27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the fol lowing petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament asembled the petition of the undersigned electors of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That on December 10, 1948, Australia signed the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, Article 25 reads: ‘Everyone has the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age and other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.’
Yet, 23 years later, in our country of great national wealth and abundance it is to the nation’s shame that many thousands of our people live in a state of being inconsistent with the dignity and worth of the human person - languishing in poverty and want, neglect and the lack of proper care necessary for their health and well-being.
We, the undersigned, respectfully draw to your attention that the conscience of the nation is not at ease while the records of our country show that social services are not comparable with that of other advanced countries administering such services, therefore, we call upon the Commonwealth Government to immediately legislate for:
Base pension rate - 30 per cent of the average weekly male earnings, all States, plus supplementary assistance and allowances based on a percentage of such earnings. Unemployed benefits equal to the foregoing.
Completely free health services to cover all needs of social service pensions - 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 domicilliary 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 Dr Everingham, Mr Sherry, Dr Jenkins, Mr Hansen, Mr Scholes, Dr Cass, Mr Stewart and Mr Keith Johnson.
Petitions severally received.
– I present the following petition:
The Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Postmaster-General’s Department, Central Office, policy of centralising Post Office affairs and activities under the various titles of Area Management, Area Mail Centres, Area Parcel Centres and similar titles is resulting in both loss of service and lowering of the standards of service to the Public, directly resulting in the closing of Post Offices which is detrimental to the Public interest.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to:
Call a halt to all closing of Post Offices and reorganising within the Post Office, until full details of the proposed savings and all details of alteration to the standards of service to the Public are made available to Parliament, and
Initiate a joint 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 Kennedy, Mr Hayden, Mr Lucock, Dr Everingham and Mr Kelly.
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 from certain residents of the western suburbs in the Sydney Metropolitan area and surounding 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 international 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 appropriatesteps 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 of the metropolitan area.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
A similar petition was presented by Mr Armitage, and was received and read.
A similar petition was presented by Dr
– I present the follow ing petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth.
That Lake Pedder, situated in the Lake Pedder National Park in South-West Tasmania, is threatened with inundation as part of the Gordon River hydro-electric power scheme.
That an alternative scheme exists, which, if implemented would avoid inundation of this lake.
That Lake Pedder and the surrounding wilderness area is of such beauty and scientific interest as to be of a value beyond monetary consideration.
And that some unique species of flora and fauna will be in danger of extinction if this area is inundated.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government take immediate steps to act on behalf of all Australian people to pre serve Lake Pedder in its natural state. All present and particularly future Australians will benefit by being able to escape from their usual environment to rebuild their physical and mental strength in this unspoilt wilderness area.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– 1 ask the Minister for Education and Science a question concerning drop-out rates in secondary schools throughout Australia. Do the figures he released yesterday show that in 1971 only 26 per cent of government pupils and only 33.9 per cent of Catholic pupils were still enrolled for their final secondary year? Do the figures also show that 81.7 per cent of non-Catholic private pupils were still enrolled for their final year? Does a comparison between 197 1 and 1970 in Victoria’s government schools show that the only improvement was that last year there were only 29 more pupils still staying on out of the original 46,000 government pupils? How does the Minister account for the inequalities reflected in these figures? Is he concerned about them? If so, what action does he intend to take?
– The background to the figures that the honourable gentleman has mentioned to the House - insofar as he quoted figures which I gave in answer to a question, I believe they are correct - is one of the reasons underlying the Commonwealth’s increasing and growing support for education in all areas. It needs to be noted that the greatest growth in education in recent years has been in the government sector, where over the last 8 or 10 years - I think it is 10 years - enrolments in government secondary schools have increased by about 85 per cent and the improvement in retention rates has been largest in the government sector, as one would expect, because the greatest backlog was in that area. The honourable gentleman would also need to note that those who leave secondary school do not necessarily go immediately into the work force. There are other avenues of training for people who leave before the end of secondary schooling. These figures would not be reflected in the basic overall statistics which the honourable gentleman has quoted.
I think the honourable member for Bendigo would know that it is the Government’s objective to achieve a situation in which there is full and complete equality of education for all students in Australia, and that is one of the basic reasons why over a long period the Government has been pursuing policies to up-grade the quality of education in all schools. The Government will contine to do just that. In certain specific areas where inequalities have been demonstrated the Government has selected programmes designed to give people in those areas greater opportunity than might otherwise have been the case. The child migrant programme, under which over 20,000 children have been given special assistance with English, and the Aboriginal study grant programme are 2 specific examples of measures designed to assist under-privileged groups in the “community.
– I ask the Minister for
Labour and National Service whether there has been any improvement in the rate of productivity growth, in view of the importance of increasing productivity in order to win the battle against inflation?
– As the honourable gentleman suggests, this is certainly a matter of great national significance, particularly at the present time, because the House will well appreciate that one of the essential features of the inflationary problem that we are currently facing is that money incomes, particularly wages and salaries, are far outstripping any reasonable estimate of productivity growth. As I recall the figures, the productivity increase during the year 1970-71 compared with the previous year was only 1.4 per cent and that, of course, is an appalling level of productivity growth, having regard to the essential nature of the inflationary spiral.
But I can say to the honourable gentleman that the Government certainly recognises the importance of this question. A wide-ranging series of actions has been taken by the Government. I think of the productivity group movement which currently involves some 5,000 undertakings in 230 groups and of the work of the Productivity Promotion Council which, of course, is the spearhead seeking to inculcate productivity consciousness throughout Australia. This is not to overlook the question of the restoration of the investment allowance, the Government’s policy in relation to research and developmental grants and other activities of that type, and also the restrictive trade practices legislation. The matter is one of concern, but I am confident that this year a renewed and stronger rate of productivity growth will certainly contribute directly to our productivity performance, and I would expect to see a marked lift during the course of the year.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question. He will know that the reason why Australia has applied fewer International Labour Organisation conventions to her nonselfgoverning Territories than any other colonial power is that no country can apply a convention to such a territory unless it has itself ratified the convention and he will also know that a principal reason why Australia has not yet ratified scores of ILO conventions is that the Federal Government has been deterred by the lethargy and obstruction of the States. I therefore ask him why the Administration of Papua New Guinea is not represented at the Departments of Labour Advisory Committee which yesterday and today has, among other things, carried out its routine annual review of the ILO conventions which Australia has not yet ratified. I also ask him: What is the point of including a representative of the Territory’s Department of Labour in the annual delegation to the International Labour Conference which considers new conventions if such a representative is excluded from the annual meeting of the Departments of Labour Advisory Committee which considers existing conventions?
– That is quite a proper question from the Leader of the Opposition, but I am sure the honourable gentleman will appreciate that it is also a matter which goes beyond the compass of my portfolio and involves directly my colleague the Minister for External Territories. Naturally, therefore, it is a matter on which
I would wish to consult that Minister before providing the honourable gentleman with a definite reply. I will certainly do so and send that reply to him in written form. But I can say generally that Australia has a very good record in relation to ratification of International Labour Organisation conventions, if this is related to other countries which have federal systems and therefore, of course, the problem of seeking agreement beyond just the overall federal area of responsibility. I do not remember the figures off the cufF but, as I recall them in a general way, if the honourable gentleman relates our record to that of Canada and the United States of America, I am sure he will find that it is a very satisfactory one. But by this I do not sound any note of complacency. We can do far more in this area and, in fact, we will.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister and refer to the Treasurer’s statement of 22nd February last giving details of the Government’s policies with respect to overseas investments by Australian residents. In view of the fact that overseas firms and agents can buy equity interests in Australian companies, thereby acquiring not only profits but also some influence on the operations of such companies, will the Prime Minister consider the implementation of policies designed to broaden the scope and nature of overseas investments by Australian residents to allow them to acquire equity interests in overseas companies, particularly those operating in Australia but not listed on Australian stock exchanges?
– Already there are some provisions in our foreign exchange regulations which permit investment by Australians in overseas corporations. I give these illustrations: firstly, if Australian management is involved or, secondly, if Australian expertise and technical considerations are involved. In cases where Australian export income is likely to be improved, of course, we are only too happy to provide the foreign exchange in order to permit the investment to be made. But in most cases unless the shares of the company are registered in Australia we do not, under the existing regulations, permit investment to take place in overseas corporations. I think it has been made clearif not by me then by the Treasurer - that because of the very substantial increase that is taking place in our international reserves we are at present looking very carefully at this question of Australian investment overseas. In particular I can assure the honourable gentleman that the problems he has mentioned will be one of the subjects in the White Paper which will be introduced into the House.
– Does the Minister for the Navy know the extent of the feeling in the Navy as well as among other citizens of contempt for a defamer and slanderer of honoured dead?
– I fail to see the connection
– I am referring to the letter which appeared in this morning’s “Canberra Times’.
– Order! The honourable gentleman has asked his question.
– The question, I take it, refers to a comment I made that 2 former Prime Ministers of this country would not have been associated with the kind of activity which, first, advocates breaking of the law or, secondly, associates itself with calls to troops in the field to mutiny. In short, I described them as men of honour and men who were patriots in the oldfashioned sense of the word in the La bot Party which scorned unity tickets with the Communists and would have nothing to do with this type of activity. 1 was deploring the difference between the Labor Party as led by these gentlemen and the Labor Party as it is now. If that is defaming, then I claim to be guilty.
– Can the Minister for Foreign Affairs inform the House what evidence his Department has been able to discover as to the amount of supplies being given to the North Vietnamese by the Soviet Union? It there any evidence of Soviet military advisers being with the North Vietnamese and Vietcong forces?
– Of course it is very difficult to give precise figures in circumstances of this character, although some work is being done to give me more precise figures than I have at present. With the qualification that one cannot guarantee the accuracy of the figures, I can say that the evidence at the moment points to the “fact that the Soviet Union would have supplied aid to North Vietnam to the extent of SI, 000m in the past year whereas the People’s Republic of China would have provided aid to the extent of about $300m in that time. I would hope to have further information on the subject. As to the question of advisers, there have been reports that Russian advisers have been in North Vietnam. I am not able to confirm whether this is correct.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that on each occasion when bank overdraft interest rates were increased, the increases were immediately passed on to home loan borrowers. Is he aware also that when recent reductions were made in the bank overdraft rate no comparable reductions were made in home loan’ interest rates? I ask the Prime Minister whether the reason for this is that as the overdraft reduction was to benefit corporate borrowers and large scale borrowers, the advantage was not passed on to the small borrowers? If this is the case, will the Prime Minister consult the banking ‘ institutions and ask that the smaller borrowers for home loan purposes be given the same benefits as larger borrowers on overdrafts?
– It was certainly not the intention in the changes made either in Commonwealth loans or in the consequential changes that occurred in the bank overdraft rates to do as the honourable member for Corio suggested, as a deliberate result of Commonwealth Government policy. We wanted to ensure that the benefit flowed to all people, and particularly that it flowed to corporations and to people who get small advances as well as those who get large advances. I had not heard the argument that has just been put by the honourable gentleman, that when interest rates increased the cost was passed on to the actual borrowers and that in the reverse situation the benefit had not been passed on to the borrowers as well. I am only too happy to hear from the honourable gentleman, and, if what he says is correct, to assure him that I will make approaches to the Reserve Bank to see whether it can take it up with the trading banks.
– 1 desire to ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs a question. Having been in Singapore last Friday and observed headlines given in local newspapers to the support of the honourable member for Lalor for the communist forces in Vietnam and their major attack on South Vietnam, and in view of the further support given by the ALP in Victoria to the communist forces, I ask whether the Minister has made contact with our allies in this area, pointing out that these are not the views of the Government or the people of Australia? If not, one could not blame our allies for feeling that Australia’s bona fides in defence agreements were suspect.
-I have not had reports of these headlines or articles in the newspapers in Singapore. I think there is a danger in the South East Asian area at times that the attacks that are made or the views that are expressed by the Opposition could run the risk of being considered to be the views of the Australian people. This applies also to immigration policy, defence and other matters. In this instance I will take aboard what the honourable gentleman has said as to those in Singapore, but I have every confidence that the Singaporeans know precisely where we stand. It is only a short time ago that I was sitting in Mr Rajaratnam’s home on a Saturday afternoon where we exchanged very frank views for an hour and a half, and I think we each know where the other stands and what our government’s policies are. I have not the slightest doubt that he is not misled in any way.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is a report in today’s Press of the recent birth in Sydney of a baby without limbs correct? If so, are officers of the Department of Health investigating this case? If so, when may a report be expected as to whether any therapeutic substance taken by the mother may have been a causal agent? Finally, does the Commonwealth Department of Health play any monitoring role in the release of new therapeutic agents in Australia, particularly regarding the adequacy of clinical trials before such releases?
– I will convey the honourable gentleman’s question to my colleague in another place and ask him to give the honourable gentleman a full reply.
– Is the Minister for Customs and Excise aware that shops for the sale of sex aids have been opened in several States, and that many of the articles sold come from other countries? Is he also aware that some States have announced that they propose ito take whatever action they can to prohibit the sale and advertising of such goods? The advertising is conducted by means of pamphlets such as the one I now show to the House and which are sent through the post - quite filthy documents. In view of the depraved emphasis on sex in this and in other publications, on television and through certain other mass media, which is destroying modesty and moral discipline in our young people, will the Minister co-operate with the States in whatever way he can to restrain the inevitable destruction of a decent way of life in our society?
– I rise on a point of order. Under the Standing Orders it is necessary for the honourable member to vouch for the accuracy of the advertisements. Can he do that? If so, will he give us an indication of how much he paid for the last article he bought?
-Order! The honourable member for Hindmarsh will resume his seat. There is no substance in the point of order.
– The point of order taken by my friend from Hindmarsh I think ‘.ends some credence to the argument that perhaps there should be some control over the sale of the objects which the honourable member for Bennelong has referred, because the prospect of the honourable member for Hindmarsh being erotically stimulated by one of these sex aids and wandering the corridors of this Parliament fills me with stark terror. There is a view put that the operation and proliferation of so-called sex shops have passed the bounds of community tolerance. This is a view which I share. I believe that there has been a cynical exploitation of a liberalised censorship policy which now constitutes an affront to the dignity of average citizens. Because of this the Commonwealth, in the area in which I have power under certain circumstances to declare certain imports prohibited, has a role to play. However, the responsibility for sex shops, as the honourable gentleman would know, is essentially one for State governments. I have already received from the Chief Secretary of New South Wales a letter asking me to co-operate with his Government at least in the control of the operations of these institutions and with particular reference to unsolicited advertising, to which I understand the honourable gentleman referred. I would be delighted to assist and co-operate with the States in this matter and will be calling a meeting of relevant Ministers at an early opportunity.
– I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs: As Australia has been so deeply involved in Vietnam, what steps has he taken to develop international pressure for a cease fire in Vietnam? If he has not taken any such steps why has he not done so and when will he do so? Why has he shown no compassion whatsoever for the victims of the war? Will the Government give approval for the adoption of Vietnamese orphans if the appropriate approval is obtained by the private citizens? When will the Government do something which is not political but which shows some compassion for the victims of the war?
– To answer this question fully would take some considerable time. Let me start with the statement that was made relating to prisoners of war and those missing in action in Vietnam. As honourable members know. North Vietnam is holding prisoners of war. It does not observe the Geneva Convention. It will not allow mail. It will not allow inspections. It will not allow any wounded or sick people-
– I rise to order. The question I asked was not about prisoners of war but about the victims of the war. The burden of the question is: What steps have been taken to develop international pressure tor a cease fire?
-Order! I could not uphold that point of order. If I were to express a personal opinion, 1 would say that prisoners are victims of the war.
-I was starting with class 1. 1 do not know whether the honourable member wants me to go through the various classes of the victims. As far as the prisoners of war are concerned, we have made an effort to see that North Vietnam does not persist with the breaches of the Geneva Convention.
– I was thinking of the refugees.
– As the honourable member knows, a lot of the people fighting in South Vietnam against this invasion were refugees from the terror in the north at the time of the takeover there. They are fighting with South Vietnam in defence of that country. The invasion has caused great suffering in the south land. As to steps to end this conflict, we have again expressed our international support for the points which were put by President Nixon for a political settlement of this matter. These points involved the resignation of the Thieu government, international control of elections and then a settlement in accordance with the will of the people. A very large section of the Opposition has been supporting the military success of the invasion. Even the Leader of the Opposition, who said that this was not Labor policy, persists in the view that the 7 points which were put by North Vietnam for the settlement of the war would have been a way of ending it. One has only to study with a good deal of care and attention point No. 2 to realise that it was a stipulation that the present administration in Saigon .should be entirely dismantled, thai ils army should be removed and that then the provisional government - the Vietcong - should arrange a government of national concord which would then have elections to see who would govern in an assembly of South Vietnam. Tt is quite plain that the 7 points involved the proposition that North Vietnam, through the Vietcong, would control the elections. Any reasonable man reading it could see that.
The proposal would give North Vietnam more than a military victory would give it. The proposal can be described properly as advocating that we should join our enemy to destroy our friends.
The Government has taken other steps but I will not weary the House with them at question time. Honourable members know of our support on the civil side of operations - in hospitals and in the health field, in the supply of food and in the supply of roofing after the cyclone. We have taken very practical and positive steps to try to assist the victims of the whole disaster in this area. Where it has spread through the activities of North Vietnam, to Laos and Cambodia, we have supplied trucks and money for their exchange support funds. I could continue for some considerable time but I do not wish to detain the House with a further catalogue.
– My question h addressed to the Minister for the Army. By way of explanation may I say that for about 4 hours last Saturday a Mustang aircraft chartered by the Army flew in roughly a circle at a height of about 1,500 feet over a residential area in my electorate, returning to each point in the pattern at about every 2 minutes and that an officer of the Department of Civil Aviation informed me at the time of my inquiry about the matter that 24 people individually had telephoned to protest. Can the Minister say what was the nature and purpose of such an exercise? Why did it have to be carried out on a Saturday over a residential district? Under which authority are such requests for permission made to the Department of Civil Aviation? I mean by that are they made by the GOC, Eastern Command, by a battery commander or by whom? ls the Department of Civil Aviation bound to grant such a request, provided that it does not interfere with flight patterns having priority? Can the Department of Civil Aviation query the Army authorities as to the purpose of the proposed flight? Is the Army aware of the nuisance known as noise pollution?
– 1 can well understand the honourable member’s concern because a number of people were quite distracted by that particular operation, lt is true that 24 people contacted the Department of Civil Aviation and inquired as to just what it was all about. Apparently they were 24 very distressed people. Let me stress that the actual operation is one which is held periodically - in fact, once every 12 months. The aircraft involved is hired from a civilian company - it was not a military aircraft. When DCA received the complaints it immediately checked with the aircraft and found that it was flying higher than the regulations required, which is 1,500 feet above ground level. As I have said, it is an exercise which is held periodically. The point is that it was not a military exercise; it was a Citizen Military Forces exercise. I believe it was held over the area of St Ives and Middle Harbour. I am sure that the people who were distressed will appreciate the fact that they will not have any further disturbance for at least another 12 months. I will certainly inquire further into the matter to see whether the intensity of the noise created by this 12- monthly operation can be lessened somewhat.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister for Social Services. Does the the Minister mind if I do?
– Can you wake him up?
– I have woken him, Sir. My question concerns the increased rates of unemployment, sickness and special benefits provided in the Bill which was passed by this House on 22nd February and assented to on 25th February. I ask: Why was the payment of the higher special benefits authorised only from last week while the payment of the other benefits commenced in February? Since the honourable gentleman himself expressly told the House in his second reading speech that those who qualified for special benefits would receive die increased rate as soon as the Bill was passed, I ask him whether he will authorise the payment of special benefits retrospectively from February?
Mt WENTWORTH- If you will pardon me saying so, Mr Speaker, in the words of the immortal Mo ‘I’m awake up’ to the hon ourable gentleman. The question of the payment of special benefits is a discretionary one. In this case there was, I agree, some holdup in my Department. I will have the matter examined.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. Why does the Army want to enlarge the Puckapunyal Army camp? What stage have negotiations reached with the Government of Victoria and private landholders for this enlargement? Will the Minister assure the House that generous compensation will be paid to any landholders whose land has been or will be compulsorily acquired?
– The acquisition of land in the Puckapunyal area has been the subject a good deal of discussion and negotiation and I think the stage now has been reached where most parties are reasonably agreed on the solution. Admittedly, the Puckapunyal area which currently is being used is a large one. Necessarily, because the exercises conducted there involve armour and artillery, there has been quite an effect on the soil and people concerned with ecology have been very distressed about this. I might mention that we are currently spending about $100,000 on restoring the areas involved. However, I am sure that the House will realise that we are entering into a new generation of armour and artillery and it is interesting to note that very shortly we will have United States and German tanks which will have to exercise in this area. The area which may be acquired involves about 52,000 acres, of which 29,000 acres is State forest and 22,000 acres is privately owned. In regard to the second part of the question asked by the honourable member for Murray relating to the matter of compensation, this will of course be closely examined and I am sure that my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, who will deal with this matter will fully discuss it and give these people a fair go.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Will Australia’s recent accession to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development mean that
Australia’s economy in future will be open to the same international scrutiny as that of the other nation members? Is the Prime Minister aware of allegations that the OECD secretariat in Paris is finding it difficult to secure from Australia basic data needed to provide for the visit to Australia by the OECD survey team in September? Will the Prime Minister ensure the fullest co-operation with the OECD secretariat now and with the visiting team in September and will he further ensure that the results of this first open scrutiny of the Australian economy and development will not be held up by the Government until after the election and thus deny the opportunity to the Australian people to have access to an independent judgment of the Government’s economic performance?
– I differ substantially from the opinions implied in the question asked by the honourable gentleman. In my view the people who should be proper judges of the state of the Australian economy are the Australians themselves and not the members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. If the honourable member wants it another way and for our affairs to be handed over to organisations other than this Parliament and the Australian people, he should have the courage to say so. As to the 3 questions asked by the honourable gentleman, normally within the OECD there is an examination of the economies of various countries. I know of no reason why it is to be thought that this will not occur in the case of Australia or that Australia would object to any inquiry by the OECD. As to the second part of the question which related to the visit in, I think, the honourable member said, September, I was not aware of that visit until this moment. But I should say this: In my recent discussions with representatives of the OECD in Canberra, they certainly welcomed our presence in the organisation. They know what a healthy economy we have and we know that this economy is basically sound. As to the first part of the honourable gentleman’s question, I have already answered that. If he has the courage to stand and say that he wants this country to be handed over to others he should do so rather than hide his views behind a lot of words.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Did the Goverment in any way attempt to influence the Public Service Board in its recent wages decision?
– It should be known to the House that the Public Service Board in its wage determining functions is completely independent and free of the Government. We have no legal right to intervene and we have not intervened when particular matters of this kind have been involved. Anything that is said to the contrary, irrespective of whether it happens to come from the opposite side of the House or elsewhere, is completely incorrect. I take it a stage further and say that if there were any intervention or attempted intervention I believe it would be the responsibility of the Public Service Board publicly to report on it, and that is what I believe it would do. So, Sir, the answer is clear. No, there has not been any intervention. We have no legal capacity to intervene and under no circumstances would we do so. I know from my personal knowledge that no intervention has occurred since I have been Prime Minister.
– Has the Minister for Shipping and Transport seen a reported statement that a large volume of cargo is being redistributed from the port of Launceston to a north-west coast Tasmanian port for shipment? Is the Minister aware that if the report is correct - and it involves the Australian National Line - it can result only in higher freight charges? Will the Minister institute inquiries to ensure that this practice is discontinued?
– I am not aware of the statement to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has referred, concerning the transfer of cargo from Launceston to another port. I am unaware of the action being taken but I will have inquiries made about it and I will inform the Deputy Leader of the Opposition later of the results of those inquiries. I would think that if the Australian National line were involved it would be acting with a view lo rationalisation of cargo handling in an endeavour to obtain cheaper freights rather than dearer freights. However, I do not know anything about the matter at the moment and 1 will look into it.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industy seen a report in Ronald Anderson’s ‘Primary Industry Newsletter’ of 12th April that Amalgamated Cooperative Marketers Australia Ltd is prepared to spend $30,000 on a campaign to have Mr K. R. Kent, its General Manager, re-elected to the Australian Dairy Produce Board? If the report is true, does it indicate the significant commercial value to individual companies of a seat on the Board by which they may influence trading patterns, not always in the best long term interests of dairy farmers? Will the Minister consider revising the constitution of the Board to ensure that all members representing both co-operative and proprietary companies are as free as possible from vested interests, and specifically that suppliers whose votes determine the appointment to the Board are given an opportunity to have a say in the nominations?
– Whether it is a question of canvassing on behalf of candidates for this place or for candidates for election to bodies representing primary producers, the amount to be spent in support of such campaigns seems to be a matter of dispute. Very real difficulties arise in placing restraints on individuals who have a right in accordance with the constitution of a particular body io be elected after the sort of campaign which they might be permitted to run. But let me say that from the Government’s point of view any person who is either appointed to a body or who might be elected to it is expected after he becomes a member of that body to divorce himself from the responsibilities he previously exercised and to act thenceforth in accordance with the overall responsibilities which the new appointment places upon him.
I do not know whether in the instance to which the honourable gentleman has referred there is any implication beyond the fact that support is to be given to a particular candidate, but I trust that whoever the candidates may be, when appointed to the Board they will see themselves as representing the whole industry and not any particular section of it. However, I will examine the implications of the honourable gentleman’s question and this will be done, of course, in accordance with the recommendations for change in the constitution of the Board which are now being considered by the Government.
Mr ALLAN FRASER (EdenMonaro)Mr Speaker, 1 wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. 1 have been misrepresented, I am sure inadvertently, by the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay) who described my question earlier today as referring to a statement he made some days ago. lt certainly was not. Perhaps it was my fault in that I assumed that he was aware of the signed statement made by him today in which he describes a private conversation allegedly held by him, when he was a complete stranger, with the war-time Prime Minister, John Curtin, and in which he attributes to John Curtin-
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now debating the question.
– I am sorry.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I just want to make plain, Mr Speaker-
-Order! The honourable gentleman has gone beyond the bounds of a personal explanation. The purpose of a personal explanation is to show where an honourable member has been misrepresented. This is not a case of misrepresentation but a case, as I see it, of some misunderstanding.
– I think it was misrepresentation, because the Minister in his answer went on to attribute to me views which I certainly did not hold. I was referring to the alleged conversation which the Minister says he had 25 years ago privately with John Curtin when John Curtin was dying and in respect of which he attributes to John Curtin defamatory statements which anyone who knew John Curtin would regard as completely incredible. That was the basis of my question today and that is the reason why I referred to this as defamatory and slanderous.
-Order! I call the honourable member to order.
– 1 wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The imputation in what has been said is that I was lying when I described a conversation that 1 personally remember and have remembered vividly from the day of the conversation to this clay. I was a serving member of the Royal Australian Navy and was out of this country for most of the time Mr Curtin was Prime Minister. I, of course, remember quite vividly the first occasion - a dramatic occasion - on which 1 was able to be present in the office of the then Prime Minister of this country. I remember the conversation well. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Allan Fraser) has gone on to impute that what 1 said with regard to the stand taken by both Prime Ministers was a false view of their position. Let me just ask honourable members to go to Hansard and take out the volume for 1950, when Mr Chifley as the Leader of the Opposition made a speech in reply to a speech by Mr Menzies announcing the sending of Australian troops to Korea. In that speech I remember - and I remember thinking back on seeing reports of that speech - 2 points being made: Firstly, that with regard to the war that was taking place in that country he-
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Is this to be a debate? If it is to be a debate, then I think that you ought to rule that honourable members on this side will be able to engage in it. You, Sir, pointed out to the honourable member for Eden-Monaro that he was not entitled to debate the matter. The Minister is quite clearly and deliberately debating the subject.
– In relation to the point of order, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro, after I had spoken to him about this, explained to me where I perhaps was under a misapprehension in regard to his point, and I allowed him to continue. The questions that have been raised in this matter are questions which the honourable member for Eden-Monaro actually raised in his personal explanation to the House.
– I will conclude in 2 sentences.
-Order! I say to the Minister, as I said to the honourable member for Eden-Monaro, that personal explanations should be limited to the exact matter on which an honourable member has been misrepresented. Bringing in any other matter by way of a debate is distinctly out of order. I suggest to the Minister that in view of the point of order that has been taken he should conclude his remarks.
– I will conclude by saying that the honourable member for Eden Monaro nodded his head when I said that the imputation was that I had misrepresented the stand taken by these right honourable gentlemen. I simply say thai on a study of the speech it will be seen that my 2 points are relevant. Firstly, Mr Chifley, as Leader of the Opposition, pointed out strongly that it was not a question of the character of the governments of North Korea or South Korea - although he abhorred the former - or any other fact than that there was invasion from the north to the south taking place. I believe he also pointed out that similar circumstances could apply in the future in the case of other nations. This is vastly different, as I said in my letter, from the current situation in which the Labor Party is placed.
