the matter. He must have been desperate to have asked the Liberal Government here for anything because he does that sort of thing only in desperate circumstances. But even he was moved to ask whether something could be done. He got the kind of reply that was given here. Senator Cotton in an interview later in -Melbourne on the question of aerodromes said, as he smoked his pipe congenially, that people who lived near aerodromes would have , to put up with the noise, that we cannot shift aerodromes, that people must fly and . consequently those living nearby are unlucky.
That reply is on the level of a famous statement by a Liberal member at about the time of the last Federal election and which put a- couple of my colleagues into this Parliament. That former Liberal member said that if people ‘live near pig sties they cannot object to the stink. That is what he said about the people living near the aerodrome in Sydney. This is precisely what the present Minister is saying - in more delicate terms, ‘of course, in respect of these people who, ‘many years before aerodromes were the noise menace they are today, bought land at great expense and established homes on that land.
The point I make is.,:this: the Government through its Minister is dithering along. Why do not pilots coming into the Kingsford-Smith aerodrome use the flight path over Botany Bay? Why do not they use that flight path and . the landing strip provided instead of coming in on the flight path over thickly populated areas including those which I represent and also some of my colleagues? It is all very well to say that these things cannot be done. I understand that there is some specialised equipment that could be obtained to enable the flight path over Botany Bay .and the strip there to be used constantly. But this is not done. The Minister complacently issues these statements and I presume he has forgotten about the matter. 1 cannot continue this campaign indefinitely because my filing cabinets cannot hold the complaints. I was going to bring them into the chamber tonight but they are almost too heavy to carry. My colleague, the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen), knows full well the circumstances of the situation, ‘as do other honourable members in surrounding, districts such as the honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison). These honourable members know from the numerous complaints they receive what the people in their electorates have to suffer.
Let me be quite honest about this. The people who live under the flight paths are not exactly laughing their heads off when a Minister who lives in the middle of the country tells them that they have to put up with the noise because people have to fly. I say that the curfew on flying hours should be enforced without any exception whatever. 1 can see no reason why, because some people at Christmas time want to get away and enjoy themselves, people in the electorate of Grayndler have to stay awake all night, not to see the holiday makers off but to hear them go and to wish them good luck. These things are completely beyond my comprehension. As to the suffering of these people I fear that unless we continue to press this matter in the Parliament the authorities will do as they did at Tullamarine and lift the curfew as was suggested tonight by one honourable member who has probably never seen an aerodrome or certainly never lived near one.
I mention this matter tonight in order that the Minister will see that the statements he has made are not in the interests of the people and show a disregard for what has to be done in this matter. I again extend my invitation to him to be my guest under the flight path anywhere in the electorate of Grayndler so that he can judge for himself at first hand how the people in that district are suffering.
Question resolved in the affirmative. House adjourned at 10.59 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
What has been the venue and date of each meeting of the Immigration Advisory Council since 1st January 1964.
– The answer’ to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The meetings of the Immigration Advisory Council since 1st January 1964 have been at the following venues:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Avi ation has provided the following answer to the honourable members question:
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answer to the honour able member’s question is as follows:
and (2) Men who applyfor exemption from the liability to render military service on the grounds of conscientious beliefs they claim to hold may, upon hearing and determination of their application by a court:
The following table sets out the position with regard to men who have applied for total exemption since the inception of the present national service scheme:
Immigration: Non-European Migrants (Question No. 2257)
asked the Minister for
Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honour able member’s question is as follows:
A good proportion of the non-Europeans admitted would have been British subjects. As such, they are not required to register under the provisions of the Aliens Act 1947-1966 and consequently, their departure is not specifically recorded. It is not possible therefore to supply the information desired.
