House of Representatives
11 April 1972

27th Parliament · 2nd Session

Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.

page 1393


Postmaster-General’s Department

Minister for the Army · KENNEDY, QUEENSLAND · CP

– I present the following petition:

To the Honourable the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:

That the Postmaster-General’s Department Central Office policy, of centralising Post Office affairs and activities under the various titles of Area Management, Area Mail Centres, Area Parcel Centres and similar titles is resulting in both loss of service and lowering of the standards of service to the public, directly resulting in the closing of Post Offices, which is detrimental to the public interest

Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to:

Call a halt to all closing of Post Offices and reorganising within the Post Office until full details of the proposed savings and all details of alteration to the standards of service to the public are made available to Parliament, and

Initiate a joint Parliamentaryinquiry into the Postmaster-General’s Department, to assess the degree on which it should be run as a normal business undertaking and to what extent its unprofitable activities should be subsidised as a public service charged more correctly to national development.

And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.

Petition received.

Similar petitions were presented by Mr Garland, Mr Street, Mr King, Mr Bonnett, Mr Brown, Mr Allan Fraser, Sir Winton Turnbull, Mr Les Johnson, Mr Maisey, Mr Webb, Mr McIvor and Mr Grassby.

Commonwealth Scholarships


– I present the following petition:

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of citizens of the community of the Australian National University respectfully sheweth:

That the increase in tertiary education fees for 1972 will cause increased hardship for a significant proportion of tertiary students.

That tertiary fees and concomitant living costs are a formidable barrier preventing significant numbers of students entering tertiary education who nevertheless have the ability to do so.

That the increase in tertiary fees for 1972 is immoral, in that Universities and Colleges of Advanced Education are being further restricted to that minimal section of the Australian population who can afford to send their sons and daughters onto higher education.

That all education should be free including tertiary education.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government take immediate action to introduce in order of priority:

Universal Commonwealth Scholarships

Commonwealth Scholarships on the basis of need rather than academic ability

Abolition of tertiary fees

And your petitioners, as in duly bound, will ever pray.

Petition received.

Williamstown Rifle Range: Snake Menace


– I present the following petition:

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Victoria respectfully sheweth:

Bring to your notice the presence of venomous snakes encroaching on homes/schools (Williamstown Girl’s High and Williamstown Boy’s Technical) from the Department of Army, Merrett Rifle range, Kororoit Creek Road, in the city of Williamstown.

Your petitioners pray that the Department of Army take immediate steps to clean up this area to eradicate the infestation of snakes occurring there resulting to date with the death of household pets with the recurrent threat to humans.

We respectfully point out that the prevalence of long grass and undergrowth is most conducive to the breeding of snakes, accordingly we would be humbly grateful if this most serious problem could be given urgent attention.

And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.

Petition received and read.

Australian Capital Territory Pharmacy Ordinance


– I present the following petition:

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of citizens of the Division of the Australian Capital Territory respectfully showeth:

That the Australian Capital Territory Pharmacy Ordinances 1931-1959 Section 46, sub-section (1) states that ‘A person shall not publish any statement, whether by way of advertisement or otherwise, to promote the sale of any article as a medicine, instrument or appliance …. for preventing conception’.

And that this infringes upon each individual’s right as a human being to all available information about contraceptive devices in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the words’or for preventing conception’be deleted from Sub-section. (1) of Section 46 of the Australian Capital Territory Pharmacy Ordinances. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.

Petition received.

Social Services


– 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 electors of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:

That on December 10, 1948, Australia signed the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, Article 25 reads: ‘Everyone has the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age and other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.’

Yet, 23 years later, in our country of great national wealth and abundance it is to the nation’s shame that many thousands of our people live in a state of being inconsistent with the dignity and worth of the human person - languishing in poverty and want, neglect and the lack of proper care necessary for their health and well-being.

We, the undersigned, respectfully draw to your attention that the conscience of the nation is not at ease while the records of our country show that social services are not comparable with that of other advanced countries administering such services, therefore, we call upon the Commonwealth Government to immediately legislate for:

Base pension rate - 30 per cent of the average weekly male earnings, all states, plus supplementary assistance and allowances based on a percentage of such earnings. Unemployed benefits equal to the foregoing.

Completely free health services to cover all needs of social service pensioners - hospitalisation, chronic and long-term illness, fractures, anaesthetics, specialist, pharmaceutical, hearing aids, dental, optical, physiotherapy, chiropody, surgical aids and any other appliances.

Commonwealth Government to promote a comprehensive national scheme in cooperation with the States and make finance available to provide for the building of public hospitals, nursing and hostel-type homes necessary to effectively meet the special requirements of aged people, in conjunction with a comprehensivedomiciliary care programme to enable aged people to stay in their homes.

Mental illness placed in the same position as physical illness.

Substantial Commonwealth increase in the $5 subsidy a day per public bed pensioner patient in general hospitals.

Ten per cent of Commonwealth revenue to local government for general activities which now include social welfare, health, conservation and other community needs. Commonwealth subsidy for the waiving of rates for pensioners.

Commonwealth Government to increase the non-repayable grant to the States for low rental home units for pensioners.

Royal Commission or other form of public enquiry into Australia’s social welfare structure that Australia may be brought into line with accepted world standards of the most advanced countries.

And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.

Petition received.

Similar petitions were received from Mr Les Johnson, Mr Reynolds, and Mr McIvor.

page 1394


Leader of the Opposition · Werriwa

– I give notice that, contingent on the order of the day for the resumption of the debate on the second reading of the Australian Institute of Marine Science Bill 1972 being read, I shall move:

That in view of the threat of pollution of the sea waters near Townsville, so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the debate on the second reading of the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill 1970 being resumed forthwith and the Bill having precedence of the Australian Institute of Marine Science Bill 1972 until disposed of.

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– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware of the tremendous economic loss to the nation caused by industrial accidents? Is he further aware of the considerable time lag in the finalising of compensation claims? Will the Minister make a nation-wide investigation of all aspects of industrial and rural industry accidents with a view to instituting a federal bureau to assist industry at all levels in accident prevention and in handling compensation claims?

Minister for Labour and National Service · FLINDERS, VICTORIA · LP

– I am certainly aware of the enormous loss which has been caused by industrial accidents throughout this country. I think, of course, of the loss of life and limb and 1 think also of the economic loss which has been sustained because of the very high level of industrial accidents in Australia. This question was the subject of a special industrial safety conference held in Canberra last year. Following that conference discussions have taken place between Commonwealth and State Ministers as to how best both the Commonwealth and the State governments may evolve a more adequate solution to a number of problems which have emerged in this general area.

The honourable gentleman will appreciate that the question of compensation goes far beyond the matter of Commonwealth interest. However, I am encouraged by what he has put forward. The particular suggestion he raises in relation to an investigation is one I will put under examination and, depending on the merits shown in the results of that examination, I will write to the honourable gentleman.

page 1395




– Has the Minister for Foreign Affairs had an opportunity to examine evidence relevant to the activities of the Rhodesian Information Centre in Sydney7 If so, have any illegalities been committed by the Centre? If so, what steps does the Minister propose taking to deal with them? In any event, will he inform the House, the Parliament and the public regarding the international practice in respect of propaganda conducted by one country within the territories of another?

Mr N H Bowen:

-I shall answer the last part of the question first. As honourable members know, Australia is a free society and we freely let information come in. The People’s Republic of China has a quite substantial distribution through the New China Newsagency and so on. I hope, speaking in a general way, that this will continue to be our approach in the Australian society, but the position regarding the Rhodesian Information Centre does raise additional questions because of the existence of Security Council resolutions which we have supported and faithfully observed. When dealing with anything which might be said to be coming from Southern Rhodesia it must always be considered whether the Security Council resolutions are concerned. This situation involves 3 areas. First, of course, there is the question that certain documents have been placed before my Department which, I understand, are supposed or alleged to have been stolen. This matter falls within the jurisdiction of my colleague, the Attorney-General, and it is a matter which necessarily I think all honourable members would want followed up. In our community people should not think that they are able to break into premises, steal property and use it in this fashion. This aspect certainly will be considered.

Dr Gun:

– Keep the Minister for Customs and Excise out of it.

Mr N H Bowen:

-I said that 3 departments were involved, the first being the Attorney-General’s Department. The second department is that administered by the Minister for Customs and Excise. It is a matter for him to deal with questions relating to the importation of goods. The House will be aware that following on the Security Council resolutions we did amend our regulations in order to carry out our obligations under those resolutions of the Security Council. I would leave it to the Minister for Customs and Excise to deal with that aspect of the matter. I come now to the matter which concerns the third department involved, namely, the Department of Foreign Affairs. I have read with great interest the newspapers from day to day because very little of what has been said in them has borne any relation to facts which have been placed constantly before me. In brief, what I say is this: A study has been made of the material which has been placed in the hands of the Department of Foreign Affairs. It is the advice of my Department and also my advice to the Prime Minister that the documents do not constitute grounds for closing the Rhodesian Information Centre.

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– I ask a question of the Minister for Customs and Excise concerning material from Rhodesia which apparently has come into Australia in breach of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations which were amended in December 1968 to cover cinematograph films exposed and developed unless the Minister has given his consent in writing for the importation of those films. Did the Minister ever give his consent in writing for any such imports by the Rhodesian Information Centre? As the authenticity of the documents published in the ‘Review’ and the ‘Age’ and handed over to the Government has not been disputed by the Rhodesian Information Centre I ask him what action is being taken against the individuals concerned for their breaches of the Customs regulations revealed in this document. Lastly, since these documents relate to the period up to July last and since the March 1972 issue of ‘Rhodesia Commentary’ refers to ‘new films on Rhodesia’ being shown to a film night in Melbourne, will the Minister investigate whether there have been subsequent violations of the regulations he administers?

Minister for Customs and Excise · HOTHAM, VICTORIA · LP

– Perhaps some background to this matter would be useful to the House so that, as the Government would hope, the matter could be looked at in its proper perspective. The matter was first raised in 2 newspapers some 10 days ago and, because those articles alleged that there were evasions of the Customs regulations, at that time I felt it was the duty of a responsible Minister to ask for an inquiry into and report on that allegation. This I did. The investigations indicated that there were on the premises of the Rhodesian Information Centre 5 films and a certain quantity of printed booklets, leaflets and material of this nature. After examination of them officers of my department came to the view that they appeared to be in breach of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations, to which the honourable gentleman has referred. So that this matter can be looked at in its proper perspective, because it has virtually had national headlines and because the Leader of the Opposition thinks it is important enough to be the subject of his first question today after a break in the sitting of the House of Representatives, I believe the House is entitled to the information.

There were 5 films which my officers believed appeared to contravene the regulations. One film was entitled ‘Trooping the Colour - a film of a colour trooping ceremony at which Mr Smith takes the salute’. The second film was one which I am sure would make every admirer of democracy shake with fear that it might destroy the foundations of our political structure. It was entitled ‘Para-olympics 1968 - portraying the paraplegic games in Israel’. The third film was entitled ‘Land of Legend - tourist promotional material produced for tourist bureaus, airlines etc.’. The fourth film was entitled ‘Two Leaves and a Bud - a story of tea growing in Rhodesia’. The fifth film would make all good lovers of democracy grow pale. It was entitled ‘Soccer’. It was a film of a soccer final in Salisbury. Because officers of my department believed that technically this material did breach the regulations relating to prohibited imports it was seized. The material other than films comprising printed booklets was of a similar tourist or information character. There is a law relating to this material and in the opinion of my officers this law was apparently transcended. Therefore, the documents were seized. There could be other courses open to me as Minister for Customs and Excise in this matter but because of the type of material the Government believes that the whole issue would be put completely out of perspective if any penalty were imposed on the people involved other than the seizure of the documents and films. The point at issue is: Has the law been evaded? In our view there has been some technical breach and we have taken action and seized the material. Surely when this matter of imported films on soccer and tea growing is related to the other local and international issues affecting the world today the only way in which this issue can be described is as a mammoth, king-size, grand imperial humbug.

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– I direct to the Prime Minister a question relating to the answer just given by the Minister for Customs and Excise. In view of the answer of the Minister will the Prime Minister investigate, with a view to repealing, that section of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations of December 1968 which places what many Australians consider to be a form of political censorship on Australians in that it prevents the Australian people from freely learning about both sides of the Rhodesian question?

Prime Minister · LOWE, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– Already the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Customs and Excise have given what I regard as more or less a perfect explanation of Government policy on this matter. We have also been looking at the regulations to which the honourable gentleman referred, and after discussion with my colleague the Minister for Customs and Excise, who has pointed out various inconsistencies within the regulations and the difficulties of interpretation. I gave an instruction that the relevant Ministers and the relevant departments examine the regulations with a view to making them more consistent with common sense and so as not to prohibit information of a legitimate character and of a character which a mature community like Australia should be permitted to see and to make up its own mind about.

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Dr J F Cairns:

– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry: Is it a fact that proposals for bulk shipping of wool from Australia are under consideration, which proposals are believed to be capable of reducing considerably the cost of shipping wool from Australia? Can the Minister say what is the attitude of the Australian Wool Board to these proposals and whether his own attitude differs from that of the Board? Can he assure the House that the matter will be fully examined and fully reported to the House so that it may examine the quotes, in effect, of both the shipping conference and the one or two competitors before any decision is finally made, especially if that decision is to retain the existing arrangements with the monopolistic shipping conference?

Deputy Prime Minister · RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

– The Australian Wool Board has had a long interest in freight rates charged for transporting wool, particularly in relation to wool carried by the conference lines. It has been involved in discussions and negotiations with ship owners, the British Wool Federation and Interlaine. I believe that the Board’s intervention in this matter has been of great importance to the Australian wool industry and that it has assisted in keeping freight rates down. At the moment considerable interest is being shown by the Wool Board in the question of bulk handling of wool. This is as surface cargo on top of other bulk cargoes, mainly in the form of steel billets and mineral sands. The firms which have had trial shipments in handling wool in this manner believe that they can provide a fairly regular service for Australia at a cheaper rate than the present freight rates. However, there is still a lot of investigation needed in order to assess the full economics of this form of handling wool. The point I would like to make to the House is that this Government believes that there is a tremendous advantage - a national interest advantage - in having the conference lines. The most important point is that we are assured of regular shipping services to many ports of Australia and to many other ports of destination and also that a variety of cargoes can be carried by the conference lines. If it were decided to move wool outside the conference lines, it could seriously interfere with or disrupt our existing services to other industries. Therefore the matter must be examined very carefully before consideration is given to making a major change.

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– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior and it relates to the number of members of the House of Representatives. Can he inform me of the procedure in the event of 2 additional electorates being created in the western area of Sydney?

Minister for the Interior · GWYDIR, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

– I did read a report that the Leader of the Opposition had made it clear that in the event of a Labor government coming to power 2 additional electorates would be created in the western areas of Sydney.

Mr Whitlam:

– The census shows that that is necessary.


– The census does not show that, under the present arrangement. But the Leader of the Opposition has often referred of course, to a Supreme Court decision that was taken in the United States of America and has tried to relate the United States Constitution to the Australian Commonwealth Constitution. This of course implies that the Australian Parliament has acted ultra vires the Commonwealth Constitution, and that is so much nonsense. It is well known that if a Labor government is elected to power there will be a redistribution based on a one vote one value principle, not on the basis of those enrolled but on a basis which includes children and migrants not yet enrolled.

Mr Whitlam:

– And Aborigines.


– And Aborigines.


-Order! There are far too many interjections. I suggest that they cease.


– In conclusion, what the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition means is the abandonment of the system that provides for a 20 per cent variation above or below the quota of voters for an electorate. This system has stood the test of time since 1902 in spite of Labor governments. Its abandonment will tie the hands of the Redistribution Commissioners. The 2 proposed new electorates will be created at the expense of the country people in New South Wales and in every other State. (Opposition members interjecting) -


-Order! I ask the Minister to resume his seat. I will ask him to continue when the House comes to order. If the House wants to take up question time with interjections I am willing to sit here a long time while it does so. I now call the Minister to resume his reply.


– The proposal of the Leader of the Opposition will further stifle the electoral voice of the country people already living in large and cumbersome electorates. That is what it means.

page 1398




– Will the Prime Minister let the House know the Government’s attitude to foreign ownership of the shares of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd in the light of the present bid by Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd to take over that company?


– I have had discussions with representatives of Trans-Australia Airlines, Ansett Transport Industries Ltd and Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd. They all desire that the system at present in existence - the 2-airline policy - should continue. I have insisted that whatever is done in the future must be on a basis of equity and without any kind of discrimination. But the point has been raised as to what might happen as to the ownership of the shares should a takeover or partial takeover take place, and I can state accurately and clearly the position of the Government. First of all, we will not permit any foreign takeover or action which would result in foreign control of the corporation. That is the fixed Government policy. Secondly, the position is being watched very closely not only by the Treasurer but also by myself in order to ensure that no action is taken by either Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd or Ansett Transport Industries Ltd that might prejudice the Commonwealth’s position relating to Commonwealth guarantees for the aircraft borrowing programmes. In other words, not only will we protect the nation’s interest but we will also protect the financial interest of the Commonwealth.

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– I ask the Minister for the Navy: DM he arrange for HMAS ‘Stalwart’ to ship back to Australia substantial amounts of privately purchased furniture from Hong Kong?

Minister for the Navy · EVANS, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– The answer is: It would depend on what is meant by ‘substantial*. HMAS ‘Stalwart’ brought back for me from Hong Kong 4 small stools about 18 inches square. If that is ‘substantial’ the answer is yes; if not, the answer is no.

page 1398




– Can the Minister for Social Services provide the House with any further information in relation to his decision to refuse unemployment benefit to certain persons in connection with the recent Victorian power strike? Is there any justification for the criticism of the Government’s policy in this matter?

Minister for Social Services · MACKELLAR, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– My answer to this question might be somewhat lengthy, Mr Speaker, and perhaps it will suit the convenience of the House if I seek leave after question time to make a statement.

page 1398




– Has the Prime Minister seen reports of an allegation by the AttorneyGeneral that the Western Australian Government had issued instructions to the State police not to execute warrants against young men allegedly evading their responsibilities under the National Service Act? Does he know that these allegations have been denied by the Premier, the Minister for Police and the Commissioner of Police of Western Australia? Will he dissociate himself from the Attorney-General’s allegation and direct him to withdraw the allegation?


– I will take the matter up immediately with the Attorney-General and I will advise the honourable member of the result.

page 1399




– Is the Prime Minister concerned about the possible erosion of the free enterprise system by the tendency in recent years of company takeovers - 1 have in mind the activities of companies such as Slater Walker Securities (Australia) Ltd and Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd - where such activities result in monolithic enterprises?


– I believe it is already well known to the House that the whole question of restrictive trade practices and monopolies is now engaging the very earnest and detailed consideration of the Government. Regrettably it is an extremely complicated problem and it is compounded by reason of the fact that the number of drafting officers is not sufficiently great to permit the Government’s objectives to be achieved so that we can introduce immediately a Bill relating to the legislation. I have been in constant contact with my colleague the Attorney-General and I have been urging as strenuously as I can that the Bill in respect of this legislation should be brought down as quickly as possible. I am sure that this is the desire of the Attorney-General and of the legal officers of the Crown as well.

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– I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise a question. It relates to a book directed at school children aged from 12 to 18 years, the importation of which he has allowed. Will the honourable gentleman inform me whether, before this action, he consulted the Minister for Education and Science or any of the State Ministers for Education?


– The short answer to the honourable gentleman’s question is no, although before the book was formally released each State Chief Secretary was in fact informed of it. As there has been come publicity on this matter, I believe that the House might be interested in the background to it. The book is in very small print of more than 200 pages essentially in 3 sections. The book deals with the attitude of younger people to the educational, political and social structures in which they find themselves and it has a section on sex and a section on drugs. The book contains some advice which an adult might consider to be good advice and some which an adult might consider to be bad advice.

I was advised that the only chapter on which we had any legal power to declare the book a prohibited import was the chapter on sex. We had no regulation upon which to declare the book a prohibited import either with respect to the section on education or the section on drugs. I was advised that the chapter on sex would not merit prohibition and prohibition could successfully be challenged in court. The rest of the book is about ideas and I hold the very strong view that if there are bad ideas coming out in books, the way to combat them is with good ideas and by example and discussion. If we get to the stage of prohibiting literature which brings in ideas, no matter how repulsive they may be to us, we are coming perilously close to political censorship. That to me is sheer anathema.

While I am on my feet, I would like to say just 2 more things. The chapter on education contains good advice and bad advice. Part of the good advice is that if a student cannot get along with his teacher or if his teacher is a poor one, he should try to help his teacher. The book very strongly and unequivocally states that cigarette smoking and alcohol are bad things and that all drug taking is a bad thing. The book docs not have only unpleasant aspects. On the other hand, if I had declared the book a prohibited import, there is no question that it would have been printed in Australia. I did have some prior information on this point. What does the honourable gentleman want? Doss he want us to give millions of dollars worth of free publicity to something that would be printed and published locally, giving it front page coverage in all the newspapers and making it a best seller, when it does not warrant that sort of treatment?

page 1400




– Is the Prime Minister aware of a revival of Swedish immigration to Australia? Has he noted the remarks of a spokesman for a group of recent Swedish arrivals indicting that excessive taxation and insufficient capacity for individual initiative were significant stimulants to this particular exodus from a socieity much praised by members opposite? Can the Prime Minister assure the House that it is the intention of this Government to maintain in Australia a society where individual freedom is not submerged beneath the impersonal weight of socialisation?


– The honourable gentleman has put very eloquently the policy of the Government - that we do not believe in any kind of policy that will- (Mr Foster interjecting) -


-Order! If the honourable member for Sturt does not contain himself during question lime he will leave me with no option but to see that he enjoys question time outside the chamber listening to the radio.


– To continue my answer to the last part of the honourable member’s question: We believe in giving whatever stimulus we can to those people who want to visit this country, who can make a positive contribution to our growth and development and also who can make a contribution to our cultural development. In other words, we believe in providing the kind of incentive which will induce this kind of person to come here, to stay here and to fit in as part and parcel of the whole Australian community.

page 1400


page 1400




– I ask the Foreign Minister a question. Do the documents from the Rhodesian Information Centre in the hands of his Department include a letter from what is described as a Rhodesian diplomatic mission which shows that an officer of the South African Embassy in Canberra was engaged in the use of diplo matic privileges on behalf of agents of the Smith regime? Further, do the documents show that the South African Ambassador, on learning of this practice, ordered it to stop and that later the officer named agreed to have films sent to his private address? I ask: What action does the Government propose to take against the officer of the South African Embassy for the apparent breach of the Australian law?

Mr N H Bowen:

-I have not myself read all the documents so I cannot of my own knowledge answer piece by piece what the Leader of the Opposition has put to me. But my information does not accord with his account of the documents. The facts relating to the member of the South African Embassy are rather that apparently the Rhodesian office thought it had some arrangement with him and this was never carried out. Indeed, the South African Ambassador has given us an assurance that neither in the past nor in the present has the Embassy or any official in it taken part in the suggested activity.

page 1400




– I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. I know that the Minister is aware of the serious position facing many fruit growers in northern Victoria. I ask: Is he aware of the urgency of announcing the principles of a tree pull compensation scheme so that growers can plan their future with some certainty? Will the Minister inform the House what progress was achieved with the implementation of such a scheme for the canning fruit industry at last Thursday’s meeting of Federal and State officers in Canberra?

Minister for Primary Industry · NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

– I am fully aware of the urgency with which the honourable member regards the implementation of the tree pull programme. At the same time, as I have advised him and the House on earlier occasions, the introduction of any scheme to relate the available level of production to existing markets or potential markets is one which involves a fairly broad canvass of many issues. The officers of my Department, together with the officials of the State departments, have been looking at various alternative proposals. It is true that there was a further meeting last week. At this stage I am not in a position to make a recommendation to government but I can assure the honourable gentleman that the urgency with which he regards the matter will be taken into account in endeavouring to formulate a policy which will enable the industry to meet realistically the future market conditions.

Of course, there are very real problems associated with this industry in relation to the potential entry by Britain into the European Economic Community. Also there are problems which flow on from that into other sections of the horticultural industry, none of which can be ignored in the present considerations.

page 1401




– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration who represents the Minister for Health in this chamber. Since the level of observance of the most common fee for general practitioner surgery consultations ranges from 88 per cent in South Australia and Western Australia to only 52 per cent in New South Wales, I ask: Does the Government consider that the GP fees are adequately covered by Commonwealth and benefit fund rebates? As the situation is even worse for home visits, when does the Government intend to act, or can the community expect to continue to meet the cost of these visits largely by direct payment until there is a change of government?

Minister for Immigration · BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · LP

– As the honourable gentleman is or should be aware, an inquiry is going on in New South Wales at the present moment. This is an inquiry related to item 1 and item 4 of the medical benefits scheme in New South Wales. But in announcing the setting up of the inquiry and its terms of reference my colleague said that the Government will be looking at the whole situation as a result of anything that might come out of the inquiry. So I do not think there is anything that I can usefully say to the honourable gentleman until the Government sees the report of the inquiry and has considered it.

page 1401




– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the uncertainty in many sections of the wool industry about the possible introduction of an acquisition scheme, could the Minister advise the

House when the Randall Committee’s report to the Government on the wool industry is likely to be presented? Can the Minister give an indication as to whether any legislative action necessary to implement alterations in the wool auction scheme or in the composition of statutory wool authorities will be introduced into the House in this session so that the changes can be operative at the beginning of the 1972-73 wool season?

Mr Daly:

– The answer is no, no, no.


– I am delighted to hear that the honourable member for Grayndler is so interested in the future of the wool industry. A good many members of this House share his concern. There are problems in making an effective examination of the issues involved in introducing any change in the present marketing system. Of course, the Randall Commitee is charged, on a broad canvas, with looking at the future of the wool industry in relation to market prospects and present marketing and handling methods.

The principal objective of the Government in its consideration of the recommendations tendered to it by the Australian Wool Industry Conference is to try to ensure that if recommended changes can be translated into policy those changes will achieve some meaningful economies in the marketing of the product. It is obvious that there are techniques by which marked changes can be made in the handling of the commodity, but objective assessments must be made of, for instance, sale by sample, or core testing, preferably over the whole of the clip, or even over a substantial proportion of it. I understand that the Randall Committee is still making a judgment upon technical aspects of this character. I expect that the Committee will be concluding its deliberations shortly. As soon as the Committee has done so the Government will consider the Committee’s recommendations and, if necessary, legislation will be introduced into this Parliament to implement so much of those recommendations as it is felt should be adopted in the immediate future.

page 1401




– I desire to address a question to the Prime Minister. Does the Prime Minister recall announcing last month the appointment of 5 persons to the committee of inquiry to examine the role of the crafts as art forms? Can he advise which one of the five has had any professional knowledge or practical experience in the crafts? Will he appoint to the committee a person capable of assessing on a practical basis the needs and requirements of Australian crafts? Further, is there any truth in the report that the Government will no longer provide funds to encourage new works by Australian artists?

Minister for Environment, Aborigines and the Arts · CASEY, VICTORIA · LP

– The answer to the last part of the question is no. As to the first part of the question, the reason why these people were selected to form this committee of inquiry into the crafts was that it was decided that they had general knowledge over the whole field of arts and crafts in Australia. The Crafts Council has made special representations concerning the membership of the committee. I have pointed out to the Council that people who have special vested interests in this field should not be appointed to the committee but should have full opportunity to present their views to the committee. I have told the Crafts Council that it will have every opportunity to present its views and that all those views will be taken fully into consideration by the committee during its deliberations. I hope the committee will start its hearings within the course of the next few days.

page 1402



Mr Malcolm Fraser:

- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make 2 small corrections to the answer I gave to a question on 29th March.


-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Mr Malcolm Fraser:

-The question asked concerned the degree of increased expenditure by governments on State primary and secondary education since the Commonwealth Government’s per capita grants were begun. Since the per capita grants were introduced and became operative in the latter half of the 1969-70 financial year the annual per pupil cost for government primary schools had increased by $82, not the $44 that I had stated, and the cost for government secondary schools had increased by $136, not by $126 as I had stated. I had misread a table that I had been given.

page 1402


Mr Malcolm Fraser:

- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.


-Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr Malcolm Fraser:

– Yes. Last Sunday in Melbourne there was a meeting of the Liberal Party. This meeting was reported initially by the ‘Age’ on 10th April. I had not taken any account of the headline in the ‘Age’ because, by itself, I thought it not worthy of comment. The headline read: ‘Don’t Judge us on Welfare’ with my name attached to it. Today the Melbourne ‘Age’ contained an editorial which contained certain statements which I shall quote, because this is a serious matter. The editorial contained these words:

Perhaps the most disturbing element in Fraser’s argument is its apparent assumption that government has, at best, a limited moral obligation to help the weak and the underprivileged.

Later the following appears:

We might, so long as we do not follow Mr . . Fraser’s advice and de-emphasise compassion, charity, concern for the deprived and congenitally underprivileged, the value of human dignity. Will Australia be ‘more robust’ if it perpetuates a permanent class of deprived citizens living in poverty?

Those views, which are the views attributed by the editorial to me, are, I believe, quite false and could not be brought out in the speech that I made. I could quote a number of passages from that speech. However, in fairness to the Age’ I should say that there was a paragraph in my speech which read thus:

There is a view that judges the Government’s performance on the benefits or concessions that it provides year by year. It would be better if the Government were judged by the opportunities it provides, by the encouragement it can afford to private individuals to work and prosper.

That alone could have been the only thing which would lead the ‘Age’ to its conclusions. It should have been read with 2 other passages which I regard as a paramount importance. In the first passage I said:

It needs to be understood that even in a modern society with a highly developed social conscience with a broad programme for assistance to underprivileged groups, for the great majority they must still live by their own efforts, by their own work.

In the second passage I said:

For a country to remain strong it is necessary for governments to encourage the productive sector in the economy. This doesn’t mean to say that this can or ought to be done without regard to other matters, to the underprivileged, without regard to the quality of life issues, without regard to the environment Greater economic strength and enterprise is compatible with and consistent with these other objectives which a modem community requires.

But it is not always sufficiently understood that it is strength in the productive sector which gives us the capacity and the ability to meet other difficulties, other challenges, other requirements for the development of a greater Australia. Much of the pressure within our community comes upon governments to assist the weaker, the less well-off, the underprivileged groups within our community, and governments have a great and serious obligation and responsibility In this area.

Those sections of my speech I believe completely refute the suggestions made in the ‘Age’ and expressed in that particular editorial. Other sections of the editorial could be mentioned also, but it is not worth it. I only hope that this response will get the same publicity, in full, in the ‘Age’ as the editorial this morning.

page 1403


Minister for National Development · Darling Downs · LP

– Pursuant to section 21 of the River Murray Waters Act 1915-1970, I present the report of the River Murray Commission for the year ended 30th June 1971; together with the Commission’s financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements, statements of gaugings and diversions during the year, furnished on behalf of the governments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

page 1403


Mr N H Bowen:
Minister for Foreign Affairs · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Australian delegation to the twenty-sixth session of the United Nations General Assembly.

page 1403


Minister for Supply · Curtin · LP

– In accordance with the under taking I gave to the House on 22nd March, while moving the second reading of the Papua New Guinea Loan (Asian Development Bank) Bill 1972, I present for the information of honourable members the assurances given by the Commonwealth, as requested by the Administrator of Papua New Guinea, in connection with the loan.

page 1403


Ministerial Statement Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar- Minister for Social Sevices) - by leave - Earlier today the honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley) asked me a question which seemed to me to require a lengthy answer and I said that instead of answering at length I would seek leave after question time to make a statement.