- Mr Speaker, during question time the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) misrepresented me and the purport of my question to him. He also reflected on my allegiance to the Parliament and the nation. He stated that my request to him involved the abdication of what is left of Australia’s independence after 22 years of Liberal-Country Party government. I wish to put the record straight. I asked whether the Government would co-operate in the comparative studies which the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development undertakes of the economies of member states. Presumably we joined the OECD to seek help and information. The Prime Minister misrepresented my question on that matter of co-operation and indeed seems to have repudiated our membership of OECD.
– 1 give notice that at the next sitting I shall move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for Defence making a ministerial statement relating to the invasion of South Vietnam by North Vietnam and its security implications for Australia.
– Mr Speaker, I present for the information of honourable members the Third Report of the Interim Council for a National Film and Television Training School, together with associated letters of 20th, 21st and 28th March from the Chairman of the Interim Council and a letter dated 2nd March from Mr Hector Crawford to the Chairman of the Interim Council. I seek leave to make a statement concerning this document.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Honourable members will recall that in the context of last year’s Budget the Government decided to defer consideration of recommendations for a National Film and Television Training School. However, the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) made it clear at the time that we would be looking at the matter again well before the next Budget. In accordance with that undertaking, we have recently considered these further recommendations from the Interim Council.
Following assurances about the School’s acceptability to the film and television industry and the prospects for employment of graduates, the Government has agreed to the establishment of the School along lines largely in accordance with the
Interim Council’s recommendations. The School will be established by statute and be built on an 8 acre site adjacent to Macquarie University. Pending legislative action, the Interim Council will continue to be responsible for its development. The School will be called the ‘Australian Film and Television School’.
Action will be taken as soon as possible to appoint the School’s first director. The occupant of this position will have great influence on the style and quality of the School. I hope that as well as being creative he will be knowledgeable in the practicalities of marketing and distribution of films and will reflect the Australian identity of the School.
Appendix . C of the report shows the courses in film and television available in tertiary institutions in Australia in 1971. I hope that in planning his syllabus, the director will take into account these courses in order to avoid unnecessary duplication.
We have also agreed to the Council immediately undertaking an interim training scheme which will provide a basic course for young people entering the industry and also advanced seminars for practising professionals. In the basic course 12 scholarships will be provided tenable for 12 months, open in general to young men and women from any part of Australia, who have passed the higher school certificate or its equivalent, and who show evidence of being likely to profit from the training provided. Provision will be made for the entry in exceptional cases of students who do not meet all these requirements but have other special experience or qualifications fitting them for admission to the scheme.
Training in television will use the facilities of the Australian Broadcasting Cornmission, including the Training School in Sydney, and of commercial television stations throughout Australia. The instructors will be drawn from the staff of the ABC and from such other sources as are appropriate. Training in film production will use the studios, cutting rooms and other facilities of the Commonwealth Film Unit and also of suitable commercial companies as the need arises. Lecturers will be in the main practising professionals.
For approximately 6 months of the course students will be assigned to the
Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Commonwealth Film Unit, commercial film companies or television stations, or to more than one of these in rotation, according to the aptitudes which they show. Special tests will be given in the early part of the course to reveal those students with a potential talent for scriptwriting and special attention will be given to their development. Pending the establishment of the National Film and Television School, the Council will arrange for the 3 best students to receive a further year’s training overseas.
The Council also proposes to hold a series of seminars in both Sydney and Melbourne, and if circumstances warrant, in other capital cities. These would be open to a limited number of people of accepted standing in Australian film or television production in order to enable them to hear from distinguished practitioners from Australia and overseas. Probably 3 to 4 seminars could be arranged in the first year. The Council has estimated the cost of establishing the School on 8 acres as $2.7m and its running costs over the first 5 years as $1.61m. Honourable members will, of course, realise that the actual costs will depend on the circumstances at the time the land is acquired, the building erected and so on. The Council has estimated the cost of the interim scheme at about $150,600 a year.
Appendix E of the report recommends that the School should be established on a site large enough to accommodate in the future other schools of an appropriate nature. However, paragraphs 9.14 to 9.18 of the report show that the schools which might most appropriately be associated with the Film School, namely, the National Institute of Dramatic Art and the Opera and Ballet School, are unlikely to want to move from their present locations. For example, the report says the National Institute of Dramatic Art has an ideal association with the Old Tote Theatre and the Department of Drama at the University of New South Wales and has ready access to the training school of the Australian Broadcasting Commission at King’s Cross.
Consequently, the Government will purchase only 8 acres for the School site. The other schools contemplated in Appendix E as associating with the Film School would normally be the responsibility of the Government of New South Wales. We believe that it should be for the New South Wales authorities to decide whether to acquire land adjoining the Film School for the purposes of these other schools.
One member of the Council, Mr Hector Crawford, has expressed doubts about the viability of the School and has advocated deferment until the operation and effectiveness of an interim scheme for professionals can be assessed. While Mr Crawford’s views reflect wide experience in the industry, they do not have the backing of other members of the Interim Council or of representatives of the industry consulted by the Council. However, I am hopeful that the interim scheme will lend itself to development on the postgraduate side so that practising professionals in the industry may continue to benefit from the best experience available both here and overseas. Planning of the school building will be kept as flexible as possible so that its form and detail can be influenced by the experience gained during the operation of the interim scheme.
The third report records a joint statement by the Interim Council and the Australian Film Development Corporation saying: lt is clear that measures have already been started to provide a solid basis for a viable Australian film and television industry.
In addition, both the Council and Corporation say:
By the lime the first graduates can be expected to emerge from the school in 5 years’ time or so, there is every reason to suppose that there will be an active industry in which they can use their talents and the skills which they have acquired and that they will do their part in developing that industry.
One of the members of the Interim Council, Mr Mauger, has recorded his disagreement with these statements. Also, representatives of commercial film studios are reported as saying that they consider that establishment of the school: . . must be accompanied by the provision of adequate assistance to the industry.
The Government’s assistance to the film and television industry is already substantial. The Australian Film Development Corporation was established in 1970 with an initial capital of Sim to encourage the production and distribution of Australian films. It is already supporting films that are of good quality and likely to be commercially successful.
The Experimental Film and Television Fund also was established in 1970 to provide assistance to individual film-makers to develop their talent and expertise and to explore the possibilities of the film and television media. The Interim Council has provided grants-in-aid to enable promising young students to go overseas. It envisages continuation of this scheme. The Interim Council also has provided assistance towards the production costs of television programmes of quality and special interest and assistance has been provided for scriptwriters to enable them to devote a period of time to the development of specific scripts of particular promise. Support is being given to film festivals and to organisations which provide the opportunity for a deeper study of film and television.
Now, most significantly, the Tariff Board has been asked to undertake a wide ranging inquiry into measures to assist the production of Australian films and television programmes and to ensure that they attain a reasonable share of the market. This is evidence of the Government’s intentions to foster and develop an efficient industry and to encourage distribution of the products of that industry within and outside Australia.
This third report of the Interim Council was prepared at my request. The Council endeavoured to obtain the co-operation of the film and television industry in Australia. It is pleasing to note that the fullhearted co-operation of the industry has been achieved. This will provide not only increased employment opportunities in the industry for graduates from the school but also the assistance and services of the commercial companies in the interim scheme. It is my hope that in founding the Australian Film and Television School, we are setting firm foundations for standards of quality in that industry which will be a source of pleasure and enlightenment in Australia and overseas in the years to come. I present the following paper:
National Film and Television Training School - Ministerial Statement, 19 April 1972.
Motion (by Mr Swartz) proposed:
That the House take note of the papers.
– I welcome the statement that has been made to the House this afternoon by the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson) as indeed does the Opposition. However our enthusiasm is somewhat tempered by the unnecessary delay in the presentation of the statement. One finds oneself having to adjust continually to this Government’s legislative pace. It can be fairly seen from this statement, with the other measures announced in this chamber recently, that we have emerging a re-Gortonisation of the McMahon Ministry - a double achievement of common sense and that degree of magnanimity that was called for by a certain member.
I do not propose to trespass unduly on the time of the House but I shall comment on a few points that were made during the Minister’s statement, although I have not had sufficient time to study it in depth. This is the third report on this matter. I am glad that finality has been reached at last. The Minister said that action will be taken as soon as possible to appoint the Australian Film and Television School’s first director. I hope that this appointment will not be unduly delayed. I take exception to the wording of this particular paragraph where it states that the occupant of this position will have great influence in the style of the school. I should have thought that that would be fundamental. Any man proposed to be appointed as director of a film school, in my view, would not be a candidate if he were lacking in style. The Minister said:
As well as being creative-
I assume that it is already accepted that if one appoints a director of a film school it is common sense and logic that, indeed, he would be creative. He would have to be creative. The Minister continued: . . he will be knowledgeable in the practicalities of marketing and distribution . . .
I suggest that he does not need this knowledge. Such activity is completely outside the province of a creative director. It is a commercial enterprise and has to be undertaken by commercial people. I urge the Minister not to saddle the director with this added responsibility. In the basic course 12 scholarships will be provided, tenable for 12 months, open in general to young men and women from any part of Australia who have passed the higher school certificate. I notice that there is a qualification which is worded:
Provision will be made for entry in exceptional cases of students who do not meet all these requirements . . .
In general I do not argue with this provision but in my experience academic qualification is not necessarily an asset in the creative art field; practical common sense and artistic ability are the basic requirements when selecting people in this field of creative visual art.
I am glad to see that the trainees will use the facilities of both the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the commercial stations throughout this country. This is a rare breakthrough. At long last the commercial licensees of Australia acknowledge that they have a responsibility and a contribution to make to the artistic development of this country. This is a breakthrough indeed because when this proposition was first presented - it is on record in black and white - there was almost total opposition to this concept. I am glad also to see that there will be courses for script writing and that special attention will be given to this aspect. This is an area in Australian creative television that has been overlooked for too long. It is one of the essentials. Indeed, competent, professional skilful writing goes to the very heart of television itself. The Interim Council proposes also to hold a series of seminars in both Sydney and Melbourne and, if circumstances warrant, in other capital cities. 1 do not want to enter into a parochial argument about the artistic productivity or quality of what is done in Sydney or Melbourne but, you know, really they are not the sole repositories of artistic activity in this country. In fact, without offending my friends from Victoria, very little has been done in Melbourne in the artistic and creative field. So do not let us, by saving $1 or $2, overlook the fact that perhaps Adelaide may well be able to make a contribution; that Perth may be able to make a contribution, as both it and Adelaide are now doing with eminently successful festivals, and as my own city of Hobart is doing.
– What have you got against Brisbane?
– I have nothing against Brisbane. Indeed, let us have Brisbane as well. I would be delighted to see this whole activity throughout the Commonwealth. 1 am glad to see that the cost problem, which has engaged the activities of the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) and myself and, indeed, the Minister, has at least been solved in a sensible and intelligent way. My other area of criticism is this: As the Minister has pointed out, one member of the Interim Council, Mr Hector Crawford, has expressed doubts about the viability of the school and has advocated deferment until the operation and effectiveness of the interim scheme for professionals can be assessed.
This does not come as a surprise to me. Let me go back to a speech I made on 9th December 1971 following the Prime Minister’s announcement that he would appoint 2 extra members to the Interim Council, namely, Mr Len Mauger, who is not unknown and wields more than a little influence in the Packer organisation, with which all honourable members are well acquainted, and also of course Mr Hector Crawford. When the Prime Minister announced that he was adding these two gentlemen to the Interim Council, I said:
Mr Crawford’s reputation is well known and Mr Mauger’s reputation is equally well known. But for the life of me I cannot imagine - in fact it defies any, logical explanation - why the Prime Minister should appoint these 2 men to the Interim Council when in point of fact both of them may well be opposed to the entire concept.
I think it is revealed in this statement by the Minister today that Mr Hector Crawford does not agree. Mr Mauger has reservations in some other area. Why then were they appointed? The question has not been answered.
– Because the Interim Council asked for them to be appointed.
– I am delighted that the Minister interjects that the Interim Council may well have asked for them. The Interim Council may well have asked for some other appointees also. It seems strange to me that these 2 gentlemen were the successful candidates.
I want to take now the point about the Tariff Board having been asked to undertake a wide ranging inquiry into measures to assist production of Australian films and television programmes. With this I entirely agree, but I would like to have some indication as to when the Tariff Board will be able to present to this Parliament the results of that inquiry, because the industry is certainly waiting for this. The third report of the Interim Council endeavoured to obtain the co-operation of the film and television industry in Australia. I congratulate the industry both in the commercial field and the Australian Broadcasting Commission for their wholehearted support for this project. Commonsense has prevailed, and only by commonsense prevailing, by teamwork and a recognition of the responsibilities that I have already referred to, will this project become the viable and worthwhile project that I think it will become. 1 said that I have not had time to study the subtleties and some of the nuances contained in’ the report, but I do have to say this: I express very great regret that the right honourable member for Higgins is not here, and I do hope that his absence is nol connected with the timing or the presentation of this report. I think the Opposition is quite justified in the efforts it has made and the efforts it has supported in connection with this most important measure mentioned by the Minister this afternoon. One of the most essential and highly important priorities of this nation is to encourage and to nurture the creative and the cultural image and to protect that image. Further than that, a very great reservoir of indigenous talent in this country is now afforded an opportunity to be put into practice, for the mutual benefit of our people and our nation. The Opposition believes and believes quite firmly that this visual art form, this perhaps most powerful persuasive medium of communication of the twentieth century, can be a powerful and wonderful medium for the development of understanding not only between the people of this nation and the peoples of our area, but with the peoples of the entire world.
I welcome the statement. The Opposition welcomes the statement. We sincerely hope that this project will be given a speedy passage to finality so that we can get on with the job that has been far too long delayed by governmental differences or personalities.
Debate (on motion by Mr Swartz) adjourned.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)I have received letters from the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) and the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. I have selected the matter proposed by the honourable member for Dawson, namely:
The failure of the Government to implement positive policies to encourage and maintain the progressive exploration of Australian oil resources.
I call upon those members who support the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places.)
– The drastic decline in the rate of oil exploration activity in Australia in the past 12 months represents a serious warning to the Federal Government that Australia can face huge costs for imported petroleum products in the future. At present Australia is approximately 70 per cent self-sufficient in its crude oil requirements. Import costs are running at $190m in the last year, but although this current, relatively high level of selfsufficiency suggests a bright situation, the immediate future can be regarded as somewhat dark. If there are no further oil discoveries in Australia import costs of crude oil and petroleum products will jump to approximately S370m by 1975. By 1980 import costs could reach $650m. By 1975 it is estimated that domestic production will cover only 50 per cent of our total requirements and that by 1980 this proportion will drop to 28 per cent.
The significance of future oil imports to the Australian economy can be seen by the analysis of projected costs of all imports within the next 20 years. In the absence of any further discoveries of oil in Australia, costs of crude oil imports are estimated to amount to a total of at least $1 6.000m over the next 20-year period. These are frightening figures for imports in relation to a budget. The magnitude of this potential increase in import costs must be taken very seriously. In all probability further oil discoveries will occur, but this cannot be taken for granted. The significance of future costs of oil imports can be gauged by the estimate that to secure selfsufficiency in oil over the next 20 years Australia would have to find and develop major oil fields equal, say, to the Bass Strait wells every 2 years. If Australia is forced to pay huge import bills for crude oil in the future tremendous pressure will be exerted on our basic export industries to earn foreign exchange, and although moderate increases in manufactured goods can be expected in the future, the major burden of financing imports will have to be borne by the agricultural, livestock and mineral industries. It is therefore clear that present Government inactivity and apathy in the field of oil exploration cannot be allowed to continue.
Already the Government’s inactive policies in the field of oil exploration and development are causing a serious slowing down in drilling and geophysical work. In 1971 the total footage of wells drilled dropped by 38 per cent compared with 1970. A total of 760,800 feet was drilled in 1971 as against 1.2 million feet in 1970. The decline in oil exploration activities is even more serious when it is shown that only 101 wells were drilled in 1971 compared with 212 in 1970. Although it is accepted that an important reason for the slowing down of activity is a sharp drop in drilling in onshore wells in Queensland and off-shore wells in Victoria, the fact nevertheless remains that oil exploration is sick. A major proportion of the blame for the condition of this sick industry must be borne by the Government as a direct result of unsound development policies. Despite its undoubted economic importance to the Australian economy, oil exploration has become the Cinderella of Australian developmental industry.
There is an urgent need to review the entire taxation, subsidy and domestic pricing policies with respect to the exploration and production of indigenous crude oil in Australia. A basic premise which must be accepted is that if Australia has extensive oil resources they should be found and developed to a level at least equal to selfsufficiency. It is indeed a sorry state of affairs when the Japanese Government is now financing Japanese companies to the extent of at least 50 per cent of opera tional costs to search for oil in Australian waters. In contrast, the Australian Government is paying Australian companies a maximum of 30 per cent of drilling costs in these same Australian waters.
Because of the Federal Government’s miserly policy on exploration subsidies it is obvious that more and more of Australia’s offshore resources will fall under the direct control of foreign interests. Australian companies just cannot afford to search for oil off-shore unless heavily backed by the Federal Government. They cannot compete, under existing policies, with the rich and powerful foreign interests now exploring our off-shore resources. Oil exploration subsidies should be looked upon as a national investment which is capable of yielding tremendous results and returns to the overall Australian economy. The soundness of increasing investment subsidies is clearly illustrated by the benefits received up to the present. A total of approximately $ 1,000m in present day money, including the oil exploration subsidy, has been invested in oil and gas exploration activities up to 1972. This investment is now yielding a cash flow in excess of $300m per annum from the production of oil. At the present import parity price this value is of the order of §360m. In addition some 10 million cubic feet of gas will yield at least $900m for domestic usage, in addition to substantial reserves. Because the nation has suddenly jumped to 70 per cent of self-sufficiency in oil the Government has become extraordinarily complacent. But, as pointed out, unless the present rate of exploration activity is increased self-sufficiency can disappear within a decade. In view of the need to increase domestic oil supplies in the future and the magnitude of potential benefits from investment in oil exploration, there is an urgent and justifiable need substantially to increase the exploration subsidy, particularly to Australian companies.
At the same time a Labor Government will give serious consideration to restructuring sections of the Bureau of Mineral Resources to allow the Bureau to enter the field of oil exploration and development. The establishment of a Commonwealth exploration authority would enable exploration and development of petroleum fields to be undertaken on behalf of the Australian people. Such an authority would work in close conjunction with the States and other exploration companies, both Australian and foreign. The French Government established the Bureau des Recherches du Petrole - BRP - after the last war. This Government authority has been responsible for the major part of the development of the oil industry in France and ils colonies to the great benefit of the French nation, in Italy the State owned ENI Corporation which was established in 1953 has played a major part in Italy’s oil and natural gas exploration and production. In Japan oil exploration is mainly the responsibility of the Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. JAPEX is a partnership between the Japanese Government and private companies concerned with the petroleum industry. In addition to undertaking oil exploration and development in its own right a Commonwealth authority would participate by way of partnership arrangements with Australian and foreign companies in the systematic development of our nation’s oil resources.
One of the principal reasons for the reduction in oil exploration activity is the Government’s absurd policy with respect to the guaranteed price for domestic indigenous crude oil. The domestic price for indigenous crude oil is pegged at the import parity price prevailing as at October 1968. This price is supposed to apply to 1975. When this price was first pegged the import parity price of crude oil was significantly lower than the Australian guaranteed price. This gave the industry a decided incentive to explore for oil. But early in 197) there were substantial increases in world prices, to the degree that producers of Australian oil are now receiving prices around 20 per cent below the real import parity price. Thus despite severe inflation which has played havoc with exploration and development costs, the Government refuses to increase the price of Australian oil to at least equivalent to the non-dumped import parity price. The overall result of this negative and extraordinarily bad policy will be to drive all small Australian companies out of the oil exploration field and to hand our oil resources to the major international oil combines. If the Federal Government does not drastically change its exploration subsidy and domestic pricing policies, and aim towards a goal of self-sufficiency in oil production, Australia will become progressively at the mercy of the overseas oil companies as our oil resources will progressively diminish. The domestic price of Australian crude oil should be increased immediately to a figure equivalent to the world parity price. This price should be regarded as a floor price. This action need not necessarily mean an increase in petrol prices. Under a Labor Government an increase in the price of a basic commodity like petrol would have to be considered by a prices tribunal in which the profits of oil companies would be closely scrutinised. Alternatively increased costs of the guaranteed price of indigenous crude oil could be treated as an investment subsidy in the same way as the exploration subsidy is borne by the nation as a whole.
It is clear also that Australia must adopt policies aimed at securing progressively greater ownership of oil production, oil refineries and gasoline companies operating in Australia. At present, at least 70 per cent of oil exploration and production in Australia is in the hands of foreign interests. In the oil refining fields 90 per cent is in the hands of foreign interests. Eighty per cent of the total marketing of petroleum is in the hands of foreign interests. This does not mean that Labor is opposed to foreign investment in Australia. Labor recognises that where huge amounts of risk capital are involved, together with highly specialised technical know-how and cut-throat international competition, particularly with respect to marketing tie-ups. foreign capital is part and parcel of the development of a young nation’s basic natural resources. But Labor is determined to implement positive policies that will give Australia a far greater equity in our mineral and oil resources. This will involve active participation by Commonwealth agencies in the fields of finance and resource development.
The Federal Government steadfastly refuses io undertake sound planning programmes with respect to the systematic development of Australia’s natural resources. The Government refuses to provide sound exploration and development incentives for Australian companies competing with foreign interests. It refuses to enter into the oil exploration field itself or to take an active partnership with Australian or foreign oil companies for the benefit of the Australian people. The Government persists with a bad development and economic principle in allowing the price of a valuable Australian commodity, a resource which is in short supply, to be less than the world parity price. This principle would not be accepted in any other country in developing a scarce resource. These policies are collectively allowing our basic resources to fall more and more under the control of foreign interests. I submit that no other nation would tolerate such negative and un-Australian policies.
There is an urgent need to review the principles of taxation and oil exploration subsidies and the principle of foreign ownership participating in exploration and development. There is a very urgent need to have a close look at the development of oil fields in off-shore waters. Many times in this Parliament the Opposition has referred to the controversial Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill. This Bill is fundamental to the development of Australia’s off-shore resources. The Government stands condemned for its inactivity in this field and for its refusal to bring forward and allow the Parliament to debate and pass this controversial legislation which is fundamental to resource development in Australia. The Government could not care less about the development of Australia’s basic resources for the benefit of Australians. We are seeing more and more of our basic resources being handed over on a plate to foreign interests, without any conscious policy on the part of the Government to develop these basic resources, particularly in oil and minerals, for the benefit of the Australian people.
– The comments made today by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) were notable for their lack of fact. I would like to put the record straight in relation to the background to this position. The Government has long had a clear and very active national oil exploration policy, lt has taken the view that it should seek to bring substantially to an end our historical dependence on overseas sources of supply for crude oil and should aim at a situation where, as far as practicable, our needs for such products as motor spirit,, automotive distillate and aviation fuel are produced by Australian refiners from Australian crude oil. To this end the Government has developed over the years a number of measures or techniques to encourage the exploration for and development of the petroleum resources of this country.
Briefly, they consist of, firstly, provision, through the Bureau of Mineral Resources of my Department, of the basic geological and geophysical survey services, on a national basis, which are needed by the oil search industry to base its own more particular and concentrated exploration for petroleum deposits; secondly, subsidisation of the exploration for petroleum under a legislative scheme introduced in 1957, involving a Commonwealth expenditure, as at last month, of over SI 17m; thirdly, provision of special income tax concessions to petroleum search companies and investors in these companies, and, fourthly, the assurance through the Commonwealth’s constitutional powers over imports and exports of a guaranteed access to the Australian market for all producers of Australian crude oil - and, as a concomitant to this, a guarantee of the fixing of an appropriate price for that crude. My colleague the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) will take part in this debate and he will develop this particular theme which is of great importance as an incentive to the industry.
It is quite clear that the Government recognises the importance of financial incentives and the need for periodical review of the level of these incentives. Two recent examples of this were contained in a statement I made as recently as 12th March last. I announced that the rate of on-shore petroleum exploration subsidy for geophysical operation had been increased by the Government from 30 per cent to 50 per cent and that the Government had reviewed the previous practice under the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act 1959-69. Under this, circles were drawn around successful wells and producing fields, resulting in the withdrawal of subsidy for operation within those circles. The Government decided that subsidy would now be paid on approved operations in those areas in the future. On the basis of the current level of exploration activity it is estimated that these changes alone will involve the Government in an additional S3. 3m per annum in the subsidy scheme. The industry will also benefit from the restoration of the 20 per cent tax allowance for new equipment, which I think we are all completely confident will result in notable industrial expansion and the creation of more jobs.
Then there is the proposal by the Government, as outlined by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) on 10th April, to vary the operation of section 26(a) of the Income Tax Assessment Act so that profits or losses arising from the sale of shares which have been held for 18 months or more will not be taken into account for taxation purposes. This will have an immediate and important attraction for potential oil company investors. Even though the direct encouragement of this Government has, in part, resulted to date in Australia’s supplying approximately 65 per cent of our requirements, it has no intention of resting on this situation. As the honourable member for Dawson mentioned, we will shortly reach a figure of approximately 70 per cent of our requirements without further discoveries being made. We appreciate that further discoveries of crude oil are necessary for Australia to retain a high degree of self-sufficiency, and we will continue to implement those policies that will help bring this about.
Australian reserves of commercially recoverable crude oil amounted to 1,854 million barrels at the beginning of this year compared with 1,750 million barrels at the beginning of 1971. The latest figure includes 200 million barrels estimated to be recoverable largely from the Tirrawarra accumulation in the Cooper Basin, South Australia, and not previously included in the national inventory of petroleum resources. It also includes a revised figure of 84 million barrels for the Tuna offshore field in Bass Strait, previously estimated to contain 70 million barrels. Bass Strait reserves, including Tuna, now stand at slightly more than 1,452 million barrels, or about 95 per cent of the reserve as estimated at the end of 1971. And, of course, the promising signs to date from Kingfish lend further hope for the future.
In Western Australia, reserves at Barrow Island have been reduced by about one third to about 138 million barrels, while reserves at the Moonie, Alton and Bennett fields of South Queensland are just under 4 million barrels. Production of Australian crude oil for delivery to refineries in 1971 totalled 107.7 million barrels. The cumulative Australian production of crude oil to the end of December last year was 221 million barrels. In my view this is an excellent performance in a country once considered by some experts to be too old to contain oil.
In addition to the figures I have quoted for liquid crude it is necessary to have a full appreciation of the tremendous part natural gas will play not only economically but also industrially in our future. It may assist to a very substantial degree in the export field in the future. Very substantial deposits have been discovered in Bass Strait, in the north west of Western Australia, in the Gidgealpa-Moomba areas of South Australia, and in the Palm ValleyMereenie areas of the Centre. There are prospects of deposits being discovered in the Bonaparte Gulf. There are also good prospects of discoveries in other parts of Australia. Those discoveries and prospective discoveries all indicate that natural gas, in addition to liquid crude, will play a very important part in the future of our petroleum resources. 1 thought 1 should mention that because one cannot ignore the situation as far as gas is concerned. In some respects - in certain remote areas - natural gas will play just as important a part as liquid crude will play in the more highly industrialised centres. However, having said with such a degree of confidence that there are good prospects for the future, I would again warn that we cannot afford to be complacent in other areas. The overall growth rate in primary fuel consumption is forecast to increase by 80 per cent between 1970-71 and 1979-80. This represents in annual growth rate of 6.8 per cent.
I should like now very briefly to summarise current exploration incentives so that what could be classified as the travesty of this motion today can be highlighted. I wish to deal first of all with the subsidy. For on-shore exploration drilling it is 30 per cent and for geophysical operations it is 50 per cent of the acceptable costs for approved operations. That is by direct subsidy. Off-shore operations are approved for subsidy only if there is an Australian interest. I was interested to learn that the Opposition apparently considers that this should be changed, although shortly after saying that it said that we are handing our resources over to foreign interests. It is a protection for Australian interests and has always been regarded as such. The amount of the subsidy is related to the extent of that interest up to the maximum of 30 per cent, which is payable when the Australian interest in a company operating off-shore is 51 per cent or more. I think we all know the significance of that as a policy. While the prime purpose of the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act is to stimulate company exploration, a supplementary purpose is to make publicly available information on subsidised operations. Our knowledge of the sedimentary basins has thus been greatly enhanced. The availability of this information has been an important factor, particularly in the early years of the operation of the scheme, in stimulating and maintaining the level of petroleum exploration.
I turn now to the field of taxation concessions. I have already referred to some of these concessions. Special provisions are included in the Income Tax Assessment Act to assist petroleum explorers because of the high risk nature of the industry. These provisions extend to shareholders who are the main source of funds for most Australian companies. As to the current taxation provisions, allowable capital expenditure on prospecting or mining for petroleum is deductible from income derived from the sale of petroleum obtained in Australia until the expenditure has been fully recouped. Dividends paid by a petroleum mining company are exempt from tax in the hands of shareholders up to the amount of its capital expenditure on petroleum exploration and development. The cost of pipelines or facilities used for the transport of petroleum between an oil or gas field and a refinery or other terminal is deductible over 10 years. Resident and nonresident shareholders in petroleum mining companies are entitled to deductions for income tax purposes on one-third of all calls paid to such a company, provided the company declares that it has or will expend the call moneys on exploration. Residents of Australia or Papua New Guinea may be entitled to immediate deductions for subscriptions to share capital used in prospecting or mining for petroleum in Australia or Papua New Guinea.
