27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– 1 present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The bumble 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 teps to:
Call a halt to all closing of Post Offices and reorganising within the Post Offices 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 Parliamentary inquiry 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.
Similar petitions were presented by Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Jacobi, Dr Everingham, Mr Nicholls and Mr Webb.
Petitions severally received.
– 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 10th December 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 health and wellbeing.
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 comprehensive domiciliary 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.
Similar petitions were presented by Mr Stewart, Dr Klugman, Dr Cass and Dr Jenkins.
Petitions severally received.
-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 electors of the Division of Kingsford-Smith showeth that:
The approval given by the Minister for Civil Aviation to operate Electra aircraft to and from Kingsford-Smith airport during curfew hours is contrary to the public interest of the electors and a breach of an undertaking given by the Government that aircraft noise would be reduced in the area.
We are already saturated with noise during working hours and the only respite we have is by the curfew being rigidly enforced. These Electras are very much heavier aircraft and do create a severe noise nuisance irrespective of the runways used. Further, they have limited life and it follows that they will be replaced by jet aircraft with an even greater noise factor.
By failing to provide a second airport for Sydney, the Government has created an everincreasing noise nuisance during the present operational hours and instead of the airport being a reasonable amenity for the city, it is being used as an offensive weapon against the residents whose quiet enjoyment of their homes and recreational hours is seriously affected, and the value of their properties thereby diminished.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that-
The curfew between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. at Sydney Airport be rigidly enforced.
The use of Electra aircraft and/or jet aircraft be prohibited within the curfew hours.
Concessional airport charges be granted to encourage aircraft operators to use their aircraft during normal business hours.
A social survey be taken of the area surrounding Sydney Airport to indicate the magnitude of unrest and disturbance attributable to aircraft noise.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Craft Council of Australia be represented on the Federal Government Committee to investigate the role of the crafts as an art form.
Your petitioners respectfully request that you will appoint a nominee of the Craft Council of Australia to the above Committee.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray
Petition received and read.
-I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition from certain residents of the western suburbs in the Sydney Metropolitan area and surrounding districts respectfully showeth:
That due to an expanding passenger air travel business together with larger and more powerful jet aircraft, aircraft noise has already become a serious problem for people living in the vicinity of airports.
That jet aircraft operations have a detrimental effect by way of air and noise pollution on the environment and airports should be situated so as to preserve the environment of populated areas.
That protest should be made against the proposal to establish an internal airport at Richmond owing to the detrimental effect it would have for the environment there and in surrounding districts.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that this House take appropriate steps to ensure that the Government does not proceed with the proposal to site the second, twenty four hour international airport for Sydney at Richmond or anywhere else in the far western suburbs for the metropolitan area.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Similar petitions were presented by Mr Armitage and Mr Luchetti.
Petitions severally received.
– I wish to inform the House that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) is leaving Australia today to attend the Third United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in Chile and to visit other South American countries for discussions on trade matters. He is expected to return to Australia on 8th May. During his absence the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) will be Acting Minister for Trade and Industry.
– I appreciate the honourable gentleman raising this question, and I can well understand his concern in relation to the matters which he has put before the House. It is a matter of regret that the management of Broken Hill South Ltd has found it necessary to announce the closure of its mine at Broken Hill. I understand that the question of closing the mine has been under consideration for some time. As the honourable gentleman has mentioned to the House, approximately 650 men, as I recall it, are directly involved. Their loss of employment will have a considerable impact upon the commercial life of Broken Hill. Immediately I was advised of the announcement by the management of the mine I arranged for my Assistant Minister, Mr Street, together with the Assistant Director (Employment) of my Department’s New South Wales office to visit Broken Hill. They did so, as the honourable gentleman knows, last Sunday and Monday. They had discussions with all the principal parties concerned with the closure. A detailed report is being prepared. I am presently in the process of looking at that report. The honourable gentleman will appreciate also that the future of the mine is a matter that does not come within my responsibility but is more properly a matter within responsibility of the New South Wales Minister for Mines and my colleague the Minister for National Development. I understand that officers of the New South Wales Mines Department are visiting Broken Hill for purposes of carry-: ing out a further assessment of the position. In the meantime the honourable, gentleman can be well assured that the resources of the Commonwealth Employment Service will be. at the full disposal of the men who will be out of work in helping to overcome the difficulties they face in the future.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer and follows immediately on the last question. Will the Treasurer give consideration to a suggestion which I have made previously, I think to him but if not certainly to his predecessors, that the 20 per cent depletion allowance, as it is called, for tax purposes on mining ventures, which is available to mining undertakings producing all other materials, be extended to cover lead and zinc so that mining operations at Broken Hill may become profitable again?
– This matter of the differential between different types of minerals is under examination at the present time.
– I ask the Minister for National Development a question. When will the Parliament and public at last be. given access to the report on forward national development planning covering minerals, forests, water and energy which his Department completed in October 1970? When I last asked the honourable gentleman this question, over 4 months ago, he told me that an interdepartmental committee was considering some of the matters in the report. I therefore also ask him: Which departments other than his own are represented on this committee and when will the committee make its recommendations?
– I appreciate the interest of the Leader of the Opposition in this, matter. The document to which he refers was a confidential document which, at my direction, my Department has prepared - I think, quite rightly so - to make some assessment of the background of the whole, of the situation in relation to our naturalresources and try to make some projections ahead. Naturally, a document of this type is not fully useful from a Government point of view unless it deals with a wide variety of policy matters. Policy matters, when you get into the field of the produc-tion and marketing of our - natural resources, cover quite a number of Commonwealth departments and also refer to matters within the responsibility of State governments. Certainly the document is an important one. I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that it is of a very substantial size because it covers such a wide variety of subjects.
The position at the present time is still virtually the same as the position I indicated to the Leader of the Opposition on the previous occasion. Because, of the wide ranging policy implications there is a tremendous amount of work to be done in this field, and quite a number of matters are still to be finalised by the. Committee that has been set up to investigate the various matters that have been brought up in the paper. Of course, I cannot indicate the departments concerned, because these committees of Government, based as they are on authority of the Cabinet, are all of a confidential nature and report only to the Governments. So I am afraid I cannot disclose the information as to the departments concerned. The Leader of the Opposition might be able to make a guess as to some of the departments that are involved. I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that it is my desire as quickly as possible, and bearing in mind the amount of work and the involvement with so many different departments and other governments, to try to produce a document which I think will be a co-ordinated approach to the future of our natural resource development. I may say that Australia is not the only country that has this in mind. I am happy to say that we originated the idea, but I know that Canada is following very closely the approach we have here.
– They have already published their reports.
– I may correct that and say that the Canadian report has not yet been published, and it may be some time before the document is published. We are consulting with Canada very closely in relation to this matter. The United States of America also has a similar approach now, to try to co-ordinate their policy in relation to their natural resources.
– I appreciate the assistance from the Leader of the Opposition when he refers to Japan, but Japan, of course, is in the reverse position. (Honourable members interjecting)
-Order! The House will come to order. I remind the Minister of my request in regard to the length of answers.
– Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to the fact that I had almost concluded my answer when the Leader of the Opposition interjected and asked another question. Japan is in the reverse position. It has limited natural resources and therefore its position is quite different, although the Japanese are at present undertaking some investigations. I assure you, Mr Speaker, and the House of my desire to have this document produced as quickly as possible and I assure you also that it will be of great value to the country when it is produced.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is he aware of my representations that Tullamarine Airport be utilised more extensively as an international airport? Now that British Overseas Airways Corporation intends to use Tullamarine more extensively, will he state whether this move will receive all the assistance possible and thus clear the air space over Sydney? Is it not time we put State jealousies on one side and acted as a nation with one aim, one voice and one destiny?
– I entirely agree with the sentiments expressed by the honourable member. Whether airlines use Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne or Sydney Airport is a matter for them to decide, having regard to their schedules and the way in which they wish to operate. They make their applications to the Department of Civil Aviation and these may be granted after consideration. It is fairly difficult for the Department to exercise influence on the airlines to terminate flights at any particular airport. These matters are decided having regard to traffic volume at the centres concerned and the way in which the airlines service the various States and the nation as a whole. In view of the interest that the honourable member takes in this matter, which 1 know is of vital importance to him, I will see that the details of his question are referred to my colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation, in another place.
– I have a question for the Treasurer about tax reform. Is it not a fact that the taxation inquiry he announced on Tuesday night will take many months to be completed, probably well over a year? Does be realise that such an inquiry has been for some time a part of the Labor Party tax reform policy? In view of the fact that the report will be made to the next government - more than likely a Labor government - will he, in order to save a monumental waste of public funds, seek agreement with the Opposition on the terms of reference and the personnel of this inquiry?
– The hope that springs eternal in the honourable gentleman’s breast will be taken into account. The inquiry will have terms of reference which will make sure that it is a broad inquiry going to the very principles of tax incidence. It will have regard to the equity of tax and to the need that governments must have to raise revenue in order that they can respond to the very reasonable requirements of a community for expenditure in the community on the services it wants. It will advise us in relation to personal income tax, company income tax, and also, of course, indirect tax. We do not contemplate that the inquiry will go into detail unless the inquiry itself chooses to go into detail. Rather, we have in mind that it should be an inquiry of the very highest calibre and that principally it will concern itself with principles, so that the Government can have the full range in front of it. 1 see no reason whatsoever for consultation with the Opposition as to the terms of reference simply because it would not be customary to consult the Opposition, and - a stronger reason - because we will not be holding back at all from the inquiry, in the terms of reference, any measures which it wishes to consider.
As to the personnel to conduct the inquiry there can be no doubt whatever that they must be the best personnel that can be found. Already I am engaged in consideration of the actual terms of reference so that they do reflect what I have said. Already I have had names suggested to me and there is a great number of them. I would expect that by early May 1 will be able to announce the terms of reference and the personnel.
– Has the Minister for Housing seen a recent publication which indicates that Australian home owners obtain 30 per cent of their finance for home ownership from noninstitutional sources? Does the Minister propose that these people should be penalised and does he know of any proposal in the field of housing which would discriminate against these people?
– There are a number of publications and a lot of evidence which indicate that up to 30 per cent of the finance which is utilised by Australians for their homes is obtained from noninstitutional sources. The finance is obtained through private arrangements, such as from loans, savings, solicitors’ trust accounts, accountants’ trust accounts, and so on. We say therefore - and we have always said it - that any total housing policy ought not deliberately to exclude that 30 per cent of the money which is utilised by Australians in obtaining their own homes.
Unfortunately, I do know of the famous 2 per cent policy which has been proposed and which is designed deliberately to exclude all of these people from obtaining any benefit. It is the famous 2 per cent subsidy policy under which in the first 10 years of a loan a subsidy will be paid to institutional lenders to reduce by 2 per cent the rate of interest paid on loans. This policy will deliberately exclude all of those sources of finance which are available annually to thousands of Australians seeking their own homes.
It has been pointed out previously that there were 3 grave errors with respect to the policy which has been so often proposed by the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Reid. I now add a fourth, and it is the effect of the policy on the 30 per cent of the finance, coming from non-institutional sources, which is available for homes. I merely say that that policy is now obviously a monstrous mess and I would suggest to the Leader of the Opposition that he ought at least to make his position clear and recant on it.
– I ask the Treasurer a question consequent on that asked him by the honourable member for Adelaide. I ask whether the committee to inquire into the taxation laws would be authorised, if the States agreed, to inquire into and report upon the equity and cost of other forms of taxation in Australia at present in the hands of State governments or their authorities. I particularly ask him this question for 2 reasons. The first is that many State taxes absorb up to one-third of the revenue they produce in the collection thereof. The second is that the forms of taxation available to the State authorities - rates and charges - are rising more rapidly, in percentage as well as in amount, than the taxes levied by the States or by the Commonwealth.
– In my thinking on the terms of reference for the inquiry I did not have in mind that the inquiry should look specifically at State taxes although I did have in mind that the inquiry would need to take account of the incidence of State taxes in order to put them into context with the incidence of Commonwealth taxes. I do not think that the honourable gentleman would object to that. However, he asks me to carry it a step further, if I understand his question correctly, and that is that, if the States requested it, would I agree -
– If they agreed - with their agreement.
– Even with their agreement a request has to be made initially. I would not be making a request of the States that they submit their taxation procedures to the inquiry. I would not do so for 2 reasons. The first is perhaps a lesser reason, and that is that I want a result from the inquiry as quickly as I can get it and I do not want to delay the result of the inquiry. That result is not likely within a matter of months nor is it likely within a year and that is why I had to make it clear in my statement the other night that the Government would not regard its hands as tied in relation to tax reform because there was to be this inquiry. We might find it necessary to take action and not to defer taking that action until we had the report of the inquiry.
I do not want the report delayed and therefore I would not initiate anything that might have that result. Secondly, the raising of taxes by the States is a matter of the constitutional responsibility of the States and I think it would be improper for me to suggest to them that the question of the incidence of their taxes should be incorporated into a public inquiry by the Commonwealth as to the incidence of its taxes.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has work on the Melbourne West Gate Bridge been help up by an inter-union demarcation dispute? What has been the effect of this dispute?
– It is certainly the case, as the honourable member has suggested, that work on the West Gate Bridge project in Melbourne - a major project for Victoria - has been held up considerably because of a demarcation dispute between the Australian Builders Labourers Federation and the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia. The facts are that demarcation disputes in the Australian community are among the most difficult disputes to solve. They are not disputes between employers and employees or between employees and government; they are, of course, essentially disputes between trade union and trade union. I believe it is intolerable that the community, and the business sector in particular, should be the victims of disputes of this type which, quite clearly, lie within the responsibility of the trade union movement itself to solve. In recent days in Sydney the Australian Council of Trade Unions, in conjunction with the federal bodies of a large number of trade unions in Australia, has met to consider this particular question. A set of guidelines or principles has been laid down and it is to be hoped that it will lead to effective machinery which will solve disputes of this type but, as yet, the capacity to do this is not clear. I simply want to observe that in this area, which is causing
I I per cent of strikes there has been much public discussion in Australia during the past year on the capacity of the ACTU to have agreements between employers and trade unions honoured by the trade unions concerned. In the light of that proposition, the incapacity to this stage of the ACTU to solve demarcation disputes effectively must lie most uneasily.
– My question which is directed to the Minister for Defence refers to the political decision by the Government in 1963 to purchase the Fill aircraft. I ask the Minister: What is the latest situation concerning this aircraft? Can he say whether delivery will be made before the 1972 elections? Can he say what was the estimated cost for each plane in 1963 and what is that figure today? What was the total cost of the order in 1963 and what will be the total figure on delivery?
– The decision to purchase the Fill aircraft was not a political decision. It was a decision made as a result of a world tour by a team of Royal Australian Air Force personnel who recommended 4 types of aircraft for consideration. It was quite obvious at the time that the aging Canberra aircraft had to be replaced and in accordance with this recommendation the Government decided, and decided very correctly, that it should replace the Canberras with the Fill. The Fill aircraft are now starting to be reworked and will be available between April and November 1973. The cost, of course, has escalated as has the cost of everything else, not only in the defence field but in many other fields, but the cost escalation of the Fill has been considerably less than in other fields. In fact Australia has a fixed price per aircraft of $5. 95m and this will be less than the cost to the United States Air Force. So Australia has an extremely good bargain. I am informed by all the people who advise the Government that the Fill is still by far the best aircraft available in the world.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether he has received any apology from the honourable member for Grayndler and the honourable member for Bendigo for false statements concerning the origins of the policy of withholding unemployment benefits from men on strike, a claim made against him in this House-
– I rise to order. The honourable member in his question has deliberately stated that the honourable members he referred to have made false statements. That is only a claim which has been made by the Minister for Social Services and I ask you, Mr Speaker, to rule the question out of order because it is based on a false premise.
-Order! The Chair is not in a position to decide whether a question is based on a false premise. I have always adopted this attitude. It is impossible for the Chair to adjudicate on the authenticity or correctness of any question in the manner which the honourable member has requested. Therefore, to that extent the question is admissible.
– Is the honourable member entitled to attribute to other honourable members false statements, thereby implying that they are telling lies?
-The honourable member for Warringah in his question used the word ‘false’ and the honourable member for Corio, as a Deputy Chairman, knows that the word ‘false’ in this House is an acceptable word. In many cases its use is completely undesirable but, nevertheless, the word has by custom and practice been accepted. The honourable member for Warringah may proceed.
– . . . concerning the origins of the policy of withholding unemployment benefits to men on strike which they made-
– I rise to order. I ask for the withdrawal of the words ‘false statement’. They are objectionable to me and I draw your attention, Mr Speaker, to the fact that last night the honourable member for Sturt was required to withdraw the word ‘misleading’ when he alluded to the Prime Minister misleading the House.
-Order! That is not correct and the honourable member knows it.
– It is true.
– Mr Speaker-
-Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will resume his seat.
In regard to the matter involving the honourable member for Sturt there is no point of order.
– I rise to order. If the question is to be answered on the same basis as it is asked then the statement should be correct and the statement I made-
-Order! There is no point of order. The Chair will not attempt to decide what is wrong or right or true or false in any question.
– Perhaps I had better start again.
-I suggest that the honourable member continue with his question.
– … the policy of withholding unemployment benefits to men on strike which they made against him in this House and which the Minister subsequently proved to be false. Has the Minister received any apologies from people outside this House who publicly made similar false statements in regard to the Minister’s administration of his Department in this matter?
– The House will recall that the honourable member for Grayndler said that I had no documentary or other evidence to support the statement that the Government was simply following the principles laid down by previous Labor administrations in this regard. The honourable member for Bendigo, in similar vein, spoke of the policy as being punitive and vindictive, and used other extravagant terms. The House will recall that documents were produced in this House which proved the truth of the statement which I had made. I am willing to admit that the honourable member for Grayndler may have made his statement in good faith and in ignorance. Although I know that the practices of the House do not allow me to demand an apology, I would have thought that his canons of ordinary decency would have constrained him to offer mi an apology in this regard. I am disappointed to have to inform the House that I have had no such apology as yet from either the honourable member for Grayndler or the honourable member for Bendigo.
– He was writing one, I think.
– Thank you; I am obliged to my honourable friend. In regard to the remainder of the question, various similar statements were made outside this House by various persons saying that the Government’s policy was vindictive and so on but without appreciating, apparently, that it was based on the principles laid down by a previous Labor administration. I refer particularly to a television interview which I saw, I think, on an Australian Broadcasting Commission programme, if my memory serves me correctly, with the ubiquitous Mr Hawke in this regard. I would think that possibly Mr Hawke, now knowing the falsity of what he was saying, would be anxious to tender me some apology. He is probably waiting for a chance to do it with the same amount of publicity as was given to his original imputations against me. I would be most happy to appear on television with the said Mr Hawke in order to receive his apology, and I am sure that in his state of ignorance, he will be offering it with graciousness.
– I ask a question of the Minister for the Navy. Is the Minister aware of advertisements placed by the Department of Supply and calling tenders for the supply of steering gear and control systems for the DDL light destroyer programme? Has a Cabinet decision been made to go ahead with this project? If so, why has the Parliament not been informed? If not, why is the Department of Supply calling tenders, which implies that this project will be undertaken? Having listened to the fatuous reply given by the Minister for Defence to the last question on the Fill, the Minister will appreciate the importance of a full and frank statement to the Parliament on this matter.
– The question of the replacement of destroyers in the Royal Australian Navy is as yet undecided. It is being studied by the Department of Defence and the Department of the Navy. A very full and searching inquiry is currently under way and nearing completion. There has been no decision of any kind, to my knowledge, for the issue of any tender documents relating to this project, and there must be some mistake of which 1 am completely unaware at the moment. I will certainly see that an inquiry is made -
-Order! the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat until the Minister has finished his answer.
– 1 am only trying to help him.
-I appreciate that.
– I would simply like to emphasise to the House that no decision has been made at the Government level or any other level with regard to proceeding to construct DDL destroyers. If there is an advertisement which is calling for tenders -
– Here is the advertisement, headed ‘Department of Supply’ and published in the ‘Age’ newspaper.
– The heading on the document handed to me by the Leader of the Opposition is ‘Registration of potential tenderers’, which puts the matter in rather a different light altogether. This is an entirely different matter. If the Government is to proceed to make a decision between various types of ships and is to accept the advice, for instance, of the Department of Supply or the Department of Defence that a particular type of ship can be built in Australia. 1 would imagine that it would like to make some inquiries as to whether there would be within Australia people who would be interested in doing this work. 1 repeat what I said earlier that this has no bearing on the decision that the Government will make, in that there is no commitment of any kind to the construction of the DDL either here or elsewhere. At this stage the matter is completely open and a decision will be made after advice is given to the Cabinet by the Department of Defence.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development in his capacity as Chairman of the River Murray Commission. Is the Minister aware that grave concern is being expressed by members of the Victorian North-Western Municipalities Association and many other people in Victoria, New South Wales and South Aus tralia and further afield in regard to the decreasing number of native fish in the River Murray, especially the far-famed delicious Murray Cod? If action has not already been taken, will the Minister in his capacity as Chairman of the River Murray Commission have this subject discussed at an early meeting of the Commission with a view to stimulating action in co-operation with the States concerned in overcoming this problem?
– I am sure that we all agree with the honourable member in bts reference to the qualities of the Murray Cod. It certainly would be a tragedy if there were any loss of numbers of these fish to an extent which would affect our gastronomic enjoyment of them in the future. However, as the honourable member knows, when I visited his electorate a short time ago we had the opportunity of speaking to many people in the region and it was not emphasised at the time that there was any deficiency in numbers of fish. Rather, the emphasis was placed on the quality of fish in that region. As the matter is under investigation by the State departments and as we have not yet had the matter officially drawn to our attenion, it might be better to wait for a report from the State departments to come to hand. However, I will see that this matter is discussed at the next meeting of the River Murray Commission. As I have said we will await advice from the State departments. When that stage is reached we will be able to consider whether any further action is required.
– I ask the Minister for National Development a question supplementary to that asked by the honourable and chivalrous member for Mallee. I ask: To what extent is the River Murray Commission considering the very important question raised by the honourable member of the quality of water in the Murray and its tributaries and not merely the quantity? The Minister is aware, of course, that the River Murray Waters Agreement is nearly 60 years old, that it makes no provision for the preservation of the quality of water provided for various purposes and is concerned merely with distributing different quantities of the water?
– This is a matter that would take me some considerable time to answer in detail. I certainly would not want to transgress a previous ruling of Mr Speaker by doing that.
– Thank you.
– A statement after question time!
– The River Murray Commission has been set up under certain terms of reference, as indicated by the Leader of the Opposition. However, beyond that, it is a good forum for discussion between the senior representatives of the various governments, and as a result, perhaps not exactly within its terms of reference, considerable attention is given to the question of water quality. As the honourable member for Mallee and our other friends in the Murray Valley and the Goulburn Valley areas well know, water quality is of vital importance. The question was given prominence by the production of a report dealing with salinity in the whole River Murray system. This report achieved world standing, so much so that just recently 1 accepted an award on behalf of the River Murray Commission from the Consulting Engineers Association of Australia. It was the excellence award for the best production during the year. It is rather strange that this award was given to a client rather than to the consultant. I merely indicate this to show that a lot of work is being done in this field on a cooperative basis.
The report is being studied at the present time by all the governments concerned and by the variety of organisations outside that have a special interest. I hope that as a result of this, further action - some action has already been implemented - will be taken on a co-ordinated basis by the 3 State Governments that are directly involved. Of course the Commonwealth also has an interest, and, as I have already indicated, certain work under the heading of salinity can be undertaken with the assistance of the National Water Resources Development fund. In fact some matters have already been put forward for consideration. Whilst the River Murray Commission under its orginal terms of reference has not the actual power to deal directly with this matter, it is doing a tremendous amount in this field, as I have illustrated by the report I have mentioned, and will continue to take an active interest.
– I ask the Treasurer whether, in view of the national importance and urgency of the proposed White Paper on overseas investment in Australia, he can assure the House that the White Paper will be presented to this House for discussion by the people and the Parliament of Australia as soon as possible.
– I am eager to have the paper presented as soon as possible and to make possible a full ranging discussion by the Parliament and the public so that people may have a full knowledge of the Government’s attitude based on fact. It is important for us to have the facts known. The drafting of this paper is going ahead strongly in the Treasury. There has been discussion with the Commonwealth Statistician, the Commissioner of Taxation and the Reserve Bank of Australia. Already the paper is quite large. The intention is that the paper will have 6 chapters and 3 appendices. The 6 chapter headings are likely to be ‘Introduction’, ‘Statistical Information’, ‘Overseas Investment and the Economy’, ‘Overseas Ownership and Control of Australian Industries and Resources’, ‘Overseas Investment and Domestic Economic Management’ and Conclusion’. The appendices will be headed Measurement of Overseas Investment in Australia’, ‘Overseas Investment in Australian Public Authority Securities’ and ‘Australian Investment Overseas’. The indication I get is that the drafting is going ahead and that I will have an advance draft of the document in the second or third week of May.
– I ask leave of the House to make a short statement in regard to certain comments made this morning by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth).
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I am extremely disturbed at the agitated state of the Minister for Social Services in regard to certain comments made in respect of unemployment benefits. The Minister made certain statements the other day, and this morning, in answer to a Dorothy Dix question, in this Parliament demanded apologies from all and sundry in respect of what he said in regard to this matter. The other day the Minister brought into this Parliament certain documents that were 25 years old, and he told the Parliament that that is a period on which he bases his approach to social welfare in this country.
– The most modern statement on social services he has made as a Minister.
– As the Leader of the Opposition tells me, it is the most modern statement on social welfare he has made since’ he has been Minister. Now because we ridicule somewhat the approach of bringing in social service legislation based on every action of governments 25 years ago he requires apologies in respect of this matter. Everybody in this Parliament knows that the Minister for Social Services is quite an honest man but a somewhat devious man.
-Order! The honourable gentleman may not reflect upon any honourable member by implication or otherwise. I ask him to watch his language and to withdraw the word ‘devious’.
– I certainly withdraw the word, whatever it means. But on occasions in this Parliament he has been guilty of making certain misstatements in respect of the activities and the approach of honourable members on this side of the Parliament. In fact I was surprised when he was speaking that he did not say it was a communist plot or something by the Labor Party. Before one can tender an apology in respect of the papers that he has presented one should look very carefully, chapter and verse, at each of the documents in detail to see that they mean precisely what the Minister has said. I sat here the other day, listened to what he said and heard him read rapidly from them - agitated, concerned and upset. He then asked me to stand up straight after making that approach to tender an apology. As yet I have had no time to study the documents in detail. I feel that, despite what he presented to the Parliament, a totally different interpretation can be placed on that decision of 25 years ago from that which the Minis ter places on it now. He has given to this Parliament not the interpretation and the approach of the Labor Government at that time but the interpretation that he makes of it at this time, 25 years later. They are 2 totally different propositions.
I am not going into it now, because I asked for only a brief time to speak, but I know that later one of my colleagues will elaborate on it and completely explode the explanation that the Minister for Social Services has given for his denying to pay to workers in Victoria the social services to which they are justly entitled. Far be it from me to escape doing the decent thing if I have been called upon and if I have made a genuine mistake, but I am not satisfied at this stage that I have made a mistake. I am not quite certain that the Minister has really given to the Parliament the correct approach, as 1 mentioned a moment ago. And would it not be wrong for me to make a hasty apology? As you know, Mr Speaker, things done in haste are certainly not sincere; they are certainly not honest. I in my turn could easily be misleading the Parliament by apologising when I should not. So the situation is at this stage that I want to study the documents in detail and go into them chapter and verse. I want the Minister to present to this Parliament the other documents showing his reasoning. I want to ring Senator McKenna, who is still in the land of the living, hale and hearty and well and quite as up to date as the Government in respect to what happened 25 years ago. Therefore it is with some regret that at this stage 1 cannot restore the Minister’s equilibrium.
– You would be z genius if you could do that.
– 1 am told that I would be a genius if I could do it. But the fact is that at this stage I see no reason for tendering an apology. As I said to the Minister, when I have gone fully into all the matters covered by the documents that he has presented - the interpretation of background, taking into consideration the great issues that faced the Australian Labor Party at that time and knowing the momentous events that were occurring and the calibre of the men who made the decisions - I may have to make another appearance on the floor of Parliament to give my views on what the Minister has presented. 1 do not know what Mr Hawke would have to say. I suppose he has been turning restlessly at night thinking about how he has upset the Minister for Social Services and how this great man who is 25 years behind in his social welfare scheme desires him to apologise. No doubt, like me, he will study carefully all the aspects of this matter. Naturally, we want at least one member of the Government to have some feeling, and therefore, the Minister for Social Services, having displayed feeling, we do not want to upset his approach to Other issues.
I thank the House for giving me the opportunity to have said these few words. I am sorry that at this stage I cannot assure the Minister that what he said is correct, but when all the factors that I have mentioned have been considered, perhaps we may go further with this matter. Whatever happened 25 years ago and whatever else will happen in the next 25 years, I say that the Government should be condemned for not paying to the Victorian workers who were unemployed the social service benefits to which they were entitled. Let the Australian people realise that in this country they have a Minister for Social Services who bases his approach to social services on a decision made a quarter of a century ago. The Minister does not care how the people suffer, wherever they are and whatever their circumstances may be at present. That is the issue which the Minister should be considering and that is why I have spoken today. Once again, I thank the House. I am sorry that I cannot give the Minister for Social Services this assurance but I will do my best to clarify the matter at some future stage.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented ?
– Yes, Mr Speaker. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) said that the Government’s social services policies were based on a decision made 25 years ago. That of course is not true. The Government’s social service policies have made immense strides in the last 25 years since the lamentable days of a Labor government. All I said was that our policy in this matter was founded on what the Labor Party had decided when last in office. That was all I said and I stand by it. 1 know that the honourable member for Grayndler is somewhat slow witted. He has had only a fortnight to consider these papers.
-Order! I would ask the Minister to withdraw that remark. I will not hear any further reflections on honourable members.
– Indeed, Mr Speaker. I know the honourable member for Grayndler has had only a fortnight to consider these papers and, with his sharp wit, I hope that he will shortly at least be able to read them.
– I rise to order. The Minister said that the honourable member for Grayndler has had a fortnight. I think the Minister made reference to the papers only 2 days ago.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a very short statement in reply to the attack which was made on me during the reply by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth).
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– May I make a personal explanation? I claim to have been misrepresented.
-If the honourable member claims to have been misrepresented, he may make a personal explanation.
– I did not make false statements about the origin of the policy of the present Minister for Social Services of withholding unemployment benefits. What I did say was that withholding benefits from people who, in this case, were not direct participants in an industrial dispute was unjust and immoral. That was the main point that I made and I will argue later when the opportunity arises about the actual historical source of what the Minister is now doing.
– I seek leave to make a short statement on the same subject.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– Well, I will raise it on the grievance debate and I hope the Minister enters the debate and answers his own false statement.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Social Services - War Service Land Settlement - Inflow of Capital into Australia - Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport - Export of Meat to United States of America - Steel Price Unemployment Benefit - Australian Aircraft Industry - Sulphuric Acid and Pyrites Bounties
That grievances be noted.
– I intend to mention some matters relating to the Department of Social Services in regard to age and invalid pensions and the benefits which are provided. However, I feel compelled to remark on some of the debate that has evolved from the differences between the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) and the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). I think the Minister for Social Services is wrong when he stales that the policy of the Government now is the same as that followed by the Labor Government when Senator McKenna was Minister for Social Services. I spoke to Senator McKenna on an occasion in regard to this matter and it is true that those men on strike in a particular plant would not have received unemployment benefits. If benefits were paid, it would mean of course that the government of the time would be subsidising the strike. The decision was not meant to operate in this way: For example, if 2,000 employees who were engaged at a plant were intent on a strike, it would be simple for the unions to pull out 10 or 12 key men to go on strike from that plant and they would be denied unemployment benefits making it possible for the rest of the plant to receive unemployment benefits. That was Labor’s idea to endeavour to defeat this possibility, when the scheme was implemented, of the government having to pay unemployment benefits to all men on strike.
The scheme applied only to a particular plant. It did not apply in the case of the recent strike of State Electricity Commission workers in Victoria. For example, there were only 6 members of the Vehicle Builders Union employed at Yallourn on the maintenance of trucks and motor cars, etc., owned by the State Electricity Commission and naturally they were on strike with the other workers. They had no option but to go out with their colleagues. However, that does not mean to say that the men in the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation - in other industry - who are put out of work because of a strike at Yallourn should be penalised. That is a different thing altogether to the interpretation put on this decision by the previous Labor government. As I have already said - I impress this upon the Minister for Social Services - the interpretation was that only those working in one particular plant should be denied unemployment benefits. That was the idea of Labor policy at that particular time and it is altogether different from what the Minister is doing at the present time.
I rose to speak on the grievance debate in regard to matters pertaining to social service benefits and, particularly, to the supplementary allowances which are provided. I point out to the Minister for Social Services that I believe what I have to say is of a constructive nature. As the Minister would be aware, the means test applied to the payment of a supplementary allowance has not been altered for several years. The means test, as it applies at present, is $2 a week supplementary allowance to a single pensioner paying rent, board or lodging. The means lest means that if they have other income exceeding $1 a week but which is less than S3 a week, their supplementary allowance would be reduced accordingly. For example, if a person who had qualified for a supplementary pension had an income of $2.50 a week, he would receive only 50c a week in supplementary pension.
As I have mentioned before, and as I will keep on mentioning until something is done about it, there is one section of invalid pensioners which should be exempted from this means test. 1 refer to those people working in sheltered workshops. The Minister would be aware that any retarded person working in a sheltered workshop would have no money in the bank and no assets to his name and, naturally, he would qualify for the full supplementary pension of $2 a week, except in the case of employees at Escarp Industries, about which I know a little. The Minister for Social Services was honoured to open this workshop a few years ago. The employees at Escarp receive $2.50 a week for their work. Escarp does a very good job in trying to do something for these people to keep them occupied but, because of the fact that they are earning $2.50 a week, their supplementary pension is reduced from $2 a week to 50c. So, in other words, they work all week for 50c. If they did not work at all they would receive the full supplementary pension of $2, so one can readily see that this is a blot upon the Government. As honourable members would be aware these people are not responsible for their actions and the Escarp companies are doing a magnificent job in keeping them occupied. I believe that this section of recipients of the invalid pension should be exempted from the means test.
I now refer to the application form which has to be completed by people applying for age and invalid pensions. As the Minister is aware, part of the form relates to supplementary assistance. In the last 12 months 2 people who have come to see me did not know that they were entitled to receive supplementary assistance simply because they did not understand the form which they completed when they applied for a pension. There is very little information given about supplementary assistance. As a matter of fact, one man who came to see me only last week would have been entitled to receive supplementary assistance for the past 3 years if he had understood the form that has to be completed. He receives supplementary asistance now. He applied for the back money which he should have received, but naturally his application was refused. But the point is that when people are being examined by the magistrate on behalf of the Department of Social Services they should be fully acquainted as their entitlements and what the means test is. If that had been done in the case to which I have referred the man would have received supplementary assistance for 3 years prior to the time when he actually received it.