– 1 thank the Minister for his co-operation.


– The matters referred to in the question arise as an aftermath of the power strike in Victoria. The House will remember that during the strike unemployment benefits were not made available to members of unions that were involved in that strike. Exceptions were made, of course, in the case of members of unions who had been unemployed before the strike commenced, and after the strike had settled down continuity was given to those members of unions who were still unemployed. The principles adopted by the Government were strictly in accordance with the principles laid down in 1947 by the then Labor Government.

Mr Kennedy:

– Rubbish.


– This has been mentioned from time to time by me in the House and some honourable members have doubted the accuracy of what I have said. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) only recently in this House said in regard to those statements:

The Minister has given no proof of it whatsoever. I say tonight categorically that he has made it up and it is completely untrue.

The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) in an interjection a few moments ago said ‘rubbish’ and he has said the same kind of thing on other occasions in the

House. I think it is proper to put the evidence before the House and to let the House know that what I have said is rot only true but also is established by the necessary documents. In April 1947 a Cabinet sub-committee consisting of the late Mr Chifley, the late Dr Evatt and Senator McKenna came to a decision on this matter. The House will understand that I cannot table the Cabinet minute because even though it is a minute of a former government, Cabinet minutes are regarded as confidential documents. However, I can quote an extract which was the direction given to my Department in April 1947 and which constitutes the instruction on which my Department has operated this matter ever since. The direction states:

Ministerial direction to be given -

  1. incorporating Government decision that man not to be disqualified by reason only of refusal to undertake work available through strike or lock-out.
  2. If class or body of employees, its officers or committee authorise or sponsor a key man strike and members other than key men thrown out of work, no unemployment benefit for those other members.
  3. If key men without sponsorship of other members, or of the organisation or its officers, go on strike and throw other members out of work - then no benefit to anyone unless -

    1. organisation disowns key man strike and orders key men back to work;
    2. organisation orders its other men to be ready to work;
    3. those other men are willing to work; also - if when those other men return to place of work and refuse to work in conjunction with ‘white collar’ workers replacing striking key men - then those other men deemed to be on strike.

Those are the instructions which were recorded in writing and given to my Department in 1947. The matter was raised subsequently and there is on the file a letter dated 12th May 1948 signed by Senator McKenna, who was then Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services. It constitutes a direction to my Department and is not a Cabinet document. I will now read it and lay a photostat copy of it on the table of the House. The letter was written on 12th May 1948 to the Director-General of Social Services and stated:

All Unions represented at the Conference with me in Sydney on 23rd April accepted the prin ciple that the Commonwealth could not permit unemployment benefit to be used for financing strifes.

I informed the deputation that no hard and fast rule should be laid down to cover cases where a strike of key worker unionists in one industry threw out of work members of the same Union in another industry but that all the circumstances would have to be taken into account, e.g., conduct of the Union and its executives.

The Prime Minister’s’assurance’ carries the position no further than this.

I ask honourable members to listen to the last paragraph:

The broad principle must be applied that if the sponsorship by a Union of a Key Worker strike causes unemployment the Union and its members whether in the same or another industry must accept responsibility for the natural and foreseeable consequences of their sponsorship.

I lay on the table a photostat copy of that letter from Senator McKenna who was then the Minister in charge, which constituted a direction to this Department.

In the circumstances I am entitled to apologies from the honourable member for Grayndler and the honourable member for Bendigo. I know that it is not within your province, Mr Speaker, to demand such apologies from the honourable memberfor having regard to these documents those apologies should be given now to me by those 2 honourable members who have said in the House that I had no evidence for the statements thatI was making. I have laid the evidence on the table of the House.

In reply to the second part of the question asked by the honourable member for Chisholm, there is no justification whatsoever for the criticism that has been raised in this place and elsewhere by honourable members that the Government was not adopting correct principles in this matter. The Government has followed principles which were laid down by a preceding Labor Government. It is to the national advantage that nothing should be done to enable unnecessary strikes to be prolonged and so prolong the misery which those strikes occasion. It is not only in this House that mention has been made of this subject. Only recently on 21st March I received a letter from Mr L. Carmichael, who is the Commonwealth Assistant Secretary - that is how he signs himself - of the Amalgamated Engineering Union and who is, of course, a Communist of long standing and therefore an enemy of Australia. I want honourable members to listen to this letter and to take note of what it implies. He writes:

I have, at the request of the Administrative Committee of the Amalgamated Metal Unions, to protest at your recent action in denying Social Service Benefit to members of unions stood down as a result of the dispute in the State Electricity Commission, Victoria.

The Commonwealth Administrative Committee endorse the views of our members in Victoria that this was an outrageous action and deliberately vindictive.

I ask honourable members to note the last paragraph, which reads:

You are advised that the matter has been raised with our fraternal organisation in Great Britain with the request that it be widely publicised in that country and that it be also raised with the International Metal Workers’ Federation as a question of denial of social justice.

Honourable members will see that this man is a communist who is trying to do the maximum damage to Australia and who is not telling the truth, namely, that all that is being done by this Government is in conformity with what was laid down by the preceding Labor Government. I have written to him and said:

I would deprecate any attempt by you to make propaganda overseas in a way which would react against the interests of Australia, but if you decide to do this I trust that you will make plain the involvement of the preceding Labor Government in this course of action.

I realise that here we have a communist who is out to rubbish Australia and to do damage to Australia - that is one of his purposes - and that probably what I said in the letter will not, in his eyes, be very persuasive. I just ask the House to consider the way in which there is this parallelism between the propaganda which is put forward in this House by honourable members and the propaganda which is being put forward by an avowed and practising communist.

Finally let me refer to one other matter. I would like to quote exactly the remarks of the honourable member for Bendigo as recorded on page 1384 of Hansard of 29th March last. The honourable member said:

The mentality that the Minister reflected in his speech in reply to the honourable member for Corio was precisely that. Nothing is more typical of the union baiting and the arrogance of this Minister-

That is me - than his statement in reply to the honourable member for Corio, which is recorded on page 1060 of Hansard of 22nd March as follows:

Let me say quite clearly and definitely that it is the Government’s policy that public money should not be used to finance strikes.

The honourable member for Bendigo said in the House that he regards this as an inflammatory, vindictive and punitive statement. They are the adjectives he applied to it. Yet it is exactly the same - almost word for word - as the letter signed by Senator McKenna, which reads:

All unions represented at the Conference with me in Sydney on 23rd April accepted the principle that the Commonwealth could not permit unemployment benefit to be used for financing strikes.

I think I am now entitled to a public apology in this House from the honourable member for Grayndler and the honourable member for Bendigo.

page 1405


Assent reported.

page 1405



-I present the sixteenth report of the Publications Committee.

Motion - by leave - proposed:

That the report be adopted.


– I would like to ask the Chairman of the Publications Committee a question on the printing of papers. How many more documents are before the Committee for consideration and recommendation to this House that they be printed? The Budget session is coming on and if more information could be circulated to honourable members in printed form it would, I believe, greatly assist in the consideration of the Budget Papers or in the consideration of the principles on which the Budget is based.

Mr ERWIN (Ballaarat) - in reply -We have long lists of documents submitted to the Joint Committee at regular intervals and from those documents we choose the ones that we feel, in the interests of this House and the nation, should be printed. At this stage I would not be able to tellthe right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) how many more documents there are before the Committee because the documents are submitted regularly and we usually deal with them at 3-weekly intervals. I hope that answers the question asked by the right honourable gentleman.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 1406


Discussion of Matter of Public Importance


– 1 have received letters from the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) and the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. I have selected the matter proposed by the honourable member for Newcastle, namely:

The Government’s failure to introduce laws with respect to the takeover of companies, particularly where such companies operate under government franchises and guarantees.

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 have risen in their places).


– The proposal that this matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion was prompted by the recent announcement by Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd that it had purchased 23 £ per cent of the shareholding in Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. That announcement was made 3 weeks ago. Then as late as last Friday a further statement was made by TNT to the effect that it was making a takeover offer, involving some $46m, for the remainder of the shares in Ansett Transport Industries. This is the real reason why the Opposition wants to debate this matter of which I gave notice. The Government is involved in this matter as far as franchises are concerned. It is involved in regard to, firstly, the 2 television station licences which are held by Ansett Transport Industries and, secondly, the 2-alrline policy.

What concerns me and other members of the Australian Labor Party is that 3 weeks ago, when TNT made the announce ment that it had purchased a 23 £ per cent share interest in Ansett Transport Industries, a week elapsed without any statement from the Government. It was at that point of time, a fortnight ago, that the Opposition felt that it should raise this matter in the Parliament in an endeavour to get from the Government some clear statement of policy as to its attitude, particularly in view of the Government’s involvement in this matter. On that occasion I raised for discussion in this Parliament, as a matter of public importance, the need for an even-handed 2-airline policy. I thought that the debate on that occasion was very good, but unfortunately the Government once again saw fit to make no clear statement on policy. In fact the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz), on behalf of his colleague in another place, made this statement:

Obviously this introduces a new factor, the significance of which at present is not possible to assess. But it must be taken into consideration in the review of the policy for the future. At present it is not possible to make any comment, other than that the matter will be taken into consideration . . .

So it had taken the Government a week, following the acquisition by TNT of a 23 i per cent shareholding in Ansett, to reach the situation of being unable to make any comment. Last Friday TNT issued a statement on its takeover offer. Again . the Government has not since that time been prepared to make any statement about where it stands, and we have been forced to try to bring the Government out into the open and to persuade it to make a statement of policy about where it is going. What is involved in the bid by TNT to take over Ansett is not peanuts. Very large amounts of money are involved both in terms of the shares to be taken over by TNT and in terms of the turnover of these 2 large organisations. I believe that TNT’s annual turnover is about $102m, and the annual turnover of ATI, according to its last financial statement, is $187m, of which $132m is in its airline operations, which account for 71 per cent of its total operations. So a large amount of money is involved and I hope that the Government will today be prepared to make some positive statement about where it stands on this important subject.

We of the Opposition and the Australian Labor Party have been talking for some considerable time about the need in Australia for an integrated transport system involving sea, road, rail and air transport. One of the major factors in the Australian price structure today is the cost of transport. It has been suggested in various places that transport costs represent about 25 per cent of our total cost structure. We in the Labor Party believe that an integrated transport system can bring about some reduction in transport costs. We are not prepared to accept the present situation as it appears on the surface to be. We want something more positive done about it. At the present time the question is: Who is to bring about the integration of transport in Australia? Is it to be the Government, through Trans-Australia Airlines in air transport, and through other instrumentalities, such as the Australian National Line in the shipping field? Is it to be the Government through these undertakings, or is the integration to be achieved by the takeover of Ansett by TNT or by the amalgamation of these 2 companies? These are questions to which we would like some answers from the Government.

Whilst we are talking about takeovers, I can refer to a few interesting incidents to illustrate Ansett’s experience in takeovers. After all, both Ansett and TAA have had any amount of experience in takeovers. 1 believe that TNT has been involved in about 15 takeovers in reaching the position in which it stands at the moment, with an annual turnover of about $102m. Ansett on the other hand has been able peacefully to acquire the interests of other companies. It has gone about doing so very methodically and quietly, although Ansett has had some blow-ups. Companies taken over by Ansett include Southern Airlines of Victoria, Australian National Airways and Butler Air Transport Ltd. The former Butler organisation is now operated as Airlines of New South Wales. It is interesting to see the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) sitting at the table. If I remember rightly, he was involved to some extent in the Butler takeover in 1958. It would be interesting if he were to tell us his experience of what went on behind the scenes in that takeover. But that is beside the point at this stage.

The interesting point is that at the time of that blow-up there was a very bitter fight between Butler Air Transport and the Ansett organisation. Butler loaded his voting strength by issuing some 80,000 new voting rights to his employees to try to outvote the Ansett group. The Minister for Foreign Affairs may laugh, but it was interesting reading at that time. Ten aircraft were used by Ansett to bring shareholders from Melbourne to Sydney for a vote on the takeover. So when we talk about takeovers and all their ramifications, it must be remembered that both Ansett and TNT have had any amount of experience in this field. The most recent takeover by Ansett was that of MacRobertsonMiller Airline Services. So there are any number of takeovers we can talk about. When Butler and Ansett were involved in their fight Ansett did not ask for Government intervention. Why is he not asking for it now? These are some pf the questions I would like answered by the Government.

The Government is involved in this takeover and it should be making a statement on the subject. The Government is involved because of its 2-airline system, which still has 5 years to run. I stated 2 weeks ago that the Labor Party was not opposed to a continuation of the 2-airline policy or to a renewal of the present 2- airline policy arrangement when it expires. Whilst we believe that the matter should be left to the incoming parliament for decision, at the same time we believe that the 2-airline policy should be retained so that the participants in the present arrangement know where they are going. Whether the participants under the new 2-airline policy arrangement are to be TNT and TAA or ATI and TAA, we want some statement from the Government as to where we are going.

The Government is financially involved in the airline operations of Ansett. There are $35m worth of outstanding loans for which the Government has gone guarantor for Ansett for aircraft that have been purchased overseas to put Ansett on an equal footing with TAA. The Government has not only guaranteed the loans; in many cases it has negotiated the loans for Ansett. There is $35m of Australian public money involved in those loans. There is also $25m yet to be borrowed for the acquisition of 4 Boeing 727 - 200 series aircraft by Ansett - 4 of these aircraft are to be purchased by TAA also - in the next couple of years. The Government is also involved to the tune of this amount. The Department of Civil Aviation is involved in the provision of airports, airport facilities and navigational aids, which cost about $70m a year in excess of the revenue earned by DCA.

I have mentioned the ways in which the Government is involved, so the Government should be putting the public well and truly in the picture by making a statement on the bid by TNT to take over Ansett. We on this side of the House believe that a judicial committee of inquiry should be appointed and that legislation dealing with takeovers should already be in existence. A former Attorney-General, the present Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, indicated that there was a need for such legislation, and during his term of office as Attorney-General he said that the Government was prepared to have a look at it and do something positive about it. Legislation should be in existence to deal not only with this possible takeover but with other takeovers that involve the nation as a whole. This is why we are criticising the Government today and trying to get out of it some statement about where it is going.

The judicial inquiry which we propose should be in a position to determine whether this present takeover bid is in the interests of the Australian transport system. Is it in the interests of the Australian traveller who is using the airline? Is it in the interest of national safety? Will TNT, which is already involved in sea, rail and road operations, which are in very competitive fields, use the guaranteed profits from Ansett’s airline operations to subsidise or recompense losses which may be incurred in its other operations in more competitive fields? We want some clear statement from the Government as to where it is going on this matter. The Government should make some statement as to how Ansett Transport Industries Ltd, after paying dividends of 10 per cent for a number of years, suddenly, when this takeover bid was made, could make an announcement out of the blue that it will increase its dividend to IS per cent per annum. What is the reason for it? Howwas this position arrived at?

We know that within the last 2 years there have been 3 increases in air fares, representing a total increase in excess of 16 per cent. The Government made no comment on the need for that. The airlines claimed that it was necessary, and the next thing we knew was that in a matter of days the increases had been approved. If the workers in the industry want an increase in wages they have to go through a long, expensive court action to get it. The tribunal should also interest itself in the foreign involvement in the shareholding not only of Ansett Transport Industries but also of TNT. That should be the role played by the tribunal in this judicial inquiry.

I would like to find out what would be the result of the takeover. Would it provide a better service? Would it overcome the present anomaly in airline operations of parallel time-tables? Would the takeover result in offpeak concession fares, which TAA tried to introduce some years ago and which ATI opposed? Would some attempt be made to introduce cheap internal charter fares? After all, Qantas Airways Ltd, which is also Government owned, was one of the biggest obstacles in the airline industry to the introduction of charter fares, and it was not until it was being forced completely out of business that it moved into the field of charter operations. At this stage there is no internal competitor in Australia to force either TAA or Ansett to do something about charter operations. I ask the Minister: Would this takeover result in a better deal for airline passengers? That is the kind of question that the Government should be answering today. The Opposition believes that the tribunal is one of the answers to takeovers and also to the need to improve airline operations.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.

Mr N H Bowen:
Minister for Foreign Affairs · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) has spoken mainly of the proposal for a takeover of Ansett Transport Industries Limited by Thomas Nationwide Transport Limited. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), in answer to a question today, indicated the Government’s general approach to the current proposal; but other issues of policy arise, such as the 2- airline policy, and these issues fall within the responsibility of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton), who is represented in this House by my colleague the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) who is to follow me in this debate. The Opposition’s matter of public importance is much more general than the mere question of the current takeover proposal. It refers to ‘the Government’s failure to introduce laws with respect to the takeover of companies’. That is quite general. The reference goes on to say ‘particularly where such companies operate under government franchises and guarantees’.

As the Minister in this House representing my colleague the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood), I feel that the House is entitled to some observations on the matter of public importance that has been raised by the Opposition. The major question with takeovers is the need to protect the company’s shareholders against possible use of unfair takeover methods. It is quite wrong to suggest that the Government has not introduced laws dealing with this. Indeed it introduced them quite recently. I recall, taking part, as AttorneyGeneral, in discussions of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General when we had before us a report of the Eggleston Committee on company law which was proposing a modern and much improved set of rules relating to takeovers of companies. These were directed towards protecting the Interests of the shareholders. This was the first thing. Following the discussion by the Attorneys-General we decided that we would introduce amendments to the existing company law on this topic. In fact, that has been done. Not only has the Commonwealth in its Territories adopted a new takeover code designed to protect shareholders, but several State governments have adopted similar legislation. This requires the disclosure of beneficial interests of 10 per cent or more of shares of listed companies. It sets out in a code a modern and improved set of conditions under which takeover offers may be made.

Provision is also made for the control of takeovers of companies under the Banks (Shareholdings) Act. This has been dealt with quite recently in this Parliament by a Government Bill. Honourable members will be well aware that in the areas of television and radio broadcasting the acquisition of control by foreign interests has been excluded by statute. So it is simply not correct to say that this Government has not been dealing with the question of takeovers. Also the Government has acted in particular cases to preserve. Australian ownership and control of enterprises which, for special reasons of national interest or importance, it was thought ought not to be permitted to pass into foreign hands. The general question of takeovers and their control by governments is a very complex one. Honourable members know that it is currently under consideration by the Government with respect to amendments to the Trade Practices Act. It was not until a decision had been given in the High Court in the concrete pipes case that it could be said with any confidence that the Commonwealth Parliament had power to legislate in this area.

It is true that in 1962 when Sir Garfield Barwick was formulating proposals - not a Bill - for the Trade Practices Act, he included some proposals for Government intervention prior to a takeover taking place. But when our current Trade Practices Act was introduced into this House originally in 1965 there were 3 things which led to a decision not to include a general code relating to takeovers. Firstly, there was doubt about the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to control this area, a doubt which has since been removed by the decision in the concrete pipes case. Secondly, there was a difficulty about the philosophy of preventing companies from arriving at a size where they would achieve economies of size in order to meet our export position. Australia is in a stage of development at which we do not want to have only small businesses. We have to compete in a real world and we have to have big businesses as well. A company like Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd can compete in the world. Australia wants to be able to compete in the world. To do this we must have economies of size. Therefore we do not want to prevent all mergers or takeovers. Which ones should be prevented raises a very complex question of policy. Thirdly, there was the determinative point at that time - these matters were put by the Attorney-General of the day in his speech to this House in 1965 - and that was the question of what mechanism could be used to control takeovers in a general way. Honourable members will remember that this was before such matters had been introduced in other countries.

The choice to be made is to intervene either at the point when a takeover offer has been made or even before that, when it is privately being formulated and has been notified to the Government. To institute a Government inquiry at that stage - I say this having had some experience in practice in dealing with the procedures relating to takeovers - would have the effect, as 1 think everyone would agree, of preventing, by the mere exercise of delay, the operation of most takeovers. A takeover is something which comes up quickly and if in the process one were to interpose a government inquiry, ill sorts of things could happen. The financial position could change and by the time the inquiry resulted in a report, the takeover would no longer be on. Anyone who knows anything about takeovers will appreciate what I am saying. If instead of that we allow takeovers to take place and if we come in after they have taken place and have a government inquiry as to whether they are good or bad, an entirely different problem is faced. We would face the problem of the man whose eggs have been scrambled, oi, if you like, made into an omelette and who is then required to put the eggs back into the shells.

This is the difficult point of time at which the Government is called upon to in ervene - after the event has taken place - and the difficulty is in finding the mechanics which will work. We had net solved that problem in 1965. After our Trade Practices Bill had been passed, one of our officers was in England at the time the English were putting through a Bill to give to the Monopolies Commission the right to intervene in takeovers. There was some doubt as to how they were to work. The British experience is now before us and it is one of the additional factors that we have to assist us in determining what we should do. As honourable members know, these problems were tackled broadly in the United Kingdom on the basis that they could inquire after a takeover to establish whether it should be allowed or whether they should endeavour to restore the position. However, in a limited number of cases, companies could go to the Board of Trade for a kind of clearance. If it was an obvious case of a good takeover, companies could obtain a clearance from the Board of Trade without going through the procedure of having it referred to the Monopolies Commission. We have watched the British experience. We have seen the system appear to be operating in a practical way and on top of all this, we now have a High Court decision in the concrete pipes case which suggests very strongly that we have the power to come into the matter.

Towards the end of last year, Senator Murphy in another place moved an amendment to a Bill to extend the Trade Practices Act. One of his amendments sought to provide that where a merger would result in a monopoly situation - and this was defined - it should be prohibited. This was not something that the Government could accept. It was not in any way selective and in this field one must be selective in the national interest. Some form of inquiry is necessary. Senator Murphy’s amendment was too drastic and it was not accepted by the Government. We passed the Bill but we did say that the Government would undertake to give careful consideration to takeover provisions.

What is the current position? Since then the Government has done an enormous amount of work both in the departments concerned, including the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, and in the sub-committee of Ministers who are concerned in this matter. My colleague, the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) said in the Senate on 23rd March of this year in answer to a question from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) that although he was not able to give a definite date as to when the legislation to amend the Trade Practices Act would be introduced, because this was dependent firstly on the reaction to a statement which he was to make outlining the Government’s proposal, and secondly, on the question of drafting, it certainly was proposed that as soon as possible - he anticipated that it would be within a matter of weeks - a full statement outlining what the Government was proposing would be made not only in the other place but also in this House. That is the current position. The proposals are coming to fruition. They now have only to go before the Government for final decision and after the decision is made an announcement will be made in this House. So, the raising of this subject as a matter of public importance really is beside the point insofar as it relates to the general question of takeover offers. The Government has done an enormous amount of work on this question since its undertaking given at the end of last year. Its proposals are just at the stage of finality. They have to go before the Government for final decision and we would hope that shortly, in the other place, my colleague the Attorney-General will make a statement and perhaps I will make one in this House on his behalf.

In dealing with the current proposal put by the honourable member for Newcastle, I will leave those matters involving policy issues mainly to my colleague who represents the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) in this House. However, it is true to say that where the Commonwealth Government has a particular stake in an industry, as it certainly has in the airlines industry because of the guarantees of loans which the Commonwealth undertakes and because of the licences to buy planes which it must give, a special situation is presented where if that Commonwealth interest were threatened, the Government would have to move in independently of a general trade practices position. That is what the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) said in answer to a question today. The other aspect of course was that if we found that some foreign control was likely to come as a result of a takeover of a transport industry of this magnitude, the Government again would have to move not in a general trade practices sense, but in a special way to meet that special condition against the national, interest. The Government is well aware of those matters. The Prime Minister has stated this and there is no need for the raising of this matter of public importance.

Melbourne Ports

– I am pleased that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) ultimately came to the central point - that there are times in these matters when interests other than the interests of shareholders are involved. This discussion of a matter of public importance is centralised around something which has been going on now for the best part of a month, namely, a struggle between 2 companies which, whilst they rather grandiloquently bear the individual names of 2 people - Ansett Transport Industries Ltd and Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd - nevertheless aggregate between them something like S3 00m in turnover annually in the transport field. It is sometimes suggested that this is not much, but there would need to be only another 100 instances of this rate of turnover to encompass the entire gross national product.

I should like to quote from the 1961-62 annual report of Ansett Transport Industries, after the 2-airlines agreement was concluded. The report states:

It gives the company;- that is, Ansett - an Australia-wide franchise of about SO per cent of the industry revenue, which totals approximately £36m.

It is now approximately $200m. The report continues:

This franchise is for another IS years, and its value cannot be calculated. Nowhere else in the world is there such an arrangement which ensures civil aviation economic stability for such a period. Operating within this situation, and with efficient management controlling costs, reasonable profits are assured for this same period.

Ansett Transport Industries is a company which could not operate without Government support. It is given half of the Government’s airline business; it is given half of the mail contracts; and it is given access to capital acquisition at terms which would not be available if it were a private enterprise. All this is buttressed by the Commonwealth. I am not here to defend Ansett or to traduce TNT. I am here to draw attention to the fact that we have a situation which, to use the American term, is charged win a great deal of public interest. All we have heard from the Minister for Foreign Affairs is that the rights of the shareholders are protected. Have the shareholders been consulted in this matter? There is too much humbug about this sort of thing. What we have in this instance is a fly-by-night finance operation which has threatened, simply by taking one-quarter of the stock of a company, to eliminate that company and to take over its whole operation. 1 suggest that the public of Australia is becoming tired of this sort of thing. It is tired of the exercise of naked economic power, which somehow is defended in the name of private enterprise. Even the other company, Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd, has become successful only because it has used the infrastructure of roads and railways to do something which State rail systems would have been able to do for themselves if they had shown more initiative. Ansett Transport Industries Ltd and TNT between them have acquired economic assets of the magnitude of $240m. We are told that all that matters is the rights of shareholders, but surely what is significant is the national interest. When the Treasurer (Mr Snedden), who was formerly the Attorney-General, introduced the Trade Practices Bill in 1965 he referred to the 1962 Barwick proposals which were contained in a White Paper and said that mergers in excess of £250,000 - that would now be $500,000 - were to be notified to the registrar and prevented if substantially reductive of competition. The Attorney-General at that time indicated that he did not want to leave the clause in those words, and in the source of his second reading speech he said:

The Bill contains no provisions for the control of mergers or take-overs. The problem of controlling mergers and take-overs is one of great complexity.

Nobody denies that. He continued, after a long preamble:

The Government will, of course, keep a close watch for any indications that problems in this field are arising.

Does anybody in Australia doubt that we have problems in this field and that we have had them now for a considerable number of years? Large parts of our food processing industries no longer are owned in Australia. The wine industry - an industry of the soil - is gradually disappearing into foreign hands. These are all back room operations. To my mind, a government which believes in private enterprise should not stand by and see this naked exercise of power, mainly by organisations which were not in this country 5 or 6 years ago. Today’s edition of the ‘Financial Review’ mentions Philips First City Brandts Ltd which is acting as an assistant to TNT to enable it to swamp ATI. What a curious combination we find this operation with Sir Ian Potter on the board of TNT and his former firm advising Ansett what to do. Surely there are some standards in these matters. Surely there is some decency. There are times when the public should have a voice in matters of this kind. It is this that the Opposition has been asking for.

The Ansett organisation would not have what it has today without the 2 airline policy of this Government, so does the Government intend to remain supine and say that what is being done is all fair and above board? To do so would be a travesty of anything that the Government claims to stand for. If the takeover of a small fruit shop by a fish shop were involved that might be fair enough, but what is involved here is an aggregation of transport in Australia. What justification is there for an amalgamation of these 2 undertakings which are engaged in entirely different aspects of the transport industry? Twothirds of the operations of Ansett are in airways whereas Thomas Nationwide Transport is involved mainly in road and rail transport. Both of these companies are successful. Neither is ailing. What guarantee have we, apart from the blandishments of Sir Peter Abeles in various documents, that everything will be better under the new order than it was under the old? Are people of this kind the only ones who are to have a say or to be permitted to make claims about the efficacy of an organisation of this kind? This is what is suggested. Surely in any capitalist economy where there are economic organisations with assets to the value of millions of dollars it should be acknowledged that no longer can the term ‘private enterprise’ be used in its ordinary sense. With an aggregation of assets of this magnitude the public interest must be considered.

Surely if ever public interest were involved, it is involved with Ansett. Something should be done to stop this flybynight arrangement where, by stealth, by buying up, the shares of one organisation to a limited extent, nobody knowing whether they are to be owned locally or by foreign interests, we have a situation in which we are supposed to be pleased to wake up in the morning to find that there has been a takeover offer. In a situation of this kind there should be a cooling period, a period of substantial examination, when the claims of both sides could be made and listened to and when the claims of interests other than those directly involved could be used in rebuttal or in support. That is what we are asking for. This Government, in the last months of its life, has suddenly become repentant about what it should have done during the last 20 years, and certainly during the last 7 years, and now says that it will do those things in the next 7 months. That is sheer nonsense.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER <Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.

Mr N H Bowen:

– I ask for leave to make a correction of something that I said earlier in the debate.


-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Mr N H Bowen:
Minister for Foreign Affairs · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– In the course of my remarks earlier I referred to the Eggleston proposals regarding takeovers for the protection of shareholders and mentioned that we had made an ordinance for the Australian Capital Territory. Although that is correct, I have been informed that difficulties in drafting the regulations have delayed the bringing into force of the ordinance and that it is expected that it will be in operation in a few weeks time. It is not at present in operation. I think I should make that correction.

Darling Downs · LP

– Minister for National Development) (5.28) - We have listened to speeches from the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) raising matters of great importance in relation to the 2-airline policy. They have taken rather a strange stance. Although supporting what we may term in the general sense the private enterprise system, at the same time indicating to the House that they demand to know what is being done and what action is being taken, they have not told us exactly what they would do in these circumstances. It would be interesting to know whether they would take positive action of a legislative nature or in some other form to halt the present discussions or negotiations between Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd and Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. Would they act contrary to what was said by the honourable member for Newcastle during a debate in this place a couple of weeks ago when he said that he supported the 2-airline policy, and revert to full nationalisation of the airlines system in Australia? Those matters are not made clear. It would be interesting to know where the Opposition stands in relation to them.

My colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen), who represents the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) in this House, indicated clearly that in some respects legislation is already in operation in a number of States and in the Commonwealth Territories to protect a company’s shareholders rights in relation to takeovers. He referred also to protection under the Banks (Shareholdings) Act. In the areas of television and radio broadcosting the acquisition of control by foreign interests has been excluded by statute. He referred to these matters. In addition to this, it is well known that the Government has acted in particular cases to preserve Australian ownership and control of enterprises which for special reasons of national interest or importance could not be permitted to fall into foreign hands. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) referred to the fact that matters of this nature are being considered in relation to the revision taking place under the Restrictive Trade Practices Act. I can assure the House that some announcement will be made regarding this matter in the near future.

However the existence of Commonwealth guarantees in the present airlines agreement does not in itself present a case for legislation on ownership, because the mortgages which the Commonwealth holds are on aircraft operated by Ansettt Transport Industries and it is the protection of Commonwealth funds that is important. I think that this matter has been stressed by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean).

The present takeover bid by Thomas Nationwide Transport for the share capital for Ansett Transport Industries is, I suppose one could say, prima facie a business transaction within the freely competitive economic environment. Parliament can be assured that the Government will take all steps necessary to ensure the continued successful operation of the 2-airline policy. The matter of ownership and control of the private sector of the 2-airline system will in no way be allowed to compromise the high standard of safety and operational efficiency which now exists in the Australian industry. The Department of Civil Aviation will continue to exercise its normal close scrutiny over these aspects.