There are also exemptions from sales tax in relation to goods purchased by enterprises engaged in the mining industry. These include activities in prospecting for oil. The most important exemption relates to machinery, implements and apparatus for use in that industry either in carrying out mining operations or in the treatment of the products of those operations. As my colleague, the Minister for Customs and Excise, will tell honourable members, there are also certain exemptions from customs duty on materials and goods used for petroleum exploration purposes. As I mentioned before, there is a guaranteed market and price. The Minister for Customs and Excise will make some special reference to that matter during his contribution to the debate.
In addition to all of those types of incentives, both direct and indirect, basic studies are undertaken by the Government. The various incentives are backed by direct participation in basic scientific and technical studies that are carried out within the Department of National Development. The Bureau of Mineral Resources of the Department carries out regional geological and geophysical surveys and experimental geophysical work. The results of those surveys are available to industry. In many cases they form the basis of the exploration programmes of private companies. The Bureau carries out studies of all the available information in various basins throughout Australia and publishes the results. The work extends off-shore, where work is currently proceeding on a $3m geophysical survey of the continental slope from a depth of 200 metres to between 3,000 metres and 5,000 metres. The Division of National Mapping in my Department also carries out basic surveys which support the efforts of private enterprise to develop Australia. As an example, the first part of a complete bathymetric survey of Australia’s continental shelf to a depth of 200 metres was commenced in July 1971. That survey will cost $18m over the next 13 years.
My lime is running out, but before concluding 1 want to say that it is interesting to note the total expenditure on petroleum exploration in Australia is continuing at the rate of $90m to S95m a year and that the total spent in Australia to date is over S800m. I am sure that we are all completely confident that further oil discoveries will be made both on-shore and off-shore in Australia. I conclude on the note that I feel
I need say no more as I believe that T have completely answered the case put up by the Opposition. The case for the Government in encouraging oil exploration is one which will, of course, continue to be reviewed from time to time in the future.
– The Opposition takes issue with the Government on not only the question of the expenditure of subsidies for oil exploration but also the general principles on which, throughout the whole period since the first discovery of flow oil in Australia, it has controlled the development of oil and, more than that, the extent to which the Australian people are being deprived of their birthright. The policy of the Australian Labor Party is the comprehensive development under Government control - I stress the words ‘under Government control’ - of Australia’s mineral resources with emphasis on the need for the discovery of new deposits and direct Commonwealth and Stale participation in oil and mineral search and exploration throughout Australian land and off-shore territories. We will ensure at least a majority - I stress the words ‘a majority’ - of Australian control over both equity and policy.
There is today a world fuel and energy crisis, lt is a crisis of hydrocarbons; it is a crisis of fossil fuel. The major consumers of crude petroleum and natural gas in the world today are its greatest economic, industrial and political powers. However, they are not the main powers in possession of the resources of fuel and energy which they need. The situation today is an interesting one. There are no fewer than
II nations in what is known as OPEC - the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. This is a collection of states along the borders of the Mediterranean including the Arab Trucial States, Iran and Iraq and Indonesia and Venezuela. Between them they have combined literally to put the major oil refining and distribut ing companies - the petroleum giants of the world - through the wringer. They are the people responsible for pushing up the price of crude oil. They have even gone so far as to deliver an ultimatum to these oil refining and distributing companies that by June of this year they are to give them 20 per cent of the action as well as consideration in respect of their refining and other general activities.
That being so, it can be understood why crude oil today is at record prices. Naturally, we are not prepared to go the whole distance in the way that these people would go in pushing up prices. The point 1 want to make is that with a situation like (hal and with other producing countries combining on this basis in a cartel, we find a government in operation in Australia today which cannot even assert its national sovereignty over the continental shelf - a government which is literally an international laughing stock. Australia is the only member country of some 120 countries which have signed the United Nations convention on the continental shelf and the continental sea which has failed to exercise its sovereignty. Australia is a nation which is literally without a policy in respect of fuel and energy. In addition to that, it is unable even to establish its own hegemony over the States.
As a matter of fact, the main trouble in Australia today is that the State governments literally are thumbing their noses at the Commonwealth. We have principalities no less being handed out to exploration companies. The Bass Strait principality went to Esso-BHP and 144,000 square miles has gone to the Woodside-Burmah group in respect of the north west continental shelf. This is greater than the area of the United Kingdom and half the area of New South Wales; an area which has been stated by various oil interests to be more attractive even than the North Sea. In respect of the North Sea it is considered that 100 square miles being handed to any exploiting company for the purposes of development is a fair return for their labour and technology. That is the situation which applies today. Honourable members should consider the estimates that have been made for the development of the north west shelf or the proportion of it which is now being farmed out to some 29 overseas companies and that it will be 5 times the give away of the Bas* Strait oilfields. In Bass Strait $460m has been expended on development by Esso-BHP. There will be some $2,000 billion expended in the development of the north west shelf. 1 refer again to the statement made by Mr Martison. a spokesman for Woodside-Burmah. He said that 29 companies have applied to Woodside-Burmah and that a list of these companies could be drawn up. They were al) >he big boys. The big boys of course want a piece of the action. What is the proposal? It is a 50-50 proposal and the major oil companies of the world which have never spent money in their lives, without knowing that they will get an adequate return are prepared to come in on this basis. Woodside-Burmah is to get 50 per cent of the rake-off. Where do the people of Australia - the people whose birthright is being handed away - come in? The Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp), who has just left the chamber, talks in terms of the Government’s policy.
Let us have a look at this question of natural gas and what it means to other countries. At the present time Japan is dependent on imports for 78 per cent of its fuel. 70 per cent of which is imported crude oil. In the United States today there is a serious depletion of natural gas reserves. The Americans are talking in terms of making substitute natural gas - SNG is the term that is used - and they have asked Canada to provide them with additional supplies. However, Canada has refused because it has problems of its own. The Americans have had to turn back to coal. In 1947 coal production in the United States was 700 million tons. In 1960 it was down to 480 million tons and last year it was again up to 700 million tons. That is precisely the situation which applies today. The point I would Ike to make is that here are 2 of the world’s major industrial powers desperately in need of energy sources, while this Government supinely allows an oil province - an oil principality - and a natural gas province or principality to be given away. Australia has the biggest continental shelf in .’he world - 1.25 million square miles - and the area which has been granted to
Woodside-Burmah is only a fraction of the total area, which runs right across to Indonesia. In that area is one of the world’s greatest untapped resources of natural gas, as well as oil, because where you find one, you will find the other. Yet this Government has no policy on it. The best that it is prepared to do is to let its old syndrome operate - the one of bowing down starry-eyed before private enterprise.
The Labor Party believes that a proper reward should be given to any exploring company but we say that from the word go Australia should be in on the action. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) said that we have a precedent of what could be done set by ENI in respect to Italy. As a Labor government we can and we will do the same. We will have a good hard look at all that has been given away to these companies and given away illegally and unconstitutionally. No government was ever in a more embarrassing position than this Government in respect of the offshore oil legislation. The Government has put this legislation to the bottom of the list, lt has literally pushed it under the carpet and it hopes to God that no one will ever resurrect it. The Labor Party will hammer the Government on this and it will slay the Government on this between now and .he next election because today, whichever country is in possession of the resources of fuel and energy will be a major nation and Australia is in possession of those resources. We will find them and we will prove them. We know that they are there and the coming Labor government will see that for Australia and the Australian people those resources are recovered and restored to our natural heritage.
– As usual when I listen to an attack on the Government by members of the Australian Labor Party - I think the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) said he would slay us - I always find myself in difficulty because, as I rise to my feet. I am confused as to what they mean. We have just had the extraordinary spectacle of the honourable member for Cunningham making a savage attack on the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries - the
OPEC sheikhs - for increasing their oil prices to the extent that they have. The honourable member would find some sympathy with me on the savagery of the increases which have been made. I do not know whether the honourable member for Cunningham checked his speech with the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) before he made it. The honourable member for Dawson told the House that we should raise our oil prices to the level established by the OPEC sheikhs. Is there any wonder why, when a Government Minister responds to such a debate, he might be confused? Obviously, as there is no interjection, I have stated the truth.
The honourable member for Dawson made some points about a Commonwealth oil exploration authority. This is what the Labor Party would establish to cure the problems of oil exploration. I wanted to interject and ask him whether this authority would drill for oil. I suspect that it would. This is a typical approach of the Australian Labor Party which shows the great philosophical cleavage which exists between the 2 Parties. Under Labor the dead black hand of socialism will come across every industry in Australia. Private exploration of oil will be discouraged but the Labor Party will have the glorious solution of creating a government department or authority that will go out and drill for oil and cure all of Australia’s ills. When will members of the Labor Party learn that in very few instances in democratic society has the dead hand of socialism produced any results? In a moment I will come to what the honourable member said about prices. He said amongst other things that the way to encourage oil exploration is to increase the domestic price of indigenous crude oil.
– Does the Minister not agree?
– No, I do not agree. I am astonished mat a member of the Labor Party would advocate an increase in the price of indigenous crude oil. Does he think that Esso is not making enough profit? In the calendar year 1971 Esso made a profit of $27m, as was announced last weekend, of which $14m will be repatriated to the United States. Does the honourable gentleman think that Esso is not earning enough profits, and should be given more profits through an increase in the price of indigenous crude oil so that in that way Esso would be made more enthusiastic about further exploration? I will be anxious to hear what my friend the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) says on that point.
Perhaps honourable members opposite believe that the Broken Hill Pty Ltd is not earning enough profit. As the honourable member for Dawson knows, BHP is a partner with Esso in the Bass Strait field which produces about 90 per cent of Australia’s indigenous crude oil. An increase in the price of indigenous crude would mean an increase in the payments to both Esso and BHP. Where is the consistency in the arguments of honourable members opposite? They raised a hoo-ha about the increase in steel prices by BHP and savagely attacked that company, but apparently it is all right to increase the price of indigenous oil. This kind of logic frankly escapes my comprehension.
The honourable member for Dawson said that it was not necessary that an increase in the price to the consumer would follow. I wish he would tell us why an increase in the price to the consumer would not result. I would think that fundamentally if the unit cost of indigenous crude to a refiner was increased by 20 per cent, or whatever figure it might be, unless there were economies of production the price to the consumer would automatically be increased. Our estimate is that under that policy the price of petrol would increase by between lc and He a gallon. Is the Labor Party recommending that the Australian motorist pay lc or lie more for each gallon of petrol that he buys? That is the increase which would result from adopting the recommendation of the honourable member for Dawson. But let me be fair. He offered a qualification. He said that Labor would institute a price control system.
– A prices tribunal.
Mr CHIPP A prices tribunal to set the price of petrol. Does he not know that this is done now - that oil companies, refiners and marketers, before they market oil in Australia go to the Prices Commission established by a South Australian Government and now administered by a South Australian Labor Government? The South
Australian Prices Commissioner determines the retail price of petrol. Is the honourable member for Dawson saying that the Commissioner, Mr Baker, does not know what he is talking about - that he fixes a wrong price for petrol? Surely logic would demand that if Mr Baker is satisfied with the retail price of petrol now and if the price of indigenous crude oil from the producers were increased by 20 per cent, Mr Baker would face an irresistible compulsion to increase the price of petrol by 20 per cent, or whatever it might be? All the knowledge I have gained from my studies screams out to me to indicate that that would follow.
Is the Opposition not satisfied with Mr Baker and the Prices Commission? if honourable members opposite get into power will they form another Prices Commission for Australia? ls Mr Baker not good enough? What is their policy on this matter? Are they indicating an increase in the price of indigenous crude oil to raise it to the OPEC price? The honourable member for Dawson should know - I am sure that my friend the honourable member for Lang who specialises in oil matters far more than does the honourable member for Dawson will know - that the OPEC price is a false price. As the honourable member for Cunningham said, that price has been jacked up by a group of sheiks who got together and now take about 60 per cent of the total.
– Do you want to import it at that price”7
– The honourable member for Dawson and the honourable member for Cunningham criticised the Australian indigenous oil policy. Does the honourable member for Dawson want us to remove the restrictions on exports of oil? This would give a greater opportunity for explorers to get a higher price. When the Gorton oil policy was announced in October 196X it wa? savagely attacked by every Labor speaker in the debate at that time but that policy is now being advocated by honourable members opposite. They are saying that the Gorton policy, the Liberal Government policy of 1968. was wrong and should be revised because the price is too low. I could quote from speeches made by the honourable member for Cunningham, the honourable member for Lang and the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) in which they said that that price was too high in 1968. The honourable member for Cunningham, with his usual masterly command of the English language, said in very effective terms that a travesty of justice had occurred. But today the honourable member for Dawson says that the price is too low. I am left in utter confusion.
What if we did raise the price of indigenous crude to the OPEC price? What would that solve? Does not the honourable member for Dawson know that if somebody found a huge oil field tomorrow in Australia it could not be brought into production until at least 1975 or 1976? Does not the honourable member for Dawson know that the price will be revised in 1975? So who would an increase in the price benefit now? It would benefit only the existing producers. An increase would have 2 effects. Firstly, it would increase the annual profit of $27m of Esso. It would increase the profit of BHP and it would cause an increase of lc or He a gallon in the price of petrol.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) and the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) apparently have not read the text of the matter that was proposed for discussion by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), so I will repeat it for their benefit. It is:
The failure of the Government to implement positive policies to encourage and maintain the progressive exploration of Australian oil resources.
We admit that in the past we have criticised the oil policies created by this Government.
– And you were wrong
– Yes, and we are prepared to admit it. But the purpose of this motion is not to go back into the past. Wc want to have a look at the fuel and energy shortage throughout the world. We want to look at the fuel and energy shortage in
Australia at this time, particularly the shortage of oil. The honourable member for Dawson and the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) stated facts which indicated quite clearly that there is a fuel shortage in Australia. Unless companies are encouraged to find further oil in Australia our import bill for this commodity alone will run into an enormous figure.
We are saying that the Government in the 23 years it has been in office has not laid down a national fuel and energy policy. It has failed to use the resources of Australia in the interests of Australia. Our major criticism of the Gorton indigenous fuel policy was that it was formed without the concurrence of the Cabinet of the then Prime Minister - without consulting his Ministers. It was done virtually in a back room. It was an off the cuff decision. As it turned out, because of the ramifications of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries it proved to be a decision that went contrary, I believe, to what the then Prime Minister intended. At the moment the indigenous crude price in Australia is running below the OPEC price, and consequently there is a decline in interest in oil exploration in Australia. What we are trying to do is to enliven the Government to give further encouragement, particularly to Australian exploration companies, to find oil in Australia. There seems to be no doubt in the minds of all the honourable members who have spoken in this debate that there will be further finds of oil in Australia.
Just let me reiterate some of the figures that have been quoted by the honourable member for Dawson and the honourable member for Cunningham. The deficiency in Australia’s oil requirements by the year 2000 is expected to be 1,000 million barrels. The cost of importing crude oil to Australia from now to the turn of the century is estimated to be between $20 billion and $30 billion. To find oil in Australia we will need, in risk capital alone, between $2 billion and $4 billion, and a great deal of that money will be lost on unsuccessful exploration. Additional costs will be incurred in the oil fields that are found, in the development of the fields, in bringing the oil to the well-head and in transporting it by freighter, pipeline or some other way to the refineries in order to have it refined into fuel. The estimated cost of this is between $7 billion and $10 billion.
– Do not forget the royalty.
– We are not worried about the royalty. We are just talking about these figures at the moment. All that has been spent on oil exploration in Australia is $600m. The Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) gave a long list of figures and made a long statement about the subsidies that have been granted for oil exploration. 1 think he gave a figure of $116m. But that is only 19 per cent of what the oil companies, the Australian public and the overseas public have spent on oil exploration in Australia. Government supporters continually criticise us when we ask for an Australian and government equity in Australia’s natural resources. These resources are too precious for us to allow them to be taken over by any overseas company at all, and, if the taxpayers of Australia or the financial institutions of Australia will not produce the money in order to keep an Australian equity in our natural resources, then the government of the day must do it. When the Liberal Government sold out the Commonwealth share in the British Petroleum company it sold it on the basis that it did not believe that there should be a government equity in it; but it sold the Commonwealth share to a company that is 50 per cent owned by the United Kingdom Government. This Government is selling our resources; it is not looking after them. This Government having made those mistakes, we are trying to prevail on it to look ahead and do something for the future. 1 attended a conference of the Australian Petroleum Exploration Association held earlier this month. I will admit - and the Association admits this - that it is a lobby. One gentleman who attended the conference, a Mr John Fuller, the Chairman of the Planet group of exploration companies and a foundation member of APEA which was founded in 1959 - that is before oil was found in Australia - made a speech. Before I go on to quote from his speech let me tell honourable members that John Fuller is a good Australian. He is an ex-prisoner of war and he is an exrugby union international. He believes in this country of ours and he has done all that he can to try to preserve an Australian equity in our oD resources in particular and in our mineral resources in general. In his speech John Fuller said:
The foreigner is rightly welcome here and his achievements have been immense. But for him resources exploration opportunities in Australia are virtually laissez-faire. For the Australian prospectors and exploration companies it is different.
Australian participation - which means Australian ownership - is shackled by the Commonwealth Government’s taxation web which has frightened the Australian public out of participation in exploration ventures for Australian resources either as investors or as traders.
In the context of the Commonwealth Government’s present disincentive policies with respect to exploration in Australia by Australians it is not possible to raise arne blocks of speculative funds.
The reign of taxation terror and inquisition against shareholders in Australian exploration companies must stop. The factor of taxation certainty with respect to an individual’s investment decisions must be re-established. The alternative is virtual handing over on a platter, for overseas ownership, that which is nol already foreign owned. The overseas companies do not want it this way. They also want to be a healthy and substantial Australian ownership component.
For Australian explorers I demand the unfettered right and opportunity to compete in the search for oil fields and mines alongside of and at least on equal terms with the foreigner, who acts within taxation frameworks which are based on certainty.
Mr Fuller went on to say:
If there is to be any significant Austraiian investment in exploration endeavours in the future il will have to be based on predictable taxation consequences.
We must be about the only developed country in the world where, wilh respect to natural resources, the overseas company gets a virtually laissez-faire go and the national companies, through the shackles of disincentive taxation policies, a maximum nf impediment.
Quite apart from what the Commonwealth Government’s disincentive policies have done to impede, or rather to preclude the raising from Australians of speculative capital for resources exploration ventures, another major problem exists. 1 have not sufficient time in this debate to develop that point. The idea and intention of the Opposition in bringing this matter forward today is to get the Government to look ahead, not to look back, if we do not look after our natural resources Australia will be deficient in fuel requirements and such a deficiency can spell disaster for Australia. We are suggesting that it is nec essary for the Government to have a policy that will encourage and maintain the progressive exploration of Australian oil resources.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Australian Labor Party has introduced for discussion in this House this afternoon a matter of public importance, namely, the alleged failure of the Government lo encourage and maintain the progressive exploration of Australian oil resources. I find the criticism offered by the Opposition and some of the statements made this afternoon by honourable members on the other side somewhat difficult to understand. In relation to the Government’s role in the exploration of oil and gas in this country, I think it was only in 1959 that a Bill was introduced into this House which gave assistance in this field of exploration. Despite the few years in which Australia has in fact been involved in this project of finding oil, we find that at this point of time approximately 65 per cent of Australia’s requirements is being met from local supplies. This, in my book, is quite a good record on the part of the Government, the Australian people and those who have assisted in this exercise. We do use, comparatively, in this mechanised world of ours, a lot of crude oil. The fact that 65 per cent of our requirements comes from local supplies is very encouraging. in relation to some of the statements made by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) - the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) referred to this - 1 really could not believe my ears and I think we should put this on the record. The honourable member said that the price of crude oil now being produced in Australia from certain fields was in fact too low. I took particular note of his remarks and 1 wrote this down. He said that it was too low and that a Labor government would increase it. That means that should Labor come to power it would increase the price of crude which is set by an agreement which is in force until 1975, if my memory serves me correctly. Then the honourable member for Dawson said that an increase in the price of crude oil would not necessarily mean that there would be an increase in the cost of petrol to the public, because a Labor government would appoint a prices commissioner. I think that the Minister for Customs and Excise also dealt with this point.
But a prices commissioner has already been appointed and is operating under a Labor Government in South Australia. If the Prices Commissioner in South Australia is doing his job properly, he would be taking all the relevant facts into consideration in setting the price of petrol, which he does each year. Even if a Labor government were to appoint another prices commissioner, the price of petrol would be exactly the same as it is today. Therefore, if the price of crude oil is increased, as members of the Labor Party this afternoon stated that it will be if a Labor government comes into power, obviously there will be an increase in the price of petrol to the consumers in Australia. Undoubtedly the Prices Commissioner in South Australia must take into consideration the basic price of crude oil paid by Australian refineries. Therefore, under the machinery that is already operating in this country, if the price of crude oil is increased, mere must be an automatic increase in the price of petrol to the consumer. Although the Minister for Customs and Excise mentioned that fact, I believe that it needs emphasising. It is important for the Australian people to realise that already there is an agreement covering the price of crude oil which will operate until 197S. Apparently if a Labor government comes into power this agreement will be altered. Honourable members opposite have state that they will increase the price of crude oil because of certain developments which are taking place in the Middle East, of which we are all well aware. This is rather staggering to me.
I understood the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) to say that if a Labor government comes into power it will, as a government, explore for oil in Australia. Anybody who knows anything about the techniques involved in oil exploration would realise that the honourable member for Cunningham is treading on pretty dangerous ground if he thinks that the public would be pleased about the Government spending public money - taxation money - in searching for oil in Aus tralia. I remember when the first well was drilled at Exmouth Gulf in Western Australia some time ago. It was a lucky well and oil was found. Indeed, it was a very good sign for Australia. But I also remember what happened at that time. The Americans were in charge of the drilling, and there were 3 Americans and 2 Australians employed on each shift on the rig which found the oil. This was necessary because the techniques involved in finding oil in any country - whether it be Australia or elsewhere - are unique.
Oil exploration is a very expensive and very technical operation. Americans were encouraged to come to Australia by the measures which the Government took in order to discover oil in this country, and in this way Australians were able to learn the techniques involved in oil exploration. Hundreds or thousands of millions of dollars are being spend around the world each year on oil exploration. It is a specialised job. It is a job for those who have been doing the work for many years. Overseas companies need to be encouraged to come to Australia to explore for oil, and this is being done. As the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) spelt out this afternoon, over the years the Government has taken appropriate action to assist in oil exploration in Australia.
It is necessary that we should discover oil in Australia because we have rapidly developing industry and rapidly developing transport facilities which are very important to the continued growth of Australia. Of course, oil plays a very important part in these developments. It is also important, as was mentioned this afternoon, for out balance of payments position. If the consumption of fuels in their various forms continues to increase in Australia - and I have no doubt that it will because of the mechanisation taking place not only in secondary industry but also in primary industry today - we will need to find great quantities of fuel oil in this country. We must remember that the cost of importing oil has an adverse effect on our balance of payments position.
I believe that the measures which the Government has taken to encourage oil exploration in Australia have been successful. I believe that the figures indicate this. As the Minister for National Development mentioned this afternoon, I have no doubt that in the future the Government will have to consider introducing new measures, as well as continuing its present programmes for encouraging oil exploration in Australia. As has been mentioned, the Government is providing an additional $3. 3m each year under the oil exploration subsidy scheme. It is also providing taxation relief for those who invest money in oil exploration, and maybe the Government could do more in this area. At the present time we are acquiring from our own resources some 65 per cent of the oil required in Australia, and with the policy which the Government has adopted in order to encourage oil exploration within the nation, I feel sure that we will proceed in the right direction.
There has been development not only in the oil area; we have seen tremendous development throughout Australia in the gas area. In my own State of Western Australia, and in other States as well, tremendous fields of gas have been discovered, and I do not believe that even those engaged in these operations at the present time really know the total amount of gas that might in fact be available from some of these fields. But this again is a long term project which requires the expenditure of many millions of dollars - in fact, many hundreds of millions of dollars - not only to find the gas, but also to develop it and to take it to the places where it is required, lt is only with the cooperation of others that this money can be found; it is only with the co-operation of others that the techniques can be perfected: and it is only with the co-operation of others that we will get this development in Australia.
– Order! The discussion is now concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. The current 5-year dairying industry stabilisation plan, which is the fifth successive plan, is due to expire on 30th June next.
Representatives of the industry have submitted proposals for a new 5-year plan which include provision for a 2-price quota scheme. The proposals have taken into account the uncertainties facing the industry, particularly in view of Britain’s decision to enter the Common Market. They are based on the recognition that it would be in the long term interests of dairy farmers for future production to be kept at a level which can be sold at satisfactory prices. The industry representatives consider that their proposals for a 2-price quota scheme will achieve this objective while maintaining a sound industry in each State.
In its simplest terms the scheme provides for the establishment of a national butterfat quota, based on home and overseas market requirements, the allocation of that quota amongst the States being on production over a recent base period. State dairy authorities would be responsible for the allocation of quotas among farmers. A premium price would be payable on quota production whilst over-quota production would receive only the basic export price. Each farmer would thus be free to determine his optimum level of production in the light of the level of his quota and the price he receives for quota and over-quota butterfat.
The industry organisations considered a number of alternative measures to control production but came to the conclusion that a two-price quota scheme afforded the best means of meeting the needs and circumstances of the industry. The proposals for a two-price quota scheme were endorsed unanimously on 1st November by an Australiawide meeting of dairy industry organisations representing farmers, factories, distributors and exporters. They were subsequently considered by State Ministers at the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council on 15th February 1972. While there was general agreement that the immediate implementation of the quota proposals was not warranted until market circumstances changed, the Australian Agricultural Council accepted in principle the necessity to plan for a flexible scheme of production control which could be applied when necessary. The Victorian Government stressed the need for any scheme to have temporary application if it became necessary to meet reduced export markets. All governments however agreed to proceed with the planning of a mutually acceptable control mechanism so that it can be available for implementation if necessary.
In accordance with the decision of the Australian Agricultural Council a conference of State and Federal officials has since been held to consider the industry proposals and how they could be modified to suit the differing requirements of each State. A report has been prepared for the consideration of the Council and further developments will depend on the reaction of State Ministers to the report. In the circumstances there is no possibility of legislation being enacted to provide for a scheme of production control by 1st July. However, the acceptance by the industry of such complex and far-reaching proposals and the indication of a preparedness to act by State governments on a mutually acceptable control mechanism has been a significant achievement. The Government considers that a vital factor in the next stabilisation plan for the dairy industry is the preparedness of the States to introduce whatever State legislative measures may be necessary to establish an effective production control mechanism for use at such stage as may be necessary.
In addition to the proposals for a twoprice quota scheme the main industry recommendation in relation to dairy stabilisation for the next 5 years is that Commonwealth financial assistance be provided at a minimum of $40.8m each year which was the amount of Commonwealth bounty granted to the dairy industry for 1971-72. Because of the uncertainties associated with the longer term outlook for dairy products, particularly with Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community, the Government recognises the need for an assurance of continuing Government support to the dairy industry. Accordingly the Government has decided to allocate for each of the next 5 years a minimum of $27m as bounty on butter and cheese and related butterfat products produced in Australia. Honourable members will recall that this is the basic amount provided each year since 1957 under the last 3 stabilisation plans. For each year of the current plan the basic amount has been supplemented by special payments following sterling devaluation in November 1967.
The actual amount of Commonwealth assistance for the next 5 years will be determined each year in the light of the needs of the industry and taking into account the action taken by the States in the adoption of an effective scheme to control production but it will not be less than $27m. The amount of bounty for butter and cheese production in 1972-73 will be considered by the Government later this year and included in the Budget in accordance with the usual practice.
Under the existing legislation, which authorises the payment of bounty and specifies the procedure to be followed in disbursing the bounty to dairy farmers, bounty is payable only until 30th June 1972. The purpose of this Bill is to extend the existing provisions of the legislation to provide for the payment of bounty on me production of butter, cheese and other related products containing butterfat for a further 5 years ending on 30th June 1977.
The Government also has decided that the bounty payable on the export of processed milk products will be continued for each of the 5 years of the new plan. The Government’s decision in this regard is reflected in a Processed Milk Products Bounty Bill which I am introducing in conjunction with this Bill and would wish to be considered concurrently with this Bill.
The Australian dairy industry has taken advantage of the present strong market situation to diversify and develop alternative outlets away from the United Kingdom as an insurance against the loss of access to the United Kingdom market when Britain joins the European Economic Community early next year. However we would be deluding ourselves if we were to act on the premise that the present supply situation for dairy products is going to remain indefinitely or that there will be assured markets for unlimited quantities of dairy produce. Already there are factors starting to show which could lead to a weakening of the present strong market situation, particularly for butter.