The following table shows the number of nonEuropean aliens granted Australian citizenship by naturalisation in each of the years 1960-1969, inclusive:
Total figures only of British non-Europeans granted Australian citizenship by registration are available for the years 1962 to 1964 inclusive, as follows:
The following are the statistics for 1965 to 1969 inclusive:
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
How many men were balloted in for liability to be examined for national service training in each year since 1965.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The purpose of the ballot is to determine those registrants who remain liable for service subject to the provisions for exemption or indefinite deferment and to their meeting the standards of fitness for Army service. Other men may also be liable for service irrespective of the result of the ballot, viz. those who volunteer for service prior to the ballot, those balloted out who subsequently volunteer for service, those who fail to register at the required time and are liable for service without benefit of the ballot, and those who, having undertaken to serve alternatively in the Citizen Forces, become liable for full-time service if they fail to comply with their undertaking. The statistics below comprehend all men who in the particular period became liable for service. They have been compiled on a financial year basis since June 1967; prior to that date they were maintained by calendar years.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Has consideration yet been given to issuing, as on 21st July 1926 and 1st August 1946, a list of works of art belonging to the Commonwealth Government (Hansard, 12th June 1970, page 3670).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is proposed to issue a catalogue but I am informed it will necessarily be a considerable lime in preparation.
Common wealth Insurance Legislation (Question No. 2305)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
What has been the (a) date, (b) nature, and (c) outcome of the consultations between the Commonwealth and each of the States concerning Commonwealth legislation for the supervision of general insurance companies since bis announcement on 8th September 1970.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There have been consultations between representatives of the Commonwealth and all States and details of the legislation which I foreshadowed in my statement of 8th September 1970 will be made known at the appropriate time.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The South Australian Government has announced increased hospital charges to be effective from 1st March 1971. With the co-operation of health insurance organisations in that State, principles have been introduced which closely reflect the recommendations of the Nimmo Committee.
The Nimmo Committee recommended that hospitals charge a single comprehensive fee covering the cost of accommodation and treatment and all ancillary items including theatre, fees, drugs and dressings, medical and para-medical services provided by the hospitals, and the provision of standard prosthetic and other appliances, such as wheel-chairs.
The Committee also recommended that the hospital insurance scheme be rationalised by confining benefit tables to 3 benefits each equal to 1 of the 3 levels of hospital fees in force in each of the Slates - standard, intermediate and private wards. In addition, the Committee recommended that it be made a condition of hospital insurance that benefits will not be paid in excess of hospital accounts.
As from 1st March 1971 the new fees to be charged by public hospitals in South Australia will be $13.50 a day for a standard ward, $18.00 a day for an intermediate ward and $22.00 a day for a private ward. The proposed new fees in respect of each ward classification will include the cost of all public hospital charges such as drugs, theatre hire and maternity fees which are at present regarded as extras. Separate charges will, however, be made for radiological and pathological services.
The Private Hospitals Association and the Country Subsidised Hospitals Association in South Australia have recommended to their members that they also introduce charges on an all inclusive basis as from 1st March 1971.
In the light of the adoption ofthe ‘all inclusive’ method of charging,the organisations in South Australia have deletedthe provision in their rules for the payment of theatre fee benefit. At the same time, they have reconstructed their hospital tables to provide benefits in line with the Nimmo Committee recommendation. In addition a higher table of benefits has also been introduced to cover charges by private hospitals for private rooms.
There is no Commonwealth benefit payable for theatre fees.
I would add thatthe theatre fee charged by hospitals in South Australia prior to 1st March 1971 is not classified as a medical service. The patient’s$5.00 maximum personal commitment refers to medical services only and was not intended to include such hospital charges as theatre fees.
Pensioner Medical Service’ (Question No. 2164)
asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice:
Seymour, (g) Broadford, (h) Kilmore, (i) Gisborne. in the electoral division of Bendigo.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Social Welfare (Question No. 2286)
asked the Minister for
Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
Has Victoria given notice since his answer of 16th April 1970 (Hansard, page 1320) that it intends to seek further assistance under the Slates Grants (Home Care) Act 1969; if so, when did it do so.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Edu cation and Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There are two branches inmyDepartment concerned with education in the mainland Commonwealth Territories. These are the Territorial Planning and A.C.T. Education Services Branch and the Northern Territory Education Branch.