All that can be said, of course, with certainty at this stage is that the Government - and I have stated this in the House before; it has been stated by my colleagues - is keeping a careful watch on the present deveopments to ensure that the national interests are safeguarded. The franchise granted by the Government to Ansett Transport Industries is one which permits the company to play its role as the private enterprise sector of the 2-airline system. While the company enjoys undoubted benefits from this franchise, it also accepts significant responsibilities to provide safe, regular and efficient air services. The company’s record in meeting these responsibilities, I think everyone will agree, has been impressive, and I am sure that we all are confident that this will continue to be the case.

Without making any judgment on the merits or otherwise of the present takeover proposal, it could be said as a general principle that changes in shareholdings and control of a company are not necessarily disadvantageous. For example, the purchase of the former Australian National Airways by ATI facilitated the continuation of the 2-airline system and the growth of a strong domestic airline industry. Also, the current takeover move has led to undertakings by both parties that separate airline accounts will be published. I know that the honourable member for Newcastle perhaps will be happy to hear that because this was one point which he raised during a debate in this House a couple of weeks ago. I think that this is one thing that has emerged from the present situation.

The guarantees issued with respect to ATI loans have been essential for the success of the 2-airline policy. They have facilitated overseas loans for aircraft on more favourable terms than would otherwise have been available, and this has, of course, benefited Australia as a whole, not only ATI itself. The rights of the Commonwealth in relation to these loans are not affected adversely by any takeover of ATI. The only guarantees given to the company by the Government are in respect of loans raised by the company to purchase front line aircraft to match similar aircraft purchased by Trans-Australian Airlines with loan funds raised by the Government on its behalf. The Government in effect guarantees the repayment of loans in the event that ATI, as the borrower, defaults in its obligation. I am happy to report to the House that in respect of all loans raised in the past there has not been any requirement for the Government guarantee to be called up. Of course, I think we can all be confident that this situation will continue. The Government is closely watching the current position to ensure that the guarantees given by the Commonwealth for loans raised by ATI to cover jet aircraft purchases are not prejudiced in any way.

The Opposition has inferred in some way - and I think I read about this in the Press - to the bogey of an unemployment threat to the many employees of Ansett Transport Industries. But whatever the outcome of the present bid for the control and ownership of ATI, it is clear that the same skilled operational and technical staff will be needed to run the airline. The management of TNT has stated publicly that staff redundancy, if it occurred at all, would be of a minor nature only. The Government will certainly watch the situation closely to see that the interests of staff members of both airlines are protected. As the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) said in the House earlier this afternoon in reply to a question, the Government will not permit any foreign takeover of a private enterprise sector of Australia’s 2-airline system. Nor will it permit any action which might result in foreign control of ATI.

I think we should reject out of hand the inferences that have been made by the Opposition that somehow or other Australia’s 2-airline policy is in jeopardy as a result of the present negotiations. As I said before, the Government is determined to see that the 2-airline policy continues. I am happy to know that the Opposition again today has indicated that it supports that policy which has given Australia a safe, modern, competitive and efficient domestic airline system which by any standard is one of the best in the world. I am sure that Australians can be proud of it, as many people overseas are perhaps jealous of it.

We have seen the 2-airline policy maintain stability in a domestic aviation industry faced with strong pressures generated by a period of vigorous expansion. When we look back over the history of the 2- airline system in Australia we can say in general terms that it has indeed been successful. There are problems associated with its operation and these have been highlighted in recent months, but certainly they are matters of a minor nature. As a genera] policy the 2-airline policy is a good one and the Government is determined to see that it is maintained in the future.


– The Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz), who represents the Minister for Civil Aviation in this House, finished bis speech on the note of the 2-airline policy. This is completely irrelevant to the matter before us. As the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) said when opening this debate on a matter of public importance, we had a debate on this subject only a couple of weeks ago in which the Australian Labor Party - the alternative government of this country - made it clear that it was not tampering with the 2-airline policy. The issue today is completely different. I am proud to have been given the opportunity at the. last moment - the arrangement was that there would be only 2 speakers from the Opposition - to speak on this matter. I am proud to be able to stand here, and on behalf of the Opposition condemn the Government for its failure to take advantage of so many opportunities in the past.

Government speakers have not been able to stand up in this place and talk with the national interest in mind. Instead the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen), who is representing the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood), gave us a sad list of lost opportunities that occurred when the restrictive trade practices legislation was before this House. At that time nothing was done about monopolies. As I have pointed out, we have, just had something completely irrelevant from the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. While such speeches are being made honourable members from this side of the House at any rate are receiving telegrams on this issue from interested people in their electorates. They are receiving telegrams not least of all from those people, who are working in Ansett Transport Industries Ltd whose future employment is so much in doubt because such a system has been allowed to continue, to operate in this country whereas this is not the case in the other so-called bastions of free enterprise.

There are several restrictive trade practices Acts in the United States of America, but the one that is particularly pertinent to the situation which faces us in Australia today is the Clayton Act. That Act, under sections 7 and 8, prohibits any corporation from acquiring another corporation if the effect of acquisition is to create a monopoly or to substantially lessen competition. Are we to say that a takeover of the nature that is taking place in Australia will not lessen competition? Should we not have the structures, as the Opposition suggests, so that at least the national interest can be determined? If an inquiry shows that a lessening of competition, in the terms of the Clayton Act, will take place as a result of a takeover, then there is an end to that particular merger or takeover.

In the United Kingdom there is a Monopolies Commission run not by a progressive Labor government, I may add, but by a Conservative Government which would look upon the present Liberal Government in Australia as a brother, although as a very slow and unprogressive brother. But under the Monopolies and Mergers Acts of 1948 and 1963 in the United Kingdom the Government can refer to the Monopolies Commission for inquiry and report a proposed merger or a completed merger if that merger will create or enhance a situation in which one-third or more of any trade is in the hands of any one person or group, or if the gross value of the assets to be taken over exceeds £5m or $10m. Is anybody going to suggest that that section in the Monopolies and Mergers Acts in the United Kingdom would not be pertinent to the situation with which we are faced in Australia today?

For the last 23 years this Government has had opportunity after opportunity to introduce such an Act into this Parliament. There were the proposals of Sir Garfield Barwick which have been mentioned already today. When I knew that I was to be given the opportunity to speak in this debate I rushed to look at my file on this subject, and the first thing I came upon was a speech by Mr Freeth who is now our Ambassador in Japan. Mr Freeth speaking on behalf of Sir Garfield Barwick when he made his well known statement. I have a copy of it here. It was certainly made in 1962 although I have not been able to turn up the exact date.

After that statement was made I, as a chartered accountant in the community in Adelaide, saw the wheels of reaction start to grind. I attended a few luncheons. One in particular which I remember was organised by the Institute of Chartered Accountants. At that luncheon the forces of reaction in this country got up and said such dire things about the effects of legislation such as that which was foreshadowed at the time. They are the people who provide this Government, which has been in office now for 23 years, with the sinews to fight elections. I have no doubt that they are the people who stopped Sir Garfield Barwick in his tracks in trying to do what should have been done in the interests of the ordinary people of this country - the setting up of the necessary structures so that the national interest can be determined in a situation such as the one which we are discussing today.

We could go back further. I have in my hand the report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review which reported in 1959. That report contains sections dealing with the sorts of changes that ought to be made in our Constitution. Chapter 16 deals with corporations and chapter 17 deals with restrictive trade practices. The failure to implement the recommendations contained in that report is another nail in th: coffin of this Government on this very subject of takeovers. The Joint Committee on Constitutional Review was an all Party committee of this Parliament. It reported on the constitutional changes which should be made. But what has happened? Along with so many other recommendations which have been made to this Government, the recommendations contained in the report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review have been shelved for all these years.

Now it is plain when such changes should have been made, if necessary to the Constitution, so that the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) could have stood in this House at question time today and told us and the people outside this Parliament what was the national interest. Instead today we heard some wishy-washy statement from the Prime Minister. He referred only to the overseas investment part of the takeover which we are discussing. Perhaps that may be irrelevant; I do not know. None of us can ascertain just what overseas participation there is in Thomas Nationwide Transport. But that is all that the Prime Minister could talk about. He mentioned a few other things which were repeated by the Minister for National Development representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. I believe that even in these circumstances, where, as a result of the will of his own Government, the Prime Minister’s hands are tied behind his back because the Constitution has not been properly altered to cover this situation, the Prime Minister should have stood up in this Parliament and told the nation what he thinks about this takeover.

Having said that, I do not want to canvass the issue. The main purpose, of our raising this matter of public importance today is to show that we should have structures so that national interest can be determined. It is the duty of members of the Opposition to stand up in this place and show the country why we should have these structures and to point out, as indeed the honourable member for Melbourne Ports and the honourable member for Newcastle have pointed out, the opportunities which are available to this Government lo make sure that this Parliament had the necessary structures. I do not want lo canvass the issue which is an important one. There are some grave dangers in this takeover, but we do not have enough information on it. If 1 might give a personal view, it is that one of the great areas in which reform is needed in our society is in this area of transport rationalisation. There is a tremendous economic wastage in the transport field. In order to sec this highlighted one can go to Darwin or to Tasmania and see the costs incurred by members of the public in the transport field. On almost every occasion on which one studies transport in Australia one finds thai there are trucks returning empty one way and over long distances in our vast country; there are ships returning empty one way; there are airline cargo freighters returning empty one way; there are railway carriages returning empty one way. Rationalisation is needed, but we are not sure how it can be done because we have not got the right sort of tribunal or, as is mentioned in the wording of the matter of public importance which has been raised today, we have not got the right sorts of structures in order to examine this question of takeovers. We are not sure what kind of rationalisation is needed in our case.


– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.

Assistant Minister ‘ assisting the Postmaster-General · Cowper · CP

– As the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) said in this House earlier this afternoon, the Government will not permit a foreign takeover of a private enterprise sector of Australia’s 2-airline system, nor will it permit any action which might result in foreign control of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. I see the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) smiling. This afternoon he expressed very cogent views on this important public issue but of course he did not proceed to tell us how in the immediate circumstances his views could become a matter of action and reality.

The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) who led this debate on behalf of the Opposition really spoke with his tongue in his cheek. At no stage did he propose a positive course of action. I believe that the Government’s statement, through the Prime Minister today, was a proper one in all the circumstaances. The present takeover bid by Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd for the share capital of Ansett Transport Industries is, prima facie, a normal business transaction within a freely competitive economic environment. To look at it any other way would be wrong. But, of course, there are other issues which quite properly should be debated today.

It can be said that the Government has a real stake in this matter because of the guarantees and the financial support which have been given to Ansett Transport Industries and, let me go further, because of the privileges which have been afforded to Australia’s own airline, Trans-Australia Airlines. Of course, we have a 2-airline policy which permits these 2 operators to carry on business in a particular way which preserves their rights and privileges and affords them protection.

Mr Daly:

– Do you believe in free enterprise?


– The honourable member asks whether the Government believes in free enterprise. This matter of public importance expresses an intended criticism of the Government. On the other hand we have heard other honourable members, particularly the honourable member for Newcastle, referring to an earlier takeover. The honourable member for Newcastle, with his tongue in his cheek, asked whether Sir Reginald Ansett had sought Government assistance at the time of that earlier takeover. He said that he had certain criticisms to make of Ansett Transport Industries, and he made them. He referred particularly to the decision of the company to increase its dividend for the immediate period to meet the economic challenge and the financial pressures placed upon it. He said consideration should be given to how any private enterprise sector - of course, he was referring specifically to this sector - would act in the interests of employees when they sought improved conditions, increased wages and the like. The point made was that there should be a restrictive situation in terms of private enterprise in Australia, so I say to the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) that he wants to be very careful in the interjections he makes.

Mi Daly - If you believe in private enterprise why not allow 6 airlines to operate?


– We now get a further interjection. Today the Opposition is completely split on this vital question. No cohesive policy is flowing from the Opposition on this matter. Certainly there is no basic proposition concerning what should be done, beyond this wordy matter of public importance that the Government has failed to introduce laws with respect to the takeover of companies, particularly where such companies operate under Government franchises and guarantees. I believe there are matters of import in this issue and that the Prime Minister properly has referred to them. Of course we could go further and refer to a federal transport policy and a national policy on monopolies and the way in which they operate, although not so much from the viewpoint of private enterprise versus socialism or any other theoretical approach. We heard the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) and his typical Fabian socialist approach to this issue. However, let us consider it in terms of the real national interest. We should consider the question of transport, the cost factors that arise and the services that must be rendered. It is for this reason that the Government has supported and continues to support a 2 airline system in this nation. Years ago it was recognised that to have a viable and efficient airline system a policy of the kind which has been operating for a long time now was in the best interests of the Australian nation. Of course the Opposition would have had one airline in Australia had it had the chance. There is no doubt about that.

Over the years the Government has taken a positive course. Today we are faced with a public issue which quite properly goes beyond the immediate interests of the respective shareholders of the 2 large Australian public companies involved - Ansett Transport Industries Ltd and Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd. I believe, and I am sure a majority of honourable members in this House believe, that first and foremost the principles of free enterprise must apply. Beyond that, great care needs to be taken. There needs to be the kind of scrutiny referred to by the Prime Minister. I believe we could go a little further and we should think in terms of the dangers of takeovers by a monolithic enterprise. Such takeovers could create dangers to government policy, dangers to the national interests and dangers to the economic needs of the day. Certainly this is a big issue which goes beyond the question of the immediate interests of the shareholders of the 2 companies.

Massive losses are being incurred by Australian railway systems. In New South Wales I believe the loss will be about $30m this year and in Victoria about $25m. We know that much of the difficulty in the operation of transport arises because of the attitude of the unions in respect of what they believe should be the result for those who have a tight knit control either on the waterfront or in other sections of the transport industry. However, quite apart from that, let us be realists and recognise that the constitutional limitations imposed by section 92 of the Constitution have created really tremendous problems for the transport system of this country.

Inherent in the present situation is the fact that road transport has become a dominant factor. It is able to achieve massive profits and I am sure that this has been a big factor in the success of Thomas Nationwide Transport. As I mentioned, our railway systems are falling into decay and are experiencing great public losses. These factors need to be recognised, heeded and taken into account by any responsible government. This Government is prepared to do so within the limits of its capacity. Accordingly the Prime Minister’s statement this afternoon was a proper one. He went as far as any responsible leader of a government could go at this point of time in commenting on this issue. Of course the honourable member for Melbourne Ports went much further, but this was understandable. He feels very strongly on this issue but I wish that he had given us something a little more positive if we are to transmit into action some of the suggestions he made. His suggestions cannot be implemented by means of discussion of this matter of public importance. Such things cannot be done in a matter of hours, days, weeks or months by the Parliament. This matter will become a question for determination through the processes that are available to operate - for shareholders decisions, for economic factors to apply and, in the long run, for the Government to observe and act upon to the extent that it is permitted to do so by virtue of its powers and responsibilities.


– Order! This discussion is now concluded.

page 1419


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 8 March (vide page 717), on motion by Mr Chipp;

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Dr J F Cairns:

– The Opposition will not take a great deal of time in debating this Bill. It approves of it and will not propose any amendments. However, some honourable members will be proposing certain criticisms and suggestions but they lie mainly in 2 fields. Firstly, they relate to the power that exists in the Department of Customs and Excise and which is illustrated by the sections that this Bill seeks to amend and by a number of other sections to which I will refer. One speaker from the Opposition will be saying that there should be amendments in respect of other items where, in particular, in relation to the machine tools industry ancillary to the automotive industry exports which should not get into this country, get in through the substitute clauses in the Customs Tariff Act. He will suggest that this matter should be examined and an amendment made. I will be doing more than that. I will be saying why I think there is something wrong with the division of power at present between the Minister for Customs and Excise and the Minister for Trade and Industry and why some quite important changes should be made.

This amendment is a small one really and comes about apparently because the importer of goods in Australia in some cases has a subsidiary - another firm or concern that the importer owns - and this subsidiary acts also as a selling agent for the exporter overseas who provides the subsidiary with goods at a price much lower than he expects eventually to get for them. The tariff then is fixed on that low amount. The tariff is consequently cut down to, say, half if the goods were improperly valued at half. The amount of tariff depends not only on the ad valorem percentage but also on the value of the goods to which that percentage is applied. If the value of the goods is artificially lowered then, even though the tariff at that percentage is applied to the artificially lowered value, the amount added by the tariff and, therefore, paid will be considerably less. The goods then go to the importer at their full value plus the lower tariff and the subsidiary selling agent then pays the overseas exporter the full amount which he receives from the importer in Australia. The overseas exporter gets his full amount but he in fact pays a tariff on a much lower amount. That is the racket. Something out of this deal would go to the Australian importer who had co-operated in the conspiracy.

This Bill changes the relevant sections of the Customs Tariff Act to give the Department of Customs and Excise the power to fix its own value and, of course, it has the power to fix its own value of any goods submitted for importation into Australia under certain circumstances. Some other conditions are being added to the ones that exist already, such as in the words ‘other action was taken or other arrangements were made’ at the point of import. These amendments are to sub-section (2.) of section 8 of the Customs Tariff Act which I find on page 4 of the 1966 Act. The amendments also are to section 31 which I find in the Customs Tariff Act 1967 at page 4. There section 31 went in by amendment. I might say in passing that it is time we had some consolidation of these Acts. Although most of the Acts comprise schedules it takes quite a bit of time to find one’s way around them. It might be wise to give attention to this matter before much longer; attention will be given to it if there is a change of government.

I want to indicate now the kind of powers that are similar to the ones that we are amending and to give an indication of the kind of powers that the Minister for

Customs and Excise and his Department have. Section 25 of the Customs Tariff 1966 at page 14 states: (1.) Where goods consist of separate articles, whether or not the articles are specifically referred to in the First Schedule, the Minister may direct -

  1. that the duty in respect of the goods is the duty that would be applicable in respect of them if they consisted only of such one of those articles, or such of those articles, as, in the opinion of the Minister, gives or give to the goods their essential character; or
  2. that the duty in respect of the goods is the duty that would be applicable in respect of them in each of those articles that been imported separately.

Section 23 and 24 indicate the kind of powers that the Minister has. Section 22 states: (1.) The Minister may, in instrument in writing, direct that, subject to such conditions, if any, as are specified in the instrument, goods that -

  1. are included in a class of goods specified in the instrument;
  2. are the produce or manufacture of a country that, at the time the goods are entered for home consumption, is a less developed country;
  3. are imported into Australia by or on behalf of such person as is specified in the instrument; and
  4. are imported into Australia during such period as is specified in the instrument . . .

The Minister gets powers to do all sorts of things in relation to determining what the goods are and their value. On page 17 of the Customs Act 1901-68 we find that the Governor-General may by regulation prohibit the importation of goods into Australia - any goods at all - and on page 27 there is another indication of the kind of powers that he has where it says that the Governor-General may, by regulation, prohibit the exportation of goods from Australia. On page 36 the Act states: (4.) For the purposes of the last 2 preceding sub-sections, the Minister may, by notice published in the Gazette -

  1. specify the manner in which the factory or works cost of goods is to be determined; and
  2. specify the manner in which the value of labour, the value of materials or the value of labour and materials is to be determined.

The Minister may do these things by notice published in the Gazette. In other words, the Minister can in these ways as well as in many others halve or double the amount of tariff that has been recommended by the Tariff Board and adopted by this House and by a government. These powers are most extensive and I am unable to know the extent to which they are in fact used. I wonder whether the Minister knows. This Bill, which is an amending Bill, opens up the field of power exercised by Ministers for Customs and Excise and the officers of the Department. The Department of Trade and Industry and the Tariff Board would imagine that they have much to do with the control of imports into Australia but they may well have far less to do with it than the Department of Customs and Excise, though perhaps not the Minister because he may well be in a position where he is quite unable to know what the Department does. This Bill amends an Act which allows the Minister and his Department to change materially the effect of every tariff imposed by a Government after the recommendation of the Tariff Board. As I have indicated, this could be done in several ways.

I am sure that in some ways amending the Act in this manner does not go far enough. There is a need and has been a need for years to change much more considerably than this Bill does the Acts of Parliament under which the tariffs and customs are administered. In recent years, for instance, certainly as much as one-third - pretty close to $400m worth of goods in a total of$1, 200m imported - in the last financial year came in under by-law admission. Sometimes as high as 40 per cent has been imported under by-law admission. One does not know the effect of those admissions and one has no way of finding out without having a joint parliamentary committee of inquiry sitting throughout the year. One does not know whether it would mean that goods are coming in much below the tariff level or whether applications have been rejected for things that may well be substitutes. The Department of Customs and Excise may have more influence in one day upon the way goods can enter Australia and at what actual rate of tariff than the Tariff Board or the Government has in a month.

Before I indicate how the Australian Labor Party considers this Bill should amend the Act, I want briefly to outline again the purpose of the Labor Party in regard to the protection of Australian industries. It is necessary for me to do this because, although I have said it several times when speaking in debates on Bills of this kind in this Parliament, hardly anyone ever seems to hear it. In addition, we read in the newspapers articles by expert economists who somehow have missed it and who imply that nothing has been said or done and that I have no policy on this and neither has the Labor Party. At least I will have some chance of being heard today because the debate is being broadcast.

The Australian Labor Party, as I have said before, will ensure that any industry that is efficient on objective measurable Australian standards - not on some theoretical assumption but on objective measurable standards - will have sufficient protection under a Labor government to continue in production. Protection, because it may reduce competition and for other reasons, may allow protected industries to charge prices in excess of those prices that are necessary to pay fair and reasonable wages, profits and other returns and to provide a reasonable amount for the growth of the industry itself. This possibility demands continuous and effective examination.

The Commonwealth Government, in the Tariff Board, the Department of Trade and Industry or the Department of Customs and Excise, which at the moment is probably the most powerful of them all, does not possess the means to make this continuous and effective examination. The Australian Labor Party believes that the consumer needs protection just as much as industry and those who work in it need it. The ALP therefore will not allow any protected industry to charge whatever prices it may choose to charge. We will amend the law to ensure that the Commonwealth Government does possess adequate means to ensure that only reasonable prices, in the sense that I have just denned them, will in fact be charged by a protected industry. An amendment of this sort is long overdue and the Government must sooner or later realise how remiss it has been in missing out on opportunities, when amending the Act, by not taking these things into account.

The need for effective measures of protection and effective means to ensure that protection is not wrongly used has been staring Liberal Governments in the face for the past 20-odd years, as has been the case in the matter of public importance which was dealt with earlier today and which related to the existence of law and structures to deal with takeovers. These things have been a glaring need for years and years; yet the Government will not do anything about them. Why? Because it has no intention of doing anything and because it wants to see these practices continue. It is not anxious to have takeovers stopped, controlled or supervised because that is in conflict with what it calls free enterprise. It is not anxious to have some measure of price control associated with tariff protection-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! I am reluctant to interrupt the honourable member, but I remind him that this is a very limited debate. The Bill proposes only 2 minor amendments in relation to the f.o.b. price and landed cost of goods. I ask the honourable member to relate his remarks to the particular provisions of the Bill.

Dr J F Cairns:

– It is obvious where the relation is. This Bill seeks to amend a section which could be amended to deal fully with the problem which this Bill indicates the Government realises does exist. I am pointing out that in this arena there are associated activities which also have to be dealt with and should be dealt with at this time and these must be taken into account. I have just indicated what some of them are. In fact, the extent to which the Department of Customs and Excise exercises power through its by-law provisions and through the other sections of the Act to which I have referred this afternoon is a matter which, to my mind, requires a reorganisation and a restructuring of the 2 departments - the Department of Customs and Excise and the Department of Trade and Industry. I think there must be a joint responsibility. The Minister who is responsible for tariffs must be responsible for the operation of the Department of Customs and Excise.

The division of responsibility that we have seen in this House over the years is one which allows a system to grow up that is not under control. I am quite sure that the Minister for Trade and Industry is not able to say that he is aware of how the sections which this Bill seeks to amend and the other sections to which 1 have referred operate in the Department of Customs and Excise and how many decisions are given one way or how many are given another way and what value of imports from time to time is so much affected as it is affected by the exercise of power under sections of the Act. I submit that what is needed here is not just a minor amendment but a structural alteration in the way that the Government operates. It would be the policy of my Party to make that change. The Department of Customs and Excise, or the greater part of it, and the Department of Trade and Industry would come under the direction of the one Minister and would be involved in what they are in fact, namely, an operation in common to control the import of goods into this country and to determine the amount of protection given to Australian industry and the effect of that protection.

This Bill, as I have said, seeks to amend 2 sections to deal with a specific malpractice that has been identified. The Opposition has no objection to the amendments to deal with that malpractice, although we have been given no information about the extent or size of it. That makes it somewhat more difficult for the Opposition and everyone else to judge the need for this kind of amendment. The Minister had very little to say when he introduced the Bill. He did not give us an indication of the extent to which the practice which this Bill is now expected to stop has been carried on. The Opposition approves of the Bill and supports it, but we believe that the attention of the Government to these matters has for a long period been quite inadequate.


– I am glad to hear that the Opposition is not opposing this Bill. It seems a very proper alteration to the Act. The amendments really seek to improve the administrative machine that controls the way goods enter Australia. I understand that this Bill is particularly aimed at the support value side of Imports, particularly chemicals. In many cases I have been critical of support values as a method of protection. I think they have bidden the amount of effective protection that has been given. If we are to have a support values method of arriving at a duty, then it is proper that this method should be well administered. The proposed amend ment to the Act gives the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) power that he ought to have in this rather technical and very competitive field. I agree with the general comment by the honourable member for Lalor that this Bill extends the power of the Minister for Customs and Excise. I have nothing but praise for the way the Minister for Customs and Excise is presently administering his Department, but we should not ignore the fact that the Minister for Customs and Excise has surprising power. As the honourable member for Lalor has said, the action he can take can be much more effective than Tariff Board recommendations. The Minister can, by actions of his departmental officers, extend or contract the area of protection in a quite surprising way. As the honourable member for Lalor again quite properly said, this power is very important in the by-law area.

I have always hoped that one day we would have a system of reporting to Parliament the effects of the operation of the by-law system. I know that if the system was not well administered by a competent Minister through customs officers who were indeed above reproach there would be very easy opportunities for shady dealing. I am not suggesting that this is happening; I know that it is not. But a tremendous area of administrative authority is available to the Minister for Customs and Excise. I am not saying that this is wrong but I think there should be a system for reporting to this Parliament the effect of by-laws, what industries are being adversely affected and what individuals have been adversely affected. If we do not have access to this information it means that we have an administrative machine working away competently, often in a dedicated way, but making decisions which are not reported to the Parliament. I am always hoping that the Minister for Customs and Excise will be able to evolve a method of reporting to this House on the operations of this very important sector of his Department.

This Bill deals with the valuation of goods for duty. How can we value the goods that are subject to duty? I would like to make one other suggestion to the Minister while this matter is open for discussion. I have received many representations that it would streamline administration on the customs agents’ side as well as on the Department’s side if we could adopt the practice of valuing goods to the nearest dollar. I know that there are some legal barriers to this. I have raised this matter previously with the Minister for Customs and Excise. I had hoped that when this Act was being opened up in this way the Department would have a close look at whether we could adopt the practice of valuing goods to the nearest dollar. I understand that this practice would save a great deal of administrative effort by both the Department and the customs agents.

Another proposition put to me on one occasion by a very responsible citizen is that we should adopt the practice of valuing our imported goods on the basis of cost of insurance and freight - a c.i.f. system - as against the present system of valuing them on the basis of cost free on board. My reply to this citizen was to the effect that I did not think the Brussels system allowed for this, but after making some cursory inquiries I understand that this c.i.f. system of valuation is the one practised in many of the other countries that are signatories to the Brussels Convention. I would like the Minister and his Department to look at the possible effects of changing from an f.o.b. system of valuing to a c.i.f. system. A ci.f. system would mean that the very considerable increases in the cost of freight would be taken into account in valuing goods. It would alter the protection in some ways, in some cases increasing it and in some cases decreasing it. I understand that if we adopted such a system it would bring us on all fours with the Brussels system.

I was interested in a complaint by the honourable member for Lalor that suggestions that he has made in other debates have not received the attention of the columnists in the way that he had hoped. I must admit that I am not surprised at that. I have a morbid and breathless interest in the subject of tariffs, as I think you will agree, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have followed or tried to follow every word that the honourable member for Lalor has spoken about tariffs. My difficulty, and perhaps the difficulty of the political experts, is in being unable to understand what he is talking about. I have been literally so uncertain about where the honourable member for Lalor really stands on this question of how to operate a wise protective system that 1 have given up trying to understand what he is talking about. This may be the problem that the political commentators have.

The honourable member for Lalor suggested in his speech today that there should be a method of price control for protected industries. There are obvious very grave difficulties in implementing price control. It is not much good putting forward a proposition if it cannot be carried out. The honourable member would know, of course, that the Commonwealth has no constitutional power to introduce price control. But ignoring that, I would have thought that the proper way to hold prices down in protected industries is to lower the tariff wall a little. This is the most effective way I know. I again instance the protection which is available to the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. In many cases it does not avail itself of that protection, but if the protection was not available BHP would be deterred from raising prices for its products in the way that it does for fear of losing business to the manufacturers of imported goods.

I think that this is the proper way to work a protective system: Duties on such’ items as iron and steel should be examined by the Tariff Board, and if after inquiry by the Tariff Board they are found not to be necessary, as indeed BHP is proud to claim they are not in most cases, they should be reduced so that competition can have a bearing on the price that BHP charges for its iron and steel products. This is an effective way of operating a protective system. It is an additional way of using the tariff instrument. However the honourable member for Lalor says that he favours fixing prices following protection being granted to an industry. All I say on that is that there is not constitutional power for the Commonwealth to fix prices. Even if there were, I think the better method would be to look at the rate of duty rather than the price level. Generally I am glad that both the Opposition and this side of the House support the amendment to the Act, which I think is quite a proper one.


– I do not profess to have a complete grasp of the work of the colossus that we know as the Department of Customs and Excise. I do not think it could be described in any other way. There are probably few people in this House, and indeed I go so far as to say that there are probably very few people in the community at large, who are able to grasp the workings of the whole host of tariff regulations and schedules and the multiplicity of figures and so forth that confront any one who wishes to do research on any one item that is subject to a tariff. People in the motor vehicle industry in South Australia have been expressing very great concern in recent months about a particular matter that, in the light of the second reading speech of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp), perhaps has some bearing on this debate. I see the Minister smiling, perhaps suggesting that I am getting a little wide of the scope of the Bill, but I can see no other way of introducing this matter into the House. I do not want to refer to the Minister’s reply to me by telegram but I think he will agree that, in part at least, it is in conformity with the measure that is now before the House.

The Bill before the House, in the words of the Minister, proposes some minor amendments. I feel that, in relation to the matters I am concerned about, they are minor and do not go far enough. A great deal of concern is being expressed that there are ways and means within the various tariffs and duties schedules for those engaged in the manufacture of motor vehicles in Australia today to make applicato an officer of the Department of Customs and Excise or to certain sections of the Department which have power to reduce the amount of import duty on a number of components that can be and have been manufactured in Australia, to the detriment of the employment of the people in the tooling rooms of one principal manufacturer or, to some extent, the 2 principal manufacturers in South Australia. Last September the number of tooling room personnel at one of these manufacturers was 1,000. It has now been considerably reduced and I think the figure would be nearer 400. The other manufacturer’s personnel is down by a similar percentage.