As far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned it is essential that there be some mechanism which is recognised by the States so that, if there is to be a necessity for the adoption of production controls, the amount of Commonwealth assistance available can be directed immediately in a manner designed to enable a sound industry to be maintained in each State. In dairying, as in all our primary industries, it is essential that there be a relationship between what is produced and what can be sold at satisfactory prices. When the effective production control mechanism is settled those points of the plan that arc additional to the bounties provided for in this Bill and its complementary Processed Milk Products Bounty Bill and that will require arrangements between the Commonwealth Government, State governments and industry bodies, will be spelt out as necessary in legislation. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move: That the Bill be now read a second time. In my second reading speech on the Dairying Industry Bill 1972, I referred to the Government’s decision that the bounty payable on the export of processed milk products will be continued for each of the 5 years commencing on 1st July 1972. The Government has decided to maintain the maximum amount of bounty payable at $800,000 per year for each of the years. This is the amount that the Government has set aside for payment as bounty on processed milk products exports for each year since 1964-65. The purpose of this Bill is to implement the Government’s decision by extending to 30th June 1977 the operations of the Processed Milk Products Bounty Act. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Swartz, and read a first time.
– I move: That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill provides for the continuation of financial assistance for a further 5 years from 1st July 1971 to the States by the Commonwealth, for the purpose of expanding the rate of softwood plantings and so assist in meeting our needs for forest products. As honourable members are aware the States have for the past 5 years been assisted financially to the extent of $18m by the Commonwealth to expand softwood planting in accordance with the Softwood Forestry Agreements Act 1967. The States have been enabled to increase the area of Government-owned softwood plantations from about 528,000 acres as at 31st March 1966 to 793,000 acres as at 31st March 1971. In addition the area of softwood plantation in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory increased from 27,959 acres to 36,546 acres during the same period.
The assistance provided by the Commonwealth to the States in the first programme was by way of long-term loan funds provided on very favourable terms. The funds, which are repayable over 25 years, are free of interest during the first 10 years after the date of each advance. Repayments, which are geared to the cash flow pattern of a forestry investment where there is no financial return until first thinnings, also commence 10 years after each advance. It is estimated that, during the second 5-year programme, the Commonwealth will make available some $21m to cover the proportion of State government planting that it has agreed to finance up until 30th June 1976. These loan funds will be provided on the same generous terms and conditions as for the first programme.
Honourable members will be aware that the total level of planting programmed for the second 5-year period covered by this Bill is 273,400 acres, which compares favourably with the previous 5-year programme of 256,800 acres, although, by comparison with the last year of the first programme the annual rate of planting will be reduced from 58,500 acres to 54,680 acres. The area to be financed by the Commonwealth under the provisions of this Bill over the 5 years is 125,000 acres, compared with the total of 113,100 acres financed during the first agreement. The Government gave careful consideration to the level of planting in the second programme and decided that the total annual level of softwood planting should continue at about 75,000 acres. Of this total the State government’s share would be 58,000 acres, that of the Department of the Interior in the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory some 2,000 to 3.000 acres, with private forests expected to contribute 15,000 acres.
The purpose of Commonwealth financial assistance is to enable the States to increase their rate of softwood plantings beyond what they could support from their own resources. The Commonwealth proposed initially that the States should finance 33,600 acres themselves and the Commonwealth provide financial assistance to plant 24,400 acres. This represented a modest growth in State-financed planting over the first agreement and seemed reasonable in the light of the continued expansion the States achieved on their own accord in years preceding the first agreement and of the increase in capital funds that have been made available to the States over recent years. However, following discussions with the States a base-year acreage of 29,680 acres was agreed to by the States and the Commonwealth raised its level of assistance to 25,000 acres.
I should point out that although the Commonwealth and Stales jointly decide upon both the total level of planting for the 5-year programme and its distribution between States, the distribution of planting within any State is a State responsibility. In making the offer to the States for the second programme the Commonwealth, in an effort to assist afforestation planning by the States, has agreed to consider the question of support for a further 5-year programme before the second programme terminates. Should the Commonwealth agree to finance a third 5-year programme, however, it could not be assumed that the present financial arrangements will be continued.
The agreement to be signed between the Commonwealth and the States containing the terms and conditions of the second programme, although similar to the first programme, has some important amendments which I would like to mention. These amendments result from experience gained during the operation of the first agreement. First, the method of calculation of financial assistance due to a State in any one year has been changed thereby avoiding the problem which arose because the planting year in forestry differs from the financial year. It is hoped this will make the calculation of financial assistance more flexible in the new programme. Secondly, a provision has been included providing for the State to carry forward to this second agreement approved over-planting and under-planting that, as the case may be, was incurred by the individual States during the first agreement.
Thirdly, the agreement requires the States to seek approval to incorporate any above - or below - programmed plantings occurring in this second programme in the new assistance formula, within one year of the variation occurrings. This is important to ensure that the level of annual plantings should be as close as possible to that programmed. lt is a complex legal agreement and I consider these amendments will smooth out any of the administrative problems we became aware of in the first agreement as well as facilitate the transition from the first programme to the second.
This scheme is one which has its genesis in the Australian Forestry Council. Although the scheme directly assists the States to increase their softwood resources, its final objective is to ensure timber is available for the forest industries based on these resources. It is estimated that in financial year 1970-71 Australian consumption of forest products was in excess of $900m and domestic production was $650m. This scheme will provide raw material for expansion and growth of Australian industry, and it is hoped that this will enable large, efficient, integrated industries to be established. At the same time it will provide employment in the forest and in forest industries thereby stimulating employment opportunities in rural areas; it will complement our existing resources of native forests and enable a wide range of forest products to be available to the community, and it will reduce our reliance on the import of forest products from overseas. The States are to be congratulated on their achievements in the first programme and the manner in which they undertook their task augurs well for a successful second programme. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Wentworth, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. In his speech on the economy on 11th April, the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) announced increases in age, invalid and widows’ pensions, long-term sickness benefits and sheltered employment allowances. This Bill will give effect to this announcement. It is proposed to increase the standard rate of pension by $1 a week, and the married rate by 75c a week. The new maximum standard rate of pension will be $18.25 a week, and the maximum rate of pension for married persons and widows without dependent children will now be $16 a week. These increases will flow on to rehabilitation allowances, sheltered employment allowances and service pensions. Long-term sickness benefits payable to adults and other persons qualified for the adult rate of benefit will rise by $1 to $18.25 a week. The rate payable to unmarried minors will rise by 75 cents to $12 a week.
The House will recall that, for reasons associated with the need for economic restraint, the pension increases granted in April and October last year were confined to those pensioners who were receiving pensions at, or close to, the maximum rate. In view of the changing economic climate it is now possible to provide, in addition to the general increases just mentioned, further increases to those pensioners who did not receive any increase; or received only a part increase, in April and October 1971, to restore their relativity with other pensioners. This will mean that a single person without property affecting his position will retain some pension entitlement until his income reaches $46.50 a week. A single pensioner without other income will be eligible to receive some pension until the value of his non-exempt property reaches $24,580. For a married pensioner couple, the equivalent limits of income and property will be $81 a week and $42,920 respectively.
A Class ‘A’ widow with one child and with no property affecting will now be able to receive income of up to $67.50 before losing her pension entitlement, or up to $71.50 if her child is under 6 years of age or is an invalid. If she has no income, a Class A widow with one child may own property to the value of $30,340 or $32,420 if her child is under 6 or an invalid, before her pension entitlement is extinguished. Thus, apart from assisting existing pensioners, these proposals will enable some people, who are at present excluded from pension entitlement, to become eligible for the first time. More than a million pensioners will benefit under the legislation before the House, Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask for leave to incorporate in ‘Hansard’ a short table showing the numbers of pensioners who will receive increases, classified according to the amount of increase.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows) -
– The first group, of pensioners who are now receiving the maximum standard or married rate of pension, will receive increases of $1 or 75c a week, as appropriate. The second group, in the ‘shaded area’, qualified for only part of the increases granted in 1971, and will now qualify for increases of between 75c and $2.25 a week each for married rate pensioners, and between $1 and $2.75 for standard rate. The last group received no increases of pension during 1971, and will now qualify for increases of $2.75 a week in standard rate cases, or $2.25 a week each for married pensioners. Those who now receive more than $1 per week are those who missed out on the 2 previous pension increases. The present Bill now restores their full relativity with other pensioners. Under the present Government, the purchasing power of the pension - that is its real value in terms of prices - has constantly increased. This Bill will lift this purchasing power to a level greater than ever before achieved, because the present rise in pension rate is greater than the corresponding rise which has occurred in prices.
It is just 6 months since the pension rate became $17.25 standard and $15.25 married. At that time, the 1971 September quarter consumer price index stood at 119.2. The index for the March quarter 1972 has just become available today, and is 123.3. That is to say, during these 2 quarters the price index has risen by 3.44 per cent. If the standard rate pension of $17.25 had been increased by the same percentage, the increase would have been 59c, which is much less than the $1 which is proposed under this Bill. Similarly, if the $15.25 married rate pension had been increased by 3.44 per cent - the same rise as in prices - the extra pension would have been only 52c, as against the 75c which this Bill provides. Thus this Bill continues the Government’s policy of increasing the pension by more than the rise in prices - that is, continually increasing the real purchasing power of the pension.
On some other occasion I shall hope to give the House a summary of the social service advances which Australia has made since 1949, when Labor was last in power. I also hope on some future occasion to discuss the underlying principles behind our policy. But 1 hope for a speedy passage for the present legislation, and I will not open up these aspects now. The full year cost for age, invalid and widows’ pensions, together with the consequential increases for long-term sickness benefit and sheltered employment allowances provided in this Bill will be some $71m. Corresponding increases in Service pensions will involve almost another $5m a year, giving a total cost of approximately $76m. For 1971-72 the cost will be approximately $15£m. The increases in pensions and associated allowances will become payable from the first pension pay-day following the royal assent, while the increases in long-term sickness benefits will operate in respect of the benefit week ending on the date of the royal assent and each benefit week thereafter. [ am sure that all honourable members will appreciate that the Government is anxious to pay these increases as soon as possible. With over a million pensioners involved, honourable members will appreciate also that this represents a mammoth task for my Department, which may need to cut one or two administrative corners in order to make these increases available to all pensioners by the earliest possible date. For example, it is usual for pensioners to be given written notification of pension increases such as those now proposed; however, on this occasion it is probable that written notifications will not be available in time. 1 am sure that honourable members will agree, however, that an omission such as this can easily be justified in terms of the time saved. Moreover, perhaps the omission is not a major one as the measures now before the House have received considerable publicity since the Treasurer’s announcement and will no doubt continue to receive publicity in the news media as a result of our debate.
The Treasurer has announced that the new rates would apply as from the first pay-day in May. If we can get the cooperation of the House and the Senate, we may be able to beat this deadline, and have the Bill ready for the royal assent when His Excellency returns from New Guinea this week-end. This will enable the new rates to apply to the widows’ pension payment, which is due next Tuesday, and to the age and invalid pension payments due the following week. I understand from my Department that it may not be possible to adjust the widows’ cheques, which go into the post over the weekend and on Monday, to the new rates; if so, the extra money will be included in their next instalment, so that they - like all pensioners - will benefit as from the first pay-day after the royal assent. My Department does, however, anticipate that for age and invalid pensioners the new rates will be paid immediately from the first pay-day after they become effective. This Bill marks another milestone in the continual improvement of our social services. That improvement will be continued yet further under this Government. I am sure that all honourable members will welcome these further improvements in our social service assistance and, in recognising these proposals as benefiting not only the direct recipients, but also the economy of the nation as a whole, will grant the Bill a speedy passage. I commend the Bill to the House.
Leave granted for debate to continue forthwith
– Our purpose is to see that this Bill is passed tonight so there will be no delays in the provision of these increases in pensions, little as they are. Certainly there is a strong case for a more substantial reward for our retired people in the late stages of their life in recognition of the contribu tions which they have made to the development of this country, contributions which the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) frequently and quite forthrightly acknowledged in his days in the back benches. For some reason he seems to approach the subject from time to time with considerably more restraint now that he is a Minister than he did when he sat in the back benches.
Tonight I want to talk about some of the changes in attitudes and some of the developments which have in fact taken place within social services during his term as Minister. He made some reference to the general improvement that had taken place in social services under his administration. I guess that it is possible to develop all sorts of statistics to fit an argument. If a person is so inclined he can ignore the ones that do not suit his argument and use those that do suit his argument. More often than not he does not worry much about relevance, and I would suggest that there was not too much relevance in some of the statistics which were used tonight to bolster in some way what is a pretty sagging sort of performance by the Government in social services.
Let me quote some statistics to indicate that it is a sagging performance, that it is one that does need bolstering. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), who is in the House, in the usual penetrating way in which he sets questions up set one up for the Government which was a trap for it. He asked about Commonwealth Budget allocations and cash benefits to persons as a proportion of gross national expenditure for 1961-62 and 1970-71. The question was answered at pages 1753 and 1754 of the parliamentary debates for the 18th instant. It shows that in 1961-62 allocations as a percentage of gross national product were 2.44 per cent. That means in very ordinary terms that of every $100 wealth created in the community in those days we spent $2.44 on age and invalid pensions. But in 1970-71, which has just concluded, the Government was spending only $2.12 out of every $100 on these pensions. What is more interesting is a footnote at the bottom of the table which points out that in 1961-62 the average number of aged pensioners was 5.43 per cent of the mean population. In 1970-71 that figure had jumped to 6.28 per cent. So here we see a significant increase in the proportion of aged people in the population. At the same time there has been a very substantial diminution in the effort which the Government is prepared to contribute in its allocations to supporting pensioners who are aged and retired. In 1961-62 we had available $2.44 in every $100, and that figure dropped to $2.12 in 1970-71.
Let us take child endowment. Of every $100 we had available in total wealth in this community in 1961-62 we set aside 90c for the young children in the community. Our Government believed that families were worth while. In 1970-71 that amount had dropped to 60c in every one hundred dollars, a one-third drop over that period. Yet in that period the average number of endowed children. as a percentage of mean population, increased from 31.75 per cent to 32.52 per cent. It is quite clear that in the past decade there has been a deterioration in the overall standard of welfare in this country under this Government. At page 1754 of Hansard, in the question asked by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, we find that under the subject of welfare, which covers all the social service benefits, expenditures had fallen from S3. 84 in every $100 in 1961-62 clown to $3.20 in 1970-71. So one finds a rather blemished record - to say the least - on the part of the Government in its achievements in welfare.
The Minister spoke about the rate of benefit as percentage movement forward and related it to the percentage movements in the cost of living. Of course, he was very selective. He did not care to go back a considerable period. Let me quote a figure which 1 frequently quote. The standard rate of pension was 26 per cent of average weekly earnings at the end of the last World War. On the last December quarter figures il was down to about 19 per cent of average weekly earnings. There has been a substantial deterioration. Surely this is the sort of relationship one must use to gauge what are the real, comparable standards of prosperity for the people in the community. They should be measured in comparison with the average standard of prosperity which is allegedly available within the community. Given increasing rates of productivity, there should be greater disposable income being distributed in the community, and the rate of increase in this should be going ahead at a faster rate than prices are going ahead - a fact which arises from increased productivity.
So it is unreal merely to talk about price movements. It is even more unreal to restrict those price increases and use a system of measurement over a very short period, as the Minister did. As the Institute of Applied Economics and Social Research in Melbourne pointed out, people’s living standards should be measured in comparison with the average living standard which is being provided by the community. When we do that we find, rather distressingly, that many of these social service benefits are considerably less than reasonable. The standard rate of pension, according to the up-dated Melbourne poverty survey, is about $5.35 below the poverty level. In fact the degree to which it is below the poverty level is even greater now than it was at the time of the last Budget, in spite of the increase which has been proposed by the Government. So there is no room for satisfaction on the part of the Government for the way in which it is treating pensioners in the community.
Let us look at the situation of many of these pensioners. There is the standard rate pension. Surely these are the people we ought to be moving towards, trying to help in a much more generous way than we are at the moment. We ought to be identifying priorities. Human needs are one of the highest priorities that we must identify. If this means that we should suspend, moderate or not accept our commitment in some areas because human need is so demanding, then let it be that way. The rights of human beings are the fundamental things for which a society is created. Unfortunately, the sorts of societies in advanced western cultures tend to forget this and to dominate people and to be interested in people and to reward people only while they are producers, while they can be harnessed as productive inputs for the system and while they can be exploited in this category. This is completely unreasonable. People who cease to be producers are still human beings. They are still entitled to human respect, to dignity and to treatment which accords with these basic values.
By and large, standard rate pensioners certainly do not receive this sort of treatment. 1 have indicated that their level of pension is below the poverty level. According to the Melbourne survey, one in every 4 aged persons was living in poverty. That gives us some appreciation of the very critical situation in which so many of these people find themselves. The annual report of the Department of Social Services points out that one in 3 standard rate age pensioners and 7 in 10 invalid pensioners on the standard rate have no means as assessed by the Department. The report points out that every second age pensioner has no home of his own and 3 out of 4 invalid pensioners have no homes of their own. That is a terribly distressing situation to find oneself in, because rental costs are a very pressing cause of aggravation of poverty for these people. I remember only within the last couple of weeks in this House the Minister glorifying the housing situation of so many aged people within the community. Yet, on the evidence, we can see many aged people obviously living in poverty because of their independence on a pension level below the up-dated poverty level. Many of these people are without their own form of housing and are therefore forced to pay rents, often at high rates - because of their particularly vulnerable situation in the market - for inferior quality housing.
Even the married couples are not particularly well off. They are receiving about 35c a week above the up-dated poverty line. They were below the poverty line until the recent increase was proposed. They are now a mean 35c a week above the poverty level, which is about the price of a pie with peas back in my home town. That is not much generosity to be giving these people.
– It is good for this Government.
– It is generous for this Government indeed, as the honourable member for Grayndler points out. The way in which the Minister has performed today and the self-glorification with which he has endeavoured to give his Government a mantle, indicates that the values of the Government go as far as that and no further. Let us look at the so-called minibudget which has been put up to test the generosity, the priorities and the sense of equity and moral and social justice in the community. The Government - the Opposition does not want to be associated with this at all - is going to give the standard rate pensioner an increase of $52 a year so that he will have a pension which is 22.6 per cent below the poverty level. But a single chap earning $160 a week, without any dependants at all, who is doing very well in our community, is going to receive $54.34 a year cash in his pocket as a rebate on the taxation that he has to pay. That is the sort of justice we receive under the sort of welfare principles that the Government espouses.
Why has the increase been proposed? Has it come from any sense of compassion or sense of social and economic justice? Has it come in recognition of the basic rights of people? Of course it has not. It has come for one reason and one reason alone. The Treasurer (Mr Snedden) said:
These benefits should have a direct impact some few months earlier than otherwise on the level of consumer spending.
So the 35c a week above the poverty level - the price of a pie and peas - for a married couple is the sort of stimulation that the Government wants to give to the economy. It is not worried about personal dignity or human self-respect. It is not worried about any of these things at all. It is not worried about the basic rights and freedoms in a society; and you cannot have basic rights and freedoms in our sort of society unless you have at least the minimum economic adequacy to support yourself. The Government is using these people as pawns in its economic policy, just as it used the unemployed as pawns for the slaughter in the course of the sort of economic policies which it was applying until fairly recently and which it cannot really fully reverse at this point. I would like to ask some questions of the Minister for Social Services. Why is it that there is no proposal to increase the unemployment benefit? That has not been referred to specifically in this legislation. Is it proposed to increase the unemployment benefit?
– It was increased about 2 or 3 months ago.
– ‘But there have been substantial increases in costs since then. However, let us put that argument to one side as a quibble and let us take up the real argument, lt seems to me to be a matter of commonsense and to be rational action to provide those people who are suddenly cast into a situation which seems to require equal need - for example, those laid off work through sickness or invalidity or those who are unemployed - with equal benefits given equal sorts of conditions. Yet here we have a situation where the Government is making a distinction. The Government is distinguishing between the unemployed and these other people. The unemployed are not as worthy financially as these other people insofar as this Liberal-Country Party Government is concerned. They are going to get less than those who are sick invalided or widowed. I ask: What evidence is there to substantiate that sort of peculiar principle?
The situation of an unemployed man with a wife and 2 or 3 dependent children is in fact much more serious than the situation of many of these other people in that, with a meagre income and often with the sort of economic background related to work of so many of the people who find themselves unemployed, unemployment represents a monumental crisis because not only will he get a lesser return in benefits but also he will be involved in additional costs which the others would not have. Such a person has to be mobile because the Government demands that he approach so many employers every week, record their names and report - like little boys reporting to the school prefect - on them to the Government to prove that be has chased up work. A builder’s labourer who was seeking construction work and who had to travel from, say, the western suburbs of Sydney to the other side of Sydney would be involved in a fair bit of expense, regardless of whether he travelled by public transport or by his own means.
None of the things we have before us and none of the things we have had in the little over 12 months since the McMahon Government came into office is anywhere near in accord with the promises which were made by the Prime Minister in March 1971 when, in relation to pensions, he said:
We will follow this immediate increase in pension rates with a fundamental review of social services and related pensions and also of methods of adjusting such benefits. This review, which has already been commenced, will be under consider ation in the near future with the object of bringing emerging decisions into effect for the year 1971-72.
There is no evidence to this point that any of that has been done. Some rather tantalising pieces of gossip have been moving about in the Press. There will be a belated sort of a conclusion - if there is in fact a conclusion - to a promise which was supposed to be fulfilled last year and not this year.
Let me deal very quickly with the record of the Minister for Social Services. As a member he fought valiantly against the means test from the back bench of the Parliament and he argued that it should be eliminated within 3 years. He has been a Minister for more than 4 years, but we still have the means test. In fact, we have more than ‘the’ means test. We have the means test about which we are talking on pensions; we have a special means test for the unemployment benefit: we have a subsidised medical insurance means test; we have a pensioner medical service means test; we have a means test for radio and television licences; and we have a means test for telephone services. We are also going to have a special means test for migrants who want to go overseas. They will have to live here for 20 years before they can take their pension rights overseas, and then there will be qualifications about the equivalent or reciprocal arangements wilh other countries. A migrant who has a pension right after having been here for 10 years and who draws on the pension for 5 years and then goes home for sound family reasons - perhaps there is some crisis back home and he has to go and see his close relations, which could happen with the southern Europeans in particular - will lose his pension unless some arrangement is negotiated. He will have to come back if he wants to continue to receive his pension. The proliferation of means tests on those sorts of things indicates the mentality of the Government. AH I can say is thank God we got rid of the McMahon means test - the means test on the so-called grey area of the pension.
Perhaps we ought to approach an appreciation of the means test from a different angle to the one we normally use. As honourable members know, a $400 exempt assets and $10 a week income allowance is applied to the maximum pension for the standard rate and a $800 exempt assets plus $17 a week income allowance is applied in the case of the married rate. Let us put to one side the effect of the tapered means test for a few seconds. I will look at it later. What is significant, in the first place, is that the levels have been unchanged for some years. For instance, the $400 exempt assets level was set back in October 1954. The income level of $10 for the standard rate and $17 for the marriage rate was set back in 1967, if 1 remember correctly. So although they have been in existence for some years they have not been moved forward.
Where would they be if they had been moved forward in accordance with an appropriate index? The Minister for Social Services likes to quote indices. Let me quote from one and ask him to discuss it to some extent if he has the time to do so. If the $400 exempt assets allowance had been moved forward according to movements in inflation - that is, if an inflationary index had been worked out using gross national product movements at real prices vis-a-vis at current prices - it would now be $650. If the $10 a week single rate allowable income had been increased according to average weekly earnings it would now be $15.50. The married rate would have gone from $17 to $26.34. What does that mean in cash terms or in terms of assets? It means that about $8,700 would be allowable and one would still be entitled to the maximum single rate pension. About $14,997- nearly $15,000- would be allowable for the full rate of the married pension. In each case there should have been an increase of over 900 per cent in the amount allowed. Even if an allowance were to be made for the tapered means test, which would bring in different considerations altogether - the sort of thing I am putting here is a basic right - there would still be a requirement for a substantial movement forward of something like 450 per cent to maintain some sort of parity with the standards which were established so many years ago.
Why have these things not been improved in the interim and why have the pensioners not been given a better deal? Is that not what we should be talking about instead of about all these things? Should we not be talking about a better deal for the people who have retired? We should scrap the whole sorry system of pensions and the distinctions which are made between payment of the various forms of pensions to people in the community. We should also scrap the proliferation of means tests. Surely some fundamental decisions will have to be made about making a person’s basic rights and entitlements consistent with his self-respect and economic self-sufficiency. That would have to be related to the capacity of this community to pay, and pay much more generously than it has, and to the standards of prosperity in the community. Those are the basic principles that should be the basis on which we develop our whole approach to welfare services. Accordingly, the Australian Labor Party is proposing the scrapping of the age pension and the introduction of national superannuation on a universal system. Voluntary systems are hopeless. Sixty per cent of the members of the public are not covered by those sorts of systems. One could scarcely call a system which forces people who are not covered to become covered a voluntary system. There are quite a number of other approaches which ought to be looked at and which, frankly, I would like to discuss a little closer to the next general election than now. I conclude by saying that the Opposition does not oppose the Bill because it wants the money - as little as it is - to reach the pensioners, but that the Opposition is most unhappy about the complete inadequacy of what has been proposed on this occasion.
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 Wentworth) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - This afternoon in answer to a question from the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) I stated that the government secondary enrolments had risen by 85 per cent in the past 8 to 10 years. That statement was not correct. Between 1962 and 1971 government secondary school enrolments rose by 60 per cent while since 1963 the number of students staying for the final 2 years in government secondary schools increased by 85 per cent.
Bill presented by Mr Holten, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. The purpose of the Bill is to give effect to the Government’s proposals in the repatriation war compensation and service pension fields, as announced by my colleague the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) in this House on 11th April. Many ex-servicemen suffering from very serious incapacity, or the more severe loss of limbs, as a result of their war service, will benefit from these proposals. All war widows who lost their husbands during, or as a result of their war service, and all service pensioners, will also benefit. These increased payments are further evidence of the Government’s concern that those eligible for war related compensation, and those eligible for service pension, receive consideration consistent with the general economic situation and their needs. It will be appreciated that the proposed increases will benefit those who are very dependent on repatriation payments.
I shall now proceed to explain the proposed changes in more detail, giving the new weekly amounts and an estimate of the numbers who will benefit. Honourable members will be aware that repatriation war compensation payments are free of income tax. The special or totally and permanently incapacitated rate will be increased by $2 a week to $44.50. This amount is payable to those who are totally incapacitated from war related disabilities or tuberculosis; those who are blinded; those suffering from the more serious double amputations; and those who are temporarily totally incapacitated. Approximately 21,800 will receive an increase of $2 a week because of the increase in the special or TPI rate, but the new weekly payment of $44.50 should not be looked at in isolation. Additional amounts or allowances designed for specific purposes are also payable, separate payments are made to wives and children, and many receiving the Special Rate or its equivalent are also eligible for service pensions payable under repatriation legislation.
Single ex-servicemen in receipt of the special rate can now qualify also for up to $1 a week service pension under the changes being introduced at this time. Because the restrictions which applied to the 2 service pension increases in 1971 are being lifted, married ex-servicemen receiving both the special rate and service pension will receive an increase of up to $2.25 a week in their service pension in addition to the $2 a week increase in war compensation. These combined increases provided in this Bill represent an increased payment of up to $221 a year.
The intermediate rate is payable to those whose incapacity from war-related disabilities or tuberculosis enables them to work only part-time or intermittently, and who are consequently unable to earn a living wage. It will be increased by $1 a week to $31.25. There are some 1,800 recipients of the intermediate rate or equivalent who will all receive this increased benefit and, additionally, those of them who are receiving service pensions will also be eligible for an increase in those pensions. Single exservicemen in receipt of both the intermediate rate and service pension will qualify for up to $2.25 a week more service pension, in addition to the $1 a week increase in war compensation. This represents an increased payment of up to $169 a year. Married intermediate rate ex-servicemen will receive up to $2.50 a week increase in their service pension which, together with their war compensation increase, represents an increase of up to $182 a year.
I now come to the war widow. There are at present some 50,000 war widows whose basic war compensation will be increased by $1 a week to $18.25. More than 97 per cent of war widows also receive domestic allowance of $8 a week and, additionally, some 19,000 of them will also receive an increase of up to $2.25 a week in their age or invalid pension.
Thus, a war widow also receiving age or invalid pension will benefit from this Bill by up to $169 a year. Honourable members will, of course, realise that war widows with children of school age receive considerable repatriation assistance for the education of their children, right through to completion of tertiary studies. Free medical and related treatment is also provided for war widows and their children, as well as other fringe benefits, and so they should be.
As I stated earlier, service pensions are payable under the repatriation legislation. The rate of these pensions is the same as the age and invalid pensions. There are now over 57,000 service pensioners who will all receive an increase, and an unknown number - that is, a number that is unable to be estimated - will become eligible for part service pension for the first time. Single service pensioners on the maximum rate will receive the $1 a week increase, but those receiving less than the maximum rate could receive as much as $2.75 a week. The same range of increases applies to a married service pensioner whose wife also receives a service pension, and a service pensioner whose wife receives an age, invalid or service pension in her own right will receive an increase ranging from 75 cents a week to $2.25 a week. For service pensioners therefore, the increase will vary between $39 and $134 a year.