I also refer to another case involving another constituent of mine. I have been authorised to use the name of the person concerned. Her name is Ellen Sweeney, but everyone knows her as Nellie Sweeney. She is a blind pensioner. She has been receiving supplementary assistance since 1967. She plays an organ at a church in a nearby electorate. It is a common sight to see her playing the organ in this church with her seeing eye dog beside her. She receives $15 a month from the church for playing the organ. That averages approximately $170 a year. She is entitled to receive $156 a year, being $2 a week supplementary assistance and an extra $1 a week she is allowed to earn, before the means test is applied. This woman has to repay $410 to the Department simply because she did not know that she was not entitled to receive the supplementary allowance. Being a blind pensioner she assumed that blind pensioners were exempted from all means tests.
This woman is a well known and popular identity in my electorate. She plays the piano at functions organised by old age pensioners associations and she does not receive any money for doing it. She has written a letter to me and I have sent a copy of it to the Minister. He has acknowledged receipt of it and has said that he will look into the matter. In this case I am making a special plea to have the repayment of the money to the Department waived because she was not aware of the operation of the means test. She thought that blind pensioners were exempted from the means test. In her letter to me she said that she has been notified by the Department that it intends to deduct $7 a fortnight from her pension and that she just does not know where she will get the money to feed herself and her seeing eye dog. This is the position. The people associated with church at which she plays the organ asked me to bring this matter to the attention of the Minister. I appeal to the
Minister to waive the payment of the money which this woman owes to the Department of Social Services.
– The honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) has raised 3 matters, and I will try to deal with them in reverse order, if I may. In regard to the last case which he mentioned, I must say that I know nothing of this matter personally at the moment, but will most certainly have it specially looked into, as the honourable member has asked. Indeed, I would have done this even if he had not raised it in the House but had come and raised it specially with me. As honourable members know, I am always, or nearly always, available to honourable members from both sides of the House Who have any particular matter to raise about a constituent or some other matter. Nobody would say that there were never cases of justice, and it is within my ministerial prerogative to rectify some of them; some do not come within my ministerial responsibility. But I can assure the honourable member that in this case, and in other cases where something is brought to my attention by any member of this House or of the Senate, I will look specially into the matter.
The second matter which the honourable member raised referred to supplementary assistance. I think the House might be interested to know that not only he is concerned about this matter; I and the Government also are concerned about it. What he has said is not without substance, and of course it is not without substance particularly in regard to sheltered workshops. Sheltered workshops are not entirely new in this country, but I think that it was only about 5 years ago when they became a recognised part of our social service structure with the introduction of the sheltered workshop allowance. The anomalies in regard to supplementary assistance to which the honourable member has referred are particularly onerous when they relate to sheltered workshops, and I think that what he has said not only merits attention but is already receiving attention. I am hoping that some quite fundamental changes will be made which will obviate the kind of anomaly which the honourable member has, I think quite rightly, drawn to the attention of the House. I can assure him that this matter has already received my attention and is receiving the attention of the Government.
The third matter which the honourable member raised referred to the payment of unemployment benefits and to what Senator McKenna may or may not remember about the past. If I may, I will read the final paragraph of a letter which Senator McKenna wrote as a ministerial direction to my Department in this matter on 12th May 1948. A copy of this letter is already available in the papers of the House. I will quote precisely and exactly from the ministerial direction which was given to my Department by Senator McKenna. It was under his own personal signature of that date. It states:
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 - and these are the words I emphasise -
. must accept responsibility for the natural and foreseeable consequences of their sponsorship.
This is in regard to the non-payment of unemployment benefits in a strike situation. The then Minister, Senator McKenna, said whether in the same or another industry’. That is the ministerial direction which he gave to my Department and which has been acted on. I am sure that the honourable member for Sydney was not personally aware of this because I am afraid that it entirely contradicts the interpretation which he gave.
– That is not what Senator McKenna told me.
– I am sorry about that. All I have is Senator McKenna’s direction in writing to my Department, of which he was then the ministerial head, and a copy of that direction is available for all honourable members to see. I can assure honourable members that I am trying to be fair and reasonable in this matter, and I am trying to quote, as far as I can, from documents which substantiate the practices which have been carried out in my Department in this regard during the time of the Labor government and ever since.
– I wish to raise this morning the question of soldier settlers. At the beginning I refer briefly to an article which appeared in the ‘Australian’ of 10th March 1972. Under the heading Settlers Win Long Rent Fight’ it states:
One hundred soldier-settlers near Greenways in thi south-east of South Australia, will not have to pay $100,000 back rent they owe the Federal Government.
The money was a backlog of payments caused by an increase in rental fees which the Government imposed nine years ago and which the farmers refused to pay, claiming the increases were illegal.
Yesterday a spokesman for the fanners said the Federal Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, had told them they did not have to pay the money. “They realised after nine years that the increases were unjust,” he said.
It refers to a group of settlers in zone 5 in South Australia. When they went on to these blocks, like other settlers in schemes under Commonwealth control in the 3 agent States, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, they had no commitment to meet for 12 months and they were given a living allowance. In their case the rent was to be fixed within 12 months and this rent was to be adjusted. It was called a provisional rent. There was a ceiling to the rent which could be lowered or raised if any improvements were carried out.
In 1958 Commonwealth and State officers met and changed the method of rental. They fixed it on a dry sheep equivalent, based on budgetary considerations. In 1963 there were blanket increases in rentals in zone 5 and this led to an outburst of protest. The Government set up a committee of inquiry headed by Sir Thomas Eastick. The work of the inquiry resulted in a substantial write down in the rentals, but these were not accepted by the Commonwealth, the reason given by the Commonwealth being that it had not been invited to give evidence. However, I point out that this inquiry, headed by this notable gentleman, Sir Thomas Eastick’, found that the rental increases were not legal. The settlers then protested to the then Premier of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford, and he offered rentals at various rates. This proposal also was not acceptable to the settlers.
The matter then went to court and all attempts were made to throw out the case. The settlers invoked the Petition of Right and finally, after a tremendous amount of work, they were able to bring on the case in the Supreme Court of South Australia - it was the case Heinrich versus Dunsford - to test the legality of the system of determining rents adopted by the Commonwealth Department of Primary Industry in respect of war service land settlement properties in South Australia. The judgment was handed down in September 1970. It indicated that in the opinion of Mr Justice Bright the rents were to be either 2i per cent of productivity valuations or of the cost. The South Australian State Minister, Mr Kneebone, in a statement to the settlers on 25th August last year, referred to the fact that he had obtained legal advice on how to comply with Mr Justice Bright’s findings in that Supreme Court case. I quote from Mr Kneebone’s statement, because it is important. He said:
This finding, as you know, suggested that rents should be fixed on the basis of either cost or a productivity valuation and the rent was to be 2i per cent of these amounts.
In answer to a question by me yesterday, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) implied that this correction in the determination of rentals applied only to those settlers in South Australia who had refused to sign their leases. Just in case there is any doubt, and to put the record straight immediately on this matter, I refer to a letter dated 13th October last year from the South Australian Minister of Lands to the settlers. In outlining proposals to reduce rentals the Minister said: 1 had also advised the settlers of the following adjustments with which the Commonwealth was prepared to agree:
I emphasise the phrase ‘with which the Commonwealth was prepared to agree’. The Minister continued:
I emphasise that the reduced rentals were to apply to conform with the judgment handed down by Mr Justice Bright and that the Commonwealth agreed that these proposals would apply also to those settlers who already had signed their leases. I simply point out that if the reduced rentals are to apply also to those who have signed their leases in South Australia there is no reason why the same justice in adjusting valuations and rentals cannot apply to settlers in Western Australia and Tasmania where the Commonwealth has an overriding authority.
I turn now to the position in Tasmania and I ask the Government to accept the 2 main recommendations of the Select Committee of the Legislative Council of Tasmania. I submit that the Government should adopt these recommendations because the methods of determining rentals and option purchase prices in Tasmania are just as invalid and illegal as they were in South Australia. If ever a royal commission of inquiry were required into war service land settlement, it is now. It would justify the stand taken by the National Executive of the Returned Services League a few years ago when it approached Cabinet and asked for the appointment of a royal commission of inquiry only to be turned down. However, the Supreme Court case in South Australia now conclusively shows that the method of determining rentals in South Australia was illegal and wrong. We maintain, and it has been borne out by the Select Committee of inquiry in Tasmania, that the same method adopted by the Commonwealth authorities in Tasmania, is illegal and incorrect. I ask for the implementation of the 2 main recommendations of the committee of inquiry in Tasmania. For the sake of the record I quote those recommendations. The first reads:
That, in all cases where the cost of a holding exceeds the market value at time of allotment, a new option price shall be determined from the capital value of the holding, as assessed by the State Valuation Branch by the nearest valuation prior to date of offer of holding.
The State valuation of structures together wilh advances for improvements at time of allotment shall be deducted from the State valuation to determine trie net option price.
The second recommendation reads:
That all rentals on the above holdings be recalculated at an annual charge of 2i per cent of the new option price determined as above, and that the reduced rentals apply retrospectively to the date of allotment of the holding.
The Select Committee completely justifies the stand that I have taken in this place over many years, namely, that like that in South Australia the method of fixing option of purchase price and rentals in Tasmania was illegal and incorrect. In the third paragraph of the report of that Select Committee appears the following:
Your Committee is convinced that a mistake was made when the new Commonwealth scale was adopted in 1956, and the rents demanded since that time are excessive.
Before 1956 the rentals were fixed on a budgetary basis. The profitability of a farm was looked at and after allowing for a living allowance, operating costs and the repayment of advances the balance of profit was considered to be the amount available for rent. This balance was then capitalised at 21 per cent to give the capital value of the holding. This is the reverse of the method that should have been used. The Act provides for the option price to be the cost of the farm, or the market valuation, with the rent at 2i per cent of that figure. The budgetary method of fixing rents was changed in 1956 and the Committee was very critical of the apparent lack of frankness of the former Commonwealth Director, Mr Colquhoun, in failing to inform the Committee that a change had taken place. It is no wonder a change had taken place because the Payne Committee, whose report was hushed up, found that a dairy farmer would, after allowing for the living allowance and so on, have only S200 left for rent and if that were capitalised at 2i per cent it would mean that the value of the property was only $8,000.
As my time has almost expired I make a plea for the soldier settlers in Tasmania and Western Australia and other soldier settlers in South Australia to be given the benefit of the judgment of Mr Justice Bright. We should have a new set of valuations and the rentals should be fixed at 2i per cent of those valuations.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Initially I want to refer to capital inflow. Much nonsense has been spoken about this matter. However I warn the people of Australia that we have had an inflow of capital because of the stability of the Commonwealth Government. Change this Government and there will be no need to restrict the inflow of capital because it will not create even a ripple. Mass unemployment would follow and we would be faced with inflation of a magnitude never before experienced in Australia. By saying this I do not mean that we are not to be alert to ensure that no Australian company, which is operating efficiently, changes ownership for change’s sake as a result of overseas takeover bids without any benefit accruing to Australia. I instance the MLC case. If we do likewise to protect Australian companies as we should and will, we must encourage as much inflow of capital as possible. We must also guard against the international company being established in Australia and putting embargoes on the exports of its products to protect its products manufactured in the parent company and exported to other countries. Of course we would like the inflow of finance capital to be in the form of loans, but human nature being what it is the people with the capital wish to take advantage of their equity.
We hear complaints about money coming into Australia, but without this inflow we would not have reached the stage of development that we have now achieved. Long and Hancock, after finding iron ore deposits, hawked them all round Australia but could not find any bidders. Although Australia is supposedly a great nation of gamblers, when it comes to investment we are very suspicious and are not prepared to take the risks that overseas people are prepared to take. When we consider what has been achieved in the Northern Territory from the inflow of capital we should bear in mind that most of this capital has come from Texas which has been established for only 140 years. That is a short time in the life of a nation. The whole of Texas was financed and populated by people from Scotland. Between the 2 World Wars the total indebtedness of the Texans to Scotland was paid off. Now the Texans are bringing their know-how and wealth to northern Australia. The people who come here will not return to America; they will become Australian citizens. Mr Jack Condon, manager of the Katherine meat works, said: ‘Let them all come. Look what we have done. See the huge cattle trains and the roads that have been developed by these people.’
Another matter that we must keep in mind always is that when money leaves its country of origin, whether it is the United States, the United Kingdom or Sweden, it is currency of that nation, but when it arrives in Australia is becomes Australian currency and subject to the financial controls of this country. Overseas investors know that at present no strings are attached to money coming into Australia, but they have been warned that money invested here is subject to the terms and conditions of our financial and economic arrangements. If it suited our purpose to do so, or if at any time our position was such that we needed to do so, we could restrict the payment and transfer of dividends from Australia. At present the disposition is for money which is earned in Australia to be reinvested in Australia. This is a great thing for Australia. I trust that all this nonsense that has been spoken about overseas investment in Australia will cease in view of the protections that I have mentioned.
I propose now to refer to the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport at Mascot and the suggestion that a second airport should be established at Richmond. In my opinion this will not eventuate. For some time I have been pressing the Department of Civil Aviation to allow the Tullamarine Airport at Melbourne to be used more extensively as an international airport. This great aerodrome, which was paid for with the nation’s money, has been almost neglected by international air carriers. We believe in freedom of movement, so if people in Washington, New York, London or Manchester want to travel direct to Melbourne, who are we to say that they should not do so? Until recently this wonderful airport at Tullamarine had only a few international arrivals. It is time that we forgot our State jealousies and acted as one nation, speaking with one voice, with one aim and one destiny. Until we are rid of State jealousies we will never get ahead. We will be handicapped if we think of our State first and the nation second. I am an Australian first and a New South Welshman second. I hope that the matters that I am mentioning will sink deeply into those people who have the management of the Department of Civil Aviation.
In regard to the suggestion that a second airport be constructed at Richmond, there are many hazards in that area which militate against its use as an airport. That area should never have entered into consideration for this purpose. We have a great air base at Richmond, about which much twaddle and nonsense has been spoken. We have heard suggestions that it should be transferred from Richmond to Dubbo or to some other place, but it has never been envisaged that this would be done. The Richmond area experiences fogs of great intensity and it would not be wise to have a civil airport in an area that is subject to fog. Frequently there are floods in that area, so that would be another hazard. In addition we have at Richmond the great, wonderful, worldrenowned Hawkesbury Agricultural College. If an airport were established in the area that has been suggested by the experts this great and wonderful college would be overrun. If the college were shifted we could never restore the traditions that belong to that institution.
Why should a second airport be a Sydney airport? Surely we can get away from this parochialism. I can suggest 2 or 3 better sites. There is Warnervale which is a few miles north of Wyong where we have the great Tuggerah Lakes and the Pacific Ocean. There is much land there which has not been developed. The soil is a sandy loam which would be easy to move. An extensive area is available there and that should be considered first. The Wyee turnoff provides a gateway to the New England Highway and it is not more than about 20 miles from Newcastle, which is bereft of an airport for domestic use. The area to which I have referred, together with an area at Putty, will provide 53,000 acres which could be used for this purpose. Montreal has adopted a different concept in regard to airports. It has taken over an area of 53,000 acres and the whole international airport complex, including the engineering shops and everything else, will be established within the airport. I know that it will be 15 or 20 years before the second Sydney airport comes into being, but we have now a wonderful opportunity for forward thinking.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I desire to refer to a very important matter which was disclosed to me in a newspaper report yesterday morning. It is the reported withdrawal of the Cannon Hill abattoirs licence to process meat for sale in the United States. This matter, while being primarily the reponsibility of the Queensland Government, should also be of concern to the Federal Government and, more importantly, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). I indicated to the Minister that it was my intention, to raise this matter this morning, but unfortunately prior commitments have prevented his being here. How ever, he has assured me that he will take note of the points that I raise and will give the matters his immediate attention. I trust that he will see the grave urgency of this matter and do so. This is a matter of vital concern to producers and unionists engaged in the meat industry. I put it to the Parliament that the Queensland Government, as so often has been the case in the past, has failed to cope with the need to plan and provide for present and future needs of the industry. This is certainly not the first warning it has received from the United States Department of Agriculture that the Brisbane abattoir, as it is more commonly referred to, has not been able to meet the hygiene and sanitation requirements that the United States has laid down for meat exported to that country. From memory it is the third time that the abattoir has had its licence withdrawn. The first occasion was for a period in the 1960s. It was later suspended for 3 months in 1970 and now it is facing suspension again.
I want to express my very grave concern for the immediate and long term employment situation in view of this threat. The abattoir, while not being in my electorate, employs a great number of people from the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union and other unions who live in my electorate. This United States decision will affect some 600 to 700 employees of the abattoir. In addition, the fact that under its United States licence the abattoir processes about 50,000 head of beef cattle a year, representing about 42 per cent of the annual beef cattle killed at the Brisbane abattoir, gives an indication of the need to have this quantity of cattle killed elsewhere, creating a great problem for the primary producers concerned. If these cattle need to be taken to Lakes Creek or somewhere else, in addition to adding to the current unemployment position in Brisbane, it will place a grave and unjust cost burden on the primary producers.
While at this stage I understand that the management has not been advised in writing of the requirements following the inspection carried out by Dr Hall on behalf of the United States Department of Agriculture, I believe that the requirements cover structural and sanitation deficiencies. There are suggestions that the sanitation problem was discovered by the inspector by scraping the floor under some of the preparation tables. No doubt this would be done under his interpretation of hygiene regulations that the floor should be as clean as the table. Actions such as this by these inspectors give rise to the argument that has often been put forward that the United States Department of Agriculure uses these unfair methods periodically to eliminate certain of the Australian sources of supply to reduce the quota imports into the United States. Of course, this is done in a way which, places the onus on the Australian abattoir concerned and eliminates the obvious possibility of the action reflecting on the purpose for which it is being taken. It seems to me to be more than coincidence that only as recently as 4th March much prominence was given in the Australian Press to a report by a United States Congressman, Mr John Melcher, who represents the beef producing State of Montana. On that occasion he was speaking to a United States House of Representatives committee and said that he did not allow his own family to eat hamburger meat or precooked meat that was likely to have come from meats imported from Australia. Mr Melcher said that the report on foreign meat plants by the United States General Office of Accounting showed that of 35 plants inspected in Australia 10 were so unsanitary that they were banned from exporting meat to the United States. He said that in these 10 plants the main deficiencies were unclean floors, chutes and equipment, flaking paint, rusty pipes, broken plumbing, ineffective insect control and lack of a sanitatation programme. The point I am making is that while this may on occasions give rise to some just cause for import quotas on the American market to be restricted, it is completely unfair for such a method to be used when it handicaps the production of our abattoirs in Australia.
I desire this morning to highlight the abject failure of the Queensland Government over a long period of time to face up to its responsibilities and to see that the structural and hygiene standards of the Brisbane abattoir in particular receive the attention that they should have received from the officers of that government. We must bear in mind that this is a very old abattoir. It was constructed around about 1914, I understand, and was originally owned by Swifts. It was acquired by the
State Abattoirs Board in 1931 and since those days, some 40 odd years ago, the abattoir has been under a continual programme of temporary rebuilding, a continual programme of additions and requirements being brought into effect as standards of structure and hygiene have required. At no stage during those long years has the Queensland Government faced up to the need to plan for the replacement of this abattoir which even as early as the 1940s was becoming obsolete. I can go back beyond the time of this Government but it has certainly been of more urgency in the life of this Government.
Today it has gone far beyond the need to plan for its replacement. I understand that plans have been prepared for a $7.5 m abattoir to be built within a space of 3 to 4 years but this will not overcome the problem that today is immediately facing the producers of beef cattle sent to the abattoir and its employees, the members of the trade unions working at the abattoir. Provisions need to be made immediately to establish the standards required, whether they be unfair or not, so that continuity of employment may be maintained. It may even amount to the need for this Government to investigate the possibility of a special grant being made to the Queensland Government for the immediate rebuilding of the abattoir over a much shorter time than the 3 or 4 years suggested when the current plan was made. But at least the situation does demand that this Government take action to ensure that the Queensland Government faces up to the responsibilities it has failed to face up to in the past and that it should provide the standard of hygiene that can match up to even the unjust requirements of the United States meat inspectors so that in the future requirements such as those now sought by the United States cannot be brought forward to restrict our quotas to the United States.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. (Quorum formed.)
– I wish to raise today the question of the recent rises in steel prices. I want to make it clear at the start that my reason for raising this matter is not that I am out to attack or defend anybody but that I want to point out the end effect of some of these steel price rises on the rural producers. We know that there has been discussion on this matter in this House before. At the outset I would like to make my position on it quite clear. I range myself alongside the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony), who was misrepresented in this House and elsewhere as to what he said about the price rises. What he actually said was: . . it was unfortunate and regrettable that BHP had to increase its prices but I could understand why, because of the extravagant wage increases and the industrial unrest which had occurred in this country during the past 12 months.
Those words were uttered by my Leader on 22nd February 1972 in this House. But, as I recall it, the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd recently announced an average rise of 5.3 per cent in its steel prices. 1 emphasise the word ‘average’. I have had placed before me a letter in the form of a circular which was sent by a firm of farm machinery manufacturers to farm machinery agents in rural areas. I will read portion of it. The first paragraph reads:
After holding our prices for 12 months during a time when cost of living, wages and prices indices have shown the steepest increase in more than a decade, we have been forced to increase our own prices.
The second paragraph goes on to refer to attached new price lists. The rest of the letter reads:
I think it is necessary to tell you that at this stage we intend to absorb the latest increase in the price of steel announced by BHP, and remind you that this is the second increase from BHP since our prices were amended in March 1971. 1 want you to know, and 1 think it is impor.tant that the rural community should know, that the much publicised announcement by BHP of a price increase averaging 5.3 per cent does not apply to supplies of steel required for the manufacture of farm machinery, or in fact most other machinery.
The average increase for us and nearly all other manufacturers is 9) per cent.
The letter went on to say.
The announcement of 5.3 per cent increase is misleading.
If I may interpolate, it is not necessarily deliberately misleading. The letter continues:
This particularly applies to steel required for earth-engaging parts which has increased 23.3 per cent in the last 12 months, and the latest price from BHP represents an increase of 10.S per cent since the last increase in June, 1971.
I have confirmed the authenticity of this letter. I have spoken to the managing director of the firm that sent it out. I have further inquired from people in other farm machinery manufacturing firms, and one well known manufacturer of plough discs and points for rigid-tined and spring-lined implements claims that the rise is nearer to 12 per cent. The reason for this approximation might readily be apparent. Steel pricing in itself is not a simple matter. I understand that it is a complex matter. For a start a base price is put out and then adjustments are made to the base price for the quality of the steel, for the sizes which are ordered and also for the quantities, lt therefore follows that prices of steel to different manufacturers who are making the same implements could differ, particularly in view of the fact that manufacturers order different quantities. So, straight away a very steep rise in steel prices has an effect on the rural producer.
I want to make 2 further points. One is the effect of steel price rises on exporters as well as on the Australian rural producer. One firm to which I spoke is making tillage implements which are being exported to 43 different countries, including Japan and the United States of America. We know that it is axiomatic that the higher the cost of production the worse will be the competitive position in which the manufacturers will find themselves, whether they are trading on the export market or on the local market. Another point which I think I should make in fairness to BHP - the great steel manufacturing company in this country - is that I have found that amongst the farm machinery manufacturing industry the opinion is held that the quality of BHP steel is second to none. It is claimed by these people that BHP steel has been proved to be better than Sheffield steel and also steel from West Germany. We know that those 2 sources of materials have been producers of quality steel for a very long time.
I just repeat my point that, although the average increase in the price of steel announced by the steel producers is 5.3 per cent, the price of steel for farm machinery on which rural producers depend so much, because of the selectivity in the types of steel that they use, such as spring steel, cast steel and earth-engaging steel which requires high anti-wearing qualities, has increased by 23.3 per cent in the last 12 months, which is far greater than the 12 per cent which I have just quoted. Conversely it should follow, and I hope it does, that the great body of users of mild steel will be getting steel price rises below the 5.3 per cent. I am prompted - and I point this out for one reason only - to put forward to the people a clearer picture of some of the end results of price rises, particularly in the case of steel, to the end user. I know that there are people outside this Parliament, and I am afraid inside it, who appear to be unable or at least reluctant to get a clear view of the problems of the rural economy and also of the export industries. I also hope that the leaders of rural industries will never lose an opportunity to put these facts before the people to whom they give evidence on matters which concern them. I refer to the Tariff Board, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and wherever else it is appropriate.
– I wish to raise 2 matters during this grievance debate. The first matter has been before this House for some time and was the subject of some debate after question time today. It relates to the payment of unemployment benefit to persons who were stood down during the recent power strike in Victoria. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) on Tuesday of this week read into Hansard extracts from a Cabinet minute which was prepared in 1947. He also tabled in the House a letter by the then Minister for Social Services, Senator McKenna, which was written in 1948. I note with some interest that he did not refer in any way to the answer given to a question in this House in 1949 by the then Minister for Labour and National Service, Mr Holloway, who said that the decision of the Labor Government applied to persons who were members of the unions in dispute working in the industry of the dispute. That is a different interpretation from the one which the Minister has given to this House. I also note that the Minister, having read this statement, then claimed that the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) especially should apologise for describing the Minister’s action as vindictive. The basis of the Minister’s action is irrelevant. The facts of the matter are that people who were in no way directly involved in this dispute and who had no say in its continuation or settlement have been deprived of unemployment benefits on what I claim to be a totally illegal basis. I consider the Government has acted contrary to the Social Services Act and is depending on the cost of litigation, and the amounts of money that would accrue to individuals in order to defend its action.
I will read the relevant section of the Social Services Act so that no-one can be in any doubt about what it states. The section states that a person is entitled to unemployment benefits provided he:
The word is ‘his’ - is not due to his being a direct participant in a strike:
In 2 places in the sentence the word ‘his’ is used. It is singular and not plural. The Minister’s reasons and the reasons set out in the paper presented by the Minister both apply to a person’s organisation being involved in a strike and that being a disqualification. I suggest that by no stretch of the imagination can that interpretation be applied to the passage I have just read. I ask the Minister and the Government to show that they have the conviction of their words and offer to finance a test case before the High Court on the meaning of the section so that this matter can be cleared up once and for all. That is the only valid way.
The Minister has said that the original direction was drawn up by Dr Evatt. That may or may not be true - I do not challenge it - but what I do suggest is that Dr Evatt was not a judge of the High Court. He was a Minister of the Crown and therefore at the time was quite obviously, as the Minister is now and as is any person involved in the administration of the Act, not an impartial party in drawing up this direction. I suggest that such a direction should not be allowed to stand unchallenged. As far as individuals are concerned it will remain unchallenged because very few people who can qualify to draw unemployment benefits would be able to afford to finance themselves to a High Court challenge of the legislation merely to recover a few dollars. The chance of winning or losing is one of those things which is highly legal. I ask the Minister if he will consult with the Government on this matter. I know of a person who is prepared to make a test case. This person’s application for benefits has been rejected although he was in no way involved, had no knowledge or gave any support to the strike. I do not know whether the people about whom I am talking supported privately the people involved in the strike. But these people gave no public support. They were not involved in direct participation and therefore the strike provision of the Act does not apply. Yet, they have been denied unemployment benefits. I believe that they are being denied their rights to test the validity of the direction of the Department because of the financial penalties which would accrue if this matter were taken to litigation. 1 do not want to go into asides of this matter. I do not believe that the question of financing strikes is involved^. 1 would agree with the Minister that if train drivers went on strike - and 1 was a train driver - and other railway employees were stood down there would be a valid case for not granting them unemployment benefits. This is what the Minister described as a key man strike because if we take the drivers off the trains the trains cannot run. But I think we have a different situation where people in entirely different industries have been denied unemployment benefits although they are members of entirely different industries and in some cases are members of a union which was very marginally involved in the dispute and played no key role in the manufacture of power. If all unions had gone on strike in the La Trobe Valley then there would have been a case for denying these people unemployment benefits. I believe that the only way in which this matter can be settled is for a test case to be taken to the High Court. The Minister himself admits that from his reading of the Act he cannot understand the legal jargon either, and God help anyone who can. But 1 think that this is probably the only way in which a reasonable settlement of this matter can be arrived at. I ask the Minister to give serious consideration to that fact.
I want to raise one other matter quite quickly. I refer to the retrenchments in the Australian aircraft industry. Although I raised this matter last night I want to raise it again because I think it is critical. At the moment the industry is in a state of flux. Persons working in the industry do not know where they stand. There has been an announcement at Government level that proposals are being studied for a merger. The Government at this stage has not announced that those persons who are employed by it in the Government Aircraft Factories will have their accrued rights protected - and this is a very important factor - in any merger. It may be that in future these rights will be protected, but at the moment no such announcement has been made. I ask the Government, as I have asked it in the past, to make that sort of announcement so that people who may be affected by a merger can have peace of mind from the knowledge that they will not lose their accrued employment rights.
Also I would suggest, as I have in the past, that this industry is critical to any possible defence of Australia. If the Government is serious about defence it should recognise that it takes a lot longer to train skilled personnel to maintain, service and construct modern aircraft than it takes to train a soldier, sailor or airman. It is vital to our defence capacity that the personnel trained in this field be retained in the industry. Once they leave the industry they are lost forever. They will not risk their futures by returning to an industry which does not ensure a guaranteed future employment rob for them. They seek other employment which often does not require the high standard of skills which they have developed. Once they leave the industry they are a loss to the nation. The training which they have undertaken is lost to the nation. I believe that this is a critical factor.
If any serious consideration to defence is to be given by the Government it must recognise that this industry must be maintained and that those persons who are skilled in this type of work must be retained. At the Government Aircraft Factories at Avalon 40 electrical tradesmen - admittedly this is a small number - and 10 mechanical tradesmen were given notice last week. These people are skilled tradesmen and some have had experience of up to 27 years in the aircraft industry as members of the Royal Australian Air Force and employees of the Government Aircraft Factories. Their loss cannot be recouped overnight. Their skills will be totally lost to the industry. I believe that the parallel of this would be to dismiss the ratings and all of the skilled staff of HMAS Melbourne’ and say: ‘Go get another job until we want you again’.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I was interested in the remarks of the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) relating again to unemployment benefits. I would say in passing that there is a principle involved in these matters. I noticed the Opposition’s attempt today to get out from under the principle by trying to refer to the attitudes of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) as being so many years old. I do not think it matters how old a principle is. It is either a principle or it is not a principle. Members of the Opposition should really take this fact into account. I think that the Minister for Social Services, looking at the portfolio generally, brings tremendous energy and initiative to bear on the problems involving his portfolio. I do not think that Opposition attacks of this nature will damage the reputation of this Minister who has in mind the needs of the people of Australia generally.
In the few minutes left during this debate airing of grievances I wish to refer to another matter relating to redundancy which occurs in my electorate in the Nairne pyrites field in South Australia. Honourable members might bear in mind that last November we had a debate which centred on the bounty affecting the production of sulphuric acid on the one hand and pyrites on the other. I remind the House brieflly what happened. With the fall in the price of imported brimstone, which is used in the production of sulphuric acid, the price of the locally produced product became many times dearer than the imported product. Local production fell and the Government withdrew its bounties on sulphuric acid and pyrites. When this matter was debated in the House I referred to several matters, including the redundancy of labour that could occur when local production ceased.
I pointed out to the House that nearly onethird of the people in the township of Brukunga, where pyrites is produced, had found work at the nearby new Kanmantoo copper mine. I pointed out that nearly onethird were working on a pipeline running from Murray Bridge to Adelaide and that more than one-third were still working at Nairne Pyrites.
This company will cease its activities in May of this year. I have been able to ascertain that the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, the managing agent and co-owner of Nairne Pyrites in association with Adelaide Wallaroo Fertilisters Pty Ltd and Cresco Fertilisers Ltd, is sending this week from Whyalla employment officials and experts to see what jobs can be found at the BHP works at Whyalla for those in Brukunga who are presently redundant. It is to be hoped that those who wish to move to a new locality will be able to find worthwhile jobs according to their capacities in the new area. Furthermore, I gather that when the BHP official has finished his work the Commonwealth Employment Service will send to Brukunga other experts to help those who perhaps do not want to move to Whyalla.
The real reason I am on my feet today is to mention quickly the problems of compensation that should be paid to the companies concerned as a result of the negation of a contract to keep producing into the 1980s. An offer of compensation has been made based on the depreciated value of the plant minus realised price. That is all right. I think people realise that the realistic value of the plant has been affected. But this form of compensation does not take into account problems of redundancy that might be costly to the company to try to overcome. Lt does not take into account severance pay that the company obviously intends to pay to a wide section of the people it currently employs. It does not take into account legal costs or the grazing rights of one farmer next door. It does not take into account the replenishment of the ground so that it is left in a fit state. The company has had to face all these things and has more work to do. The worst feature is that this compensation does not take into account that there is a contract between the company and the Housing Trust of South Australia which does not expire until 1983. Once the houses built in Brukunga by the Housing Trust become vacant the onus falls on the company to pay substitution rent to the Trust. If these houses had been built by the company and not by the Trust they would have been written off in depreciation by now and the company would have no onus topay the rent on them.
I sound a very minor note of warning that if this matter of compensation is not satisfactorily resolved I intend to pursue this topic in time to come, because although officers of the Department of Trade and Industry have been sent to negotiate with the companies there has not been an acceptance at this stage of what I regard as the Commonwealth Government’s proper responsibilities in fields of compensation other than that relating directly to the depreciated value of the plant itself. Finding employment for those who are redundant is another matter I intend to keep a careful watch on. I think very seriously that the Government, having promoted the use of pyrites in the late1950’s. has a responsibility.
– OrderlIt is now 15 minutes to 1 o’clock. In accordance with standing order 106 the debate is interrupted and I put the question:
That grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– by leave - For the information of honourable members I present the following paper:
Report No. 3 of the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee entitled ‘Fallout Over Australia from Nuclear Weapons Tested by France in Polynesia from June to August 1971’.
The 3 reports of the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee dated February 1971, May 1971 and December 1971 which have now all been tabled provide much detailed information. Because of the concern felt by many about radioactive fallout - most of it needless concern - I wish to advise the House of the present results and overall position. There are 2 committees which keep the Commonwealth Government fully informed on the situation of radioactive fallout in Australia. The Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Comittee (AWTSC) which reports to me as Minister for Supply conducts 2 complementary monitoring programmes. The first programme has operated continuously since 1957 and is devoted to monitoring the levels of long-lived radioisotopes in fallout - that is, strontium 90 and caesium 137. Particular attention is given to these elements as they are considered potentially the most hazardous of the radioactive materials released into the environment from nuclear testing. The second programme is directed mainly at the much shorter-lived radioisotopes in fallout (including Iodine 131) which are of significance only in the few months immediately after a nuclear test, and the programme is instituted when it is considered that fallout from a particular test or series of tests may reach Australia. Report No. 3 details results from such a programme.
The Chairman of the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee - Sir Ernest Titterton, a nuclear physicist of considerable standing who has done most significant work for the Commonwealth - keeps me informed on developments in both monitoring programmes. The other members on the Committee are the Commonwealth Director of Meteorology; Director, Commonwealth X-ray and Radium Laboratory; Committee and Executive Officer. Defence Standards Laboratories in the Department of Supply. I should mention that in formulating its monitoring programmes the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee takes note of the technical results and recommendations of a number of international organisations. These include the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), and the United Kingdom Medical Research Council. Australia makes a major contribution to the data utilised by UNSCEAR from the southern hemisphere. All results from the fallout monitoring operations in Australia have ben published in full in the scientific literature listed in report No. 1, that is continuing.