It is being said within the industry - this is the reason I raise this matter, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I would appreciate your permitting me to say this - that in relation to some component parts listed in certain schedules which I haveN mentioned to the Minister, the Customs officer has the power, on the say-so of an importer, to say that these particular items are unprocurable in Australia, without saying they are not manufactured in Australia, and the import duty of about 50 per cent is decreased to about 7i per cent. This whole matter should be investigated. I would appreciate the Minister’s interest in this matter. He has in conversation indicated to me that he is prepared to consider this matter. I might add that the people who are investigating this position visited the Customs officials in South Australia and had great difficulty in acquiring the knowledge to enable them to research the matter to the point at which they could put forward a proper argument based on fact. Certainly it would appear that portions of .the documents to which they referred- 87.011, 87.021 and so forth - are relative to the motor vehicle industry, and for this reason they must be considered by those who are representing the employee interests in the motor vehicle industry as having some significance in relation to the job opportunities of many people in that industry.

The amendments now before the House are not being opposed by honourable members on this side of the House. I suggest that the Minister should pay very close attention to this industry, especially when viewed against the background that smaller models of certain cars of Australian companies - if I may refer to them as ‘Australian’ companies - are to be produced in Australia. Can the tooling requirements of these manufacturers be met from Australian sources? If so, they ought to be met from Australian and local sources. I think you will agree, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the number of people employed in the support industries of the motor vehicle industry is almost comparable with, if not greater than, the number of people directly employed by the motor vehicle companies. It is most important that some attention be given to their interests. If it can be proved that the local manufacturer can produce component parts under the various schedules which I have mentioned to the Minister it would most certainly be appreciated if he would carry out some form of investigation into this matter. Some of these smaller companies are taken over by the giant Japanese companies and given some sort of a name to cover a particular situation. They can meet their manufacturer’s requirements by importing an article and, by ways and means within the whole structure of customs and tariffs, are able to have that customs duty reduced from about 50 per cent to about 7 per cent. This sounds a bit ridiculous, but I think the Minister will agree that the telegraphed reply he sent me indicates that this could be more than a possibility.

That is the main reason I have risen in this debate, but while I am on my feet I would like to say that some concern is being expressed in specific industries affected to a large degree by tariffs and customs schedules and measures generally. I am not saying that the Department is not doing its job; I am saying that it is almost a colossus. The procedure is very involved. It would be appreciated by those in the community, at both employer and employee level, if the greatest possible assistance could be given to them when they approach the Customs headquarters in the various States. I do not think it is good enough to say that the matter should be referred through a member of Parliament to Canberra in order to identify the items of tooling equipment, manufacturing equipment and manufacturing components used in the manufacture of vehicles concerned. The Minister will probably not agree with me on that. I would be very pleased if he were able to refute that and say that such measures are not necessary to gain the information that is required by a number of people within the community. I have here a manufacturers bulletin which instances the difficulty that may arise as a result of endeavouring to trace the coded numbers and so on which are involved. The whole matter of the involved procedures regarding customs duties and tariffs should be looked at much more closely and it should be debated at greater depth than it is able to be debated under the measure now before the House.

Minister for Customs and Excise · Hotham · LP

– in reply - This is a relatively minor Bill which aims at closing a loophole that enables the evasion or the avoidance of tariff duty on goods being imported into Australia and gives the Minister for Customs and Excise power to determine the valuations. Due to your great generosity, Mr Deputy Speaker, almost everything else but that has been covered in the debate. I agree that you have been generous, and thank you for it, because I think most honourable members would agree that the opportunities for tariff debates in this House are far too few and the interest taken in them is far too little. Therefore I will try to answer as best I can the many and varied problems that have been raised during the debate by honourable members. The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) sent me a telegram concerning this matter, to which I have replied. I have had a discussion with him personally about it. At the last discussion I had with him I asked him to give me specific cases of hardship - which, to the best of my knowledge, I have not received to this point. I presume that the honourable member for Sturt is referring to the Government’s motor vehicle plans. It was quite novel to hear someone criticise the Government’s motor vehicle plans as causing unemployment. I have heard a good deal of criticism outside and inside this Parliament of the Government’s motor vehicle plans but I would have thought that about the last accusation that could have been made against them was that they are causing unemployment in Australia.

The honourable member for Sturt would know that the whole philosophy of the plans is to try to increase local sourcing - local content - and the Government’s plans virtually say philosophically to motor vehicle manufacturers: ‘If you have a local content of X per cent - 65 per cent or 85 per cent - we will hold the carrot in front of you’ - I hope honourable members will forgive that term - ‘to get to that target by giving you by-law entry for the remaining 15 per cent content of the car’. This carrot can be a very juicy inducement to many companies and has proved to be to such an extent that many companies are trying to reach these various levels. That of course means that those companies, in accordance with that plan, can then import the other 15 per cent of parts, if that is what is involved, duty free, while getting to a local content of 85 per cent. Before that, they may well have been down to 60 per cent local content. The net result of this is to increase local content using Australian materials and labour and making greater demands on the Australian workforce to the difference between what they were doing and what it is now doing under the new plan.

It may well be that one industry or a set of factories in the electorate of the honourable member for Sturt or in his knowledge have been disadvantaged by these plans. That may well be possible but I can assure him that, overall, the net result has not been to cause unemployment in Australia. However, I do repeat, and I say this in all good faith, that if the honourable member for Sturt has a specific case where he believes that some injustice has been done in that a doubtful decision has been given, the Government’s plans have not been adhered to or some other inequity has occurred, I would be delighted to look at the matter in depth with my Department. If it is not my responsibility, as it probably would not be because the Department of Customs and Excise only administers the motor vehicles plans on behalf of the policy department - the Department of Trade and Industry - I would be pleased to refer those specific inquiries to my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony).

A great deal has been said about the extent of arbitrary powers of the Minister for Customs and Excise, and, of course, the powers of his officers which he necessarily must delegate in many cases. All I can say is that I am deeply conscious of the repsonsibility of the possession of those powers and I can undertake that my officers similarly are charged with that sense of responsibility. The tariff is a complex matter but at its simplest, after the Parliament has accepted the tariff, it provides 2 variables. One is the value to be ascribed to goods and the rates of duty to be applied to that valuation. Sometimes difficulties arise over the identification of goods and in establishing what classification they should come under. I do not know whether it still applies, but before simplification, which we instituted a short time ago, there were 27 different items of pencils in the tariff schedules and on many occasions identification of the specific item to be imported was difficult. Hence, the tariff classification now gives the rate. That tariff classification is based on the Brussels nomenclature and the rates are derived mainly from the Tariff Board recommendation and the decisions of this Parliament.

The honourable members for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) and Wakefield (Mr Kelly) raised again the question of powers and the use of them in relation to the administration of by-laws. As the honourable member for Wakefield would know, the Minister for Customs and Excise has other powers concerning classifications, separate articles, directions, parts directions, substitute notices and a whole host of others. These essentially are published in the Gazette. I know that the honourable member for Wakefield, with his intimate knowledge of tariffs, can immediately retort that that really does not put them on the table of the House of Parliament where they can be understood by all and debated. I would concede his retort if he did feel that way inclined but I again ask - this matter is under constant review by me and my senior officers - what is the practical solution? In 1970-71 we actually made 21,817 decisions on by-law applications. Obviously it would be bringing the Parliament into chaos if we brought in here for debate something like 22,000 by-law decisions. The number of applications for by-law admissions approved was 17,372 and we refused admission for 4,445 applications. As the honourable gentleman knows, an additional member was recently appointed to the Tariff Board. This may meet the honourable member half way. I would dearly love to be able to send certain difficult by-law matters to an independent arbiter such as the Tariff Board which could develop some sort of case history or basic philosophy on the question of by-law admission.

Some of the problems can be very difficult. The by-laws essentially say that if there is a suitable equivalent of an item reasonably available in Australia - they are the 4 magical words to the Customs Department - the Department refuses by-law admission. But what is a suitable equivalent? What is ‘reasonably available’? One can enter into fascinating philosophical discussions on what is a suitable equivalent. Is a Holden motor vehicle a suitable equivalent for a Rolls Royce. The Lord Mayor of a city might well argue that it is not, but a person who wants to get from point A to point B might well argue that it is simply a means of transport. If I may take the time of the House for a minute, I remember a classic case which involved grand pianos. Upright pianos are manufactured in Australia but grand pianos are not manufactured in Australia or at the time this decision was taken they were not. Somebody wanted to bring in a grand piano. Is an upright piano a suitable equivalent? Here we come into the fascinating area of end use. If it were the Bandywallop symphony orchestra which made the application for the importation of the grand piano or if the application were made by some of the country friends of the honourable member for Wakefield who grouped together and formed themselves into a philharmonic society, one could argue reasonably that for them an upright piano would be a suitable equivalent. However, if an Australian concert pianist wanted to import a grand piano, perhaps he could reasonably argue that in those circumstances an Australian made upright piano would not be a suitable equivalent. So, difficulties do exist and we are hopeful that the new member of the Tariff Board will be able to examine individual cases, make a decision and build up a case law and, of course, that would be exposed on the table of the House. Perhaps that meets the honourable member for Wakefield’s point to some extent.

I also appreciate that the Minister for Customs and Excise has great power to alter the tariff. I agree with the honourable member for Lalor that sometimes a decision by the Minister or by his officers in fact can alter the wishes of Parliament by altering classifications and so on. But when we come to laws we find that they are so specific. I have given one illustration to show that sometimes, although words in the English language might appear to mean something, when we come to interpret them in the light of real life situations they get us into a bind. Therefore discretion is necessary. I would have thought that, looked at in the other way, unless the Minister for Customs and Excise is given the power of discretion the spirit and the true meaning of the wishes of this Parliament and the Tariff Board could not possibly be implemented because there would be so many clever people who would grab on to a form of words to avoid tariffs and evade the wishes and will of the Parliament.

Like the honourable member for Wakefield I listened again to every word of the honourable member for Lalor, hoping that, on this occasion when we had limited time for debate and when we were considering a simple Bill, we would get some clue as to Labor’s policy on tariffs. At least I-

Mr Foster:

– It is too restrictive.


– The honourable member did not seem to be particularly restrictive in what he had to say. My friend and I listened in vain. We had a form of words that the Labor Party would give protection to efficient industries on measureable Australian standards. I wish that the honourable member would tell me what that meant. He then said that the Labor Party would use the tariff in respect of protected industries to ensure that excess prices were not being charged. I listened carefully to my friend from Wakefield who said: ‘Well, this Parliament has not got the constitutional powers to do that’. I think that he believed that if the honourable member for Lalor ever became the Minister for Trade and Industry or the Minister for Customs and Excise there would not be much fear that he could use price control vis-a-vis the tariff. I do not share his confidence. I would think that a Labor government could do this without constitutional powers.

Perhaps I could give honourable gentlemen an example. If the honourable member for Lalor were Minister for Trade and Industry and took a set against one particular company which in his view was charging too high a price for a certain commodity-

Mr Foster:

– That is ridiculous.


– Then I wish the honourable member for Lalor would explain it to us, my dear friend. If the honourable member for Lalor took the view that a certain industry was charging a price which he did not like, he could do one of several things, not the least of which would be to amend the relevant schedule of the Tariff Act and decrease protection for that particular tariff item. He would not need necessarily a Tariff Board report to do this. But before he took this action he would go up to the company and say: ‘Look here, I think that your prices are too high’.

Mr Foster:

– This is all assumption on your part.


– He would then say: ‘If you do not reduce the price to a level which I believe to be credible I am going to get my Party to use its numbers in the Parliament to reduce the tariff on your level’.

Mr Kelly:

– This is a frightening picture.


– I hope now that I have removed the assurance of my honourable friend that a Labor government would not need constitutional powers to bring about this carrot and stick way of standing over business and implementing price control through the back door. My friend the honourable member for Sturt interjected to say that this was my assumption of how the Labor Party would act. Of course it is my assumption because that is all I can do. We have listened in vain for the honourable member for Lalor to say something concrete so that we do not have to make assumptions. We have interjected on the honourable member, with courtesy and dignity of course, until we are hoarse to try to elicit further information. However, our efforts have been to no avail.

Finally I would like to refer to the last 2 matters that were raised by the honourable member for Wakefield. When the honourable member raised the matter of ‘to the nearer dollar’ about 2 or 3 weeks ago I immediately sent a memorandum to my Department. This is not as easy as it looks. The matter is under investigation in depth as indeed is the other matter relating to the c.i.f. - cost, insurance freight - vis-a-vis f .o.b. Mr Deputy Speaker, thank you too for your generosity to me in giving me the opportunity of replying to most of the matters raised in the debate.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Third Reading

Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.

Bill (on motion by Mr Chipp) read a third time.

Sitting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m.

page 1428


Ministerial Statement

Treasurer · Bruce · LP

– by leave - Throughout the past year, the basic underlying policy of the Government has been to maintain balanced economic growth, including the provision of employment opportunities for our growing work force, while at the same time braking the upward pressures on costs and prices. In a period of continually changing economic circumstances, this policy has required an appropriate flexibility of policy.

Honourable members will recall that in my Budget Speech I therefore said that the Government would be keeping the whole situation to which Budget policy was directed under very close review throughout the year. Our purpose in so doing, I said, was to make any adjustments in policy which might prove to be necessary.

In accordance with this statement we have been taking action, as necessary, to meet changing social and economic circumstances. To recapitulate the highlights, we took action in October and November to increase bank lending and reduce bond rates. In December non-metropolitan employmentcreating grants were introduced and the availability of credit was eased substantially. Prior to the Premiers Conference and Loan Council meeting in February we made substantial further reductions in bond rates and in bank lending and deposit rates.

At the Premiers Conference itself we settled upon sizeable increases in the works and housing and the semi-governmental borrowing programmes of the States. At the same time we announced the doubling of the grants to the States for the amelioration of non-metropolitan unemployment, special revenue grants to the States, and substantial increases in unemployment and associated benefits. With a view to boosting confidence, the investment allowance on manufacturing plant and equipment, which had been suspended in February 1971, was restored.

Since those February decisions there have been further reviews of the economy carried out in the Treasury and the Reserve Bank. These reviews were brought to completion 10 days or so ago. After assessment of them the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) and I in consultation, and then the Government, have concluded that further measures directed towards our economic management and social objectives are now warranted.

Before detailing those measures, however, let me briefly sketch in the developing economic situation as the Government sees it. First, let me deal with the increasingly favourable side of the economic scene. I think it fair to say that the whole tenor of public sentiment about the economy has undergone a very marked improvement. This change in mood is pleasing, confirming as it does the continuing soundness and strength of the economy.

Strengthening confidence reflects, among other things, the objective facts of our economy, which has grown strongly and with only occasional and moderate pauses for over 2 decades. It reflects the improving current economic indicators - for example, the strengthening trend in housing approvals, the more optimistic outlook evidenced recently in the motor vehicle industry, the big export orders secured by the steel industry, the better wool prices recently evident, the general improvement in the rural sector, and so on.

The Government sees these developments as very encouraging. But we have not been completely satisfied that the developing situation is fully matching up to the possibilities. In particular, we have noted the sluggish trend in consumer spending. Retail sales have been notably weak. After very moderate growth in the 6 months to November 1971 they actually fell, in seasonally adjusted terms, by one per cent in the following 3 months to February 1972. Although revisions may alter the import of these preliminary figures, and although the figures for February have been rather better than their predecessors, there is no doubt that consumer spending has slowed markedly this financial year. The reviews available to the Government have placed some stress on this fact.

Certainly, the Government considers this trend in consumer spending to be a matter requiring its attention. First, although as we expected unemployment has fallen off fast in absolute terms, we feel that an improvement, in seasonally adjusted terms, is still desirable. Secondly, and as a broad social rather . than narrowly economic consideration, the slowing in consumer spending, at least in real terms, in part reflects the fact that price increases have had adverse effects on the purchasing power of those whose incomes depend on social service payments. Thirdly, there is the question of confidence.

I said earlier that there has recently been a heartening resurgence of confidence. It is essential that this development be sustained and nurtured. The Prime Minister and I have been considering carefully the far from simple issues of economic management inherent in all this. In doing so we have had in mind that, with consumer sepnding sluggish, there is an obvious problem in terms of whether demand will expand sufficiently, in the period ahead, to sustain that confidence to which I have already referred and upon the maintenance of which the further steady expansion of total demand depends considerably.

In weighing this demand-supply situation we have had in mind at the same time the fact that the rise in costs and prices is continuing. As I said at the outset, braking the upward pressures on costs and prices is one of the Government’s central economic policy objectives.

The measures I shall shortly propose aim at a moderate increase in demand which we now judge to be within the productive capacity of the economy. They should not, therefore, create strains leading to rising costs. Moreover, the increases in disposable incomes which will follow from them will not add to costs - in contrast to increases in money wages. When the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission brings down its judgment in the national wage case, we shall see whether our hopes of some easing of wage pressures on costs and prices are to be realised. The Commonwealth has, of course, argued before the Commission for an outcome which would be consistent with those hopes, but the decision is now in the hands of the Commission. Meanwhile, it becomes every day more necessary to consider the plight of those members of the community who are largely defenceless against the erosion of their real incomes resulting in the main from wage inflation.

In considering these and other aspects of the matter in relation to what might be done about them now, we have also looked ahead a little towards the financial year ahead of us. It is as yet far too early to be considering in detail what may prove to be the shape of the Budget we shall bring down for 1972-73. It is apparent to us, however, that we will be able to take positive action in the Budget on both the revenue and expenditure sides. Obviously in any Budget a basic problem is reconciliation of priorities. After full examination, in consultation with the Prime Minister, it was concluded that the measures I am shortly to announce would in any event merit the highest priority in the forthcoming Budget context and would certainly not go beyond the range of prudent possibilities. Of course the taking of measures now will reduce the scope available to us in the Budget. What capacity will remain at that time in the policy areas now to be announced remains to be determined.

In bringing forward now what would otherwise be Budget measures, we have in mind several considerations. First, it will reinforce the recent resurgence of confidence. We want it to strengthen further and we see the measures proposed as being, among other things, a measured response to this end.

Secondly, the measures proposed will support consumer spending while, at the same time, bear on the complex of social and other considerations I have mentioned earlier. Thirdly, the measures proposed are all measures which, in the normal course, we would have been including in our Budget for 1972-73. The effect of bringing their announcement forward will therefore chiefly be to bring into earlier operation policy decisions which would have been made anyway. It is our considered judgment that, in these particular circumstances, the change in timing for certain measures is feasible and I now outline them.

Personal Income Taxation

In the 1971-72 Budget the levy on personal income tax was increased from 2i per cent to 5 per cent. The rapid increases in the level of money incomes have led to a large rise in effective tax rates and there has been a big increase in the overall weight of taxation on individuals.

In the light of the considerations I have already outlined, it is proposed to reduce the levy on personal income tax from 5 per cent to 2i per cent. New pay as you earn deductions will be applied as from the earliest practicable pay-day. That is, the levy will be reduced, on an on-going basis, from the present rate of 5 per cent to 2i per cent. In the absence of further action, the rate of levy will thus remain at 2i per cent for the 1972-73 income year. The cost to revenue in 1972-73 will be $117m.

As to the current financial year, the new and lower PAYE deductions will be applied, as I have said, as soon as practicable. In assessing incomes for the 1971-72 financial year we propose to proceed as though, notionally, the reduced rate of levy had been effective for the last quarter of the year - that is, the rate of levy for 1971- 72 as a whole will be 4$ per cent. The cost to revenue in 1971-72 will be $12m, although I should add that some part of the benefit to taxpayers in respect of income year 1971-72 will accrue to them ia 1972-73 in the form of greater refunds - the estimate of a cost to revenue of $117m in 1972-73 includes the effect of such increased refunds. Appropriate arrangements will be made to deal with the position of provisional taxpayers, including those who have already paid provisional taxation on the basis of the 5 per cent levy. I shall be introducing the necessary legislation to reduce the levy forthwith.

The Government proposes also to vary the operation of section 26 (a) of the Income Tax Assessment Act which provides that the assessable income of a taxpayer includes profits arising from the sale of any property acquired by him for the purpose of profit-making by sale. There has been much said about the operation of this section recently. The Government has decided that the basic principle of section 26 (a) is proper and that it should be maintained. However, in order to provide greater certainty on the part of people having stock exchange transactions in shares it is proposed to amend the law so that profits or losses arising from the sale of shares which have been held for 18 months or more will not be taken into account for taxation purposes. The amendment will not, however, . apply in the case of transactions in shares which are part of, or incidental to, a business being carried on. Nor will it apply in respect of transactions which have been the subject of notification under section 52 of the Act. Transactions in shares falling within the 18 month period will continue to be treated on the basis of the current provisions of the law. Further details will be announced when the legislation is introduced.


The Government also proposes measures to increase pensions. As regards age, invalid, widows’ and repatriation service pensions, it is proposed to increase by $1 per week the standard rate and by 75c per week the married rate from the earliest possible date. The corresponding rates of tuberculosis allowances, long-term sickness benefits and sheltered employment allowances will also be appropriately increased. The estimated cost of this proposal in a full year would be $53m. On the assumption that the increased rates will be paid as from the first pension pay-day in May, the estimated cost in 1971-72 is $llm.

I should emphasise that these proposed pension increases will not be restricted, as in the case of the April 1971 and the October 1971 increases, to pensioners receiving pensions at or near the maximum rate of pension. We have also decided that as from the date of effect of the general increases now proposed those pensioners who did not participate or who participated only partly in the April and October 1971 pension increases will receive additional increases in their weekly pensions assessed by reference to the new maximum rates of pension.

As a result of these proposals, the limits of means-as-assessed for pension eligibility purposes under the ‘tapered’ means test will rise from the points at which they were frozen in April 1971 to $46.50 and $81, expressed in weekly terms, for single persons and married pensioner couples respectively. The estimated cost of unfreezing the taper and granting eligibility for the 1971 pension increases is $23m in a full year and $4m in 1971-72, on the basis that the increases become payable from the first pension pay-day in May.

Increases are also proposed in war pensions - $2 in the special rate payable to a totally and permanently incapacitated war pensioner and $1 in the intermediate rate and war widows’ pensions. There will be some consequential adjustments in other repatriation benefits. These war pension proposals will cost above $0.9m in 1971-72 if payable from the first pay-day in May and $5.3m in a full year. The appropriate legislation will be introduced as soon as possible by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) and the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten).

People whose eligibility for pension arises solely from the application of the tapered means test will not qualify, in conformity with the decision taken when the tapered means test was first introduced, for Commonwealth fringe benefits. It is not proposed to make any variations in the age allowance for income taxation purposes at this time - this question will be brought forward for consideration in the context of the next Budget.

Inquiry into the Taxation System

I turn now to a more general subject. Australia’s taxation system is becoming more and more the subject of contentious debate. Ali taxes - personal income tax, company tax, indirect taxes - are subject to criticism, often severe criticism, for their effects on equity, incentives, or on the grounds of anomalies. There is a consensus that what is wanted is tax reform. That, however, is as far as the consensus goes. Views in the community on the direction that such reform should desirably take are very much divided.

The Government has decided, therefore, to set up a high level expert body to conduct a full-scale public inquiry into the taxation system. The inquiry will have broad terms of reference and it will be expected to hear evidence on and conduct studies and investigations into the overall operation of the taxation system. The inquiry will thus permit a thorough public examination into the taxation system and put the Government in a position to have an overall look at tax policy. I will announce the precise terms of reference for this inquiry at an early date.

Because an inquiry of this wide-ranging nature may take a little time to bring to full fruition, I should perhaps say that, as a matter of practicality, the Government will of course not regard the establishment of a public inquiry into ‘the tax system as precluding it from any action it may consider necessary in the period during which the inquiry is proceeding.


I come back now to the context in which we set these various measures. Leaving aside the proposals regarding the taxing of profits on share transactions, and for a public inquiry into the taxation system, I direct myself to the other matters I have set forward. First, the proposed increase in benefits to pensioners will, we believe, relieve the worst hardships which, during the period since the Budget, the rapid inflation of costs and prices has imposed upon them. That is desirable in itself; but given the nature of the expenditure patterns involved, increases in these benefits should have a direct impact, some few months earlier than otherwise, on the level of consumer spending. For reasons I outlined at the outset, we believe this would be desirable.

The effects of this first measure will, we think, be reinforced by the second, namely the proposal to reduce the on-going levy on personal income tax from 5 per cent to 2i per cent. This too will have, we think, a useful impact in consolidating at this time the recent resurgence of confidence to which I earlier referred. Its significance, however, as we see it, goes wider than that. For one thing it will have the direct effect of increasing somewhat the level of takehome pay from existing wage and salary levels. It is therefore to be seen not merely as a fiscal measure in its own right but also as being consistent with our wider approach to wages policy. Because of that, and because as I noted earlier we believe that the increase in demand flowing from these measures will not now create strains upon the economy’s resources, we see them as fully consistent with our continuing aim of curbing cost and price pressures. The measures I have outlined will come as a surprise to many. Opposition members are laughing but their false laughter belies any interest in the plight of pensioners. It also demonstrates the complete incapacity of the Opposition to adopt any reasonable economic policy because it is incapable of identifying the problems. Certainly these measures are not conventional as to their timing, but we have given the most careful consideration to this question of timing and we think that what we propose is right at this time in terms both of our economic and of our social objectives. Our confidence in the essential strength of the economy is firm. We therefore believe that these measures, taken now, will be to the benefit of the economy, as well as being just in terms of social needs and necessary in terms of economic benefit. I present the following paper.

Economic Management - Ministerial Statement, 11 April 1972.

Motion (by Mr Swartz) proposed.

That the House take note of the paper.

Melbourne Ports

– The Treasurer (Mr Snedden) on behalf of the Government might be said to have pressed all the panic buttons at once.

Dr Mackay:

– Why do you say that?


– I say it because I think it is worth saying. I repeat what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said in the House during the Budget debate in August of last year. He moved on behalf of the Opposition the following amendment:

That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘The House condemns the Budget because (a) it breaks the Prime Minister’s pledge to Parliament on taking office to bring into effect for 1971-72 a fundamental review of social services and of methods for adjusting them and, (b) it contains no proposals to balance the finances and functions of the Commonwealth, the States and local government and (c) it produces no programmes for high national objectives of social welfare, economic strength and national security.

Perhaps tonight we have seen the vanishing of the last skerrick of what was described as the Budget strategy. Months ago it was suggested, not only in this House but also outside it, as soon as the 2) per cent income tax levy was introduced that it was wrong and should be reversed. Belatedly it is now being done. It was suggested at the time of the Budget that there were some drop outs in the process of inflation, particularly social service recipients and those on fixed incomes. Again, belatedly, the Government has acknoweldged this and proposes now to give $1 that it could well have given months ago. There is something to be said for dating it back. When one looks at what the Treasurer describes as a sluggish economy and allowing for

Mr Snedden:

– I did not speak of a sluggish economy.


– The Treasurer spoke of a sluggish trend in consumer spending. At least he seems to have ackowledged that the stimulus to economic activity in a community is soundness in consumer spending and that the business people do not respond in advance. They respond when they know that consumers will buy. The Treasurer has said that the Government will now allow a moderate increase in demand and I want to mention just 2 of the matters the Treasurer referred to. The 2i per cent levy on income tax which is to be taken off as soon as the Government can introduce legislation will have the effect of injecting $12m into the economy between now and the end of June. The increases in pensions will inject Slim. I believe that the Treasurer is one who becomes bemused when it suits him by the magnitude of numbers. If it is suggested from this side of the House that we should be doing something about augmenting social services or a health system or something of that kind, the Government says: ‘Where will the money come from?’ Sometimes the Treasurer can make $100m in his mouth sound as though it is the wisdom of Solomon, but if it comes from the mouths of his opponents it is said to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I draw his attention to something that “The Economist’ said on 25th March 1972 when commenting on the British budget. The article is headed Here’s that billion’. A billion dollars in the context of the British economy, sluggish as this one is, would be something like $2 50m in the context of the Australian economy. This is how the article begins: a modern budget is a major political occasion . . .

The Treasurer’s first Budget was a disaster and has now been rewritten. The article continues:

  1. . an exercise in redistribution of a rather small part of the national income . . .

Certainly when our Treasurer introduced his first Budget he gave little and now he is giving very little more. The article continues:

  1. . and nowadays also an arithmetical and economic guess.

The last Budget ought to remove any doubts that by saying certain things in the month of August one can finally change the complexion of the economy for 12 months. That sort of approach is nonsense. I am glad to see in this speech tonight a reference to priorities. If anything has been wrong with this Government over the years it is - as I said this afternoon - that it is trying in the last 7 months of its existence to become repentant and to do the things it could have done certainly over the last 7 years and in many cases over the last 20 years.

Mr Giles:

– Nonsense.


– ‘Nonsense’ says my friend. What about this great one, the inquiry into the tax system? The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) when he was the Treasurer - 1 forget how many Budgets back - talked about reforming the tax structure. But what has been done about it, since, except for the announcement now that the Government will set up a committee of inquiry? No terms of reference were announced and no idea was given as to how long the committee will take in its deliberations. Yet this statement is regarded as an economic statement. I think the House and the nation are becoming a little cynical, to say the least, about all the things that this Government is going to do now. There has been nothing whatever in the past to prevent the Government from doing these things if it had wanted to do them. When honourable members opposite see the results of a gallup poll this somehow seems to stir them. We claim to be a democratic community. Surely we do not increase pensions just because we think it is a good economic measure. Surely an increase in pensions is given for the sake of the recipients. This Government now seems to concede reluctantly that maybe wages are not the only element that is responsible for varying the trends in the economy. At long last it seems to acknowledge that spending power can be put quickly into the hands of people who will spend it and who will not hoard it.

Another great statement that was made tonight was about the adjustment to section 26 (a) of the Income Tax Assessment Act. The Government listened to the views of 3 gentlemen from the stock exchanges of Australia. If any institutions in Australia need cleaning up internally they are the stock exchanges of Australia.

They talked to the Government about the small investors. As one of my colleagues said, the small investors will probably be more worried about the losses they thought they could claim but will not now be able to claim than about any gains that have occurred in the last several months. I think this is about the fourth occasion on which the Treasurer has made statements such as this. The last one was as recent as 24th February, when he told us ponderously at about 6 o’clock that he wanted to make a statement about the economy. Tonight we had a similar occasion except that the Treasurer did not give us the 2 hours notice; he gave me approximately an hour’s notice. He had to first take the statement to those who sit opposite for vetting. I hope that they are pleased with what has been done.

I suppose that one can accept the crumbs that are given, but what has still not been grappled with in Australia are the underlying trends in the economy and the changes that are taking place, all the evidence of which exist but which the Government is doing nothing about. I took the opportunity recently to show the decline in the increase in employment in 1971 relative to what it had been in previous years. In that year the increase in total employment in Australia was 66,000 as against 167,000 in each of the 2 previous years. The figures for a later period show that the increase in 12 months from January to January had actually fallen from 66,000 to 39,000. It is no wonder that there is a decline in the totality of the economy or the absorptive capacity, if you like, which is reflected in these kinds of events and which this Government is now trying to remedy. It ought to be said that the Australian economy, if there were no changes in prices - and unfortunately that will not be the position this year because there will be . a change in the price level of something of the magnitude of 8 per cent - in order to absorb productive activity into the economy the Government would need to generate something like another 5 per cent of economic activity. That is allowing for productivity and absorption. The requirement at constant prices at the moment is something like $l,500m or $l,600m.

Yet what did we hear tonight? We heard a statement supposedly to be praised because something which could have been done 6 months ago but which will be done now will add $12m and the action to relieve the plight of the pensioners, which has been so desperate for quite a while, will inject $llm. I suggest that there is no perspective on the part of this Government; nor is there any sense of purpose as far as the future economic destiny of Australia is concerned. Nothing that this Government will strive to do in the next 6 or 7 months is going to save it from the wrath of the electors. The trends are there and these sort of piffling measures will not make any very substantial difference. Do honourable members opposite think that people are so cheap that they can be bought for this kind of a price? The very attitude of the Government in regard to magnitude shows how little it understands what the fundamental problems are. If ever there were a time when people were concerned about quality as well as quantity now is that time. What sort of a lead are the people being given as far as quality is concerned? This Government is throwing out crumbs as though that is all it has to do to save itself.