The honourable member will realise of course that many officers in both branches are carrying out duties for which professional qualifications in education are not required. All occupants of positions requiring professional qualifications have these qualifications.
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
In which universities and faculties or schools have quotas been imposed this year.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
At this stage the universities are finalising their admissions and it is too early to provide a reply.
I will provide information for the honourable member as soon as this is received.
asked the Minister for Edu cation and Science, upon notice:
What was the total number of appointments
en - The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Edu cation and Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The facilities are built as part of the whole project at the time the school is constructed. Separate costs for science and library facilities are not available.
Government introduced the States Grants (Science Laboratories and Technical Training) Act in 1964, a parallel scheme for science laboratories was introduced into the A.CX Details of payments under that scheme are contained in the table headed ‘A.C.T. Independent Schools - Science Facilities’.
When the Capital Aid Scheme was introduced in November 1 965, the construction of science facilities came under the Capital Aid Scheme except that the balance of liability outstanding for the 1964 scheme was paid in cash over succeeding years.
Liabilities and payments for the period November 1965 to November 1968 under the Capital Aid Scheme are also set out in the attached table.
(a) Details of subsidies for science blocks are set out in the table which is incorporated in the reply to part (1) (b). No further grants or subsidies are payable.
No grants or subsidies are paid to independent schools over and above assistance provided for in the Capital Aid Scheme within the cost per pupil place.
Australian Capital Territory:
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
What is the value of (a) government and (b) private school sites in the Australian Capital Territory.
– The answer to the honourable member is as follows:
asked the Minister for Edu cation and Science, upon notice:
How many (a) male and (b) female teachers of each grade in government (i) primary and (ii) sec- ondary schools in the Australian Capital Territory, each year since 1964-65, continued to serve the school from the time of appointment (A) for the entire school year, (B) for more than 2 but less than 3 terms, (C) for more than one but less than 2 terms and (D) for not more than one term.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The information requested by the honourable member can only be extracted by using personal record cards in conjunction with the staff returns of Australian Capital Territory schools. These are held in Sydney by the New South Wales Education Department which is unable to devote the resources needed to obtain the information.
However, I am able to furnish the following tables for the honourable member’s information, but these require some explanation.
Table 1 gives the number of staff changes in Australian Capital Territory secondary schools based on responses by Principals to questionnaires. Information was sought on staff changes in terms 1 and 2 of 1968 and for each of the three terms of 1969 and 1970. Vacancies occurring in schools’ establishment during the year do not include relief teachers.
Table 2 gives figures for arrivals and departures of primary staff for each term. This includes new appointments, resignations, and transfers in and out of Australian Capital Territory schools. It does not include casual relief teachers. Information for arrivals and departures between third term 1970 and the beginning of the 1971 school year is not available.
Australian Capital Territory: Loans to Private Schools (Question No. 2207) Mr Enderby asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
What. Government loans have been made to private schools in the Australian Capital Territory each year from 1958-59.
What interest payments have been made on these loans.
en - The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
School authorities are expected to raise loans through the normal channels but the provisions of the Independent Schools (Loans Guarantee) Act 1969 broadened the sources of fund-raising.
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
What were the costs of (a) capital expenditure on school buildings, (b) furniture and fittings, (c) site development, (d) design and planning and (e) installations of (!) heat, light and power, (ii) telephones and (iii) water and sewerage for (A) government (i) primary and (ii) secondary and (B) non-government (i) primary and (ii) secondary schools in the Australian Capital Territory for each of the years from 1958-59 to 1969-70.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(ii) Some information on costs of telephone installation and connection in government schools is still being collected and I will supply details to the honourable member as soon as possible.
Up to 1956 no assistance was available. From 1956 to 1961 the Government gave assistance underthe Interest Subsidy Scheme to secondary schools. In November 1961 the Interest Subsidy Scheme was extended to primary schools.