The second Commonwealth committee is the National Radiation Advisory Committee (NRAC) which reports to the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts and advises the Commonwealth Government on matters concerning the effects of ionising radiation, whatever its origin, on the Australian community. The results of the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee’s monitoring programmes are immediately made available to the National Radiation Advisory Committee for analysis. These 2 Committees co-operate closely. The report, Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee No. 3, which I have presented today, concerns the shorter-lived fallout of fresh fission products in Australia from 9th June to 26th November 1971, following nuclear tests by France in Polynesia. France conducted 5 nuclear weapons tests in the period from 6th June and 15th August 1971 at the test site in the islands of the Tuamotu Archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean. Fresh fission products from these tests first became evident in fallout over Australia in late June 1971, some 16 days after the first explosion, and were monitored thereafter by the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee to determine radiation doses to the whole body and to the thyroid. Monitoring ceased in late November 1971 when levels of fresh fission products in the fallout became so low as to make no further effective contribution to the radiation doses. In measuring the extent of the external gamma radiation doses to the whole body as a result of these tests computations were made from the measurements on fresh fission products in fallout using an Australia-wide network of 26 stations. In this report it is concluded that the levels of radioactivity remain very, very low and that the gamma radiation doses from the fresh fallout were between 0.1 and 2.2 millirad. The normal gamma radiation in the environment is many times these levels. The measurements shown are upper limits and correspond to about 0.1 and 2.2 per cent of the average annual background radiation from natural sources.
Relatively speaking, potentially the most hazardous short-lived radio-isotope in fallout of fresh fission material is iodine 131. In 1965 the National Radiation Advisory Committee, in line with recommendations issued by the United Kingdom Medical Research Council, following a detailed study of radiation protection guides, adopted a safety level of 840 millirad for iodine 131. That is to say, the Council asserted that iodine 131 would not endanger health, pro- vided the dose accumulated by children over a period of a year in consuming milk did not exceed 840 millirad. That figure is regarded as conservative. The Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee programme of daily sampling of milk for assay of iodine 131 content in fallout from the French nuclear weapons tests, covered 9 major population centres and included the milk being consumed by about 75 per cent of the total Australian population. The measurements indicate that radiation doses to thyroids of young children consuming fresh cow’s milk range from 4 to 62 millirad per annum for the milk supplies monitored. These, too, are upper limits. These doses are very small when compared to the National Radiation Advisory Committee guide level of 840 millirad, which, for a year of continuous exposure, would not endanger the health of the population. Of course, continuous exposure to the minute doses recorded does not occur. In one major respect, this fallout differed notably from the pattern of fresh fallout observed from earlier tests in Polynesia. This was in the dominant contribution made by debris from the second explosion in the series, which occurred on 13th June 1971. It was found that material from this explosion was present to a greater or lesser extent in all fallout subsequently monitored in Australia from the entire series. The Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee considers it is likely that the second explosion involved a high yield device with a substantial fission component. I emphasise that the total radiation doses from fresh fallout over Australia in 1971 were lower than those received for the 1966 series of French nuclear weapons tests in Polynesia, and comparable to those for 1968 and 1970.
I take this opportunity to refer generally to the current world situation of nuclear fallout. Prior to the resumption of nuclear weapons testing by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in September 1961 much of the radioactive debris from earlier tests had been deposited. The extensive test programmes by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1961 and 1962, and by United States of America in 1962, injected more radioactive debris into the atmosphere than had all previous tests. These relatively large injections were followed by small, but relatively heavy, deposits of strontium 90 and caesium 137 in the northern hemisphere during 1962 and 1964 and, a year or so later by much lighter deposits in the southern hemisphere. Since 1965 there has been a steady downward trend in the annual fallout rate of strontium 90 and caesium 137. France and China are today the only countries testing nuclear explosions in the atmosphere. The USSR and USA continue to test nuclear weapons but these are conducted underground and there is no global fallout from them.
The overall world situation on radioactive fallout is, therefore, that the only new injections of this material into the atmosphere, currently, are from testing by France and China. Fallout from French operations is most evident in the southern hemisphere, and that from the Chinese in the northern hemisphere. These additions to the radioactive contamination of the environment, however, are being made against a background of the strontium 90 and caesium 137 remaining from the earlier tests. The levels of nuclear fallout in Australia - both old and new - are very low indeed and do not constitute a hazard to health. Nevertheless, the monitoring programmes to which I have referred are being maintained and the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee will continue to keep a close watch on the situation.
In conclusion, I take the opportunity to report to the House the possible effect in Australia from the accidental release of plutonium 238 to the world environment, a matter that has received some publicity recently in the Press. Newspaper reports have referred to the release of plutonium 238 into the world environment in April 1964 as a result of the burn-up of the power generator contained in a United States satellite which disintegrated on entering the upper atmosphere after failing to gain the desired orbit. Plutonium 238 does not occur in nature - it is man-made. 1 emphasise that plutonium 238 is not a fissile material and it is not used in nuclear reactors or nuclear weapons. The nuclear properties and applications of plutonium 238 are distinctly different from those of plutonium 239, the well known nuclear weapons material.
The Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee has assisted and cooperated with the United States Atomic Energy Commission in a world wide programme to monitor plutonium 238 in the environment by con ducting sampling and providing materials from Australia for analysis. The International Commission on Radiological Protection has undertaken detailed study and has adopted a level of concentration of plutonium 238 in the environment to which the general population could be exposed continuously without significantly endangering its health. The current concentrations of plutonium 238 in the Australian environment, which are generally representative of the southern hemisphere are between one ten thousandth and one thousandth of the International Commission on Radiological Protection levels and can in no way be considered a hazard to health. I present the following paper:
Radioactive Fallout In Australia From Nuclear Weapons Tested by France in Polynesia - Ministerial Statement, 13th April 1972.
Motion (by Mr Chipp) proposed:
That the House take note of the papers.
– I do not want to go into detail on the material, much of it highly technical, put to the House by the Minister for Supply (Mr Garland). There are one of two points on radioactive fallout and the monitoring programmes which measure this fallout. The first is that it seems an unusually cumbersome process to split responsibility for these monitoring programmes between two committees, one of which reports to the Minister for Supply and the other to the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, (Mr Howson). Surely there is not a sufficient degree of difference between the work of these groups to warrant the administrative division. Even allowing for the closeness of co-operation between the two committees, there seems an obvious case for the rationalisation of their functions.
The second point I want to look at is (he Minister’s insistence on amounts of radiation which present no health hazard. His tactic is to state the lowest accepted limit of harmful radiation and give the monitoring evidence which shows that fallout detected in Australia is well below these limits. I do not criticise the Minister for this; from his standpoint it is a valid enough exercise. It should be pointed out, however, that there is a large amount of scientific opinion which holds that there is no such thing as a floor to harmful doses of radiation. According to this sort of thinking radiation in even the most minute quantity is potentially harmful.
The late President Kennedy was one statesman who supported those who contended there was no such thing as a minimum acceptable dose. In the President’s view only a small number of individual tragedies might be involved in this sort of approach, but nevertheless these were tragedies that cast a long shadow in human and moral terms. He added:
There is still much that we do not know - and too often in the past we have minimised th:se perils and shrugged aside these dangers, only to find that the estimates were faulty and the real dangers were worse than we knew.
There has been a consistent tendency for safety levels to be cut back. For example, the International Committee on Radiological Protection has cut the maximum permissible dose for people working with radioactive materials to a fifteenth of what it was in 1924. Research work at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory in California has produced a thesis that radiation can cause more harm than was suspected when standards for acceptable doses of radiation were prescribed. According to this research work chromosomes are damaged more severely by radiation than was thought initially. This increases the chances of a greater incidence of cancer, and other diseases and forms of debility in future generations.
It can be argued on this basis that standards should be abolished or reduced still more drastically to eliminate even the slightest chance of danger. A United Nations Committee has drawn attention to this latest scientific evidence. In August last year the United States Public Health Service issued a warning that there was no lower level to harmful doses of radiation, either to the individual or for future generations. It is disappointing that the Australian Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee has not referred in its report to these developments and that the Minister has not put this material before the House. I feel that the Minister has been much too complacent in his account of amounts of radiation detected in Australia measured against acceptable standards of radiation. If there is no lower limit of safety for doses of radiation, then every additional atomic test in the atmosphere adds to the number of deaths and deformities. It is in this context that we should look at the Minister’s remarks about ‘needless concern’ over fallout from French nuclear tests in the Pacific. Because of weather conditions, Australia may be less affected than other countries in the Pacific by the French tests. Undoubtedly, there is still a measure of fallout which in the light of contemporary evidence could well prove to be harmful. This should reinforce the strength and sincerity of our protest against the resumption of these tests. Above all, we must not give the impression that our protests are mere formalities.
I conclude by again stressing that it is important that the Australian Government, as a responsible body, should ensure that these protests against the testing of French nuclear weapons are made forcibly. I believe this is a responsibility which the Government has not only to the people of this country but also to the people of other countries in the South Pacific area. The Government has a grave responsibility and, as I have already stated, if there is a weakness, apart from this one in the Minister’s statement, it is that the Minister to my mind - I am sure that this would be the opinion of honourable members on this side of the House - has not stressed sufficiently the grave concern that all Australians would have at a continuation by the French Government of nuclear testing in our area.
Debate (on motion by Mr Giles) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 12 April (vide page 1534), on the following paper presented by Mr Anthony:
Progressive Review of the Tariff - Ministerial Statement, 12th April 1972- and on motion by Mr Chipp:
That the House take note of the paper.
- Mr Speaker, I am glad to have the opportunity to resume the debate on this matter today. I regret that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) who presented the paper, is not in the House or in Australia to hear what I have to say. My regret is somewhat modified by the fact that the
Minister is very rarely ever in the House, anyhow, when the Opposition is putting its case on this matter. But I regret it.
– Look at your own benches.
– I am not concerned with my own benches. Honourable members on this side of the chamber are well aware of what I am going to say because they have played a full and adequate part in the formulation of the policy that I am about to announce. What I am concerned about is that the Minister who is responsible for this matter is not here, and I understand why he is not here. But I am even more concerned to note that he rarely is here. What I have to say should be answered not by a farmer - no matter how experienced he might happen to be - but by someone who knows something about secondary industry, the problems that face it and the problems that face the Tariff Board. I might say, in passing, as the Minister for Supply (Mr Garland), who is now leaving the chamber, has seen fit to draw my attention to the presence in the chamber of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon), that it is about time that we had somebody in the portfolio of Trade and Industry who knows something about it. With all due respect to the knowledge which the Minister for Shipping and Transport and the Minister for Trade and Industry have of farming, neither is quite the perfect man to occupy the position of Minister for Trade and Industry, responsible for secondary industry.
– I suppose you are.
– I think that the electors will have a chance to judge that. Perhaps the honourable member for Angas will be missing next year and he will not be able to see the changes that take place in this House. He will be pining if not wining’ for a new situation. I might also say that what I will be submitting to the House today on behalf of the Opposition will require a reply, and I will look forward to hearing it from the Government.
In its 1968-69 report the Tariff Board stated 2 things: First, that many protective duties in the tariff have never been reviewed for more than 30 years; secondly, that a comprehensive review should be made. It was apparent then that this was a state of affairs which could not be allowed to continue any longer than absolutely necessary. But nothing was done in 1968-69. Knowing that nothing had been done, the Tariff Board was even more vivid in its 1969-70 report. That year it said that large sectors of the tariff had not been reviewed and that the industries concerned still had essentially the same tariffs as those imposed for emergency reasons in the early 1930s. Not only this, but the Board went on to say that the resources available to it had been fully occupied on normal tariff revision inquiries and that additional staff had been asked for. The Board did not say when it had asked for additional staff, but it is difficult to imagine that it would have been any less than a year before that particular time.
But what had the Government done? The Tariff Board said that the Public Service Board had recommended the employment of additional staff in June 1970, but the Tariff Board went on to say that the recommendation had not at that time been submitted to the Executive Council by the Minister for Trade and Industry, and that the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry had said that the matter raised important policy questions which he would discuss with the Minister for Trade and Industry at the earliest opportunity. Now, the Tariff Board said that large sectors of the tariff had never been looked at for over 30 years, that its staff was fully taken up in normal tariff revision, that it had asked for more staff, that the Public Service Board had accepted the request but that the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry considered that important policy questions were involved and he would discuss the matter with the Minister for Trade and Industry not then, not soon, but at the earliest opportunity.
I ask the Minister: What important policy questions were involved? How did it become a matter of policy to decide whether the Tariff Board should have more staff when large sectors of the tariff had not been examined for 30 years and when its staff was fully taken up on normal inquiries? How did that become a matter of policy? I charge the Minister and others with deliberately delaying the provision of additional staff for the Tariff Board and with deliberately delaying the appointment of additional members of the Tariff Board.
I say the evidence is that the present Minister for Trade and Industry and bis predecessor have deliberately allowed the Tariff Board to remain understaffed and in a kind of hiatus, not knowing what it should do or how it should do it.
It is not clear from the Tariff Board’s reports or from the sketchy statements which the Minister for Trade and Industry has made from time to time what was done. The only conclusion that can be drawn from what the Minister has said is that he has deliberately tried to keep the House in a position where it is given the least possible amount of information about what is happening in this hidden held of tariff administration. Even yesterday I was given a document which purported to be the statement which the Minister for Trade and Industry was to make on the subject before the House. But I find that the actual statement he made was another one - one about twice the length of the statement that I had been given earlier in the day. But even the second statement was one of only a few hundred words. It says nothing. It is part of the veil of secrecy and inertia that the Minister holds up in front of his Department and of the Department of Customs and Excise. Here in this matter alone is evidence, for all those who can see, of the inefficiency and delay that is caused by the division of power between the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) and the Minister for Trade and Industry, and of the need for reconstruction of these 2 departments.
The Tariff Board had gone as fur as public servants could ever be expected to go both in 1968-69 and 1969-70 to say that the Government knew that large sectors of the tariff had not been looked at for 30 years and that the Board did not have the staff even to begin to work let alone finish it even in the period of 20 years that had been mentioned that it might take. In those 2 years the Tariff Board had gone as far as a public servant could go to say that the Ministers concerned and the Government were responsible for a dereliction of duty and that they were obstructing the Board in its effort to get more staff and the Public Service Board in recommending more staff. What has happened about staff for the Tariff Board? No-one can be sure because the
Minister for Trade and Industry has said nothing unless he has been pressed, and then he has given no information by means of which the question can be answered.
But we do know that in the 1970-71 Tariff Board report 2 things were stated. First the Board said that during the year an industry economics branch has been established to provide the more rigorous and comprehensive studies needed for the purposes of making better reports. What had the Board been doing about those studies in the years prior to 1970 and 1971? We do not know anything about that. The second matter stated by the Board in its 1970-7.1 report was that Mr Cossar, one of its members, said that he was concerned about the use or proposed use of temporary staff for post-hearing analysis work. So apparently in 1970 and 1971 the Board was still in a position to have to rely upon temporary staff in a very important field. Further to that, the problem had been created of the Board having to use research staff, and there was concern in the industry that material of a confidential nature may be obtained by them. At the end of the 1970-71 report Mr Dudley and Mr Hempel had to emphasise that: ‘they support steps taken to improve the quality of advice which the Board is able to give the Government’. Again the Board is saying: Do something, do something’.
There can be little doubt that in 1971 the Tariff Board remained a very disturbed and unhappy body. What does it have to do to move the Government? The position of the Tariff Board is so serious that I believe there may well be resignations from it in the near future. But what now does the Government propose to do? It proposes to appoint 2 more members to the Board. There still remain the problems that I have already outlined. There are large sectors of the tariff which have not been looked at for 30 years and the Board has enough staff only for norma] inquiries, or perhaps a little more. Now the Minister for Trade and Industry tells us that preparation has to be made for a lot of additional work; the Board has to examine matters arising out of general and preferential rates where those rates are different from those applying before. There is the reference to cover 1,000 items. We do not know their size. We know nothing about those 1,000 items.
Then there are the comprehensive trade negotiations in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, those arising out of trade objectives with the enlarged European Economic Community, with the United States, Japan and others, and of course those problems arising out of the termination of the United Kingdom- Australia trade agreement.
Not only is much of this work obviously beyond what the Tariff Board has considered, or could have anticipated when it was appealing for more staff - and the extent of the work cannot be anticipated even now - but in some large areas of this work there will be an urgency that does not apply to many normal tariff inquiries. The Minister at last admitted in his speech that it has become apparent that unless further steps are taken the review - that is the comprehensive review proposed by the Tariff Board 5 years ago and not yet started - will not be completed for many years. And so the Minister proposes to appoint 2 new members to the Board. What will be the result? The Minister says it will mean now that because of this the Board will be able to complete its review in 6 years. It was ‘many years’ before; now it is to be 6 years. How many was ‘many’? Some people thought it was 20 years; but now it is to be 6 years.
What the Government was warned about 5 years ago it has now dealt with by action that will allow the job, which has not even started yet, to be completed in 6 years. Action then has to be taken after that 6 years. I refer now to those newspapers and economists who today welcomed the statement yesterday by the Minister for Trade and Industry as an important contribution to McMahon’s new policy to deal with inflation and bring about more efficiency in Australia. What will they say now when they read the Minister’s speech and find out that he estimates that what can be done can be commenced in 6 years’ time after the comprehensive review has been undertaken.
There is a more serious consideration than that in Australian tariff making. We know that large sectors of Australian protected industry have not been examined for 30 years. The Government has known of this for 5 years. It should have known of it for even longer than that but now it is proposing action which will result in a report to a government in 6 years’ time. I want to make 2 things clear. First, the Australian Labor Party will ensure that any Australian industry that is efficient on objective, measurable Australian standards will receive sufficient protection to be able to operate and grow. Secondly, the Australian Labor Party will accept no recommendation for a tariff revision unless warning is given, unless alternative employment is available or has been made available and unless income is available in disemployment benefit to those disemployed until they can obtain comparable employment.
The Australian Labor Party will not allow an industry to be closed down where it is needed for employment in a particular area and, in certain circumstances, will consider compensation to its owners if it has to be curtailed or closed down to meet the needs of public policy. But an Australian Labor Party government will not allow large sectors of industry which have not been examined for 30 years and which may have excessive tariff rates to protect them to go on unexamined. I have outlined the delay, the dilatoriness and the obstruction of which the Government has been guilty during the last 5 or 6 years in respect of that situation. The Government is nationally culpable when large sectors of industry have not been looked at for 30 years. There are estimates that as much as $300m of excess and unnecessary costs are in Australian industry as a result of only part of the excess tariff structure.
I emphasise that this may not have resulted in excess profits, wages or other claims on industry but only in excess prices caused not by excess profits or wages but only by lower productivity. It has been noticed that Australia is second only to Japan in the amount of resources being invested in fixed capital equipment. In Japan the percentage is 31.3, in Australia 27.1, in Germany 25.6, in Canada 24.6 and in other comparable countries the percentage ranges down to 16.5 for the United States. But in productivity Australia is ninth on the table. In Japan the percentage is 12.2, in Germany 5.1 and in Australia only 2.5 per annum. It may well be that these sectors of Australian industry could continue to employ the same number of people, make the same rate of profits or pa even higher wages and profits and charge lower prices. The difference could be made up by higher productivity and it may be that excess tariff protection is the cause, or an important cause, of lower productivity. We must find out. It is nationally culpable for a government to leave large sectors of industry unexamined for a period of 30 years and to propose now a course of action which will give the Government a report on those sectors of industry only at the end of 6 years after having delayed the appointment of members to the Tariff Board and members of the Tariff Board’s staff for at least 2 years. Whatever is the position, the Tariff Board must be equipped to carry out these inquiries in less than 6 years. If tariffs are excessive, they must be lowered, but they will not be lowered unless full and adequate protection is made for workers in the industries affected and for others.
There are 2 things that must not go on any longer. One is the inertia of the Government of the past few years. The other is the economic jungle of industrial upheavals for which no provision has been made or is at hand. Perhaps it has been good enough in Australia to retain both government inertia and the economic jungle when, as for years the ‘London Times’ reminded us, ‘policy has never been relevant in the election of a government in Australia for many years’. But that is no longer the case. Policy is now relevant to the election of a government in Australia, and the people of Australia are ready for a change.
– I thought, when the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns), got to his feet that we would hear some policy announcement on behalf of the Australian Labor Party by its shadow Minister for Trade and Industry. The honourable member for Lalor has the unusual capacity to sound bitter at all times and never to sound generous, smiling or happy at any time. The other thing about the honourable member for Lalor is that he got to his feet »Bd his opening remarks were that the previous Minister for Trade and Industry end the present Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) were both farmer* and neither was capable of handling the Important folio of trade. Perhaps he thinks the Minister in charge of that portfolio should be an expoliceman whose only capacity that I know of - and where he has shown himself to be a leader - is leading people onto the streets to disobey the very law that he tried to uphold when he was a policeman, and perhaps an unsuccessful one. That is the only capacity the honourable member for Lalor has shown that may lead him to the view that he has the right to stand up and claim to be the reasonable alternative as Minister for Trade and Industry. 1 do not know what capacity the honourable member for Lalor claims that he has that would give him the right to do as the previous Minister for Trade and Industry did as a farmer, namely, lead this country into the greatest job opportunity situation in 20 years. This is more than any other Minister for Trade and Industry has ever done. If the honourable member for Lalor can ever do one thing in this Parliament comparable with what was done by the previous Minister for Trade and Industry, or even do as much as the present Minister for Trade and Industry is doing in the short time he has been Minister, then 1 will be the first to say ‘Well done’. The honourable member for Lalor does not have the capacity to say to anybody ‘Well done’ when a job has been well done.
The very basis of the criticism that the honourable member for Lalor makes is, of course, invalid. His criticism was that the increase in the staff of the Tariff Board is not satisfactory to do the job. He fails to notice or record that the proposals to increase the staff of the Tariff Board come, in fact, out of discussions with the. Chairman of the Tariff Board. The proposals are accepted by the Tariff Board and its Chairman as being realistic enough to cope with the tremendous job of reviewing thousands of items under the tariff in a programme that the Chairman of the Board feels to be geared to a realistic timetable - something of the order of 6 years. So the very basis on which the honourable member for Lalor rose and spoke is invalil
Dr J. F. CAIRNS (Lalor)- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) understood me to be referring to the former Minister for Trade and Industry, Sir John McEwen. I was referring instead to the present Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Anthony, and to the Minister himself when I referred to 2 farmers who I did not think had the kind of experience that was necessary to carry on the job of Minister for Trade and Industry. I did not refer to Sir John McEwen who I have many times in this House said - and in the presence of the Minister for Shipping and Transport - had done some magnificent work for Australia as Minister for Trade and Industry.
– It was interesting, listening to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon), to note the approval of his speech by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) who has been running around the country talking about not talking about personalities but policy. If the Treasurer cares to read Hansard tomorrow he will see that the speech of the Minister for Shipping and Transport was a direct attack on personality and this apparently meets with the Treasurer’s approval. I rise to raise only one or two matters. In his statement the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) indicates that the reference to the Tariff Board is expected to cover some 1,000 items of the tariff and that a report is to be requested by the end of 1972, which is some 8 months away, on 1,000 items. It is a pity that the Minister did not include in his statement a listing of the 1,000 items which are to be reported on by the end of this year.
Any proposal to reduce or adjust tariffs can have long term and very substantial effects on many areas of industry and the capacity of those areas to survive. It can also have fairly dramatic effects on certain provincial areas which are largely one industry centres. I would have liked to have seen a listing of the items on which it is proposed a report will be provided by the end of this year. It is very easy to get up and talk in an academic manner about efficient production and about displaced employees being diverted into more efficient channels of production. But one of the things which is not generally appre ciated is that this just does not happen in practice. I cite as one. instance the textile industry. In the provincial towns where textile mills mostly operate they are the only substantial employers of female labour. When employment opportunities in that industry are reduced, largely through dumping practices and not through the inefficiency of the operators, there are no alternative areas of employment. The alternative is unemployment benefits and I do not think that is an efficient use of resources. So I am concerned with the fairly substantial areas of investigation in what apparently will be a very quick review. These areas are not set out in the Minister’s statement so that we might know exactly what industries are likely to be affected. As I said before, this is very important to employment, especially in non-metropolitan areas where alternatives do not necessarily exist.
It is also false to assume that because an industry’s end costs are greater than the imported costs, it is necessarily less efficient than the industry producing the goods which are imported into this country. It is also false to assume that if we close the Australian industry by removing or reducing the tariff, the goods we import will be cheaper. There is at least some evidence to suggest that where an Australian industry has been forced out of the market the importer takes the opportunity of free access to the market immediately to increase his charges, especially with international cartels, to cover the lower cost which he is forced to place on his goods on other markets. Farmers in Australia are aware of this situation in relation to urea. They really did not get a benefit from the reduction of the tariff. All that happened was that the importers made more money out of the goods which they brought into Australia and sold on the Australian market. I am concerned that the Minister has said that this is part of the Government’s anti-inflation programme because the connotation of the Government’s anti-inflation programme is the. placing of some more people out of work. That is the only thing the Government has done so far to combat inflation. In the 8 months since the last Budget something like 3.6 million man days have been lost through additional unemployment created by Government policy and that figure does not take into account the numbers who were unemployed in the same month the previous year. It is only the additional number.
It would appear that if the Government intends to adjust tariffs as an antiinflationary measure in a manner which will force Australians out of work - and that must be the result of replacing existing manufactures with imported goods - it will be adding to the loss of production and reduced capacity of Australian industry and will add greatly to the already too low increase in job opportunities which exist in the Australian economy today. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) has drawn attention to the very low number of new jobs which have been created in each of the last 2 years. The honourable member said that there were 66,000 in one financial year and only 39,000 in the last 12 months period. This is not sufficient to absorb the natural increase in our population. If by this action, which is supposedly to curtail inflation, the Government further reduces job opportunities, especially in nonmetropolitan areas, we will have in Australia cheaper goods on the market, but with ever increasing expenditures on operations such as the rural employment scheme, under which we create employment by the expenditure of taxpayers funds, or increased payments of unemployment benefit to people in order that we may import cheaper goods. There seems to be something false about that sort of economics.
An efficient Australian industry - I believe that efficiency should be encouraged - can well have a cost structure which is far outside the scope of some of its competitors. Wages are cheaper in other countries, volumes of production are different and the availability of finance at reasonable rates of interest is quite often an entirely different matter. I can refer to Australian industries which have been completely re-equipped with the most modern machinery available but which are laying off men at the moment because their product cannot compete with overseas government-subsidised imports which are being dumped on the Australian market. These are the industries most likely to suffer in any major adjustments in the tariff structure. Australia cannot afford the luxury of substantial numbers of persons on long term dole payments. That is about all we can say about our present position. When the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) and other honourable members advocate free trade I wish they would also point out the efficient areas of industry which are glibly talked about where alternative employment will be provided. If we use the criterion of efficiency we close the motor car industry and the textile industry altogether. We could not compete with Japanese imported cars without tariff protection and do not make any mistake about that. We cannot compete in costs with Japanese, Hong Kong, Chinese and other Asian textile manufacturers. Do not let anyone kid himself that we can. What I want to see is not only the suggestion that cheaper goods can be made available and that employment in Australia should be in more efficient areas but also where that employment will be made available and in what industries these people will be employed. In the electorate I represent almost every industry is subject to tariff protection of a fairly substantial nature and unemployment would quickly reach the total population of the area, except for public servants if there are any still on the payroll, should tariff protection be cut out on the basis that some honourable members have advocated.
Debate (on motion by Mr Kelly) adjourned.
– by leave - I wish to inform the House that an agreement with Italy for the avoidance of double taxation of profits from international airline operations was signed in Canberra this morning. Copies of the agreement are being made available to honourable members. The agreement deals only with the taxation of international airline profits and follows, in all material respects, the corresponding agreement with France that was signed on 27th March 1969. The agreement will provide for each country to exempt from its tax income derived by residents of the other country from the operation of aircraft in international traffic. A clause to this general effect is in all of Australia’s comprehensive double taxation agreements. Under the agreement with Italy Qantas Airways Ltd will be exempt from Italian income taxes on its profits from international traffic while the Italian airline, Alitalia, will be correspondingly exempt from Australian tax. The agreement will not enter into force until each country has taken the steps necessary to give it the force of law in its territory. Legislation to give the agreement the force of law in Australia will be brought before the House as soon as is practicable.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation for proposed expenditure announced.
Bill presented by Mr Snedden, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this Bill is to obtain parliamentary authority for expenditure in the current financial year for which provision was not made in the Appropriation Act (No. 1) 1971-72. The total appropriations sought in this Bill amount to $71,075,000. Although additional appropriations are being sought, actual expenditure will not exceed the amounts included in Appropriation Act (No. 1) 1971-72 by $71,075,000. For a variety of reasons, it is expected that savings of about $28.5m will be available in existing appropriations to offset the additional appropriations now proposed. For reasons associated with parliamentary control over the appropriation of moneys for specified purposes, these savings cannot be utilised as an offset in the sense that the total new appropriations sought can be reduced to a net figure in this Appropriation Bill. Thus I am seeking parliamentary authority for additional expenditure in the divisions, sub-divisions and items set out in the Schedule to the Bill. To the extent that an item of any annual appropriation is unexpended the appropriation lapses at 30th June in accordance with section 36 of the Audit Act 1901-1969.
For the information of honourable members a separate document has been provided listing the estimated savings in existing annual appropriations. I emphasise that these are estimated savings - it is not intended to present an accurate prediction of the final expenditure under those appropriations, nor is it intended to imply that there will be no savings under other appropriations. The information is provided by way of background to honourable members’ consideration of the additional amounts now being sought. The various items included in this Bill can be considered in detail in Committee and I propose at this stage to refer only to some of the major provisions. The additional requirement for departmental salaries is $ 14.6m and provides for increases in salaries arising from arbitration determinations, reclassification of offices and additional staff positions approved earlier in the financial year. The amount needed to meet salary increases resulting from arbitration determinations that have become effective in this financial year is approximately $10m and in accordance with established practice no provision for these was made in the Budget.
Further appropriations totalling $13.1m are required for departmental administrative expenses, including $1.4m for the Department of Civil Aviation; $1.8m for overseas representation; $1 for rents; $0.8m for the Commonwealth Railways; $1.3m for increased allowances and other benefits for overseas officers of the Papua New Guinea Public Service as a result of the flow-on of salary increases in the Commonwealth Public Service; $0.6m for the Commonwealth Taxation Office; and $0.5m for the Department of Works. The balance is made up of a considerable number of appropriations, each of which is less than $500,000.
Additional appropriations amounting to $27. 6m required for departmental other services include $0.8m for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research
Organisation; S2.4m for Commonwealth scholarships to cover a greater number of awards and an increase in university fees; $1.2m for education services in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, mainly for increases in teachers salaries; $0.6m is sought for payment to the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account for the acquisition of land off reserves - further funds pursuant to the Prime Minister’s policy statement of 26th January last will be provided in the Budgets for 1972-73 and subsequent years: $1.5m aid for Pakistan refugees before the establishment of the independent state of Bangladesh; $l.Sm rehabilitation, and relief aid for Bangladesh; Si. 6m for migrant education to cover increased salaries and an expanded programme of activity; $0.7m for various services in the Northern Territory; $1.7m for broadcasting and television services, mainly to meet salary increases; $0.9m for repatriation pharmaceutical services; $8m for ship construction; and $1.8m to meet a rise in the number of grants under the Aged Persons Homes Act. The balance is made up of a number of appropriations each of which is less than $500,000.
Additional appropriations totalling $ 15.8m are sought for defence services, including about $2.1m for increases in Services pay and allowances arising from the Government’s implementation of the Kerr Committee recommendations; and $4.3m for increases in salaries of civilian staff, including the effect of arbitration determinations. However, it is expected that, for various reasons, there will be savings of $ 16.1m in other defence appropriations.
The Schedules to the Bills have been prepared in a new format designed to show, in each case, where an additional appropriation is sought, the amount appropriated by the Appropriation Act (No. 1) 1971-1972 and the actual expenditure for that item in 1970-71. This comparative information should further assist honourable members in their understanding of the significance of the figures. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation for proposed expenditure announced.
Bill presented by Mr Snedden, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to obtain parliamentary authority for additional expenditure in 1971-72 amounting to $80.4m on various items relating to capital works and services, payments to or for the States and certain other services. However, savings of about $9.2m are estimated in expenditures under other appropriations in Appropriation Act (No. 2) 1971-72. It is expected, therefore, that the total expenditure will exceed the amount appropriated in Appropriation Act (No. 2) 1971-72 by about $7 1.2m. Of this amount $45 ,8m relates to payments to or for the States.
When introducing Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1971-72- that is the Bill I have just introduced - I informed the House that savings expected in amounts appropriated by Appropriation Act (No. 1) 1971-72 had been listed in an information paper for the benefit of honourable members. The information paper likewise contains details of savings expected in amounts appropriated by Appropriation Act (No. 2) 1971-72. I take this opportunity to make this document available to the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean).
Although additional appropriations of $3 1.3m are sought for capital works and services, it is expected that this amount will be partially offset by savings of about $5. 6m in other similar appropriations in Appropriation Act (No. 2) 1971-72. As I explained in relation to the Appropriation Bill (No. 4), it is not possible to utilise savings under an appropriation to offset additional expenditure in another. Unexpended appropriations, of course, lapse at 30th June.
Of the $3 1.1m now sought the major requirements are Si. 7m for an additional repayable advance to the Papua New Guinea Administration towards the construction of a township at Arawa; $5m for loans under the War Service Homes Act to meet the increased loan limit and to eliminate delays in meeting applications; Sim for loans to co-operative building societies in the Australian Capital Territory (this is offset by a reduction of $lm in advances to the Australian Capital Territory Housing Trust Account); Sim for the National Capital Development Commission to cover rise and fall’ variations to contracts because of wage increases; $15m for payment to the Post Office Trust Account to meet an expected short fall in postal revenue, increased liability for superannuation payments and additional funds required for expenditure on works to sustain employment in accordance with Government policy. An additional $4.5m is required for buildings and works to meet ‘rise and fall’ payments under contracts because of wage increases and other items.
Additional appropriations of $49. lm are sought for payments to or for the States, the main requirements being $27m for non-metropolitan unemployment relief; $ 17.5m for a special loan to New South Wales; and $3.5m for cyclone assistance in Queensland. It is expected that there will be a saving of about $3.3m in other appropriations for payments to or for the States in Appropriation Act (No. 2) 1971-72.
As in the case of appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1971-72 the form of the schedule to this Bill has been revised to show comparative information which may assist members in their consideration of the amounts sought. 1 commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Construction of a new hospital at Casuarina, Darwin, Northern Territory.
The proposal is to provide a 380 bed hospital together with staff quarters appro- priate to a hospital of that size and engineering and allied services sufficient to serve 600 beds which will allow expansion of the hospital to that capacity in the future. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $22m-$24m. I table plans of the proposed work.
– In supporting the motion I would like to say briefly how pleased I am to see that the proposal to construct a hospital in the Casuarina area has been referred to the Public Works Committee. Also I am pleased to note that provision has been made for the expansion of some 200 beds because this hospital is to be sited in a very fast growing area of Darwin. Already the Darwin hospital is under extreme pressure. I would urge the Public Works Committee, which enjoys a reputation for conscientious and speedy action, to look at this matter very swiftly and endeavour to bring the reference forward as much as possible. As I have said, the construction of this hospital is urgent. I am very pleased to see the matter come before the Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
The Customs Tariff Proposals which I have just tabled relate to proposed amendments to the Customs Tariff 1966-1972. These amendments arise from a report by the Special Advisory Authority on isooctyl alcohol and will operate from tomorrow. The Special Advisory Authority found that urgent action should be taken to protect the local industry against imports if isooctyl alcohol and 2-ethylhexanol. He recommended a temporary duty of 15 per cent on imports of both products from all sources.