I think that the time has come for a change and what the people want in Australia now is a government that does have a sense of purpose; a government that does have a sense of destiny; a government that does have a faith in the creative ability of its own people if only they are given the chance. I thought that the Government would also have announced tonight the introduction of a national superannuation scheme and acknowledged that we owe a debt to those who have wrought in the years of their strength and that they should be provided for in the years of their decline. These people should not have to depend upon this kind of sordid political gesture a few months before an election to give them what is their birthright and what the tradition of this country entitles them to.

Debate (on motion by Mr Giles) adjourned.

page 1435


Bill presented by Mr Snedden, and read a first time.

Second Reading

Treasurer · Bruce · LP

– I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the decision, which has already been announced to the House, to reduce the levy on personal income tax. The cost to revenue of this reduction will be $12m in 1971-72 and $117m in 1972-73. For the reasons explained in my statement earlier tonight it is proposed that the rate of levy on personal income tax be reduced from 5 per cent to 2½ per cent. New pay as you earn deductions reflecting the lowering of the levy from now on to 2½ per cent are to apply as from the earliest practicable payday. As honourable members will appreciate, the job of printing the deduction scales is a big one, but it has been put under way in order that copies can be distributed quickly. The scales being printed are, in fact, those that applied from 1st October 1970 to 30th September 1971 and many employers will no doubt still have a copy of them available. The Commissioner of Taxation has advised me that it will be in order for employers who have a copy to use it straight away. An announcement will be made when the copies now being printed become available at post offices and Taxation Offices. In assessing incomes for the 1971-72 financial year it is intended to proceed notionally on the basis that the 5 per cent levy applied for three quarters of the year and a levy of 2½ per cent for the last quarter. For assessment purposes the one rate rate of levy is to be applied and there will be no division or apportionment of 1971-72 income between quarters. Consequently, the rate of levy to be applied for income year 1971-72 as a whole will be 4 per cent.

During the current financial year, taxpayers deriving income from sources other than salary or wages are receiving assessments based on the 1970-71 income year in which provisional tax is levied in respect of the 1971-72 income year at the rates declared by Parliament for that year. The rates now in force include the 5 per cent levy and these rates will continue tobe used in assessments that issue before this Bill becomes law. Any overpayment of provisional tax will be adjusted automatically when the provisional tax levied this year is set off against the amount payable in next year’s assessment. However, any taxpayer who wishes to have his assessment adjusted in the meantime can make an application to the Taxation Office for variation of provisional tax. He will then need to pay only the reduced amount payable under the new law. If the tax assessed has already been paid, the amount overpaid will be refunded on application to the Taxation Office. While this Bill in effect fixes the levy only for 1971-72, it is the Government’s intention that the reduction in the levy will be on-going into 1972-73. As is customary, legislation declaring the 1972-73 rates will be presented during the Budget sittings. A memorandum explaining technical features of the Bill is being made available to honourable members. I commend the Bill to the House.

Melbourne Ports

– I have consulted the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), and we have no objection to putting this Bill straight through because we think it provides for something which should have been done a long time ago.

Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.

Third Reading

Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.

Bill (on motion by Mr Snedden) read a third time.

page 1435


Ministerial Statement

Debate resumed from 28 March (vide page 1256), on the following papers presented by Mr Fairbairn:

Defence - Future Programme - Ministerial Statement, 28 March 1972

Australian Defence Review. and on motion by Mr. N. H. Bowen:

That the House take note of the papers.

Suspension of Standing Orders

Motion (by Mr Swartz) - by leave - agreed to:

That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Deputy Leader of the Opposition speaking for a period not exceeding 45 minutes.


– The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) sees a profound and unbridgeable difference between the defence policies of the Government and those of the Australian Labor Party. There is little evidence of this in the defence review compiled by the Department of Defence and presented to the House by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn). On the evidence of this document the 2 streams of defence policy are converging very rapidly. Quite plainly this document has been cunningly contrived with 2 basic objectives in mind. In the first place it had to be made more palatable to the government of the day.

Beyond this it had to take into account the implications of an imminent change of government and the content had to be expressed in terms which would not be overly distasteful to the alternative government. Assessed on the basis of these criteria, it is a very skilful document indeed. The Minister for Defence has been at pains to give to the House his own summation of the paper, playing down certain features and playing up others. This is a valid enough exercise; the Minister has been able to throw into relief what he sees as areas of difference with the Opposition.

It would be possible for me to perform a similar exercise, drawing out the features of the report which the Labor Party finds most congenial and putting them in frankly political terms. Another alternative would be to put before the House an exhaustive review on the same subject matter. In effect this would mean putting a Labor Party defence White Paper to the Parliament. This is hardly a necessary exercise; wherever one opens this White Paper whole paragraphs hit the eye which could have been lifted intact from the Labor Party platform. In one sense the paper is a compliment to the evolution of Labor Party defence thinking and the work done by the Party un defence and foreign policy in recent years. I do not say that the paper is completely derivative; what I do claim is that the Department of Defence in analysing a vast range of defence policy has got to much the same position as the Labor Party. The Labor Party’s implacable opposition to the Vietnam war has allowed it to look at strategic issues and troop deployment through glasses un clouded by Vietnam. Once the Department of Defence lifted its eyes above Vietnam and looked dispassionately at future policy it reached broadly similar conclusions to those of the Labor Party. The only difference is that conclusions reached by us much earlier are only now being grasped and adopted by the Department; the Government is even further behind. This is the basic reason why the review contains so much that is acceptable to the Labor Party. Furthermore, much of what is not acceptable is phrased so reasonably and moderately that it can be used as a framework for sensible debate. An example is a reference to the war in Indo-China contained in the paper. I quote as follows:

The long war in the Republic of Vietnam, though posing now a reduced threat to national survival, has spread territorially elsewhere in Indo-China.

The same theme is expressed again as follows:

The war in Indo-China is likely to go on though perhaps at a lower level of intensity. These are, however, situations which are now, or expected to be, within the competence of local forces or, as in Vietnam, are tending increasingly to be so.

Implicit in these statements is an acceptance of the policy of Vietnamisation as a remedy for all the ills of Vietnam. A claim of this sort may have had some substance when it was drafted. Its fallacious nature is surely exposed now to the events of the past week in Vietnam. I do not believe for one moment that the Department of Defence is the victim of illusions or delusions about Vietnam. I believe that it understands the dicey character of Vietnamisation and the very strong probability that it will not succeed. But because the Government of the day is wedded to Vietnamisation the Department has to pay homage to the concept and forgo giving it the sort of critical analysis it warrants. There are other examples of shying away from rigorous treatment of cliches dear to the heart of the present Government. I do not blame the Department of Defence for this; the Government has an accumulated record of many years of error and miscalculation to overcome. But this sort of sensitivity to the political dogma of its masters detracts from the overall value of the review.

In tone the White Paper is consistent enough to warrant the belief that the final draft is largely the work of one man. There is ample evidence that the mass of material contained in the paper has been worked over carefully and put into coherent form by a single guiding and unifying comptroller. The style has a certain tag to it. This does give the report a certain coherence but it does have the disadvantage I referred to - of shaping the material to blend with the prevailing policy patterns of two conservative political parties. The principal defect of the White Paper is that it defers too much to the conventional wisdom of a LiberalCountry Party government. It represents a considerable step towards an objective and impartial view of defence policy but it does not succeed in throwing off the constraints of conventional Government policy. It was probably over optimistic to expect a really hard-nosed look at Australia’s defences. Now that a start has been made it should be possible for the Department of Defence to use the White Paper format for regular and objective assessments of defence needs and developments.

It should be possible to analyse defence without the need to look repeatedly over the shoulder at the responses of the Government. This has been done successfully in other countries, for example, Britain, Sweden, West Germany and Canada. Each of these countries has adopted a different approach. The British White Papers are weighted heavily towards special areas of defence policy and administration which have been the subject of special studies. The West German model organises a mass of descriptive material into a coherent picture of the organisation of the armed foces within the framework of the security of the Federal Republic. The Swedish Ministry of Defence breaks the subject into a number of compartments analysing national security policy, the execution process planning, goalsetting procedures, programming and budgeting techniques. It is by far the most adventurous in content and easily the most demanding in the degree of effort expected from the reader. The Canadian White Papers on defence bear the closest resemblance to the document before the House. The Canadian model is superior in the avoidance of any sort of political comment, overt or implied. It provides the objectivity that the Australian paper strives for without fulfilment.

I do not want to be unduly critical of this side of the document but it is a White Paper issued by the Department of Defence. It is not a White Paper issued by the Government, the Liberal Party or the Country Party. For this reason the Opposition finds the document defective but by no means without value. If the political bias and content can be eliminated in future reviews it will bc a most valuable innovation for the analysis and debate of defence issues. There is a great amount of work being done within the Department of Defence which in the past few years has built up its special projects and systems analysis divisions. Much work has also been done by interdepartmental committees on specific issues affecting servicemen. Much of this material is never disclosed. The Kerr reports on Service pay and conditions released material which could not have been collated or divulged otherwise. There are repeated references in the White Paper to studies which the Department of Defence is undertaking. Examples are the future role of Australian forces in New Guinea and the development of the Papua New Guinea defence forces. These are issues of defence policy which will have enormous importance as the Territory moves towards independence. It would be reasonable to expect that some account of the progress of these studies be included in future defence reviews or supplementary defence statements. The studies on rationalisation of the services referred to in the paper should also be summarised and included in future instalments.

Criticism of secrecy in government is extremely relevant to the Department of Defence where far too much is restricted and excluded from scrutiny. In keeping tabs on this sort of material and giving precise information about the progress of special studies the British statement on the Defence Estimates and its supplementary statements provide excellent models for our Department of Defence. With the reservations about form and content I have expressed, the concept of Defence White Papers is a welcome one. The paper before the House shows a marked advance on the last full-scale defence statement made in March 1970 by the then Minister for Defence, who is now the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser). In substance this earlier statement was a political comment, although it contained some excellent material. It filled much the same role as that statement made by the present Minister on tabling the White Paper. The divergence between the Minister’s statement and the White Paper is a measure of the greater confidence and maturity developed by the Department of Defence in formulating a defence review of this scope. If the present model is further refined it will fill the gaps in our defence structure left by the absence of regular and detailed defence papers.

I want to concentrate my remarks on specific issues raised by the White Paper on the 3 broad areas of commitments and alliances, manpower and administration, and procurement. On the first topic a most notable source of disappointment with the paper is the emphasis it puts on the moribund South East Asia Treaty Organisation. It says with masterly understatement that some of the signers of the Manila treaty are inactive but the treaty still retains value. The paper is hard put to make any case for SEATO beyond its usefulness as a framework for military exercises. It points vaguely to new directions for SEATO without giving anything of substance. No doubt SEATO exercises have been of value for the countries that have participated, including Australia. But if this is the only justification for maintaining SEATO it should be wrapped up straight away. Joint exercises do not need such an elaborate and empty shell as SEATO; they can be organised on a bilateral basis or through co-operation of a number of countries in the region. lt is true, also, that SEATO has made a useful contribution to defence assistance and economic assistance to a number of Asian countries. Again, this sort of aid is not dependent on SEATO; it can be channelled through other agencies or put on a bilateral basis. These arguments for SEATO do not counter the criticism that it is useless as a vehicle for assuring security. It has never been invoked for defence purposes for the simple reason that even its members acknowledge its impotence. The paper stresses that the Philippines and Thailand are members, and their security is of major strategic significance in the region as a whole. If the security of these major Asian nations were threatened they would face a very grim pospect if SEATO were their only prop. It is acknowledged everywhere in Asia that SEATO has long outlived its usefulness and should be scrapped. The Asian nations are evolving their own treaty arrangements. Even Thailand in particular is putting much more stress on ASEAN - the Association of South East Asian Nations - which is the most encouraging of the regional arrangements in Asia.

Later this year another SEATO conference will be held in Canberra with all the fanfare the Government can muster. On the evidence of previous conferences, this Parliament building will rival the Kremlin for security, and honourable members and other people who work here will be harried in doing their jobs. It will be a futile charade designed to foster the myth that SEATO flourishes and retains meaning and relevance. Ultimately SEATO will have to be dismantled. This is a reality which should have been acknowledged in the White Paper.

The second commitment I want to look at is Australia’s contribution to the fivepower arrangements covering Singapore and Malaysia. The White Paper is somewhat ambivalent on this issue. At one point the Paper refers to the deployment of Australian troops in the following terms:

Australian military support can be exercised by the selective forward deployment of forces, and indirectly by the existence of a credible capacity to deploy forces in the region if required.

This juxtaposes rather neatly the respective attitudes of the Government and the Opposition. The old policy of forward defence is now labelled the selective forward deployment of forces. The only difference from the old policy of forward defence seems to be that under selective forward deployment we have far fewer troops in the region. The once far-flung battle line that carried Australian troops to north east Thailand and the demilitarised zone in Vietnam has contracted remarkably, but the principles remain the same.

The Minister for Defence puts this up as an area of major difference between his Government and the Labor Party. This is correct but the Minister for Defence should perceive that the area of difference is shrinking very rapidly. It is another example of the time lag built into Government policy. The whole pattern of deployment of Australian troops in the past 2 years has been to concentrate our forces in territorial Australia. Only a handful of men remain in Vietnam as a contribution to the official policy of Vietnamisation. There are Army units in Malaysia-Singapore and the Mirage squadrons at Butterworth in Malaysia, but the trend has been to a gradual return of all Australian military units to Australia. The Government has implemented this policy without fully understanding what it is about. It retains the jargon and the addled logic of discredited commitments while acting in a completely contrary way.

Because this question of the future of units in Malaysia and Singapore has been the subject of considerable debate in recent weeks I would like to outline briefly Australian Labor Party policy and what a Labor government would seek to do. It has been stated quite falsely by the Minister for Defence that a Labor government would immediately pull out these units from Malaysia-Singapore. This simply is not true. It is a great pity that the Minister for Defence, who claims to show such interest in these matters, is not in the House for the resumption of the debate on the statement which he made to this Parliament and to the nation and which he said was to be an important document. Where is the Minister for Defence? Surely he has sufficient interest in one of the major statements made to this Parliament to be present in this House when the debate is resumed. But with the Minister’s usual arrogance and his complete disinterest in these matters he fails to take up his position as any responsible Minister should when an important document is being debated in this Parliament and for which he was responsible.

As I have already indicated, the trend has been towards a gradual return of all Australian military units to Australia. The Government has implemented this policy without fully understanding the logic or the reasoning behind it. Because this question of the future of the troops in Malaysia and Singapore has been the subject of a great deal of debate not only in this Parliament but also outside it, and as the Minister for Defence claimed that under a Labor government the troops in Malaysia and Singa pore would be returned immediately to Australia, I want to say emphatically that this is not the situation at all. The Labor Party did not even stipulate immediate withdrawal from Vietnam in the 1969 election, campaign. Even honourable gentlemen opposite will recall that the proposal put to the electorate allowed an interim period of 6 months for the withdrawal to be completed and for alternative arrangements to be made.

In view of this attitude to Vietnam which was a matter of the deepest principle, why should a Labor government get out of Malaysia and Singapore within seconds of the declaration of the polls? These troops are not engaged in combat and there is no likelihood of their being engaged in combat. They are performing routine administrative and training functions in Singapore. To train effectively, the units in Singapore have to go to Malaysia because Singapore has not even sufficient training space for its own Army. This emphasises the futility of the continued stationing of a battalion in Singapore. A Labor government would take these units out but it would negotiate this withdrawal with the governments of Malaysia and Singapore. It would allow an adequate breathing space to readjustments could be made. I could not predict how long this period of grace would be; one solution would be to leave the battalion in Singapore until its term of duty expired and then not replace it. This would give a breathing space of 7 or 8 months after an election. The scheme of non-replacement proposed for Vietnam by the Labor Party in 1969 was subsequently adopted as the basis of the Government’s withdrawal.

The future of the Mirage squadrons at Butterworth is a rather come complex issue. Until the Malaysian Air Force is built to effective strength the squadrons fill a role iri providing air surveillance. Australia has accepted an obligation to assist in forming the Malaysian Air Force and a Labor government would honour this agreement. There are also doubts about the capacity of Air Force facilities in Australia to cope with 2 additional squadrons, and this is an added complication. The removal of Australian units from Malaysia and’ Singapore would need careful negotiation with the governments of these countries; it would not be done with a single sharp stroke. The reactions of Malaysia and Singapore have also been overstated. It is our conclusion from a careful testing of opinion in Malaysia that it expects the five-power arrangements to be only transitional. Defence co-operation with Australia would then revert to a bilateral basis. I do not pretend that the Government of Singapore in particular would be enthusiastic about Australia’s departure, but I do not think it would be unduly concerned. As a pragmatic Government I am sure it understands the realities of Labor’s policies and how they would be applied, even if its acceptance of them was somtwhat grudging.

With regard to Malaysia the situation is rather more fluid with the development in that country of a strong feeling for the neutrality of South East Asia. This concept of neutrality has yet to be clearly articulated, but there is no doubt that there is a strong feeling, backed by Indonesia, that ASEAN should be developed as a security medium in a context of neutrality for the countries in the region. It is not possible to predict with any accuracy what Malaysia’s attitude to Australian troops in the region would be in even a year’s time. I would like to make it quite clear that the removal of these units from MalaysiaSingapore would not mean an end of military assistance to the region. In simple terms a Labor government would provide training and technical and logistics assistance to these countries but it would not station permanent forces there. This approach has the added merit that it is capable of extension to other countries in the region beyond the five-power arrangements such as, for example, Indonesia, which the Government wants to help but cannot quite accommodate within its present formula.

Whatever the character of the Australian Government, it is likely that the five-power arrangements will prove transitional and be supplanted by bilateral defence arrangements with South East Asian countries. A Labor government would give effect to the overwhelming feeling in the ranks of its members and supporters that it is no longer proper for Australian troops to be stationed on the ground in South East Asia. But it would do this responsibly and with adequate time for alternative arrangements to be worked out. One of the arrangements we expect to initiate is regular joint training exercises, possibly of 3 months duration, in which our troops would gain invluable experience in other countries and in our own.

The White Paper referred at a number of points to Australia’s defence links with the United States. The Minister chose to make this the high point of his commentary on the White Paper rounding off with an impressive appeal to American patriotism. The honourable gentleman at this point sounded more like a candidate in an American primary than an . Australian defence minister. He did make certain comments on the imposition of doctrinaire conditions on United States defence policy and somehow or other equated carping and criticism of American policy with treachery. The Minister makes it quite clear, that he wants to exploit the question of American bases and facilities in Australia as one of the few remaining areas of defence policy difference between the Government and the Opposition.

It is worth asking which is the dogmatic or doctrinaire party: Is it the party which steadfastly refuses to discuss the issue or to make available any information on which a debate could be conducted? Alternatively, is it the party which wants to debate the issue and wants the information on which it can assess its policies, but is hamstrung by the attitude of a Government which contemptuously refuses to inform the Parliament and the public on crucial issues of defence policy? The Labor Party’s platform is quite explicit on this subject. It is opposed to the existence of foreign-owned, controlled or operated bases and facilities in Australian territory, especially when such bases involve a derogation from Australian sovereignty. The policy states further:

Labor is not opposed to the use of Australian bases and facilities in war-time or in periods of international tension involving a threat to Australia, provided that Australia is not involved in hostilities without Australia’s consent.

This is the framework of Labor’s policy. At this stage it is impossible to say how these principles would be applied by a Labor government. The main obstacle to making any sort of projection is lack of information about the functions of these bases.

The present Government has restricted information on Pine Gap and Woomera in particular to people described by the Minister for Defence as ‘those with a need to know*. Those with a need to know’ do not include the alternative government or members of the Australian Parliament. On the basis of the above principles, it would be certain that no future bases would be allowed on the conditions now applying to Pine Gap and Woomera, by a Labor government. The principles I stated earlier would be rigidly applied. These existing bases are covered by treaty arrangements. Until these arrangements are examined we do not know what could be done to vary the terms covering the bases to make them acceptable to the principles contained in Labor policy. The Labor Party, the Parliament and the electorate were presented with a fait accompli on Pine Gap and Woomera. Quite obviously these bases are related to the United States early-warning and surveillance systems of Russia and China. It is just as certain that Russia at least is aware of what these bases do, and that it has its own early warning and surveillance systems.

What is not clear is how much the bases in Australia contribute to nuclear stability in terms of mutual deterrence between the United States and Russia. These are questions that would have to be looked at carefully by a Labor government. By stifling public debate on these great issues the Government has done itself and the United States a disservice. It also seems to me to have been a bad blunder in political tactics. By refusing to make available any information on which a logical debate on the bases could be conducted, it has made it impossible for the ALP to be specific on the subject. This absurd and obsessive secrecy can only rebound on the Government.

There is the other point that developments in the state of the art will make the bases in Australia unnecessary, that more sophisticated early-warning and surveillance developments will be developed. It is possible that space-tracking stations on the ground could become redundant through the development of satellites which would perform their function. As deeper penetration into space is achieved, much greater surveillance of the earth can be made by satellites. The use of synchronous satellites to provide command and tracking information and to relay data from other satellites is a distinct possibility. It would be of immense benefit for the United States to have a world-wide early-warning network that would not involve the cost of maintaining tracking stations outside the- United States and subject to changes in domestic policy. This could bring a voluntary removal of these facilities from Australia so the United States could concentrate all its nuclear deterrent systems within its own borders.

Another matter on which the Government has signally failed to give any information is whether the Pine Gap and Woomera bases could be adapted for peaceful uses. There are many ways in which satellite surveillance can be used for detection of resources, for agriculture, for geography, geology and hydrology, and for a wide range of other scientific applications. Australia has long passed the stage of sophistication when all that a government needed to do was point to a defence installation, whisper ‘Top Secret’ and watch the votes pour in. If it refuses a debate on these bases and facilities then it can only blame itself if the old response is not raised in the electorate. Politics in this country no longer runs on the basis of mindless appeals to secrecy and security. If the Government wants to debate this issue then the Opposition is quite prepared to match it. But let us have no more of this assumption that security plus secrecy is a vote-winning combination and that the electorate is neither to be trusted nor informed.

On the question of manpower there are significant differences within the Government over the future of conscription and what the composition of the Army should be. We have the golden words of the Minister for the Army in this House of 28th September last year when he said that national service could be reduced even further to 12 months. He went on to say that even if everyone possible were conscripted it would not be terribly effective. With reservations of this sort about national service among the Government ranks, the opposition of the Labor Party to conscription is amply reinforced. The attitude to future manpower policies, in particular to whether a volunteer army can be sustained, is a particularly disappointing feature of this White Paper. It is most regrettable that studies of future manpower trends and the composition of the Armed Services have been done mainly outside the Defence Department. This area of manpower projections is an obvious one for the systems analysis techniques the Department has built up over the past few years.

The Opposition’s policy on this crucial issue is quite explicit: A future Labor government would abolish the draft immediately it gained office and would work to establish an all-volunteer army. This is one area of defence policy where a Labor government would be committed to immediate action.

Mr Donald Cameron:

– What size would your army be?


– Interpretation of the policy statements would not permit of any delay in eliminating the draft as quickly as possible. I shall shortly come to the matter raised by the honourable member by way of interjection. However, I am sure that he will not understand what I have to say.

The elimination of the conscript element in the Australian Army would leave an Army of 28,000 men, all volunteers. It is an Army that is growing steadily each year, even allowing for an official lack of enthusiasm to voluntary recruitment which has at times amounted to discouragement of voluntarism. According to Army figures the volunteer component of the Army is increasing by around 1,000 a year. Last year the Army cut the draft from 16,000 to 12,000, giving an effective strength of 40,000.

According to the Government’s logic Australia would be vulnerable and undefended if this 40,000 were cut by even a platoon. Forty thousand men constitute defence preparedness and deterrence, 32,000 or 36,000 or even 39,000 are equated with treachery and betrayal. It is overlooked that a substantial part of the volunteer component in the Army is engaged in training national servicemen and servicing and training conscripts. There are many others who are employed in duplicated or redundant jobs. The Government is moving to replace 6 command functions based on the States with a single integrated command structure on the lines recommended in the Hassett Committee Report. If this is done effectively it is obvious that there will be substantial savings in men needed for routine functions. In very many cases one or two men will be doing what 6 did before.

To take one example, the Western Command which formerly administered the Army in Western Australia had a third of its total strength engaged in command and administration functions. If these jobs were eliminated then more men would be freed to fill combat or specialist functions. This pattern would be repeated with the elimination of the other State commands, particularly the major Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland commands.

It is Labor’s argument that if the need to administer national service were eliminated, and if a proper reorganisation of the Army commands were carried out, then an Army strength of much less than 40,000 would be adequate for our defences. Even if only 4,000 jobs were eliminated in this way, a target strength of 36,000 would be needed. If the rate of present recruitment could be doubled, this would be achieved in 4 years. By setting a modest recruitment rate of an extra 2,000 men a year, we could get an adequate volunteer Army in an acceptable time span. This sort of argument is reinforced by the recent improvement in the recruiting rate which has been conceded by the Minister for Defence. With proper policies an end to conscription would have little impact on the basic strength of the Army, that is the ranks of specialist and combat soldiers.

In the years ahead there is likely to be much greater movement between the military and the civilian workforce. The United States Army has reached a plateau of organisation where only one man in 10 is a combat soldier. The rest have specialist functions or are absorbed in the long administrative tail which supports the relatively small fighting head. The same pattern is emerging in the Australian Army. There is likely to be much more emphasis on shorter terms of recruitment for the Services. More flexible enlistment policies with men enlisting for a specific task or military project are a definite possibility.

Much more fluid patterns of service organisation and administration will emerge with much closer inter-relationships between the civilian and the military. It will become increasingly futile to look at the Army in the hard-and-fast pattern of volunteer and national service elements. We want a highly effective professional Army with none of the in-built wastage of manpower and duplication of jobs that survive in the present structure. It is Labor’s argument that conscription is not necessary in manpower terms and that an all-volunteer Army is feasible; at the very least it should be given a try.

According to the White Paper and the Minister, the Department of Defence is currently analysing some 70 major items of defence procurement. It is an old cliche of Government defence policy that only the best is good enough for our defence forces and that we buy only the best whatever the price. Of course this is nonsense; if it were not we would be buying nuclearpowered submarines or squadrons of aircraft carriers or Galaxy transport aircraft at enormous cost.

For a second string power such as Australia, procurement is a matter of compromise and bargaining; it involves tradeoffs between sets of alternatives and tough analysis of proposed purchases in costbenefit terms. According to the White Paper, decisions would be made on these 70 items in the 5-year period from 1972- 1977. Some of these items can be identified easily; for example the DDL destroyer programme, the Mirage replacement and the requirement for maritime reconnaissance aircraft. Others are listed in the paper. Tn the procurement of defence equipment techniques of evaluation have made giant strides in the past few years.

It is an instructive exercise to contrast the way in which the Fill was bought with the careful way the Government is now taking the DDL programme along stage by stage. In the area of defence procurement it is possible for an Opposition party to put forward broad concepts of what weapons should be bought. This we have done with the DDL project by putting strongly our view that the Navy would be wise to concentrate on smaller, faster and cheaper vessels armed with missiles.- In our view this is much more in accord with the development of naval equipment and naval strategy than putting resources into a few vulnerable and highly expensive destroyers. This lesson was hammered home in the recent naval exercise when the Singaporean patrol boats theoretically pierced the defence screen of the aircraft carrier HMAS ‘Melbourne’ and sank it. Beyond these broad concepts of what sort of weapons systems we should be acquiring, it is not the function of an Opposition party to put up shopping lists of defence purchases.

I would like to refer briefly to an issue raised by the Minister in his comments on types of weapons. This is the suggestion that Australia should acquire some form of nuclear weapons capability. The Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay), in a speech in Perth in January emphatically rejected any acquisition of nuclear weapons on the basis that they were unnecessary and too costly. The Minister for Defence has also rejected a nuclear capability though in less emphatic terms. The White Paper also sees no need for a nuclear weapons capability although it stressed the prudence of watching developments in nuclear technology. The Labor Party policy explicitly prohibits nuclear weapons for Australia and supports the immediate ratification of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Our rejection of nuclear weapons is based strongly on principle. This is reinforced by our assessment of the diplomatic folly of moving Australia towards possession of a nuclear force.

There is the other argument of cost which is stressed quite strongly in the defence White Paper. A considerable amount of research work has been done on the cost and possible dimensions of a nuclear force for Australia. But I do not think this research has proved conclusively that a nuclear force is economically feasible for Australia. Nor has it shaken the basis of Labor Party belief that a nuclear force cannot be justified for Australia in any conceivable strategic circumstances.

The Labor Party policy which prohibits nuclear weapons extends the same prescription to chemical and biological warfare. The Government has always firmly indicated that it is completely opposed to chemical and biological warfare and that it has not manufactured these weapons nor has it trained its soldiers in this sort of warfare. This morning it was announced in the Press that Australia was among 47 countries which had signed a convention outlawing the use of biological weapons. This is completely in harmony with Labor Party policy, and I am glad that Australia was one of the early signatories of this convention. Nevertheless, lingering doubts about the sincerity of the Government on this very delicate topic remain. There have been reports in American journals that members of the Australian military forces have received training in chemical and biological warfare in the United States. I refer in particular to an article in the American journal ‘Nation’ of 11th October last year which claimed Australian officers had been given training for chemical warfare at the United States Army Chemical Centre and School at Fort McLellan in Alabama. According to the report training in chemical warfare at this school was conducted in the framework of a mock Vietnamese village.

In raising this delicate matter at this time, I would like to point out that I have had a question on the notice paper on this subject since 24th Febuary. The Minister for Defence has been given ample time to investigate these allegations and clarify them for the Parliament. He has not done so and I have been compelled to raise them in this form in the House. I emphasise that this has not been done for sensationalist purposes. If Australian troops have been trained in chemical warfare it is the clear duty of the Government to explain why, in view of its expressed abhorrence of chemical and biological warfare and its signature of the latest convention.

In summary, I have tried tonight to express the attitude of the Opposition to the concept of defence White Papers. This is an excellent innovation and the Opposition hopes it can be continued on a regular basis as an objective expession of the thinking of the Department of Defence, irrespective of party politics. In my comments on specific issues raised by the Paper I have concentrated on political differences between the Government and the Opposition which are extremely relevant at the moment. ‘ There are many other issues raised by the Paper which will concern this House in the months ahead.

Pre-eminent is the future role of Australian defence units in Papua New Guinea and the development of the independent defence forces of Papua New Guinea. This is a matter of sufficient importance to warrant a debate in this Parliament at the earliest possible opportunity. I would ask the Minister for Defence whether a supplementary statement on these issues can be prepared for debate before the House adjourns for the winter recess.

In conclusion we welcome the precedent involved in the distribution of this White Paper. We hope it will open the way for an independent Australian defence policy which will mean that defence policy is chained no longer to the chariot Wheels of the Pentagon and Whitehall.


– I commend the Government on the presentation to this House of . the White Paper on defence and on some of the comments which were made by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) when that Paper was presented. I agree with the Deputy Leader of (he Opposition (Mr Barnard) that this provides us with a proper basis for discussion of what we should do to defend Australia, though in many ways I disagree with other things that he said tonight. But one thing that I am pleased about is that the presentation of his Paper from the advisers of the Government should, I hope once and for all, put paid to the silly discussion of whether we should have Fortress Australia or forward defence.