I now summarise the effect of these proposals. A single ex-serviceman in receipt of the special or TPI rate will receive an increase of $2 a week war compensation and could also qualify for up to $1 a week service pension. A married ex-serviceman in receipt of the special rate will also receive $2 a week increase in his war compensation and up to $2.25 a week increase in his service pension. A single intermediate rate ex-serviceman will receive an extra $1 a week war compensation and up to $2.25 extra by way of service pension, but if married, the extra service pension could amount to $2.50 a week; a war widow will receive an additional $1 a week in her basic payment and, together with domestic allowance and age or invalid pension, could receive a total of $36.37 a week as against $33.12 a week previously. A war widow with two children will now receive $40.25 a week from Repatriation plus education allowances and fringe benefits; and if she happens to qualify for age or invalid pension, a further $27.12 a week could be payable. All service pensioners will receive an increase and, depending on various factors, such increases will range from 75 cents to $2.75 a week.
Honourable members will be interested in the fact that, since July 1970, that is, in less than 2 years, increases in the basic payment for special TPI - rate beneficiaries have amounted to $8.50 a week, or $442 a year; and that, additionally, very worthwhile increases have been made in supplementary benefits, such as attendant’s allowance and service pension. In the same period, most war widows have had their repatriation payments increased by $3.75 a week, or $195 a year; while a war widow with 2 children has benefited by $8.10 a week, or $421.20 a year since July 1970. Additionally, of course, as I said earlier, education assistance, medical treatment and other fringe benefits are provided. The Bill appropriates the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the extent necessary to provide during the current year the additional payments to which it gives effect. The foregoing amendments will come into force on the pay day following the day on which the amending Act receives royal assent.
As my colleague the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) said when introducing the Social Services Bill earlier, it is hoped that royal assent will be received by 27th April. This is also true of this Bill. This is earlier than was foreshadowed by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) in his speech of 11th April when he anticipated that the increases would be paid on the first pay day in May. If this Bill is given a speedy passage through both Houses we are hopeful that the increased payments will be made earlier than that date. The measures I have outlined reflect the Government’s continuing interest in, and concern for, those who have suffered loss or severe incapacity because of the demands of war service or whose means are such that they qualify for service pension. Cost-wise they will add almost $1,500,000 to repatriation expenditure for this financial year. I commend the Bill to the House.
Leave granted for debate to continue forthwith.
– The Opposition does not intend to oppose the passage of this legislation. I want to make it clear at once that some increases in repatriation benefits are to be granted to certain recipients and the Opposition would not want to see those increases delayed. However, I intend to take the opportunity to deal with certain omissions by the Government and the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) in the repatriation field. I believe that this will be a decisive year for the functioning of the Repatriation Act and for future repatriation policy. The Toose Committee is making steady progress in its examination of the terms of reference handed to it by the Government and a Senate committee has also made an extensive examination of the repatriation structure. We can except its report later this year.
The operation of the Act and the future administration of repatriation are also under the microscope within the Repatriation Department. The impact of this process of close scrutiny can only benefit a very important area of welfare policy. It is probable that very substantial changes will flow through the system from this process of examination. Traditional concepts of repatriation assistance are under challenge and it is extremely likely that the system of the future will be substantially different from the familiar structure which has served war veterans so well in the years since 1945. In such a fluid context we must be prepared to accept change and radically different concepts in assistance to veterans. Change and reform are welcome and desirable as long as we retain the basic principle of succouring those people disabled by war and compensating those people who have suffered physically and mentally from war caused injuries.
There are the added duties of sustaining and assisting war widows and ensuring that war veterans can end their lives in dignity and be buried without imposing onerous burdens on their estates and survivors. This is a brief statement of the basic principles of repatriation policy. They are principles which have been sanctioned by time. The main problem confronting repatriation assistance in the year ahead is the basic problem that will affect welfare services in all areas of government spending. This is the increasingly intense competition for scarce resources.
With the entry of the Commonwealth Government into a host of areas not envisaged in previous years there will be much greater pressures on the repatriation structure to justify its spending and to ensure that its administration is conducted with the maximum efficiency. There have been indications of this sort of approach to repatriation in some of the submissions put to the various committees. Some quite bitter criticisms have been made of the repatriation structure and the ways in which it can be abused. Any welfare policy which aims at a broad coverage is liable to abuse. If the net is cast wide, obviously some people will get through the holes and will obtain unjustified benefits. This flaw applies not only to the repatriation system but also to all sorts of government assistance to individuals.
It is unfair to concentrate this sort of criticism on the repatriation system. At the same time it must be recognised that there is a duty imposed on the repatriation system to improve its efficiency, to eliminate any vestiges of waste and to make desirable economies. With any welfare system the crucial result is what actually goes into the pockets of the persons receiving the benefits. This is the acid test - to divert the maximum resources to the areas of need. With this objective the crunch falls on the administrative side of the balance sheet to make its spending as effective as possible.
Against this background I want to look at the increased benefits contained in the so-called mini-budget. It must be conceded at the outset that the increases perceptibly improve the subsistence income of the TPI intermediate rate and the war widows’ pensions. The TPI pension has been increased from $42.50 to $44.50 a week. This raises it from 46.15 per cent to 48.21 per cent of average weekly earnings. This is based on estimated average weekly earnings of $92.30 for 1971-72- a projection made on the basis of the last Budget Papers.
The trend of constant erosion of the TPI or special rate pension as a proportion of average weekly earnings has been reversed and a small but hopefully significant improvement made. It should be pointed out. though, that the present level of TPI pension is still below the proportion of 54.64 per cent of average weekly earnings which applied in 1949-50. The relative value of the pension was allowed to dwindle from a peak of 55.67 per cent of average weekly earnings in 1959-60 to just over 46 per cent in 1970-71. The increases given in the last Budget and the recent mini-Budget have reversed this downward trend. This is an encouraging development and I hope that the Government will take further measures to improve the relative value of the special rate pension in the next Budget. All parties should accept as an important policy objective an early restoration of the TPI pension to the relative levels which applied from 1946 to 1960.
As I have just indicated to the House, the special rate pension or total and permanently incapacity pension is, under the terms of this legislation, to be increased to $44.50 a week. Clearly in the opinion of not only honourable members on this side of the House but also those who represent returned servicemen in this country - that is, the Returned Services League of Australia and the TPI organisation - the special rate pension should not be below the minimum wage paid to a worker in this country. The Minister will remember that in March 1971, I think it was, the RSL put to the Government its pension plan. This was before the last Budget. In that 1971 pension plan the RSL asked that the special rate pension be increased to an amount equal to the current minimum wage. Thus, one of the requests was that the rate should not be below the minimum wage paid to a worker in this country. The minimum wage is now $47.10. I am quoting the last available figure, which is based on the Commonwealth minimum wage for Sydney.
So, it is quite clear that the special rate pension has been allowed to fall below the minimum wage in this country. The RSL contends and the Opposition has consistently advocated in this country, both in its policy speeches and whenever I have had the opportunity to speak in reply to the Minister for Repatriation, that the special rate pension, because of the special dis abilities suffered by these people, should not be less than the minimum wage that is paid in this country. The Government has not been prepared to accept this proposition.
I have just indicated to the House that some improvement has been made. I restate that this is one of the reasons why we do not intend to delay the passage of this legislation. We believe that any increase ought to be granted immediately, having regard to the deterioration of repatriation pensions generally. But, in dealing with the special rate pension, I want merely to point out, as I have stated in this House on previous occasions, that here we are dealing with a special class of pensioner, one who has served his country in time of war and who as a result of his service is now classified as totally and permanently incapacitated. I do not believe that any responsible person in this Parliament can argue that anyone placed in this category as a result of his war service should be allowed an income that is less than the minimum wage paid to a worker in this country. So I point out to the Minister that it would be hoped that the RSL will again submit to the Government its request that the special rate pension be raised as quickly as possible to the minimum wage level.
The intermedate rate pension also has been increased by $1 and its value has increased relative to average weekly earnings. I do not want to deal with the intermedate pension at any length because it is a comparatively recent innovation. Its relative value has been kept at a fairly stable level. Comparatively few repatriation pensioners are on the intermediate rate and it is not a significant part of the pension structure. I regret that time will not allow me to deal specifically with the question of the intermediate rate. The Minister knows my views on this.
– You have the time.
– Yes, but I have a great deal to cover because the honourable member needs to be educated on repatriation matters. Therefore, I will confine my remarks in relation to the intermediate rate merely to pointing out to the Minister the situation since this intermediate rate pension was granted. If I remember correctly, the Minister said in his second reading speech that there are some 1,800 persons in receipt of the intermediate rate pension. If I may quote from the 1970-71 report of the Repatriation Commission, the precise number on the intermediate rate for that year was 1,542. There are an additional 212 recipients of the intermediate rate. They receive the pension as a result of the classification of tuberculosis class B. So, in fact, this will cost the Government, on these figures, $1,754 a week extra or, if the Minister likes me to put in more round figures, this generous increase in the intermediate rate will cost the Government, in terms of expenditure, $82,784 a year.
What a magnanimous gesture to a group of ex-servicemen who, as a result of their war injuries, are not in a position to engage continuously in employment! The intermediate rate was introduced for this purpose. It was introduced by this Government. I would like to have had the opportunity tonight to point out how difficult it is for any ex-serviceman to qualify for this rate of pension. I do not have to develop this argument. I merely point out to the Minister that there are 218,355 pensioners in the 100 per cent category, whereas there are, as I have just quoted to the House, fewer than 1,800 persons in receipt of the intermediate rate pension. So I say no more about that category. The Minister has conceded that the intermedate rate pension should have been increased and the Government has now moved to increase it by $1 a week.
The major defects in the new benefits announced by the Minister for Repatriation relate to the general rate pension and to wives’ and children’s pensions. The general rate pension has remained at the present level of $12 a week since 1964-65. An increase of 50c in the general rate pension was made in the Budget of that year. In the subsequent period of 7 years the relative value of the general rate pension has deteriorated quite disastrously, whatever yardstick is applied. In 1949-50 the general rate pension was 28.35 per cent of average weekly earnings. Today it is 13 per cent of average weekly earnings. It is pointless to trace out this tragic decline in greater detail.
– That is up to 75 per cent; it is not the whole general rate.
– I will come to that in a moment. If the Minister for Repatriation wants to engage in a debate about those pensioners in the 75 per cent to 100 per cent category, I will be happy to accommodate him, because it does not matter what yardstick is applied to the figures relating to the general rate pension, it can be seen at once that this Government has allowed the value of this pension to decline. I should like the Minister to challenge me on that statement. I have just pointed out that today the general rate pension represents 13 per cent of average weekly earnings. In 1949-50, when this Government came to power, it represented 28.35 per cent of the then average weekly earnings. So it lias declined by more than half in that period.
The Government’s usual defence against criticism of its treatment of general rate pensioners is to point to the introduction of the special compensation allowance. Some general rate pensioners assessed at 75 per cent disability or more are entitled to some additional benefit from the special compensation allowance. I say ‘some general rate pensioners’ because again the Minister knows that not all pensioners in the 75 per cent to 100 per cent category receive the special compensation allowance.
– Eighty per cent of them do.
– The Minister says that 80 per cent of them receive the special compensation allowances. That means that 20 per cent of them do not receive it, and that is quite a significant figure. This Government holds the belief that if a war pensioner has a disability such as defective hearing or failing eyesight, the defective hearing can be corrected by a hearing aid or the failing eyesight can be corrected by spectacles.
– That is right.
– Of course,’ the Minister is completely wrong. In a great number of cases defective hearing cannot be corrected by hearing aids. But the Repatriation Department has ruled that in these cases the pensioners are not ‘ eligible to receive the special compensation allowance. The Minister should not argue about this matter if he is not familiar with departmental policy or, perhaps I should say, with Government policy in this respect. The plain fact is that on the Minister’s own admission, 20 per cent of pensioners in the 75 per cent to 100 per cent category do not receive the special compensation allowance. During its period of office the Government has allowed the 100 per cent general rate pension to deteriorate, despite the fact that the Returned Services League, in its war compensation plan to which I have already referred, requested in March of last year that the general rate pension should be increased to at least 50 per cent of the minimum wage. In point of fact, the rate has not been increased for 7 years. Even in this mini-Budget the Government has again completely neglected the general rate pensioner.
As we all know, the compensation allowance was introduced by this Government for the specific purpose of being able to grant the smallest possible benefit to those who are in receipt of a war pension. I have just referred the House to the number of war pensioners in Australia. They total 218,355, of whom 194,414 receive the general rate pension, from a maximum of 100 per cent down to a minimum of 10 per cent. That means, in effect, that only 23,941 repatriation pensioners do not receive the general rate pension, if one excludes war widows, and I do so. So one can see that by granting an increase to only a small group of repatriation pensioners the saving for the Government is considerable.
The Government completely ignores the great majority of war pensioners in Australia. I hope that at some time the Minister will take the opportunity to refer to general rate pensioners when he is making a second reading speech on repatriation legislation. He has not done so since he has been the Minister for Repatriaton Indeed, reference has not been made to general rate pensioners in second reading speeches on repatriation legislation for 7 years because there has been no increase in the general rate pension in that period. Of course, the only change that has taken place has been an increase in the special compensation allowance, to which the Minister has referred. I say no more about the general rate pension. But it should be noted that pensioners in this category are dissatisfied with the attitude and the inaction of the Government in relation to this important part of the repatriation pension, legislation. The constant erosion of the TPI pension as a proportion of average weekly earnings has been reversed, as I have already pointed out. Therefore, I suppose it can be argued and, I suppose, successfully argued, by the Minister that some slight improvement has been effected in this rate. But the Government has completely overlooked, not only in the miniBudget, but indeed in the last Budget and the Budget before that, all of the groups to which I have just referred - that is, the general rate pensioners, the wives of pensioners and the children of pensioners. The Minister for Repatriation shakes his head. I will be happy to give him the figures.
This Bill gives war widows, for example, a pension increase of $1 a week, that is, from $17.25 to $18.25 a week. Unlike general rate pensioners, war widows have been given increases at fairly regular intervals. But the increases have been too meagre to maintain the relative status of war widows’ pensions. Measured against average weekly earnings, the pension for a war widow has declined from 30.93 per cent in 1949-50 to 19.77 per cent with the latest increase. To be fair, the latest increase does bring a slight improvement to the relative value of war widows’ pensions. But again I come to the point upon which there is obviously some disagreement between the Minister and myself.
War pensions paid to dependants of incapacitated ex-servicemen represent another area of neglect in the repatriation structure. According to the latest report of the Repatriation Commission, these pensions are paid to wives of incapacitated exservicemen and to children under the age of 16 years. These pensions are paid at rates varying with the assessed degree of the particular ex-servicemen’s incapacity. The weekly rates for the wife and each child of any ex-serviceman receiving a pension at the 100 per cent general rate are $4.05 and $1.38 a week respectively. What the Commission’s report neglects to mention is that the rate of war pension for wives was last increased in September 1964, when it rose from $3.55 to $4.05 a week. As I have already pointed out to the Minister, that was more than 7 years ago. Neglect of pensions for children is even more reprehensible; the last increase of 23c a week was made almost 20 years ago, in October 1952. The rate has not been increased since. The Minister shook his head in disagreement when I suggested a moment ago that there had been no increase for this category of pensioners under the repatriation legislation. In October 1952 the pension for children of ex-servicemen was lifted from $1.15 a week to the princely level of $1.38 a week. I believe that this makes a mockery of the Government’s persistent claim that it is directing attention to the areas of greatest need.
Finally, in the time available to me, I want to refer to the war widows’ pension. If one carefully considers the Minister’s second reading speech one can see at once that right through the speech the Minister has deliberately endeavoured to prove that special rate pensioners, war widows and others who will benefit under the repatriation legislation which was the subject of the Minister’s second reading speech will receive a higher amount because they qualify for service pension payments. Let us consider the case of the war widow. In his second reading speech the Minister said:
A war widow will receive an additional $1 a week in her basic payment and, together with domestic allowance and age or invalid pension, could receive a total of $36.37 a week. . . .
The Minister must accept responsibility for this statement. The Minister knows as well as I do that 97 per cent of war widows today receive the domestic allowance; there are 3 per cent who do not. They could not qualify for the age pension or any other class of pension because, as the Minister knows, they must be over 50 years of age to receive the domestic allowance.
It is fatuous for the Minister to present these kinds of figures to the House and claim that it is possible for someone to get the amount of pension he claims. The
Minister should quote what the war widows rate is - $18.25 a week. That is what is paid to someone in Australia whose husband has been appropriated in the service of his country - $18.25 a week. The Minister went on to point out that a war widow with her basic payment, together with the domestic allowance and an age or invalid pension, could receive a total of $36.37 a week as against $33.12 a week previously. This is very good and some improvement. The
A war widow with 2 children will now receive $40.25 a week.
This is to be compared with the payment of $36.37 a week for a widow with no children who qualifies for the age or invalid pension. What sort of justice is this? A war widow with 2 children will receive an amount just in excess of that received by a war widow with no dependants at all. 1 believe that this kind of fatuous argument shouldnot be presented to this Parliament. I have said enough about the war widow’s rate, which stands at $18.25 a week. This is the figure at the moment, not what it could be. On the Minister’s own admission 3 per cent of the war widows in Australia - 3 in every 100 - will be confined to $18.25 a week. These are the figures the Parliament is presented with by the Government. The Government claims that it is being generous to the Australian war widow. The Minister may not be wholly responsible for this situation.
– This is the first time the honourable member has said anything about this matter for 12 months.
– I am saying it now. I believe there is no more appropriate time than this to say it. 1 have dealt with the omissions in this legislation - the general rate pension, the Government’s complete neglect and inactivity and, indeed, its arrogance towards those who claim to represent the ex-servicemen of Australia. The Government has ignored the claims of the general rate pensioners for more than 7 years and one would expect, hope and, indeed, demand that there should be some improvement in the next Budget. 1 have pointed out already that the Opposition is prepared to pass this legislation immediately to enable the proposed increases to be paid as soon as possible, but I must place on record the Labor Party’s opposition to some aspects in this legislation and therefore I move:
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Barnard’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original 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 Holten) read a third time.
Bill presented by Mr Holten, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill before the House is in accordance with the usual practice of the Government to keep the rates of pensions and allowances payable to seamen war pensioners under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act in line with the similar rates payable to other war pensioners under the Repatriation Act. The purpose of the Bill is to increase, in relation to seamen, the various rates of pension as announced by my colleague the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) in the House last week and being put into effect by the current Repatriation Bill. Clause 3 of the Bill increases the intermediate rate of war pension by $1 a week to $31.25. The intermediate pension is paid to seriously disabled persons whose war caused incapacities render them incapable of working other than on a part time basis, or intermittently. Clause 4 substitutes a new First Schedule to the Act to provide for an increase of $1 in the weekly rate of pension payable to widows of Australian mariners.
The Bill does not have to provide for the increase of $2.00 to $44.50 per week in the rate of TPI pension, or for various increases in the weekly amounts payable in respect of the disabilities described in the Fifth Schedule to the Repatriation Act, as the increased rates under that Act will apply automatically to seamen pensioners by virtue of section 22a of the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act. The increases in pensions will, as usual, be payable on the first pension pay day after the date on which the Act receives the royal assent. I commend the Bill to the House.
Leave granted for debate to be continued forthwith.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Holten) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 18th April (vide page 17S2), on motion by Mr Swartz, as amended:
Upon which Mr Bryant had moved by way of further amendment:
That after paragraph (b) the following paragraph be inserted: (ba) That the standing orders be amended by inserting after standing order 49 the following new standing order: “49a. That, at 10 p.m. each sitting day, the Speaker shall put the question - That the House do now adjourn - which question shall be open to debate; if the House be in committee at that hour, the Chairman shall in like manner put the question - That he do leave the Chair and report to the House; and upon such report being made .the Speaker shall forthwith put the question - That the House do now adjourn - which question shall be open to debate; Provided that if the House or the committee be in division at the time named, the Speaker or the Chairman shall not put the question referred to until the result of such division has been declared; and if the business under discussion shall not have been disposed of at such adjournment it shall appear on the Notice Paper for the next sitting day”.’.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)The immediate question is, ‘That the paragraph proposed to be inserted be so inserted’.
– In supporting the remarks of my colleague, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), I want to draw attention to some matters which I raised very hurriedly on 12th November 1971 at 12.38 a.m. At that hour of the morning, of course, one feels very strongly about this matter of sitting after midnight. I drew attention then to an article in ‘Aerospace Medicine’ for May 1970 where they summarised the medical experience of the Apollo flights Nos. 7 to 11. The important point emphasised in that article was as follows:
The Apollo astronauts have faced the same sleep difficulties as their predecessors. Unfortunately medical knowledge and expertise can provide little assistance in resolving this problem area, for Apollo mission plans must be highly inflexible and constraining. The astronaut must then be integrated into the fixed mission plan as best he can.
I pointed out. however, that because of the considerable disruption in the flight schedules caused by the disturbances to sleep and to the pattern of rest on board these spaceships, these men in their later flights had definite rest periods laid down when they all slept at the one time. Different measures were taken to stop the noise of pumps, gases and so on which disturbed their sleep. This so improved the performance of these people that they were able to get ahead of schedule instead of behind. They were able to spend more time on the moon’s surface. This is the most complete and intensive study of the effects of sleep deprivation on record in medical literature. It does not involve only such things as physical skills; it involves also thinking processes. It involves co-ordination. It involves, in other words, efficency of brain work. This has been established by close studies of every bodily and mental function of these men before and after their flights.
Until some such study is done of those who do the sort of work that is done in this House and in other parliamentary chambers, we must assume that the same findings apply to those who do the work that is done here. The work is demanding as to the hours, the interruptions that occur and the complexities we are faced with in considering the matters that come to our attention, whether we are taking part in debate on legislation, trying to unravel a problem for a constituent, attending to party matters or going to speak to some organisation in our electorates or visiting an organisation in somebody else’s electorate, even in another State, to get some information. Whatever aspects we look at, if a man is conscientious - most people are if they are willing to make the effort to get into this place and sit for outrageous hours - he has a continual pressure on him to absorb information, correlate it and act on it efficiently. There is intense competition for recognition of achievement in these fields.
The job cannot be done efficiently the way we are doing it. We are losing time by sitting longer hours. What we should be doing is sitting more days and shorter hours. The first time I spoke in this House was when I asked a question of the right honourable gentleman who is now the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). I asked him then, 4 years ago, whether he had seen reports by a psychiatrist that it was inadvisable for senior executives and people charged with the responsibility of the administration of the country to be making important decisions during and shortly after long air flights. To some extent this involves the sort of time disturbance that occurs with the astronauts, because some of these long flights involve travelling from one time zone to another. We have people in this Parliament who make such flights. They have a half-hour change in time travelling to Canberra from South Australia and a time change of 2 hours if travelling from Western Australia. Some of our Ministers are subject to this time change. If they do not live in South Australia or Western Australia they must travel to those States at some time. There are also those who travel around the world and come back here, and, of course, are subjected to this disturbance.
But every one of us is subjected to this sort of disturbance by the hours we are sitting. We are all disorientated, confused, muddled and liable to make mistakes. As I said in my previous speech on this subject, the substance of which I am now quoting, we are in effect intoxicated. Fatigue produces in the brain cells and in every other part of the body toxic substances which impair efficiency. If there is any sense in the proposition that we should not have people taking drugs such as marihuana or that we should have breathalysers to stop people from driving in traffic and controlling machinery when they are intoxicated, we ought to be looking very hard at the responsible decisions that are being made here while we are intoxicated.
I sincerely hope that the House will support the amendment of the honourable member for Wills that the House adjourn at 10 p.m. An adjournment debate of up to an hour will then follow, and with a bit of luck we will be in bed by midnight, even if we have a bit of work to do in our offices before we leave this building after the sitting. Is it too much to expect that people get to bed before midnight, or do we want to be speaking, as I was on the last occasion I spoke on this subject, at 12.38 a.m., with the end of the sitting not in sight. Which is sane? Which is sensible? Which is the proper way to run the country, the Parliament or any other business? Do we find the procedure that we follow in any other enterprise in this country? If not, why not? They do not follow our example because they are a little bit saner than we are. I ask everybody - this is a free vote and I am not appealing on party lines - to cross to the same side as the honourable member for Wills in this matter. Those who do not will stand condemned for their disregard of their own health, their own length of life, their own family and dependants and the welfare of this country.
– One day last year I was called on to speak at 18 minutes past 6 in the morning. As if that were not bad enough, my speech was then guillotined at 20 minutes past 6, so that my contribution after being in the House for something like 20 hours added up to 2 minutes. I think it is enough just to recite that incident to indicate that I am no advocate of absurdly long hours. But at the same time I want to say. that I am inclined to the view that the House should not support the amendment of the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) for 3 reasons, which I will indicate very briefly. The first of them arises from the fact that last year we reverted from the 4-day sitting week to a 3-day sitting week, and in this shorter sitting period I do not believe that the extra hour a day involved beyond what is envisaged in the amendment is so strenuous as to impose any intolerable burden on us.
My second reason for opposing the amendment is this: On average the business of the House proceeds until 11 o’clock each night and the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House then proceeds to about midnight. I would suggest that the total effect of the change now proposed would not be to reduce our sitting hours each day by an hour but simply to increase our adjournment debates by an hour. I have the very strong suspicion that the end result would be that instead of knocking off at 11 p.m. and having an adjournment debate for one hour to midnight we would knock off at 10 o’clock and have a 2-hour adjournment debate to midnight. My reason for suggesting this is that I have the impression that in Parliament we have a situation which could best be described by the people who enunciate doctrines such as Parkinson’s law and the Peter principles. In their style of words it might be said that in Parliament, when there is any time for speeches that time is bound to be occupied by speakers. I am convinced that that would be the end result of the proposed change and frankly I would rather have an extra hour devoted to the proper business of this House than to the relatively peripheral matters that are produced on the adjournment.
Finally I want to offer this suggestion: We have to legislate some time. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays in this House we start at 2.30 p.m. and, as I have said, knock off, on average, at about 11 p.m. That means that we are operating on an 8i-hour day. From that we subtract 2 hours for dinner time, which brings us down to 6i hours. From that, since we have a matter of public importance or the equivalent almost every day, we have to knock off a further 2 hours, reducing potential legislative time to 4i hours a day. Question time and petitions take another hour each day on average. Even ignoring matters such as ministerial statements and discussions on those statements, after that process we are down to a maximum of 3 or 3i hours a day in which to deal with legislation. I think that is very far from being too much of a good thing.
So when we are talking about reducing the day by one hour it is not just one hour of a day that is involved but it is one hour of only 3 hours devoted to legislation. If we look at it in that context, if we keep in mind the fact that we are operating now again - and regrettably in my opinion - on the short 3-day week, and if we look also at the use likely to be made of any saving of an hour by adopting the proposal that the adjustment be moved at 10 o’clock, I think we should, as a matter of practice and even in principle, arrive at the conclusion that we should stay with the hours as they are now and insist, as has been done, even in this session, that they should be reasonably adhered to.
– I find myself pretty much in sympathy with what the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) has just said. His logic is difficult to fault. It is quite true, as he said, that the almost inevitable result of adopting this amendment - attractive as it is on the face of it - would be to increase the adjournment debate by one hour. His second point was that we have to legislate some time. We cannot contradict those 2 points. We must accept them. I feel that, if we were to accept this amendment, we would be more or less out of the frying pan into the fire. Nobody feels more strongly than I do about the Jong hours. I think we are all pretty much of the same mind on this.
I feel that there is a case to be made for the Parliament sitting more days and for shorter hours, but I do not think that the way the honourable member for Wills has suggested is the right way of going about it. I would like to revert to a suggestion that I put quite some time ago to the Standing Orders Committee but which, unfortunately, was not accepted. It may be appropriate for the Standing Orders Committee to have another look at it some time. The proposition related to an automatic adjournment - not an adjournment at 10 o’clock and then an adjournment debate, but a final finishing time for the House actually to rise. I based my proposition on the procedure as I understood it at that time - as far as I know it is still in operation - in the House of Commons at Westminster where at 10 o’clock the motion for the adjournment is put, speakers are allowed 5 minutes each and then at 10.30 p.m. the Speaker leaves the chamber and so the business is finished. The House closes down at 10.30 p.m. That is how I visualise an automatic adjournment. I think that the effect of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wills would be that we would still be having late hours but, instead of debating Government business between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. or between 10 p.m. and midnight, we would be debating on the adjournment. I do not see that this would be an improvement.
I am in favour of rising earlier if it can be arranged but 1 do not think that the honourable member’s proposition would achieve the end that he has in his mind. What the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) has said in relation to honourable members being tired is quite true. I am sure that most of us are very ready to accept the medical advice on this point. I am certain that our efficiency is impaired through fatigue. I am sure that plane travel and late nights impair the efficiency not only of honourable members but also of the staff and everybody concerned. I am sure that this is right. My main point is that, while I accept in general spirit, the idea behind the motion moved by the honourable member for Wills, I do not think that this is the right way of going about it. I would prefer that the matter be referred again to the Standing Orders Committee at its next session, with a request that the Committee have a fresh look at the whole question of an automatic adjournment of the House.