However, as the Authority believed this alone would not provide effective protection against low priced imports, he further recommended a temporary support duty based on a support value of $310 per ton. The temporary duties are in addition to existing duties of 25 per cent general tariff, 15 per cent preferential tariff on these goods. A summary of the changes and duty rates is being circulated to honouroble members. I commend the Proposals.
Debate (on motion by Br J. F. Cairns) adjourned.
– Pursuant to statute I present the report of the Special Advisory Authority on Isooctyl Alcohol.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Discharge from Notice Paper
– I ask for leave to move a motion to discharge certain tariff proposals which were moved last year and earlier this year and which constitute part of the order of the day No. 83. These proposals were incorporated in the Customs Tariff Bill 1972 which has now been assented to.
– Is leave, granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
– I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed (vide page 1614).
– I would like to express my gratification that the Government is facing up to the problem of giving the Tariff Board more resources to enable it to proceed with a review of that large area of the. tariff in which some items have not been reviewed for 40 years and duties on some items are not needed or used. The present situation gives the opportunity for 3 things to happen. The honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) mentioned them briefly. In the first place there is the opportunity for undoubtedly high profits to be taken. This does happen in many cases. However, I will not spell them out publicly. Nevertheless there are plenty of examples where this has happened. Because of the. tariff the opportunity exists for making over-award payments. Manufacturers can operate in the certain knowledge that prices can be increased because there is such a large area of tariff protection yet available for their industries. I am afraid that over-award payments in protected industries are common. Advantage is taken of tariff protection to make over-award payments. One can always tell a man who is dining out on an expense account by the enthusiasm with which he summons the waiter. It is very easy for an employer to make over-award payments if he can pass on increases in prices directly to the consumer behind the shelter of an unnecessarily high tariff wall.
The availability of protection, although it may be unused, in some cases gives an opportunity for higher prices to be charged. I have mentioned frequently in this House that I hoped it would not be long before the Tariff Board would be able to get around to reviewing the protection on iron and steel. The iron and steel industry is an industry in which I believe there is unused protection. The protection is available, so the iron and steel industry in Australia is able to put up its prices secure in the knowledge that in doing so it will be protected from competition from imports.
Because of these 3 factors the action the Government is taking at this time is important. When all is said and done, hanging over us all is the real threat of inflation, a rise in prices. We have other economic problems, but none of them is nearly as important as the incipient threat of inflation. Not only does inflation affect the economy as a whole and the exporters in particular, but also and even more importantly, as history, our own bitter experience and other people’s experience have taught us, inflation strikes at the very moral fibre of a country. Inflation destroys the little man. It enables the big man to get away with murder. It is the little man who pays for inflation. Of all the problems we face the chief one that hangs over us always is the threat of inflation. In my opinion we have here an opportunity to do something about it, although perhaps not on a particularly large scale. However, the opportunity now afforded us is important enough to be regarded with appreciation.
We have the ability to tackle this area of unused protection and to reduce it if this is thought wise, sound and possible. We can in this way do something to hold inflationary pressures in check.
I was glad to learn, as the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) announced in his statement, that the Government is to appoint 2 extra members to the Tariff Board to enable it to proceed with more speed with the very necessary extra duty of reviewing tariffs. I am very pleased about the extra appointments. I notice that almost everybody in the community is pleased. Certainly all the economic journalists in the country are pleased. I guess that all the economists also would be pleased. I am certain that all on our side of the House are pleased. I was mortified and sad when all the honourable member for Lalor could do was express his anger about this. All we heard from him was a petulant complaint. He said: ‘It ought to have been done before’, or ‘It should have been done in a different way’. I am often sorry for the honourable member for Lalor. I know that he will not mind my saying this in a fatherly fashion. He is always such a sad man. There is something tragic about him. We very seldom see him smile. If I do see him smile I regard the phenomenon with some suspicion, thinking that it is probably due to wind. This is a measure that I thought he would have accepted with alacrity, saying: This is something I would like to see done’. Instead we get this mournful, unhappy approach to the subject - an approach that he seems to bring to many subjects.
There was one particular plea I wanted to make to the Government. Two extra members are to be appointed to the Tariff Board. It is quite clear that the Tariff Board has now, as it has in the past and will have in the future, a tremendously important part to play in our economic scene. There is an awareness in the country now that the Tariff Board has very great responsibilities to advise the Government effectively. It has to give the Government advice of the highest standard. This places on the Board a very high responsibility indeed. For that reason it is vital that people of the highest quality receive appointment to the Board.
I would like the Government to look at 2 things. One is the salary grading of the Board members. I am not particularly well informed in this area but I have an uneasy feeling that some of the best people who could fill these positions would find that the salary range would inhibit them from taking the job if it was offered to them. Likewise the committee appointed to review taxation will have a tremendous responsibility, and the best man one could hope to have on that committee is a person very skilled in the operation of the taxation laws, one of the operators of the present system. Such a person would find that the salary available to him in that job would be much smaller than he would be able to obtain in his business as, say, a skilled chartered accountant. It is probable, therefore, that we will not be able to induce people of the necessary quality io come forward. I am certain that the same applies to finding people to appoint to the Tariff Board. We need to realise that these people will have an immense responsibility on their shoulders, and for that reason we must have people of the highest quality. If it is necessary to pay more to attract suitable people, I hope that the Government will look favourably at doing so.
The other matter I would like the Government to look at is more important. Traditionally different members on the Tariff Board have represented particular sectors of the economy, some representing commerce, some representing export industries and some representing manufacturers. I do not think that having different sectors of industry represented is nearly as important as having on the Board people of the highest ability, experience, wisdom and courage. I hope that the Government in making the 2 proposed appointments and in making future appointments to the Board will discard the past practice of selecting people according to their background, according to what industry or sector of the economy they come from. I earnestly suggest to the Government that it have a careful look at the method by which it can induce people of the highest quality to accept appointments to the Tariff Board so that the Board will be able even better to fulfil the high responsibility which it has borne in the past. Obviously, with the proposed alteration in the duties of the Board, it will occupy an even more responsible position in the future.
I commend the Minister’s statement. I think it was made at exactly the right time. I think we must recognise that controlling prices is one of our prime responsibilities, although an unpopular one. I think that the change foreshadowed by the Minister will help in discharging that responsibility.
– I find the Government’s approach to trade and tariffs extraordinarily lethargic and dilatory. 1 echo the criticism that has been made of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) for absenting himself overseas when the statement he has just presented to the Parliament and which contains so many important implications was about to be debated. He made the statement and he left. This typifies an attitude which has been enshrined in the actions of the Minister and of the Government over the last 2 years. The honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), who has just resumed his seat, indicated that there was a certain sadness on this side of the House. It is a certain sadness tinged with resentment at the fact that our trading record over 20 years shows a deficit of $8,000m. This is nothing to be proud of. It is something to be deeply concerned about. Yet in 2 years we have not had the opportunity for a full debate in trade and tariffs and on the implications of Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community. This is a matter of deep concern. The Minister should stand condemned before the nation for his attitude and for his absence on this occasion.
We have had 10 years’ notice by the British that they intended to try to effect entry into Europe. It is now some considerable time since they made their firm decision and they were accepted. They are now in the process of entering the Common Market. They have indicated that the United Kingdom Australia trade agreement will be non est by January 1973. That is next January. In the statement that we are debating this afternoon the Minister said:
I wish to announce also that I will shortly be asking the Tariff Board to examine and report on tariff items where the margins between general and preferential rates of duty are greater than are required under our preferential trade agree ment, particularly with the United Kingdom. The reference is expected to cover some 1,000 items of the tariff and a report will be requested by the end of 1972.
That means that by the time the British decision is implemented and they are in Europe and our trade with Britain is in limbo, we will not have an opportunity of debating in detail the technical information and the Government’s recommendations, if any. I charge that there has been great lethargy and great dilatoriness in this matter. We have made attempts to prod the somnambulant Minister into some sort of activity. In November last year I drew attention to the fact that on 28th October 1970 the then Minister for Trade and Industry, Sir John McEwen, made a statement in this Parliament on the United Kingdom levies on imports of Australian agricultural commodities. The debate on that statement was adjourned. We have seen the retirement of Sir John McEwen but still we have not had an opportunity to debate that statement. To get the detail behind the statement I had to rely on a local newspaper that turned up with a detailed report by the present Minister for Trade and Industry which he made somewhere, somehow, at some time or other but which he had denied the Parliament. We still have not had any detail on that matter nor any opportunity to debate it. On 16th February last year this matter was raised again. In November I asked the Minister whether we would have an opportunity to debate this 2-years-old statement in relation to trade and tariffs. Mr Anthony, the Minister for Trade and Industry - I use his name because there have been two in the last couple of years - said:
There is no desire on the part of the Government to avoid debate on the issue.
I find that extraordinary. There has been no desire on the part of the Government to avoid debate. We just have not had any debate. Again a request was made, and my colleague the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) interjected on that occasion:
Do you think it ls not important?
The Minister for Trade and Industry said he hoped to have a debate. He said:
At the moment it is calculated that the session
We are talking about last year - will continue until at least 9th December. We are presently debating the Estimates but it is my desire and wish that we have a debate on the paper which I presented to the House.
That was last year. It is now April. We have not had a comprehensive statement on the position of Britain’s entry into Europe. Do not forget that trade and tariffs are intertwined. You cannot separate them in these great matters that are before us. But the national Parliament has been denied the opportunity to have this proper review and proper debate. We still have no idea whether the Government has woken up to the fact that the British Government and the Common Market countries have come to some sort of agreement. There have been great and dramatic developments in trade. The United States of America has taken extraordinary action. Britain has made major decisions. The Common Market countries have made major decisions. This must be the only Parliament in the Western world which has not had an opportunity to debate trade and tariffs. We must be unique in that way. This Parliament has been fed a magnificent diet of trivia but it has not had an opportunity to tackle these problems and to deal with them.
The, statement which the Minister for Trade and Industry made - he then went overseas - is very much overdue. As I mentioned earlier, notice was given 10 years ago by Britain that she was going to seek entry into Europe. The British have already made and announced their decision. They have had debates in the British Parliament lasting days and, in fact, weeks. But of course the Australian Parliament does not have to apply itself to these important matters. Our net trade deficit for the last 20 years amounted to $8,000m. This is not a matter of concern to us. When honourable members opposite talk about sadness on this side of the House they can be sure that we are sad at this performance. I go further and charge the Minister and his colleagues with some deception in this matter. There is no doubt that they have been making statements which have expressed dissatisfaction with the arrangements made by the British Government to safeguard Australia’s interests during the transitional period leading to Britain’s entry into Europe. That dissatis faction has been expressed recently. The Minister for Trade expressed further dissatisfaction with the instrument of accession. It does not give the assurances which the British Government said it would contain, and so there has been criticism. Apparently there has been criticism here in Canberra and elsewhere in Australia, but this is not the situation as the British see it. I have a letter over the signature of Sir Alec Douglas-Home, the British Foreign Secretary, addressed to a member of the British Parliament, Mr Leslie Huckfield, in which Sir Alec says:
Australian Ministers, including Mr McMahon on his visit to London in November last year, have expressed their satisfaction at the steps taken in the EEC negotiations to safeguard Australia’s interests over the transitional period. No Australian Minister has criticised the UK for joining Europe, and many Australians welcome the prospect of an influential British voice, which can. speak up for Australia, inside the European Communities. We have been in close contact with the Australians at Ministerial and official level throughout the EEC negotiations and I think the position of each side is well understood by the other. Talks at official level are expected to take place again in April.
That is this month. This Parliament has not been advised of that. There have been no announcements at all made by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) or by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony). I charge the Ministers concerned and the Government with dereliction of duty to this Parliament and to the nation on these matters. They will have left themselves open to the serious charge of duplicity unless they can rebut completely the statement made by the British Foreign Secretary. This is a serious matter. It is a matter of credibility. It leaves them open to the charge of roaring like lions here in Canberra but squeaking like little mice in London. This is a matter of more than passing concern when we consider the future of our trade and of the community which depends upon it. This nation lives to trade and trades to live. This is the precept by which we should be guided. The British Foreign Secretary expressed his satisfaction with the present position of British trade with Australia. He said:
As regards our trade with Australia, the balance is in our favour. In 1971 our exports to Australia were valued at £stg365m, compared with imports of £stg277m. But the United States is Australia’s main supplier, being responsible for 25.1 per cent of Australian imports in 1970-71. We came next, supplying 21.4 per cent
The British Foreign Secretary continued:
Out 1957 Trade Agreement with Australia provides for tariff preferences to be given to most of our exports to that market and also to most of our imports from Australia. On our accession to the EEC this Agreement will have to be terminated, and we shall phase out, over the transitional period, the preferences which we accord to Australian exports of industrial goods. The future of the preferences which we enjoy in the Australian market is a matter for the Australian Government, and they will no doubt be eliminated in due course. But we see no reason to assume that they will disappear immediately we enter the EEC.
This is the most important definitive statement on Australian trade relations with Britain that I have heard in 2 years - in fact, that has been made in relation to this matter in 10 years - and it came from the British Foreign Secretary. It did not come from the Australian Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Industry or any other Minister of the Australian Government. What a jolly colonial situation we are still in. Is it not all very nice? I wonder whether the salaries of our Ministers have been earned in this matter. After all, they are paid as Ministers of the Australian State to administer affairs on behalf of the Australian people but I do not see very much evidence of either at present.
As a matter of fact, I resent the fact that a British member of Parliament is able to get this information from his Foreign Secretary. I might say that they are on different sides of the House. Mr Leslie Huckfield happens to be a Labor member and, if I remember rightly, Sir Alec Douglas-Home is a Conservative Minister. However, they seem to be able to exchange information quite well and quite precisely. This is in contrast to the situation in the Australian Parliament, where the Parliament as a whole - Government and Opposition - is treated in this cavalier fashion by the Minister for Trade and Industry and by the other Ministers concerned. So, I find it a matter of grave national concern that we are at this stage of the year and at this stage of the change in our relations with Britain and we still have no idea where the Government thinks we are going.
In case there is some feeling that this is an abstract matter, I would point out that entire communities - there are a dozen towns involved - are relying on the Gov ernment to re-negotiate tariffs and preferences to ensure their continuation in production - production that was originally designed to serve the British market and which was designed within the Imperial fabric which will come to a complete end on 1st January 1973. These are urgent matters. I place the charges seriously in the Parliament this afternoon and I would hope that there is a Minister of State who has the courtesy and the information to rebut them. I notice that not only is the Minister for Trade and Industry - he also happens to be the Deputy Prime Minister - not here but somewhere else, but the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Nixon) also has fled the chamber.
– Say where he is.
– I do not know where he is. The Acting Minister for Trade and Industry was here earlier but he has disappeared. I might say that it does the honourable member for Mallee little honour to interject on behalf of absent Ministers. As far as I am concerned, they should be here. They are not here and they stand condemned in their absence. The charges that I have made have still to be answered.
– During last year the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) introduced a measure to increase the size of the Tariff Board to enable it to deal with certain matters within that organisation. The object of that exercise was to endeavour to speed up the activities of the Board so that it could deal with many of the items which are at present on its plate. The. Minister on this occasion has brought forward another document which increases from 9 to 11 the members of the Tariff Board to enable the Board to speed up even further its handling of tariff matters. The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) came into this House this afternoon and complained bitterly that he had not had an opportunity to discuss these matters in the House and he spent the entire 15 minutes allocated to him condemning the 2 Ministers involved and the Government in general and spent little or not time actually debating the matter which is now before us.
The. Minister for Trade and Industry is leaving, I think today, to attend an important meeting in Chile at which representatives from most countries will be in attendance. This meeting will endeavour actively to solve some of the greatest problems in the world in relation to food supplies and the distribution of those food supplies throughout the world. This is a most important international meeting to which the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry in the Australian Parliament has gone to endeavour to lend his weight to attempt to solve this problem of food supplies. He did not want to leave, because he has responsibilities in this House but obviously he. appreciates the tremendous responsbilities which face Australia and other countries today in dealing with the distribution of food throughout the world. That is where be has gone and that is what he is doing. Any man who comes into this House and condemns a senior Minister for attending a meeting of this nature in some other part of the world does not really realise the situation that exists throughout the world today. This Minister has a responsibility and he is carrying out his responsibility not only in Australia but also on the world scene. He will continue to do this.
In relation to Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community, the Minister for Trade and Industry has been discussing the. future of Australian trade. He has been negotiating with the British. As is mentioned in this document, with which we are dealing, tariffs are an important problem. The British are still dealing with this subject. In the meantime, what have the Government, the Minister for Trade and Industry and the former Minister for Trade and Industry been doing in relation to these matters? They have been negotiating around the world over many years to diversify Australia’s trade. If one care.d to study the facts of life - this is what the honourable member for Riverina should do - he would see what has been done in diversifying Australia’s trade around the world. The Australian Labor Party, of course, knows about the trade agreement which has been made with Japan. An examination of these matters will reveal what has been done for Australia in diversification of our trade and what has been done to assist our meat exports to America. Of all the meat which is imported in:0 America from other parts of the world, 50 per cent is Australian meat. These are the things which have been going on. These are the things which are important in relation to Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community. These are the things which the present Minister for Trade and Industry and his predecessor have been doing over the years when they have gone overseas on various missions to tackle these problems.
The Government has not been sitting and doing nothing about the British entry into the EEC. lt has been actively operating in many parts of the world to diversify Australian trade and it will continue to do so. I am not going to stand here and reel off figures. This has been done and it is on the record. It is known to most people in the world who are actually involved in trading activities, because they know where their trade is going. They know of the assistance which the Ministers for Trade and Industry and this Government have given to the traders of the world in diversifying their trading operations. It is only a few years ago that the majority of Australian trade was between Australia, the British and the Continent in general. Today, that is not the case at all. In fact, most of our trade is in the Pacific area. We also trade all round the world. Only quite recently it was announced that Australia has sold wheat to South America. Wheat is sold to the Middle East and, as I have mentioned, meat in the form of livestock and every other form also goes to the Middle East. Meat is sold to the Pacific countries. We have not been idle in these matters. It is not right for members to come in and criticise this Government and the Minister for Trade a»d Industry as they have done this afternoon and to say that nothing has been done. A great deal has been achieved and although I admit that a lot remains to be done I have no doubt that this will be done.
The measures before the House in relation to the tariff are acceptable to the House, or, at all events, to this side of the House and to the Australian people. The people wanted some action on these important matters of trade. They wanted action to see that the tariff decisions which have been taken over the last 30-odd years are brought up to date. This is a marathon programme but the Minister for Trade and Industry has realised this fact and has increased the personnel of the Tariff Board to deal with this situation. If the new arrangement is not satisfactory and if the number of members of the Tariff Board has not been increased sufficiently, I have no doubt that other methods will be introduced to speed up this process. It is important that the Tariff Board be brought up to date so that it will be able to handle the problems of diversification of trade around Australia about which 1 have been talking and because of many other factors in relation to the economic situation not only in Australia but also in other parts of the world with which we trade. The Tariff Board should be put in a position whereby it can deal with these matters which have been lying around for some time. This is the object of this exercise and this is another attempt by the Minister for Trade and Industry and the Government to solve this problem.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House for about one minute to make a personal explanation not concerning myself but concerning the remarks of the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby).
– The Minister will have to seek leave.
– I am seeking leave, and I will take 10 seconds to explain why.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I am not going to be provocative, but this should be said. An arrangement was made with the front bench member of the Australian Labor Party who was leading this debate from the other side, the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns), that there would be one speaker from each side and then the debate would be adjourned. Our whips did not have the names of the members of the Labor Party who wanted to speak in the debate. As Acting Leader of the House this afternoon, it became apparent to me that 3 members of the Labor Party and at least one member on this side of the House wanted to speak in the debate. We are flexible and we work extraordinarily well with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) in running the affairs of the House. I took the decision that if honourable members wanted to speak on this very important subject, it was fair and equitable that they should do so. Now we find that another member, the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage), whose name was not on the list of speakers, wants to speak, and he will speak.
The Acting Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Nixon) had some very important appointments this afternoon. His understanding was that there would be one speaker from each side, and after one member from each side had spoken the Minister had to leave to keep his appointments. In the circumstances I suggest that it was a little unfair for the honourable member for Riverina to castigate the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry for not being in the chamber while the debate was proceeding.
Mr GRASSBY (Riverina) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation, and I want to say only 2 things in my personal explanation following on the statement by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp). The first is that I did indicate to our whip this morning that when the debate on this statement was resumed I wished to speak in the debate. The second thing is that 1 was not aware of the arrangement to which the Minister has referred. I appreciate his courtesy and co-operation in the matter. If, in fact, the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Nixon), whom I did castigate most severely, has left the chamber because of the arrangement which was made, I exempt him from criticism on that ground.
– I thank the honourable member.
– I think that that matter has been settled fairly well. The matter raised in the statement by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) involves a very important issue, and I think that any honourable members who have an interest in this matter should be given an opportunity to participate in the debate, and I thank the
Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) for ensuring that the debate was not gagged. I say that because the whole question of tariff policy involves economic policy issues which will be vital to this country in the future. When one begins drastically to amend tariff policy one is playing with a fairly dangerous intrument which has to be used with very great care. Whilst the appointment of 2 additional members to the Tariff Board is a step in the right direction, I still cannot help feeling - and I think that time will judge this to be so - that it is a case of too little too late.
The Tariff Board should be one of the most important planning instruments which the Government can possibly utilise. Therefore, it must be properly equipped with personnel. Adequate personnel are required not only on the Board itself but also on the staff of the Board in order to meet the demands of the inquiries which must be undertaken. In saying that I believe that it is a case of doing too little too late and that the action will not have the overall effect which is required, I refer to the Minister’s own statement in which he said:
The House will be aware that last year the Government increased the membership of the Board from 8 to 9 and provided for singlemember divisions of the Board to handle certain types of cases. However, even with the additional flexibility made possible by these changes-
And this is the important point - . . it has become apparent that unless further steps are taken the review is unlikely to be repeated for many years.
So in order to overcome the problem that the review will take many years to complete, the membership of the Board is to be increased from 9 to 11. As I said, I believe that it is a case of too little too late. I do not think that this will bring about a quick completion of the major review that is required. I believe that the Tariff Board should be continually conducting reviews of the tariff as it affects the whole structure of industry. It is a dreadful admission by the Government that there are still in existence tariffs which were set originally in 1929, and that there are unused tariffs which are forcing up costs in the whole economy.
We have been stating for a long while. - this is our policy - that the Tariff Board as presently constituted is inadequate, that it cannot possibly handle the job of continually reviewing tariffs over the whole, range of industry. We have also levelled the criticism that the Tariff Board should be used as one of the main planning devices in the economy. The framework is there. If that framework were improved the Tariff Board would be a more, effective body. So I make that criticism, and I think it is a valid one. When these types of admissions, particularly those ‘contained in the Minister’s own statement, are made I think that we should look very carefully at the action which was taken a year ago. When that action was taken the Government said it believed that it would overcome the problem. But the problem is still there. We criticised what the Government did then. We said that the problem would still remain, and that has turned out to be the case. We make the same criticism now.
Something should have been done about this question of tariffs long before this. Something should be done as soon as possible. But to do it we need to adopt a far more radical approach to the matter. We need a far more effective Tariff Board. We need more members on the Board and we particularly need far more adequate and effective staff to meet the demands which the inquiries entail. Until that is done we will not get round to creating the planning device that we need; we will not get round to having a continual review of tariffs. The facts are that tariff policy today has gone absolutely crazy. One can take the shirt industry as an example. That industry is working flat out in order to meet the tremendous competition from overseas. The Minister has stated that he will depend purely upon voluntary restraints in order to overcome the problems facing the shirt industry. The industry has stated quite definitely that these voluntary restraints are not effective. Only a few weeks ago in this House I referred to an order being placed overseas for 9,000 dozen shirts and to the fact that those shirts will be coming into this country in the next few months. The Minister believes that voluntary restraints will prevent these shirts from coming into the country.
We have the position where industry is not being protected; where Australian jobs and Australian investments are not being protected; where industry is being forced to set up subsidiary companies in places such as Singapore, to manufacture its products there and export them to Australia because the industry cannot get protection in Australia. If the shirt industry folds up in Australia there will be no essential competition against the imported product. Overseas manufacturers will be able to hold Australia and the Australian people to ransom because there will be no competition in Australia. These matters have been pointed out to the Government, but the Minister says that he will depend on voluntary restraints.
Then there is the other side of the crazy picture.. Only last week I heard of a company which made a wrong policy decision. Some years ago - about 8 years ago - it over-capitalised. It increased its equipment and the size of its factory to such an extent that the business was not an economic proposition in view of the market available. In order to protect that company the tariff now has been increased quite dramatically. Instead of the company which was using this company’s raw material being able to get that material for 10c a lb from overseas it will now be forced to pay 27c a lb in Australia for the manufactured product although it could manufacture the product itself for 15c a lb. In other words the organisation which made, a wrong policy decision and which is an inefficient company, in order to expand its business will greatly increase the costs of the final manufactured product in Australia.
That is the other side of the picture and that is the situation which has arisen as a result of the ad hoc basis of making decisions on tariff policy. As a result of the ad hoc basis of decisions, decisions are made without any proper investigation because there is insufficient staff and insufficient qualified staff properly to investigate these problems. On the one hand there is the case of an industry being put to the wall, which will mean the loss of a lot of Australian employment, and on the other hand there is the crazy situation of tariffs being made for and utilised by a very inefficient industry. For that reason. I say quite explicitly that whatever we do when we use this instrument of tariff review we must make sure at all times that we realise it is a dangerous instrument with which to play. We must ensure that Australian industry and Australian jobs are protected.
Undoubtedly tariffs should be reviewed fully. They should be reviewed continually and I stress what I said in the beginning, namely, that the Tariff Board and its machinery could be one of the greatest instruments as a planning device for the Australian Government instead of an ad hoc device which investigates some emergency situation when an emergency arises. Until the Government realises that it has to make some dramatic and quite radical changes in the composition of the Board and the machinery around it, we will not get the continual review of tariffs which should proceed in Australia at all times.
– Mr Deputy Speaker-
– Order! I have called the honourable member for Macquarie.
– If that is so, I move:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority .. .. 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 12 April (vide page 1550), on motion by Mr Snedden:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I wish to deal with the injustice and discrimination in relation to one aspect of grants to the States. I refer particularly to grants made for science laboratories in secondary schools. The scheme to provide financial assistance for science laboratories in secondary schools was commenced in 1964 and is scheduled to end in 1975. Some tremendous injustices have arisen in the implementation of this scheme - injustices which the present Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) refuses to rectify. I request that now, at long last, this scheme be re-examined and that the Commonwealth accept responsibility for meeting the continuing needs of all schools, according to just and efficient priorities and according to need. I refer particularly to the defence by the Minister for Education and Science in newspapers yesterday morning of a grant of $63,000 to one private school. I ask honourable members to consider what it means when that school is compared with one State high school in my electorate. It means that the 140 pupils at one of Victoria’s most exclusve private schools are receiving 6 times as much per head from the Commonwealth Government for science buildings as the 900 pupils at one of Victoria’s major State high schools in my electorate.
Clyde private school at Woodend has received $360 per head for building costs for science buildings whilst Bendigo High School is receiving only $60 per head. Clyde has received about $50,000 in building costs alone from the Commonwealth for its secondary science facilities. In mentioning this figure I should state that in fact it received $63,000, but in order to make a comparison between Clyde and Bendigo High School, in respect of which we have a definite building cost figure, I have deducted about $12,000 as the cost of equipment and architects fees at Clyde. In effect, Clyde received from the Commonwealth Government about $50,000 for building costs alone for secondary science facilities. This is just less than the $52,000 received by Bendigo High School for a face-lift on the cheap done to its ancient science rooms. I regard these 2 grants and the discrimination they reflect as typical of the cockeyed priorities of this Government. In this way Clyde’s privileged handful of 140 pupils have ended up with some of the best science accommodation in Australia’s schools. Bendigo High School, after the inexpensve but actually very wasteful facelift to its old rooms, has been punished with second class, outdated and overcrowded science classrooms that have been tizzied up with little benefit to its pupils.
Although Bendigo High School is the largest secondary school in the district, it has no hope of obtaining new laboratories from Commonwealth funds. It is the most important school in the whole area, yet it has no hope of receiving improved laboratories from Commonwealth funds. That means it has no hope of receiving improved laboratories at all. The Minister for Education and Science has defended the grant to Clyde, which totals $63,000 when architects fees and costs of equipment are added, by saying that the grants are made on the recommendation of a priorities committee and a standards committee. I note that he does not accept responsibility himself; he is saying that the reponsibility lies with some other body. The Minister says virtually that he has no responsibility for what happens in government schools because under this scheme the money is handed directly to the State governments and they decide their own priorities. The Minister is trying to defend the indefensible in justifying the grant to Clyde whilst glibly washing his hands of guilt for the impoverished science facilities in government schools.
The needs of Clyde private school are far less than those of Bendigo High School. The Minister for Education and Science has omitted some very significant facts in his defence of the Commonwealth grant to Clyde. Clyde’s pupils are from families that can afford to pay $1,800 a year for board for their daughters. Slumbering luxuriously on the sylvan slopes of Mount Macedon, the school boasts among its 172 acres of real estate not only a swimming pool but also a 9-hole golf course. If the school decided that with the saving made on the science laboratories totalling, as I say, $63,000, including architects costs and equipment costs, it could afford another 9-hole golf course, the Minister undoubtedly would say that it was not his business.
I now want to compare priorities as they should be and as they are. Clyde private school has only 11 pupils in its single second form science class. I repeat that at Clyde there is one second form class for science and that it has only 11 pupils. While these pupils will enjoy the most lavish and up-to-date science laboratories, the 4 classes of second form science students at Bendigo High School will never see a science laboratory until they reach senior level. Bendigo High School has 4 classes of second form science students, each with 40 pupils, or a total of 162 pupils - in form 2 alone. I stress that there are more pupils in this form at Bendigo High School than there are in the whole of Clyde. Yet Bendigo High School receives less than Clyde for science laboratories. I estimate that on private school standards - that is, the standards the Government stands by for private schools - Bendigo High School should have about 7 laboratories as well as preparation and storage areas; but because of the chronic shortage of science laboratory rooms at Bendigo High School these pupils are condemned for years to studying in a 20-year-old decaying temporary classroom which has only 4 gas burners, no water and only a small bench for its 40 pupils. Incidentally, the little room in which those pupils are forced to do their work is ferociously hot in summer and freezing cold in winter, but it looks set to remain as part of the school scene for donkeys years. Practical science is impossible for these children - 160 of them, virtually disfranchised.
Let us compare the Leaving students. The Minister for Education and Science has guaranteed nothing but the best for the total of 17 Leaving science students at Clyde whilst forcing Bendigo High School’s 90 Leaving science pupils to work in 2 ancient science rooms that were built in 1871. I point out that, although money has also been spent on 2 other rooms which are being renovated for science purposes, one of these cannot be used because it is hopelessly small for average classes of 30 to 40 pupils, which is the average size class in schools conducted by the Education Department, and another room on which Commonwealth money has been spent is too small for practical classes of the same size. I point out also that, according to the Press report of the figures mentioned by the Minister for Education and Science, at Leaving standard there were at Clyde 17 students taking biology, 9 taking physics and 5 taking chemistry for examinations. Compare these figures with those for Bendigo High School where there are 90 Leaving science students in classes of 25 to 30 pupils. In addition, whilst Clyde had about 54 science periods last year, Bendigo High School this year has probably the equivalent of 130 to 140 periods of 40 minutes each. On these figures the comparison does not look very bad; Clyde has 40 science periods and Bendigo High School has 140. Of course, most of the classes at Bendigo High School can have anything from 30 to 40 pupils in them, and, incidentally those classes must be that large because the school is chronically short of laboratory accommodation. Consequently all the pupils have to be squeezed into what is available.
I also want to make some comparison between ,he total form enrolments at Bendigo High School and the total form enrolments at Clyde. Bendigo High School has a total enrolment in form 1 of 193. Form 2 has 162, form 3 has 152, form 4 has 160, form 5 has 135, and form 6 has 96, making a total number of students of about 900. In almost any one of those forms one will find more children enrolled who are in more urgent need than the children enrolled in the whole of the private school. We should also compare Clyde’s total enrolment. In form 1 it has 17; form 2 has 11, form 3 has 21, form 4 has 21, form 5 has 44, form 6 has 22. I do not begrudge Clyde having those small classes. I think it is very fortunate and is entitled to say, as was said in the ‘Australian’ on 24th January this year, that the school has small individualised classes. This is very good for those children attending that school. I do not begrudge it lo them but just say that all schools in Australia should be able to give the same sort of facilities to their pupils. However, we have a far larger school with far more urgent priorities in Bendigo High School and many others like it in Victoria, which are not getting comparable assistance from the Commonwealth Government. Those schools will continue to stagnate and suffer from second rate science standards.
Of course, at the end of this progress of education these children at Bendigo High School, other State schools and many Catholic schools, will have to compete against what I call the Fraser school pupils, those who attended the privileged minority of non-Catholic private schools which have been chosen for special rewards by this Government. The kids at Bendigo and other schools like it will have to compete against the Fraser school children and they will find it hard because this Government has made sure that it bestows every benefit that it can upon the non-Catholic private schools. It will give them the greatest advantage possible. The individualised leaching that is possible at Clyde is to be compared with the mass instruction, based on the principle of hit and miss teaching, forced upon the government schools in Victoria because of the shortage of finance. Here we have individualised teaching at Clyde in very small classes and a massive sum of money made available to that school in comparison with the needs of government schools. I would say that it needs that money from the Commonwealth Government but Bendigo and other high schools need it more and should get it first.
I want to highlight the discrimination against Bendigo High School and many schools like it in Victoria. If Bendigo High School were a private school it would be entitled to about $200,000 worth of laboratories, storage and preparation areas. It has received $52,000 and it will never get the rest. As it is a government school it must rest content with a system of 4 walls and a bunsen burner. This is the policy of the Minister for Education and Science in providing for government schools - 4 walls and a bunsen burner is good enough, he believes. By comparison the Commonwealth Government and specifically the Minister take direct responsibility for updating every single private school in the Commonwealth to standards laid down by the Commonwealth Government. On the other hand, when one questions the Commonwealth Government and specifically the Minister for Education and Science one asks: How do you justify this position in government schools and so many Catholic schools, but particularly in the government schools in the case of science grants? In reply they say: ‘We make grants of a general revenue nature to the States which they distribute according to their priorities as established by them’. Behind that cloud of evasive waffle lies the reality of impoverished State treasuries which in turn pass on their poverty to the State school children.