Clearly what has been presented by our advisers is that what we need for the defence of Australia is, firstly, a base in Australia which can be properly defended and, secondly, a capacity to send from that base forces which can operate in cooperation with other countries in the region in order to help them to repel aggression so that aggression will be held farther away from our shores. There is no confrontation here as there has been in these arguments in the past between Fortress Australia and forward defence; nor should there be because history has shown us in wars over the years that Napoleon was defeated not by forward defence but by Fortress Britain being able to send forces abroad to overcome a dictator; and that Hitler was defeated not by forward defence but by

Fortress Britain being able to build up its forces and to build up capacity, and then to go forward and overthrow the dictator in areas abroad. Therefore I believe, and I make no apology for this, that there is some measure of agreement now, which there was not before, between the approach of the Opposition and that of the Government, that what we need is a capacity to defend ourselves, to defend our base and, from that base, to support regional defence.

However, there is one significant difference between us in that I think that at least now and for some few years into the future - I do not know how many - it will be of advantage to us to maintain in the region in which we are concerned an Australian contingent or an Australian military presence. We have been told by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that those forces would not be withdrawn, but I am not prepared to accept that as a statement of the Opposition’s policy.

Mr Foster:

– Why not?


– Because of other statements that have been made by other members of the Opposition. The right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) will remember that in the 1966 election campaign he made statements on defence, that his Deputy Leader made statements on defence, and that they were quite far apart from each other. Therefore, who are we to believe in this matter?

Mr Foster:

Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to order. He made statements about child minding centres too, but where are they?


– Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.


– I suggest that after that interjection the honourable member retire to a child minding centre to be looked after. There is between us initially the difference to which I have referred, but at least there is some advance in that we no longer have the suggestion that we must have either martello towers all round Australia or forces wandering all over Asia. These are both ridiculous approaches. The Government’s White Paper makes clear that this is not the Government’s policy and that it is not the Government’s approach. This is one great advantage that has been achieved and service that has been done by the presentation of this White Paper.

However, there are matters concerned with Australia’s defence which ought to be brought to the notice of the Australian people. I do not bring them to the notice of the Australian people for political purposes. But we do have on the Government side one kind of approach and we do have in the Opposition another kind of approach. These differences ought to be pointed out dispassionately so that the Australian people as a whole can make a judgment on which approach should be accepted. Let me take first of all the approach on the question of national service. We have been told by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that if honourable members opposite were in government they would abolish national service. The honourable member has put forward arguments in support of that proposal. However, they are arguments which I personally do not accept, for the reasons which I now propose to advance.

If we are to be able to support our own base in Australia and to give support against attack to allies in our region or to other countries in our region, I think we need to have an army of at least 40,000. I believe that we need to have behind that army good, fully and properly trained reserves. It has not been shown, in spite of increases in all kinds of remuneration for the armed Services, that we can attract an army of that size if we do not have national service to augment the volunteers. Since that has not been shown, I believe that if it is true that we need an army of this size - I think we do - the only way that we can attain it is by national service. But this is not the only advantage that national service gives. Certainly it provides us wth an army of the size that we want at a particular time, but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition pointed out to us that 12,000 national servicemen were called up each year. I think that was the figure he mentioned. Surely if we continue national service we have not only an army of 40,000 at any given time but also, after 3 years, 36,000 people who have been through national service, who have been fully trained and who can be called up immediately if an emergency arises, with a requiremen for very little additional training. In effect this virtually doubles our capacity to have armed Services available.

All this has been forgotten by those academics and others who write in newspapers about the great cost of continuing national service because so many people are used in training them and because they serve for 18 months only and then go out of the Army. This is regarded as a great waste of money. But there has never been from these academics a reply to the proposition that I put forward now, namely, that sure we have to pay the people who train them and sure national servicemen are there for 18 months only, but that also, immediately an emergency arises, we have an army of twice the size that otherwise we would have had. This is absolutely the real benefit, cause and objective of national service training and something that I think the Australian public would relinquish at its peril.

I have seen polls suggesting that national service is unpopular and therefore that I am advocating an unpopular view. But I think it is unpopular because it is not properly understood. Therefore, I think we should make quite clear this basic difference between ourselves and members of the Opposition, who would abolish national service. They would have in the Army volunteers only - presumably, year by year, aging volunteers- who would be there for 10 or 12 years, or for however long it may be; whereas we would have a continually young army because of the intake and a continually young group of trained people who could be called up immediately when they were required. This should not be forgotten because it is a basic difference between ourselves and the Opposition in our defence approaches. I believe that we cannot properly fulfil our requirements to defend Australia and to send expeditionary forces to help Indonesia, to help Singapore or to help Malaysia unless we have national service training and the volunteers who are available. The Citizen Military Forces cannot fulfil this role because they are not trained in the way that the last 3 years intakes of people who have served 18 months in the armed forces are trained and who can be called up immediately. This is significant to Australia’s defence.

There is another great difference between us and this, too, should be well known to the Australian people, and that is the different approach to the ANZUS

Treaty which the Government makes and which the Opposition makes. I do not overrate the importance of the ANZUS Treaty but I do think that as it stands at present it is a key matter in Australia’s defence. We do need to have an assurance, as far as we can have an assurance, that the United States will stand behind us if we are attacked by a major power because, by ourselves, we cannot repell a major power. I know, and we should all know, that the ANZUS Treaty has some limitations - that it applies only to the Australian mainland, but all the Australian mainland whether in the Pacific Ocean or in the Indian Ocean. I know that it applies only to the Australian Mainland and to nowhere else and I know that it could be brought into operation only in accordance with the constitutional processes of the United States of America on the one hand and Australia on the other and that it is possible to imagine that in the event of an attack on Australia the Congress of the United States might, under its constitutional processes, say: Well, neverheless, in spite of the fact that this has happened we are not going to support the President in his support’.

Mr Calwell:

– That is right.


– That is theoretically right, but in dealings between countries such as Australia and the United States you, sir, would not believe that it was practically right, and they would not do this at this moment. It is possible to imagine, too, that in 10 years time there could be a change inside the United States. There could be problems with which they are concerned - internal problems - which would overcome their treaty obligations. All of these things are true, but that is looking to the future and to future possibilities. What is overbearingly true is that at this moment the ANZUS Treaty gives us more security in Australia against attack from some major power than any other treaty in which Australia is engaged. There is no question of that and therefore any action which tends to weaken the application of the ANZUS Treaty and which tends to support any forces there may be in the United States which wish to weaken the ANZUS Treaty weakens the defence capacity of Australia. If we have, therefore, as we do have from the Opposition as we have had mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition tonight, approaches which say that the United States wishes to set up in Australia a base which will help to protect itself against atomic attack, which will help to give itself prior warning of atomic attack and which, therefore, obviously will help to protect Australia against atomic attack-

Mr Calwell:

– The whole of Australia.


– Yes, the whole of Australia or do you depend, in the Opposition, on an atomic umbrella from the United States and refuse to give any assistance at all to that country to protect itself so it can help us in the event of an atomic attack?

Mr Calwell:

– No.


– It seems to me that you do, but if you make this kind of denigration and say: ‘Although the United States wishes to put up a base in Australia, although that will help the defence of the United- States and although the protection of the United States will ultimately help the protection of Australia, nevertheless we of the Opposition will not do it unless we lay down circumstances and conditions which we know will be unacceptable to the United States’.

Mr Calwell:

– That is right.


– Yes, that is right. That is what you are saying: ‘We will not do it unless we lay down conditions and circumstances which will be unacceptable to the United States’. In doing that you are therefore undoubtedly preventing the opportunity for that kind of protection and in my. belief, whether it is yours or not, you are thereby detracting from the security of Australia. That is the second great difference in defence between the 2 protagonists on each side.

Mr Calwell:

– That is fair enough.


– I mean to be fair and I hope that the Australian public will accept the arguments from each, side and be fair too, because there is more involved in this than an interchange of remarks between one side of the House and the other. What ls ultimately involved in this could well be the security and continuance of the freedom of Australia itself.


– Order! The right honourable member’s time has expired.

St George

– The right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) who has just spoken, when commenting on national service obviously is flying in the face of the recommendations of a number of expert committees in other parts of the world which have given far greater attention to the question of national service than this Government ever has done or is ever likely to do. It is not merely a matter of costs. The point is the utility and the effectiveness of an army based on national service when the national servicemen are trained for only 18 months. We cannot build an effective army on this basis and the view of the Australian Labor Party is to provide the terms and conditions and facilities for a thoroughly professional army. That is what we will stand for and that is a matter on which we are prepared to fight the coming election.

The Opposition welcomes this review. Despite its obvious party political bias it is a step towards a more intelligent and informed debate not only in this House, but also among the Australian people on a matter that is vital to us all - the defence and security of the country in which we live. Hopefully this mini White Paper marks a change and is, in fact, to bs applauded.

Tonight I want to deal with the Government’s defence record. This Government has created and perpetuated a myth that it and it alone, is the trusted custodian of Australia’s foreign affairs and defence, but the reality is very different. The stewardship of conservative governments in the pre-war and early World War II years proved nearly disastrous. Australia then, as it is now, was hopelessly unprepared and the first job of the then Prime Minister, Mr Curtin, was to ensure the return of Australia’s 6th, 7th and 9th Divisions from North Africa where the Menzies Government, in pursuit of this myth of forward defence, had sent them in eager response to the demands of great and powerful friends. Prime Minister Curtin insisted on their return against the combined opposition of both Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt. Those of us who can remember the situation recall that the. 8th Division was about to be captured in the Malaya-Singapore area. This was a historical lesson that none of us here should forget. Churchill wanted to send the 7th Division to Burma and on 23rd February 1942 Prime. Minister Curtin sent a remarkable telegram to Churchill. It has many lessons for us today. In that telegram be said:

Java faces imminent invasion. Australia’s outer defences are now quickly vanishing and our vulnerability is now completely exposed. With AIF troops we sought to save Malaya and Singapore, falling back on the Netherlands East Indies. All these northern defences are gone or going. Now you contemplate using the AIF to save. Burma. All this has been done, as in Greece, without adequate air support. We feel a primary obligation to save Australia, not only for itself, but to preserve it as a base for the development of the war against Japan. In the circumstances it is quite impossible to reverse a decision which we made with utmost care.

What Prime Minister Curtin was, in fact, saying, was that unless we could defend ourselves - unless Australia’s soil was secure - forward defence was a lot of nonsense. This is precisely the point the right honourable member for Higgins made tonight. It is fundamental to the Labor Party’s thinking. What is fundamental is the security of Australian soil and unless we can ensure and are seen to ensure our capability of doing this our credibility will always be questioned. Now let us look at this Government’s record. We need go no further than the Department of Defence Review to illustrate the Government’s appalling irresponsibility and its abject failure in providing for Australia’s defence. The Liberal Party intervention in Vietnam has weakened Australia’s defence position. Our force structure has been distorted and undermined by the demands of the war in Vietnam. My authority for that statement is the Department of Defence Review. In paragraph S3 on page 26 the Review states:

The opportunity to give greater weight to long term strategic considerations in the shaping of our forces has until recently been restricted by the immediate demands of our combat deployment in Vietnam. That opportunity ls now restored.

That opportunity is now restored because we have withdrawn from Vietnam. After 22 years of Liberal Party government the Australian Army is now capable of deploying only one battalion with full logistic support. But even operating on Australian soil, the Review admits that it would take 8 to 10 days to move a lightly equipped battalion with supplies for one month to airfield destinations within a 2,000 nautical miles radius of Sydney. As the Review so profoundly points out, 2,000 nautical miles from Sydney is the northern part of Australia and Papua New Guinea. This, of course, assumes that a hostile force, will be kind enough to leave in operation the airfields that we require for ferrying purposes in order to bring that lightly equipped battalion into operation. It seems to me that the Australian people can draw little comfort from the Government’s sorry defence record. After 22 years the Liberal Party is still unable to guarantee the operations of a 3 battalion task force. One of the reasons is our reliance on the United States logistic support. Because of this reliance we cannot operate independently and this point is confirmed by the Review which in paragraph 39 on page 24 states:

The Vietnam deployment demonstrated our ability to sustain a force in the field over a protracted period, but it revealed also that we were dependent in many respects on logistic support from our allies

The hypocrisy of this Government’s claim to be the custodian of Australia’s defence is laid bare by the very terms of its own Defence Review. One of the great problems we have had over recent years is that tens of millions of dollars of Australian taxpayers’ money has been spent on bases in Vietnam and Malaysia which we have abandoned, and in that process the Government has left Australia undefended. With the money squandered on bases during the futile involvement in Vietnam we could have constructed modern bases in Australia, including the establishment of a defence arc from the northern part of Western Australia around to the northern part of Queensland. After 22 years the Government is still talking but is certainly not acting. The Minister for Defence when introducing the Defence Review in this House is reported on page 12S4 of Hansard as saying, and this is after 22 years:

We need a progressive and long term development of base, communications and support facilities to serve Australia and its allies, co-ordinated where appropriate with civil development

He goes on to say that this cannot be created at short notice. One would not imagine that 22 years was short notice. When talking about bases the Government uses such phrases as ‘is being established’, major works are being approved’ and plans are being developed’. This is all that this Government has to show to the Australian people in terms of defence preparedness after 22 years. Devoid of any pretensions to have provided for the security of Australia, the Government has sought to divert attention from its own incompetence by creating a side issue of the maintenance of bases in Malaysia and Singapore. It clings desperately to the discredited policy of forward defence which can never be credible certainly not in the eyes of our allies, unless we are capable first of all of defending our own territory, as I previously have pointed out. This is a view which the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) has endorsed. The Government knows full well that the bases in Malaysia and Singapore are only temporary. The report by the Government-dominated Foreign Affairs Committee on the Indian Ocean Regions states on page 11 that ‘long-range defence planning cannot ignore the possibility of all forces being stationed in Australia.’ The Review in paragraph 44 at page 25 states:

Facilities outside Australia will be taken into account but their permanent availability will not be assumed.

The Government knows full well that the forces in Malaysia and Singapore are only temporary but is trying to create a political issue. It is trying to make a political mountain out of nothing. Those forces will not be there certainly by the end of 1974 and more likely by the end of 1973. As I have stated before and will repeat, the Malaysian Government regards the bases in Malaysia as temporary. An article in the Bulletin’ on 8th April reporting on the meeting between the Prime Minister of Singapore and the Prime Minister of Malaysia at page 27 had this to say:

However, both Governments (Malaysia and Singapore) appear to be unworried about the controversy stirred up in Australia by ALP foreign Policy spokesman Bill Morrison’s recent visit to the area. Since 1969 they have been psychologically prepared for an Australian withdrawal but there are certainly no signs in either country that white faces are unwelcome.

The question is not whether our forces are welcome. Certainly the behaviour of our forces in both countries has been exemplary and has reflected great credit on Australia. Of course they are not unwelcome but the point surely is whether they are needed. This Government has placed so many restrictions on their availability that their presence in the light of foreseeable threats is meaningless. As with Vietnam, the Government is cynically seeking to use Australian forces for narrow domestic political purposes. This Government persists in its outdated anachronistic garrison mentality. Meanwhile, it has seriously jeopardised Australia’s own security. This is the record of this Government which maintains that it is the custodian of Australia’s defence. It is an appalling record and a record that the people of Australia will have the opportunity to measure and make a decision on, hopefully in a few months time.


– I welcome the statement by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn). Informed debate on this vital subject is of the utmost importance to our community. It would be highly desirable that there should be a bi-partisan national approach but the decisions of the Australian Labor Party - not the decisions of many of the honourable members opposite but the decision of the outside body which controls and directs them - have made such a bi-partisan policy impossible, a result I deplore. The great problem with defence planning is the time scale. Major new equipment ordered now is not likely to be in service before the late 1970s and will probably remain in service until about the year 2000. Further, with long service personnel, any major expansion or change in balance of the Services will take many years. It is therefore essential to look at defence problems in a long perspective.

We face 3 potential threats - disruption of our overseas trade, nuclear obliteration and, in the longer term, invasion. I should like to deal with each of these in turn. There is, of course, no immediate threat of invasion. Assessments have been made that no such threat is likely for 10 years. I do not disagree wilh this assessment, though it is worth remembering that many dangers are difficult to foresee. Few people, for instance, in 1931 would have foreseen that in 10 years time Australia would be at war with Germany, Italy and Japan. But, just because there is no immediate threat, that is not a reason for doing nothing. It is the duty of the Government - any government - to do what it can to keep any threat far from our shores. Indonesia is the key to this. While Indonesia is stable, independent and friendly, no conceivable invasion threat to Australia can possibly arise. It must be the first aim cf our defence policy, our foreign policy and our overseas aid policy to see that Indonesia remains independent and friendly. We have done much to improve relations wilh Indonesia in the years since the fall of Sukarno. The recent gift of Sabre aircraft is a good example of this process. I believe that we should build on this and that we should try to arrange joint defence exercises, investigate joint logistic problems and encourage the training of Indonesians in Australia, particularly officer cadets. Our future is inextricably involved with that of Indonesia, and we must not wait until danger is imminent before ensuring that we can co-operate effectively.

The future of Indonesia is in turn closely bound up with events in the countries to its north - the Philippines. Malaysia and Singapore. It is clearly in Indonesia’s interest - and in ours - that these countries remain stable and independent. In theory we should be able to rely on the United Nations to ensure this stability and freedom from external attack. In practice, the United Nations has proved a broken reed in this regard, largely because of the veto power of Russia and now China. Faced with this problem, the threatened countries turned to collective security, as is permitted under the United Nations Charter. Collective security not only confers benefits; it also imposes commitments. It depends on the will of the countries concerned to intervene, even though not immediately threatened themselves. One has only to look at the career of Hitler to see the danger. Successively he took over the Rhineland, Austria and Czechoslovakia. Collective security could easily have stopped him early in bis career, but countries which did not feel themselves directly threatened refused to intervene, and the consequence was a world war in which tens of millions died.

Our interest in the stability of South East Asia has led us to collective defence agreements - SEATO and the Five-Power

Agreement. These agreements are welcomed by the South East Asian countries concerned. They do involve us in potential commitments and we must be sure that we are capable of meeting these commitments. I do not believe that anyone who seriously studied the problem could conclude that we could make an effective contribution with an army with a total strength of less than 40,000. The difficulty is that we have never, in peacetime or cold war, been able to recruit a volunteer army in excess of about 28,000. The only way, in the short term, that the gap can be filled is by the use of national service. I do not like selective national service. I should prefer to have all our Regular Army provided by volunteers. I hope that the many improvements in pay and conditions suggested by the Kerr Committee and other committees, such as the Joint Select Committee on the Defence Forces Retirements Benefits Legislation, will result in the necessary number of volunteers coming forward. But, unless and until enough volunteers are available, any government would be failing in its duty if it did not have the courage to use national service to keep the Army up to the minimum essential strength.

What does the Opposition offer? To withdraw our Army from Malaysia and Singapore, despite the firm conviction of those countries that the presence of these troops has a stabilising effect on the area; to eliminate national service, despite the fact that this would cripple the effectiveness of our Army; to pour scorn on the SEATO Treaty, despite the fact that Thailand and the Philippines regard it as a valuable deterrent to external aggression; to emasculate the ANZUS Treaty-the ultimate guarantee of our security - by converting it from a military treaty to an economic development agreement; and, finally, the claim that Australia’s strategic frontiers are her natural boundaries. Such a principle is strategically absurd, although, as I have pointed out before, it would probably have received the sincere approbation of King Ethelred the Unready. All this is what the Opposition proposes. I have considerable respect for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), and I am sure that he does not believe a word of the nonsense he is forced to put forward. But he does not control his own policy; nor does any member of the Australian Labor Party in this House control the defence policy of that Party.

The second threat we have to consider is that to our overseas trade. This is vital to our economic survival. A new factor has been the rapid increase in Russian sea power, and their presence since 1967 in the Indian Ocean. I have pointed out to the House before that I believe that the Russian presence in the Indian Ocean is, at the moment, defensive and aimed, rather forlornly, at American missile firing submarines operating in the Arabian Sea. I do not believe that Russia will be able to maintain an effective force in the Indian Ocean unless either the Suez Canal is reopened or Russia is able to obtain a substantial base on the Indian Ocean littoral. But, although Russia’s Indian Ocean deployment seems at present defensive, once her forces were established there they would inevitably be used for other purposes. I do not believe that they would be used to interdict seaborne trade, for such a high risk policy would have few benefits for Russia. But I do believe that they would be used to stir up turbulence round the Indian Ocean littoral, including South East Asia and Indonesia.

From our strategic point of view, the longer the Suez Canal stays closed the better. I think we should go further. With the change to the Poseidon missile, the Indian Ocean will become less essential for American missile firing submarines, and the future 6,000-mile range ULMS will decrease this still further. It may already be that the Indian Ocean is only of marginal importance to United States missile firing submarines. I suggest that we should urge America to consider an agreement by which both powers would keep clear of the Indian Ocean. The normal difficulty with the Russians over supervision of such a treaty would not arise because any Russian ships in the area would be visible and obvious. I believe that such a treaty, if it could be negotiated, would be a considerable benefit to the area, and to Australia in particular. But, whether there are Russians in the Indian Ocean or not, our Navy needs a considerable increase in strength so that it can effectively protect our vital trade. Ships take a long time to build. We have to order more destroyers as soon as possible, and we need to make an early decision on how we are to deploy air power at sea after the end of the life of the ‘Melbourne’.

What is the Labor policy on this? Labor says that Australia’s strategic boundaries are our territorial limits. What an extraordinary concept of the role of sea and air power. Labor would presumbly use the Navy as a cordon inside territorial waters, around our coast - a system of defence, as Napolean once said, that is effectively only against smugglers. I am sure that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition must be embarrassed and ashamed at some of the extraordinary strategic theories he is forced to expound.

The final threat of which we must be aware is that of obliteration in a world nuclear war. Such a war would be the end of civiliation, including our own, whether we were directly involved or not. It is clearly in our interest to prevent such a war. This is the justification for the facilities we have agreed with the Americans to set up at Pine Gap and North West Cape. These are purely defensive, designed to deter the outbreak of a nuclear war. The communications station at North West Cape, for instance, is designed to communicate with submerged missile firing submarines. These submarines, because of their mobility and undetectability, are second strike weapons, designed to be able to reply after a surprise nuclear attack has been launched on America. Their existence and their effectiveness are thus vital components of the deterrent to a global nuclear war.

What does the Opposition propose? It puts forward the policy that Australia’s strategic boundaries are our natural frontiers - as if intercontinental ballistic missiles recognised territorial waters! The Opposition would dismantle the American deterrent bases. The Labor Platform Constitution and Rules as approved at the 1971 Conference stated:

Labor is opposed to the existence of .foreign owned, controlled or operated bases in Australian territory . . .

The Opposition would destroy this deterrent to nuclear war, regardless of the colossal damage to. Australia’s interests. This debate has been valuable for bringing the vital subject of defence before this

House. It has revealed substantial differences between the policies of the Government and the Opposition, differences which should be revealed because they cast much doubt on the strategic wisdom of the Labor Party and its credibility as an alternative government.


– Before I commence my own address I wish to make a few comments on the speech by the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer). He referred to what the Australian Labor Party regards as the territorial limit of Australia. I want to make this point clear: The. Labor Party is not prepared to garrison troops overseas. However it would protect Australia’s coastline far beyond the 3-mile territorial limit. The honourable member for Isaacs talked about building up the Australian Navy to protect our sea lanes in the Indian Ocean. If the Australian Navy had to protect our sea lanes from the menacing of Russian naval vessels, does the honourable member seriously suggest that the Australian Navy would attack Russian vessels, invoking a probable nuclear response. Australia is the most urbanised country in the world, with its population concentrated in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. Five nuclear strikes from conventional or nuclear powered Russian submarines would wipe us out as a Nation. Does the honourable member for Isaacs seriously suggest that the Russian Navy would be. dealt with by the Australian Navy, regardless of the policy of Russia in response to such action? That is what he is suggesting. It is no good the honourable member shaking bis head. That is what he has just said. It is a lot of humbug, and he knows it.

The Government is playing politics by bringing on this debate when the. proceedings of the House are being broadcast. Any debate that can possibly give political mileage for the Government is always broadcast. The other political consideration is that this defence review and the defence statement by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) come in an election year. The only time the Liberals ever talk about defence is in an election year. They never discuss it at any other period. A defence statement was made in this House, by the then Minister for Defence, Mr Malcolm Fraser, in 1970 and was never debated.

The Minister made, a long dissertation followed by a reply by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), but the Parliament had no chance to debate the statement. The Liberal Party professes to be concerned about defence, but the Government has not initiated any defence debate during this Parliament until today, when only 6 to 12 members will be able to speak on the matter.

The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) says that defence will be an issue in the forthcoming election. How he can regard defence as being an issue which can gain support for the Liberal Party and its policies is beyond me. In every aspect of defence the Liberal Party has failed Australia. The key difference between the policy of the, Opposition and the policy of the Government on defence is not in relation to the ANZUS Treaty or this business about territorial limits because the Government knows that these issues do not matter. The key area of difference is defence preparedness. As far as the Opposition is concerned, defence preparedness means defence specifically. The Labor Party has always had a solid gold record in the matter of defence. The Labor Party’s defence policy, as set out in the platform and rules of the 29th Commonwealth Conference of the Australian Labor Party, which the honourable member for Isaacs mentioned, states:

All defence policy rests ultimately upon the possible deployment of the armed forces. Labor’s policy is to provide a strong regular and citizen defence force which can be rapidly and efficiently, mobilised in time of need.

That suggests to me that the Opposition would plan a defence force that could defend Australia at any given time. I turn to the Australian Defence Review prepared by the Department of Defence and presented concurrently to the Parliament when the Minister made his defence statement. Paragraph 3 on page 16 of the Defence Review states:

  1. . Australia’s force structure should be built partly to meet evident and foreseeable needs, some of which are referred to below, and partly to provide readiness against threats of varying orders of probability or intensity which cannot be predicted so far ahead and are, therefore, best described as estimated contingencies. To fail to allow adequately for contingencies, and to wait for tangible threats to emerge before commencing to train manpower and to acquire equipment, would transfer an unfair and perhaps calamitous burden of risk upon the next generation.

Ten pages further on appears a statement that has been quoted already by the honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison). Paragraph 53 states:

Opportunity to give greater weight to long term strategic considerations in the shaping of our forces has until recently been restricted by the immediate demands of our combat deployment in Vietnam. That opportunity is now restored.

What that document says is that the Government, by its Vietnam commitment, has left Ausralia in a state of insufficient preparedness. At the same time, 10 pages earlier the Defence Review states that if we - do not train manpower and acquire equipment before the need arises we are failing to defend the country. So where does that leave the Government? The Department of Defence is repudiating the Government’s policy.

I would like to mention a couple of other matters. Since the announcement of the Nixon doctrine and since the Government failed in its commitment in the war in Vietnam, the Government is now talking about a role for Australia in achieving greater self-sufficiency in defence. It is talking about a fourth arm defence concept by assisting our defence industries. This is a vital field. The only way a country can have an independent defence capability is to have a strong industrial back-up. This Government has never attempted to salvage or assist defence industry. I would like to make one very simple point on this. During 1970 I asked the then Minister for Defence a question upon notice in relation to the value of military equipment purchased overseas during the years 1954 to 1970. As a percentage of the total amount spent on defence, the amount spent overseas on military equipment for Australian forces in 1958 was 32 per cent, in 1969 it was 39 per cent, in 1960 it was 81 per cent, in 1961 it was 47 per cent, in 1962 it was 47 per cent, in 1963 it was 55 per cent, and in 1964 it was 52 per cent. Expenditure overseas reached a high point of 61 per cent, of total defence expenditure in 1967 and a low point of 45 per cent in 1969. So at least half of the expenditure on defence equipment has gone overseas during that period. I seek leave to have this question and answer incorporated in Hansard.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted. (The document read as follows):

Defence Equipment (Question No. 1486)

Air Keating asked the Minister for Defence upon notice:

  1. What was the total value of military equipment purchased overseas in each of the financial years 1954-55 to .1969-70 inclusive.
  2. What are these figures expressed as a percentage of the total amount spent by, the Defence group of departments on equipment procurement during each of those years.

– I thank the House. In his statement in this House on 28th March the Minister for Defence said:

It is also clear, I suggest, that we should not found our defence policy, or our willingness to engage ourselves to assist others, on a simple faith in the success of diplomatic efforts of mighty powers or on the benign intentions of rivals for ideological supremacy among communist powers.

It is not enough for Australia’s force structure to be built to meet only needs or threats that are explicitily definable. We owe it to the community, and to the future parliaments and governments representing them, to have in our 3 armed services and in our industrial and scientific support an adequate readiness against contingent threats looking, in some types of equipment and works expenditure, as far ahead as the. late 1980s.

The Minister there is talking about defence equipment for the armed services. At this point I would like to put on record the policy of the Australian Labor Party as printed in its policy documents in relation to defence mobilisation and procurement. I would like the House to understand that the Labor Party is the only Party that publishes a comprehensive policy anyway, and specifically on defence. It is only short - but I think it bears report into the Hansard record. The Labor Party’s policy states:

The defence capability of the nation depends primarily upon national development and the resulting capacity to manufacture, procure and maintain supplies and materials.

Labor shall -

encourage the procurement and servicing of defence supplies and equipment wherever possible from within Australia with the aim of promoting the growth of Australia’s defence-aligned industries;

encourage Australian industries capable of conversion to defence production in time of war under an overall industrial mobilisation plan;

ensure that procurement which of necessity is placed abroad is obtained under contracts affording the maximum offset purchasing advantages to Australia and the maximum scope for manufacture under licence within Australia;

provide and develop ports, airfields, railways and roads which will contribute to the mobility of the defence forces as well as to the material development of the nation; and

ensure exclusive government control over the manufacture and export of arms and munitions. 1 ask you, Sir, does that sound like an irresponsible or short sighted policy - to encourage defence industries so that our armed forces may have a strong defence back-up? The Government has failed completely in this area. It has talked about the concept of the fourth arm of defence. It has talked about assisting industries. But in the areas of electronics, naval design, naval construction, aircraft design, aircraft construction and missile design and research Australia is sadly lacking. There is no naval design facility at all in Australia. I am quite certain most people do not realise this. Our naval shipbuilding is embryonic. Shipyards have little or no work. Need we say much more about aircraft design? There is a tremendous brain drain from Australia of aircraft designers who are capable of designing toprate equipment and who are going overseas because of lack of work and incentive. Our aircraft industry has retrenched a large proportion of its workforce. The industry is in such financial chaos that it will be lucky to sur vive, for the next 12 or 18 months unless there is some drastic change of circumstances.

The root cause of the problem gets back to the lack of a consistent defence policy. This Government has never been able to have the Services in such a position as to enable them to tailor their equipment requirements to a consistent defence policy. The position has always been that our policy has been bound in with great power treaties. Firstly the Liberals had a fetish about Great Britain. We entered all the wars back as far as 1918 and further in support of Great Britain. The same excesses apply to the USA now. We were dragged into Korea and Vietnam. All the time our defence reqirements have been tailored to suit great powers and the end result has been that the Australian defence industry has never had a chance to continually design and manufacture equipment for Australian forces. It is worth remembering that Sir Henry Bland, the former permanent head of the Department of Defence who retired only 2 years ago, said that it is folly that we should be tailoring our defence needs in with those of the US, and we should get back to looking at equipment that suits Australia. If we can get past the concept that we must have the best, and look to the equipment that is more suitable but less expensive, probably we will be doing the country a service.