– Ever since I came into this House I have been opposed to late night sittings. I agree largely with what has been said by the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham). If we have excessively late sittings we are not in a position to deal with legislation in a fitting manner. Each Friday morning when the House is sitting 1 travel to Melbourne by aeroplane with a number of city members. They can go home, if they have had a very late night or perhaps an early morning on the Friday, and go to bed. But I have to drive my car 165 miles before I get home. That is the difference between the city man and the country man. The man who lives in Sydney is even better off. He has a shorter distance to travel. He gets in the plane, he is home, and he could be in bed before II o’clock having a good sleep if he had sat in this House until 2 o’clock or 3 o’clock in the morning.
I believe that I have been consistent in this matter. I opposed late night sittings when the Chifley Government was in office. I remember one occasion - I have told about it so often here that its repetition is perhaps tedious - when we got back to the Kurrajong Hotel when the breakfast bell was ringing at half past 7 in the morning. Then we had to be back here by halfpast 10. We sat fairly late that night. Then I had to go to Melbourne and drive home a long distance. One cannot reasonably keep doing these things. I do not agree with the Parliament having to sit for longer periods, for 2 or 3 reasons. One reason is that when a government has been in office as long as this Government has, it has all its basic legislation on the statute book. If the Opposition came into office it would sit tremendously long hours for many days, changing all the legislation that this Government has enacted. The Opposition would not agree with it. lt would want to change most of it. This would take a very long time and the House would be sitting many more days. But once the basic legislation has been settled there are only the normal annual adjustments after the Budget - the Supply Bills and different things that come in that have to be given attention.
I cannot agree with what the honourable member for Perth said. He put forward one or two cases. I just forget what they were, but as I listened to them I did not agree with them. 1 cannot agree with the amendment in the way it has been moved by the honourable member for Wills, because I think that he has gone a bit too far one way. I think that there is a happy medium. If the honourable member for Wills were agreeable to changing his amendment to make it 1 1 p.m. on a Tuesday night with no adjournment debate and not 10 o’clock but 10.30 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday with adjournment debate, I would support it.
– Well, draft an amendment while somebody else speaks.
– I will not do that at all. I am talking about the honourable member’s amendment. 1 would support it if those changes were made. I do not think, as the honourable member for Perth said, that this would mean the same thing and that we would go on with the adjournment debate. On some Wednesday and Thursday nights honourable members do not want to speak on the adjournment. That has happened very often. Perhaps 4 honourable members want to speak.
That would take 40 minutes, which is not very long. The fact is that the Government is in charge of the House. If the motion for the adjournment were put at 10.30 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, when the Government thought that the adjournment debate had gone far enough, it would very quickly move the closure. The honourable member for Perth must not think that the Government would allow the adjournment debate to go on until midnight if the adjournment were moved at 10.30 o’clock. It would not go on for 2 hours. I have very rarely seen it go on for 2 hours - only when there has been some special argument between the Parties which created great interest and when they decided that they wanted to come to some conclusion, a conclusion which was never reached.
So I am between the 2 propositions, but I favour the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wills a little - not as he has moved it, but if he were agreeable to making it 1 1 p.m. on Tuesday with no adjournment debate and 10.30 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday. If he did that, I would support him. But I wilt not move an amendment if he will not change his amendment. If his amendment is defeated I am finished there, because I think that as a matter of common sense he should accede to my request. I think that more honourable members would then support his amendment than will support it as it is presently written. The 10 p.m. adjournment the honourable member for Wills has advocated would mean that the Parliament would rise only 2 hours after it had reassembled after the dinner break. We have to sit a bit longer than that. If the Parliament were to adjourn at 1 1 p.m. on a Tuesday night it would mean that it would sit for 3 hours after the dinner break. One could be at one’s hotel and in bed before half past 11 if an adjournment debate were not permitted. That would not be too bad. On die other hand if the House were to adjourn at 10.30 p.m. the chances are one would be in bed at one’s hotel by 11 o’clock, which would be quite good. I have found that some of the younger members of this House get more tired than the older members, although if they were at a dance they would probably dance till daylight. I put that proposition to the honourable member for Wills for his consideration and leave it at that.
– By voting against this amendment honourable members will be virtually voting for their own execution. This is the first chance we have had for a long time to change a system that has operated since probably right back to Federation. I do not think it has been changed since then. Honourable members have a great chance now to vote for sanity in the sitting hours of this House. Those honourable members who vote against the amendment of the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) deserve what happens to them. They deserve to get knocked up and to go home at night absolutely flabbergasted, exhausted and hardly fit to come back again the next day. They deserve all the criticism of people outside who say: ‘Fancy sitting till midnight, as you do night after night during some periods of the year’. I cannot understand the mentality of those honourable members who will not support this amendment.
– What about my suggestion?
– The suggestion of the honourable member for Mallee is a half way house - if we do not get one then the other is better than none at all. But the honourable member for Mallee is not prepared to put forward his suggestion in the form of an amendment.
– No, but the honourable member for Wills can change his amendment. If he does so he will get my support.
– If the honourable member for Mallee were to put forward his proposition in the form of a motion I would support it and I think it could receive the support of the House. The Government has spoken so much about there being a free vote on the subject of this debate, but there is no such thing.
– That is not fair or true.
– The honourable member for North Sydney, who just interjected, is the only man on the Government side of the chamber who has had the courage to vote with members of the Opposition, as he did last night, on a proposition put forward by a member of the Opposition. The Government has its supporters tied hand and foot. They are not prepared to break their chains and vote against their masters even in an open vote debate.
– They would get expelled if they were to do so.
– They would probably get expelled. I feel sorry for the honourable member for North Sydney. 1 suppose he has already received a letter from the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) about his actions. Honourable members should give careful consideration to the amendment of the honourable member for Wills. If carried it would mean that as from today the business of the House would be interrupted at 10 p.m. and there would then be a debate after that for one hour on the motion for the adjournment of the House. The House would then rise at 11 pm. or, if honourable members wanted to talk for a little longer and the Government was willing to allow them to do so, 11.15 p.m. It should be remembered that every person who works in this place, and there are several hundred of them, has to work for perhaps another hour after that before being able to go home. We do not give any consideration to them when we knock off at midnight and they have to work until 1 a.m. I think that a little bit of humanity in our Standing Orders would spill over to them as well. I am not thinking only of ourselves on this occasion. What would the Government have to lose if this amendment were carried? The hours of sitting vary at present. Sometimes the Government moves the adjournments at 10.30 p.m., sometimes at 10.45 p.m., sometimes at 11 p.m. and sometimes a bit later than 11 p.m. The time varies between about 10.25 p.m. and 11.10 p.m. but it is still a long while after the hour of 10 o’clock which is referred to in this amendment. I believe that as legislators we should be fully awake when we are discussing business in this Parliament.
– The Minister for Social Services was not even awake at question time.
– He has to get a bit of a rest at some time. That is probably the only time he can do so. I do not think that we will be giving ourselves a fair go from a physical and mental point of view if we do not carry this amendment. Some honourable members are more fortunate than others in that they are paired and can get away before the rest of us. Let us have a think about them. How are they going to vote tonight? As Opposition Whip, I know who gets off on both sides of the Parliament. I do not think it is very fair that any of those honourable members should get up in this House tonight and oppose this amendment when they get away from here quite some time before the rest of us who have to sit it right out to the bitter end. If anybody who is paired fairly regularly gets up and talks in this debate tonight I will interject and name him. Let us be quite fair about it; the only ones who are entitled to talk in this debate are the honourable members who stick it right out to the end every night. I feel that that is only fair.
I admit that if this amendment were carried it would mean that the House would sit for an hour or half an hour less each night and that li hours a week or more would be cut out of the time set aside for the debating of Government business, but so what? We could make up that time at the end of a session by sitting for an extra week or for 2 extra days. We would get some sanity into the hours of our sitting if we were to do that. There is no sanity at present in our hours of sitting. Where else in Australia do business people normally work till midnight? This crazy Parliament is working from 9 a.m. till midnight.
This is the first chance we have had for decades to introduce some sanity into our hours of sitting yet the majority of honourable members will probably vote against the amendment. I will have no sympathy for them after that if they get knocked up. They will have to take the consequences of the effect on their health of lengthy hours of sitting. The Budget session normally goes from the middle of August to early in December, which is a long time. Although we sit for 3 weeks and rise for one week it is still a long, dragged out session. If we could leave this place at 11 o’clock at night we would be fresher and fitter for the next day’s work, which is essential if the next day we are to have a proper, lively, intelligent debate on the various matters that come before this Parliament. I cannot understand the mentality of any member of this chamber who wants it to sit until midnight. We are having busier times than ever in this place. Each year is getting more difficult. It is becoming harder to get through the work in time because of the pressures of the federal parliamentary programme. It is therefore important to be fit enough to do the work. An extra hour in bed at night would better prepare us for the pressures of the next day.
Our work is not confined to this place. Most of our work is done at home in our electorates. Every single one of us in this Parliament is working an average of 80 hours a week and getting paid at the rate of about 40 hours a week. On that point, we have received one salary rise in 7£ years and the Public Service has received 4 in 2 years. Thousands of public servants are now receiving more than us in wages. We are just sheer mugs. I may as well tell the whole story. We are getting a daily allowance of $2 less than our secretaries. This is supposed to be the new order, yet we work 80 hours a week on the job. Only a part of our work is done in this place and we are knocked up by the time we come back on Tuesday morning or on Monday night from a difficult weekend of long distance travelling, in the case of country members. Members may travel 200, 300 or 400 miles a weekend and attend 2, 3 or 4 functions. They must be in their office on Monday and they are not left alone on Sunday, either.
This is the programme of a member of Parliament and yet Government supporters will sit here tonight and leave the hours as they are. Only one thing can be said about that. They are prepared for their own execution. They have put up the scaffold and appointed the man who will spring the trap and they are prepared to succumb on the scafforld by not agreeing to alter sitting hours tonight. Forget party politics. This is not a party political matter. It is one of the few occasions on which honourable members are entitled to vote according to their own way of thinking and their own consciences. This was done in the case of the Matrimonial Causes Bill. So, honourable members on the other side should not let anyone bully them about voting a certain way. If the Government has to bring in important legislation - that is, introduce a new Bill - I am sure that it could, by a mere motion by the Minister concerned, have the right to bring in such legislation and take an extra half hour to do so. There would be no difficulty about that at all.
Honourable members should consider themselves. We work 80 hours a week and yet honourable members are not prepared to try to save themselves one hour 3 nights a week so that they could get to bed earlier and make themselves fresher and fitter for the next day. I cannot understand this attitude. Some of my colleagues propose to vote that the standing order should remain as it is. As Opposition Whip I should stick with the establishment but I do not stick with the establishment. I am a member of the Standing Orders Committee. I do not care if there is a unanimous vote, except for my vote, to defeat the motion to alter the Standing Orders. I would still get up and speak as I am speaking now because as Opposition Whip for 16 years in this place, I have some conception of the pressures this work imposes upon the body, mind and spirit of members of this Parliament. I am only trying to suggest something that will help all of us to be fitter and fresher members.
The honourable member for Mallee (Sir Winton Turnbull) has come half way, but he is not prepared to move a motion that the House adjourn at 10.30 instead of at 10 o’clock.
– But somebody else can and I will support it.
– Well, that is a good thought, too.
– I am prepared to make it 10.30. 1 will second that.
– That is fair enough. I think that we should get this started if we lose the motion moved by the honourable member for Wills. But do not let anybody be browbeaten over this. Do not let tradition or the establishment rule your thinking in this case. Honourable members are masters of their own business as individuals in this place tonight. They can change the Standing Orders so that the motion for the adjournment of the House is moved at 10 o’clock each night and so that there is an hour for the adjournment debate just by voting with the honourable member for Wills tonight. It is as simple as that. The Prime Minister has nothing to do with it. Neither has the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) anything to say about this matter. Honourable members themselves are deciding it tonight and I hope that they will do the right thing to make themselves fitter and fresher members of Parliament when they come back to work the next morning.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable member for Mallee (Sir Winton Turnbull)-
– Mr Deputy Speaker, 1 draw your attention to the fact that a Government supporter is on his feet.
– Order! If the Minister had been watching the debate he would know that prior to the honourable member for Wilmot speaking the honourable members for Ryan and Mallee spoke in succession. 1 have called the honourable member for Macquarie.
– The honourable member for Mallee has used some compelling arguments which deserve the respect of members of this chamber. The honourable member has served this Parliament for a considerable period of time. His record of attendance is well known and his work in the House certainly is appreciated by most honourable members. He has worked hard and industriously as a member of this place. He will leave this place with perhaps the best record of attendance of any member of the Parliament. When the honourable member speaks on this subject, one can respect what he has to say. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) as Opposition Whip also dealt with this matter in a very thorough way, giving his personal experiences, of the difficulties of members, the problems of attending the Parliament, the matter of being alert to participate in debate and the need for members to have their faculties clear when discussing important legislation dealing with affairs of this nation and our relations with other countries.
I feel that the proposal moved by the honourable member for Mallee deserves to be supported. I think that it is a proposal that goes somewhere between the existing practice and that proposed by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). This proposition is one which deserves consideration and I would ask honourable members to give that consideration to what the honourable member for Mallee has had to say. We should ask ourselves: ‘Are we doing the right thing by this country and by the Parliament in our performances at the present time?’ When Parliament sits continuously through the night and visitors come into this chamber, they see men sprawled out on the benches, many of them asleep. Is this the way to discharge the business of the Parliament? Of course it is not. This is not good enough and we should be able to change our Standing Orders and rearrange the business of the House in such a fashion that we can end our sittings earlier each evening and, if need be, sit on additional days. There should be no argument about that for those of us who have been elected to Parliament have been elected to serve in the Parliament.
It is true that we have our duties in the electorate. The work of our constituencies constantly require attention but the basic job of a member of Parliament is to be in Parliament and to serve the electors in this place. I feel that additional sittings of the Parliament would solve the problem that some honourable members may have in their minds. It was stated by the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) that to adopt the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wills would not be satisfactory as we could perhaps be sitting for 2 hours on the adjournment debate. I think that this has been effectively answered already. The Government has charge of the business of the House and it would very definitely see that the adjournment debate was brought, to an end much sooner than 2 hours after the motion for the adjournment of the House had been moved. In any event, if honourable members wanted to speak on the adjournment debate on matters of moment to this country and to the people of their electorates, surely it is a reasonable exercise of parliamentary practice to permit them to do just that. If some member has some grievance affecting the people of his electorate and if he has been unable to present his views on grievance day because only 2 or 3 speakers from each side of the House had that opportunity, it is reasonable that he should be given the opportunity each evening to speak on the adjournment debate.
I am satisfied now that perhaps the way to meet the objections to the present practice is to move an amendment along the lines indicated by the honourable member for Mallee and therefore, as an amendment to the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wills, I move:
That the proposed standing order 49a be omitted with a view to inserting the following standing order in place thereof: 49a. Unless otherwise ordered, at 11 o’clock p.m. on Tuesday and at 10.30 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday the Speaker shall propose the question - That the House do now adjourn - which question shall be open to debate; if the House be in committee at that hour, the Chairman shall report progress and upon such report being made the Speaker shall forthwith propose the question. - That the House do now adjourn - which question shall be open to debate.
if a division be in progress at the time of interruption such division shall be completed and the result announced,
if, on. the question - That the House do now adjourn - being proposed, a Minister requires the question to be put forthwith without debate, the Speaker shall forthwith put the question,
nothing in this order shall operate to prevent a motion for the adjournment of the House being moved by a Minister at any earlier hour,
any business under discussion and not disposed of at the time of the adjournment shall be set down on the notice paper for the next sitting, and
if the question - that the House do now adjourn - is negatived, the House shall resume the proceedings at the point at which they had been interrupted.
Provided further that if, at twelve o’clock midnight, the question before the House is - That the House do now adjourn - the Speaker shall forthwith adionrn the House until the time of its next meeting. 1 have moved my amendment because I believe that the honourable member for Mallee has submitted to the Parliament a reasonable and workable arrangement. If the proposed standing order is accepted by the House we will have a much more satisfactory and businesslike way of dealing with the affairs of this nation in the future. I endorse the remarks of other speakers about what has occurred here in the past. Most important legislation has been dealt with after midnight, in the early hours of the morning. I reiterate the views expressed by some honourable members on the injustice of keeping the Parliament sitting throughout the night and the obvious burden that is imposed on people who work here. I have in mind Hansard staff, attendants, members of the Press and [refreshment rooms and everyone else asso ciated with the operation of the Parliament. The Parliament and the people deserve something better than they have had in the past. I believe that this is a reasonable proposal which should be accepted. I hope that the Parliament will accept my proposal which falls somewhere between the existing practice and that proposed by the honourable member for Wills.
– I rise to order. The honourable member has not interpreted correctly what I said. I said: ‘Eleven o’clock p.m. on Tuesday night - no adjournment’.
– There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member can discuss that point privately. Is the amendment seconded?
– I intend to second the amendment. I think it ought to be carried if for no other reason than that the honourable member for Mallee and I are on the same side of the argument. That must be unique in the history of this Parliament.
– There is some doubt about the proposal for Tuesday night.
-The amendment proposed by the honourable member for Macquarie is as follws: 49a - Unless otherwise ordered, at 11 o’clock p.m. on Tuesday and at 10.30 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday the Speaker shall propose the question - That the House do now adjourn - which question shall be open to debate; if the House be in committee at that hour, the Chairman shall report progress and upon such report being made the Speaker shall forthwith propose the question - That the House do now adjourn - which question shall be open to debate.
Provided further that if, at twelve o’clock midnight, the question before the House is - That the House do now adjourn - the Speaker shall forthwith adjourn the House until die time of its next meeting.
The question now is:
Thai the amendment to the amendment be agreed to.
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
– 1 ask for the indulgence of of the House for about 30 seconds without exercising my right to speak. I wish to remove some confusion. The honourable member for Mallee has suggested something that I think is almost identical with the terms of the amendment proposed by the honourable member for Macquarie, except that the honourable member for Macquarie has not included in his motion that there is an understanding that on the Tuesday night there should be no adjournment debate. I know it is difficult to read these points into motions, but perhaps the honourable member for Grayndler when he exercises his right to speak could mention that point so that there will be a record of the understanding. I am not canvassing the motion now, but I thought it might be useful to the House to have it discussed in that way.
– I would like some clarification because J have been confused by the speech of my friend the Opposition Whip, the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie). The honourable member referred a number of times to the fact that there is to be what he describes as a ‘free vote’. Last night 1 was castigated by some honourable members for introducing into the debate what was described as a ‘political note’. Whilst [ understood that we are to have a free vote on this issue I would like honourable members to accept my word that I was not at the same time aware of the fact that as there was to be a free vote there should be no political content in matters raised in the debate. I would have thought that the honourable member for Wilmot and the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) would be very familiar with the issues referred to by the honourable member for Mallee (Sir Winton Turnbull), such as arriving at his hotel at 7.30 in the morning. Although the decisions in relation to times and the Standing Orders in par ticular are to be seen as an individual free expression of opinion, it is nevertheless true - I am quite sure that the honourable member for Wilmot would not deny this - that when we assemble in this place the responsibility for the functioning of the Parliament - for the keeping of the House - rests with the Government Parties.
The Opposition assumes the posture will enable it most efficiently to interfere with the discharge of the responsibility of members who support the Government. It seems to me that while it may be necessary, as has been said by honourable members opposite, for so much time to be used for petitions and matters of this descriptionissues of great public urgency - there does appear to be an attempt to reduce to an absolute minimum those hours which will be available for the discharge of Government business. The support of the Queen’s Ministers in this place is the function collectively and the main responsibility of the members who sit behind the treasury bench on this side of the House. I therefore feel that it is impossible to break up the responsibility in such a way as to say that the discharge of the individual free vote relying upon the conscience of each individual can be carried out so as to ignore the collective responsibility of honourable members on this side of the chamber and honourable members opposite.
The honourable member for Wilmot knows full well, because he was here in 1947, in 1948 and in 1949, that the late right honourable member for Macquarie, the present right honourable member for Melbourne, the former honourable member for Corio and the other distinguished gentlemen who were Ministers of the King at that time would have given no more time or moment to the reduction of the period of time to be devoted to their business, as suggested by the Opposition, than Ministers of State will today. These are the facts. My friend the honourable member for Mallee has made it cleaT that under the Chifley Government he was here until 7.30 in the morning. I venture to suggest that the honourable member for Wilmot and the honourable member for Grayndler know full well that, even if tonight the Labor Party were in government, that situation would not change.
– It would.
– It would not change. I venture to suggest that the functions of Government members will not change and, although honourable members opposite talk about a free vote, it must be a free vote seen in the context of the political arena. It is manifestly absurd to say that there is nothing political in this matter. If there is a reduction ad absurdum in time, then the Government will never get its business through. Honourable members know perfectly well, as the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) said, that there is no point in closing off debate at 10 o’clock if we are to go on having arguments on the less significant matters - less significant in terms of government business and business before the House, though not necessarily less significant to an individual member and his electorate - because we do not achieve any extra time for relaxation or rest for honourable members as they will be in this place debating for a further 2 hours the motion to adjourn the House.
Therefore I submit with great respect that the fact of the matter is that this cannot be described as a debate in which there is no politics. This is unfair. It is unreasonable. What is more, I suggest with great respect that it is untrue. Therefore I believe that we should examine the Standing Orders having regard to the responsibilities of the Executive and the discharge of their proper responsibilities to honourable members in this House. If there is one thing that characterises the House of Representatives, it is that those who govern should be able to depend upon the sagacity and support of those who sit behind them and that those who sit in opposition will oppose.
– While you are awake.
– I admit, with great respect, that there are some times when it is difficult to tell whether people are awake or asleep; but, generally speaking, as long as we are treated to the wit and humour of the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster), the kind expressions and fascinating speeches of my colleague the honourable member for Grayndler and the undoubted wit of my friend the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope), we will be awake most of the time. Therefore
I feel that in those circumstances we should bear in mind that the Government has a responsibility to have the business of the House completed in a reasonable time. To reduce the hours in which to deal with the business of the House would make the Government’s problem much greater and we would be likely to find ourselves involved in a great deal of personal trouble and personal embarrassment and be forced to revert to the 4-day sitting week that we tried for a long period of time until honourable members, particularly those members who came from afar, found themselves suffering mental and physical exhaustion. For that reason I am prone to believe that we ought not to support the amendment put forward by the honourable member for Wills.
– I wish to speak tonight in support of the concept of an earlier rising of the Parliament on sitting days. However, I agree with those honourable members who have suggested that there should be an allocation of so many hours a day in which the Government can complete its business. One cannot help but ponder on this rather antiquated procedure whereby Parliament starts its daily sittings at 10.30 a.m. on Thursdays and 2.30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. No matter at what time the Parliament starts and no matter at what time the Parliament adjourns the great majority of members are assembled somewhere in the precincts of the House around 9 o’clock in the morning. If we were to go through to 7 o’clock, we might not be here until 10 o’clock that morning; but no matter how late the Parliament sits at night, we are all back again at 9 o’clock in the morning.
The honourable member for Mallee (Sir Winton Turnbull) made some boast earlier as to his great strength, and I must comment that he has always been a lively member of this House and an acquisition. Nevertheless, towards the end of a week it must be a lovely sight for members of the Press gallery and those who sit in the public gallery when they look down into the chamber and see some members half asleep. They must say to themselves: ‘Well, what a sight. We send these men to Canberra’.
– The honourable member for Sturt?
– The honourable member for Sturt is back. He has been away for 2 days. I say to him: Welcome back’. The people who see members half asleep must go away from here sadly disillusioned as to the manner in which honourable members take an interest in the business of the Parliament. However, the fact is that most honourable members - and the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) said this earlier- work 80 hours a week and their working day in Canberra is something like 16 hours. It is little wonder that the Parliament at times gives a drowsy appearance to the people who sit in the galleries.
Another aspect of this matter relates to the Ministers of the Crown. I often wonder how on earth they continue, in the manner in which they do, to carefully scrutinise submissions and papers over long periods while still maintaining their alertness. There would not be any other group of administrators or top businessmen in the nation who would work the hours that are worked by Ministers of the Crown and who would be expected to make the important decisions that Ministers make because they are in charge of the business of running the nation. I repeat the earlier suggestion that perhaps we should consider bringing forward the starting time of sittings of the Parliament. If a number of us do see common sense, as was suggested by some of the previous speakers, and vote in favour of the amendment that the motion to adjourn the House be moved at 10 p.m., then no doubt the Government, being confronted with the problem of finding extra time in which to deal with the business of the House, will give consideration to an earlier start to offset the disadvantage which will accrue as a result of an earlier rising of the Parliament on sitting days.
I do not intend to speak for very long on this matter because it is one on which one has only to state his position. I think that most honourable members have a mind of their own and do not need to be subjected to long speeches of coercion to make them see sense. However, I remind all honourable members, particularly those on this side of the House because I know that honourable members on the other side can speak for themselves, that this is a free vote. The honourable member for Wilmot said that this is the first time for many years that there has been a free vote. I repeat the suggestion which I made last night: Just because the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) stands up in this place and says what the Labor Party did in the 1940s, it does not make it right that we should continue to do the same thing in the 1970s and all the way through to the 21st century. Let us wake up to ourselves. In the 1940s most members of Parliament remained in Canberra during the weekend. They did not jump on a plane at 7 o’clock on Friday morning, soon after the House rose, return to their electorates, sit in their offices and meet constituents who thought that they had been down in Canberra for 3 days doing absolutely nothing. They did not pretend that they were as fresh as daisies and they did not attend functions on Friday nights and spend busy weekends, all the time pretending that they were alert and awake.
No doubt some people will say that if we need a rest we can go and have a little snooze during the dinner adjournment. But we all know that committees meet during dinner adjournments and that time is precious. I support the suggestion made by none other than the honourable member for Mallee (Sir Winton Turnbull). I note that the Government has seen fit to knight him. If the Government has seen fit to knight a man of his standing and position, who commands so much respect, I am quite sure that all honourable members should examine his suggestion that the House should adjourn at 10.30 at night. After more than 20 years of service in this Parliament, what finer tribute could we pay to the honourable member for Mallee than to make him responsible for changing the sitting pattern of the Australian Parliament. I say that even though he is not a member of my own Party. Although at times he is a little parochial, every now and again we see a glimmer of brightness and commonsense come from him which completely counterbalances the parochialism which from time to time he displays in this House.
I do not intend to support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) because, as the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) said, it would be a little too much to take 3 hours sitting time out of every week, but certainly there could be a compromise. Time and time again when we are not allowed a free vote on a subject I know that many members on this side of the House are bubbling and boiling inside, wanting to support the Opposition on a certain matter, but because members of the Opposition play so much party politics, it is very difficult for honourable members on this side of the House to support the Opposition, and we stick together as a team. On this occasion we have been given a free vote, and I think that we will be able to discharge our responsibilities if we start our day earlier and rise at an earlier hour each night.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I know that the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) quite innocently referred to the absence of the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster). I point out to the honourable member for Griffith that the honourable member for Sturt was absent for 2 days because of the death of his father.
– There is no point of order.
– Very briefly, I wish to support the amendment to the amendment which was moved by the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) and which I seconded. Politics makes strange bedfellows, and tonight, even at this early hour of 10 o’clock, I see that I am in the distinguished company of the honourable member for Mallee (Sir Winton Turnbull) - and that, in itself, is a historic occasion - and also of the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron). I accept their support on this occasion with great pleasure. Rarely have I known 2 men to exhibit such intelligence as they have on this occasion by indicating that they will vote on a non-party matter in a non-party way. I congratulate the honourable member for Mallee and the honourable member for Griffith for giving an inspiring example to members on the Government side to adopt a non-party approach to a great national issue - the Standing Orders of this House.
I say quite humbly that I suppose that I am more qualified to speak on the question of late sitting hours than probably any other member in this chamber because I have been a member of this Parliament for 29 years. When I first came here I was young and exuberant with a head of flowing black hair, and honourable members can see what late sitting hours in this Parliament have done to me. They can see the lines on my face and the lack of the strands of hair on the top of my head which give a youthful appearance. I attribute it, probably more than anything else, to the many long and tedious hours which I have spent in this Parliament. When dealing with the question of late sitting hours, I can well remember what the late James Scullin, a former Prime Minister of Australia, said to me. He said that when he first entered this Parliament as a comparatively young man he excelled during the all-night sittings; he loved being here all night; he loved nothing better than to debate a matter in the early hours of the morning. But during the years after he became Prime Minister his health failed badly and he said that looking back he believed it was due to the endless hours spent in all-night sittings during the troublesome years of the depression. Let no-one here underestimate the fact that to sit up all night at any age is a very difficult and tedious proposition.