So the Commonwealth Government washes its hands of any guilt for the poverty and squalor of the State system and evades its responsibility by buck passing. The present Minister continually relieves himself of blame by resorting to mindless parrotting of slogans to the effect that the State governments determine their priorities out of funds provided by the Commonwealth. This merely means that while State governments need and ask for money the Minister treats them with contempt. So we come to the amazing situation where under present allocations government school pupils are getting only about $9 a head throughout the State of Victoria in Commonwealth science funds while the non-Catholic private schools are getting $20 a head - twice the amount and regardless of need. When this is put on a flat basis one could say that on Government reasoning the child attending the non-Catholic private school needs twice as much as a child attending a government school. Why? We have never been told why. The result of this discriminatory allocation is that since 1964 and up to the middle of last year, according to my estimates, at least 62 out of a total of 68 nonCatholic colleges in Victoria have had anything between $20,000 and $100,000 spent upgrading their science facilities or building new facilities. I stress that of 68 of these non-Catholic private schools in Victoria - these Fraser colleges - 62 on my calculations had between $20,000 and $100,000 spent on them by the middle of last year. Another $2.3m is to be spent on them between 1971 and 1975 when the system of special grants for science facilities will run out. However, by this time probably half of the States’ 350 high schools and technical schools will still be left with second-class science laboratories and facilities. I think it is a disgraceful situation.
When one asks the Minister why the scheme will run out in 1975 he has no reason to give. He will say, of course, that the scheme will have achieved its purpose, but it will not have. The needs of the government schools in Victoria and in other States are something colossal and the Department of Education in Victoria is very disturbed about this money, which is already less than is needed, being cut off in 1975. For the interest of honourable members I shall quote from a statement which has been sent around to government schools in Victoria by Mr T. J. Ford, Assistant Director of Secondary Education in Victoria. He is obviously very concerned that this money will be cut off in 1975. I say the reason that it will be cut off in 1975 is that by that time it will have achieved its purpose principally for the non-Catholic private colleges and less so for the Catholic colleges which will still be left, however, with great needs. The needs of the government schools just do not matter. The letter which was sent around to the various principals by Mr T. J. Ford this year says:
The Commonwealth Government intends to end the grants for Secondary School Science in June 1975. The Secondary Division is grateful that Commonwealth funds have helped to upgrade Science Teaching facilities but it recognises that a significant number of less-than-optimum rooms will remain in use for Science teaching at the end of the grants. These observations will be conveyed to the Commonwealth Department but it must be expected that the grants will not be extended.
Consequences follow the Commonwealth decision. Firstly, any future Science provision other than certain projects planned for 1971-1975, will need to be financed by State funds. It remains to be seen whether these will allow the continuing upgrading which has been possible with Commonwealth assistance. Secondly, it has been necessary to review priorities lists in order to reflect some of the standards associated with Commonwealth money in each and every school. It is recognised that some schools which have at least some modern rooms may still have a deficiency. Several schools with 4 science rooms would be in that category. Such schools may need to make the best use they can of their facilities and hope that any population bulge passes. Additional rooms for these schools are unlikely under present State funds.
In addition to buildings, science equipment is heavily funded by the Commonwealth grant.
In fact there is a colossal percentage of Victoria’s science money going into equipment. The letter continues:
Every effort is being made to have State funds increased to replace the loss of finance after 1975.
At the head of this paper is a statement, taken from files and priority lists, relating to your school.
In other words, the government schools are in for a very serious situation relating to the shortage of Commonwealth funds after 1975. Looking very quickly at my own electorate, I compared the situation of government schools in my electorate with private schools throughout the rest of Victoria to see how assistance is working out. My electorate has 10 high schools and technical schools. They are in the Bendigo, Castlemaine, Broadford and Seymour districts. Those 10 schools have 6,200 secondary pupils and have received a total of $167,864 for building costs alone. What this boils down to is one-third for each student of what is given to private schools of whom I chose 10 as a sample. Let us compare them. I have selected 10 private schools from the most exclusive schools in Victoria. In fact they were chosen from the ‘Australian’ article back in January and have been chosen by random sample. They have a total enrolment of 7,760 and at that time a total of $689,000 had been spent on them. Deducting the cost of the design and architecture of these buildings and the cost of equipment, it gives comparison between the few private schools in Victoria where private schools are receiving over $600,000 compared with $167,000 spent on 10 government schools in my electorate. Government schools get $27 per head and private schools get $78 per head. But, of the 10 government schools in the Bendigo electorate, 5 received nothing and only 3 received new buildings.
The schools in the Bendigo electorate, as is evidenced by the earlier example of the Bendigo High School, on the whole are suffering from what I would say is a second rate level of science facilities. Yet those schools will be completely ignored by the Commonwealth Government when, for reasons of its own political advantage, it exterminates the scheme in 1975. I think the scheme should be re-examined. Obviously more money is needed for government schools; and, in particular, those Catholic schools that are in need of more assistance should also receive it.. In my opinion, there is no reason why this grant should be cut out in 1975, when money is so urgently needed.
– I think that the House should come back to the realisation that we are debating 2 Bills introduced by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden)1 - the States Grants Bill 1972 and the States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill (No. 2) 1972. Both Bills concern the States in their financial relationships with the Commonwealth. These 2 Bills were introduced as a result of the last Premiers Conference and the meeting of the Australian Loan Council which were conducted so successfully a short time ago by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) and the Treasurer. Even the 2 State Premiers who one might suppose might not be in total agreement with the other Premiers went away from Canberra completely satisfied with the deal they had got and, judging by the noise they made, completely encouraged in this rather difficult field of State-Federal financial relationships.
To put it briefly, the 2 conferences to which I have referred resulted in additional funds being granted to the States amounting to $85.8m for the year 1971- 72. I think it is difficult to devise alterna tive means of overcoming the present rather rough-edged method of establishing a principle to distribute funds from a Commonwealth collecting source on the one hand to the States as an expenditure authority on the other hand. I believe that there will always be differences. I believe that at times of stress there will always be acrimony. I do not believe that, as one hears so frequently in this House, by a sweep of the hand one can easily overcome the contest, the spirit of playing politics, the necessary coercion or the almost implied political blackmail on some occasions by the leader of one community or of one State who tries to increase his own proportion of the funds available from the Federal authority. I do not believe that it is easy to overcome this difficulty that occurs from time to time, but I say that in relation to the fact that the last Premiers Conference must rank as one of the best conducted, most efficient and most acceptable to all parties, at any rate in my memory of the holding of these talks on financial arrangements.
The increased grants were in the field of State works and housing programmes. Increases occurred in semi-governmental borrowing programmes - those of the electricity trusts and semi-governmental instrumentalities of that nature. Increases were made in grants for unemployment relief in non-metropolitan areas. This is a matter of very great significance to many of the larger provincial areas in Australia where in some cases the rate of unemployment was running up to 6 and 7 per cent as against the metropolitan rate of unemployment applicable at the times when these grants were first introduced and when the increased amounts of capital were passed on to the States. Increases were also made in general revenue grants to help State governments. An increase of $15m - which is the subject of one of the 2 Bills we are considering this afternoon - has allowed for greater State government works programmes from revenue. The increases have allowed for works programmes to be hastened. In some cases the increases have meant that works programmes will be able to continue at the planned level and not fall behind due to escalating wage levels and their effects on State budgetary conditions.
A special loan was granted to the State of New South Wales to assist in its budgetary difficulties. I think it has been well acknowledged in this House and elsewhere that the loan programme has not in recent times been as beneficial to the State of New South Wales as it has been to other States. I clearly remember that some years ago when Mr Steele Hall was the Premier in South Australia he asked me, if I had any influence at all, to quietly prevail on the Federal Government to give a better loan deal to the State of New South Wales. The situation of New South Wales not having a better programme was the fault of the previous government in that State, because it did not believe in borrowing loan money to the limit, as did the other States. So New South Wales became a victim of the application of the formula as it applied to its own requirements at that point of time. On the one hand there is probably a reason for this, but on the other hand it is a fact that New South Wales has not had the best proportion of loan funds in recent times.
There is one thing which I cannot quite follow in this debate. It does not seem that these 2 Bills deal with special purpose grants. I may be wrong, in which case I say so with respect and no doubt the speaker who follows me in this debate will try to persuade me that I am wrong. But I do not believe that these 2 Bills touch on special purpose grants at all. For that reason I was rather surprised that the Chair was so lenient with the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) who spoke in terms of school science laboratories, school libraries, I think, and meeting requirements from special purpose grants. Admittedly, there is an implication in this legislation relating to overall reimbursements in their application to the state school systems, and no doubt this is the point on which the honourable member would stake the claim that his form of logic in touching on education this afternoon is sustained. I also, in passing, and perhaps stirred by the honourable member for Bendigo, will touch on some of the implications for education in these Bills. I presume that, even though I have criticised the logic of the honourable member for Bendigo and his inability to relate his remarks to these Bills, a small amount of the same leniency will also be applied to me by the Chair, but of course I would obey the ruling of the Chair no matter what way the occupant of the chair felt he had to rule in relation to this matter.
What I wish to touch on is a matter that came out of the great education. debate which was held recently and which, as honourable members will remember, went on for 3 hours and was viewed by a large cross-section of the Australian community. I think the thing that probably impressed itself most on most honourable members and on most members of the Australian community was the statement made on more than one occasion that, although it was apparent that more and more capital funds would be required for education in this country, there was a limit on the amount of money which the taxpayers of this country could find to put into the confined and specialised area of education. Arising from the statements in the great debate on education was the worry in the minds of education experts as to whether we were getting proper results for the huge amounts of money that this Government finds annually from various forms of taxation imposed on the community for education.
I pondered, as I listened to the honourable member for Bendigo, whether in respect of such things as libraries we are doing a proper job as a Government in duplicating facilities left, right and centre. T would not go so far as seriously to propound to this House measures which I have seen adopted in Malaysia and elsewhere, where frequently education at schools is divided into 3 shifts. There is one shift in the morning, another in the afternoon and usually another one in the evening for adults. Such a system would bring about total involvement in the educational structure in isolated schools and schools in small country towns. I am not going so far as to suggest that, notwithstanding how desirable this is, we should look at that one topic of community involvement only. I am not going so far as to say how important community involvement is as a focal point in small country schools. But I am pondering the situation that exists in towns of 2.000, 3,000 or 4,000 people which frequently do not have a state run library but sometimes have a school library. One high school in my electorate which, I think, was occupied last week has a library worth $170,000. I ponder whether this sort of facility should be maintained purely for those who are being educated at that school.
Might I explain my thinking on this. The library at this high school was built for the purpose of being used by the students. I accept that. But are those students, on leaving the school, to be deprived of library facilities if the town in which the school exists does not have a public library? Carrying this logic a stage further, I ask: Are people who live in an isolated area to be deprived of better learning facilities because they cannot use the local school library? I do not pose as a great expert in the detail of education, but I guess that the use to which a library can be put probably depends on whether it is a closed library - in other words, a library built within the structure of the school itself - or whether it is an open library as are the new libraries which are built under the Commonwealth special grant for libraries. In other words, the distinction depends on whether or not the libraries are housed in a separate building, as I think they have to be under the Commonwealth scheme. If this is so, and where this is so, I ponder whether we should, in our attempts to get better performance per input, spread the availability of things like school libraries instead of leaving them as a sort of holy cow that only one small section of the community is game to approach, and then with great care in case it is booted.
In the time available to me I would like to pick up from where I had left off in several budgetary debates in the past. I would like to say something about the proper economic approach to decentralisation. I suppose it is true to say that as a race politicians probably talk more nonsense to the square inch about decentralisation than most other sections of the community, and that is saying plenty because they talk tons of nonsense also. Nevertheless, there are proper economic lines and principles to which I have referred on more than one occasion in this place. I think, speaking from memory, that the first time I spoke on this matter was during the Budget debate in 1967. I devoted the entire half hour that we were allowed in those days to a dissertation, having had the opportunity of attending university and studying this sort of exercise, on the proper economic principles that can work to the community’s benefit in relation to decentralisation.
I tie this in, if I may, to the sort of grants that appear before this Parliament today. Also, I relate my remarks to the announcement by the South Australian Government - and might I add that this was a very proper announcement - that it intended to set up a provincial city or centre next to the town of Murray Bridge in my electorate which would eventually have a population of 200,000 people far exceeding that well known - and favourably known - satellite city of Elizabeth, near Adelaide. This announcement obviously has implications for this Parliament. But I do not believe that it has very many implications for this Government. I say this for the reason that no-one yet knows quite where this city will be sited. Geographical and geophysical surveys have been made to look at soil types and important environmental factors, but no-one as yet has acquired the land. Of course, a project of this type will take time to get underway.
It is for this reason that I would like to look into the future and say how important I think it is for the governments of this nature - I am being consistent in what I have said in this House two or three times previously - to be involved with the important facets of our community existence such as the formation of this provincial centre. Let us have a look-
– Is the honourable member agreeing with it?
– Yes, is the honourable member agreeing with it?
– For heavens sake, the honourable member for Sturt has only just walked into the chamber. He would not know. He is getting that empty resonant head going again. I thought that the honourable member for Chifley was listening to me but evidently I am wrong. I do not have much time to deal with the principles involved. I have just put my proposition to the House so I suggest that the honourable members who are interjecting keep quiet.
The important principles involved - and I think that all economists would support them - are these: Instead of mucking around - if I might use that phrase - setting up killing works in Victoria which go bankrupt pretty promptly as a rule particularly if they have been State sponsored, we have an alternative. We would get hold of a city or community preferably of 30,000 people or 15,000 if we stretched it. We would then pour capital quickly into this community which would be founded on some raw material. Examples of such a city are Shepparton which was founded on fruit, Geelong which has shipping and harbour facilities and Whyalla which was founded on manufacturing and mining. There must be a base. Having got that base, if we took hold of the community and injected capital into it rapidly enough we would soon build the population to 70,000 or 90,000. It is an economic fact that at that stage light industries would appear and the process of development would become self-generating.
This is not the first time I have said this in the House. It must be the fourth or fifth occasion on which I have done so. If this sort of operation is properly carried out, development away from the cities unquestionably can occur. One can spot such development over and over again in other parts of the world. Development of this kind resulted by accident in places such as Shepparton, Bendigo, Geelong and Whyalla. What I am saying is that I believe that this Government and this Parliament must come to terms with the States on these sorts of projects. We are discussing today financial arrangements between the States and the Federal Government. I have said already that I do not believe, frankly, that this Government can be expected in the next 6 months to be involved in the proposed provincial city in South Australia because no-one yet knows where the ground will be on which it is to be constructed. But the time will come when this is known. The time will come when the speed of development towards this self-generating stage will depend on the amount of capital that can be put into such a project. If I may become parochial, which I do not think I have been up till now, let me say that in South Australia, where so much of the population is centred around the capital city and so little elsewhere, the urgency for this sort of project is of far greater magnitude than it could possibly be in other areas of Australia, except perhaps the north-west coast of Western Australia in that area’s relation to Perth, and that would have other implications and other factors which would affect the thinking behind it.
I finalise my remarks by saying in the most constructive terms I can muster that I think the time must come when this Parliament will spend a lot of time looking at proper economic principles and developing a correlation with the States to take some of the pressure off cities and to take some of the higher costs, as cities grow bigger, away from State government instrumentalities which are trying to provide goods and services to those communities. Instead of the present diseconomy of scale, we should be endeavouring to achieve economies of scale by the proper channelling of resources into housing and better living conditions rather than adding to the problems of the huge monolithic growth of capital cities in this nation today.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I thought it was a little quaint when the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) said that he thought that you would have pulled up the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) for straying away from the legislation before the House, because if ever I heard a straying person it was the honourable member for Angas. He talked about almost everything except the contents of this legislation. He did touch on the Bill, I think, for about 5 of the 20 minutes for which he spoke. However I suppose this is a rather wide-ranging Bill and the debate on it gives us an opportunity to touch on certain important aspects which otherwise we would not have an opportunity to discuss. The honourable member for Angas certainly used that opportunity. As I said, he made quite a quaint remark.
On the question of decentralisation he made some thoughtful remarks. I would like to add a few comments because for a period of 18 months I worked with the New South Wales Department of Decentralisation and Industrial Development and I saw decentralisation in its practical and impractical forms. I think a lot of people mouth the word ‘decentralisation’ without any realisation of its implications and certainly without any realisation that we have to be very dramatic and very definite in the type of action we take if we are to be successful. For example, establishing a little factory in a small town with a population of 2,000 or 3,000 is not really decentralisation in the accepted form, but setting out to make a big town into a big city is decentralisation and it is a practical proposition. I think we are probably at one on this issue.
There are areas in which this Parliament could assist a very great deal in encouraging decentralisation. In particular, one must remember that no industrialist will go to the country areas unless it is worth his while. He has to move his home. He has to uproot completely all his family connections and settle down in a different area. This is a problem of management itself. Naturally he will want some benefits if he is to take industry out into the country. A lot of these benefits, such as transport rebates, must come from State legislation, but assistance can certainly be given by this Parliament. I instance just 3 examples. The first is area tax rebates. I believe it is constitutionally possible for tax rebates for industry in country areas to be given. That would be a very decisive incentive for industry to move into the bush. Secondly, I believe that reduced trunk line telephone charges should apply to industries in country areas so that they do not have to pay 74c for a 3 minute telephone call to the city when, if they were operating in a metropolitan area, such a call would cost only 4c. Industries in the country will have to make many trunk line telephone calls. Reducing their trunk line charges would not be bestowing a benefit but removing a disadvantage which an industry would suffer by moving to the country. This Parliament could approve such a measure. It could allow these industries to receive a rebate on trunk line charges so that they would be paying no more than they would be paying if they were situated in a capital city.
Thirdly, I believe there should be package deals in grants for public works to allow for the provision of housing, swimming pools and other sporting and cultural facilities. If we are to populate the country areas we must make sure that the quality of life in the country is the equivalent of that enjoyed by people in the metropolitan areas. I make those few remarks because this is one issue which the honourable member for Angas raised. It is not only a question of this Parliament being at one, as I think he put it, with the States, which have far greater discussion and liaison between themselves - I fully agree with that - but this Parliament must realise that it has powers to assist decentralisation, and it should use those powers.
This legislation is simply part of the supplementary budget precipitated by gai- lup poll results. A meeting of the Economic and Trade Committee of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party chaired by my colleague the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) was held in early February in Melbourne. At that meeting we spent a full day looking at short term and long term proposals to help the economy of this country, which is obviously sliding into quite serious straits. Every proposal which the Government has brought up in this legislation before the House now and every proposal that was announced in the mini budget the other night were contained in a statement that was issued by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports after that meeting in Melbourne. Of course other proposals which were set out in the statement issued by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports have not yet been implemented by this Government, but I think that as time goes on it will be forced to do so. In accordance with the usual activity or actions of this Government, consideration is not given to long term planning proposals or the long term variations in economic policy which must be made if we are to have an effective government and leadership in this country. I believe that many of the measures the Government is now introducing are panic moves. I believe that the public opinion polls, the unemployment which exists, the lack of confidence in the economy, the loss of earnings by the people-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! I must point out to the honourable member that this is not a general debate on the econmy. It is a debate on the States Grants Bill. It is not a general debate on economic policy.
– I realise that, Mr Deputy Speaker. I just point out that I think my remarks are closer to the subject matter of the Bill than some others perhaps were previously. States grants have a very big impact on the economy. As mentioned by the honourable member for Angas, the grants we are debating now are being given because of what transpired at the Premiers Conference and because of the state of the economy at the time of the Premiers Conference. That was the basis on which these grants were given. Surely therefore we must discuss the circumstances surrounding the granting of these moneys to the States, and that is what I am doing. As I said, I think what I am saying relates a little more closely to the Bill than some of the remarks made by the honourable member for Angas.
– You do not want to descend to that level.
– No. I want to keep my remarks on a much higher plane. This legislation completely endorses every criticism that the Opposition has levelled in the past. It endorses the criticism we made of previous legislation for States grants. It endorses the criticisms we made of the last August Budget and the Budget preceding that one. The purpose of these grants to the States is to help with the unemployment situation. These grants and the mini poll Budget announced the other night are mainly panic moves because the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) is in a difficult position with his own Party at the present time. A lot of people are talking of replacing him as the Prime Minister. Other party members want to find some way of lifting the morale of the Liberal Party so as to maintain the Prime Minister until 25th May when this House will rise and it will be too late to replace him. He is going to hang on to this job as long as he possibly can, until he is dragged screaming from the honey pot. That is very obvious.
I would like to deal particularly with what this legislation does not provide for in the way of States grants, because we still have not got down to dealing with one of the most serious problems this Parliament has to face up to, and that is the dramatic development that is occurring on the perimeters of the great cities. Massive housing developmental projects are occur ring, some instituted by private developers but many instituted by State governments from funds provided by this Parliament.
– Which electorate would you have in mind?
– I have in mind many electorates, including my own, admittedly. The honourable member for North Sydney would not have these problems. He represents an electorate which is very well set up. It has been established for a long while and has not had any mass development in it for a long while. In fact, the number of electors in that electorate is steadily reducing. It may be that the honourable member himself is steadily reducing, too. However, I think this is a very important subject and one which has to be faced up to by this Parliament. I give my own electorate as an example, and I am not ashamed to do that. The honourable member for North Sydney seems to think 1 should not do this. The people of the electorate of Chifley - that is a very great name - elected me to come into this Parliament to represent them, and that is what I am doing.
In that area there are housing developments such as the Mount Druitt housing development where already well over 6,000 housing commission homes have been built. That figure will rise to 8,000 or 10,000. Those homes are built, but no provision is made by government for the necessary sporting and cultural facilities. There is a complete dearth of sewerage works in developing industrial areas. Houses are put there but the industrial land surrounding them is not sewered. As a result, industry will not go there. So 8,000 houses are, built there. People come out from the city to live in them. They cannot find local employment because there is no industry because there is no sewerage. So then they travel back on the trains in towards Sydney. That is a completely illogical position and results in complete chaos for the railways. Then there is a demand for further capital expenditure on the railway system. It would be far better if in the first instance government were to realise that funds should be provided for sewering the industrial areas before the houses are built, so that as the labour market moves into the houses, industry moves in there to provide the necessary local employment. I think this is common sense. lt is equally common sense that Commonwealth finance should be provided to assist in providing that sewerage. It is also common sense that Commonwealth finance should be earmarked specifically for these new developing areas to provide swimming pools, community centres, playing fields and youth centres. The problem of education in such areas needs to be looked at. The new Whalan high school was supposed to be ready for occupation at the beginning of this school year. It is still not ready, and it is doubtful whether it will be ready for occupation at the beginning of the next term. The children who are supposed to be going to this non-existent school are being boarded out in other high schools and primary schools, travelling back and forth for different periods. That is a dreadful state of affairs and one which should not be countenanced in a modern community.
The needs in those areas are far greater than the needs in the old, developed areas, and those needs are not being provided for by this Parliament, which has to accept the responsibility. This Parliament brings in the migrants. It should also accept its responsibility as a parliament for providing the necessary facilities for housing and also the necessary cultural and sporting facilities that must go with every large scale housing development. It should assist particularly in the field of education in the areas of greatest need in this country, which are the new, fast developing areas on the perimeters of the great cities. The Parliament should also realise that people are being put out there and most of the women have to work. What happens to their children? There are no pre-school kindergarten facilities for them - or virtually none. There are a few very minor proposals. Down here in Canberra practically every mother can send her child to a pre-school kindergarten; out in these areas they are virtually non-existent. It is a crazy situation. It is not only bad planning but also morally bad, because it is setting up very great social and economic problems for the future.
Therefore, funds should be provided for the fringe areas and particularly the major housing commission developments. I believe that these funds should be provided to assist in the areas of need - for education, including pre-school education, for sewerage and water, for local government finance and for transport, particularly as a transport problem is being created because the funds are not provided for water and sewerage. I believe that local government as well should be represented at the coming constitutional convention, and local government should be represented in the councils where the decisions are made as to what funds are to be provided to the various States. I make no bones about this; if special grants are made to the States for assistance for the developing areas on the fringes of the great cities those funds should be earmarked specifically for that purpose. We are providing special grants and we should make it quite clear where those special grants should be sent. It is one thing to ask: Does this interfere with the federal system and all this type of thing? When all is said and done, far too often the funds which go from this Parliament to a State are put into financing the pet little theories and propositions of the Ministers concerned, without consideration for the overall good of the community. I make no excuse for making that statement. I think it is correct.
I must admit that far too much of our funds going into education are going into the bigger Great Public Schools instead of going into smaller schools, whether they be state or non-state schools, which are catering for the people who need assistance and catering for areas of need. That word need’ is a most important one. It is one to which anybody with a conscience should give consideration. So I would ask the House to give consideration to those sorts of proposals. I believe the time has come when we can no longer sit down and use the same systems and methods of allocation of funds that have been used now for 30 and 40 years. It is time this Parliament accepted its own responsibilities, not only in the area of decentralisation but also in the area of housing and specifically in the new developing areas, the areas of very great need. Unless this Parliament allocates funds earmarked specifically for these areas of need on the fringes of the great cities - such as Mount Druitt and Blacktown in my electorate of Chifley - we are going to set up very great social and economic problems for the future.
– It is almost 2 years now since any positive decision has been taken by the Government in the allocation of further funds under the national water resources programme. These funds are required for urgent water conservation projects - multi-purpose projects - in the States. It cannot be argued by the Government that lack of finance is one of the factors which is causing the delay because the House will recall that about 2 years ago the Commonwealth provided $150m to be allocated to the States for water conservation projects. Of the $150m promised by the Government to the States for water conservation projects, only $89m has been allocated up to this point of time. Of that $89m, only approximately $50m has been spent.
It seems fairly obvious that in the last 2 years there have been reasonably good seasons in the most important agricultural districts of Australia which are affected by recurring droughts and these good seasons or better seasons have lulled the Government into a sense of false complacency. The Queensland Government has submitted to the Commonwealth several soundly based water conservation projects. They principally are multi-purpose projects located in the giant Burdekin basin. The principle involved here would be to develop progressively this basin for the benefit of Townsville, which is the major beneficiary, and for heavy industrial processing. Ancillary to that, of course, water would be provided for agriculture and livestock.
Despite the fact that promises have been made year after year with respect to the development of the Burdekin project, nothing has been done. I can remember when the then Minister for National Development, Mr Fairbairn - that will give honourable members an idea of how many years ago it was - informed the Parliament that a feasibility study of this project would be made and the results would be given to the Parliament. That was over 3 years ago and we are still waiting. In addition to the water which is required for agricultural and pastoral pursuits, there is an urgent need for water for industrial use in the northern parts of Queensland. Honourable members will know that the coastal areas of central and northern Queensad contain the ports and facilities for the hinterland and for the great deposits of natural resources such as coal and other minerals and this is where the importance of water conservation lies.
The other point I wish to make is that a veil of secrecy seems to surround the Government particularly with respect to plans and decisions relating to water conservation projects. I think it is essential that progressive evaluation be made and that the results of such evaluation be made available to the Parliament at regular intervals for close examination. Whereas 2 years ago the Government showed some evidence of accepting its national responsibility in the field of water conservation, it now appears that its policies have been reversed. The Government is going back to its policy of the old days of opposing water conservation projects. Why has the Government not made one single decision in the last 2 years with respect to the national water resources programme in terms of a minor or major water conservation project? The further development of Townsville and the coastal areas of Queensland is closely linked with the harnessing of water resources.
The 2 principal projects that will serve established and proven areas - I stress this point - are the Eton irrigation scheme and the Burdekin water conservation scheme. The Eton irrigation scheme meets the criteria laid down by the Government. It is the development of an export commodity. More importantly, in terms of economic justification, it is located in a soundly established agricultural area in which there is proven evidence of the loss of production each time there is a drought. The project is straightforward and no-one can tell me that those responsible for the evaluation of this project have not reached some conclusion. It is the same old story: Unless they are pressed, we will have the notorious interdepartmental committees meeting every couple of weeks and the Treasury drawing red herrings across the trail and each week going back to work out some more answers until the Government is ready to make a decision on an irrigation or a water conservation project. This is one of the most frustrating aspects of Commonwealth decisions and causes a great waste of time. When the Government is not ready to make a decision, the favourite approach is to establish an interdepartmental committee.
The point I wish to make is that I believe a decision should be made with respect to these projects because although there have been 2 good seasons, particularly in the established agricultural areas, there is absolutely no reason to believe that there will not be another drought in areas which have proved that they are highly susceptible to drought. When there is a loss of national export income and when this loss is costed at whatever the import parity price might be and related to the actual revenue and operating and capital costs of a project, it is not a difficult proposition at least to get a best estimate of the economic justification of that project. It should not take years to make decisions with respect to conservation projects. So, I urge the Government to do something positive.
I am interested to note that the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) has suddenly realised that he had better do something about the Burdekin project, because the decisions in relation to the Burdekin development are of vital importance to the city of Townsville and to the electors of Townsville. While discussing the honourable member for Herbert, I should like to refer to an article which appeared in today’s ‘Courier Mail’. The article stated that Mr Bonnett was one of the most worried of the Liberal members because of the Governments lack of decision on the Institute of Marine Science at Townsville. This institute is badly needed in the northern part of Queensland. I am glad to see that the honourable member is now in the House. Well might he be worried, because if there is any delay in the provision of Commonwealth funds for the construction of this laboratory, the responsibility will rest to a great degree on the shoulders of the honourable member for Herbert because it is his Government that introduced into the Parliament the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill and the Government has sat on it. The honourable member for Herbert well knows that he was one of those who supported the previous Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), with respect to this Bill. My advise to him would be not to take too much notice of the present Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) in this matter because, as he well knows, this is a question of self survival for him. What the honourable member wants to do is to go into his party room, get stuck into the Prime Minister and tell him straight: Get this territorial sea and continental shelf legislation cleaned up and cleaned up fast’, because there can be no delay in setting up the marine science institute which is needed in North Queensland, and the honourable member knows that.
That is the warning which I give to the honourable member for Herbert, because he well knows that the game of politics is a pretty ruthless one, and it is and will be a pretty ruthless game in the electorate of Herbert. Although he supports the setting up of the marine institute, just as the Labor Party has supported it for IS years - since the time when Senator Dittmer was the first person to put the suggestion forward - the stage has now been reached at which the committee has made a decision, the Government has made a decision, and the Government was to bring the Australian Institute of Marine Science Bill forward for debate quickly. I now see that it has been demoted from Order of the Day No. 6 yesterday to Order of the Day No. 14 today. It is of paramount importance that this research institute should be constructed in Australia, and it is of paramount importance that the honourable member for Herbert should use his influence in his party room to get the territorial sea and continental shelf legislation before this Parliament, so that the Australian Institute of Marine Science Bill can be passed by the Parliament, the research centre constructed and this valuable research carried out.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)I must point out to the honourable member that he is anticipating debate on Bills that are yet to be debated in the House.
– I fully recognise the Government’s great worry in this matter, and I fully realise that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, will do everything possible to gag me and prevent me from mentioning the Territorial Seas Continental Shelf legislation.
-Order! The honourable member is making a reflection on the Chair and I ask him to withdraw that reflection.
– I withdraw it.
-I am merely pointing out that having regard to the practice and procedure of this House, the honourable member is not in order in ancipating debate on Order of the Day No. 14, which is the Australian Institute of Marine Science Bill.
– I am not anticipating that Bill. I am making quite clear to this Parliament, as has been done previously, that there is a need for this research institute and that there is a need for the Commonwealth to go ahead and provide the money for it. I appreciate the dilemma in which the Government is placed. But I repeat: If it does not hurry up and get out of this dilemma it can say goodbye to the seat of Herbert; it is lost. I am not certain whether the honourable member for Herbert nodded his head or not, but he should be worried about this matter.
Another matter with which I want to deal in discussing Commonwealth grants to the States is the beef roads scheme. As honourable members know, there is a need for continuity in the scheme. There is a need to make decisions well in advance. The Queensland Government is entitled to know in advance whether the Commonwealth Government will continue with another 5-year beef roads plan. Contractors and local authorities cannot be committed to making plans for development unless some positive statement is made by this Government. It is time that the Government made a statement as to whether the roads which are the subject of the present plan will be completed or not. Some of these roads are only partially constructed, and they are a vital key in the whole network of the movement of beef cattle in Queensland, the Northern Territory and the Kimberleys area of Western Australia. The Western Australian Government, the Northern Territory Administration for which the Commonwealth is responsible and the Queensland Government are entitled to know what this Government is going to do about the beef roads programme in the future. I do not believe that we must wait until the eve of the next election to get decisions on water conservation and beef roads, because that is not the way to manage this country. What is needed is forward planning and forward thinking in order to minimise overhead costs. What this Government should be doing is sitting down, considering our resources and formulating a constructive plan for the projects which I have mentioned.
Another subject I want to mention briefly is the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States in the field of oil exploration, because if there is one field which is being badly neglected by this Government - and I might say by the Parliament - it is the field of oil exploration in Australia. I hope that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, will not pull me up when I say that this again gets back to the territorial sea and continental shelf legislation, because one of the great problems with respect to the Commonwealth legislation and the State mirror legislation regarding off-shore drilling is that decisions have to be made as to the invalidity or otherwise of the Bill which passed through this Parliament - which we claimed to be invalid - and the controversial Bill which asserts Commonwealth control over the resources of the territorial sea.
-I ask the honourable member not to proceed further in relation to the Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Bill, which is Order of the Day No. 27 on the notice paper. As the honourable member knows, he is anticipating a debate, and by continuing with his remarks in this way he is clearly out of order.
– I appreciate that, but I must say that the Parliament is a most remarkable institution. I think that the Continental Shelf Bill was introduced in April - I am now not sure whether it was last year or the year before. I agree with your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker, but what this means, in effect, is that I am unable to debate the subject of CommonwealthState relations with respect to oil legislation because a Bill concerning this matter was introduced into the Parliament 2 years ago, although it has not been proceeded with by the Government. What this shows is the grave and gross inefficiency of this Government. Debate on this most important issue of off-shore oil exploration is stifled because a Bill concerning this matter was introduced into this Parliament in April of the year before last. I think it fs an absolute disgrace. Is it any wonder that when this state of affairs exists the people of this nation want to get rid of this Government and its supporters as quickly as possible?
We cannot now get a decision on water conservation projects although a water conservation programme was introduced in good faith, or so the Opposition believed, which provided for the expenditure of $150m over a number of years. It is 2 years since a decision was taken with respect to the provision of State grants for this project. Decisions are required on forward planning of major developmental roads. We cannot get a decision from the Government as to whether the forward plans are to be implemented or not. We cannot speak about off-shore exploration in this Parliament because we might happen to touch on a controversial Bill which could be the downfall of this Government if it does not hurry up and do something positive about it. I think that what this does is illustrate very clearly to the people of Australia how pathetic this Government has become in the field of resource development. I only hope that some honourable members opposite, in their own party rooms, will speak in pretty strong language to the Government about the way in which the Government is handling the affairs of this nation. If anybody wanted any proof why the Government should go out, and go out fast, one only has to look at resource development and particularly at the continental shelf legislation about which I am now unable to speak in this House.
– It was not my intention to speak in this debate because the gauge to be used in assessing whether these State grants are satisfactory is to read what the Premiers have said. Generally speaking, I have never known the Premiers to be more pleased than they are now with State grants. But when the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) spoke and gave his first election speech - that is what it was - I felt that I should speak very briefly in order to point out to him that one or two things which he said were erroneous. First he took it upon himself to advise the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) what he should do within his Party room. This would be regarded as comic opera if it were presented on the stage. It is comical that a member of the Opposition should advise another honourable member who supports the Government about what he should do in his Party room. I would not take it upon myself to try to tell the honourable member for Dawson what he should do in his Party room, because that is his own business.