Take the selection of the Fill. This was just a political decision. The Fill is a strategic aircraft. It is designed to carry nuclear weapons, over a range of 3,000- odd miles, to fly a supersonic dash at near ground level below ground tracking radar, drop a nuclear weapon and get out. This country does not have nuclear weapons. To what possible use could we put the Fill? If we finally get the aircraft it will be stationed at Amberley. There is no other base that could support the Fill. Amberley is thousands of miles from any theatre of war in which we are likely to be engaged. So in every sense the Services have had no encouragement to support local industries. There has not been a defence policy consistent for long enough to allow the Services to develop some sort of equipment plan.

Let us turn now to the current position with the latest programme that the Liberals have - the DDL destroyer programme. Let me give honourable members some idea of how equipment selection is made in Australia. We started off with a light destoryer of about 1,000 tons- Since the Navy has had a go at it, its displacement is now up to 3,000 tons. The DDL is nearly as big as the DDG destroyers we purchased from the US, and would have a crew of 2,000 people. We were after the concept of a small destoryer. and it has already escalated from 1,000 tons to 3,000 tons. The Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay) confirmed that the DDL would be worth something like $50m to $70m apiece. This is just too costly. With a coastline like Australia’s, it is impracticable to talk about half a dozen or 10 ships such as these heavy vessels. As the honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison) said today, from Perth right around the extremity of the north coast of Australia to Townsville there is not any other naval base. So what is the point of having a couple of these things strung out over an area like this.

What Australia should be looking at is the concept of the fast patrol boat. Perhaps we could have something like a 350- ton displacement hull, with a capacity to mount surface to surface missiles. It would be basically a hit and run weapon, but it has been proved pretty well throughout the navies of the world that this type of weapon carries a strike power that could equal that of a well equipped destroyer. One of the prime criticisms of it has been that it does not have seakeeping capabilities and that its range has not been sufficiently long to make it suitable for this country. But these vessels have been developed with ranges of up to 3,000 miles, seakeeping for approximately one week. They can support a surface to surface missile system or an anti-aircraft missile system, and there are now some experiments being conducted using this platform for and with anti-submarine weapon systems. So we could have a great number of this type of vessel rather than have a few DDGs of 3,000 tons.


– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.


– -I congratulate the Government on the presentation of this paper on Australian defence and also on the statement made the other week in relation to the Vietnam situation. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) said that the Government talks about defence only at the time of an election. Of course this is not a correct statement. I would like to remind everybody that it is pretty obvious that the Australian Labor Party does not talk about its policy of socialisation of industry and everything else in an election year, lt talks about these things only when it is at the point furthest away from an election because it knows that if it ever put this forward as its actual policy it would be rejected by the people of this Commonwealth on that alone, apart from anything else. 1 want to comment on a couple of things that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) said. He defended the concept of Australia withdrawing troops from the Asian area. He said that it was completely incorrect foi us to say that the Labor Party would withdraw them immediately. He said that there would be a time of phasing out. To my mind that does not change in any way at all the criticism that we made of the Opposition in regard to this attitude. If people know that the troops are going to be taken out of this area, the value of those troops is immediately reduced the moment it is known that they are going to be withdrawn. It does not matter whether the phasing out period is 3 months, 6 months or even 12 months; the mere fact that it is known they are going to be withdrawn means that they are no longer of any value. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition went on to say that if and when the Opposition became the Government the troops would be withdrawn from Vietnam. Again there would be a phasing out period for the withdrawal. I remind the House and the country that at the time of the withdrawal of our troops from Vietnam the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and many members of the Opposition stated that while the troops were waiting to be withdrawn from Vietnam, they should not engage in any military engagements whatsoever.

I was in Vietnam some 6 or 7 months ago and I can say that the troops in Vietnam scorned the statements of members of the Labor Party that the troops should be asked literally to sit on their tails and do nothing while they were waiting for the withdrawal. Anybody with any common sense or any appreciation of a military situation knows that if troops are to be withdrawn, they should not be allowed just to sit there and wait for the enemy to come closer and closer so that literally the enemy is right on top of them when the troops are being withdrawn and when the supplies and everything else are being removed. What would they do in such a situation. Would they drop everything, run up the gangplank on to the ship and hope that somebody does not shoot them as they are going up the gangplank? The point was that while our troops were in Vietnam, they were still accepting the responsibility that was theirs of defending the area. I will have something further to say about that at a later stage.

This shows the complete folly of the Opposition’s policy in regard to the defence of this country. The honourable member for the Australian . Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) in a broadcast today said that this debate was just a talk exercise. Let me say to the honourable member that it is more than a talk exercise. The Opposition’s attitude shows not the gulf but the chasm which exists between the Government and the Opposition in regard to policies on the defence and security of the country. It may be talk having regard to the fact that no legislation will actually be passed but it also highlights what we on the Government side of the House consider to be important factors affecting this country. So, when the Opposition talks about the withdrawal of troops what it means is that Australia, under the control of a Labor government, would come away from a responsibility in this area and the defence of this area.

I should like to comment on part of the statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) to this House. The Minister said:

While others have preached withdrawal, negativism and isolation, the Government by positive diplomacy and defence co-operation has achieved . a unique standing in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. We might remember that when a British administration in 1968-69 intended to withdraw completely from Malaysia and Singapore,

Australia and New Zealand said they would take responsibilities alone. In the event British policy was changed to allow retention of a permanent force in the area and the positive attitude of the Australian Government was rewarded. From these developments the Five Power defence arrangements embracing Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom have grown.

In my visit to this area I visited the fivepower defence headquarters, in charge of which was Air Vice Marshal Ron Susans, a distinguished Australian and a gentleman with whom I have had friendship over many years. He was the commanding officer at Williamtown Air Force base, which is in my electorate. We can be proud of this distinguished Australian who is in charge of the situation in the five power defence arrangements and we can be proud of the contribution that is being made by Australia to this area. These, are the things that are contributing in a major way to the defence of this country and to the defence of other countries in the Asian area.

I do not think that the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) meant what he said to be taken as it sounded. However, he did say that we originally had obtained the support of Great Britain and that now we were getting the. support of the United States. He said that we should forget the concept that we must have the best and we should develop Australian industry, . as this possibly would cost less. As I said, I do not think for one moment that he, meant that perhaps as it sounded. Let us face the realities of this situation. We can be independent. We can stand firm for the things in which we believe. We can have a defence policy that is our own. But surely anybody with any appreciation of power politics and the. international situation must appreciate that Australia could never go it alone in any major conflict. As has been said on so many occasions, we need the support of our great friends and allies and I believe that the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, along with the other Commonwealth countries, will always believe in freedom. It is interesting to note that in many of the speeches and comments that have been made there has . been a tremendous criticism of those who are the friends of our particular way of life. It was interesting to hear a question earlier today on Rhodesia. It is interesting to hear comments about

South Africa. 1 do not agree with the policies pursued by those countries and I have spoken before in this House about them. But let us face it: They are friends of this country and while we may have differences with them and while we may point to certain aspects of their policy with which we do not agree, let us always remember that they also at some time could stand in the defence of our nay of life.

As J mentioned earlier, I was in Vietnam some 6 or 7 months ago. I flew over the engagement. 1 was in an Australian helicopter while operation Ivanhoe was in progress. I went to the hospital and spoke to some of the wounded who had been brought back into that hospital. The criticism that was offered of this Government was that we did not give them the support that the troops felt should have been provided. They said that in many cases we had allowed them to fight in Vietnam with one hand tied behind their backs. I agree with this and I think that we should have provided more positive support than we have. 1 believe that a restriction of that support was caused by some of the media of this country because of the propaganda that they put forward. I would again cross swords with Frank Chamberlain. He and I have had many discussions and he knows that I completely disagree with him in many of the thoughts that he has in relation to Vietnam. However, there is one question that I would ask my friend Frank Chamberlain, and many others in this propaganda media of ours. Can they say - I do not suppose anybody could really answer this - that if we and the Americans had not gone into Vietnam when we did to help the South Vietnamese the whole of the Asian situation would have been completely changed? What would have happened in Indonesia? What about Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines? I think we should consider these points when we talk about our going into Vietnam and what happened when we went there. Answer those questions and you will know why we went in.

I believe that when the Government entered the Vietnam conflict it did the right thing and with the passage of time, history will remember that this Government and the United States did the right thing in that situation. I think sometimes we make the mistake of trying to assess a situation in the Asian area from our point of view. This is where we in Australia must change our winking. We sometimes try to impose upon these people our particular line of thought and the way in which we believe they should behave. There must be a greater degree of cooperation and understanding between ourselves and the people in this area so that we may understand their attitudes, their background and their history. At the same time, these people must try to have a greater, a fuller and a deeper understanding of the attitudes and views that we have in Australia. We cannot impose our way of life and our thinking upon them. We shall need to have a greater degree of cooperation and understanding not only from our point of view but also from theirs. It was because of this that 1 was interested to read a report by Mr Vittachi, a Ceylonese visitor who is the editor of a newspaper, the ‘Asian’. He said that he felt there was a lack of understanding and sympathy and perhaps a lack of appreciation by Australians for Asia and the situation in Asia. I think we need to work perhaps a little harder to have a greater appreciation so that we can make a far greater contribution to this area. It is important that we do so.

I had the privilege of being with Lord Casey, the previous Governor-General, when he was Minister for External Affairs. I was attending a conference and a reception to some Asian writers when they visited Australia. I shall never forget one of those writers saying that Australia could be the bridge between what he called the east and the west. I think this is still our responsibility. We can still make this tremendous contribution to the progress and development of this area as well as our own country. In my remarks this evening I wish to read an extract from the Minister’s statement:

In the present situation of uncertainty about the intentions of China and the Soviet Union, and the aggressive militancy of North Vietnamese throughout Indo-China, and widespread insurgency in our northern neighbourhood, a positive Australian policy founded on an adequate defence effort and on defence arrangements or understandings with our neighbours may contribute to confidence and stability in the region in which we live.

I do not disagree with President Nixon’s visit to China. The only thing I want to do is to remind the people of Australia of the time when Neville Chamberlain came back to London from a visit to Germany-

Mr Foster:

– Oh!


– The honourable member for Sturt may say ‘Oh’ as often as he likes. Possibly he would not have the capacity to appreciate the situation. But at that time Neville Chamberlain waved a piece of paper in his hand and said: ‘Peace in our time’. It is good that we should discuss things with the leaders of other countries. But we must discuss matters from a position of strength and not from weakness.


– The occasion of a defence review set out in a ministerial statement is always of interest. We do not have such a review in the Parliament as often as we may. The defence review we are discussing is a curious one in that it reflects certain basic changes in Government defence values and also defers consideration of so many matters. From reading the defence review we see that so many matters will be laid before the Parliament at a later point in time.

The review goes through the record of our equipment needs and our defence personnel. It tells us, for example, that the Neptune aircraft are just about ready to be phased out - that they are almost obsolescent. Also it tells us that the life of HMAS ‘Melbourne’ will not extend beyond 1980. It mentions all the questions of reequipping our armed Services which have been common knowledge on both sides of this Parliament for many years. The review does not spell out anything to any great extent. I think that it uses generalisms rather than setting out any specific new policies.

There are, of course, changes in values. These changes were put forward in a speech tonight by the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), who again put the policy on defence that he has propounded for quite a period of time. This is a policy which some people have referred to as ‘fortress Australia’ - one may say ‘fortress Australia with a flexible response capacity’. This policy was completely unacceptable to many people on the Government side of the House when it was first put by the right honourable gentleman, but they have come round to that point of view now.

One can talk all one likes about past wars. The honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) who spoke a few moments ago took us back to the time when Mr Chamberlain visited Munich. One can talk about the Second World War, about Korea or about Vietnam. Of course, there are lessons to be learned from all of these wars. But what we are concerned about is the future. It is obvious that we live in a radically different world. For a start, forward defence was feasible as a policy when our forward defence as far as Vietnam was concerned meant contributing some 7,500 troops when the Americans were contributing over half a million and up to threequarters of a million troops together with a massive air force operating from Thailand and naval support.. In other words, forward defence is feasible for Australia when we can go along with and support great countries like the United States; it is not feasible when we have to do it ourselves by ourselves. I do not think that anyone in his right mind would suggest that we have the capacity to do so.

Let us look at the arguments that are being put forward by Government speakers because it is of the nature of things in this political arena that honourable members try to explain how the policy of their party differs in such a radical manner from the policy of the other party. In the small island of Singapore at present we have a battalion divided into 2 groups. The battalion was stationed in Singapore as a result of a statement made by the right honourable member for Higgins when he was Prime Minister. In that statement the right honourable member said that he would withdraw Australian forces from Terendak in Malaysia, indicating at that time that Australia was interested in the -defence of Malaya, conveying that it was interested in the defence of the Malay Peninsula as distinct from Sabah and Sarawak. He said that he would take our forces out of Terendak and put them in Singapore so that they would not be involved in a communal situation or the in-fighting, if I may use that terra, between the Malay and Chinese sections of the Malaysian community.

There is evidence of a certain naivete when Government members talk about these things as if our single battalion there will make all the difference in saving these countries from communism. Our forward defence comprises a single battalion together with what we have by way of Air Force support at Butterworth and a naval vessel on rotation to Singapore. The latest edition of the ‘Military Balance’, a publication which is printed in London by the Institute for Strategic Studies, indicates that there are 24 infantry battalions of the Malaysian army and 6 infantry battalions of the Singaporean army. So it is suggested that one Australian battalion added to the 30 battalions of that region will make all the difference between survival and non-survival. Of course, it is not as simple as that.

Our battalion is there as an earnest of Australia’s interest. The Labor Government which will succeed this Government will still be very keen to establish Australia’s interest in the region. The policy of the Labor Party makes ample provision for this. Perhaps we can draw a guideline between where the Government stands and where the Opposition stands on this matter. The Labor Party believes in co-operating with our neighbours in the obtaining of equipment, the manufacture of equipment in Australia where it is possible to effect economies of scale, and the training of armed forces and ventures of that kind. But the Labor Party does not believe in the garrison battalion mentality.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), who is the Labor Party’s shadow Minister for Defence, has said that there will be no precipitate withdrawal of our forces from Singapore or Malaysia. Naturally, we are not going to be in the position of cutting and running. What the Deputy Leader says is that a Labor government would be no less successful in building up our armed forces - that is the Army, the Navy and the Air Force - than this Government has been over the last 10 years.I remind the House that it was a Labour government at the end of the Second World War that established the Australian Regular Army on its present basis of professionalism.

Some serious trends have emerged in recent times. One of them has been the steady and persistent decline in the numbers in the Citizen Military Forces, and the principal reason for this has been the operation of the national service scheme and the fact that so many of our skilled personnel and so much of our equipment have been tied up in servicing the national service scheme. Many of the men who have served in the CMF have given it away for a variety of reasons. The kind of reasons that they have advanced to me - and I dare say that they have advanced similar reasons to other members in this House - is that they do not get the best equipment, that the best equipment is reserved for the permanent forces. This is not illogical; certainly the best equipment should be reserved for any force that is being sent overseas. Another reason which these men have given me for leaving the CMF that they do not get the best instructors. I believe that one of the things that has happened with the CMF is that, whereas in the past men enlisted in the CMF for the sole purpose of serving their country, over recent times many men have enlisted in the CMF to evade an obligation or a possible obligation to undergo national service. So a lot of the element of sacrifice that previously enhanced the reputation of the CMF has been destroyed.

The Labor Party believes that there is a role to be played by a strong citizen force in a back-up capacity. I know that many of the professional people in the armed Services believe that all our eggs should be put in the one basket strengthening the permanent forces. However, it is not as simple as that. The Labor Party recognises, no less than the Government does, that we have a role to play in our region. But we realise that this role would be played in conjunction with our allies. We also realise that we must have not only a permanent force but also the capacity to expand this permanent force should the need arise.

I notice that in the defence report comparisons are made between the strength of our forces now and the strength of our forces in 1950. Anybody looking at these comparisons might say that there has been a notable increase in the strength of our forces. But, of course, 1950 was a period very close to the end of the Second World War when there was a large number of trained servicemen in Australia. When the crisis in Korea arose in the early 1950s and both sides of this House supported the involvement of Australian forces in conjunction with United Nations forces in Korea, there was a great number of trained servicemen available in Australia who could be sent to Korea. So the comparison made between the strength of our forces now and the strength of our forces in 1950 is a dishonest comparison.

I recognise, as we all do, that many of the young men who have undergone national service would form a useful reserve even now. But the sad part about it is that we have been able to attract very few of them to serve on a permanent basis in the armed forces. Many things could be done to improve the retention rate of people who enlist in the armed Services, and I do not propose to read out to honourable members the Labor Party’s programme in this regard. But certainly this is a matter of great concern.

Dr Mackay:

– Enlistments in the Navy have increased 100 per cent in the last 12 months.


– That is right, and I have no doubt that the position can be further substantially improved. Of course, one of the problems which the Government faces - and it is a problem which we have to face with our policy - is that many people will enlist in the armed forces when there is a state of war. In other words, the men who volunteered to go to Korea enlisted because they knew that they were going to serve in forces which were actually going to war. When this Government decided to commit Australian forces to Vietnam it did not give the young men of Australia an opportunity to volunteer his service. No force was ever recruited for Vietnam as such. People who joined the Army knew that they might be sent to Vietnam or they might serve anywhere in Australia or in its Territories. I would agree that this is one of the problems which will face whatever government is in power after the next election.

The Labor Party wants the Australian people to understand certain basic fundamentals. The Labor Party governed this country during the First and Second World Wars. As such it governed this country during the 2 greatest build-ups of our defence forces that have ever taken place. The Labor Party believes, quite as fervently, as does everybody else, that it is the basic responsibility of any government to ensure the security of Australia. The Labor Party would not leave Australia defenceless or without a defence capacity. The Labor Party believes that we should have defence forces which are professionally trained, which are equipped with the best possible equipment and, given our long coastline and fairly small population, which have the maximum flexibility. This is nothing new. It merely restates the principles laid down by John Curtin in those days immediately before the Japanese involvement in the Second World War.

Many of the things for which this Government is taking credit have been advocated and pioneered by members of the Labor Party. I look at the defence establishment at Townsville. When I came into this Parliament 10 years ago one of the serious matters about our Army and its training methods was that very little training was carried out in the north of Australia, where, presumably, any threat to Australia would emerge. The most northerly training establishment of any consequnce was at Cunungra. That training establishment was established during the Second World War when General Blarney was chief of Australia’s armed forces. I well remember the then member for Herbert, Mr Ernie Harding, working very hard in this Parliament to get a defence base established at Townsville and honourable members on both sides of the chamber were pleased when the Government decided to establish a base there.

A similar position arises regarding the establishment of a naval base at Cockburn Sound. For a long period of time the policy of honourable members on this side of the House has recognised that there was a need for us to have a naval base, repair facilities and other back-up facilities fronting the Indian Ocean; that we could no longer have our whole Navy based almost entirely in Sydney. So there is not a great deal of difference between the attitudes of the Government and the attitudes of the Opposition on this question of defence. We are all restrained and constrained by the realities of the Nixon doctrine and by our own fairly modest defence capacity. But within that modest defence capacity - and I do not want to overstate the situation - Australia has a much greater capacity to defend itself than many honourable members opposite realise. This is very much within the consciousness of members of the Labor Party, and no policy of the Labor Party given effect to after the next election or at any time in the future would imperil the security of Australia.

Debate (on motion by Dr Mackay) adjourned.

House adjourned at 10.58 p.m.

page 1461


The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:

Motor Vehicle Accidents: Research (Question No. 4206)

Mr Cohen:

asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:

  1. Can action be taken to oblige all motor vehicle insurance companies to make available to authorised research personnel their records showing the (a) make and model of vehicles involved in accidents, (b) age of drivers, (c) nature of accidents and (d) nature and extent of vehicle damage.
  2. Does the Government agree that this information, properly analysed, should (a) reveal unsafe features in particular makes of cars, (b) allow consumers to select vehicles according to the safety performances of vehicles and (c) encourage manufacturers to modify features in their vehicles where necessary.
  3. Does the Government also agree that the 1970 figures of 3,800 deaths and 92,000 people injured are a sufficient reason tointrude upon the commercial privacy of some commercial and industrial groups.
Mr Hunt:

– As Acting Minister for Shipping and Transport I supply the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

  1. There appears to be no existing statutory authority under which action could be taken by the Commonwealth to make records available.
  2. Information obtained from insurance company records would be incomplete. Not all vehicles are insured against damage and some are not covered against the possibility of damage to other property. It could be expected that a large number of those not comprehensively insured would be vehicles several years old and if they were involved in accidents that their owners would bear the cost of repairs.

In addition, not all accidents to insured vehicles would be reported. One factor that could cause a person to refrain from reporting an accident would be the franchise being greater than the cost involved. In any case, the cause of an accident, as reported by an insured driver, might not always be strictly accurate. Details relating to motor vehicles and drivers involved in accidents reported to the authorities are currently collected in the States and Territories and include makes and models of vehicles, ages of drivers and accident circumstances. The reporting of the extent of vehicle damage as part of the accident reporting process is a matter to which the Advisory Committee on Road User Performance and Traffic Codes is currently giving attention. This Committee is also currently examining the system of reporting road accidents in each of the States and Territories. In addition, the Expert Group on Road Safety is considering the question of accident reporting as part of its National Review.

  1. Commonwealth action will be taken in the light of the report by the Advisory Committee to the Australian Transport Advisory Council and the findings of the Expert Group on Road Safety.

Oil Slick (Question No. 5236)

Dr J F Cairns:

ns asked the Minister for

Shipping and Transport, upon notice:

  1. Is it a fact that the oil slick recently reported in the sea off Melbourne was released from the tanker ‘Cosmopolitan 11’ after the oil was taken on board in Melbourne.
  2. Is it also a fact that the Victorian Health Department was aware of this and gave certain directions or advice about dumping the oil at sea.
  3. If so, what action is proposed by the Commonwealth in regard to these matters.
Mr Hunt:

– As Acting Minister for Shipping and Transport I supply the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

  1. First, it is not at all certain that the patches referred to were oil slicks. The fact that they disappeared in approximately twenty-four hours makes it doubtful at least that persistent oil was involved. In any case the slick, however composed, could certainly not have come from the tanker ‘Cosmopolitan11’ because it was observed before that vessel had departed from Port Philip Bay.
  2. Inquiries have been made with the Victorian Health Department, which has indicated that it neither received any approach regarding the Cosmopolitan 11’ nor gave any directions concerning that vessel.

I have separately ascertained, however that this vessel was chartered by one of the petrochemical companies to uplift an amount of material referred to in the industry as ‘spent caustic’ and to discharge it at sea when more than 100 miles from land. I am advised that ‘spent caustic’ is an industrial residue consisting of 90 per cent water and 10 per cent sodium salts which are either sodium sulphate or rapidly become sodium sulphate on exposure to the air. This material can be discharged at sea quite safely, but if it is treated at a petrochemical plant to break it down it emits an objectionable odour and this violates the Victorian Clean Air Act. I am advised that it is a universal practice to discharge this material at sea. Fisheries administrations here have expressed no concern about it.

  1. As indicated, any discharge from the ‘Cosmopolitan 11’ could not have given rise to the reported slicks off the Victorian coast. Even so, I am having inquiries made to determine whether the vessel discharged ‘spent caustic’ in accordance with the charterer’s instructions, that is more than 100 miles from land, or otherwise.

South African Sporting Policies (Question No. 5193)

Mr Kennedy:

asked the Minister for

Foreign Affairs, upon notice:

  1. On what date or dates did he have discussions with the Prime Minister about further possible protest to the South African Government against its racial sporting policies as mentioned in the Prime Minister’s statement to the House on 9th September 1971 (Hansard, page 989).
  2. On what date or dates did he or the Prime Minister or any representatives of the Australian Government have discussions with any official or officials of the South African Embassy in relation to how that Embassy and the South African Government would react to a possible expression of protest by the Australian Government against the South African Government’s racial sporting policies.
Mr N H Bowen:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. I have day to day discussions with the Prime Minister on all manner of subjects and do not have any record of the date or dates of discussions relating to the matter referred to by the honourable member.
  2. I am not aware of any discussions of the type suggested by the honourable member.

Rhodesia (Question No. 5004)

Mr Les Johnson:

asked the Minister for

Foreign Affairs, upon notice:

Has the Government taken any diplomatic initiative to convey to the Smith Rhodesian Government its displeasure at the imprisonment of Mr G. Todd and his daughter Miss Judy Todd. If so, on what date and in what terms was this initiative taken.

Mr N H Bowen:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

No. Australia does not recognise or have any dealings with the Smith regime. Any message would need to be addressed to Mr Smith through the British Government which has already sent messages to Mr Smith expressing its concern at the continued detention of Mr Garfield Todd and Miss Todd.

Establishment of Royal Commission into Foreign Relations (Question No. 5059)

Dr Everingham:

asked the Minister for

Foreign Affairs, upon notice:

  1. Has his attention been drawn to an article by W. R Crocker in the ‘I.P.A. Review’ for October-December 1971.
  2. If so, will the Government take steps to establish a Royal Commission as called for by this distinguished author, offering him chairmanship of that Commission, to investigate all aspects of Australia’s foreignrelations.
Mr N H Bowen:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. Yes.
  2. No.

Empress of Australia’ (Question No. 5258)

Mr Barnard:

asked the Minister for

Shipping and Transport, upon notice:

  1. How many hours will it take the ‘Empress of Australia’ to sail from Melbourne to Devonport.
  2. What is the average speed of the ‘Empress of Australia’.
Mr Hunt:

– As Acting Minister for Shipping and Transport, I supply the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

  1. Berth to berth, 14 hours. It is intended to operate the present schedule operated by the Princess of Tasmania’ departing Melbourne at 7.30 p.m. and arriving at Devonport at 9.30 a.m. the following day.
  2. 17½ knots.

Rural Reconstruction Retraining Scheme (Question No. 5103)

Mr Kennedy:

asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:

  1. How many of the 24 applicants who have been approved, according to his Press statement of 18th February 1972 for retraining under the rural reconstruction retraining scheme had commenced retraining as at 18th February 1972.
  2. What was the average age of (a) applicants and (b) those approved for retraining.
  3. What (a) number and (b) percentage of (i) applications and (ii) approvals were in each State and Territory.
  4. What sum was (a) allocated and (b) spent to advertise the scheme up to 18th February 1972 and in what ways was this money expended.
  5. In what newspapers in each State and Territory was the scheme advertised and how often were the advertisements inserted in each case.
  6. What (a) number and (b) percentage of the 24 applicants approved were approved for (a) on the job training, (b) a vocational course at a technical college or (c) any other type of training.
  7. What are the names and locations of institutions at which approved persons are undertaking vocational courses.
  8. What (a) number and (b) percentage of (i) those applying for and (ii) those approved for assistance under the schemes as at 18th February were (A) farmers, (B) members of farmers’ families, (C) farm employees and (D) others.
  9. What vocational courses are being undertaken by approved applicants.
  10. What are the names of vocational courses of one year’s duration that are being offered at technical colleges in each State or Territory.
  11. What number of approved applicants are farmers who will be moving from their farms to city areas for retraining.
Mr Lynch:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. Of 43 applicants approved at 18th February, 20 had commenced training.
  2. (a) 34 years; (b) 35 years.
  3. There were 202 applications at 18th February of which 36 (17.8 per cent) were in New South Wales, 55 (27.3 per cent) in Victoria, 43 (21.3 per cent) in Queensland, 13 (6.4 per cent) in South Australia, 42 (20.8 per cent) in Western Australia, and 13 (6.4 per cent) in Tasmania. Of 43 applications approved at 18th February, 7 (16.3 per cent) were in New South Wales, 14 (32.6 per cent) in Victoria, 8 (18.6 per cent) in Queensland, 11 (15.6 per cent) in Western Australia and 3 (6.9 per cent) in Tasmania.
  4. $3,840 was allocated and spent on information leaflets which were distributed widely in the rural community through the Commonwealth Employment Service, Shire Offices, offices of farmers’ organisations, relevant trade unions, country secondary and technical schools, agricultural extension officers, young farmers’ organisations, many branches of banks, and on advertising in a leading farmers’ journal, ‘The Land’.
  5. Articles have appeared in more than 40 newspapers: in a number of cases on more than one occasion.
  6. Of the 43 applications approved at 18th February 8 (18.6 per cent) were for on-the-jojb training, 25 (58.1 per cent) for vocational courses at technical colleges and 10 (23.3 per cent) for professional courses at universities and higher secondary educational courses.


New South Wales: Sydney - Granville Technical College, Sydney Technical College, Williams Business College.

Victoria: Ballarat - Institute of Advanced Education.

Geelong - Gordon Institute of Technology.

Melbourne - Footscray College of Technology, Hemingway Robinson Institute, Melbourne High School, Melbourne School of Physiotherapy, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Swinburne College of Technology, University of Melbourne.

Redcliffs- State High School.

Seymour - State High School.

Warrnambool - Institute of Advanced Education.

Queensland: Brisbane - Kangaroo Point Coaching College, Kelvin Grove Evening Classes, Munn and Trivetts Commercial College, South Brisbane Technical College.

Toowoomba - Coaching College.

Western Australia: Perth - Carlisle Technical College, Fremantle Technical College, International Correspondence Schools, Mount

Lawley Technical College. Perth Technical College, Scarborough Technical College, Tuart Hill Technical College, Technical Extension Service, University of Western Australia.

Tasmania: Hobart- Elizabeth Matriculation College, Hobart Technical College.

  1. As at 18th February 120 (59.4 per cent) of applicants were farmers, 63 (31.2 per cent) were members of farmers’ families, 15 (7.4 per cent) were farm employees and 4 (2.0 per cent) were others. Of 43 applicants approved to this date, 32 (74.4 per cent) were farmers, and the remainder (25.6 per cent) members of farmers’ families.
  2. Accountancy, automotive engineering, bookkeeping, business principles, catering, dental technician, marketing, meat inspection, mechanical engineering drafting, parks administration, physiotherapy, radio technician, real estate, spray painting, teaching, welding.
  3. Eligible trainees may apply for any vocational course available at any technical college. Some trainees may require more than one year’s full-time training before finding employment; e-» if training for a further 12 months are considered. ne 43 approved applicants as at 18th February 1972 25 had either already moved to the city at the time of application or indicated an intention to do so.

National Service Act (Question No. 5073)

Dr Klugman:

asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:

  1. How many persons have been prosecuted under Section 48 of the National Service Act 1951- 1971 for failing to register in each of the last 10 years.
  2. When his Department discovers failure to register, is prosecution automatic or selective.
  3. If it is selective (a) who makes the decision and (b) on what basis is a decision made.
Mr Lynch:

– The answer to the honourable members question is as follows:

  1. The present national service scheme has been in operation since January, 1965. The following table shows the numbers of men prosecuted for failure to register since the inception of the scheme.
  1. and (3) When my Department detects that a man liable to register and to render national service has not registered as required prosecution proceedings are initiated in accordance with the provisions of the National Service Act.

Unemployment Benefits (Question No. 5325)

Mr Daly:

asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:

  1. Is is a fact that, due to the great increase in the number of unemployed, benefit payments have been delayed because of the failure to increase the staff of his Department to meet this crisis.
  2. If so, in order to avoid hardship and suffering to those concerned, will he investigate the position and, if necessary, arrange for the staff to be increased in order that benefit may be paid promptly as they fall due.
Mr Wentworth:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. No.
  2. See answer to (1) above.