When we consider that no back bench member of this Parliament receives more than a senior flight steward employed by Qantas Airways Ltd, we can see that we are not being paid exorbitant rates for sitting here in the middle of the night. Apart from the effect on our health, we are working for rates of pay which people in private industry, employed in a 9 to 5 job, would not accept. The honourable member for Griffith quite rightly asked: ‘Have you ever looked around this House in the early hours of the morning?’ To all the people in the galleries and to other people in this chamber Liberals look a fearful sight in the day time. One can imagine what they look like in the middle of the night or at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. It is a dreadful experience to look at them. Probably that applies to all of us because even a good looking lady cannot look her best in the early hours of the morning unless she is given plenty of notice so that she can beautify herself. How do you think members in this House look in the early hours of the morning?
The fact is that I have seen legislation passed through this chamber, appropriating money at the rate of a couple of million dollars a minute, while members are half asleep. The members of the Ministry do not know whether they are Arthur or Martha - not that they know that in the day time. It is wrong in a democratic country to think that we can legislate on the great issues in this nation, appropriate millions of dollars and at the same time be intelligent and awake in the early hours of the morning. Consider the honourable member for Mallee. It is very difficult to listen to him at 10 o’clock in the morning, imagine listening to him at 3 o’clock in the morning - and I do not say that in any disrespectful or uncharitable way. Probably it applies to me as much as to anybody else, but the honourable member for Mallee is a striking example. The point I make is that legislation by exhaustion becomes a farce.
I often wonder what visitors who come into this Parliament at 3 o’clock in the morning must think of their legislators sitting here half asleep with pillows all round them: with some members of the Ministry awake and some asleep; and with the Speaker of the House trying to stay awake. The Hansard staff have to work industriously, trying to take down what we say, but knowing full well that we are working them under conditions and for rates of pay which very few unions in any section of industry would accept. It is a real farce to expect the national Parliament to continue to operate in this way. Some honourable members have recounted what we did 25 or 30 years ago. A lot of things were done then, but we cannot apply what happened then to the position today. In an advanced age when we are looking for all the benefits which come from automation, why should not this Parliament sit reasonable hours? Personally, I can see no reason why it should not sit only in the day time. I see no reason why it should not start early on Monday morning and finish at perhaps 6 o’clock at night.
Earlier I think the honourable member for Perth mentioned that we would lose so much time if we sat until only 10 o’clock at night. The fact of the matter is that we take up a lot of time with meal breaks. If we sat from, say, 9 o’clock in the morning to 6 o’clock at night with probably an hour or an hour and half for lunch, we would find that we would do just as well as we do when we sit from 10.30 in the morning to midnight. These are the matters which honourable members should consider. I support the view expressed by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) regarding the proposal for the House to adjourn at 11 o’clock on Tuesday night, with no adjournment debate. I do not think that we could write such a provision into the Standing Orders, but surely it could be done, as it is now, under a gentleman’s agreement. After Tuesday night why should not the House adjourn at 10.30 each night, as the honourable member for Macquarie has suggested? There should be plenty of time available for the routine business of the House to be concluded by 10.30 at night. I think that the House should adjourn not later than midnight, which is still 6 hours later than the time at which I think it should adjourn, because I think that we should only be a day-time Parliament. When all is said and done, I think that a lot of people in Australia, unless they listen to the radio, would not know that we sat after 6 o’clock at night. I think it is completely wrong to think that we can intelligently follow a pattern of thought and give effect to important legislation at all hours of the night.
Some members of the Government will say; ‘But we have to sit late because only in that way can we finish the session’. Therefore, we get legislation by exhaustion. I do not subscribe to their view at all. Every piece of legislation that comes before this Parliament is of tremendous importance and should be deliberated when men are intelligent, awake and able to give of their best in respect of debating, concentrating and analysing what is taking place. To expect them to do that at aU hours of the day and night is expecting the impossible.
Having told the Minister for Customs and Excise that I would speak for only a few minutes on this question let me again express my support for the proposal that the House should rise at 10.30 p.m. Personally I would have been prepared to support it rising at 10 o’clock. If members of the Ministry cannot at present carry out their work between 10.30 on a Thursday night and when the Parliament resumes the next week it is up to them to find ways and means of doing so. The House could probably sit extra days. Some honourable members suggest that the House should sit 4 days a week, others 5 days a week. However I believe that there are ways which would enable us to deliberate and give effect to the legislation that is brought before us without our sitting late at night.
– But you would use the gag-
– The honourable member for North Sydney, who is interjecting, suggested that this matter should be dealt with in a non-political way. That is always my approach to problems of this nature. I do not know why the honourable member for North Sydney is worried because he is rarely here at this hour of the night so it would not matter to him whether the Parliament adjourned late or early. The honourable member who urges that this matter should be considered non-politically, and claims that he approaches it on that basis, has not voted with us on these non-Party issues except on one occasion last night and then only for the purpose, be said, of protecting the people against a Labor administration. That was hardly a nonpolitical approach. I support the amendment that has been moved by the honourable member for Macquarie. I hope that it will be carried. I think that it will aid the deliberations of this Parliament and lead to better legislation generally.
– At the outset, because it is on record, I should like to refer to a remark that my friend the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) made about the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham).
– He can take it.
– That may be, but it is on record. I know that the honourable member for Grayndler is a fair minded man but it is on record that he commented that the honourable member for North Sydney was not in the House very often. I know that the honourable member for Grayndler would admit readily that very few members of this House are here more than the honourable member for North Sydney. In fact in respect of times of attendance in the House I should think that the honourable member for North Sydney would rank among the top 6 members in the Parliament.
– Perhaps 1 may be permitted by interjection, to accept the Minister’s assurance.
– I thank the honourable member for his generosity, and 1 hope that Hansard records it. I speak tonight in my capacity as Deputy Leader of the House and I say, in a very cool way, if I may use that expression, that unless there is violent objection, at the end of my speech I propose to move that the question be put on this particular clause because we have had a wide-ranging, fair and good debate on the Standing Orders. However we, in the Government, have the responsibility of running the House and we must look at things in perspective. In fact there has been more time devoted to this debate on the Standing Orders, Including whether the House should sit until 10.30 p.m. or 10 p.m., than has been spent debating education, defence, industrial relations, foreign affairs and other earth shattering matters to the nation. While it is important to talk about these things-
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In making that statement about the time wasted on this debate the Minister is suggesting that the Opposition in some way is responsible for the periods of time that are allocated to other debates. It is the Government which restricts debates.
– Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.
– 1 was not suggesting that at all as people who have been listening to what I have had to say would agree. I put it to the House that all of us have different ideas about times of sitting, days of sitting and so on. Just for the record, in one minute may I put in my 10c worth. I believe it is prehistoric that we as members of the Parliament who come to Canberra - this ivory-towered city - should be precluded at times from seeing anybody of importance outside this House. I refer to such people as members of the diplomatic corps, members of the Public Service, business men and trade unionists. We are treated like schoolboys. We go to dinner between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. At 5 minutes to 8 a member might be in the middle of an important conversation and almost in mid-sentence he must say: ‘I have to get back to the House because there might be a division at half a minute past 8’. I have felt strongly about this for many years. This is not the way to treat adult people who supposedly are running this country. For years 1 have advocated that on at least one night during the week the House might sit until about 7 p.m., 7.30 p.m. or even 8 p.m. This would not result in much waste of time and would enable us to engage in the business that is Canberra - the business of government both national and international. However there seems to be a majority of honourable members who have the obsession that we must have dinner at 6 o’clock. 1 have expressed my view, and it is a minority view, it will not se ve the national Parliament much good if 1 speak for 10 minutes or a quarter of an hour on this subject.
A first class group of members of this Parliament constitute the Standing Orders Committee. They have presented a report. The matters contained therein have been discussed. The report quite rightly is being debated by the House, but I think we have had a fair go. Some excellent suggestions have been made concerning variations on the theme-
– Where is the small T?
– I beg your pardon?
– The small ‘1* liberals. You know; those who do not want to change anything.
– Order! The honourable member for Sturt will cease interjecting.
– If I might say so, that was a very stupid interjection from a very intelligent member. From the 124 prima donnas in this House there probably would be 124 variations on the theme contained in this report. If honourable members want to spend the time of this House they could take 25 hours debating this report. I suggest that the sensible thing to do is to accept the recommendations contained in this inter-Party report. As Deputy Leader of the House I will give an assurance that the burden of this debate will be conveyed to Mr Speaker with a view to putting a consensus of the arguments to the next meeting of the Standing Orders Committee. I suggest that the recommendations contained in the report be adopted and that this amendment-
– The best way to convey it to Mr Speaker is by accepting the amendment.
– But that would commit the House and the Government. 1 conclude by referring to an expression used by the honourable member for Grayndler - ‘legislation by exhaustion’. He is quite right. We have had legislation by exhaustion in this place over the past few years. It has been tedious, dreary, soul destroying and ridiculous.
– From both sides.
– Yes. I think the honourable member will agree that during the last sitting we did not have-
– It cannot be from both sides. You fellows will jump up. You are in charge of the place.
– Order! There are too many interjections. I think the Minister can make his speech without assistance.
– I think honourable members will agree that during the last sitting we did not have legislation by exhaustion, with perhaps one or two exceptions.
– We sat on 29 nights after midnight.
– Those are unfair figures put by the honourable member for Wills. For the first time, if I may speak with emphasis to those honourable members on my right, we have a special committee of the Government steering legislation through this House so that we did not have that bank up of legislation in the last two or three weeks. I think that in fairness all members will say that the last sitting was organised extremely well, with the cooperation of the Opposition, and I must acknowledge that. Planning has gone on this time also. We have gone ahead with that planning on the basis that we would sit until 11 o’clock with no adjournment debate on Tuesday, and until 11 o’clock on Wednesday and Thursday with roughly 1 hour’s adjournment debate. If this amendment moved by the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) is carried, it will cut out considerable time. I say to the honourable member for Mallee (Sir Winton Turnbull) and to the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) that if they will accept my assurance, I will convey their feelings and the feelings of members opposite to Mr Speaker.
– They have been conveyed before.
– That may be so, but that is the view I put If the honourable member for Capricornia feels so strongly about it, let him convey his feelings to his representatives on the Standing Orders Committee. We have other matters to debate tonight; we have another item on Standing Orders and therefore with some reluctance, seeing that there has been no violent objection to my original suggestion, I move:
That the question be put.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mi DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes) - The question is that the amendment moved by the honourable member for Macquarie to the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wills be agreed to.
That the amendment (Mr Luchetti’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . Nil
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The result of the division is Ayes 49, Noes 49. In the circumstances of the vote before the House at the moment, taking into consideration 2 factors, namely that normally a casting vote is given to retain the status quo and that the Minister has made a promise that this will go back to the Standing Orders Committee, I give the casting vote to the Noes.
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the paragraph proposed to be inserted (Mr Bryant’s amendment) be inserted.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)As the honourable member for Mallee knows, when the House first divided there was an even vote. At that stage I gave a casting vote from the chair. Then the House had an opportunity to make a decision on the amendment which had been moved originally by the honourable member for Wills. I am afraid that I cannot agree with the honourable member for Mallee that, even if the amendments had been put in a different order, the vote would have necessarily been any different. The House had an opportunity to make a decision on the 2 amendments that were put and carried. I am afraid that I cannot see that the point of order raised by the honourable member for Mallee is valid.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)The honourable member for Wilmot has just said what I have just explained to the honourable member for Mallee: The amendment moved by the honourable member for Macquarie, which was accepted by the House, was an amendment to the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wills. I ask the House to come to order. If some of the deputy speakers sitting in their own seats would be quiet we might be able to find an answer to this a lot more quickly. At that particular stage, the amendment to the amendment having been put to the House, the amendment of the honourable member for Wills became the subject matter for the vote.
– Order! I might pass exactly the same remark which was passed by an umpire to the late W. C. Grace one day. The umpire said in reply to the statement by W. C. Grace that he was not out: *You look at the paper in the morning,’ I suggest that honourable members look at Hansard to find out what has happened.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have been misrepresented by you, Sir. You looked me straight in the eye and said: You being a Deputy Chairman should keep quiet.’ I never said a word.
– Order! The honourable member for Sydney will resume his seat. I said that if some of the deputy speakers-
– But you looked straight at me.
-Order! The honourable member for Sydney has a shirt that attracts attention. I suggest that he resume his seat
– As you are aware, Mr Deputy Speaker, I listen attentively to you and to every other honourable member. I am one of the quietest members in this House.
– I raise a further point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The recent vote which was declared to be 49 all was a non-Party vote. On that basis on a non-Party issue, on what grounds do you justify voting for a motion when you should have been neutral and declared the motion lost?
– Order! The honourable member for Grayndler has no substance in his point of order. The reasons were given, although it was not necessary to give them. The question now is that paragraph (c) be agreed to.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, may I draw your attention to standing order 182 which says:
An amendment proposed shall be disposed of before another amendment to the original question can be moved.
– Order! The honourable member for Wide Bay is not quoting the correct Standing Order. I have already explained to the House that the amendment moved by the honourable member for Macquarie was an amendment to the original amendment moved by the honourable member for Wills, and not to the motion. The question now is that paragraph (c) be agreed to.
– Paragraph (c) of the motion states:
That the amendments of the standing orders and changes of practice adopted by this resolution be effective from and including the next sitting.
I move the following amendment:
That paragraph (c) be amended by omitting from and including the next sitting’ and inserting ‘when the constitutional position of Assistant Ministers has been determined’.
The amendment hinges on the question of the constitutional position of the Assistant Ministers in this Parliament. On 4th May 1971, on behalf of the Opposition, in a debate on a ministerial statement concerning the appointment of Assistant Ministers, I moved the following amendment:
That the following words be added to the motion: ‘and expresses its disapproval of the decision to appoint Assistant Ministers’.
The Opposition believes that there are real grounds for believing that the appointment of Assistant Ministers in this Parliament is unconstitutional and that, until such time as that has been resolved, there is no reason why the Standing Orders of this Parliament should be altered to meet the contingencies of their appointment. I go back to 19S2 when Under-Secretaries were appointed by the former Prime Minister, the right honourable R. G. Menzies. At that time the question of their constitutional position was questioned on this side of the Parliament. While they were at that stage termed UnderSecretaries they were to all intents and purposes to perform the same functions as those in this Parliament who have now been designated Assistant Ministers. The then Speaker of the Parliament, Mr Deputy Speaker - and a member of your own Party, Mr Lucock - a memorable and remarkable Speaker in every way, a very intelligent Speaker and a Speaker with great foresight and great respect in the community, the late A. G. Cameron, held that the position of the Under-Secretaries, who were the equivalent of the Assistant Ministers in this Parliament, was unconstitutional and he refused to give them even a chair in Parliament House. He would not give them a room to occupy. The present Minister for National Development and Leader of the House (Mr Swartz) was refused an appointment in this Parliament by the then Speaker because he was occupying an office of profit under the Crown. I wish to quote what the late A. G. Cameron had to say on 27th May 1952 in substantiating his view that the appointment of Under-Secretaries was unconstitutional. He said:
Any honourable member who cares to do so, may read in May’s ‘Parliamentary Practice’ that certain members of the House of Commons were debarred, in 1943, from sitting in the House because they had accepted certain offices under the Crown and that certain other members were so debarred in 1950. Honourable members will also find much relevant information in the report of a committee of the House of Commons which in 1941, was charged with the duty of discovering the state of the law with regard to the holding of offices and places of profit under the Crown. The report of the committee contains some strong statements, and die point is made that it does not matter whether a member receives money or not. The test is whether he holds office, because a man may profit from the holding of office under the Crown without receiving money. In the authorities to which I have referred, case after case is discussed very fully, and opinions are expressed very distinctly. It is shown that several eminent parliamentarians, including Lord Palmerston, were disqualified from holding seats because they had accepted office under the Crown although no fee or emolument was attached lo those offices.
That strong statement was made by the then Speaker in support of his contention that those offices were unconstitutional and in fact could be offices of profit under the Crown. That statement has never been refuted by any court in this country. At this stage we face the position where members of the Government Parties have been appointed Assistant Ministers and arc receiving certain expenses. The statement by the then Speaker made reference to the fact that they need not receive a salary or emolument, but members of this Parliament have been appointed and are receiving we know not what. The Government will not reveal what cars are made available to them, what staff they have, what allowances they get and what they do or anything associated with them. Without doing them any discredit, I am pretty certain that they would not be travelling around Australia for nothing.
The fact of the matter is they are receiving emoluments from this Parliament but the Government will not reveal any information about them. On 24th February I asked what they were getting, what they were doing, where they were located. No answer has ever been given to me. 1 followed that up with a further question on 29th March in which I asked the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) whether he wanted to hide that information and, if so, whether that was the reason why he was not giving it. He has not yet answered that question. The fact of the matter is the Prime Minister must doubt the constitutional position of the Assistant Ministers. The situation is if a challenge were to be made in the highest court of this country their positions may well bc declared vacant because until such time as the courts of this land declare that they are constitutionally appointed and that they are not occupying offices of profit under the Crown there is no reason why the Standing Orders of this Parliament should be implemented or altered to suit them.
Why will the Government of the day, if it has nothing to hide in relation to these Assistant Ministers, not say to the High Court of Australia: “This is the situation. Give us a legal interpretation. Let us know whether they are occupying offices of profit under the Crown so that everybody in the Parliament and in the nation will be clear about the situation’? But for some hidden and sinister reason the Government has refused to do so. Why has it refused? Because it knows that there is an element of doubt and that 6 members of this Parliament may well face the unfortunate position of elimination from the Parliament by having their seats declared vacant. That could happen if some elector decided to take this matter to the courts and challenge whether they have been constitutionally appointed. The point I make is that: It is not only right but also just and proper that persons exercising executive authority in this country should do so constitutionally. If the Government believes that is the case it should not hestitate to take the matter up with the constitutional authority. What would be more simple than for the Government to put to the Justices of the High Court submissions in respect to the activities these members are carrying out and the emoluments, expenses and allowances, if any, they receive and let the court decide whether they have been constitutionally appointed. Here we have the situation - under a government which is drunk with power, which is bereft of any ideas and which is on its way out - saying: We want the Standing Orders to be changed because these Assistant Ministers have been appointed. We are not worried about whether they have been constitutionally appointed or not’. The situation is that the Opposition is worried.
I go back a few years now to when the present Leader of the House was refused by one of the most eminent Speakers of this Parliament any right whatsoever within the precincts of the Parliament as an UnderSecretary or Assistant Minister, whatever you may call him, because that Speaker said that he had no constitutional right to be here. The late A. G. Cameron was a man of great and high reputation. He was a man who insisted on the Government that appointed him fulfilling to the letter the constitutional requirements of the law. Evidently - with due respect, Mr Deputy Speaker-the standard has slipped a lot. In this day and age anything goes with the Government so long as it has the numbers.
The fact of the matter is it is common knowledge that the Government is not worried about whether the Assistant Ministers have been constitutionally appointed but that all it is worried about is that they will put up their hands in the right way in the cacaus of the Party room whenever the Prime Minister is in the constant trouble that he cannot get himself out of.
The world knows that the Assistant Ministers were appointed not on ability. One has only to look at them to see that. The honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey), the honourable member for Calare (Mr England) and the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) are all more intelligent than the member of the Country Party from Cowper who has been appointed an Assistant Minister. Those men would not take the position. They knew it was unconstitutional. They know full well the doubt that exists in the minds of the members of the Country Party that their colleague’s seat may well be declared vacant. I know that the other members of the Country Party would not want to lose their seats or have them declared vacant and that they were not prepared to take the risk of that happening, despite their great ability. The same thing applies to the honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley), who is smiling at me, and others. They have a lot more ability than those honourable members who have been appointed Assistant Ministers. The Prime Minister picked out the ones who, firstly, he knew would vote for him and, secondly, would take the risk for a bit of prestige on somebody challenging their positions in the courts. Consequently, this is the position for which the Standing Orders are being amended. If all is above board and clear, what is wrong with the government of the day stating a case to the court? This would clear up the constitutional position.
Does any member of this Parliament, particularly members of the Country Party, believe that an eminent Speaker like the late A. G. Cameron would deny facilities in this Parliament to an Assistant Minister or Under-Secretary, saying that he was unconstitutionally appointed unless he firmly believed that this was so? Does any member believe that a man appointed to the exalted position of Speaker of this
Parliament would go so far as to refuse facilities to persons in this capacity if he thought there was not some constitutional doubt? That being the case, why in this generation should the high standard of integrity set at that time be passed over? Why should Lord Palmerstan’s advice be disregarded by the government of the day, irrespective of the exigencies and the urgencies of party faction fights which unfortunately are degrading the national life of this country at this time? Why should the Standing Orders of this Parliament be altered in order that we may change our whole system of internal organisation to suit members who may be unconstitutionally appointed? If I were the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) or the honourable member for Cowper or one of those others who had been appointed, I certainly would want the position cleared up.
The Government is challenging the right of 18-year olds to vote. Some interested person might be spurred on by a national inclination to challenge how Assistant Ministers are placed in the Parliament in respect of offices of profit under the Crown. Therefore, it is up to the government of the day to see that it clarifies the position of the Assistant Ministers who have been appointed. That is why I have moved this amendment on behalf of myself, because it is an amendment vote, that when the constitutional position of Assistant Ministers has been determined, then these standing orders will take effect. I ask members of the Government parties: What is wrong with that proposition? We have not heard one statement in this Parliament from the Prime Minister or anyone as to what is the constitutional position. We have only heard that the Assistant Ministers were being appointed. We all know the reason why they were appointed but no Minister or Member from the other side has come into this Parliament and said that constitutionally the Government has the authority to appoint these Assistant Ministers.
As I mentioned a moment ago, if I were one of those members, I would live in fear and trepidation that some elector with the interests of this country at heart might challenge constitutionally their standing in this Parliament. Just where are we going when a government arrogantly, for the sake of votes in a party room, appoints Assistant Ministers and refuses to tell honourable members what the Assistant Ministers are doing, what they are paid and what facilities they will have at their disposal? Private members work and try to get around. They cannot get anything out of this Government from a car to a salary increase yet the Government appoints Assistant Ministers at tremendous cost in order to bolster up the failing fortunes of a Prime Minister in a Party room. We do not know constitutionally whether they should be there. We do not know what salaries they receive or what they do or in any way how they contribute to the welfare of this country. And now we are asked to alter the Standing Orders of the Parliament.
For my part, I object to it. I have moved my amendment and 1 hope that it will be carried and if it is not carried, I hope some elector - I appeal to them - will go to the High Court and challenge the standing of Assistant Ministers because, in my view, backed up by the evidence of years gone by in similar circumstances, these Assistant Ministers have been unconstitutionally appointed. They have no place in our parliamentary system. There is nothing in our Standing Orders or in the methods we adopt that provides for them. I think that the Government has reached the real depth of political intrigue and sordid events when it appoints people, irrespective of the constitutional position, because of internal party rows. I would suggest to the Assistant Ministers concerned that they should all resign until this matter is cleared up. I fear for their future and, consequently, I believe that in their interests and in the interests of the Parliament, we should not amend the Standing Orders as proposed by the Standing Orders Committee until such time as the position has been clarified. I have said that in all sincerity knowing full well the suffering that the Assistant Ministers would be personally caused if their seats were declared vacant but in the interests of democracy, let us be on sound constitutional grounds on this matter.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! Is the amendment seconded?
– I desire to second the amendment moved by my colleague, the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly). I do not want to say very much about it because L think he has eloquently covered the position. However, in view of the undoubted constitutional doubts in regard to this question, I think we at least should be furnished with some kind of legal opinion as to why it is that the Assistant Ministers are now legitimate. As I said the other evening the Assistant Ministers could be said to be like Mohammed’s coffin - poised somewhere between the realities of parliamentary life and the doubts of the Constitution. I think that these sorts of things should be put beyond any reasonable doubt. I have no doubt that the Government has taken some advice on the matter and it should furnish us with the information that has been supplied. If one reads the Constitution it will be seen that quite often it mentions Ministers but it makes no mention whatever of Assistant Ministers. Up to date, the Assistant Ministers seem not to have played a very decisive part in events other than apparently relieving the burden of mail on the Ministers’ tables.
There has been some attempt made in the amendments to the Standing Orders to give Assistant Ministers a status in the House so that they may answer questions, present Bills and do that kind of thing. But I suggest that the legal grounds on which something new has been intruded into the Constitution should at least be presented to the House before it finally gives sanction to these strange new creatures.
Mir CHIPP (Hotham- Minister for Customs and Excise) (11.8) - I was impressed with the description that my friend, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), gave of Assistant Ministers. He called them strange new creatures. I do not know whether they would appreciate that description but I am sure he meant nothing offensive by it. We do have an interesting situation now that after 3 days - not 3 whole days - of debate we have reached the end of this debate on Standing Orders and the House is debating that the amendments to the Standing Orders and the changes of practice adopted in paragraphs (a) and (b) be effective from and including the next sitting, which begins in August. However, at this point I am advised by the
Clerk that the next sitting would be tomorrow but that is not the point to which I wished to speak. Paragraphs (a) and (b) to which item (c) refers is that recommendations 1 to 10 contained in the report of the Standing Orders Committee be agreed to. What do recommendations 1 to 10 contain? Recommendations 1 to 6 contain nothing but references to Assistant Ministers and the House by a majority vote of 53 to 35 on 13th April 1972 accepted recommendations 1 to 6, all of which accept the concept of Assistant Ministers. Among those who voted with the ayes on that occasion were the honourable members for Wills (Mr Bryant), Adelaide (Mr Hurford), Capricornia (Dr Everingham) and Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). The honourable member for Grayndler knows that I would be the last person in this House to indulge in party politicking, but I remind him that his own Leader on 13th April voted for the acceptance of the concept of Assistant Ministers, together with the other distinguished members of his Party I have just named.
– This is a free vote.
– I am not questioning that. Surely that is not the issue. I am stating the fact that the Leader of the Opposition
– You know that we do not think alike on a few things.
– That is certainly well known on this side of the House. The point I make is that a vote was conducted on this principle on 13th April and the House voted in favour of it by 53 votes to 35. Without intending any disrespect for the honourable member for Grayndler or the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, bearing in mind that we have debated the concept before, that we have had a fair go in debating the Standing Orders, that it is 10 past 11 on Wednesday night and to my knowledge 4 or 5 speakers are listed for the adjournment debate, and that honourable members wish to devote an hour or so on a Wednesday night to the adjournment debate, I ask the House to accept that the matter has already been debated and should be allowed to proceed to a vote now. In the belief that that is acceptable to honourable members I move:
That the question be now put
I ask for the indulgence of the House in order to ascertain whether honourable members opposite wish to vote on the gag as well as the issue.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Question put:
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Daly’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock) Ayes .. .. ..50
Majority . . . . 6
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question (Mr Swartz’s motion relating to paragraph (c)) resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Chipp) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I raise a matter on behalf of some of my constituents and a person from outside my electorate. It relates to the activities of a travel organisation. It seems to me that this organisation, Travel House of Australia Pty Ltd, in its business practices could very well be blamed for exploiting the position of many migrants in this country who, wishing to return to their homes for short term visits, have sought the cheapest means of transport and accordingly used the sort of charter arrangements which organisations like Travel House of Australia seem to be able to provide. It seems that the practice of Travel House of Australia is to have people deposit a certain amount of money. It seems to be a reasonably substantial amount in each of the cases that I have had brought to ray notice.
This organisation requires - again this happened in each of the cases which have been brought to my notice - the deposits sometime before the date of departure of the flight. It sometimes happens that some of the people, who wish to use this method of transport, for a number of very real personal reasons, find that they are unable to undertake the journey and are forced to cancel their trip. When this happens they experience considerable difficulty in obtaining any refund. The amounts involved, I repeat, are substantial. I have had 3 cases come to my notice and I will draw the attention of the House to each of them.
The first one concerns a constituent in my electorate who approached me and pointed out that some months before the end of last year he made a booking for a flight departing in June of this year. He paid to Travel House of Australia $100 deposit towards his return fare of $733 between Brisbane and England. The flight on which he was booked and for which he had paid $100 was, as I said, to depart in June of this year. However, in December last year he advised Travel House of Australia that for very real personal reasons he had to cancel his flight and he asked for a refund of his deposit in view of the fact that he was providing something like 7 months notice that he would be unable to depart on that flight. He was advised that not only was he not entitled to a refund of the $100 deposit but that in fact in the small print on the back of the coupon issued to him when he made the deposit there was a reference to an obligation on him to pay a $5 cancellation fee plus 25 per cent of the full fare, which of course brings his liability to somewhere near $200.
This man is a moderate wage earner with a family and dependants. He can ill afford to see $100 go down the drain in this sort of way. When I contacted Travel House of Australia a letter was written to me. It seemed to be a pro forma letter. In it this organisation said that it was not prepared to give a refund to this man. It is quite clear that, having got the money, this agency intends to hang on to it. It is clinging tenaciously to it, as I will try to indicate in a few seconds.
The next person who wrote to me was a person from outside my electorate, who wrote as a result of some comments in a weekend newspaper and referred to some comments which I expressed on this subject but without identifying Travel House of Australia. In the letter the person said:
I read with interest the article in the Sunday Sun’ with regard to the charter flights to England. I had a reservation on a flight to England in May but made a cancellation in January- five months earlier - but was informed that I would have to forfeit my S100 reservation fee.