I took a few notes as the honourable member for Dawson was speaking because I thought he had gone too far and I felt that I should comment on what he said. He referred to the time being lost in implementing certain water conservation schemes in Queensland. He blamed the Government and everybody else, but not himself. We have a proposed water conservation scheme in Victoria - the Dartmouth dam. This project has been delayed for 12 to 18 months, and the man primarily responsible for holding up the work is the honourable member for Dawson. He cannot deny that because I have it here in chapter and verse. He is the member of this House who moved an amendment to the legislation providing for the ratification of the agreement in respect of this dam. The amendment proposed all manner of investigations into sites at Chowilla and Dartmouth to find out what should be done. He sought these investigations despite the advice of experts. Of course, the honourable member for Dawson is not an expert on water conservation, nor am I. I am sure he would admit that I am not an expert and I would admit that he is not an expert. The experts had said that Dartmouth was the far better site because a dam there would provide more and better water for Adelaide and for other purposes. His amendment prompted South Australian representatives in this Parliament to enter the debate and subsequently the Leader of the Opposition in the South Australian Parliament saw the opportunity of fostering the idea that Chowilla as the site for a dam was gone for good and that only the Dartmouth dam would be built. As a result of all this, delay occurred. I say without fear of contradiction that the honourable member for Dawson is the man who was responsible for the delay in construction of the Dartmouth dam. There is not the slightest doubt about this. I do not regard the honourable member for Dawson as being devoid of honesty. I have never tried to suggest that. He is so honest that he will not deny what I am saying, because it is true. He cannot deny the truth. The honourable member’s action is what held up the project. It is not strange that the honourable member for Dawson should speak about Queensland. He is a representative of that State in this Parliament and is entitled to do so. I try to be as fair as possible in this House. I hate personalities intruding into a debate but it is too much when one honourable member seeks to advise another honourable member what he should do in his Party room. The honourable member for Dawson urged the honourable member for Herbert to ‘get stuck into the Prime Minister’. They were the words he used. They were not very parliamentary words and I would not use them were I not quoting the honourable member for Dawson. However, this is the type of comment we hear, especially as election time is approaching. This is why the honourable member for Dawson spoke as he did. Why he should have concentrated on the honourable member for Herbert is a mystery to me. Nevertheless I know that members of this Parliament and people throughout Australia will agree that what I have said is absolutely true.
During the debate concerning the Dartmouth dam I repeatedly pointed out what would happen. My remarks appear in Hansard. I said that surely honourable members from South Australia would not throw in the towel as in a boxing match because it was suggested that there would never be any chance for a dam at Chowilla at some future time. The River Murray Commission does not build a dam and give a guarantee that it will not build another one. It builds dams when it has the finance to do so and when such dams are necessary. This is all I want to say about the honourable member for Dawson. I think he was most unfair to criticise when he was the culprit in delaying action, as he did 12 to 18 months ago in this House.
– Why do you not tell the truth?
– By interjection the honourable member is suggesting that I do not tell the truth. I have never been accused in this House of not telling the truth unless he is doing so now. If he is accusing me of not telling the truth he is the first man in the Federal Parliament who has done so in the 26 years that I have been a member. He may be unique in not knowing what is the truth, but I would not say even that about him. I have tried to say that the honourable member is honest in his intentions. He cannot deny that what I have been saying is the truth.
The honourable member for Dawson spoke about the provision of beef roads in Queensland. I do not know much about beef roads but I know that in Victoria, as a result of finance made available under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, roads have improved tremendously over the last 10 years. The same applies to parts of New South Wales and South Australia through which I travel on occasion. Roads have improved in a way that one would not have imagined possible. The Government has applied funds under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement, taking such financial provisions right away from petrol tax. It is now possible for local governments to plan ahead for roads because they know what money they will receive. I would not be the slightest bit surprised if, after I have stated these truthful facts, the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) rises to speak in this debate. After all, he generally does so when I have spoken.
– I think he will.
– As I said, I will not be surprised if he does so on this occasion. To some extent he is regarded as a comedian in this House, but even during his lapses into comedy he sometimes expresses views that are not in the best interests of the Parliament generally. Decentralisation has been mentioned during this debate. If the States had more money to spend they could make things more attractive in country areas. This would help to retain people in those areas where they are now resident and would attract others to those parts. For long in this Parliament we have spoken about decentralisation.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I think it is quite unfair to the honourable member for Mallee that he should have to speak above the continual gabble within his own Party. It is disgraceful.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order! I ask honourable members to reduce the level of conversation.
– I have spoken in many places - in streets and elsewhere - and I do not allow things to stop me speaking, not even the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) and, goodness knows, sitting where I do I have had to put up with a lot since the last election.
– You will not be here after the next election.
– Every honourable member knows that what I have said is correct. Members of the Labor Party know that 1 occupy the worst seat in this Parliament being near the honourable member for Sturt and have had to do so for a long time.
– That is why you were knighted.
– On that count alone, I deserved it. I shall speak now about decentralisation. Of course., I suppose that the honourable member for Sturt will not like this because he represents a closely populated suburban seat. However my position is different. I live and work in the political world in the wide open spaces. As I was saying, the money that goes to the States could be used effectively to make conditions such that they would attract people to certain areas. I have mentioned the Dartmouth dam and this will have an effect on decentralisation. We want more people living in the Murray Valley, and for that region we want a definite inexhustible supply of water. The Dartmouth dam will supply that. The Murray Valley Development League has long had as its slogan: ‘One million people in the Murray Valley’. I think that that aim is most conservative. More than one million people could reside in that region if we go about it the right way. We must have water in such a way that there is no chance of it being exhausted. Without water even if crops are grown they will wither and die. If we want decentralisation we, must have decentralised political representation.
I want to know where the honourable member for Grayndler stands on this mat ter. He probably will follow me in this debate because I generally attract him into the ring. I suggest that honourable members watch to see whether I can do so on this occasion because I will make the attempt to attract the honourable member for Grayndler into making his usual speech. The honourable member for Sturt is looking at me in a bewildered way. He will see whether I can attract the honourable member for Grayndler into this debate on the one vote one value argument. I believe that we should have decentralisation of political representation. This is the only way that the money which is provided to the States under this Bill can be used effectively. If we do not have it and attract all the people to the city we cannot expect to continue spending an inexhaustible amount of money in metropolitan areas and let the country wilt. We must spend it in areas away from the metropolitan areas not only for the good of the people but also for the good of this great Commonwealth of Australia. Therefore, I would like to ask any honourable member who argues against me: Why is he against the decentralisation of political representation? What value is there in the ene vote one value system?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order! I think the honourable gentleman is getting a little wide of the discussion. This is not an electoral Bill but a States Grants Bill.
– In my speech on this Bill I am trying to give an indication of where 1 think the money should be spent. This is surely a fair proposition. I am of the opinion that the money should not be spent in the great amounts that are being spent in metropolitan areas. I am quite happy that States like Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia and, perhaps to a lesser or the same extent, Queensland should have equal representation with the other States, New South Wales and Victoria, in the Senate. This is decentralisation of political representation because these smaller States can have a say in spending the money in the way in which they believe it should be spent. They then have a chance. That is the point I am making. If this is fair for a nation should it also not be fair for a State to have the same kind of representation in rural areas as there is in the polluted and congested conglomerations of populations in Sydney and Melbourne? These are the questions I wanted answered and I wish I could get a few of the honourable members opposite to join me. I notice the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) is smiling.
– There is no pollution in my area.
– Of course not, you live in a country area. But can the honourable member for Grayndler and other honourable members say that there is no pollution in Melbourne or Sydney or other capital cities? Of course they cannot. I know that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) is worried about pollution. He will do all he can to overcome it. I have a great admiration for him as have all the members of the Country Party. Without much further ado I will conclude knowing that the honourable member for Grayndler is bound to come into the debate and say a few words about me.
– You wanted an airport at Mildura the other week.
– I wish I could get the honourable member for Sturt to think big about this proposal. I have a pamphlet here in relation to it. If there is anything that the honourable member wishes to say or know about it I have all the information in my desk here and I can answer him.
– Have you any Fosters red?
– Foster’s red? What is that?
-Order! The honourable member for Mallee will address the Chair.
– I am pleased to address you on this subject, Mr Deputy Speaker, because I know you are a man of some influence. I will sum up what I have said. First of all, I have said that the attitude of the honourable member for Dawson was the main factor in holding up the building of the Dartmouth Dam. When the honourable member for Dawson gets the opportunity he can point out that he was not responsible and give us what he calls the facts. I have said also that we have to decentralise political representation in this country because the amenities go where the votes are and when we have a census and find that more people have gone to the cities we get a redistribution of electoral boundaries and more members of Parliament from the city than from the country, so much so that I now represent about one-quarter of Victoria.
– No, you do not. You represent only the land.
– I do not want to be personal. I could ask how many square miles the honourable member for Sturt represents.
– It is people that count, not sheep and rabbits.
– I am speaking about the city members in the State of Victoria.
– How many sheep do you represent?
– I represent a lot of sheep and sheep represent the wealth of this country. If the honourable member makes disparaging remarks about primary industry and sheep and cattle he is not doing it in the best interests of this Parliament or this country. The more sheep I represent the more I will be pleased. But I am not going to make an election speech. The time will come when we will be making election speeches. I am, of course, speaking now as one personally not looking for votes. I am not standing again for election as everybody knows and I hope that what I have said will be accepted in the spirit in which it has been said.
– In case nobody understood it from the comments of the last speaker, the honourable member for Mallee (Sir Winton Turnbull), we are discussing the States Grants Bill and the States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill (No. 2). The new Knight of the realm has been correct for once. I did not intend to speak but his comments have prompted me to do so. I rise mainly to defend the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) against the bitter personal attack of the honourable member for Mallee. It would appear that he, as a member of the
Australian Country Party, is dedicated in this Parliament to endeavouring to destroy the high reputation of the honourable member for Dawson who has a great knowledge of rural matters such as those covered in the legislation we are discussing. The honourable member for Mallee is a remarkable man. In dealing with this Bill he hardly touched upon it. He did deal, of course, with the one vote one value argument. I can understand his not wanting parity of electorates because he was elected on a minority vote of about 45 per cent of the electors. Everybody knows that Country Party seats have to be half as big as city seats because the members are only half as good. The fact of the matter is that they could not represent the same numbers as city members. Apart from that there are other factors.
Let us look at the honourable member for Mallee. He is the gentleman who criticises the honourable member for Dawson; yet he has called the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) a messenger boy that nobody takes any notice of in Parliament. In addition the honourable member rarely concentrates on the great rural issues such as unemployment in the country and the issues involved in the legislation before us. We have heard him speak on the nesting habits of birds in his electorate from time to time. We have heard him speak on fish in the Murray from time to time. We have heard him speak on Patterson’s curse, skeleton weed and things like that, but rarely on matters of great importance to country districts. Everybody knows that he was an auctioneer, and not a very good one, I understand. We know he made his living in the depression years by selling up those people who were turned out of their homes by Liberal-Country Party governments in the great rural districts of this Commonwealth. The records of this Parliament are littered with the names of men who walked off their farms because honourable members who sit in that corner of the Parliament would not provide markets or guarantee prices. These were left for the Australian Labor Party to provide when it came to office in 1943.
The honourable member for Mallee always talks in this sanctimonious way of what he has done for the rural people. The fact of the matter is that the honourable member has been in this Parliament a long time. He has a long record but I would not say it was a distinguished record. However, somebody must have told Her Majesty that it was because he has subsequently been acknowledged accordingly. His only contribution, and the only contribution of other Country Party members in this Parliament, has been after 23 years of Liberal-Country Party Government to introduce today a measure which will give the dole to people in country districts because of the failure of the policies the honourable member has espoused for the last 25 years in this Parliament. Written indelibly into the records of this Parliament is the record of the Country Party, which the honourable member supports, in the districts in which that Party has brought about unemployment and want not equalled since the days of the depression. That is why we are debating this legislation. If the honourable member is happy with that record, good luck to him. If he wants to go into political oblivion with that record behind him, he is not a difficult man to please; but I would have thought that he might well have been more proud had he thought that the country was flourishing, everybody was working and there was no necessity for the legislation which we are discussing today.
I felt that I should rise to put the record straight, for the simple reason that quite often the honourable member in particular misleads the people of this country with respect to his personal representation and that of the Country Party. Why, the voice of the countryman was stilled in this Parliament until the honourable member for Dawson, the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby), the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) and other honourable members on this side rose in their places and exposed the falsity of the policies of those who sit on the other side of this House. That is why today when we discuss these matters we find this false approach by the honourable member. I was interested in his one-vote one-value theory. The Country Party has 2 senses of value.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope>Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to confine his remarks to the Bills.
– It is just a passing reference. When it came to voting for the wool bounty, or whatever we once had, a man with one bale, of wool had the same voting power as a man with 100 bales of wool. It is a mattter of one method for that purpose but another for the electorate. But these are matters about which the honourable member does not speak with any great knowledge. He prides himself on not reading his speeches in this Parliament. Do not honourable members agree that his speeches would be better if he did read them? Would not they be better understood? Would not there be more knowledge in them? Would not there be some substance in them? I think the honourable member could read his speeches. There are some who say that he could not, but the fact of the matter is that this is not done. I suggest to the honourable member that, before he criticises the Labor Party on the issues covered in these Bills and before he criticises the policy that has been espoused by the honourable member for Dawson, the honourable member for Riverina and other honourable members on this side of the House, he should look at the sorry and damning record of the Country Party.
I repeat that it was not until a Labor government was elected in 1943 that the primary producer held his head high and marched through this country in the full knowledge that he had guaranteed markets and guaranteed prices for his products and, instead of owing banks money, was able to have credit and the wherewithal to keep body and soul together in a way that brought him responsibility. All that has gone under Liberal-Country Party rule. How the honourable member for Mallee is proudly leaving the Parliament with that record behind him is something that I find difficult to understand.
Having said so much, let me say that we on this side of the House welcome the provisions of this legislation. We regret the necessity for the legislation but we indicate to the people that this is more than ever a reason why they should vote for Labor candidates in the forthcoming election and destroy those who, under the guise of representing the country people, misrepresent them in this Parliament. I do not know, but I suppose there is a farmer or two amongst them. If I were to run through a list of them I think it would be difficult to find a primary producer in the ranks of the Country Party. It would be difficult to find anybody who was closely allied to a primary producer. The real representatives of the country people in this Parliament are those who sit on the Labor benches.
Anyhow, I did not rise to speak at great length. I feel that the House will appreciate that I have risen only to put the record straight in respect of the honourable member for Mallee. I am one, strange as it may seem, who is somewhat sensitive, and I resent the bitter personal attacks that the honourable member always makes under the guise of goodwill, particularly on that outstanding Minister in the next Labor government, the honourable member for Dawson. Honourable members opposite should remember that the honourable member for Dawson is related to a Country Party member. That is no fault of his. You cannot help whom you pick up as a relation by marriage. But he is related to a Country Party member. That fact in itself ought to mean that some courtesy is extended to him. I just say to the new Knight that I hope that he acts with more propriety in the other circles in which he moves with the new glamour that will go with his title. In the Parliament it is not good for a Knight of the realm to be personal and to say the things that the honourable member says about members on this side of the House, because we are sensitive and understanding.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The debate on the States Grants Bill and the States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill (No. 2) is in a way the final act of the comedy that was performed earlier this year, more often referred to in this instance as the special Premiers Conference and Loan Council meeting of 14th February. On occasions such as this honourable members have the opportunity of making a rather broad analysis of the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States. Much is spoken at times like this, and has been in recent years, of the need to revise the present guidelines of Commonwealth-State financial relations. One of the principal areas in need of a new, enlightened and, I believe, more mature approach, is the outmoded and almost pantomime type of act that the Premiers Conference and Loan
Council has developed into over the years. 1 am sure that the Australian people would welcome an end to the ridiculous display that has been presented by way of Press, radio and television in the days preceding, and to some extent, following the holding of such meetings.
As a preliminary to the actual meeting, publicity is given to statements by the Prime Minister and the Federal Treasurer of the need for restraint on the part of the States in their demands on the Commonwealth for funds. In turn the Premiers and their Treasurers list the particular and urgent needs of their own States and issue sometimes veiled and sometimes open threats as to what they intend to do to force the Commonwealth to meet their respective demands. A day or so before the meeting the usual official Press leaks from the Cabinet give an indication of the generous handouts that the Commonwealth proposes to give to the States. Finally, on the morning of the meeting it is usual to read in the metropolitan daily newspapers at any rate, if this information has not been given wider publicity throughout the Commonwealth, details of what the Prime Minister is believed to intend to offer the States when the conference takes place. One knows that this amounts always to less than the demands of the States. Nevertheless this information accurately reflects the final announced amounts that officially are heard at the completion of the meeting.
Before these accurate assessments become official by the announcement of the Prime Minister at the completion of the day’s proceedings, we have the ridiculous spectacle of the Premiers presenting claims and the Commonwealth protesting that the demands cannot be met and recommending lesser amounts as an alternative. Following the offer by the Commonwealth the Premiers protest that they cannot balance their Budgets on the amount offered. They argue that they must receive more than the Commonwealth has proposed. Usually the mid-day editions of the newspapers carry stories of an adjournment of the Premiers Conference. After the adjournment everyone gets back together again. The Prime Minister makes his final announcement, mostly on a take it or leave it basis. The Premiers, although reluctant, rather gratefully accept the amounts that have been offered. The ridiculousness of this situation is that the amounts have been known in advance for many hours and in many instances for days. The Premiers know, as we all know, when they go to these conferences that money will be offered to them, as I have said, on a take it or leave it basis because what the Commonwealth is finally prepared to offer them is the amount they must take. They have little opportunity to bargain with the Commonwealth because the control of the resources of this country is vested in the hands of the Federal Treasurer as is the ultimate control of the amounts that will be awarded to the various States at these conferences.
It is almost unbelievable that grown men, who are the Premiers of their States and the leaders of the nation, are required to perform publicly in such a way in order to gain Commonwealth finance for their States budgetary programmes. We must remember that the finance that they will ultimately gain is the finance that is contributed in most respects by way of income tax and other charges that are levied by the Commonwealth on people in the States. I read recently a report of a Premiers Conference that was held in the late 1940s under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Ben Chifley. It is recorded that he announced a decision at the conference in this way: Ayes 6; noes - which was the Commonwealth - 1; the noes have it. While this may be taken in a lighthearted fashion it rather reflects the false justice of such conferences. We must face the fact that today the total control and power of the Commonwealth in arriving at conference decisions is effectively illustrated in this way. The imbalance of power at these meetings is long overdue for change. I cannot understand why the Premiers have not before this agitated for such change. I cannot understand why they have not rebelled before this, especially when this conference, as was the case with the Premiers Conference 1 referred to which was held in the 1940s, has become a regular piece of national machinery of government but in fact has no constitutional basis for being held.
In making my opening remarks tonight on the preliminaries of the Bills we are considering 1 want to touch rather briefly on some of the aspects referred to in the second reading speech of the Treasurer (Mr Snedden). I want to refer briefly to items that he has covered in respect of allocations to the States. For the most part I shall refer to items either referred to in his speech or omitted from his speech in respect of which the Commonwealth has fallen short of its responsibility to provide finance for the States. Firstly, I want to refer briefly to one aspect of the conference: It was decided to provide additional grants to the States for the relief of what was referred to as ‘non-metropolitan unemployment’. Let me say that I, as I am sure all honourable members do, certainly welcome this financial assistance. I have, however, some doubt that the unplanned infusion of money such as this, virtually thrust into the hands of shire councils, will be anything but of very marginal benefit to the important work that they perform. I accept that the money will relieve their immediate unemployment problems. But I cannot accept that the responsible shires could use the finance to any real benefit when they have not had the opportunity to plan their works programmes for the expenditure of the finance. This is a typical example of the unplanned allocation of finance to the States that has become a well known practice of this Government. There is not one field to which I could refer tonight, even if time permitted, in which there has been a planned and positive approach by this Government to the allocation of finances to the States.
The same paltry attitude is followed in each field in which the Commonwealth controls and allocates finance to the States. Year after year the Commonwealth allows the States to haggle for the finance with which it begrudgingly parts. In an unplanned fashion the Government makes finance available when in its view it is electorally favourable to do so. In many areas this has a detrimental effect on the prosperity of the States. In the particular instance to which I refer this evening it had a devastating effect on the critical unemployment problem in the States, particularly in the metropolitan areas. This has been referred to at great length. I wish to refer particularly to the unemployment relief that was provided for non-urban areas in Queensland and the failure of the Commonwealth to recognise the claims of the metropolitan areas.
This failure was highlighted by the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Clem Jones. At the end of the Premiers Conference he said that the 9,600 unemployed in Brisbane - about half the State’s total unemployed - would receive no unemployment relief from the Commonwealth grant. He said that although Brisbane had almost 50 per cent of the State’s unemployed it seemed that it was to be denied the free money that was to be allocated to nonmetropolitan areas. He went on to say that it was time that the Commonwealth realised that with more than 50 per cent of the State’s population living in Brisbane and in the near-metropolitan area, they should be entitled to a share of the grants and benefits given to the rest of the State. The important feature of this criticism of the neglect of the needs of the unemployed in the metropolitan areas was that the Lord Mayor was very strongly supported by the Deputy Premier of Queensland, the leader of the Liberal Party in that State. I refer to Sir Gordon Chalk, who was very outspoken in his condemnation of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). I will refer to some of the remarks that Sir Gordon Chalk made on that occasion in support of the Lord Mayor of Brisbane. He said:
Brisbane has been given a shabby, unfair deal by an inflexible Prime Minister.
They were the words of the Queensland Treasurer and leader of the Liberal Party in that State. Sir Gordon Chalk also said:
Of the State’s 131 local authorities, 130 will benefit from free money being spent to relieve unemployment, but Brisbane will get no free money from this grant. If extra work is to be) undertaken in the metropolitan area it will have to be met from the taxpayers’ funds and the only way that the Lord Mayor can do this is to increase rates.
That was not his strongest condemnation of the Prime Minister. He went on to illustrate to the people of Queensland just what they would expect to receive in the future while the same gentleman remains in the office of power that he holds in the Commonwealth today. Sir Gordon Chalk went on:
I fought across the table for nearly half an hour but got an inflexible no.
Sir Gordon said that he was staggered when Mr McMahon refused to listen - refused to listen, mark you - to his plea to relieve unemployment in the metropolitan area. I have already referred to the figures that were cited at that time to show that the unemployed in the metropolitan area represented about 50 per cent of the total unemployed in the State. Since the newspaper article to which I referred earlier was published, statistics have been released in respect of the Commonwealth Employment Service. They relate to employment districts in Queensland at the end of February 1972. At that time the total number of non-metropolitan unemployed in Queensland was 10,097. The total number of metropolitan unemployed was 6,629. They are the correct figures. Surely they support the claims made by the Lord Mayor of Brisbane and the leader of the Liberal Party in Queensland that Brisbane had been given by the Commonwealth Government and the Prime Minister in that instance - and I submit in many other instances - a shabby, unfair deal.
As a result of the outspoken criticism of those 2 gentlemen I, my colleague the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross), Senator Milliner and Senator Georges attempted to impress upon the Prime Minister the claims of the city of Brisbane for unemployment relief. It took the Prime Minister over a month to answer the telegram we sent to him. The answer he sent in a rather paltry and belated fashion endeavoured to justify the decision of the Premiers Conference. At least I can say that we made some efforts on behalf of the unemployed people of Brisbane to have the Prime Minister recognise their claims.
Another matter to which I wish to refer this evening is the sorry way in which the States’ financial obligations to various projects have been restricted because of their need to match grants to be paid by the Commonwealth. In many instances there is justification for special grants to be made to the States to allow the completion of projects essential to development but which cannot now be undertaken under the present arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States. Under that arrangement allocations to such projects are restricted because of the requirement of the Commonwealth that funds will be provided only to the extent that the States can match them. In this respect I refer to a recently published article which disclosed that $8. 5m allocated for teachers colleges remaining unspent by State governments in 1970-71.
This was disclosed to the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee in Canberra on 28th March last. At that hearing an answer to a question by the Chairman revealed that in addition to that shortfall to which I have referred there was a shortfall of Sim in unmatched Commonwealth grants for preschool teachers colleges in the same financial year. In those 2 small areas of Commonwealth-State financial relations - teacher college allocations and pre-school teacher college allocations - the amount unspent and unmatched by the States in one year was $9.5m. We hear much in this place about the very great importance attached to the publicity that is given to the Commonwealth’s making money available to the States, but we do not hear of much publicity given to the burdens that rest on the States and the hardships that they face when they find that some valuable, important and essentia] projects remain uncompleted and others cannot even be commenced because of the lack of Commonwealth appreciation of the problems of the States in these areas and the need to provide other than matching grants.
– It had not been my intention to speak in this debate until I heard some comments made by the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) and some of the comments of the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) earlier. It is quite clear that both these honourable gentlemen had very much in mind that there is to be an election in one of the States of the Commonwealth next month, and they made in their own way a contribution to this Bill related to the economic position within that State. Since the economic position within that State - the State is Queensland - is covered to a certain extent by both the Bills we are debating, I would say something relevant both to the Bills and to the remarks of these 2 honourable gentlemen.
These Bills are designed to do 2 things. They are designed to increase the extent of a programme of capital assistance to the
States and they are designed also to increase out of time measures of revenue assistance to the States. They are designed to do so in a manner that has not previously been countenanced or experienced in Commonwealth-State financial affairs. In fact the increase in assistance at both levels over the past year has provided a greater measure of real assistance and increased assistance than has ever previously been experienced in the States. All the Premiers who departed from the Premiers Conference which thrashed out the details of these Bills were delighted with what had been done. They were generous in their praise for what the Commonwealth had done on this occasion.
But let me return to the position of Queensland, having in mind the State elections there, as no doubt the honourable gentlemen who preceded me had. If Queensland at the present time is going through an economic boom such as it has never previously experienced, it has not been with the assistance but in fact has been in spite of the efforts of the Opposition both here and in that State. When one realises that the same gentlemen who in this place weep about unemployment have been in the forefront of promoting political strikes in that State one has to doubt their sincerity.
– I thought that you people were the Government.
– I will deal with the honourable member for Dawson in a moment. He will not escape some gentle attention either. It will be recollected that those who cry about unemployment were responsible for literally thousands of man days being lost in Queensland during sporting tours last year, and it was only, for example, through the courage-
– I raise a point of order. As a member of this House I sincerely regret having to sit here this evening and listen to the Minister for Housing being permitted up to this stage to make an adverse reflection on my attitude towards unemploymen in Queensland.
– Order! What is the point of order?
– I believe that his remarks reflect on my motives in respect to unemployment in Queensland.
-Order! What is the honourable gentleman’s point of order.
– My point of order is that he is reflecting on my attitude towards and interest in unemployment in Queensland, and the remarks that he is making suggest-
-Order! There is no valid point of order. As I have said before, it is not for the Chair either at question time or during a debate to determine the authenticity of any statements made by any member in the House. I refer the honourable member to the second reading speech of the Minister, which deals with unemployment and full employment.
– The simple point which I was making and which is appropriate is that unemployment is exacerbated by strikes and that it is exacerbated in a particularly unpalatable manner. These strikes are political strikes. Unemployment is exacerbated in a particularly unpalatable manner when the political strikes are related to sporting tours. If the cap fits, wear it. They were wearing it on a previous occasion and I desire to see that it is continued to be worn. When it is found also that the same people who talk about unemployment depart from the principles of Australian unionism, which were that a strike was justified if held for economic -and social reasons-
– I raise a point of order. The title of one of the Bills we are discussing is the States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill. I fail to see how, because the word ‘unemployment’ happens to appear in the Bill, the Minister has the licence of this House simply to use the word ‘unemployment’ and to refer to strikes and Springbok tours.
-Order! As 1 have said before, the second reading speech of the Treasurer deals with employmment. semigovernment work, stronger growth in the public sector, the escalation of wages and costs, growth in the economy and State works. Surely the question of employment is connected with all these matters.
– Just one other gentle point in relation to this matter needs to be made. Those who depart from the reformist principle concerning Austraiian trade unionism are those open to the promotion of strikes which are political, and that is exactly what has been done. Let me say one further thing - it is appropriate to say this- concerning Queensland’s position based on hard economic facts. They are facts which have been prejudiced by actions of the Opposition. First, all the economic indicators have never been so good in that State as they have been over the last year. Never before within recorded history has that State led Australia in terms of all the basic economic indicators. I do not have the actual figures with me, but let me refer to a number of them. Never before in recorded history when there has been a rise in unemployment in Australia - there was only quite recently - has Queensland moved against the trend over the period from November to March, but it has moved against the trend this year, and not with the help of the Opposition but in spite of it. In terms of the registration of motor cars it has either led or been the second highest State in Australia. In terms of basic consumer expenditure, which is in many ways not a leading indicator but a coincident indicator as to levels of economic activity within a State, it has been among the highest in Australia. With respect to actual growth of real employment and real standards it has been either the highest or second highest in the Commonwealth. So this is the background to the comments which have been made by members of the Opposition with respect to these Bills, and this is the background which they have sought deliberately to ignore.
Let me make one other comment since 1 referred to employment and unemployment. I shall refer to the sugar industry and I will pose a question to the sugar industry because a great deal of employment is generated by the sugar industry. One can only ask what will be the position in the Mackay region with respect to the Australian Workers Union and the generation of employment and unemployment when the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) makes-
-Order! I remind the Minister that although some licence is allowed in discussing this Bill - it is a fairly broad Bill - I do not think it covers all aspects of unionism.
– Mr Speaker, I agree with you. I was just making the point that a change in the nature of the leadership of some industrial organisations can change the nature of strikes that occur. It is well known that the honourable member for Hindmarsh has a different attitude from that of the present leadership of the Australian Workers Union in Queensland: I was making the point that in one of the great areas of employment and of concern about unemployment in that State - in Mackay - there is great agitation about what will happen in the future when such a change occurs. I rose merely to deal with some of the points made by the honourable member for Bowman. Let me reiterate them because they are appropriate. Queensland has received great benefits in terms of revenue grants and in terms of capital assistance grants. In other legislation that has been introduced in this Parliament and which will be debated a little later, Queensland has been promised great assistance in terms of revenue grants as a result of an interim and early decision of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The people in that State know that they have never done so well, and, above all, they know that they have never done so well in spite of - not because of - the attitude of the Opposition in this place and in that State.
– It was not my intention to enter this debate but, as it has gone far beyond the original intentions of the legislation before the House, I feel that 1 should make a contribution to the debate. The purpose of the Bills which are now before us is to authorise the payment of certain moneys to the States of the Commonwealth following upon the Premiers Conference and the Australian Loan Council meeting in February of this year. The amounts involved total only $24.3.m - $15m under the States Grants Bill and $9.3m under the States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill. That money is to be distributed among the States of the Commonwealth. Naturally I am particularly interested in the fact that my own State of Western Australia will receive only $2.7m as a result of these Bills.
The Treasurer (Mr Snedden) in the process of introducing the Bills some time last month told the House that they included grants for the relief of non-metropolitan unemployment. Those remarks may suggest that the Government - honourable members on the opposite side of the House - is concerned about the very considerable increase that has taken place in unemployment over the last few months. Honourable members opposite may even suggest that the Government has a genuine desire to rectify that situation. The fact of the matter is that most of the increase in unemployment - not all of it but most of it - has been brought about by the deliberate actions of the Government itself, I believe that it was not only a deliberate action but also a deliberate decision by the Liberal-Country Party Government to bring about a situation where there would be a large number of unemployed. Irrespective of whether that is correct the fact remains that the Government, by its economic policies, did create a situation of unemployment.
Under those circumstances the Government is not entitled to claim any credit for making finance available to relieve that situation, even if the making available of finance meant that that situation would be relieved entirely or even substantially. Unfortunately the money which will be provided to the States under the Bills that we are now discussing is nowhere near sufficient to do anything to relieve unemployment in the non-metropolitan areas. Mr Speaker, if you were to examine the unemployment figures for the nonmetropolitan areas at the end of August last year and the end of February this year, you would find that there has been an increase of 19,500 in the number of unemployed over that short period. A total of 29.092 were unemployed in August and 48,617 were unemployed in February. It is fairly obvious that very little inroad will be made into that situation by the small amounts of grant that we are dealing with here. It would not be sufficient even to set up the situation that we had in my youth back in the depression years, of which I have a very strong recollection, of soup kitchens and that sort of thing.
As the honourable member for Grayndler said earlier this afternoon, the Bills with which we are now dealing are in reality a move along the same lines as we had during the depression of a dole being handed out to the people to whom we have looked over the years to carry on this country. The finance for unemployment relief in country areas is to go in the main to the local government authorities for local works. It must be realised that, as far as the female unemployed are concerned, these amounts of money that will be provided under the Bills that we are discussing will do very little, if anything, towards relieving any unemployment that the girls and women find themselves in today. So, although the Treasurer speaks of relief for the unemployed, the Government has really failed to provide the wherewithal to bring about that relief.
I wish to deal now with matters related to the situation in non-metropolitan areas that the grants with which we are now dealing are apparently expected to assist. My own electorate of Kalgoorlie covers some 900,000 square miles or nine-tenths of the State of Western Australia.
– That is not much!
– It may not be very much but it is a little larger than the electorate of the honourable member for Sydney. My electorate is completely nonmetropolitan. There are only 2 electorates in that category in Western Australia and they are both held by the Australian Labor Party. Surely that is something at which the Australian Country Party must have a look. Perhaps the honourable member for Mallee (Sir Winton Turnbull) should have a look at that situation. Fancy such electorates being held by the Labor Party. I think that suggests that the people of Western Australia who live in country areas in which there is no metropolitan content are convinced that it is the Labor Party and not the Country Party that can best look after their interests. A great deal is said about the problems of local government in the city and the near city areas. I agree that those authorities do have a problem. But they are in a very different situation from that of the authorities in the far flung parts of this country. The problems experienced in the country areas will never be solved - in fact, they will never be relieved to any great extent - until such time as the Commonwealth Government is prepared to have a look at its priorities and at the situation as it affects not only people but also values. Naturally in an electorate such as Kalgoorlie and in a State the size of Western Australia a fairly substantial number of people are living in what can only be described as remote areas. Even those who live in what could be said to be reasonably large country centres are still a considerable distance from the metropolitan area and from any large towns in which such services as advanced education facilities, for example, are available. Those people who live on stations or pastoral properties - indeed, on farming properties in some of the larger agricultural areas - are in many cases unable to obtain close to home even a primary education for their children. As a result of all this, people in the small country centres and on outlying properties are faced with very substantial costs for education which are far in excess of the costs to parents in the cities, particularly within the metropolitan areas. Quite a lot of those parents in far flung areas - the owners, managers, employees or whatever their situation in life may be - are not in a financial situation to meet the ever-increasing cost of education which, as far as they are concerned, includes transport and board and lodging. Perhaps they may have to employ a governess or an instructor and provide board and lodging in that respect.
Fortunately for those people in Western Australia the Labor Government, which came to office only recently, recognises and appreciates their difficulties. Shortly after talcing over from the Liberal Government it substantially increased the boarding away from home allowance. I would like to refer briefly to those allowances because I suggest that they are very closely tied to the matters we are discussing at this time. In 1969 I wrote to the Liberal Minister for Education in Western Australia in an attempt to have the allowance increased, and I received a reply in January. I was informed that, in zone A or north of the 26th parallel of south latitude, the allowance for children up to the third year of schooling would be $160 a year and for fourth and fifth year children the allowance would be $200. In zone B the amounts were $120 and $160 respectively. I want to draw the attention of the House to this situation. Earlier this year in an answer from a Labor Minister, after the last election in Western Australia, I was informed that Labor had increased the amounts to $261 for the third year in zone A and up to $312 for the fourth and fifth year students, while in zone B the amounts had been increased to $210 and $252 respectively, which means that the allowances in that regard have been increased by approximately $100 a year.