In November 1965 the Government introduced the Capital Aid Scheme. At that lime, projects commenced under the Interest Subsidy Scheme were not eligible for consideration under the Capital Aid Scheme.
In November 1968 the Government extended the provisions ofthe Capital Aid Scheme to projects commenced under the Interest Subsidy Scheme. This is referred to as the Interest Subsidy/Capital Aid Conversion. (See Table ‘C’).
As the name implies the interest Subsidy Scheme was limited to the Government paying an interest subsidy up to the long-term bond rate on loans raised by independent schools for approved school building projects.
Three phases of construction of independent schools can therefore be distinguished- (1) An unsubsidised period-up to 1956 for secondary schools and ‘up” to 1962 for primary schools. Accurate ‘ ‘information about Capital expenditure “ ‘during this period is unavailable except for those unsubsidised schools which later apply for extensions or modifications under the Capital Aid Scheme.
Under the Interest Subsidy Scheme the only relevant item for the Commonwealth was the loan raised for an approved project, which may or may not have represented the total capital expenditure on life school.
The Interest Subsidy/Capital Aid Conversion was based on the outstanding balance of loans.
The Honourable Member will note that the total liability incurred is also set out in the tables.
The balance of information requested in the question is not available in the form sought as the schemes of assistance did not require it.
As the projects commenced under the Interest Subsidy Scheme have now been absorbed into the Capital Aid Scheme, with certain variations relating to periods of loan repayments, 1 would like to outline for the Honourable Member the main features of the Capital Aid Scheme:
Independent schools are permitted innovations and standards differing from those of government schools, provided the overall cost per pupil place in these schools is not greater than in comparable government schools.
My final general comment relates to the components taken into account in determining a cost per pupil place. This comment is relevant to the form in which the school authority submits information on a particular project for examination:
Building contract price, including electrical and mechanical services and grounds development.
Costs for loose furniture and equipment.
Professional Fees. The figure of 9 per cent is normally used. lt is apparent that contracts for individual projects are not directly comparable, one with another, particularly as school design is not static and independent schools are free to develop facilities to meet their particular educational requirements.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Attendance at the College from Australian forces in the period 1961-1970 has been as follows:
In addition 43 members of the Royal Papua and New Guinea Constabulary and since 1962 23 officers from New Zealand have attended courses and 39 officers from the following countries: Cambodia, Ceylon, East New Britain, Fiji, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Korea, Lagos, Laos, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Nauru, New Hebrides, Nigeria, Philippines, Singapore, Tanzania, Tonga and Western Samoa.
Papua and New Guinea: Police from Rabaul (Question No. 2366)
asked the Minister for
External Territories, upon notice:
What is the present post of each of the expatriate police sub-inspectors who were charged and suspended in connection with the incidents near Rabaul on 4th April 1970 (Hansard, 12th June 1970, page 3689 and 17th September 1970, page 1261).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Sub-Inspector R. B. Dodd is posted at Mount Hagen, Western Highlands District.
Sub-Inspector D. J. Fitzgibbon is posted at Kieta, Bougainville District.
Sub-Inspector H. J. Trebilcock has been posted to Bereina, Central District, but is at present on leave.
Sub-Inspector V. L. Davis has resigned from the Royal Papua and New Guinea Constabulary.
The four officers were reinstated following the decision of the East New Britain District Court that one had no case to answer upon the charges laid against him and the acquittal of the other three officers by the Supreme Court in respect of charges brought against them. (See Hansard, 17th September, 1970, page 1262.)
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
What was the result of the investigation his predecessor promised on 27th October 1970 into the freight charges to New Guinea (Hansard, page 2765).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
An investigation was undertaken by my predecessor into the circumstances regarding the cartage of cement to New Guinea.