The letter went on to make some criticisms and express some concern about the way in which that person had been treated. Another letter arrived at my office. It was written by a constituent as a result of this article in the newspaper. The letter in part says:
My story to date is: In November 1971 I booked an airflight for my husband and myself to England to visit my elderly mother; at the time this was all done in good faith, however, I was taken sick in January, and on the 17th after an X-ray, it was found that it would be necessary for me to enter hospital for an operation (not immediately, as I was advised to lose some weight). A medical certificate can be produced to verify this. On the following Friday I wrote to Travel House of Australia’ informing them of this plus the fact that my two teenage sons were causing me family problems, and also as my young daughter had just been involved in a road accident, I did not feel inclined to leave them.
This person has had to forfeit her deposit to this organisation. Her deposit was $50. These sums of money are fairly substantial amounts for moderate income earners to pay. Travel House of Australia, in reply to this lady, sent out a letter very similar to the one that was sent out to the constituent to whom I referred earlier. In this letter Travel House of Australia indicated that the directors were not prepared to make a refund of the deposit. The letter went on to say:
The conditions of booking . . . state that moneys are only refunded if the full fare has been paid. Unfortunately- this sentence is important- as charter consolidators, our money is paid direct in advance to the airline concerned.
So that is the basis on which Travel House of Australia justifies, as it did in the earlier letter which contained exactly the same sentence, its practice of refusing to refund deposit money. Travel House of Australia argues that, having received an application plus a deposit from a person, the money goes, I assume, to some charter company because the letter says ‘as charter consolidators, our money is paid direct in advance to the airline concerned’. It claims that it cannot get the money refunded. The letter from Travel House of Australia goes on, in what seems to me to be a most peculiar way, to say:
However, we are prepared to be quite reasonable in these circumstances and have not, repeat have not, cancelled his flight. Therefore, he can if he so desires fly at a later date provided he notifies us in advance.
Essentially, what Travel House of Australia is saying is that there has been no disruption of the flight for which the person booked; there will be no loss because if the person wishes he can go on a flight at some subsequent date. So the problem is not one of an empty seat which has been created. How the hell could it be when one woman has given this organisation 5 months notice and the other constituent to whom I referred gave nearly 7 months notice? There was plenty of time in which to fill the seat on the aircraft. This is not the problem at all. Travel House of Australia having got its hands on the hard earned money of people in this community - many of them migrants who want to visit their homes for quite understandable reasons, and who in my experience are moderate or low income earners and who have worked very hard to accumulate a little money with a long term saving aim of returning to their home - some of the people find that they cannot travel on the selected date because of personal reasons which are perfectly legitimate, perfectly understandable and quite unavoidable in regard to the need to cancel the trip. They then find that Travel House of Australia, having got its dirty paws on their money, refuses to refund the money.
I put these facts to the Minister in Charge of Tourist Activities (Mr Howson). I know that he has difficulties. I have raised this matter with him by way of communication. I believe that some forthright action has to be taken to bring in laws to control the activities of organisations like Travel House of Australia. The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) saw fit, in what I thought was a well authenticated case, to criticise this organisation. This is further evidence of a sort of behaviour which is clearly reprehensible. The Minister said that he understood that a Bill in line with the sorts of controls that are needed would be available some time in February. To my knowledge it has not arrived yet and I hope that tonight he can say something positive in this respect. But, more especially, 1 would like him to say something firmly about the reprehensible behaviour of organisations like Travel House of Australia which are clearly exploiting people and unfairly depriving them of their money.
– 1 was quite pleased to hear the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) raise this subject tonight. I know that for quite some time he has had an interest in it. I spoke about it in this House on 29th March last, as reported at page 1379 of Hansard of that date. As a result of my speech, Travel House of Australia Pty Ltd wrote to the Editor of the ‘Sunday Australian’ in the following terms:
We seriously question the knowledge and eligibility of Mr Cameron, MP, to discuss booking conditions when relating to charter passengers.
I have never set myself up in this House as being a specialist on charter flight operations; I do not think that any man would do so. But I do set myself up as being one who has a sense of proportion which enables him to judge what is fair and what is not fair. Before I proceed any further I should like to refer to the last speech which I made on this matter. Travel House (Orange) Pty Ltd is a company which has been established for many years in the electorate of the honourable member for Calare (Mr England) and members of that company were really upset because they thought that I was referring to their company. The honourable member for Calare informs me that it is a very reputable company, and I make it clear now that the company in Orange was not the subject of my remarks on the previous occasion I raised this matter in this House. I make all the apologies in the world for the inconvenience and embarrassment caused to this company as a result of a similarity of names, which clearly is not my fault.
Immediately after I had made my speech in this House a man in Brisbane came to me and said that Travel House of Australia owed him $700. He said: ‘I took out a ticket from here to London and back and I had a ticket from London to Brisbane’ - or somewhere else in Australia - for this lady and her daughter, but for certain reasons they did not come’. I suggested to him that he should go along to the Travel House agency in Brisbane - Crest Travel which is situated at the Crest Hotel in Brisbane. He said: T have been there many times and I have had a fairly rough deal. I have not got anywhere’. I said: ‘Why do you not contact the Brisbane “Sunday Mail” which might give you some support?’ Then he went and saw employees of the Sunday Mail’ and showed them a copy of my speech. Representatives of the ‘Sunday Mail’ accompanied him to Crest Travel which, I believe, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Travel House of Australia. Crest Travel immediately rang the Melbourne office, and I must say that they were courteous. An assurance was given that a letter would be written on the following Saturday.
This constituent came into my office on the following Tuesday and said: ‘I am going to Melbourne. I am frightened that this company will go broke. I want to get down there. I said: ‘Give them another day’. He said: ‘No, I am going’. He went down to Melbourne by bus. 1 think it was on the Thursday morning that he went in and said to the people in Melbourne : ‘All right, you have got until 3 o’clock in the afternoon’. It was obvious to him that they did not really intend to pay him at that stage. He suggested to them that if they did not pay him the money he would bring representatives from the Melbourne ‘Herald’ along to see them. He returned that afternoon and they did come good and pay him $700, or $694, which they owed him. This was a case where pressure was brought to bear and a refund was made. I wonder what would have happened if this man had not gone to Melbourne, because the money had been the subject of dispute for some 4 or 5 months.
Now I wish to read to the House a letter from a Mr Ruxton in Canberra. In the letter he referred to the letter from the directors of Travel House of Australia, which was published in the ‘Sunday Australian’, in which they claimed that my speech had forced them to cancel certain flights to London via the United States of America. We must not underestimate the power of a member of Parliament. A big company with many subsidiaries - I think that Travel House of Australia has approximately 2 dozen subsidiaries throughout Australia - was forced to cancel a whole flight programme because of the utterances of a member of Parliament who was only seeking truth and justice for the unwary people of Australia. This is the letter which was written by Mr Ruxton:
In your issue of 9 April 1972, three Directors of Travel House of Australia Pty Ltd claimed that all their agencies throughout the world were free of all or any liability’.
May I point out that I have at the present moment a summons out against ‘London Arcade Travel’ a wholly-owned agent of ‘Travel House’ for breach of contract.
In brief, I paid for a return trip from Sydney to London in mid-1971 and was sent a voucher stamped on the inside ‘Travel House of Australia Pty Ltd’, for the return journey from London to Sydney. In a covering letter I was asked to hand in the voucher to ‘Travel House’ in London for necessary ticketing for return. In England, I wrote to ‘Travel House’ confirming an agreed date for my return and saying that I wished to pick up the tickets at their office in London. They replied giving instructions for the return journey but sent no tickets. When I called at Travel House four days before departure, they refused to exchange the voucher for tickets and said the tickets would be available from Southern Cross Airways at Gatwick Airport, on departure.
At Gatwick, on departure, no tickets were available nor was the voucher acceptable to Southern Cross Airways. After confirming that it was the right flight, at the right time, and after meeting two other passengers in the same plight, I paid my own fare from London to Kuala Lumpur, where ‘Travel House’ had said tickets would be available, at the desk of Cathay Pacific Airways, for return to Sydney. At Kuala Lumpur no tickets were available for me and I had to pay my own way back to Sydney.
On return to Australia and in reply to a request for a refund of the fares. Travel House promised an ‘immediate investigation’ and a prompt settlement’–
He must have been quoting from some correspondence–
I fully realise that charter operators rely heavily upon booking fullflights; if aircraft are not fully booked, the operators cannot make the business a paying proposition. Passengers have to be fairly certain about their movements. But I do not believe that the type of advertising in which these charter operators indulge - they have big advertisements in various colours displayed in their windows and in almost every newspaper in Australia - gives every Australian the correct picture. The advertisements refer to a fare of $399 for a flight to London via New York or Amsterdam. When many people who are usually cautious see advertisements like this they drop their guard because not too many people can resist a tempting bargain. Very many people are not experienced in world travel, and they think to themselves: ‘We will be right’. They will be ‘right’ all right; they will be left in places such as Kuala Lumpur or Singapore for many days.
I believe that recently someone sued a charter operator - it might have been Travel House - because that person arrived at his destination days later than had been arranged when the original booking was made. I think that the Minister in Charge of Tourist Activities (Mr Howson), who has had the opportunity to listen to 2 members of Parliament speaking on this matter tonight - the honourable member for Oxley and myself - will recognise that we are not just flying kites, that there is something radically wrong. I know that Qantas Airways Ltd, following months and months of pressure from myself and a few other people, has at last moved to introduce charter flights. Although I have expressed certain feelings about Qantas in the past, now it has done what I have suggested it should do, and regardless of what I have said about Qantas in the past. 1 would rather spend $420 on a flight with Qantas, which I am sure will get me where I am going, than to take the risk of being stranded in some far-flung place, or, alternatively, losing a lot of money, because there are so many conditions attached to booking a flight with these charter operators. Certainly it is a trap for the unwary.
– 1 rise this evening to speak on 2 matters. They are not connected, but I think that both require some attention. Firstly, I read with some regret of the retirement of Sir Philip Baxter, the Chairman of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. 1 thought it only right that I should place on the records of this Parliament some expression of appreciation of his services. I have met Sir Philip on a number of occasions. I believe he made a very valuable contribution to the lot of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and to the lot of science generally in Australia. As honourable members know, he was a Britisher who came here in 1949. The University of New South Wales was created by the State Government in 1948 and Sir Philip Baxter took over as Director of that University in 1953 and Chancellor in 1955. He took that University from an embryonic state and left it a fully fledged University comparable with any in the world. From that University he accepted appointment as full time chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. As is well known, that body has progressed to the stage where Australia is currently looking at the establishment of a nuclear generation plant and also the possible introduction of enrichment of uranium fuel in Australia.
Most of the initiative of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission rightly can be laid at the door of Sir Philip Baxter. I believe he is a courageous man who has the strength of his convictions. He is a very great Australian. I certainly hope that his services will not be lost to the Commonwealth of Australia, even though he is no longer Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. 1 hope, too, that in future he may be so kind as to give the Commonwealth of Australia the benefit of his very valuable knowledge.
The main matter on which I rose to speak tonight concerns what I regard as a major indiscretion committed by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) in this House last Thursday, 13th April. He was asked a questin about the Fill aircraft by my colleague the honourable member for Bonython (Mr Nicholls).
-Order! I do not want to stifle the honourable member but if he is referring to a debate that took place in this House this session he will be out of order
– I am referring to an answer to a question.
-I will let the honourable member continue.
– The honourable member for Bonython asked the Minister, inter alia:
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?
In his reply the Minister said:
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.
Not 2 or 3 months before that the Minister made a statement in which he said that the new estimated project cost for 24 F111C aircraft was $US344m. This compared with the earlier estimated cost of $US300m announced in November 1969. The ceiling price of $5.95m for the basic aircraft remained, but to this had to be added the cost of the Australian requirement for longer wings and heavier under-carriage of $3. 8m and escalation of variation costs. The Minister’s reply was reported widely in the Press in Australia, giving the cost of the Fill aircraft at $5.95m and saying that there had been a limited escalation of the cost when, in fact, the project cost has gone up by something like 400 per cent since 1963. Now the total cost of the aircraft looks like being something of the order of $ 13.4m per aircraft. For the Minister to suggest to the House, or for him to have the House believe, that the aircraft are worth $5.95m is bordering upon the dishonest.
The original cost of the project - and part of the question asked by the honourable member for Bonython concerned the cost of the project- in 1963 was $112m. By 1970 it had increased to $300m and in late 1971 it was $344m. To this should be added the $40m Australia paid for the lease of the Phantom aircraft. On top of that the Royal Australian Air Force now, I believe, is pushing for the acquisition of tanker aircraft to suit the Fill. These would cost approximately another $80m. Every indication that I have been able to assess would suggest that the RAAF has been reasonably successful in propounding the view that the Government should acquire tanker aircraft so this would put the total cost of the project at about $464m, which is a 400 per cent increase on the total price. But what have we got? We have a strike bomber. I believe that we do not really have a requirement for such aircraft. The former Minister for Defence, Mr Malcolm Fraser, a year or two ago in this House said:
The Fill, has a prime requirement of being a strategic deterrent, a long range bomber whose mere presence in Australia would ward off aggressors.
It is clear to everyone that the main purpose of the Fill aircraft is a strategic role - to drop a nuclear weapon. It flies at supersonic speeds. It has a supersonic dash capability - that is, to drop a nuclear weapon and get out. We have no nuclear weapons and to suggest the Fill as a strategic deterrent with conventional iron bombs is ludicrous. After all the bombs that the United States has dropped on North Vietnam with thousands of BS2 flights who can possibly suggest that there is any deterrent effect in dropping conventional weapons? I shall read now from the United States ‘Armed Forces Journal’ some comments on the Fill. An article in that publication states:
Strategic Air Command takes some pride in the fact that an FBI 11 was declared a winner against the B52 in the last SAC bomb competition.
I point out that the BS2 design is almost 20 years old. The article continues:
Air Force Chief of Staff General John D. Ryan told the Senate Committee on Appropriations this spring that the FBI 11 has ‘better penetration, bombing and navigation capability than the B52 . . . (and) adds a new dimension in versality to the bomber force’.
My God, the BS2 is a slow conventional bomber and apparently the Fill is only marginally better in carrying out its role. The article continues:
He did not need to add that the shortcoming of the FB111 was its limited range for strategic bombing and bomb carrying capability. As an interim SAC bomber it is satisfactory. The command has no intention to purchase more, including the new stressed version being offered by General Dynamics.
Here is the ‘Armed Forces Journal’ of the United States virtually repudiating our Minister of Defence by saying that the aircraft is a failure as a strategic deterrent. We have bought it on the basis that it is a strategic deterrent and a strike bomber when perhaps we should have been looking for an air superiority aircraft of a type that could have been manufactured readily in Australia. On the Fill we are spending $400m when Australia has an aircraft industry which is floundering. Technical people are leaving Australia and skilled staff are being put off and never will return to the industry. This industry possibly could be put on its feet for an expenditure of about $Sm to $10m a year. Yet here is a project of $400m going to the United States. In addition, not one offset order or one offset requirement was written into the contracts. In fact there were no contracts. It was an open-ended commitment. There were no penalties concerning the lack of performance of the aircraft. There was no ceiling on the cost. It was a political decision made in 1963 to win the 1963 elections. The Government bought in haste and Australia is being left to repent at leisure.
I object to the fact that the Minister at question time misled the House by having honourable members believe that the cost of the aircraft is roughly one-third of its actual cost. In fact it is $ 13.4m, not $5.95m.
– I desire to speak briefly about an aviation matter. It concerns private pilot privileges. Under the present air navigation regulations private pilots are not able to receive a reward for trips they may undertake with passengers. This is a great detriment to the use of light private aircraft in country areas. 1 have heard of instances where the Department of Civil Aviation, through the Commonwealth Police, has taken action against pilots who have been rewarded financially by passengers. I have taken up this matter with the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) who has promised me that no further action will be taken against private pilots. However, there is still a fear in the minds of private pilots that action could still be taken. 1 feel that the air navigation regulations should be amended to allow these operations to take place. In the early days of private aviation the type of aircraft used primarily was a machine which largely had no serious application in the transportation of people and was used mainly for local flying of the joy riding type of operation. The present legislation was written to suit the situation at that time. Since the introduction of high performance, light aircraft, personal transportation has undergone a dramatic change in both cost of aircraft and its capabilities of being used in normal business activities.
The number of hours flown in 197] by private and business aviation was 360,000. This was more than airline scheduled services, inclusive of Qantas, which was 335,000 hours. Also, from those early days when there were several hundred pilots, the number of pilots at 30th June 1971 stood at 12,030. These people have gained their licences mainly to put them to some productive use which, in point of law as it now stands, makes the practical use of a licence almost impossible in the economic sense. To quote an example of the cost to a private pilot, under the present legislation should he and 5 friends wish to have a weekend trip, hiring an aircraft from a commercial operator at $28 an hour, a 10-hour trip would cost him $280 - a cost that he would have to bear alone. Very few private pilots could afford this. The cost of this trip split 6 ways would make the trip an economic reality and also the commercial operator who hired the aircraft would make money instead of, perhaps, the aircraft being idle.
Australia is such a big country that this personal means of transport - private aviation - needs the stimulus of being able to share the costs of this speedy form of transport. Also, there is the benefit of having proper legislation so that a pilot’s friends and business associates are covered legally by insurance. A private pilot now legally is able to carry passengers, but not for hire and reward. He must bear completely the cost for the hire or. if he is the owner, the operating costs. The licensing standards of private pilots have improved substantially over the years and today are equal to any in the world, coupled with the pilots’ increased knowledge and manipulative capability of these standards. Most of the general aviation fleet also are equipped with the latest in instrument, radio and navigation aids. The United States of America has changed its legislation on the lines proposed back in 1964. This has allowed its private flying and general aviation fleet to expand and grow to the largest fleet in the world, without any harmful effects. In fact, the opposite has been the result. Commercial air taxi operators who felt that they would lose business have gained. People have become more accustomed to using light aircraft. There have been gains in the sale of aircraft and repairs. On a national scale, the general aviation fleet has a large impact on the flexibility and mobility of business people in the United States of America.
In Australia there is a similar need to develop along these lines and likewise to develop the maximum use of what is really an industrial machine. There is a need to relieve the private pilot from fear of prosecution for using his machine in a sensible and suitable manner, lt is believed that the legislation as it now stands has had a depressing effect on the light aviation industry. Aero clubs, which depend to some degree on the utilisation of their aircraft by private pilots, have found that with the increased costs of modern aircraft the hire of such aircraft has gone beyond the capability of a private pilot to utilise his licence legally. This legislation should have a considerable effect on the economic use of aircraft owned by aero clubs and commercial operators. I understand that one of the things that is detrimental to a change in the legislation is possible pressure by major airline companies, feeling that the light aircraft will affect their businesses. It will not. It could improve their businesses by bringing passengers from the outlying areas into the major centres from which those commercial operators run their services. 1 ask that the Minister for Civil Aviation have a look at this and repair an injustice that I feel is being meted out to private pilots under the present air navigation regulations.
– It is with some reluctance that I speak at this time of night, but as members will recall, 1 have not spoken on the adjournment for more than 2 years. They will know that I do so tonight because of what I regard as a serious matter. It refers to a reply I received from the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) in his capacity of representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, in response to a question without notice from me on Tuesday, 28th March this year about morale in Qantas Airways Ltd. I asked:
Is the Minister aware of the widespread and increasing dissatisfaction and sense of insecurity among employees of Qantas Airways Ltd? Is morale among employees at an all-time low? Has this unhappy situation arisen from a heavy and continuing programme of retrenchment, early retirement and downgrading of employment status within the airline’s work force.
That is sufficient of the question for my purposes at the moment. In his reply, the Minister said, among other things:
My experience of Qantas over the years has been that, despite difficulties at times, the morale of the staff has always been good.
A little later on, after having told me how Qantas, like other airlines of the world, was having a difficult time, the Minister went on to say: 1 will see that the points which the honourable member has raised are referred to my colleague in another place for his information. But I repeat that I am sure the morale of Qantas today is as high as it has ever been in the past.
Of course, I would not have asked that question unless I had been assured on pretty strong evidence that the contrary situation was in fact the true one. I have received many messages from constituents who are employed by Qantas expressing grave dissatisfaction with their employment conditions. Furthermore, I have been talking to some of the trade unions that are involved. So, following on the publicity in the daily Press that was given to the Minister’s answer about his belief that morale in Qantas was as high as ever, I was sent a letter from employees of Qantas. It is in fact a copy of one sent to the Minister. The Minister will no doubt recall having received this letter:
You have been quoted in this morning’s Sydney Press as having stated on the floor of the House yesterday that ‘Morale among Qantas staff was as high as it had ever been in the past’.
We, the undersigned, are committee members of the Australasian Transport Officers Association, Qantas City Offices Branch, and have many years of service to our credit with this company.
Some time has now passed. Sir, since you held the Civil Aviation portfolio and perhaps there are some who would excuse your evident lack of first hand contemporary knowledge of the state of morale amongst the remaining employees of Qantas.
We, Mr Minister, do not. Such a rash statement at this time ill becomes a Minister of the Crown and is a complete distortion of the true situation. We state emphatically that morale among the staff of Qantas has never been lower than it is now.
Not only have many of our fellow employees been retrenched, but others have been compelled to accept substantial cuts in salary and/or relocation in positions inconsistent with their previous training and experience. We should be grateful. Sir, if you would enlighten us as to how a $3,000 per annum reduction in salary could be conducive of maintenance of high morale inthe case of a man with 27 years of loyal service to Qantas. His is not an isolated case.
I will not read the rest of the letter. It is available to the Minister. I think that is the most relevant part of it. Subsequent to having sent me that copy of the letter in which they expressed to the Minister grave dissatisfaction and disagreement with his statement, I received another letter and attached to it was a list of signatures from Qantas employees indicating their support for the sentiments expressed in the letter I have just alluded to. The list contains 576 names.
The very day after the Minister made the statement in the House that morale was as high as ever, 137 more employees of Qantas were dismissed from the airline’s employment. We are confronted with the situation that the Minister for Civil Aviation, a responsible Minister, was either ignorant of the facts of the situation in this great Commonwealth instrumentality or he was insensitive to them. Another alternative which, quite frankly, knowing the Minister and having quite a high regard for him, I am not prepared to accept is that he was in fact guilty of knowing the facts and misleading the House.
I have indicated what the hostile reactions were. 1 think they are understandable when one realises the grave dissatisfaction there has been in Qantas for some time. I have indicated the kind of dissatisfaction expressed in the letter to which the list of signatories is attached. Feelings of grave insecurity and uncertainty persist amongst the employees of Qantas which affect their will to work and their will to serve the public. This is most unfortunate because 1 have a high regard for what has been done by Qantas over the past years. I can understand the feelings of the employees of Qantas when they believe that they are receiving poor reward after years of long service. They pointed out to me that in the last 10 years Qantas has made a profit of $38m. The present financial position of Qantas represents the first break in that continuity of profit. As a matter of fact the loss presently being shown by Qantas is only the fifth loss endured by the company over 51 years of operation. The intensity of the employees’ dissatisfaction is all the greater because less than 2 years ago Qantas was making open predictions that by the 1980s staff would reach a total of 29,000. Qantas in fact gave evidence of its own confidence by buying a quantum computer to streamline world-wide reservations connected with the airline’s operations.
These employees of Qantas point out to me that the assets of the airline have a book value of $258m. On the open market they would probably be worth something like $400m. So Qantas is not in the kind of trouble that we are led to believe it is in. It has reserves totalling about $43. 6m. A persistent feeling prevails in Qantas that the employees have been let down by the top management of the airline, and this coincides with what one member on the Government side said here tonight in expressing his own feelings about Qantas.
This airline, which now says that it is in such a dire situation that it must sack employes left, right and centre, and that it must reduce the status of others by reducing their salaries by as much as $3,000 a year, only last year bought 4 Boeing 747 aircraft for a total value of $ 100.22m, and it has confirmed its intention to spend another $25m to buy a fifth aircraft of this kind. There is a feeling amongst employees of Qantas today that the company is now pre-occupied with how to save money rather than how to make money. Party under pressure from both sides of this House, Qantas has displayed some initiative by entering the charter field and also building up its cargo transport operations. As I say, there is a feeling in the airline also that the company’s interests have been sold out by this Government. Allusion has been made particularly to the negotiations last September which resulted in the Government giving to Pan Am and American Airlines extra capacity into Australia. The employees feel that this was done in exchange for Australia gaining increased beef shipments to the United States. They feel that they are the victims of an agreement. In the firm belief of the employees the whole business of sacking and retrenching staff has been unnecessary. They feel that they have been made the scapegoats. They feel that the whole thing has been done with little consultation with the employees. They feel that the whole thing could have been handled ever so much better if the natural wastage had been allowed to occur over the next 5 years. This would have settled any problems of overstaffing. But I come back to the point from which I started. My main grievance tonight is a specific one. it is in relation to the kind of answer that I received from the Minister on the day to which I referred. I have to come back to this alternative: Either the Minister was grossly uninformed of the actual position or, unfortunately, he was misleading this House.
– I want to mention just one point before we adjourn, and that is that the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds) referred to a statement I made in the House. I did not make a statement. He later referred to an answer to a question. My remarks were by way of explanation of a matter that he raised. I subsequently discussed this matter with the Department of Civil Aviation. I do not retract in any way from the answer which I gave. I can only say that it does a grave disservice to Qantas Airways Ltd, which has established a high reputation, not only in this country but also throughout the world, if people endeavour publicly to destroy the high morale which still exists amongst its staff and within the management itself. I know that my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson) had indicated that he wished to respond to other matters that have been raised tonight. Unfortunately the time set aside for the adjournment debate, in accordance with the normal arrangement which we have, has now expired. I know the Minister will seize another opportunity to respond to the points that have been raised.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.7 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions upon
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
Has the attention of the Department of Civil Aviation been drawn to any substantial purchases of land in the Richmond and Somersby areas by companies or individuals with interests in aviation and tourism since its announcement that these areas were being considered for the site of the second international airport for Sydney.
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
There is no requirement that property transfer in the Richmond or Somersby areas be notified to the Department of Civil Aviation and, in any case, no such transfers have been brought to the Department’s attention.
Banking: Interest Payments on Current Accounts (Question No. 5196)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
Which banks in Australia pay interest on current accounts.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Trading banks do not pay interest on current accounts of general depositors, except for the Bank of Queensland which conducts limited operations in the Brisbane area. Trading banks do, however, customarily pay interest on certain current accounts of community service and educational organisations, religious and charitable bodies, and governments. Savings banks also pay interest on cheque accounts of similar non-profit organisations and local authorities.
Employment: Effects of Technological Change (Question No. 5111)
asked the Minister for
Labour and National Service, upon notice: (1) Has his Department conducted any surveys on the effects of technological change on employment since the survey of establishments between November 1969 and August1 970; if so, what findings have these surveys revealed.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Number of applications - 57
Number of rejections - 33 = 58 per cent
Number of approvals - 6 =11 per cent
Number of withdrawals before approval - 11 = 19 per cent
Number under consideration - 7 = 12 per cent (10) All applications rejected have been on the ground that displacement was not due to technological change.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
HMAS Diamantina and HMAS Acute
Other ships may be deployed there as occasion demands.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
Have Commonwealth officials held further meetings with State officials concerning a new Commonwealth Insurance Act (Hansard, 10th March 1971, page 811 and 16th September 1971, page 1504); if so, on what dates.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Yes- on 19th October 1971.
asked the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the proceedings of the 73rd session of the National Health and Medical Research Council relating to food and drink containers and the problems associated with their disposal, namely,
If so, what action does the Government intend to take, in conjunction with, the States where necessary, to introduce legislation to control these problems, as recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Migrants: Health (Question No. 5045)
asked the Minister for
Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following schedule shows in which countries doctors posted from Australia have been engaged in screening the health of prospective migrants since 1965 and the average duration of a doctor’s service in each country.
These figures do not include doctors who are presently serving overseas.
Relief doctors, to cover absences of other doctors on annual leave or sick leave in Europe generally, have been based in Germany and Greece since November 1968. Those based in Germany served on an average for . 9 of a year and those in Greece for 1.6 years before they were transferred to positions in the regular overseas establishment.
Immigration: Language Studies (Question No. 5114)
asked the Minister for
Immigration, upon notice:
What incentives does his Department provide to encourage (a) doctors employed to screen overseas the health of prospective immigrants and (b) other officials employed by his Department overseas to undertake formal study of the language of the country in which they are to be posted both prior to departure for overseas and during their overseas posting.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
All officers, including medical officers, who are posted overseas are eligible to undertake tuition in the language of the country of posting. Where practicable this may commence before departure but in all instances it is available after arrival in the country of posting.
The language training scheme provides for payment of tuition fees and reimbursement for cost of text books and other aids, time off for study and payment of a proficiency allowance.
The amount of training for which the Department may reimburse officers for the cost of tuition is 80 hours. Officers and wives are given an initial approval for a period of 40 hours. At the end of that period progress is reviewed and an additional 40 hours may also be approved.
Details of the provisions are set out in the Public Service Board publication Determinations Relating to Overseas Service.
Emigration (Question No. 5525)
asked the Minister for
Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 April 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1972/19720419_reps_27_hor77/>.