The Labor Government also acted to increase the supervision allowance, to which I referred earlier, which is paid to parents who are required to employ a person to supervise their children’s lessons. The Liberal-Country Party Government paid only $200 a year. Labor quickly increased it to $300 to parents with one child and $400 to parents with more than one child. The total increase in payments for this financial year which the Labor Government in Western Australia has made in respect of the allowances mentioned, plus a hostel allowance which it has also provided for these people, will be approximately $35,000 above what the Liberal-Country Party Government had provided in the previous year. While the Labor Government took immediate steps to improve the position, it is still realised and well recognised that much more is required. Unfortunately, to do all that is needed will not be possible, except perhaps in a minor way, unless a Commonwealth government is prepared to make available to the State quite substantial amounts by way of grants or other means. There seems no doubt that while the present Federal Government remains in office it is most unlikely that any additional finance of any consequence will be made available to the States for education purposes.
– What nonsense!
– All right, and to support my claim just listen to this. Let me quote the relevant part of a letter 1 received from the Prime Minister (Mr. McMahon) on 12th July last year in reply to representations I had made on behalf of the Kalgoorlie School of the Air Parents and Citizens Association concerning assistance for the education of children in remote areas. The remote areas referred to more particularly in this case were those of the eastern goldfields and the Murchison, which is a pretty substantial part of the outer area of Western Australia and in which there are many people who have pastoral properties - the people whom the Austraian Country Party professes to represent. This is what the Prime Minister had to say:
The States, under the Constitution, have the primary responsibility for education, including the education of children living in the sparsely settled areas. In matters of this kind, where State responsibilities are concerned, the Commonwealth Government sees its role as one of endeavouring to ensure that the States have access to sufficient funds, both capital and current, to enable them to expand and improve the important services which they provide.
We agree, of course, that the Commonwealth should provide sufficient funds to the States, but it is not doing so, and that is the point of our complaint. This Government is not doing what the Prime Minister tells us should be done. The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles), who just interjected, should listen to what the Prime Minister said instead of reading the daily news. The letter went on:
The Commonwealth Government believes that, with the substantially improved arrangements for the payment of financial assistance grants settled at the June 1970 Premiers Conference, with access now to a new field of taxation-
That was the extra tax that the States would impose - and with the additional special revenue provided as a result of the recent Premiers Conference, the States Governments are well placed-
This would supposedly include South Australia - . . to meet their financial responsibilities including those for education.
I do not see how that could be read other than to mean that, as far as the Government and honourable members opposite are concerned, they will not provide finance to the States to improve the situation. They may provide extra to meet rising costs but they will not do anything to upgrade the educational standard of those people in the remote areas. That is the situation, and honourable members, opposite cannot deny it, because their Prime Minister said-
– Which one?
– The present Prime Minister said that, as far as the Government was concerned, the States had adequate finance to do all the things that were necessary in relation to education.
– What is your State Government doing?
– Of course, the honourable member for Angas comes from the wine country so he has to be excused. A great deal more could be said with regard to education and the needs of people in areas outside the cities. In that regard I refer to the need for high schools both for those up to the stage of the third year and for those up to the stage of the fifth year, and also the need for the upgrading, and indeed the establishment in some areas, of primary schools. However, I want to deal with a couple of other matters and, therefore, I content myself with saying that, in regard to education, there is an urgent need for the Government to make much more in the way of funds available to States such as Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales for use in country areas.
Not so long ago the Government was given responsibility by the people of Australia to take over the Aboriginal situation and to provide the finance that is required. The Government has completely rejected that responsibility. It has refused to accept that responsibility.
The other matter to which I would like to refer briefly relates to coloured television. I think the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) and the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) mentioned this matter. The Government will introduce coloured television at some astronomical cost while we have people in need in so many different areas of Australia. I think this is something in relation to which the Government should be condemned.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– in reply - The debate on the 2 Bills before the House - the States Grants Bill and the States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill (No. 2) - has been a wideranging one. I do not propose to try to answer every point raised, although I will see to it that where a matter has been raised which calls for some comment it is provided to the honourable member concerned. First of all I think it should be noted that these Bills, in spite of all that has been said, have the unanimous support of honourable members on both sides of the House. Without going into the detail given in the second reading speeches which introduced the Bills, the assistance provided in the Bills is very substantial. However, it is only a small part of the very large amount of assistance given by the Commonwealth to the States to help them to discharge, at their own discretion, their constitutional responsibilities. Recognising the States needs, the Commonwealth in recent times has increased dramatically its assistance to the States. For instance, it is estimated that the amount provided during the year 1971-72 will be almost $290m more than the States would have received under the arrangements which existed previously. 1 turn now to the major points raised. Honourable members mentioned - particularly those who spoke early in the debate - the position of local government authorities. Apparently it has to be said many times in this House before it sinks in that local government authorities are created and function under State laws. They are basically a State responsibility.
– Who said that?
– The honourable member will have to read some constitutional law; 1 cannot help him any further. The Commonwealth makes available for the general assistance of the States large amounts of money. The States have to decide their competing priorities between the needs of local government and between the needs of country and city. I note that the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) has now walked out of the chamber. He apparently does not want to hear this.
– He would want to leave the chamber-.
– Yes, after the speech he made he would want to. He clearly does not understand the difference between a general grant and a specific grant. I point out that the sum total of the general grants made by the Commonwealth to the States is greater than one-quarter of the total funds which the Commonwealth receives per annum. One must add to that figure the special purpose grants which are made from time to time in legislation passing through this Parliament. The Commonwealth has as part of its budgetary consideration to decide what can be done from time to time, given the other demands on the resources available to it, to put the States in a position where they can adequately meet their financial responsibilities including their responsibilities in respect of local authorities given the competing priorities, which they like the Commonwealth encounter.
I turn from those general points which amazingly seem to have been lost sight of in this debate. 1 listened with interest to the shadow Treasurer for the Opposition, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) and 1 must say that 1 enjoyed his remarks as I usually do, although I did not agree with all of them. He put the issues of the 2 Bills in such a broad scope that when one examines them one finds that they lack substance. While one might agree with a number of the points that the honourable member made and the concepts he put foward, he did not come to grips with any of the problems and he ended on the note that CommonwealthState relationships generally came up at the fag ends of debates as though they are of no significance. Honourable members have had an opportunity in this debate to go into these matters. Very few honourable members have availed themselves of the opportunity to do so. I ask the honourable member for Melbourne Ports where in his remarks can we find any solutions. There are none. Where, indeed, can we find any proposals? There are none. So I say with seriousness that the honourable member’s contribution was therefore without substance and was almost entirely theoretical.
The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb), whom we heard before the dinner suspension, said that there were off-setting reductions to the financial assitance grants when payroll tax was handed over and that the transfer of payroll tax did not make the States any better off. When payroll tax was transferred to the States the Commonwealth reduced its financial assistance grants by a figure which was S22m less than the revenue lost to the Commonwealth when the payroll tax was transferred. This repesented a net gain to the States before they increased the rate of payroll tax. In relation to the other points the honourable member made, in spite of the tables of statistics which he had incorporated in Hansard, I can say only in a fairly friendly way to my West Australian friend that his remarks were appallingly glib and mindlessly parochial. His speech showed no understanding of these financial matters but considerable understanding for what he belives certain people would like to hear. lt was not policy he was putting forward but propaganda.
The honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) said, amongst other things, that when the Commonwealth made tied grants the States would not make any further effort beyond that necessary to match the Commonwealth grants. He seems to have missed the whole point of this legislation. These Bills provide general purpose grants, not specific purpose grants. In fact, 85 per cent of all revenue grants and 70 per cent of all grants to the States are general purpose grants which the States can dispose of as they wish. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie, too, showed that he had no understanding of these matters.
The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) then treated us in this debate to yet another of his instalments of misrepresentation of educational standards in Australia. He spoke in particular of the science grants and facilities. So these points, too, must be made again: Independent schools in each State have standards committees which determine from among the independent schools which have the most urgent need. In addition there are 2 advisory committees, one for Catholic schools and one for non-Catholic independent schools. These committees determine the timing; in other words, they decide which school will receive the grant first.
They then make recommendations. The honourable member for Bendigo apparently delights in picking out particular schools in an effort to give them some publicity but the particular school he mentioned is one of those which received a recommendation by these independent and objective committees. Decisions on the allocation of funds to State high schools are made very properly by the State government concerned.
As I mentioned, the honourable member for Bendigo referred to a particular school and what he had to say about this school was in line with some remarks which he made and which were reported in the Melbourne ‘Age’ on 8th April 1972. However, his statement was completely wrong, for he was reported as saying that there was only one science pupil studying for the leaving examination at this school. The correct figure is 17. This year the school to which he referred has 116 pupils. The principle laid down for a school to qualify for a science laboratory is that it must have 28 science teaching periods. Thus the school is entitled to 2 laboratories on Australia-wide standards. In fact, 85 per cent of all capital funds allocated to government schools for the provision of science laboratories, libraries and teacher training is allocated to 78 per cent of children - those in government schools. As the House knows, the Government recently provided S20m to the States in special funds. So, I draw from those remarks about schools the conclusion that it is nonsense to compare a particular independent school with a particular government school. One must, in all fairness, look at the situation as a whole. It always will be possible to take a particular example - an unrepresentative example - but, to be fair and responsible, one must look at the question in the totality.
The honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh), who, as we have heard, really is very able at interjecting, raised the question of educational matters in Queensland, as did other honourable members. I suppose it would not be unfair to relate that to the State election which shortly is to be held in Queensland. The honourable member for Bowman made a claim that the needs of the unemployed in Brisbane were not being met by the rural unemployment relief grant announced at the Premiers
Conference. As a result of the Premiers Conference, there was made available to Queensland additional general purpose funds of $2. 3m, capital grants of $1.1 8m, and additional loan funds of $2. 86m. None of this assistance is tied in any way. It is available for the Queensland State Government to allocate, as it desires, wholly to relieve rural unemployment.
As I mentioned earlier, the honourable member for Kalgoorlie needs to understand this point when talking about the needs of the country areas versus those of the cities. Of course, the country areas do have needs and it is open to the State authorities to use general funds in any way that they believe is correct. I remind the House of the Bill that I introduced not long ago to provide an additional $9m to Queensland as a result of the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
Having made those points, let me conclude by saying that in the various matters which have been raised demands were made and I think that some of them were made sincerely. However, they were demands made in isolation. Demands which are worthy - as I have indicated, some of them are not - are considerd by the Government, which has the responsibility of balancing its priorities. It is very easy to make promises. It is very easy for members of the Opposition to say what they would do if they were in government and ‘ to involve themselves now in a commitment to spend vast sums of money. But the Commonwealth Government, through the Commonwealth Treasury, has the responsibility for the whole economy and for safeguarding the public purse and expending the funds of the people in the best possible way among competing needs.
Mr KENNEDY (Bendigo)- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The charge was made by the Minister for Supply (Mr Garland) that the figures I quoted relating to a particular private school were wrong. The information which was given to me and which I used was contained in the ‘Australian’ of 24th January this year. The
Australian’ ran a series of articles on particular private schools - the most lavish and most exclusive private schools in Australia. In the series there was an article on Clyde, a school on which $63,000 in total costs has been spent on science laboratories. The article stated:
Last year new science Laboratories were opened and the number taking physics, chemistry and mathematics at leaving level has increased from one to eight.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave grant for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Garland) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I think that the summation of the points made by Opposition members as given by the Minister for Supply (Mr Garland) was the most ridiculous that I have ever heard since I entered this Parliament. Apparently not one worthwhile suggestion has come from the Opposition side in regard to the States Grants Bill. The Minister also referred to the promises which were made by members of the Opposition. Apparently he does not remember - he might be a little young to remember - that the Menzies Government was elected in 1949 on many promises which the Liberal-Country Party Government has failed to implement during the last 22 years.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 2nd March (vide page 495), on motion by Mr Snedden:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Garland) read a third time.
(No. 3) 1972 .
Bill presented by Mr Wentworth, and read a first lime.
– 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. This Bill will make it possible to pay certain Australian pensions overseas. It applies equally to people who were born in Australia and to those who have settled in Australia; in line with our other pension legislation, it makes no distinction between those settlers who have formally acquired Australian citizenship and those who have not. It may be helpful if, at the outset, I remind the House of the events which led up to the introduction of this Bill. The matter had been under consideration for sometime before, in December 1969, an interdepartmental committee was set up to examine the complex issues involved. The report of that committee came to hand last November. In December I made my detailed recommendation to Cabinet and this was approved in January. Immediately afterwards, the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) made the public announcement of the Government’s intention. The Bill now before the House is in conformity with that announcement, and is framed so as to give it legislative effect.
The Bill now before us provides that the Minister may enter into an agreement with other countries, which, while any such agreement is in force, become ‘participating countries’. The pensions with which the Bill deals may be paid to Australian pensioners who go to reside, whether permanently or temporarily in those other countries, or who are travelling with reasonable expedition between them and Australia, or, indeed between any two participating countries.
In return, the participating country will be expected to make its own pensions available to its former residents now in Australia or who are travelling to Australia. It will be realised that the social security systems of various countries differ from one another and differ from our Australian system in different ways, so that no firm rule can be set for the details of these agreements; each one will have to be drawn up in terms of the mutual relationship of our Australian system to that of the participating country.
The Australian pensions concerned are, in broad terms, age, invalid and widows’ pensions. The residence qualification for portability overseas will be 20 years after reaching the age of 16; but there will be no residence qualification required for this portability in the case of invalid pensions arising from a disease or injury contracted in Australia by a permanent resident, or in the case of widows’ pensions, where the husband’s death occurred while the couple were permanently resident in Australia. Portability will extend to the pensioner’s wife’s allowance, and also to the special pension payable for 12 weeks after the death of a member of a married couple.
I will not, at this stage, take up the time of the House by describing in detail the provisions of the Bill, but rather I would like to set out 3 of the considerations which were in the mind of the Government in drafting it.
First, we wanted to ensure that the benefits given shall be available irrespective of whether or not the holder of the Australian pension was an Australian citizen. We wanted to give portability to those who have worked in the Australian community irrespective of whether or not they had become formally naturalised. Indeed, we realised that the benefits would be of special concern to those who, although they had lived and worked in Australia, retained sufficient ties with their homeland to make them desire to retain their original nationality. A Bill which confined the benefits to ‘Australian citizens’ would fail to help those very persons who would be most desirous of that help. One of the defects - by no means the only defect - of the Bill on this subject recently presented to the House by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) - if I may say so, with respect, an incompetent Bill which scarcely reflects the legal talents which one would have expected my honourable and learned friend to have displayed - was that it was entirely confined to ‘Australian citizens’, and thus constituted a slap in the face for some of the most hard-working and worthy of our migrants.
Second, we wanted to ensure in negotiation the greatest possible reciprocal benefits for migrants from other countries who live in Australia. In some cases, their original countries of residence allow them to bring their pensions with them, but this is by far from true in all cases. If we simply grant portability of Australian pensions overseas, without getting anything for our settlers in return - as was, for example, proposed in the maladroit Bill of the Leader of the Opposition to which I have referred - then we throw these settlers to the wolves. The Government does not propose to do this. Instead we propose to press their interests as far as possible in negotiating the new agreements. Naturally, I can give no commitment as to what I can achieve in these negotiations with other countries. The circumstances may well differ in relation to different countries. But I can give an unequivocal assurance to these former residents of other countries who now live amongst us that, in my negotiations with their former homeland, I will press their interests to the uttermost.
Third, we wanted to protect the interests of the Australian taxpayer against abuse of the new provisions not, of course, by persons who are at present resident in Australia, but by people who might in the future come to Australia for the express purpose of taking advantage of these concessions. We are all Australian taxpayers if we are permanently resident here, whether we are Australian born, or whether we came originally from overseas; and all of us, including migrants, have an interest in seeing that the Australian Treasury is not thus pillaged. We all know that this kind of thing can happen - for example, the way in which people flocked to the United Kingdom in their thousands as temporary visitors in order to take advantage of medical benefits for such things as expensive operations which used to be available there without charge. We do not want the position where a person can come here for a short time, qualify for an Australian pension, and take it back home with him without having really contributed to the prosperity and progress of Australia.
Indeed, this is the principle which migrants themselves have endorsed in their journals: They say, very rightly, that those who have earned their pension by their contribution to the Australian scene should, by virtue of that contribution, have the right to take their pension home, lt is for this reason that, with the exceptions for invalids and widows, we have prescribed a qualifying period of 20 years - which is more generous, for example, than what is done in Canada, where the qualifying period is 25 years for portability of the old age security pension.
I do not want to take up the time of the House by more than a side reference to the egregious errors with which the Leader of the Opposition’s Bill was loaded, but I think 1 should point out to the House that, on the face of it, under his Bill, a citizen of the United Kingdom or New Zealand could come to Australia, live here for 12 months, collect an Australian pension as for age or invalidity - or indeed, as a widow, divorcee or deserted wife - and take it abroad and live for the rest of his or her life at the expense of the Australian taxpayer. I will not weary the House by a full catalogue of his absurdities in this regard.
It would have been possible, of course, to carry out the Government’s intention to make pensions payable abroad by agreements made by regulation under the provisions of section 1 37 of the existing Social Services Act. There were 2 main reasons why we did not adopt this course. Firstly, we thought that it was inappropriate that a major policy change of this nature should be made by regulation. It was, we believed, proper to bring it before the Parliament as a Bill. Secondly, it was desired to strengthen as far as possible the negotiating position of the Minister in his endeavour to obtain the maximum reciprocal benefit for settlers from other countries who live in Australia.
May I make it clear to the House that the procedure we have adopted need not impose any additional delays. As soon as the Prime Minister made his January announcement, I, with the assistance of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen), made contact with relevant diplomatic representatives in Canberra. We have supplied them with details of our relevant pension programmes and have asked them to obtain for us full details of their own countries’ arrangements in return. I have already received encouraging replies from the representatives of a number of these countries and some discussions have taken place. I would hope and expect that well before the commencement of the next sittings, negotiations will be concluded with a large number of these countries, including those which are most important from the viewpoint of our migrants.
The Bill before the House, while not confined to migrants, is the latest of a series of measures introduced by this Government to assist migrants who have need of Australian social security in their widowhood, ill health or old age. For example, since 1966 there has been no nationality requirement for an Australian pension, while the residence qualification for age pension was halved, in 1962, from 20 years to 10 years. The residence qualification was removed altogether in 1968 for a claimant for a widow’s pension who was residing permanently in Australia with her husband when she became a widow. In 1969, the period for which pensions may be paid in respect of a temporary absence from Australia was extended from 12 to 30 weeks. All these conditions are generous by any standard for non-contributory pensions.
Finally, let me reiterate that the new provisions apply equally to all migrants, whether naturalised or not, as well as to all Australians whether or not they are migrants. Australians travelling abroad to participating countries’ will be able to take their pensions with them, if they so desire. At present, of course, they can, on their return to Australia, get payment for up to 30 weeks of absence overseas under the provisions of sections 49 and 78 of the Act, and there are special arrangements in force in regard to Britain and New Zealand. Under this Bill, it will be possible for Australian pensioners overseas in participating countries, or in transit, to continue to draw their pension entitlements. I should, of course, emphasise that the right of continuance of a pension overseas will only be the same right as would exist if the pensioner remained resident in Australia. Thus, for example, if the recipient of a widow’s pension remarried overseas, her pension would automatically cease.
The pensioner medical service will, of course, continue to be available only in Australia, as will the concessions provided in respect of radio and television licences and telephone rentals. Pensioners overseas will not receive supplementary assistance as the eligibility conditions could not properly be applied. Funeral benefits are at present payable to, or in respect of, pensioners temporarily absent from Australia, including those receiving pensions under our reciprocal agreements with Britain and New Zealand. These benefits will also be available for pensioners receiving their pensions under the arragements proposed in this Bill.
While the provisions of the Bill may result in more Australian pensioners going overseas, the agreements to be made will have the corresponding result of encouraging more people entitled to overseas pensions to take up residence in Australia, or to visit us here. On balance, the net flow may well be equalised - it is not possible to predict this with certainty, although it is reasonably clear that the tourist flow will be increased in both directions. This is a Bill which can benefit both natural-born Australians, and the migrants who have come here to settle. I commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Whitlam) adjourned.
– I move:
The Committee’s report covers a number of matters which have been referred to it over a period of time. It has recommended changes in the Standing Orders and procedures of the House to cover the functioning in the House of Assistant Ministers; to alter the time allocated for debating a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders; to streamline and improve the handling of petitions; and to alter certain existing practices in relation to the Publications Committee and the use of academic and other titles. These are covered in recommendations Nos 1 to 10 of the report. In addition, the Committee has decided against any changes in the Standing Orders and current procedures in relation to a number of other matters. These decisions are summarised on page 9 of the Committee’s report.
It is not my intention to deal in detail with the Committee’s report. The Committee has looked thoroughly and carefully at all aspects of the matters put before it. The report has the concurrence of all members of the Committee and will, I hope, meet with the ready agreement of the House. I might mention here in passing that there are a number of other matters which have been brought to the Committee but which it has not yet had opportunity to consider the report upon.
I suggest that it may suit the House for the question to be divided in order that separate questions may be put on the Committee’s recommendations. If this is acceptable I suggest that recommendations Nos 1 to 6 of paragraph (a), which deal with the functions of Assistant Ministers, be taken together, that recommendations Nos 7 to 10 of paragraph (a), which deal with a number of separate matters, be then taken individually, and that paragraphs (b) and (c) be taken separately.
Is it the wish of the House to have the question on the Minister’s motion divided as suggested by the Minister? There being no objection, that course will be followed. The question is:
That recommendations Nos 1 to 6 of paragraph (a) relating to Assistant Ministers be agreed to.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I was going to ask for your guidance on a point of procedure because I wish to move for the suspension of Standing Orders so that an extra paragraph could be considered as an amendment. It deals with the question of the adjournment of the House at night.
I was wondering at what point I would ask for leave to move for the suspension of Standing Orders so that that amendment could be considered. Would this be the appropriate time to ask for leave to suspend’ Standing Orders?
-I would suggest to the honourable member that the appropriate point at which to move for the suspension of Standing Orders would be after the debate on paragraph (b), which wa be considered separately if this motion is agreed to.
– Very well.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, 1 seek your guidance before I speak on a matter which is of great importance. It relates io the functions of Assistant Ministers in the Parliament. First, I desire your guidance as to whether I am entitled to express certain views about the constitutional position of these Assistant Ministers in the Parliament. Following that, 1 should like to know the reason why any changes should be made in the Standing Orders until the functions of Assistant Ministers are defined. Mr Deputy Speaker, 1 would like your guidance on those questions, in view of a number of matters which might arise.
-The position is that the discussion will deal with, the recommendations of the Standing Orders Committee involving changes in the Standing orders and procedures of the House to provide for the functions of Assistant Ministers in the House in accordance with the recommendations contained in the Committee’s report.
– Bearing in mind what you have said, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will proceed with my speech. I have no doubt that if I transgress the broad principles involved in this matter you will give me guidance. As the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) has said, recommendations Nos 1 to 6 deal with the Standing Orders as they relate to the functions of Assistant Ministers. (Quorum formed) This report provides for amendments to the Standing Orders to cover the functions of the recently appointed Assistant Ministers. At this stage I indicate that I intend to vote against each of these recommendations for one reason if no other, and that is that the Government has not given this Parliament any information regarding the activities, expenses or functions of Assistant Ministers. I believe that the incorporation of amendments in Standing Orders to cover the functions and activities of personnel in this Parliament for whom the Government will give no explanation is something which should be opposed. I point out that if the Assistant Ministers are to be accepted, and if they are to carry out certain functions in this Parliament, then possibly the Standing Orders will have to be amended, but before these Standing Orders are amended and the whole function of Parliament changed, I ask: Is not this Parliament entitled to some information about the activities of these people? On 24th February 1972 1 placed question No. 5081. on the notice paper. This is what I asked the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon).
On the same date I asked question No. 5082. It stated:
Is it a fact that he is anxious to avoid providing the information I sought concerning allowances to Assistant Ministers in questions Nos S081 and S082 which were placed on the Notice Paper on 24th February 1972; if not. will he provide the information without further delay.
I believe that the Prime Minister is covering up in regard to the activities of Assistant Ministers. To date, after a period of almost 2 months, we are unable to obtain any information concerning the allowances, facilities, privileges, staff, amenities and offices are available to them. Yet tonight in this Parliament we are asked to endorse proposals to amend the Standing Orders. The Australian Labor Party opposed the proposal to appoint Assistant Ministers in this Parliament. Now, for some reason or other, we can obtain no information about their activities. By way of passing reference I say that most honourable members know that Assistant Ministers were appointed not to assist the welfare and development of this Parliament but to give the Prime Minister the numbers in an evenly divided caucus; of the Liberal Party. I object to the Standing Orders being amended in order to provide the Prime Minister with security from attack from the rebels in the ranks of the Liberal Party at the expense of the public. The Prime Minister refuses to reveal details of the activities of Assistant Ministers. The situation is that they are the silent brigade. Very few of them have spoken in Parliament since they were appointed; in other words they were struck speechless by their appointment. Very few of them ask questions. We do not know where their offices are situated. We do not know who comprise their staff, what amenities or expenses they have or what they do. Yet today Parliament is asked to amend the Standing Orders in order to provide approaches in this Parliament to cover the activities of Assistant Ministers. The first recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee states:
It is news to me that they are ever going to be in charge of legislation. To date nobody knows what their functions are. The recommendation continues:
I have yet to be convinced that the Assistant Ministers have any constitutional power in this Parliament at all. A former Speaker of this Parliament, the long since deceased Archie Cameron, refused to recognise Assistant Ministers because he said that constitutionally they had no rights whatever in this Parliament. If this is the case under what circumstance should we condone the amendment to Standing Orders? The report of the Committee goes on to state:
The report goes on in recommendations 2 to 6 to deal with the time limits for debates and associated matters. If Assistant Ministers and their functions had been clearly explained to this Parliament, if we were convinced that they were constitutionally acceptable and right in this Parliament and if we could obtain from the Prime Minister information regarding their activities, expenses, staffs and where they are located, I believe a case might be made out to accept them. But since 24th February the Prime Minister has refused to tell us what they dc. I say that he has something to hide. Public money is being spent on their activities but nobody knows for what purpose. That being the case, why should we amend Standing Orders? This would give the imprimatur to their appointment. It would indicate an acceptance of their activities.
What does the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) do as Assistant Minister? I do not think he has made a speech. Has anybody ever heard him make one? The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) has been as silent as the grave since he was appointed. If honourable members check Hansard they will find that very few Assistant Ministers have made a speech. Very few of them have asked a question. Nobody can find them. They must be sharing rooms with other honourable members and must be Assistant Ministers in name only. It is a colossal joke.
The fact of the matter is that even before they were appointed we had never heard of them. Yet now we are expected to accept them with all the dignity and decorum which results from their appointment having caused an amendment to Standing Orders. My suggestion to the Parliament is that until such time as the Prime Minister comes clean on this issue we should oppose the proposals which have been put forward. When all is said and done a very important principle is involved. If these honourable members are challenged in the High Court they might well have their seats declared vacant because they have accepted offices of profit under the Crown. This situation has never been challenged. Someone may well do it because there is no constitutional position in this Parliament which allows for the appointment of Assistant Ministers. Our Parliament is totally different from other Parliaments of the world. I suggest to honourable members opposite that they read the speeches made in days gone by when this matter was debated and when the late Archie Cameron clearly outlined to the former Prime Minister, Mr Menzies, the reason why the appointment of Assistant Ministers could not be accepted in Australia as being constitutionally correct.
I do not know what the position might be in relation to some of these Assistant Ministers, but what is the good of having them? When a recent Cabinet vacancy occurred, with 6 or 7 Assistant Ministers ready to take their place among the ranks of the doomed in the Liberal Party Ministry opposite none of the 6 selected as Assistant Ministers was appointed. The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) who was not good enough to be an Assistant Minister was good enough to be a Minister and he was appointed. The Minister for National Development is one of the few survivors of the Menzies regime. After 12 or 14 years as an Assistant Minister he was accepted into the ranks of Ministers. No Assistant Minister, except the Minister for National Development who is sitting at the table, has ever been appointed to anything other than an assistant ministership.
Are we to amend the Standing Orders to provide for this situation? Mr Hamilton, a former member of the Country Party, after 10 or 11 years as an Assistant Minister resigned from the Parliament in disgust. Mr Jack Howse, a former member for Calare, was appointed an Assistant Minister and resigned in disgust because he could go no further. The former honourable member for Franklin, Mr Falkinder, an able man if ever there was one, could do no better than Assistant Minister so he resigned.
– What about Joe Gullett?
– Joe Gullett was another. He was not even appointed as an Assistant Minister because he had enough sense not to accept such a position. The Minister for National Development survived because he is one of those long-standing, determined types. He can wait. I have been told that if a person waits long enough everything comes. The situation today is that we are being asked to amend the Standing Orders to provide for a half a dozen Assistant Ministers who, even if appointed now, could not last until next Christmas because after that time they will not be seen here again. Yet we are asked to support this amendment of the Standing Orders.
I suggest that this motion be opposed. 1 summarise my reasons. Firstly we should do nothing until the Prime Minister tells the Parliament what these Assistant Ministers are costing the nation. Why should they be permitted to travel in official motor cars, receiving lavish travelling expenses and all that goes with the position? We do not know what they are doing. I have ascertained that one of them is sharing an office with the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner). What an hilarious two they would be together. I have asked where these Assistant Ministers can be found. If I want to see the honourable member for Boothby in his capacity as Assistant Minister, where do I go? What I must do is wait until I can catch him in a passage of this building otherwise I must share my secrets with the other 2 honourable members with whom he shares accommodation. This situation is making a farce of the Parliament. We are asked to amend the Standing Orders to provide for people whose activities are clouded in secrecy. They are ghostlike figures, seldom seen, except when the Prime Minister wants their vote in the Party room and then up go the hands. The Prime Minister’s appointees, at the expense of the Australian taxpayers, give him the numbers to defeat the rebels in his Party. For my. part I am opposed to this motion and intend to vote against it. I have outlined the constitutional and practical reasons why this proposal should not be adopted and 1 hope that the House will not support the motion.
– It is with a certain degree of reluctance that I make comment upon this measure which we are debating tonight because, of course, as a member of the Standing Orders Committee I was present when this matter was discussed and the recommendation that appears in this report was made. Additionally, I do not want to appear to be saying anything against any of my colleagues or any honourable members who have been appointed as Assistant Ministers. How ever, at this moment I want to say something about these appointments and the recommendations of the Standing Orders Committee. I will not vote against those recommendations. 1 make that perfectly clear.
One of the elements of our democratic way of life - one of the elements of our parliamentary system - has been the responsibility of members of the Ministry to the Parliament for the subject matter and for the legislation which a Minister brings before this Parliament. This is part and parcel - an important part - of our system and I would hope that the acceptance of this proposal does not and will never mean any lessening in the responsibility of a Minister to this Parliament. I am thinking now particularly in terms of the Committee stages of a Bill when questions are being asked. I know that my colleagues who are Assistant Ministers will not take my remarks as any personal reflection upon them, their ability or their capacity to fulfil the duties and responsibilities of their posts and in giving assistance to the Ministers to whom they have been appointed as Assistant Ministers. When a Bill is at the Committee stage the Minister must accept full responsibility for that legislation. It is at that time that supporters of the Government and perhaps, because of the circumstances, members of the Opposition particularly are entitled to ask questions of the Minister and to have the Minister responsible for the legislation responsible for the answers to those questions. This is all that I want to say at this moment. I want to record the fact that I hope the acceptance of this motion will never result in the lessening of ministerial responsibility because Ministers of this Parliament must accept full responsibility for the legislation they present and for the departments of which they are the heads. If this responsibility is ever weakened then our parliamentary system also will be weakened.
– 1 rise to oppose this motion in its entirety. I preface my remarks by saying that as far as I am concerned this is nothing more than a cheap political stunt and I agree completely with the remarks of the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly). In support of my contention 1 want to inform the House and those who perhaps are not aware of it - although 1 feel there would be few who would not be aware of it - that we have seen the system that is operating between the coalition parties in the Government under which it has been said that i Minister will not be opposed in his electorate by the other branch of the coalition. This situation now is being extended by the coalition parties to cover the acting Assistant Ministers.
– Order! The honourable member is getting wide of the Bill, which relates to amendments to the Standing Orders. The Bill has nothing to do with an agreement between parties.
– 1 rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. 1 maintain that the honourable member for Sturt is entitled to point out the reason why Assistant Ministers were appointed. That being the case he cannot escape enlightening the House as to the reason they were appointed, and that was to protect certain Country Party members from opposition in Federal and State elections. 1 know, Mr Deputy Speaker, with due deference to you, that this will go hard with you as a member of the Party concerned, but nevertheless it is the truth.
-Order! The Bill, before the House relates to the duties of Assistant Ministers and their duties in the House. An arrangement that might happen to have been made between the parties does not concern the appointment of Assistant Ministers so far as this Parliament is concerned. This is not necessarily to protect Ministers at all. There is no reason at all why Ministers should not be opposed except by agreement. This can be done and it really has nothing to do with this Bill at all.
– I rise on a point of order. In view of the ruling which you have just given would you care to explain to the House what are the duties of Assistant Ministers.
-The duties of the Assistant Ministers are explained in the Bill. There is no reference at all to elections outside the Parliament so T maintain that the honourable member for Sturt is out of order with respect to the matter of elections and agreements between parties.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. With due deference to your decision I think that on reflection you will agree with this: Official statements have been made in electorates by people calling themselves Assistant Ministers for something or other. These statements have been made in electorates. Many are blatant electioneering statements. 1 submit, with due respect, that the honourable member for Sturt has a full right to examine the reasons why these assistant ministerships have been established if, in fact, the Assistant Ministers are allowed to make official statements as Assistant Ministers to a particular portfolio.
-Order! I point out that the vote on the debate will be a free vote. It is my desire to allow the widest possible scope for debate. I cannot see how these clauses have any bearing on whether at an election Assistant Ministers are opposed by a member of the other coalition party in their electorates. Sometimes sitting members are not opposed. This does happen. As I would like to see as wide a debate as possible on the motion, I will allow the honourable member for Sturt to continue. I hope that the honourable member will limit his remarks in that regard. I will allow him to make reference to the matter, but I do hope that the debate does not develop into some kind of political campaign because it would not be desirable in the discussion on the motion.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I will not query whether you have given a specific ruling. If you did, at this stage I do not think that I would disagree with it. But let me make this point clear before you sit me down: There was the farcical situation of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), against Liberal Party opposition, leaving a very important monetary meeting to go to save the hide of a Country Party Assistant Minister from Liberal Party opposition. What I have said is beyond refutation. It happened. As I see it, there is no Bill before the House.
– That is correct.
– I think we should be correct on that.
– We are dealing with a report.
– There is a motion before the House. The purpose of the motion is to decide whether there should be recognition of so-called Assistant Ministers. Am I correct in saying that?