Conciliation and Arbitration Act: Section 45 Order (Question No. 3959)

Mr Clyde Cameron:

asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:

On how many occasions, and with what result, has section 43 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act been used since that section was included in the Act in 1956.

Mr Lynch:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

I am informed that since 1956 only one order has been made under section 45 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.

On Sth December 1962, on the application of the Wool and Basil Workers’ Federation of Australia, an order was made that a vote of members of the New South Wales Branch of that organisation who were then on strike be taken as to a return to work.

On 12lh December the President of the Commission announced that as work had been resumed on 10th December the Commission had acceded to a request by the representative of the applicant that the order should be vacated.

Apprenticeships (Question No. 5018)

Dr Gun:

asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:

  1. How many school-leavers sought apprenticeships in each trade grouping in (a) each State and (b) the Commonwealth in each of the last 5 years.
  2. How many vacancies were available for apprentices in each trade grouping in (a) each State and (b) the Commonwealth in each of the last 5 years.
Mr Lynch:

– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:

  1. and (2) The Department of Labour and National Service docs not collect figures on the number of school-leavers seeking apprenticeships. However, statistics of juniors (young people under 21) seeking apprenticeships, as well as unfilled vacancies for apprentices in broad trade groupings are available for the period November to March inclusive. Statistics for each of the last 5 years are shown in the attached tables.

Lockheed Electra Conversion (Question No. 5159)

Mr Keogh:

asked the Minister represent ing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:

  1. Did the Minister state in a press release on 25 January, 1972, that three Lockheed Electras were being converted in the United States of America from passenger to freighter aircraft at a total cost of $1,500,000.
  2. If so, why is the conversion work not being carried out in Australia.
  3. What action did the Government take in an endeavour to have the work done in Australia.
Mr Swartz:

– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

  1. Yes.
  2. Ansett Airlines gave serious consideration to the modification of the aircraft in Australia but reached the conclusion after consultation with Lockheed, the manufacturer of the Electra, that the cost of under-taking the work locally would be approximately double the cost of modification by that company in the United States. The additional cost would have arisen from the need to purchase an engineering package specially prepared by the American company and the highly specialised tooling required to accomplish the modification.
  3. The Government was aware of the proposal by Ansett Airlines to have its aircraft modified in the United States and took a close interest in the matter. Because the modification of the aircraft seemed to present an opportunity for work to flow to Australian industry a number of firms were referred to Ansett Airlines with a view to their involvement in the project. The decision to have the work performed in the United States was taken for the reason indicated in answer to Part 2 of the Question.

Trans-Australia Airlines: Licences (Question No. 3985)

Mr Whitlam:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:

On what dates and for what routes has TransAustralia Airlines sought and been granted or refused a licence since his answer on 30th October 1970 (Hansard, page 3178).

Mr Swartz:

– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable members question:

Details of licence applications made by TransAustralia Airlines since 30th April .1970 and the results of the applications are as follows:

In the previous reply it was stated that an application by TAA for the operation of services between Perth and Darwin was under consideration - that is the current position also. It was also stated that TAA had made a number of applications which were, at the time, still under consideration. The current position of these applications ii as follows:

  1. Inclusion of Groote Eylandt on Mount IsaGove service - under consideration.
  2. Extension of Mount Isa-Gove service to Darwin- under consideration.
  3. Inclusion of Loani on airline licence - under consideration.
  4. Inclusion of Mendi on Port Moresby-Mount Hagen service- granted on 5th November 1970.
  5. Operation of Mount Hagen-Mendi-Tar service - refused on 5th November 1970.
  6. Operation of Port Moresby-Kiunga service - granted on 5th November 1970.
  7. Operation of services on routes with the following terminals:

Port Moresby and Momote - Granted on 16th March 1972.

Goroka and Wewak - Application withdrawn.

Goroka and Mount Hagen - Granted on 16th March 1972.

Kainantu and Mount Hagen - Application withdrawn.

  1. Inclusion of Bereina as a stopping place on Papuan services - granted on 5th November 1970.

Unemployment (Question No. 5110)

Mr Kennedy:

asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:

  1. What is the date chosen by his Department for assessing the number of people unemployed in each month?
  2. What was the (a) number and (b) percentage of people registered as unemployed in (i) metropolitan areas, (ii) non-metropolitan areas, and (iti) both areas in (A) each State and Territory, and (B) the Commonwealth in each month since the Prime Minister announced grants for rural unemployment relief.
  3. How many people were receiving employment under the rural unemployment relief grants in each months since the grants were announced as at the date in each month used by his Department for assessing the number of people unemployed.
  4. What percentage of the people unemployed in (a) non-metropolitan, and (b) both metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas does the number receiving employment under the grants represent for each month in (i) each State and Territory, and (ii) the Commonwealth.
Mr Lynch:

– The following information is supplied in answer to the honourable members question:

  1. The count of unemployed persons registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service takes place on the Friday nearest the end of each month or on the previous day if Friday is a public holiday.
  2. The attached Table 1 shows (a) the number, and (b) the percentage of people registered as unemployed in metropolitan areas and nonmetropolitan areas, as well as the totals for each State and for Australia.
  3. and (4) The rural unemployment relief scheme became operational during December. The attached Table 2 shows as at end-December 1971. end-January 1972 and end-February 1972, the number of people who were employed under the rural unemployment relief scheme, in absolute terms and as a percentage of (i) persons unemployed in nonmetropolitan areas, and (ii) total unemployed persons, for each State and for Australia as a whole.

Unemployment Benefits (Question No. 5198)

Mr Scholes:

asked the Minister for Social

Services, upon notice:

  1. Why is there an excessive delay in determining claims for unemployment benefits lodged up to 5 weeks ago during the State Electricity Commission of Victoria dispute.
  2. Is this excessive delay causing many thousands of persons who are eligible to receive unemployment benefits to be subjected to serious hardship.
  3. Will he issue instructions immediately for outstanding claims to be dealt with.
Mr Wentworth:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. to (3) This dispute was perhaps without precedent in its widespread impact on industry and employment. An unusually high number of unions were involved in the dispute which resulted in a large section of manufacturing and other industry being seriously curtailed or brought to a standstill with increasing numbers of employees being stood down as the dispute continued.

Notwithstanding this situation, no excessive delay in effecting payment to persons eligible for unemployment benefit occurred. Persons who were unemployed before the strike and persons who remained unemployed after power was restored and industries had resumed work received unemployment benefit payments without delay. Cases in which further inquiries were necessary numbered less than 1,300.

Aboriginal Reserves: Wood Chip Industry (Question No. 5131)

Mr Cross:

asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:

  1. What areas of Aboriginal Reserves in the Northern Territory have been found suitable for the establishment of wood-chip industries.
  2. Have any of these areas been offered to prospective developers; if so, to whom.
  3. Have the Aboriginal inhabitants of the respective reserves been consulted on the proposed developments; if so, have they approved in each case.
  4. Have all areas of traditional significance been excluded from the proposed development areas.
  5. Have any of these areas been found to be biologically unique or of such importance that they should be preserved inviolate.
  6. What are the requirements for (a) reafforestation, (b) the prevention of soil erosion and (c) the restoration of the landscape.
Mr Hunt:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. Preliminary investigations suggest that the three areas below have potential for wood-chip development

    1. Melville and Bathurst Islands
    2. north east Arnhem Land
    3. north west Arnhem Land.
  2. and(3) In 1968 several companies made initial studies of the above areas. Aboriginal communities were consulted before these studies were commenced.
  3. and (5) If a wood-chip industry is proposed for any area, surveys will be made to exclude from development sites of traditional significance and areas which are unique or important for biological reasons.
  4. Any rights granted for a wood-chip industry will include requirements on the matters referred to as a means of preserving and enhancing the ecology of the area.

Voting Agc (Question No. 5233)

Mr Les Johnson:

asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:

  1. Has the Government taken any decision on the question of reducing the voting age from 21 to 18 years.
  2. What were the terms of the interdepartmental report submitted to the Government on the implications of lowering the voting age to 18 years.
  3. Can he say which countries allow people under 21 years of age to vote.
Mr Hunt:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. See the Prime Minister’s reply on page 684 of Hansard of 8th March 1972.
  2. It is not the practice of the Government to make public the details of such reports.
  3. The following countries allow people under 21 years of age to vote:

Afghanistan; Albania; Algeria; Andorra - all male heads of families; Argentine; Austria; Barbados; Bolivia - married citizens; Brazil; Bulgaria; Burma; Cambodia; Canada; Ceylon; China: Costa Rica; Czechoslovakia; Dominican Republic; Equador; El Salvador; German Democratic Republic; Guatemala; Honduras; Hungary; Indonesia; Israel; Japan; Jordan - male Transjordanians but not Bedouins; Korea (South); Korea (North); Liechtenstein; Mexico - married citizens; Mongolia: Netherlands; New Zealand; Nicaragua - literate or married persons; Poland; Romania; Sweden; Switzerland - males; Tanzania; Thailand - Thai nationals; Tunisia; Turkey; United Kingdom - British and citizens of Irish Republic living in United Kingdom; Uruquay; U.S.S.R.; Venezuela; Vietnam (South); Vietnam (North); Yugoslavia; Zambia. The following States of the U.S.A. also allow persons under 21 years of age to vote - Alaska; Georgia; Hawaii and Kentucky.

Airline Pilots: Future Employment (Question No. 5120)

Dr J F Cairns:

ns asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:

  1. ls it a fact that pilots in the future will only be able to obtain employment or maintain employment in the airline industry if they are members of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots.
  2. If so, does this mean that there would be no purpose in anyone belonging to any other organisation such as the Air Pilots Guild of Australia.
  3. Has the Air Pilots Guild of Australia been refused an award by the Flight Crew Officers Industrial Tribunal.
  4. If so, and in view of relevant High Court decisions, what attitude does his Department take towards the decision of the Tribunal.
  5. Is the Tribunal, in its attitude to the Australian Federation of Air Pilots and employers, giving the Guild the protection to which it is entitled under the Act.
  6. Is he able to state whether the Air Pilots Guild of Australia is entitled to an award from the Flight Crew Officers Industrial Tribunal.
Mr Lynch:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. No.
  2. See answer to (1).
  3. On 8th November 1971, a claim by the Air Pilots’ Guild of Australia for an award was dismissed by the Flight Crew Officers Industrial Tribunal under Section 41 (1) (d) (i) of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The results of 2 earlier claims for award coverage made by the Air Pilots Guild were that on 10th September 1970 the Flight Crew Tribunal adjourned the Guild’s application for an award in the general aviation industry and on 12th January 1971 the Air Pilots’ Guild notified the Flight Crew Tribunal of the withdrawal of its demands on T.A.A., Qantas Empire Airways Ltd, Ansett Airlines of Australia, Airlines of N.S.W., East West Airlines and Jetair Australia Ltd.

On 24th February, an ad hoc Flight Crew Officers Industrial Tribunal handed down 2 awards - the Agricultural Aviation Pilots Award 1971 and the Agricultural Aviation Pilots (Long Service Leave) Award. The Tribunal made both of these awards binding on the Air Pilots’ Guild of Australia, its officers and members.

  1. This is not a matter on which it would be proper for my Department to express an opinion.
  2. and (6) As a registered organisation under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act the Air Pilots’ Guild of Australia has the same rights and obligations as any other registered organisation.

Naturalisation (Question No. 5050)

Mr Grassby:

asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:

How many officers of his Department who represent Australia overseas have not yet become Australian citizens by naturalisation or registration and where are they serving.

Mr N H Bowen:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

As at 28th February 1972 all Australian-based officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs serving overseas were Australian citizens by birth, residence, registration or naturalisation, with the exception of 6, all of whom were British subjects and citizens of the United Kingdom, serving in the following countries:






Republic of Vietnam.

Commonwealth Railways: Employees Conditions (Question No. 5189)

Mr Wallis:

asked the Minister for Shipp ing and Transport, upon notice:

  1. Is it a fact that Commonwealth Railways employees who are on compensation for a period exceeding 3 months, lose pro rata annual leave for the period they are absent from work on compensation.
  2. If so, will the Government take the necessary steps to have the relevant provisions in the Commonwealth Railways By-laws altered to ensure that these employees are not penalised by the loss of any annual leave entitlements due to their absence from work because of injury sustained in the course of their employment.
  3. Do similar provisions apply to employees in other Commonwealth departments and instrumentalities.
Mr Hunt:

– As Acting Minister for Shipping and Transport, I provide the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

  1. Pending review of Commonwealth Railways By-laws the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner issued an administrative directive on 18th October 1971 to the effect that Commonwealth Railways employees who are on compensation for a period exceeding 3 months, would not lose pro rata annual leave for the period they are absent from work on compensation.
  2. Attention is invited to question on notice No. 3086 wherein advice was given that Com monwealth Railways By-laws were currently under review and amendment to the provision referred to was being considered. This review is not yet completed.
  3. The Public Service Board has advised that an employee employed under the Public Service Act who is absent and in receipt of benefits under the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees’) Act 1971 does not lose his eligibility for recreation leave because of that absence. In those statutory authorities where the relevant legislation requires the approval of the Public Service Board to determinations of terms and conditions of service, similar standards are applied as in employment under the Public Service Act.

Ship Repairs (Question No. 5176)

Mr Charles Jones:

asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:

  1. Which Australian ships were docked and repaired overseas in each of the last 5 years.
  2. What was the (a) tonnage of this ship, (b) owner’s name and (c) port in which the ship was docked and repaired in each case.
Mr Hunt:

– As Acting Minister for Shipping and Transport I supply the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

The Australian trading vessels which have been docked and repaired overseas in each of the last 5 years are as follows:

Pre-School Education (Question No. 3651)

Mr Whitlam:

asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:

Will be bring up to date the information which former Ministers have given on pre-school education on 25 February 1969 (Hansard, page 120) and 21 August 1970 (page 424).

Mr Malcolm Fraser:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

Information needed to update the answers to the questions referred to by the Honourable Member is still being processed. Problems have been experienced in reconciling later figures with those given in previous replies. These problems arise because, prior to 1971, data was collected by the Australian Pre-school Association on information statements which were not designed as a continuing statistical collection. In 1971 suitable statistical collection forms were designed with the assistance of my Department so that the Australian Preschool Association could obtain consistent basic pre-school statistics. 1 would hope to be in a position to give the Honourable Member a full reply within a month.

In respect of pre-school education in the Northern Territory, I draw the Honourable Member’s attention to my predecessor’s answer to Question No. 2487 (Hansard 18/8/71, page 275) which updates some of the information which has been given previously, particularly in the answer to Question No. 102 (Ilansard 21/8/70, page 424).

Education: Expenditure (Question No. 3484)

Mr Hayden:

asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice -

  1. What was the amount of recurrent expenditure by (a) State schools, (b) private Catholic schools and (c) private non-Catholic schools for each State in each of the last 10 years.
  2. What were the amounts provided from (a) Commonwealth, (b) State and (c) other sources, indicating those sources in each case.
  3. What were the total numbers enrolled at each category of school for each year.
Mr Malcolm Fraser:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows -

  1. (a) Recurrent expenditure by State governments on primary and secondary schools is shown in the following table. This information has been taken from ‘Public Authority Finance, State Governments: Social Services’, published by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. The amounts shown comprise direct recurrent expenditure on primary and secondary schools, transportation of school children, and, administration. They include State government recurrent grants to non-government schools: the exact amounts involved are not available. They do not include Commonwealth direct recurrent funds provided under the Child Migrant Education Programme which commenced in April 1970; funds provided for government schools to 30 June 1970 totalled $109,000.
  1. (b) and (c) Details of recurrent expenditure by Catholic and other non-government schools are not available.
  2. (a) Direct Commonwealth assistance to schools in the States in 1970 was available for recurrent costs of non-government schools through per capita grants, and for the special teaching of non-English speaking migrant children in both government and non-government schools. There was no such assistance prior to 1970.

In considering the expenditure under these programmes it must be remembered that through the genera] financial assistance arrangements the Com monwealth Government provides something like half of State resources for recurrent expenditure on schools.

Details of the amounts provided to nongovernment schools under the per capita grants program are not readily available by type of school. However by applying the amount of per capita payments payable in 1970 and 1971 of $35 per primary and $50 per secondary pupil to the enrolment statistics, a very close approximation can be obtained. This has been done in compiling the information contained in the following table.

  1. (b) Complete information of State recurrent expenditure on non-government schools is not available. However, some details are contained in the annual reports of State Ministers for Education and in State Government Budget papers.

    1. Details of any expenditure from other sources are not available.
  2. The information requested is shown in the following table.

Education: Expenditure (Question No. 5241)

Mr Kennedy:

asked the Minister for

Education and Science, upon notice:

When may I expect answers to questions Nos. 4848 and 4969 which I placed on the Notice Paper on 1 December 1971 and 22 February 1972, respectively.

Mr Malcolm Fraser:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

Question No. 4848

In my interim reply to this question (Hansard 9 and 10 December, 1971 p 4605) I indicated that the information requested would not be available until the end of February 1972. It has been necessary to await the production of computerproduced statistics and these were received in my Department early in March. The statistics are now being processed and a full reply to this question will be available shortly.

Question No. 4969

Material is now being processed by my Department and I expect to be able to supply an answer at an early date.

Immigration (Question No. 5216)

Mr Les Johnson:

asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:

  1. ‘How many immigrants, who came to Australia with assisted passages, returned to their homeland during the last 5 years.
  2. What studies have been undertaken and what information is available regarding the causes of migrant departures from Australia.
Dr Forbes:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. lt is not possible to isolate the number of assisted migrants fu statistics of settler departures currently prepared by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics.
  2. A major investigation into the departure of former settlers was undertaken by the Social Patterns Committee, of the Immigration Advisory Council during 1966/67. The final report was published in October 1967 (Parliamentary Paper No. 194 of 967). The situation was reviewed in 1969 and the Council recommended that enquiries into the departure rate be postponed for two or three years, daring which time more evidence was likely to become available. In September, 1971, I asked (he Immigration Advisory Council to undertake a further enquiry which is currently in progress.

Immigration (Question No. 5044)

Mr Kennedy:

asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:

In what ways have improvements been made in the screening and selection of immigrants as stated by a spokesman for his Department in ‘The Age’ of 15th October 1971.

Dr Forbes:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

The newspaper report to which the honourable member has referred was concerned with the experiences of Turkish migrants and in particular with the health of Turkish children who had come to Australia in the very early stages of the operation of the scheme.

Since then steps have been taken to ensure that all migrants travelling to Australia under the migration arrangements we have with the Turkish Government are medically screened by Australian doctors and that particular attention is paid to the health of children.

Experience with early arrivals from Turkey showed that a lack of fluency in the English language and a knowledge of what to expect in Australia presented the main difficulties for newcomers. To overcome these deficiencies an English language training supervisor has been appointed to Turkey. Preference in movement has been given to those who have an urban background. In addition, a pre-embarkation orientation course for assisted migrants has been commenced. These migrants also acknowledge that they understand the implications of migration and these are carefully explained to them by additional counselling staff who have been appointed.

Migration selection procedures, in all countries, are constantly under review to make certain that accurate assessments are made of the potential migrant’s general suitability. The process of improving migrant selection is therefore a continuing one. Greater emphasis is now paced on the training of interviewing and selection officers, not only to enable them to better assess applicants for migration from an occupational point of view but also to judge the ability of applicants to cope with adjustments to a changed environment.

The findings of a comprehensive survey of selection methods undertaken at a number of our overseas posts are currently the subject of close examination. New approaches to migrant counselling, presentation of information and actual selection procedures, including review of individual selection officers reports, have already been adopted. Where these investigations indicate that further changes should be made, new procedures will be implemented to ensure that the methods and standards employed by the Department of Immigration for the selection of immigrants are up to date, adequate and appropriate to Australia’s needs.

Migrant Education (Question No. 5207)

Mr Grassby:

asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:

  1. Has the reduction in expenditure by the Commonwealth on migrant education resulted in the closing of more than 100 evening continuation classes in New South Wales.
  2. What plans has he to replace these with specialised and accelerated forms of instruction.
  3. How many migrant English language classes are now being conducted in each of the Australian States at this date and what were the numbers at the same date In each of the last 2 years.
  4. How many persons are currently enrolled and what was the comparative number at the same date in each of the last 2 years.
Dr Forbes:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. Since the review of the long-term continuation class programme in September 1971, the number of evening classes in New South Wales was reduced from 439 at 1st September to 307 at 30th January 1972. The closing of classes was not the result of any reduction in expenditure by the Commonwealth on migrant education. On the contrary expenditure has increased substantially. Prior to the Government’s announcement of new initiatives in migrant education in April 1970, expenditure had been to the order of $1 million annually. In the financial year 1970-71 expenditure rose to $3.8 million and in the current financial year it is expected to exceed $6 million.

The continuation class programme provides a long-term form of instruction generally in evening classes each of two hours duration held twice weekly. It had been in operation virtually unchanged for some 20 years. The high abandonment rate and other research information showed that the programme was failing to meet the needs of all migrants. The purpose of the review was to reduce the number of single classes operating uneconomically and to regroup other classes preferably in multi-class centres where it would be possible to provide graded levels of instruction. The need for the review was referred to in the Government’s announcement of new initiatives in migrant education in April 1970 which foreshadowed also a transfer in emphasis to more accelerated and specialised forms of instruction which would be better suited to the needs of individual groups of migrants.

The evening continuation class programme will be retained as the principal source of instruction for those migrants whose needs are best met by the long-term form of instruction. Although the overall number of classes has been reduced, tha rearranged grouping of classes should ensure that the greater majority of migrants will still be w,thin easy access of a class.

  1. There has been already a substantial development of more specialised and accelerated forms of instruction. Full time intensive courses, each of 8 weeks duration, are now operating at 9 centres throughout Australia, catering for 1,600 students annually. (There are 3 centres in New South Wales currently catering for 600 students annually. Their capacity will shortly increase to 900.) Accelerated courses, which cnncentrate the 15-18 months continuation programme into a course of 16-20 weeks duration in morning, afternoon and evening classes, are catering annually for over 4,000 students throughout Australia (2,500 in New South Wales), and these are expected to increase still further. The interest being displayed by employers and employees in the current polit courses for migrants in industry indicates that there will bc an increasing demand for this special course.

Special classes are being provided where necessary to meet the needs of migrant women and other special groups of migrants. The experimental television education project being conducted in conjunction with WIN Channel 4, Wollongong, is expected to provide the basis in due course for an Australia-wide programme.

  1. and (4) The information sought on the number of classes and students enrolled as at the end of January in each year is as follows:

Frozen Chickens (Question No. 5047)

Mr Grassby:

asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:

  1. Will he investigate the import of frozen chickens through the port of Sydney from Canada.
  2. What quantity of chicken has been imported in the 1971-72 financial year. (3.) Who are the importers and is the chicken for the retail or restaurant trade.
Mr Anthony:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. and (2) The Commonwealth Statistician has advised that imports of frozen chickens are included in the item ‘Poultry, Fresh, Chilled or Frozen, Killed or Dressed (including offals except liver)’. Imports for this item were 667 lb in the period July to December 1971. No imports from Canada were recorded.
  2. The Commonwealth Statistician has advised that confidentiality provisions of the Census and Statistics Act preclude him from supplying names of individual importers while information regarding the destination of imports (retail and restaurant trade) is not available.

Employment: United States of America (Question No. 4962)

Mr Klugman:

asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:

  1. Can he say whether the Labour Department in the United States of America releases figures of jobless rates for many groups in the labour force such as teenagers, adult men, married men, adult women, married women, black workers and white workers.
  2. If so, could his Department supply a similar break-down of figures including migrants as a statistical group.
Mr Lynch:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. The Department of Labour in the United States, in its monthly publication ‘Employment and Earnings’, releases figures of unemployment rates according to age (adults/teenagers), sex, marital status (both male and female), colour, industry and occupation.
  2. The Department of Labour and National Service publishes figures of unemployment rates on a geographical basis (State by State). Data are published showing the actual numbers registered for employment at the end of each month according to age (adults/juniors), sex, broad occupational groups and for married women. There are no plans at present for the Department to publish data referring to any other categories.

Aged Persons Homes (Question No.5228)

Mr Les Johnson:

asked the Minister for

Social Services, upon notice:

  1. What is the (a) number and (b) percentage of persons of pensionable age who live in accommodation provided under the provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act in each State and Territory.
  2. What is the average capital cost of providing living units for (a) single persons and (b) married couples in each year since the inception of the Act.
Mr Wentworth:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. The information is contained in the following table:
  1. The information sought is contained in the answer to Question No.5032 asked upon notice by Mr W. G. Hayden (see Hansard of 28th March 1972, page No. 1292).

Pilots Dispute by Ansett Airlines of Australia (Question No. 4954)

Dr J F Cairns:

ns asked the Minister for

Labour and National Service, upon notice:

  1. Have pilots of Ansett Airlines of Australia refused to fly with several other pilots unless they join the Air Pilots Federation, although these pilots are already members of the Pilots Guild which is a registered union.
  2. If so, can he say whether the company facilitated and co-operated in this attempt to intimidate some of its employees.
  3. Did the relevant Tribunal refuse an award to the Guild contrary to law and principle and thereby co-operate also in this exercise in compulsory unionism.
  4. Has his Department tolerated and encouraged this exercise in compulsory unionism contrary to its well-known professions on the subject.
  5. Can he say whether the Press and even the Australian Broadcasting Commission have failed or declined to give publicity to this exercise and Ansett Airlines has failed or declined to make any explanation.
Mr Lynch:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. From 1st October 1971, pilots employed by Ansett Airlines of Australia refused to fly with five Ansett pilots who were non-members of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots. This refusal arose out of a resolution passed by the Australian Federation of Air Pilots on 2nd June 1971. Three of the non-Federation member pilots were members of the Air Pilots’ Guild of Australia, an organisation of pilots registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The refusal to fly on the part of Ansett pilots continued until 8th November when the five pilots who were the subjects of the refusal applied to join the Australian Federation of Air Pilots as either members or agency clients of the Federation.
  2. On the 5th August 1971, after the Australian Federation of Air Pilots advised Ansett Airlines of Australia of its resolution directing members not to fly with any pilot who was not a Federation member or agency client the company notified the matter to the Flight Crew Officers’ Industrial Tribunal. Later, after the Federation resolution had been implemented by member pilots employed by Ansett Airlines of Australia, the company advised the Tribunal of serious and deteriorating developments in the matter. On 5th November, by reason of the fact that the refusal to fly rendered the non-Federation member pilots unproductive, the company gave notice of termination of employment to the five pilots concerned. The notices of termination of employment were subsequently withdrawn by the company on 8th November after the Federation lifted its ban.
  3. By letter dated 27th October 1971, the Air Pilots’ Guild of Australia notified the existence of a dispute between that organisation and Ansett Airlines of Australia to the Flight Crew Officers’ Industrial Tribunal. On 4th November the Tribunal formally found a dispute to exist and directed the parties to confer on the matter. The Tribunal also indicated its general intention of certifying any satisfactory agreement and of making an award if that course of action became necessary.

On 8th November, after further hearings, the Tribunal dismissed the Air Pilots’ Guild’s claim for an award under Section 41 (1) (d) (i) of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, on the grounds that as all pilots employed by Ansett Airlines would in future be covered by the current Pilots’ Award, to which the Australian Federation of Air Pilots is a party, there remained no grounds for making the Air Pilots’ Guild of Australia party to an award.

  1. The person constituting the Tribunal is a Deputy President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, not an officer of my Department, and my Department took no part in the proceedings before him.
  2. Items reporting the matter referred to above appeared from time to time in the daily press. I am not in a position to comment on whether or not the matter received ‘adequate’ publicity. The position of Ansett Airlines of Australia was made quite clear by that company’s representative in public proceedings before the Flight Crew Officers’ Industrial Tribunal.

Disabled Commonwealth Employees (Question No. 5222)

Mr Les Johnson:

asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:

How many disabled Commonwealth employees have received rehabilitation treatment or vocational training under the Compensation, (Commonwealth Employees) Act since the enabling legislation was passed.

Mr Wentworth:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

Since the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Act became fully operative on 1st September 1971, employees covered by the Act may receive rehabilitation treatment either at hospitals or at rehabilitation centres conducted by the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service. Treatment given at hospitals is included under the general heading ‘Medical treatment’. Such cases cannot, therefore, be readily identified for statistical purposes.

In addition to rehabilitation received as part of medical treatment in hospitals, eleven (11) cases have received or are receiving specialised rehabilitation treatment or vocational training through the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service.

Purchase of Everard Park Station for Aborigines (Question No. 5079)

Mr Wallis:

asked the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:

  1. Have negotiations been completed by the Office of Aboriginal Affairs for the purchase of Everard Park Station in South Australia for Aboriginal purposes.
  2. If so, what plans have been formulated for the utilisation of this Station.
Mr Howson:
Minister for Environment, Aborigines and the Arts · CASEY, VICTORIA · LP

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. No.
  2. See (1) above.

United States Defence Bases in Australia (Question No. 4733)

Mr Scholes:

asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:

  1. Which Members of (a) the Australian Parliament, (b) the United States Congress and (c) other Parliaments have been permitted to inspect United States defence bases in Australia.
  2. What was the status of each person and what is the present status of each.
  3. Which base was visited and what restrictions were imposed in each case.
Mr Fairbairn:
Minister for Defence · FARRER, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

Although they are not ‘United States defence bases’ the Joint Defence Space Research Facility (JDSRF) at Pine Gap and the Joint Defence Space Communications Station (JDSCS) at Nurrungar, near Woomera have been included in this reply as it is assumed that the intention of the questioner was to include them. (1), (2) and (3)

Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service (Question No. 5326)

Mr Daly:

asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:

  1. is it a fact that a person convicted of a criminal offence, or one who has served a prison sentence or is on bond, is ineligible for training under the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service.
  2. If so, how many have applied and been rejected to date for these reasons.
Mr Wentworth:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. No.
  2. There may have been isolated instances where the nature of the criminal offence has been a factor in reaching a decision that the person is unsuitable for admission to a Commonwealth rehabilitation centre. However, records of such cases, which would be very few, are not maintained. If the honourable member has a particular case in mind I would be pleased to have it reviewed.

Exemption from Motor Vehicle Sales Tax: Disabled Persons (Question No. 5226)

Mr Les Johnson:

asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:

  1. How many persons, who sought exemption from sales tax on the purchase of motor vehicles and replacement parts under the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act, were not certified as medically eligible for classification as a disabled person in each of the last 5 years.
  2. What are the criteria for classification as a disabled person under the provisions of the Act.
  3. Is there any evidence available to him to show that the restrictive provisions of the Act pre clude many persons whose physical and medical condition necessitates the use of private rather than public transport for the purpose of travelling to and from employment from establishing eligibility under the Act.
Mr Wentworth:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. Numbers of claims under Item 135a for sales tax exemption rejected because not medically eligible:
  1. Item 135a of the First Schedule to the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act provides that, to qualify medically for the exemption, the Director-General of Social Services, or an officer appointed by him, must certify that the person has lost the use of one or both legs to such an extent that he is permanently unable to use public transport. In practice the Senior Medical Officer, when considering medical eligibility, is required to disregard the availability of public transport. The test is related to the applicant being able to use such transport, if it were available. Where the applicant is found to be medically ineligible for exemption, and is dissatisfied with this decision, he may appeal and have his case reviewed by three doctors, one of whom is the Senior Medical Officer.
  2. The legislation limits the sales tax exemption (where the condition is non-war-caused) to persons with lower limb disabilities. Consequently those people who suffer from other disabilities which preclude them from using public transport do not qualify for the exemption. No statistics are maintained that would indicate the size of the latter group.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 April 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.