His understanding of the position was that the rates quoted by the honourable member were substantially correct except that the Japan-New Guinea rate was ‘free-in’. Stevedoring costs in New Guinea were therefore additional to these rates. Of the some $16 per ton Australia-New Guinea rate, the Australian stevedoring cost component was of the order of $9.
The Japan-New Guinea rate was set by Conference against competition from nonconference operators. These shipowners are able to offer marginally costed rates on positioning voyages. The Australian National ‘Line, however, was not a member of the Conference when these rates were set.
The Australian and New Zealand Eastern Shipping Conference does not cover the AustraliaNew Guinea trade. Rates in this trade are set by individual shipowners. Additionally as New Guinea is outside the tariff system there is no protection for Australian manufacturers.
It was true to say that Australia is not in the New Guinea cement market. In 1968-69, for instance, 72,000 tons of cement were imported into New Guinea. Of this, 66,000 tons came from Japan while 200 tons came from Australia.
While the Australian landed cement costs are higher than the Japanese, the freight rate difference is not the sole cause for this position.
Third Party Insurance (Question No. 2463)
asked the Minister for
Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
Has the Transport Advisory Council yet received a report from the Committee established by the New South Wales Government to examine all aspects of Third Party Insurance schemes.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I understand that the New South Wales Government has received such a report and has decided not to release it at this time.
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
What was the date and text of the instructions given by the Governor-General to the Administrator of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea under section 15 of the Papua and New Guinea Act.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
On 20th August 1970 the Governor-General pursuant to the power conferred by section 15 of the Papua and New Guinea Act gave instructions to the Administrator of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The text of these instructions is as follows:
Papua and New Guinea Act 1949-1968
Commonwealth of By his Excellency the GoverAustralia to wit nor-General fit and over the PAUL HASLUCK Commonwealth of Australia. Governor-General
WHEREAS it is provided by section 15 of the Papua and New Guinea Act 1949-1968 that the
Administrator of the Territory ofPapua and New Guinea shall exercise and perform all powers and functions that belong to his office in accordance with the tenor of his Commission and in accordance with such instructions as are given to him by the Governor-General:
AND WHEREAS my Government has decided on new arrangements in relation to the Government of the said Territory for the purpose of bringing about a significant transfer of power to elected representatives of the people of the Territory:
AND WHEREAS it is intended that, under the said arrangements, the Ministerial Members, and Assistant Ministerial Members, of the House of Assembly of the said Territory will exercise full authority, and accept full responsibility, in relation to certain matters and that the powers and functions of the Administrator of the said Territory will be exercised consistently with the said arrangements:
CAEDWALLA HASLUCK, the Governor-General aforesaid, acting with the advice of the Federal Executive Council, hereby give the following instructions to the person from time to time holding the office of Administrator of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea or exercising and performing the powers and functions that belong to that office:
Given under my Hand and the Great Seal of the Commonwealth this twentieth day of (L.S.) August in the year of Our Lord, One thousand nine hundred and seventy, and in the nineteenth year of Her Majesty’s reign.
By His Excellency’s Command, C. E. BARNES
Minister of State for External Territories. Copies of these instructions were placed in the Parliamentary Library together with Instruments under section 24 and 25 of the Papua and New Guinea Act on 24th August 1970.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
How much is the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission called upon to pay back to its partners in the Eastern Searoad Service in respect of operations in 1969-70.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Australian Coastal Shipping Commission operates in the Eastern Searoad Service with the Flinders Shipping Company Ltd of Australia and Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd of Japan. The agreement under which the service operates of course must provide for adjustments between the partners to reflect their respective shares of Conference trades.
In this operation the Commission is working with two private shipping companies. The disclosure of the financial details sought would rightly be regarded as a breach of commercial confidence. In these circumstances I am not prepared to supply the information.
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
What expenditure was incurred by Commonwealth Departments and authorities in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea in 1969-70.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Expenditure incurred in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea in 1969-70 by Commonwealth departments and authorities which receive financial support from the Commonwealth Budget is shown
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 February 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1971/19710224_reps_27_hor71/>.