– That brings me to the point that in this chamber we have the farcical situation in which the Assistant Minister assisting the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr McLeay) in the absence of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) is not appointed to act in that position on behalf of the Parliament. Where, then, is the validity for having an Assistant Minister? I listened to what the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) had to say in his grand and eloquent speech. Because he is a member of the Standing Orders Committee he spoke with a thumbsinthe.lapel attitude and said that he would not do anything to take away the authority of a Minister in this place. He endeavoured to imply that this was out of consideration for the Opposition. That is so much clap-trap as far as I am concerned. I make the point that if, on behalf of a single constituent or a group of constituents or an organisation in my electorate, I direct a letter to a responsible Minister of the Crown, I have every right to expect that Minister to accept the responsibility of answering the. correspondence.. As a person acting on behalf of individuals or organisations in my electorate, I consider that I am duty bound to write to Ministers - I should not be in this place if I felt otherwise - and I expect Ministers to accept the responsibility of answering that correspondence. Heaven knows we have had enough argument in the House about correspondence and letters that were supposed to have been written but which were not written. If I get a reply from an Assistant Minister which rejects the whole basis of the application I have made on behalf of a constituent what is my redress?
– You can go back to the Minister.
– The honourable member for Lyne says that I can go back to the Minister. I have done that and have had a further letter back from the Assistant Minister. What authority has the Assistant Minister?
– It is important.
– It is important, and I paused for that reason. What redress do I have? Do I go back to the organisation or the individual concerned and say: ‘Look, you requested me to put this matter before a Minister of the Crown - the Minister for Labour and National Service. He did not reply to my correspondence but I can give you a copy of the correspondence from the Assistant Minister*. I inform my constituent correctly that the responsibility is with the Minister. I am duty bound, as I see it, to do that simple thing. So I have directed another letter to the Minister and have had to go back to the individual, the group or the organisation . and bluntly say that the Minister has refused to accept his duty, as I see it; he has refused to accept the responsibility of a Minister of the House to answer a letter sent on behalf of a constituent. It is of no use to get letters back from Assistant Ministers because they have no authority. If any honourable member can show me in black and white where there is a degree of responsibility or authority conferred on an Assistant Minister I will withdraw my opposition to the motion. I agree completely with the remarks of the honourable member for Grayndler about a previous Speaker who refused to recognise Assistant Ministers. Is this House any stronger in its representation of the people who elect the members because it has Assistant Ministers?
– Of course it is.
– The honourable member for Angas should show me how it is. Is the House any weaker or any stronger? Is the Senate any weaker or any stronger because the President has flatly refused to recognise Assistant Ministers? The President has taken as a precedent, no doubt, a ruling given in this House. I raised this matter by way of question, as honourable members probably will recall, a few weeks ago. It was said to me by the Speaker that I should leave the matter. If my memory serves me correctly - I have not looked it up- he said that he would have the matter referred to the Standing Orders Committee. He subsequently advised me, while in the Chair, that in due course a report would be presented by the Standing Orders Committee. I view that with very grave concern, Mr
Deputy Speaker, with all due respect to your limitations and restrictions on the debate merely because I referred to the fact that the electoral oportunities of a group of members under the guise of Assistant Ministers are being protected. It is an absolute disgrace.
– The honourable member for Mallee can ‘Oh’ as much as he likes. If the Government advances some degree of validity, or claims some cloak of electoral necessity or of respectability, almost, in the eyes of the public so far as the Parliament is concerned I will change my mind on the matter. Until such time as the Government convinces me that Assistant Ministers are a necessity in this place, I will oppose them. I refer to the farcical situation when I had my first experience of an Assistant Minister taking a Bill while the Minister was sitting on the front bench. The Assistant Minister had a speech prepared by the Department and he thought he would be allowed the same time as is a Minister. I watched the clock pretty closely and let it be known that he had 10 minutes, the same as I or other private members have. The proposal is for an Assistant Minister to be given the privileges of a Minister if he is in charge of a Bill.
– That figures.
– Why should that be so when the Minister is sitting on the front bench alongside him, watching his boy, as it were, saying the words that he has had prepared by the Department.
– You are talking about the Prime Minister.
– Any Minister can do it. I have had only one experience of it in this House. The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) writes letters about additions to the Adelaide Airport - a matter of very grave importance to a number of sporting bodies which have grounds at the end of the existing runway. They have been there for years. They are gravely concerned, so letters are written to the Minister who has the responsibility to make a decision. Back comes a letter, and public statements, mark you, are made by the honourable member for Boothby. Nowhere is the Minister for Civil Aviation mentioned. This is not good enough, and I am not going to cop it. I say that quite bluntly. I would use stronger terms if I could get away with it. It is not good enough. Assistant Ministers are paid salaries out of all proportion to their responsibilities. If the motion is carried, Ministers will be able to pass the buck by having Assistant Ministers write a second rate letter or send a second rate telegram or give a second rate denial, if I may put it that way, in relation to matters that are raised by members of the House on behalf of their constituents. I can describe it in no other way. There is no necessity for it. It is so much humbug. It is political expediency on behalf of the parties that are represented on the Government side.
– I wish at this stage to set the record straight. The Assistant Ministers who have been appointed are the first to be appointed at least in the last 26 years to my knowledge. Although this may be only a technical point it should be spoken of in this House. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) and the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) have referred to previous appointments as Assistant Ministers when in fact they were Under-Secretaries.
– I will not take up the time of the House but I want to ask several questions of the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz). The first question concerns the carriage of a Bill. Under the amendment to the Standing Orders it would seem that the Assistant Minister has the full rights of a Minister in charge of a Bill. This means that he has full responsibility of making decisions in relation to the carriage of a Bill. As every honourable member knows, when a Bill is being debated amendments are moved by the Opposition at certain times and those amendments have to be answered. The Government, through the Minister at the table at the time, makes a decision on each amendment. In the past here we have seen Ministers at the table - the latest was the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) - accept certain amendments moved by the Opposition. The question I ask is: Has the Assistant Minister the right to accept on behalf of the Government an amendment moved by the Opposition? I would say quite frankly that he has not that right; only the
Minister in charge of that portfolio has the right. Only the Minister responsible for the carriage of that Bill on behalf of the Ministry and pursuant to a Cabinet decision has that right. I would suggest that the Assistant Minister has no right to accept or reject an amendment; it can be done only by the Minister in charge of the Bill.
The Opposition also is concerned with the position of questions which are asked in Committee. In these amendments to the Standing Orders the Assistant Ministers have the right to take charge of a debate in Committee. When we on the Opposition side ask a question of the Minister at the table we expect to get an official reply by which the Government is bound. When the Minister gives us that reply we accept it in good faith. For instance, if the Minister says that he will review a situation we accept that. But what right have we to accept the word of an Assistant Minister? He has no right to reject or accept an amendment Therefore, what right has he to express an official decision on behalf of the Government - the Government is the Ministry - on any question asked by the Opposition? Honourable members cannot ask him a question at question time so how on earth can we ask him a question when a Bill is being debated and expect to get an answer? If we did ask a question we would get an answer but that answer would have no legal standing in this Parliament such as has the answer given by a Minister. I can only say that in this respect the Assistant Minister may sit at the table but this would be a complete farce.
An Assistant Minister has no power or right to reject or accept decisions with respect to amendments to Bills or to answer questions put by members of the Opposition in the committee stage or to make decisions with respect to clauses In a Bill. He cannot have those rights. Only the Minister in charge of the Bill, the Minister in charge of the portfolio, the Minister in charge of the Department, the Minister responsible to the Cabinet, can have those responsibilities. Therefore I say that nobody in this House can accept the recommendation that gives the right to Assistant Ministers to make decisions on behalf of the Government which is the Cabinet with respect to amendments or decisions relating to particular Bills.
– I have no intention this evening of voting against the proposals outlined in the report of the Standing Orders Committee but I want to raise a matter that no honourable member has referred to previously and which I believe is worthy of mention. The fact is that today we operate under a system of government whereby the people are very much dependent on the. elected representatives. In resent months we have created a situation whereby some 41 per cent of those honourable members who sit on this side of the House have been virtually silenced by their promotion. Parliamentary democracy is such that one of its essential ingredients is that members on both sides of the House can look at proposed legislation and Cabinet decisions both critically and objectively. As I said at the beginning of my speech, I have no intention of voting against these proposals but I would like to place on record my own personal warning that this act of the creation of Assistant Ministers in itself contributes to the erosion of the democracy which keeps this nation going.
On the credit side, I recognise that with a parliament of 125 members, with as many issues to consider as the Congress of the United States or the British Parliament, more and more work is falling upon the shoulders of a few, and because of this these men need assistance. The creation of Assistant Ministers will in some way contribute to helping the situation and alleviating the work load of Ministers. I would like to repeat my warning that if democracy in Australia is to continue to succeed, moves to silence either on purpose or without purpose the views of those who sit on the back benches should be stopped because they can only lead to its eventual destruction. I had hoped that it would not require a member from the Government side to draw this feature to the attention of the Parliament because it seems to be a fact which has completely slipped by those who sit on the Opposition benches.
– I think the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) has a point but the difficulty we face is that when we come to some fundamental considerations of how this Parliament is going to work we have not created the internal machinery by which we can do it effectively. When this subject was before the Parliament earlier there was in a general sense a party confrontation about it. The principles upon which we are operating and the ideas behind them or the necessity or nonnecessity for Assistant Ministers or any other rank of Minister were not given a full airing or proper consideration. That debate was gagged, as I recall, so that we might get onto the next business. Now we are debating the report of the Standing Orders Committee on the way in which we are going to operate. lt is disappointing - I do not blame anybody in particular, the Minister in charge of the House (Mr Swartz) or anyone else - that this debate comes on unexpectedly at this late hour of the night. One might say that it has not come on unexpectedly because it has been on the notice paper for a week or more. Therefore, it is not unexpected to that extent. But the debate comes on at some chance moment when people could be looking the other way. It would be quite possible for this matter to pass through the House with most members being unaware that it had been discussed. We must be able to do better than this. The ‘Daily Programme’ tells us that at 2.1S p.m., for example, tariff proposals will be introduced. We should be informed that at, say, 4 p.m. the report of the Standing Orders Committee will be called on for debate. That ought to be the rule when a. matter that concerns the workings of the House is to be debated.
On the subject of Assistant Ministers, a fundamental question of the executive government of Australia arises. It has had no parliamentary consideration whatsoever. I part company with some of my colleagues on whether we should or should not oppose this proposition. It seems to me that the 5 Assistant Ministers in this House are part of the facts of life on the Government side. But, if they are participating in any way in the management of the country, they ought to be able to answer for that management here. As far as Bills are concerned, I do not see that it matters whether the member in charge of a Bill is a Minister or not. In a proper parliamentary demoracy, it would be possible for me to introduce a private member’s Bill which I would pilot through the
House. I can think of no reason why that should not happen in many areas of the non-partisan part of politics.
Usually. I am in complete agreement with my friend from Dawson (Dr Patterson). But I think that he is looking at this matter from a different angle from me. In reply to a proposition from thus side of the House concerning a Bill a Minister will say: ‘We will accept that amendment’ or “We will not accept that amendment’. In giving his say-so, the Minister is in fact putting his faith in his party majority. But nothing has any validity here unless it has the sanction of the majority of the House. A Minister has a function to perform in the House, but he does not own the right to decide what will happen to legislation. One of the afflictions from which we suffer is that we have allowed ministerial domination of this Parliament. If honourable members look through the Standing Orders, they will see almost total ministerial proprietorship imbedded in them.
This evening I hope for some fundamental consideration of this question of Ministers, executive government, the Executive Council and so on. I believe that it is time that this Parliament established, perhaps, a select committee on parliamenatry government. My research on the matter suggests to me that we are operating under a system of executive government which was designed in Great Britain in about 1707, was adopted here in 1900 and has not been changed. I speak of the relationships between Ministers, departments and so on that we find imbedded in the Constitution.
What is the situation with respect to Assistant Ministers? I know that a good deal of criticism has been directed at the fact that they have been appointed. 1 agree that as far as we can tell in this House they perform no useful function. In fact, I agree with my friend from Sturt (Mr Foster) that a member feels, with proper respect to the person concerned, that it is a little second rate to be brushed off by an Assistant Minister. My own view is that we ought to have more Ministers of this rank. One of the interesting events recently was the appointment by the Government of Great Britain of a Minister in charge of
Northern Ireland affairs. Honourable members might say that that job would be the labours of Hercules multiplied manyfold How did the British Government go about this appointment? How would we have gone about it? What would have happened here if that situation had arisen?
Let us assume that it was decided that we had to do something special about the State of Tasmania. We would appoint a Minister for Tasmania. But what would he be? He would probably be created as an appendage to the Minister for National Development. There would be a subdepartment in his area. What did the British do? They appointed a Secretary of State of Cabinet rank. They appointed 2 Ministers of State, who were senior Ministers, at least one parliamentary secretary, I think, and 3 or 4 people of ministerial rank, to handle that area. As I understand it, what happens is that they decide amongst themselves which area each will handle and in the House of Commons each accepts responsibility for his area. I think that there are approximately 91 persons of ministerial rank in the House of Commons.
We have inflicted ourselves with some sort of pyramidal structure in which we believe one person only may answer for one specific area of government. I do not agree with this practice. I believe that we must give completely new consideration to the way in which the country should be run. Therefore, on this occasion, and with no commitment one way or the other to the present system of Assistant Ministers, I do not propose to vote against the recommendations of the Standing Orders Committee unless I am convinced that I should do so by some further debate here this evening. I believe, for instance, that an Assistant Minister ought to be able to answer questions in this place. The Assistant Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Street) has just been to Broken Hill. I do not know whether he did any good or not, but he probably learnt something.
– They could not be any worse than the present ones.
– That is right. It would be an insult beyond bearing if we were to say they were. But the point I make is that this was an important national issue. Why should we not have asked the Assistant
Minister what it was all about? Why are we so possessive about this ministerial rank. I believe that the Parliament is the executive of the nation and that the Parliament is the government - not the particular convocation of people who make up the current Ministry of Micawbers that we have here. Therefore I believe that we ought to be giving more fundamental consideration at some point to the function of Assistant Ministers. Unhappily, it is only when we get a chance like this under Standing Orders that we can even discuss this subject. The Standing Orders Committee is not notable for the radical attitudes that the majority of its members take to things. In this situation it is probably desirable to adopt the amendments that the Committee has proposed on Assistant Ministers and allow this system to operate to see whether it will work.
Personally I do not mind if an Assistant Minister sits at the table and pilots a Bill through the House. I think he ought to be able to do so. All of us are hopeful of being Ministers some day. There is no particular wisdom that befalls a man just because he is a Minister, although such a man might have more resources at his disposal. Therefore, while I think it is worth while in this situation to allow this recommendation to go through, I believe that we ought to imbed the idea in this place that it is the majority of the Parliament that makes the decision and that Ministers for the moment carry that responsibility because they have the party support. But many more amendments ought to be accepted. There should be many more free votes on internal questions within Bills because there are a remarkable number of non-partisan matters which pass through this place about which the Ministry should not be so possessive. Later on I hope to move an appropriate amendment about the adjournment of the House at a reasonable hour each night. I just give honourable members the warning that they will have to make up their own minds about that and remind them that we have a free vote on matters relating to Standing Orders.
– The recommendation we are considering is an extraordinarily serious one, as are all recommendations of the Standing Orders Committee which relate to the functioning of this House. I do not know any more than other honourable members who have spoken about the huge increase in the load on Ministers and Cabinet Ministers in particular. But I think that anyone with half an eye open knows very well that the load must have doubled over the last 10 years. I think it is obvious that some changes must occur to spread this load more evenly. To my mind the principal job of Cabinet Ministers is to spend most of their time looking at policy and making policy decisions. Obviously, I have never been in the position of a Cabinet Minister, but I will bet anything you like that the majority of their time today is not spent in the important field of policy making. It is for this reason that I hope this House will treat seriously any intelligent move to try to lighten the load on Cabinet Ministers, who should be concentrating on policy.
I do not know whether Assistant Ministers function effectively in every way in which perhaps the Executive thought they should function. But I think it is quite clear that Assistant Ministers must help lighten the ordinary day to day load on Ministers. Surely this was the reason why the idea was foisted on the Parliament in the first place. I agree with the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) in that I do not see that there is any reason at all why Assistant Ministers should not be in charge of Bills at the second reading or Committee stages. However, while we are about it, let us just take on board the fact that there is the exemption that members have the opportunity to bring the responsible Minister back into the chamber on the third reading of a Bill. This seems to be an intelligent safety valve, if it is looked at in that way. I am not at all sure that the most serious disadvantage in some ways is not the one mentioned by the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) a while ago; that is that if people write to a Prime Minister, Treasurer or some other important Minister and their request is denied, at the bottom of the letter setting out the reasons for the denial those people would expect to see the signature of the Minister who is in charge of the relevant policy.
– But they are not getting it.
– 1 am not arguing about that. 1 point that out in passing. Although I may sound as though 1 am arguing against myself there is a situation in which such letters should be signed by the Minister rather than the Assistant Minister. I do not think I can agree for one minute with the honourable member for Wills in his reference to Parliament as the Executive of the nation. This would never do. What an awful confused mess the running of the nation would be if the executive job was carried out by Parliament rather than by the Executive. Frankly, I do not believe that that is practicable. Possibly the honourable member for Wills meant that Parliament itself should have the final decision in relation to policy put forward by the Executive.
I wish to make one last plea and I hope I do not sound as though I am preaching. I hope that this House treats the recommendations of the Standing Orders Committee with great consideration. This surely is a time for Parliament to use its own responsibility and initiative in deciding the way in which it should act in future. I believe that this Parliament is unique because of the numbers of times that it has been master of its own business. Frequently it has abandoned pre-conceived ideas and altered standards set by May or the House of Commons to cope with individual circumstances that affect this House and this nation.
– I move:
That clause (c) of recommendation No. 1 be deleted.
I believe that this is a serious matter. When Government business, which carries special privileges in the Parliament, is before the House, the person who is in charge of the Bill should be able to give authoritative answers. He should be in a position to give to the Parliament answers which can be depended upon. I disagree with the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) who said that our job as members of this Parliament is to lighten the load of Ministers. I point out that Ministers are primarily members of this Parliament. If they took a greater part in the activities of the Parliament some of the mistakes they make would not be made.
Very rarely do we see a Cabinet Minister in the chamber, even when a Bill of which he is in charge is before the House. It is usual for the Treasurer not to be in the chamber when the Budget is debated.
That has been common practice in recent years. I disagree with the appointment of Assistant Ministers, but that proposition is not before the House at the moment. In an earlier debate it was decided by a majority of this House that Assistant Ministers would be appointed. But at that time the Prime Minister said in his statement that Assistant Ministers could not be held responsible for any statements they make on policy; that only statements by Ministers would be considered to be authoritative.
I think it should be recognised by the House that one of the unfortunate features of this debate is that when a vote is taken honourable members on the Opposition side will have a free vote whereas the Whips on the Government side will gather together all honourable members on their side who have not been present to listen to the debate, to vote on party lines. If an Assistant Minister is in charge of a Bill problems will arise when the Bill reaches the Committee stage. It is very unusual to have a debate at the Committee stage unless it is the intention of the Opposition or the Government to move amendments to the Bill.
The clause which I seek to have deleted provides that the responsible Minister will take charge of the Bill at the third reading stage if the third reading is contested. But I had occasion in this House some years ago, when speaking to the States Grants (Home Care) Bill, to ask the Minister for an interpretation of a clause. Eventually the Minister gave an interpretation which is incorporated in Hansard and the validity of which I hope one day to be able to test by asking the Minister to invoke the provisions of that clause in accordance with the interpretation that he gave. But if that statement had been made by an Assistant Minister not only would it have had no standing, because the Government would not have accepted his statement as the Prime Minister has already said that Assistant Ministers are not responsible for policy, but in those circumstances we would have been uncertain of the meaning of the particular part of the Bill and therefore would have no foundation for asking for amendments. 1 do not like disagreeing with recommendations of committees of which I am a member. I believe that the report before the House represents the best consensus that could have been obtained by the Standing Orders Committee, composed as it is. But it is my firm belief that this House should not in any way recognise Assistant Ministers. If they are Assistant Ministers then they are assistants in performing administrative functions and they have no place in the Parliament itself. The Parliament is a place in which a member is either a backbencher or a Minister. Further, it is my belief that any organisation which depends for its operations on unpaid labour works on a very poor principle. If the Government does not consider, as obviously the honourable member for Angas does not, that the work load of Ministers is a reasonable work load, the Government should do something about spreading the work load. There are 27 Ministers in both Houses of this Parliament, and some of those Ministers have very light work loads indeed. I agree that some have very heavy workloads. By some alteration in the administrative orders the Government should spread the work load of the Ministry so that the problems to which the honourable member for Angas referred, which are administrative problems, can be solved. I suggest that if general agreement prevailed in the Government, Cabinet meetings might not be so long, but that is another question.
I would hope that those honourable members who have been present in the chamber during this debate will consider the amendment 1 have moved because I do not think it greatly alters the effect of the rest of the suggested amendments to the Standing Orders. If my amendment is accepted it will mean that a Minister, not necessarily the Minister who introduced the Bill, will have to sit at the table during the Committee stage, just as a Minister has to sit at the table during the second reading stage. I think it is fair to say that if an Assistant Minister is not allowed to answer questions it is reasonable that he should not be able to answer points raised, in debate.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– Yes, I second it.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to respond to a couple of the points which have been made.
– The Minister for National Development will not be closing the debate by doing so, will he?
-I understand that the honourable member for Dawson has already spoken in this debate. The motion is required to be seconded by somebody who has not already spoken in the debate.
– I second it.
– As an amendment has been moved, I think I am entitled to speak again, Mr Deputy Speaker. The problem I would face in voting for the amendment is whether its acceptance would prevent an Assistant Minister from handling the passage through this chamber of a private member’s Bill in his name. Is there any reason why it would be necessary to write in such a provision in the Standing Orders? What would be the position with respect to the handling of a private member’s Bill?
– I was talking about a Government member’s Bill.
– The Standing Orders do not belong to the Government. The Ministry does not own this place. It is the House of Representatives that would be discussing the legislation. Every Minister has his rank as a result of the charter issued by his membership of this Parliament. I think that I am reasonably conversant with the Standing Orders and I am certain that any member of this House can handle the passage of a Bill. Therefore the Assistant Ministers ought to be able to handle the passage of Bills through the Parliament.
– What would be the position in the case of, say, a Government decision to reduce sales tax?
– What is a Government decision? As far as I can determine there are certain things for which executive and administrative writs run - for example, where the decision is made because the person is exercising his authority as a Minister, because he is a member of the Executive Council, or because - I have a list of them in front of me - the Administrative Orders have nominated him to perform a particular function or because an Act of Parliament says that the Minister shall decide. I think I am right in saying that Cabinet decisions have no absolute validity of their own account. The Cabinet is not mentioned in the Constitution. As far as I know the Cabinet is not mentioned in any legislation, except in the Ministers of State Act.
There are 2 ranks of Ministers. The decisions of the 12 men who meet in the far corner of Parliament House carry strength only because they know that the majority will support them in the House. I believe that we have in this discussion got off the principle of the thing, which is whether any member of this House shall be able to take a Bill through the various stages. As far as I can see, irrespective of whether we write out that provision or leave it in, an Assistant Minister should still be able to take a Bill through the various stages. I suppose the person who introduces a Bill in the Parliament has to take it through its various stages of progress.
I am raising the point that I do not know whether the inclusion or exclusion of such a provision makes any difference one way or the other, because it is in fact the majority of the House that makes the decision, and we have all accepted it as a tradition that when a Minister says yea or nay all of the loyal freedom fighters on his side of the House will stand up and be counted according to his yea or nay. They are, of course, entitled to do otherwise - and they do otherwise in the Senate. That is what happens in the Senate - or should I say the other place? I think we are allowed to call it the Senate now. I do believe that we have this evening got into arguments about some points of detail that are not necessarily valid. As an amendment has been moved, I think the honourable member for Dawson is entitled to speak again in this debate if he wishes to do so. He may wish to refer to some points that I may have missed.
– I would like to explore this matter further, because there is some difference of opinion between the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) and myself. Let us consider the practicalities of the situation. The Minister presents to the Cabinet a submission which he, his Department or an interdepartmental committee has prepared. The Cabinet then makes a decision, and that decision can be enforced through a Bill which ultimately becomes legislation. Let us assume, as the honourable member for Wills said, that the Bill under consideration is a budgetary Bill dealing with sales tax. The Cabinet decides that a certain rate of sales tax will be levied. The Assistant Minister, I would assume, is not in the Cabinet room so he does not hear the arguments for and against or the pros and cons put forward by different Cabinet Ministers. He then takes charge df the Bill and we ask him, in the Committee stage, for explanations. Then, as the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) said and as I have said, we may then move an amendment for a reduction in the sales tax. It might be only 2 per cent. I submit that this is a most important question of Government policy and that the Assistant Minister has absolutely no right to make any decision on behalf of the Government - and the Government is the Cabinet
– The majority of the House would vote for it.
– 1 1 does not matter. If the Assistant Minister accepts or rejects an amendment, will the people sitting behind him vote against him? Of course they will not. They will suport him. They will have to support him. We are not all having free votes from now on. This will be a regimented business. I am giving a practical example of how a budgetary Bill before the House works in relation to a highly important matter such as the rate of sales tax. A decision is taken by the Government; it is translated into a Bill which is introduced into the House by the Minister; in the Committee stage the Assistant Minister takes charge; I, for example, move an amendment. What right has the Assistant Minister to alter the decision of a government? There could be exceptional cases when the Minister responsible, who had piloted that submission through the Cabinet, could himself decide to take full responsibility for accepting or rejecting an amendment. I submit that the Assistant Minister has absolutely no right to do so, and to assume that he would have a majority is beside the point.
I assume that if I put forward an amendment to reduce sales tax and the Assistant Minister decided that this would, be a good thing and he also accepted the amendment, every member on the Government side would support him. All I am saying is that translated into practical politics, the Assistant Ministers have no right to and cannot make judgment or decisions in the Committee stage of a Bill. Only the Minister responsible for that Bill has the. right to make that decision.
Mr SWARTZ (Darling Downs-Minister for National Development) - I may speak on the amendment that has been moved, but I did ask for leave to refer very briefly to a couple of other matters that have been raised before because I think they need clarification. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) who is a colleague of mine on the Standing Orders Committee has raised a question. He is there in an official capacity whereas I am merely ex officio. At the same time, we both agreed to the report which is now before the House. The question of the necessity for clause (c) of item 1 was considered by the Committee in view of the fact that a private member could handle a private member’s Bill. The advice to the Standing Orders Committee was that it was necessary to include this clause to allow the Assistant Minister to act in this particular capacity. It was put in to conform to the requirements of the Standing Orders and to give authority to the Assistant Minister to so act. But he could not act in the capacity as a private member handling a Government Bill. So the point raised by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) is quite correct in that respect.
However, I think the practical results of the additional points raised by the honourable member for Dawson would be that if an amendment was moved by the Opposition to a clause during the Committee stage of a Bill when the Assistant Minister was in charge sitting at the table, he would have no authority to accept that amendment but would refer the matter to his Minister. This again is in accordance with the Standing Orders. Upon his referring the matter to his Minister, the Minister would either take over at that point of time or give some indication to the Committee as to what the position would be. So in relation to that matter the Assistant Minister would be in charge only in a practical sense, the main reason being to relieve the Minister for a time purely on a matter of administration. But if a matter of policy arose obviously the Minister has the responsibility to deal with it and he would have to make a decison at the time.
I would like to clear up one or two points that were raised by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly). I can speak on this matter with some sense of background because, as he said, I was a Parliamentary Secretary in the days to which he referred, but I do not think it was 14 years ago. It probably only seems like that. It was in fact 9 years ago before I went into the Ministry in 1961. So the honourable member was going back into what is now the early history of this Parliament. But at that time Parliamentary Secretaries had no standing, constitutionally or otherwise, in this House principally because, so far as payment is concerned, the Constitution refers to Ministers of State but also because at that stage Parliamentary Secretaries had not been sworn into the Executive Council. In fact, at that point of time the then Prime Minister had sought legal advice and the advice given to him was that if Parliamentary Secretaries were sworn in to the Executive Council they could have some standing in this House under the Standing Orders if the proposal were accepted by the House.
As I say, at that point of time the situation changed. As the sole remaining member of that group that time I went into the Ministry and so the matter was left standing. But it has been revived and the system of Assistant Ministers now has been introduced and approved by this House. It is a system which was in operation in most parliaments throughout the world, but because of our constitutional problem in regard to the payment of Ministers of State only, the Parliamentary Secretaries could not be paid for their duties as Parliamentary Secretaries. So it is that Assistant Ministers today cannot be paid as Assistant Ministers because it would become an office of profit under the Crown. Of course, they can be paid certain expenses, as were Parliamentary Secretaries in the past. I merely indicate that to clarify a point that was raised by the honourable member for Grayndler.
I think the position generally is that the points raised in relation to the appointment of Assistant Ministers were considered very carefully by the Standing Orders Committee. In fact, the matter was discussed at great length and advice was received from the Clerks in relation to a number of technical matters. The recommendations now before the House in this report conform to the authority that was given to the Parliament by vote of this House; that is, a vote of the House approved the appointment of Assistant Ministers. The report of the Standing Orders Committee which is now before us is designed to implement, in accordance with the Standing Orders, the requirements contained in the motion that was passed by this House. So I agree with the honourable member for Wills that the first group of paragraphs that I have mentioned in the report should receive the endorsement of the House.
– I would like to advance a somewhat different view in relation to this matter. In my view, the Assistant Ministers are at this stage somewhat like Mohammed’s coffin: They are somewhere between the realities of the situation and something that we have not quiet decided. I do not think anybody would say that to date the Assistant Ministers have played any very significant part in the deliberations of this Parliament.
– They hardly ever speak.
– They hardly ever speak because nobody quite knows what is their role.
– And they are not game to tell us.
– No, they are not game to tell us. I submit that the whole question of Assistant Ministers should be referred back. I disagree somewhat with my friend the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) who is a great one for asserting that Parliament should be the executive body of the nation. I do not believe that Parliament can be the executive body of the nation. I think that the Executive Government is quite clearly provided for in chapter 2 of the Constitution. Section 65 of the Constitution provides:
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, the Ministers of State shall not exceed seven in number,-
We have certainly varied that; I think the Ministers of State now number 27. Section 65 continues: and shall hold such offices as the Parliament prescribes, or, in the absence of provision, as the Governor-General directs.
It seems to me that if we did concede some place for the Assistant Ministers - in my view, it has not yet been determined - perhaps an Assistant Minister should be able to do what is provided in clause (c) of the recommendation. However, there still is a very grey area as to what an Assistant Minister is, what he can do and what he cannot do. I submit that we need to look much more closely at this situation before we adopt clause (c) which states that an Assistant Minister should be entitled to take charge of a Bill. If it is acknowledged that Assistant Ministers are necessary because the ordinary Ministers cannot encompass all the business of their departments, that is fair enough but I do not think we have really decided that. I think that the Government embarked upon the appointment of Assistant Ministers without seriously considering the ramifications.
It is all right for the Government to say that we agreed to the provision of Assistant Ministers by a vote of the House but, as everybody knows, a vote of the House simply means an unconditioned vote of the House. It was not a free vote; it was a Party vote. A free vote might decide that Assistant Ministers were necessary or that they were extraneous. I suggest that if we are to get anywhere in adjusting the Standing Orders of this Parliament, we should accept that the question of Assistant Ministers is a rather controversial area that could well be set aside for some time yet. There used to be other Assistant Ministers. Indeed, the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) used to be known as the abominable no man. I do not mean that in any offensive sense, but this at least summed up the reality of the situation, namely, that when it came to a real decision, he could not make it. He was only a referee, as it were, between the claimant and the ultimate decision and nobody took very much notice of that decision if he thought he could get past it. It seems to me that this is what is involved here and I would suggest that this clause be deferred. In fact, I am not too sure whether the whole question of Assistant Ministers should not be deferred for further consideration.
If I may differ- this being a non-party area - from my friend the honourable member for Wills, I do not believe that in a modern community 125 people can get anywhere by just voting on the merits of any issue. After all, politics in Australia is organised around the real existence of political parties. It is organised around recognition of the principle that whichever party obtains more than 50 per cent of the number of members has the right to govern, and that party cannot govern unless there is an executive body. The Government has 27 Ministers. The total number of members representing the Government parties is not much more than twice the number in the Ministry. Yet the Government, for technical reasons and because the weight of executive decisions is too great to be encompassed by the Ministry, has given some of the work to Assistant Ministers. I think this shows some deficiency in the real working of the system. I submit, with all respect, that the question of Assistant Ministers should be deferred. We ought to move for the adjournment of this clause and proceed with something else, otherwise we will not get anywhere.
– There is just one point I would like to add to the considerations submitted on this section of the Standing Orders Committee report. While some justification has been presented for the sharing of the task that faces Ministers in attending to their responsibilities here, I point out that this House has 22 Ministers to share responsibility on behalf of the Government, whereas in the Senate the total responsibility for the Ministry, including the Cabinet, is accepted by 5 Ministers. So, there is no validity in the point made about Assistant Ministers being required to share the onerous duty of handling Bills through this House. Many more Ministers, including members of the Cabinet, are available in this place than in the Senate. In the Senate 5 Ministers have this responsibility, in comparison with 22 Ministers in this place.
That the words proposed to be added (Mr Scholes’s amendment) be added.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr A. S. Luchetti)
Majority . . . . 29
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the Recommendations1to 6 of paragraph
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority .. .. 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Swartz) agreed to:
That further consideration of the motion bo made an order of the next clay of sitting.
House adjourned at 11.10 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
War Service Homes (Question No. 4903)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The figures provided in respect of the financial years 1961-62 to 1966-67 represent an estimate of the number of approved applications for second assistance as accurate statistics were not maintained prior to 1967.
asked the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourble member’s question is as follows:
(a) The total number of applicants granted assistance under the War Services Homes Scheme since its inception to 29th February 1972 is 324,793.
Environment (Question No. 4987)
asked the Minister for the
Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
On what matters and to what extent has Australia so far participated in the work of the Environment Committee of the OECD since it was formed in December 1970.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Since Australia joined the OECD in June 1971, there have been 2 meetings (Nos 3 and 4) of the Environment Committee held on 29th September to 1st October 1971 and 9th to 11th February 1972 respectively. The Australian delegation to Meeting No. 3 was led by our Ambassador to
OECD and to meeting No. 4 by the First Assistant Secretary, Office of the Environment Division of my Department. Officers from the permanent delegation and from Australia have attended a variety of specialist sector and ad hoc group meetings set up under the aegis of the Environment Committee. The delegation and the departments concerned in Australia keep in close touch with the work of the Environment Directorate through its documentation.
The Environment Committee of OECD has the following mandate -
To investigate the problems of preserving or improving man’s environment with particular reference to their economic and trade implications;
To review and confront actions taken or proposed in Member countries in the field of environment together with their economic and trade implications;
To propose solutions for environmental problems that would as far as possible take account of all relevant factors, including cost effectiveness;
To ensure that the results of environmental investigations can be effectively utilised in the : wider framework of the Organisation’s work on economic policy and social development.
ns asked the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Clutha Development (Question No. 4381) Mr Uren asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
en - The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 April 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1972/19720413_reps_27_hor77/>.